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Title: A Prairie Infanta
Author: Brodhead, Eva Wilder, 1870-1915
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 Prairie Infanta" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



[Illustration: _A Prairie Infanta.--Frontispiece_

"THE DOCTOR SCOWLED OVER HIS GLASSES AS HE LISTENED."

_See p. 79_]



A
Prairie Infanta


By

Eva Wilder Brodhead


Illustrated


PHILADELPHIA

HENRY ALTEMUS COMPANY


COPYRIGHT, 1904, BY HENRY ALTEMUS

Youth's Companion"



CONTENTS


                                 PAGE

    CHAPTER ONE

THE POWER OF CONSOLATION          13

    CHAPTER TWO

A SACRED CHARGE                   37

    CHAPTER THREE

A TRUE BENEFACTRESS               61

    CHAPTER FOUR

WISE IMPULSES                     85

    CHAPTER FIVE

DESTINY PRESSES                  109

    CHAPTER SIX

BEWILDERING SATISFACTION         133



ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                                  PAGE

"The doctor scowled over his glasses as he listened"    _Frontispiece_

"'I will not go with you!'"                                         29

"'He is Tesuque, the rain-god'"                                     55

"'I hoped you'd be able to lend me a hand'"                        101

"'Do not make the thread short, Lolita'"                           123

"'_Tia_, you are a lady of fortune'"                               153



THE
POWER OF CONSOLATION



A PRAIRIE INFANTA


CHAPTER ONE

THE POWER OF CONSOLATION


At the first glance there appeared to be nothing unusual in the scene
confronting Miss Jane Combs as she stood, broad and heavy, in her
doorway that May morning, looking up and down the single street of the
little Colorado mining-town.

Jane's house was broad and heavy also--a rough, paintless "shack,"
which she had built after her own ideals on a treeless "forty" just
beyond the limits of Aguilar. It was like herself in having nothing
about it calculated to win the eye.

Jane, with her rugged, middle-aged face, baggy blouse, hob-nailed shoes
and man's hat, was so unfeminine a figure as she plowed and planted her
little vega, that some village wag had once referred to her as "Annie
Laurie." Because of its happy absurdity the name long clung to Jane;
but despite such small jests every one respected her sterling
traits,--every one, that is, except Señora Vigil, who lived hard by in
a mud house like a bird's nest, and who cherished a grudge against her
neighbor.

For, years before, when Jane's "forty" was measured off by the
surveyor, it had been developed that the Vigil homestead was out of
bounds, and that a small strip of its back yard belonged in the Combs
tract. Jane would have waived her right, but the surveyor said that the
land office could not "muddle up" the records in any such way; she must
take her land. And Jane had taken it, knowing, however, that thereafter
even the youngest Vigil, aged about ten months, would regard her as an
enemy.

Just now, too, as Alejandro Vigil, a ragged lad with a scarlet cap on
his black head, went by, driving his goats to pasture, he had said
"rogue!" under his breath. Jane sighed at the word, and her eyes
followed him sadly up the road, little thinking her glance was to take
in something which should print itself forever in her memory, and make
this day different from all other days.

In the clear sun everything was sharply defined. From the Mexican end
of town,--the old "plaza,"--which antedated coal-mines and
Americanisms, gleamed the little gold cross of the adobe Church of San
Antonio. Around it were green, tall cottonwoods and the straggling
mud-houses and pungent goat-corrals of its people. Toward the cañon
rose the tipple and fans of the Dauntless colliery, banked in slack and
slate, and surrounded by paintless mine-houses, while to the right
swept the ugly shape of the company's store. The mine end of the town
was not pretty, nor was it quiet, like the plaza. Just at present the
whistle was blowing, and throngs of miners were gathering at the mouth
of the slope. From above clamored the first "trip" of cars. Day and its
work had begun.

Alejandro's red cap was a mere speck in the cañon, and his herd was
sprinkled, like bread-crumbs, over the slaty hills. But over in the
Vigil yard the numberless other little Vigils were to be seen, and
Jane, as she looked, began to see that some sort of excitement was
stirring them. The señora herself stood staring, wide-eyed and curious.
Ana Vigil, her eldest girl, was pointing. Attention seemed to be
directed toward something at the foot of the hill behind Jane's house,
and she turned to see what was going on there.

A covered wagon, of the prairie-schooner type, was drawn up at the
foot of the rise. Three horses were hobbled near by, and a little fire
smoked itself out, untended. The whole thing meant merely the night
halt of some farer to the mountains. Jane, about to turn away, saw
something, however, which held her. In the shadow of the wagon the
doctor's buggy disclosed itself. Some one lay ill under the tunnel of
canvas.

She had just said this to herself when out upon the sunny stillness
rang a sharp, lamentable cry, such as a child might utter in an
extremity of fear or pain. The sound seemed to strike a sudden horror
upon the day's bright face, and Jane shivered. She made an impulsive
step out into her corn-field, hardly knowing what she meant to do. And
then she saw the doctor alighting from the wagon, and pausing to speak
to a man who followed him.

This man wore a broad felt hat, whose peaked crown was bound in a
silver cord which glittered gaily above the startled whiteness of his
face. He had on buckskin trousers, and there was a dash of color at his
waist, like a girdle, which gave a sort of theatric air to his gesture
as he threw up his arms wildly and turned away.

The doctor seemed perplexed. He looked distractedly about, and seeing
Jane Combs in her field, called to her and came running. He reached the
fence breathless, for he was neither so young nor so slim as the man
leaning weeping against the wagon-step.

"Will you go over there, Miss Combs?" he panted. "There's a poor woman
in that wagon breathing her last. They were on their way from Taos to
Cripple Creek--been camping along the way for some time. Probably they
struck bad water somewhere. She's had a low fever. The husband--Keene,
his name is--came for me at daybreak, but it was too late. She seems to
be a Mexican, though the man isn't. What I want you to do is to look
after a child--a little girl of ten or twelve--who is there with her
mother. She must be brought away. Did you hear her cry out just
now?--that desperate wail? We'd just told her!"

"I guess everybody heard it," said Jane. Mechanically she withdrew the
bolt of the gate, which forthwith collapsed in a tangle of barbed wire.
Tramping over this snare, Jane faced the doctor as he wiped his brows.
"I aint much hand with children," she reminded him. "You better send
Señora Vigil, too."

As she strode toward the wagon, the man in the sombrero looked up. He
was good-looking, in a girlish sort of way, with a fair skin and blue
eyes. A lock of damp, yellow hair fell over his forehead, and he kept
pushing it back as if it confused and blinded him.

"Go in, ma'am--go in!" he said, brokenly. "Though I do not reckon any
one can do much for her. Poor Margarita! I wish I'd made her life
easier--but luck was against me! Go in, ma'am!"

As Jane, clutching the iron brace, clambered up the step and pulled
back the canvas curtain, the inner darkness struck blank upon her
sun-blinded eyes. Then presently a stretch of red stuff, zigzagged with
arrow-heads of white and orange and green, grew distinct, and under the
thick sweep of the Navajo blanket, the impression of a long, still
shape. The face on the flat pillow was also still, with closed eyes
whose lashes lay dark upon the lucid brown of the cheek. A braid of
black hair, shining like a rope of silk, hung over the Indian rug.
Heavy it hung, in a lifeless fall, which told Jane that she was too
late for any last service to the stranger lying before her under the
scarlet cover.

Neither human kindness nor anything could touch her farther. "The tale
of what we are" was ended for her; and from the peace of the quiet lips
it seemed as if the close had been entirely free of bitterness or
pain. Jane moved toward the sleeper. She meant to lay the hands
together, as she remembered her mother's had been laid long ago in the
stricken gloom of the Kansas farmhouse which had been her home; but
suddenly there was a movement at her feet, and she stopped, having
stumbled over some living thing in the shadows of the couch, something
that stirred and struggled and gasped passionately, "_Vamos! Vamos!_"

Such was the wrathful force of this voice which, with so little
courtesy, bade the intruder begone, as fairly to stagger the
well-meaning visitor.

"I want to help you, my poor child!" Jane said. And her bosom throbbed
at the sight of the little, stony face now lifted upon her from the
dusk of the floor--a face with a fierce gleam in its dark eyes, and
clouded with a wild array of black hair in which was knotted and
twisted a fantastic _faja_ of green wool, narrowly woven.

"I ask no help!" said the child, in very good English. "Only that you
go away! We--we want to be by ourselves, here--" suddenly she broke
off, glancing piteously toward the couch, and crying out in a changed,
husky voice, "_Madre mia! muerta! muerta!_"

A ray of sunshine sped into the wagon as some hand outside withdrew the
rear curtain a little. It shot a sharp radiance through the red and
orange of the Indian blanket, and flashed across the array of tin and
copper cooking things hung against one of the arching ribs of the
canvas hood. Also it disclosed how slight and small a creature it was
who spoke so imperatively, asking solitude for her mourning.

Jane, viewing the little, desperate thing, seemed to find in herself no
power of consolation. And as she stood wordless, with dimming eyes,
there came from without a sound of mingling voices. Others were come
with offers of service and sympathy. A confusion of Spanish and English
hurtled on Jane's uncomprehending ear; some one climbing the step
cried, "_Ave Maria!_" as his eyes fell on the couch. It was Pablo
Vigil, a mild-eyed Mexican, with a miner's lamp burning blue in his
cap.

Behind him rose the round, doughy visage of his wife, blank with awe.
She muttered a saint's name as she dragged herself upward, and said,
"Ay! ay! ay! the poor little one! Let me take her away! So you are
here, too, Mees Combs. But she will not speak to you, eh? _Lo se! lo
se!_ She will speak to one who is like herself, a Mexican!"

She seemed to gather up the child irresistibly, murmuring over her in
language Jane could not understand, "Tell me thy name, _pobrecita_!
Maria de los Dolores, is it? A name of tears, but blessed. And they
call thee Lola, surely, as the custom is? Come, _querida_! Come with
me to my house. It will please thy mother!"

It was not precisely clear to Jane how among them the half-dozen
Mexican women, who now thronged the wagon and filled it with wailing
exclamations, managed to pass the little girl from hand to hand and out
into the air. Seeing, however, that this was accomplished, she
descended into the crowd of villagers now assembled outside. There was
a strange, dumb pain in her breast as she saw the little, green-tricked
head disappear in the press about the doctor's buggy. She was sensible
of wishing to carry the child home to her own dwelling; and there was
in her a kind of jealous pang that Señora Vigil should so easily have
accomplished a task of which she herself had made a distinct failure.

"If I'd only known how to call the poor little soul a lot of coaxing
names!" deplored Jane, "Then maybe she'd have come with me. She'd have
been better off sleeping on my good feather bed than what she will on
those ragged Mexican mats over to Vigil's." Then, observing that two
burros and several goats, taking advantage of the open gate, were now
gorging themselves on her alfalfa, she proceeded to make a stern end of
their delight.

Early in the morning of the stranger's burial, Mexicans from up the
cañon and down the creek arrived in town in ramshackle wagons, attended
by dogs and colts. She who lay dead had been of their race. It was meet
that she should not go unfriended to the _Campo Santo_. Besides, the
weather was fine, and it is good to see one's kinsfolk and
acquaintances now and then. The church, too, would be open, although
the _padre_, who lived in another town, might not be there. Young and
old, they crowded the narrow aisles, even up to the altar space, where
a row of tapers burned in the solemn gloom. Little children were
there, also, hushed with awe. And many a sad-faced Mexican mother
pressed her baby closer to her heart that day, taking note of the
little girl in the front pew, sitting so silent and stolid beside her
weeping father.

Jane Combs was in the back of the church. In their black _rebozos_, the
poorest class of poor Mexican women were clad with more fitness than
she. For Jane, weighted with the gravity of the occasion, had donned an
austere black bonnet such as aged ladies wear, and its effect upon her
short locks was incongruous in the extreme. No one, however, thought of
her as being more queer than usual; for her sunburned cheeks were wet
with tears, and her eyes were deep with tenderness and pity as they
fixed themselves upon the small, rigid figure in the shadows of the
altar's dark burden.

Upon the following day, as Miss Combs opened her ditch-gate for the
tide of mine water which came in a flume across the arroyo, she saw
the doctor and Mr. Keene approaching. They had an absorbed air, and as
she opened the door for them the doctor said, "Miss Combs, we want you
to agree to a plan of ours, if you can."

Keene tilted his chair restlessly. He looked as if life was regaining
its poise with him, and his voice seemed quite cheerful as he said,
"Well, it's about my little girl! I'm bound for a mountain-camp, and
it's no place for a motherless child. Lola's a kind of queer little
soul, too! My wife made a great deal of her. She was from old Mexico,
ma'am. She was a _mestizo_--not pure Indian, you know, but part
Spanish. Her folks were _rancheros_, near Pachuca, where I worked in
the mines. I'm from Texas, myself. They weren't like these peons about
here--they were good people. They never wanted Margarita to marry me."
He laughed a little. "But she did, and the old folks never let up on
her. They're both dead now. We've lived hither and yon around New
Mexico these ten years past, and I aint been very successful; though
things will be different now that I've decided to pull out for the gold
regions!"

Keene paused with an air of growing good cheer. He seemed to forget his
point. Whereupon the doctor said simply: "In view of these things, Mr.
Keene would like to make some arrangement for leaving his daughter here
until he can look round."

"And we thought of your taking her, ma'am," broke in Keene, with
renewed anxiety. "Lola's delicate and high-strung, and I don't know how
to manage her like my wife did. It'll hamper me terrible to take her
along. Of course she's bright," he interpolated, hastily. "She was
always picking up things everywhere, and speaks two languages well. And
she'd be company for you, ma'am, living alone like you do. And I'd pay
any board you thought right."

[Illustration: "'I WILL NOT GO WITH YOU!'"]

Jane's pulses had leaped at his suggestion. She was aware of making a
resolute effort as she said, "Wouldn't Lola be happier with the
Vigils?"

"Her mother wouldn't rest in her grave," cried Keene, "if she knew the
child was being brought up amongst a tribe of peons! And me--I want my
child to grow up an American citizen, ma'am!"

"Take the little girl, Miss Combs," advised the doctor. "It'll be good
for you to have her here."

"I've got to think if it'll be good for her," said Jane.

"If that's all!" chorused the two men. They rose. The thing was
settled. "I'll go and tell the Vigil tribe," said Keene, "and send
Lola's things over here right off." With a wave of the hand and a
relieved look, he went down the road.

That night a boy brought to Jane's door a queer little collapsible
trunk of sun-cured hide, thonged fast with leather loops. The Navajo
blanket was outside. Jane surmised that Mr. Keene had sent it because
he dreaded its saddening associations. A message from him conveyed the
information that he expected to leave town early the next morning, and
that Lola would be sent over from the Vigils.

All during the afternoon Jane waited with breathless expectancy. The
afternoon waned, but Lola did not come. Finally, possessed of fear and
foreboding, Jane set forth to inquire into the matter.

Upon opening the Vigil gate, she saw Lola herself sitting on the
doorstep, looking over toward the little wood crosses of the Mexican
burying-ground. The girl hardly noted Jane's approach, but behind her,
Señora Vigil came forward, shaking her head at Jane and touching her
lip significantly.

"She does not know," whispered the señora. "Her papa did not say
good-by. He said it was better for him to 'slip away.' And me--I could
not tell her! I am only a woman."

"You think--she will not want--to live with me?"

The other's face grew very bland. "She said to-day 'how ugly' was your
house," confessed Señora Vigil. "And when you was feeding your chickens
she cried out, '_Hola_, what a queer woman is yonder!' Children have
funny things in their heads. But it is for you to tell her you come to
fetch her away!" And the señora called out, "_Lolita, ven aca!_"

The girl looked up startled. "_Que hay?_" she asked, coming toward them
apprehensively.

"Lola," began Jane, "your papa wants you should stay with me for a
while. He--he saw how lonesome I was," she continued, unwisely,
"and--and so he decided to leave you here. Lola, I hope--I--" She could
not go on for the strangeness in Lola's gaze.

"Is he _gone_--my father? But no! he would not leave me behind! No! no!
_Dejeme! dejeme!_ you do not say the truth! You shall not touch me! I
will not--will not go with you!" She turned wildly, dizzily, as if
about to run she knew not where; and then flung herself down before
Señora Vigil, clasping the Mexican woman's knees in a frantic, fainting
grasp.



A SACRED CHARGE



CHAPTER TWO

A SACRED CHARGE


Jane helplessly regarded the child's despair, while Señora Vigil
maintained an attitude curiously significant of deep compassion and a
profound intention of neutrality. With the sound of Lola's distraught
refusals in her ear, Jane felt upon her merely the instinct of flight.
She rallied her powers of speech and set her hand on the gate, saying
simply, "I'm going. She better stay here."

But at this the señora's face, which had exhibited a kind of woful
pleasure in the excitement of the occasion, took on an anxious frown.

"And the board-money?" she exclaimed, with instant eagerness.

"I guess it'll be all right. Mr. Keene said he'd send it every month."

The señora's eyes narrowed. "He said so! Ay, but who can say he shall
remember? There are eight chickens to eat of our meal already. No, Mees
Combs! The _muchacha_ was left to you. It is a charge very sacred. Ave
Maria! yes!"

Jane had closed the gate. "I can't force her," she repeated.

Señora Vigil, watching her go, fell a prey to lively dissatisfaction.
"_Santo cielo!_" she thought. "What will my Pablo say to this? I must
run to the mine for a word with him. It is most serious, this
business!" And casting her apron over the whip-cord braids of her
coarse hair, she started hastily down toward the bridge.

Lola, crouching on the ground, watched her go. It was very quiet in the
grassless yard. The Vigil children were playing in the _arroyo_ bed.
Their voices came with a stifled sound. There was nothing else to hear
save the far-off moaning of a wild dove somewhere up Gonzales cañon.
The echo was like a soft, sad voice. It sounded like the mournful cry
of one who, looking out of heaven, saw her hapless little daughter
bereaved and abandoned, and was moved, even among the blessed, to a
sobbing utterance.

Lola sat up to listen. Her father had spoken of going through that
cañon from which the low call came. Even now he was traveling through
the green hills, regretting that he had left his child behind him at
the instance of a strange woman! Even now he was doubtless deploring
that he should have been moved to consider another's loneliness before
his own.

"Wicked woman," thought the girl, angrily, "to ask him to leave me
here--my poor papa!" She sprang to her feet, filled with an impetuous
idea. She might follow her father!

There was the road, and no one by to hinder her. Even the hideous
wooden house of the short-haired woman looked deserted. Lola, with an
Indian's stealth of tread, crossed the bridge, and walked without
suspicious haste up the empty street.

At the mouth of the cañon, taking heart of the utter wilderness all
about, she began to run. Before her the great Spanish Peaks heaved
their blue pyramids against the desert sky. Shadows were falling over
the rough, winding road, and as she rushed on and on, many a gully and
stone and tree-root took her foot unaware in the growing gray of
twilight. Presently a star came out, a strange-faced star. Others
followed in an unfamiliar throng, which watched her curiously when,
breathless and exhausted, she dropped down beside a little spring to
drink. The water refreshed her. She lay back on the cattle-tramped hill
to rest.

Dawn was rosy in the east when she awoke, dazed to find herself alone
in a deep gorge. Her mission recurred to her, and again she took the
climbing road. Now, however, the way was hard, for it rose ever before
her, and her feet were swollen.

As the day advanced it grew sultry, with a menace of clouds to the
west. After a time the great peaks were lost in dark clouds, and
distant thunder boomed. A lance of lightning rent the nearer sky, and
flashed its vivid whiteness into the gorge. This had narrowed so that
between the steep hills there was only room for the arroyo and the
little roadway beside it. Before the rain began to fall on Lola's bare
head, as it did shortly in sheets, the stream-bed had become a raging
torrent, down which froth and spume and uprooted saplings were
spinning.

In an instant the cañon was a wild tumult of thunder and roaring water,
and Lola, barely keeping her feet, had laid hold of a piñon on the
lower slope and was burying her head in the spiked branches. Wind and
rain buffeted the child. The ground began to slip and slide with the
furious downpour, but she held fast, possessed of a great fear of the
torrent sweeping down below her.

As she listened to the crashing of the swollen tide, another noise
seemed to mingle with the sound of the mountain waters--a sound of
bellowing and trampling, as of a stampeded herd. A sudden horror of
great rolling eyes and rending horns and crazy hoofs hurtled through
the girl's dizzy brain. Her hands loosened. She began to slip down.

The rain had slackened when Bev Gribble, looking from his herder's hut
up on the _mesa_, saw that his "bunch" of cattle had disappeared.
Certain tracks on the left of the upland pasture exhibited traces of a
hasty departure. That there had been a cloudburst over toward the Peaks
he was as yet ignorant; nor did he discover this until he had caught
his cow-pony and descended into the ravine.

The sun was shining now, and the arroyo was nothing more than a placid,
though muddy stream. Its gleaming sides, however, spoke lucidly to
Bev's intelligence, and he set the pony at a smarter pace in the marshy
road.

"_Sus! Sus!_" said Bev to his pony, who knew Spanish best, being a
bronco from the south. But Coco did not respond. Instead, he came back
suddenly on his haunches, as if the rope on the cow-puncher's saddle
had lurched to the leap of a steer.

Coco knew well the precise instant when it is advisable for a cow-pony
to forestall the wrench of the lasso. But now the loop of hemp hung
limp on the saddle-horn, and Gribble, surprised at being nearly thrown,
rose in the stirrups to see what was underfoot.

A drenched thing it was which huddled at the roadside; very limp,
indeed, and laxly lending itself to the motions of Gribble's hands as
he lifted and shook it.

"Seems to be alive!" muttered the cow-puncher. "Where could she have
dropped from? Aha! here's a broken arm! I better take her right to town
to the doctor. Hi there, Coco!" He laid Lola over the saddle and
mounted behind his dripping burden.

When the coal-camp came in sight on the green skirt of the plains, with
the Apishapa scrolling the distance in a velvet ribbon, sunset was
already forward, and the smoke of many an evening fire veined the late
sky.

A man coming toward the cañon stopped at sight of Gribble. He was the
store clerk going home to supper. He shouted, "Hullo, Bev! Why, what
have you struck? Bless me, it's the little girl they're all hunting!
She belongs to Miss Combs, it seems. Her mother died here the other
day. Found her up the cañon, eh? They been all ranging north, thinking
she'd taken after her pa. Maybe she thought he'd headed for La Veta
pass? Looks sure 'nough bad, don't she?"

Jane, when she heard the pony cross the bridge, ran to the door, as she
had run so many times during the long, anxious day. She took the girl
from Gribble without a word, and bore her into the house from which she
had fled with so much loathing.

"Don't look so scared!" said Gribble, kindly. "It's only a broken bone
or so." As this consoling assurance seemed not to lessen Jane's alarm,
he went on cheerfully to say, "There isn't one in my body hasn't been
splintered by these broncos! Tinker 'em up and they're better than new.
Here's doc coming lickety-switch! He'll tell you the same."

But the doctor was less encouraging. "It isn't merely a question of
bones," he said, observing his patient finally in her splints and
bandages. "It's the nervous strain she's lately undergone. She's been
overtaxed with so much excitement and sorrow. If she pulls through,
it'll be the nursing."

Jane drew a deep breath. "She won't die if nursing can save her!" said
she. Her face shone with grave sacrificial tenderness, in the light of
which the shortcomings of her uncouth dress and looks were for once
without significance.

"She's a good woman," said the doctor, as he rode away, "though she
wears her womanhood so ungraciously--as a rough husk rather than a
flower. All the same, she's laying up misery for herself in her
devotion to this fractious child; I wish I'd had no hand in it!"

Jane early came to feel what burs were in the wind for her. Lola soon
returned to the world, staring wonderingly about; but even in the first
moment she winced and turned her face away from Jane's eager gaze. As
the girl shrank back into the pillows, Jane's lips quivered.

"Goose that I am!" she thought. "Of course my looks are strange to her!
It'd be funny if she took to me right off. I aint good-looking. And her
ma was real handsome!" For once in her life Jane sighed a little over
her own plainness. "Children love their mothers even when they're plumb
homely!" she encouraged herself. "Maybe Lola'll like me, in spite of my
not being well-favored, when she finds how much I think of her."

As time passed, and Lola, with her arm in a sling, began to sit up and
to creep about, there was little in her manner to show the wisdom of
Jane's cheerful forecast. The girl was still and reserved, as if some
ancient Aztec strain predominated in her over all others. She watched
the Vigils playing, the kids gamboling, the magpies squabbling; but
never a lighter look stirred the chill calm of her little,
russet-toned features, or the sombre depths of her dark, long eyes.

Jane watched her in despair. "I'm afraid you aint very well contented,
Lola," she said, one day. "Is there anything any one can do?" Lola was
sitting in the August sunshine. A little quiver passed through her.

"I want to hear from my father," she said. "Has he--written?" Her voice
was wishful, indeed, and Jane colored.

"I guess he's been so busy he hasn't got round to it yet," she said,
lightly.

"I thought he hadn't," said Lola, quickly. "I--didn't expect it quite
yet. He hates to write." Her accent was sharp with anxiety as she
added, "But of course he sends the--board-money for me--he would
remember that?" Evidently she recalled the Señora Vigil's questions and
doubts on this subject, for there was such intensity of apprehension in
her look that Jane felt herself full of pain.

"Of course he would remember it, my dear!" she said, on the instant;
she consoled her conscience by reflecting that there was no untruth in
her words. Although Mr. Keene had sent never a word or sign to Aguilar,
it was measurably certain that he remembered his obligations.

"It'd just about kill that child to find out the truth," thought Jane.
"She looks, anyhow, like she hadn't a friend on earth! I'm going to let
her think the money comes as regular as clockwork! I d' know but I'm
real glad he don't send it. Makes me feel closer to the little thing,
somehow."

After a while the broken arm was pronounced whole again, and the sling
was taken off.

"You're all right now," said the doctor to Lola, "and you must run
out-of-doors and get some Colorado tan on your cheeks. _Sabe?_ And eat
more. Get up an appetite. How do you say that in Spanish? _Tener buen
diente_, eh? All right. See you do it."

Lola stood at his knee, solemn and mute. She took his jests with an air
of formal courtesy, barely smiling. She had a queer little
half-civilized look in the neat pigtails which Jane considered
appropriate to her age, and which were so tightly braided as fairly to
draw up the girl's eyebrows. The emerald _fajas_ had been laid by. To
garland that viny strip in Lola's locks was beyond Jane's power.

"What a little icicle it is!" mused the doctor. "If I had taken a thorn
from a dog's foot the creature would have been more grateful!"

Even as he was thinking this, he felt a sudden pressure upon his hand.
Lola had seized it and was kissing the big fingers passionately, while
she cried, "_Gracias! mil gracias, señor!_ You have made me well! When
my papa comes he will bless you! He will pour gold over you from head
to foot!"

"That's all right, Lola," laughed the doctor. "He'll have to thank Miss
Jane more than me. She pulled you through. Have you thanked _her_ yet,
Lola?"

Lola's face stiffened. "But for her I should not have been tramped by
the cattle--I should have been safe in my father's wagon!" she thought.
"I--have not, but I will--soon," she said. "And your housekeeper, too,
for the ice-cream, and other things."

Jane, in succeeding days, took high comfort in the fact that Lola
seemed to like being out-of-doors, and apparently amused herself there
much after the fashion of ordinary children. She had established
herself over by the ditch, and Jane could see her fetching water in a
can and mixing it with a queer kind of adobe which she got half-way up
the hill. That Lola should be engaged with mud _casas_ was, indeed,
hardly in accord with Jane's experience of the girl's dignity; but that
she should be playing ever so foolishly in a slush of clay delighted
Jane as being a healthful symptom.

"What you making down yonder, honey?" she ventured to ask.

"I am making nothing; I am finished," said Lola. "To-morrow you shall
see my work." Jane felt taken aback. It had been work, then; not simple
play. She awaited what should follow with curious interest.

Upon the next morning Lola ran off through the alfalfa rather
excitedly. After a little she reappeared, walking slowly, with an air
of importance. She carried something carefully before her, holding it
above the reach of the alfalfa's snatching green fingers.

It was a square pedestal of adobe, sun-baked hard as stone, upon which
sat a queer adobe creature, with a lean body and a great bulbous head.
This personage showed the presence in his anatomy of an element of
finely chopped straw. His slits of eyes were turned prayerfully
upward. From his widely open mouth hung a thirsty mud tongue, and
between his knobby knees he held an empty bowl, toward the filling of
which his whole expression seemed an invocation.

"He is for you," said Lola, beaming artistic gratification. "He is to
show my thanks for your caring for me in my broken-bonedness. He is
Tesuque, the rain-god. You can let your ditches fill with weeds, if you
like. You won't need to irrigate your _vega_ any more. Tesuque will
make showers come."

Jane trembled with surprised pleasure. The powers ascribed to Tesuque
were hardly accountable for the gratification with which she received
him.

"I'll value him as long as I live!" she exclaimed. "He--he's real
handsome!"

"Not handsome," corrected Lola, with a tone of modest pride, "but
_good_! He makes the rain come. In Taos are many Tesuques."

"I reckon it must rain considerable there," surmised Jane, not
unnaturally.

Lola shook her head. "No. It's pretty dry--but it wouldn't rain at all,
you see, if it wasn't for Tesuque!"

This logic was irresistible. Jane dwelt smilingly upon it as she set
the rain-god on the mantel, with a crockery bowl of yellow daisies to
maintain his state. Afterward, a dark, adder-like compunction glided
through the flowery expanse of her joy in Tesuque, as she wondered if
there was not something heathenish in his lordly enshrinement upon a
Christian mantelpiece.

"Maybe he's an idol!" thought Jane. "Lola," she asked, perturbed, "you
don't _pray_ to Tersookey, do you?" Lola looked horrified.

"Me? _Maria Santissima!_ I am of the Church! Tesuque is not to pray to.
I hope you have not been making your worship to him. It is like this,
señora: You plant the seed and the leaf comes; you set out Tesuque and
rain falls. It is quite simple."

[Illustration: "'HE IS TESUQUE, THE RAIN-GOD.'"]

Jane rested in this easy and convincing philosophy. She saw the joke of
Lola's advice to her not to misplace her devotions, and one day she
repeated the story to the doctor, showing him the rain-god.

"Do you know," said the doctor, handling Tesuque, "that this thing is
surprisingly well-modeled? The Mexicans can do anything with adobe, but
this has something about it beyond the reach of most of them."

After this, a pleasanter atmosphere spread in Jane's dwelling. Lola
often unbent to talk. Sometimes she sewed a little on the frocks and
aprons, preparing for her school career. Oftener she worked in her
roofless pottery by the ditch, where many a queer jug and vase and
bowl, gaudy with ochre and Indian red, came into being and passed early
to dust again, for want of firing. Jane found these things engrossing.
She liked to sit and watch them grow under Lola's fingers, while the
purple alfalfa flowers shed abroad sweet odors, and the ditch-water
sang softly at her feet. As she sat thus one afternoon, Alejandro Vigil
came running across the field, waving a letter.

"'Tis for you, Lolita!" he cried. "My father read the marks. It is from
Cripple Creek!"

"Oh, give me! give me!" cried Lola, flinging down a mud dish.

Jane had taken the letter. "It's for me, dear," she said, beginning to
open it. "I'll read it aloud--" She paused. Her face had a gray color.

Lola held out her hands in a passion of joy and eagerness. "What does
he say? Oh, hurry! Oh, let me have it!"

Jane suddenly crushed the letter, and her eyes were stern as she
withdrew it resolutely from Lola's reaching fingers.

"No, Lola, no!" she said, in a sharp tone. "I--can't let you have this
letter! I can't! I can't!"



A TRUE BENEFACTRESS



CHAPTER THREE

A TRUE BENEFACTRESS


Lola's breath was suspended in amazement. Indignation flashed from her
eyes. She dropped her hands and Jane saw the fingers clench.

"It is my father's letter--and you keep it from me? You are cruel!"
said Lola, passionately.

Jane's eyes, set on the ground, seemed to see there, in fiery type, the
words of the paper in her grasp. Those scrawling lines, roaming from
blot to blot across the soiled sheet, had communicated to Jane no pain
of a personal sort. So far, indeed, as their trend took her on the
score of feeling, she might even have found something satisfying in Mr.
Keene's news, since this was merely a statement of his financial
disability. All along Jane had been dreading the hour when, instead of
this frank disclosure of "hard luck," there should come to her a parcel
of money. Not to have any money to send might conjecturally be
distressing to Mr. Keene; but Jane felt that he would be able to endure
his embarrassment better than she herself any question of barter
respecting Lola.

The very thought of being paid for what she had so freely given hurt
Jane. Without realizing its coldness and emptiness, her life had been
truly void of human warmth before the little, lonely girl stole in to
fill it with her piteous, proud presence. A happier child, with more
childish ways, might not so fully have compassed Jane's awakening; for
this had been in proportion to the needs of the one who so forlornly
made plea for entrance. Having once thrown wide the door of her heart,
Jane had begun to understand the blessedness that lies in generosity.
Lola might never care for her, indeed; but to Lola she owed the impulse
of loving self-bestowal, which is as shining sunlight in the bosom.

Mr. Keene wrote that the claim he had been working had proved
valueless. He expected better luck next time; but just now he could not
do as he had intended for Lola; and in view of his unsettled
circumstances he thought it might be well if Miss Combs could place the
girl in some family where her services would be acceptable.

"Life," he wrote, was at best "a rough proposition," and it would
doubtless be good for Lola, who had sundry faults of temper, to learn
this fact early. For the present she would have to give up all idea of
going to school. Mr. Keene would be sorry if the prospect displeased
his daughter, but people couldn't have everything their own way in this
world.

Such words as these Jane instinctively knew would fall crushingly upon
Lola, and leave her in a sorry plight of abject, hardening thought.
Therefore, steeling herself to bear the girl's misinterpretation, she
said, "Lola, your father wouldn't want you to see this letter. It's on
business."

"Does he say I'm not to see it?" asked Lola.

Jane's brows twisted painfully. "No," she said, "but--"

Lola turned away. Every line of her figure was eloquent of grievance.
She walked off without a glance to apprise her of the anguish in Jane's
face. Slowly Jane went toward the house; whereupon Alejandro Vigil, who
had continued an interested spectator, followed Lola to the ditch.

"If thou hadst wept, she would have given thee the letter," he
suggested. "My mother, she always gives up to us when we weep loudly. A
still baby gets no milk," said Alejandro, wisely, as he hugged his
bare knees.

"I am no baby!" retorted Lola. Nevertheless her voice was husky, and
Alejandro watched her anxiously.

"It's no good to cry now," he advised her. "She's gone into the house."

"_Tonto!_ Do you think I want her to see me?" wept Lola. "She is hard
and cruel. O my father!"

"Come over and tell my mother about it!" urged the boy, troubled. "You
are Mexican like us, no? Your mother was Mexican? Come! My mother will
say what is best to do."

Lola listened. She let herself be dragged up. An adviser might speak
some word of wisdom. "Come, then," she agreed.

But Señora Vigil, on hearing the story, only groaned and sighed.

"These Americans have the heart of ice!" she said. "Doubtless there was
money in the letter and she did not want you to know. Serafita, leave
thy sister alone, or I will beat thee! It will be best, Lolita, to say
little. A close mouth catches no flies."

"I may not stay here with you?" asked Lola.

"Alas, no, little pigeon!" mourned the señora. "In the cage where thy
father has put thee thou must stay! But come and tell me everything.
This shall be thy house when thou art in trouble!" and thus defining
the limits of her hospitality, she made a gesture toward the mud walls
on which strings of goat meat were drying in a sanguinary fringe.

Autumn fell bright on the foot-hills. The plains blazed with yellow
flowers which seemed to run in streams of molten gold from every cañon,
and linger in great pools on the flats and line all the ditches. Ricks
of green and silver rose all along the Apishapa. Alfalfa was purple to
the last crop, and an air of affluence pervaded everything.

The town was thronged with ranchers, coming in to trade; the mine had
started up for the winter. Men who had prospected for precious metals
all summer in the mountains now bundled their pots and pans and
blankets back to shelter for the winter; the long-eared burros, lost in
great rolls of bedding, stood about the tipple awaiting the result of
their masters' interviews with the mine boss, concerning work and the
occupancy of any "shack" that might still be empty.

Now, too, the bell of the red-brick school clamored loudly of mornings;
and dark, taciturn Mexican children, and paler, noisier children from
the mining end of town, bubbled out of every door. Seven Vigils obeyed
the daily summons, clad, boy and girl, in cotton stuff of precisely the
hue of their skin. Bobbing through the gate, one after another, they
were like a family of little dun-colored prairie-dogs, of a hue with
their adobe dwelling, shy and brown and bright-eyed.

Among them Lola had an effect of tropical brilliancy, by reason of the
red frock with which Jane had provided her. There were red ribbons also
in Lola's braided hair; and the girl, although still aware of bitter
wrongs, was sensible of being pleased with her raiment. More than once
on her way to school that first day she looked at the breadths of her
scarlet cashmere with a gratified eye; and catching her at this, Ana
Vigil had sighed disapprovingly, saying, "It is too good for every
day--that dress."

"It isn't too good for me!" flashed back Lola. "My father can do what
he likes!"

"True," said Ana, "since he has a gold-mine. But even if I were rich, I
should fear that the saints might punish me for wearing to school my
best clothes. I would wish to win their good-will by wearing no
finery," said Ana, piously. She was a plump girl, with eyes like
splinters of coal in her suave brown face; despite the extreme
softness of her voice, these glittering splinters rested with no gentle
ray on Lola.

Indeed, Jane's pride in having her charge well-dressed operated largely
against the girl's popularity with others of her mates than Ana.
Primarily Lola's air of hauteur provoked resentment; but hauteur in
poor attire would have been only amusing, while in red cashmere it was
felt to be a serious matter, entailing upon every one the sense of a
personal affront. Lola's quickness of retort was also against her. The
swift flash of her eye, the sudden quiver of her lip, afforded
continual gratification to such as had it in mind to effect her
discomposure.

"They do not love you too well, Lolita," said Ana Vigil, sadly. "They
say you have a sharp tongue. They say you are too well pleased with
yourself. Me, I tell you what I hear because I am your friend."

"So long a tongue as yours, Ana, weaves a short web!" growled
Alejandro, with a masculine distrust of his sister's friendly
assumptions.

"Lola knows if I speak truth," returned Ana, tranquilly.

Lola maintained an impassive front, but she was hurt. The little tricks
and taunts of her schoolfellows tormented her deeply. She had lately
relapsed into the stolid indifference native to her blood, and this was
her best shield, had she only known it, although it, too, for a time
left her open to attack. For when she encased herself in cold silence,
and stalked home with lifted head and unseeing eyes, often a little
throng of Mexican children would walk behind her, imitating her stately
gait and calling mockingly, "_Ea! ea!_ See the _madamisela_! See the
princess! She is sister to the king--that one! _Vah! vah! vah!_"

And mingling their voices they would sing, "_Infanta! Infanta Lolita!_"
until Lola, stung to rage, turned upon them wildly; whereat their
delighted cries served to send her flying homeward.

"I guess not even Squire Baca's girls nor Edith May Jonas had better
things than you," said Jane, unaware of all this. Her own garments
remained things of the baldest utility, but the village seamstress was
kept busy feather-stitching and beribboning articles for Lola's wear.

In these things Jane developed a most prodigal pride, freely expending
upon them the little patrimony which had been put in the Trinidad bank
against her old age. Her usual good judgment quite failed her; and she
who, patternless and guideless, slashed brown denim fearlessly into
uncouth vestures for herself, now had a pulse of trepidation at laying
the tissue-paper model of some childish garment for Lola upon a length
of dainty wool.

"Maybe," said Lola, "the others would like me better if my father
didn't get me so many things."

Jane's eyes shone with a fierce light.

"Don't they like you?" she demanded, harshly.

"Didn't you hear them calling 'infanta' after me just now?"

"Infanta--is it anything _bad_?" Jane's voice was so wroth that Lola
laughed.

"It means princess."

"Oh!" said Jane, mollified. "If it'd been anything _else_, I'd have
gone straight down to see the marshal!" Lola flushed a little. She
thought, "How kind she is! If I could only forget--about that letter!"

The dislike of the Mexican children abated with time. They even came to
admire Lola's quickness. She went above them in class--yes! but also
she went above the Americans! The little Mexicans, aware of a certain
mental apathy, had not enviously regarded the exploits of the "smart"
Americans. If these others "went up," what did it matter? All one
could do if one were Mexican was to accept defeat with dignity, and
reflect upon the fact that things would be different if Spanish and not
English were the language of the school.

When Lola, however, one of themselves by reason of her color and her
fluency in their idiom, displayed an ability to master those
remorseless obscurities of spelling and arithmetic which had seemed
sufficient to dethrone reason in any but a Saxon mind, then the peon
children began to find some personal satisfaction in her achievements.

Whenever Lola went above Jimmy Adkins, the mine boss's boy, and Edith
May Jonas, the liveryman's only daughter, every Mexican face recorded a
slow smile of triumph. "_'Sta 'ueno!_" they would whisper, watching
Edith May, who upon such occasions was wont to enliven things by
bursting into tears, and who commonly brought upon the following day a
note from her mother, stating that Edith May must be excused for
missing in spelling because she had not been at all well and had
misunderstood the word.

The next two years also mitigated much of the constraint which had
marked Miss Combs's relations with Lola. After the episode of the
letter, Lola never asked news of her father. Insensibly she came to
understand that if he wrote at all he wrote seldom, and solely upon the
matter of her expenses. And naturally she ceased clinging warmly to the
thought of his love for her. His silence and absence were not spurs to
affection, although she dwelt gratefully upon the fact that he should
lavish so much upon her.

Jane's money was lessening, but none of Lola's wishes had as yet been
baffled. The girl had a sort of barbaric love of brightness and
softness; and one day, as she looked over some fabrics for which Jane,
spurred by the approach of the vacation and the fact that Lola was to
have a part in the closing exercises of school, had sent to Denver, the
girl said suddenly, "How good my father is to me, _tia_!"

Long before, she had asked Jane what she should call her, and Jane had
said, "Maybe you better call me aunt."

"I will do it in Mexican, then," said Lola. "It sounds more ripe." She
meant mellow, no doubt. Now, as she fingered the pretty muslin, she
seemed to gather resolution to speak of something which had its
difficulties. "_Tia_," she pursued, "he is well off--my father?"

Jane's voice had rather a feigned lightness as she replied, "You have
everything you want, don't you?" No one but herself knew that for some
time she had been paying Mr. Keene a monthly stipend. He had written
that Lola ought not any longer to be giving her services just for
board. So great a girl must be very handy about a house; and as luck
still evaded him, he confessed that Lola's earnings would considerably
"help him out."

Jane had not combated his views. Many Mexican children younger than
Lola earned a little tending the herds and helping about the fields.
They were usually boys; but Jane did not dwell on this point. She had
never clearly realized, on her own part, those distinctions in labor
which appertain to the sexes; she had herself always done everything
that had to be done, whether it were cooking or plowing. If she had any
choice, it was for pursuits of the field. Therefore, without comment,
she had accepted Mr. Keene's theories as just, and began to pay him
what he said would be "about right."

"Because," said Lola, "I want you to ask him something when you write.
I am over fourteen now. There isn't much more for me to learn in this
school. Señor Juarez and Miss Belton both tell me I ought to go to
Pueblo. Edith May Jonas is going. I should like to study many
things--drawing, for instance. They say I ought to study that. My
mother always said she hoped I would have a chance to learn. And my
father used to say, 'Oh, yes!' that he would soon have money for
everything. And now he has! Will you ask him?"

Jane was dusting the mantel on which Tesuque still sat open-mouthed,
with his bowl. The room had lost its former barren aspect. There was
now a carpet, while muslin shades softened the glare of the Colorado
sun and the view of the sterile hills. Geraniums bloomed on the
window-sills, and some young cottonwoods grew greenly at the door. The
scarlet Navajo blanket, which had been Lola's inheritance from the
prairie-schooner, was spread across a couch, and gave a final note of
warmth and comfort to the low room, now plastered in adobe from ceiling
to floor. Everything that had been done was for Lola's sake, who loved
warmth and color, as do all Southrons.

Tesuque alone, divinely invariable amid so much change, now seemed to
wink the eye at Jane's uncertainty. For Jane knew that there was not
enough money in the bank to pay for a year's schooling at Pueblo. So
far she knew, yet she said simply, "I can ask him."

If Lola wanted to go to Pueblo, she must go. It would be a pity if
Edith May Jonas should have better schooling than Lola, thought Jane.
And as she pondered, it came forcibly to her that money need not be
lacking; she could mortgage her house. She shut her eyes to all future
difficulties which this must involve, and, upon a certain June day, set
resolutely out to see if the doctor were willing to make the loan.

The doctor, sitting in the little office which he had built in the
corner of his shady yard, scowled over his glasses as he listened.

"You're making a mistake," he said, having heard all, "to let Lola
believe that her father is providing for her. I know you began it all
with a view to charitable ends; but he who does evil that good may come
sets his foot in a crooked path, of which none can see the close."

"I didn't want to see her breaking her heart."

"I know, but I do not believe it's ever well to compound and treat with
wrong. If you'll be advised, you'll tell her the whole truth at once."

Jane sat bolt upright before him. Her arms were folded across her
butternut waist, and under the man's hat a grim resolution seemed to be
embodying itself.

"She wouldn't go to school at Pueblo if I told her--nor feel like she
had any home--or anything in the world. And I aint going to tell her!"

"Miss Jane, Miss Jane, don't you see you're doing the girl a real
injury in letting her regard you, her true benefactor, merely as the
agent of her father's generosity? You have simply sustained and
encouraged her worst traits. She wouldn't have been so exacting, so
resentful, so easily provoked if she had known all along that she was
only a poor little pensioner on your bounty. The lesson of humility
would have gone far with her. No, Miss Jane, it wouldn't have hurt her
to be humbled. It won't now!"

"I don't believe it ever does any one any good to be humbled!"
maintained Jane, stoutly and with reason. "Especially if it's a poor,
frail little soul that aint got no mother! I did what I thought best,
though I can't afford it no way in the world! To prune and dress a lie
aint going to make it grow into a truth!" She rose. "I guess I'll see
if Henry Jonas'll be willing to take that mortgage!"

"I'm going to do it myself!" roared the doctor. "I don't want Jonas to
own all the property in Aguilar!" Generosity and anger swayed him
confusedly; but as he watched Jane trudging down under the Dauntless's
tipple he became clear enough to register with himself a vow. "Lola has
got to know the truth!" he declared. "Maybe it's none of my business,
but all the same she's going to know it, and know it now!" And he got
up, grimly resolute.



WISE IMPULSES



CHAPTER FOUR

WISE IMPULSES


The next day was the last of the school term, and it afforded the
doctor an opportunity for carrying out his resolve. There was a base of
sound reason in his purposed action. It might give the girl pain,
indeed, to hear what he felt impelled to tell her; it is not pleasant
to have a broken bone set, yet the end is a good one. The doctor felt
that Lola's mind held a smoldering distrust of Jane, which not even the
consciousness of Jane's love could dispel.

The girl, without directly formulating so strong a case against Jane,
obscurely held her accountable for that division from her father which
she deplored. Doubtless it was affection which had caused Jane to ask
Mr. Keene to leave his child behind. Affection also might have
jealously deterred Jane from giving Lola her father's infrequent
letters. But affection cannot excuse what is unworthy; and Lola's
thoughts ran vaguely with a distrust which did something to embitter
the wholesome tides of life.

"I am right to put an end to Miss Combs's unwise benevolence," thought
the doctor, as he tied his horse outside the schoolhouse.

Throngs of white-frocked girls were chattering about the yard. Rows of
Mexican children squatted silent and stolid against the red walls,
unmoved by those excitements of closing day which stirred their
American mates to riotous glee. The wives of the miners and town
merchants were arriving in twos and threes. Gaunt Mexican women,
holding quiet babies in their looped _rebozos_, stood about, hardly
ever speaking.

Señora Vigil, more lavishly built than the rest of her countrywomen
and gayer of port than they, moved from group to group, talking
cheerfully. Jane also awaited the opening of the schoolhouse door,
watching the scene with interest and having no conception of herself as
an object of note, in her elderly black bonnet and short jean skirt.

Presently Señor Juarez, the Mexican master, appeared. The bell in the
slate dome rang loudly, and the throng filed indoors. There was the
usual array of ceremonies appropriate to occasions like this. Small
boys spoke "pieces," which they forgot, being audibly prompted, while
the audience experienced untold pangs of sympathy and foreboding.
Little beribboned girls exhibited their skill in dialogue, and read
essays and filed through some patriotic drill, to which a forest of
tiny flags gave splendid emphasis at impressive junctures.

Then Edith May Jonas, solemn with anxiety and importance, rose to
sing. She was a plain, flaxen-haired girl, with a Teutonic cast of
feature and a thin voice; but every one, benumbed with speechless
admiration of her blue silk dress, derived from her performance an
impression of surpassing beauty and unbounded talent.

"_Caramba!_ but she is like a vision!" sighed Señora Vigil in Jane's
ear. "Look at Señora Jonas, the mother! Well may she weep tears of
pride! She is a great lady--Señora Jonas. Just now she have
condescended to say to me, ''Ow-de-do?' and me, I bow low. _'A los pics
de V. señora!'_ I say. _Ay Dios!_ if I but had a child with yellow
hair, like the Señorita Edith May! _Que chula!_"

"Sh!" breathed Jane. "There's my Lola on the platform!"

Lola had grown tall in the past year. She was fairer than the Mexicans,
although not fair in the fashion of Edith May, but with a faint citron
hue which, better than pink and white, befitted the extreme darkness
of her hair and eyes. She wore a dress of thin white, and around her
slender neck was a curious old strand of turquoise beads which had been
found carefully hidden away in the Mexican trunk. There was an air of
simple reserve about her which touched the doctor. She was only a child
for all her stately looks, and he began to hate his task.

Lola read a little address which had been assigned to her as a
representative of the highest class. She read the farewell lines almost
monotonously, without effect, without inflection, almost coldly. Yet as
he listened, the doctor had an impression of vital warmth underlying
the restraint of the girl's tone--an impression of feeling that lay far
below the surface, latent and half-suspected.

"There is something there to be reckoned with," he decided. "But what?
Is it a noble impulse which will spring to life in rich gratitude when
I tell her my story? Or will a mere hurt, passionate vanity rise to
overwhelm us all in its acrid swell? I shall soon know."

In the buzz of gaiety and gossip which succeeded the final reading, he
approached Lola and beckoned her away from the crowd. She came running
to him smiling, saying, "Señor!"

"I want to say something to you, my dear. Come here where it's quiet."
The doctor was finding the simplicity and trustfulness of her gaze very
trying. "Lola," he continued, desperately, "I--you must listen to me."
Just at this point something struck against his arm, and turning
irritably, he saw Jane.

"What's all this?" said she, placidly. "What are you saying to make my
little girl so wide-eyed? Remember, she has a fierce old guardian--one
that expects every one to 'tend to his own affairs!" Jane spoke
jestingly, but the doctor knew he was worsted. Jane had been watching
him.

"But, _tia_!" interposed Lola, "the doctor was just going to tell me
something very important!"

"He was maybe going to tell you that you are going to Pueblo next fall!
Yes, honey, it's all fixed!" She turned a joyous, defiant face on the
doctor, who cast his hands abroad as if he washed them of the whole
affair; while Lola, beaming with pleasure, rushed off to tell the news
to Señor Juarez.

"You'll regret this!" said the doctor, somehow feeling glad of his own
failure.

"Well, _she_ won't!" cried Jane, watching Lola's flight with tender
eyes.

"Sometime she is going to find out all this deceit!" he added.

"I know," said Jane. "I know. And then she'll quit trusting me forever.
But if I'm willing to stand it, nobody else need to worry." With this
tacit rebuke she left him, and thereafter the doctor respected her
wishes.

A month or so after Lola's departure northward, Jane's solicitude was
enlivened by an event of startling importance. She was notified by the
Dauntless Company that two entries, the fourth and fifth east, had
entered her property, in which she had never suspected the presence of
coal, and that the owners were prepared to negotiate with her suitable
terms for the right of working the vein in question.

When the matter of royalties was settled and several hundred dollars
paid to Jane's account for coal already taken out, she had a sudden
rush of almost tearful joy. Every month would come to her, while the
coal lasted, a determinate sum of money. She regarded the fact in a
sort of ecstasy, and resolved upon many things.

First she banished from her house the shadow of the mortgage. Then,
glowing with enterprise, she proceeded to extend and embellish her
property in a way which speedily set the town by the ears, and aroused
every one to dark prophecies as to what must happen when her money
should all be gone, and nothing left her but to face poverty in the
palatial five-room dwelling now growing up around the pine homestead of
the past.

Lola liked adobe houses; and fortunately Enrique Diaz, the blacksmith,
had a fine lot of adobes which he had made before frost, and put under
cover against a possible extension of his shop, "to-morrow or some time
after a while." These Jane bought, and deftly the chocolate walls arose
in her _vega_, crowned finally with a crimson roof, which could be seen
two miles off at Lynn. There was a porch, too, with snow-white pillars,
and an open fireplace, all tiled with adobe, in which might blaze fires
of piñon wood, full of resin and burning as nothing else can burn save
driftwood, sodden with salt and oil and the mystery of old ocean.

Then, after a little, there arrived in town a vaulted box, in which the
dullest fancy might conjecture a piano. Greatly indeed were heads
shaken. If doom were easily invoked, Jane would hardly have lived to
unpack the treasure and help to lift it up the porch steps.

"_Por Dios!_" gasped Ana Vigil. "It must have cost fifty dollars! And
for what good, señora?"

"Lola's taking music-lessons," said Jane. "Her and Edith May Jonas is
learning a duet. I want she should be able to go right on practising."

"Ah!" said Ana, innocently. "She will not say your house now is 'ugly,'
will she? And you, señora, shall you get a longer dress and do your
hair up, so she will not say of you like she did, 'How queer'?"

Jane looked at Ana. Surely she could not mean to be ill-tempered--Ana,
with a face as broad and placid as a standing pool? No, no, Ana was too
simple to wish to pain any one! Yet as Jane dwelt upon Ana's queries,
it came slowly to Jane that certain changes in herself might be well.

She obeyed this wise, if late, impulse, and when Lola came home in June
she had her reward. The girl cried out with surprise as she beheld on
the platform at Lynn that tall figure in a soft gray gown, fashioned
with some pretensions to the mode, but simple and dignified as befitted
Jane's stature and look. There was a bonnet to match, too elderly for
Jane's years, and of a Quakerish form. But this was less the cause for
the general difference in Jane's aspect than the fact that her brown
hair, parted smoothly on the broad, benignant brow, now had its ends
tucked up in a neat knot.

"_Tia! tia!_" exclaimed Lola, herself glowing like a prairie-rose, as
she dashed out of the train. "What have you done? You are good to look
at! Your hair--oh, _asombro!_"

But when the white burros of the mail wagon, wildly skimming the
plains, brought them in sight of the new house, Lola's joy turned white
on her cheeks, and she clutched Jane's arm.

"_Tia_--our house! It is gone--gone!"

Then was Jane's time to laugh with sheer happiness, to throw open gate
and door and usher her guest into the old room where Tesuque sat and
the Navajo blanket still covered the couch as of yore, and nothing was
altered except that now other rooms opened brightly on all sides, and
in one a piano displayed its white teeth in beaming welcome.

Lola's blank face, whereon every moment printed a new delight, was to
Jane a sight hardly to be matched. The satisfaction grew also with
time, as the piano awoke to such strains as Lola had mastered, and
people strolled up from the village ways to listen, and, to Jane's deep
gratification, to praise the musician. The Mexicans came in throngs,
filling the air with a chorus of "_Caspitas!_" and "_Carambas!_" None
of them called Lola "_Infanta_" nowadays unless it were in a spirit of
friendly pleasantry; and she herself had lost much of the air which had
brought this contemptuous honor upon her childish head.

"She is Mexican--yes!" they nodded to one another, deriving much simple
satisfaction from the circumstance. For was it not provocative of
racial pride that one of their compatriots should be able to make
tunes--actual tunes!--issue from those keys which responded to their
own tentative touches merely with thin shrieks or a dull, rumbling
note?

"Lolita is like she was," remarked Alejandro Vigil to his sister on the
morning of the Fourth of July, as they wandered around the common
beyond the _arroyo_.

This space of desert had an air of festive import, for unwonted
celebrations of the day were forward. A pavilion roofed with green
boughs had been built for the occasion, on the skirts of an oval course
which was to be the ground of sundry feats of cowboy horsemanship, and
of a foot-race between Piedro Cordova and the celebrated Valentino
Cortés. There would be music, also, before long. Already the sound of a
violin in process of tuning rang cheerfully through the open. The
Declaration of Independence was to be read by the lawyer, who might be
seen in the pavilion wiping his brow in anticipation of this exciting
duty. A tribe of little girls, who were to sing national airs, were
even now climbing into the muslin-draped seats of the lumber-wagon
allotted them.

It was to be a great day for Aguilar! People from Santa Clara and
Hastings and Gulnare were arriving in all manner of equipages. Mexican
vehicles made a solid stockade along the west of the track. In the
upper benches of the pavilion were ranged the flower and chivalry of
the town--the families of the mine boss, the liveryman, the lawyer, the
schoolmaster and several visiting personages. Jane, in her gray gown,
was among them; beside her sat Lola, with Edith May Jonas.

"And did you think going away to school would make her different?"
inquired Ana of her brother. "What should it do to her, 'Andro? Make
her white like Miss Jonas? _Vaya!_ Lola is only a Mexican!"

"She is not ashamed to be one, either!" cried Alejandro, accepting
Ana's tacit imputation of some inferiority in their race. "And she is
white enough," he added, regarding Lola as she sat smiling and talking,
with the boughy eaves making little shadows across the rim of her
broad straw hat.

"Who said she was ashamed?" asked Ana, with suspicious suavity. "You
hear words that have not been spoken. I tell you of your faults,
_hermano mio_, because I love you!"

Alejandro turned off in a sulk, and, leaving Ana to her own resources,
went toward the place where the ponies and burros were tethered. It was
comparatively lonely here, and Alejandro began to make friends with a
disconsolate burro who was bewailing his fate in a series of lamentable
sounds.

"Ha, _bribon!_" he said, pinching the burro's ears. "What is the use of
wasting breath? _Sus, sus, amigo!_" The burro began to buck and
Alejandro stepped back. As he did so he saw approaching him from behind
the wagons a man in tattered garments, with a hat dragged over his
eyes, and a great mass of furzy yellow beard.

"Here, you!" said this person. "Oh, you're Mexican! _Ya lo veo_--"

[Illustration: "'I HOPED YOU'D BE ABLE TO LEND ME A HAND.'"]

"Me, I spik English all ri'!" retorted Alejandro, with dignity. "Spik
English if you want. I it onnerstan'."

"I see. Well, look here!" He withdrew a folded paper from his pocket.
"I want you to take this note over to that lady in the gray dress in
the pavilion. _Sabe_ 'pavilion'? All right! Don't let any one else see
it. Just hand it to her quietly and tell her the gentleman's waiting."

Alejandro took the note reluctantly. Why should he put himself at the
behest of this _vagabundo_ who impeached his English? The man, however,
had an eye on him. It was an eye which Alejandro felt to be impelling.
He decided to take the note to the lady in gray.

Jane, as Alejandro smuggled the paper into her hand, caught a glimpse
of the writing and felt her heart sink. Lola and Edith May Jonas were
whispering together. They had not noticed Alejandro.

"The man is waiting," said the boy, in her ear.

Jane touched Lola. "Keep my seat, dear," she said. "Some one wants to
speak to me." And she followed Alejandro across the field.

Alejandro's _vagabundo_ came forward to meet her with an air of light
cordiality. His voice was the voice which had greeted her first from
the steps of the prairie-schooner in which Lola's mother lay dead.

"It's me!" conceded Mr. Keene, pleasantly. "In rather poor shape, as
you see. It's always darkest before dawn! You're considerable changed,
ma'am--and to the better. I would hardly have known you. Is that girl
in the big white hat Lola? Well, well! Now, ma'am I'll tell you why I'm
here."

He proceeded to speak of an opportunity of immediate fortune which was
open to him, after prolonged disaster, if only the sum of five hundred
dollars might be forthcoming. A friend of his in Pony Gulch had sent
him glowing reports of the region. "All I want is a grub-stake," said
Mr. Keene, "and I'm sure to win!"

"I haven't that much money in the world!" said Jane.

Keene sighed. "Well, I hoped you'd be able to lend me a hand, but if
you can't, you can't! There seems to be nothing for me but to go back
North, and try to earn something to start on. I guess it'd be well for
me to take Lola along. She's nearly grown now, and they need help the
worst kind in the miners' boarding-house where I stay up in Cripple. I
told the folks that keep it--I owe 'em considerable--that I'd bring
back my daughter with me to assist 'em in the dining-room, and they
said all right, that'd suit 'em. Wages up there are about the highest
thing in sight. Equal to the altitude. And it'll give me a chance to
look round."

Jane was staring at him. "You would do that?" she breathed. "You'd take
that delicate girl up there to wait on a lot of rough miners? I've
worked for her and loved her and sheltered her from everything! She's
not fit for any such life! She sha'n't go!"

Keene had been touched at first. At Jane's last assertion, however, he
began to look sulky.

"Well, I guess it's for me to say what she shall do!" he signified. "I
guess it's not against the law or the prophets for a daughter to assist
her father when he's in difficulties. And Lola'll recognize her duty.
I'll just go over yonder to the pavilion, ma'am, and see what she
says."



DESTINY PRESSES



CHAPTER FIVE

DESTINY PRESSES


Jane stood confounded. Her aghast mind, following Mr. Keene's project,
seemed to see him rakishly ascending the pavilion steps, among a
wondering throng, and making way to Lola as she sat, happy and honored,
with her friends. Jane had a sharp prevision of Lola's face when her
father should appear before her, so different from the tender ideal of
him which she had cherished, so intent upon himself, so bent upon
shattering with his first word to his child all those visions of
unselfish kindness and generosity which had made her thoughts of him
beautiful.

Lola would go with him. She would rise and leave her home, friends and
happy prospects to follow him to whatever life he might judge best,
however rough, however wild. In ordinary circumstances Jane could not
deny to herself that this course would be the right course for a
daughter; that such an one would do well to succor a father's failings,
to add hope to his despondency and love to the mitigation of his
trials. But Mr. Keene was not despondent, nor were his trials of a sort
which might not easily be tempered by something like industry on his
own part. He was frankly idle. He loved better than simple work the
precarious excitement of prospecting--an occupation which, except in
isolated and accidental instances, cannot be pursued to any good save
with the aid of science and capital.

Camp life might not be bad for Mr. Keene; but that it would be good for
a girl so young and sensitive to every impression as Lola, Jane
doubted.

"I got to consider what's best for her," thought Jane, while Keene
himself was beginning once more to sympathize with the silent misery in
her face.

"I never had no idea you thought so much of Lola!" he exclaimed. "She
wasn't the kind of child a stranger'd be apt to get attached to. I hope
you don't think I'd do anything mean? That isn't my style! All is, I'm
her father, and a father ought to have some say-so. Now aint that true,
Miss Combs?"

Jane was thinking. "Would three hundred dollars help you out?" she
demanded. "I've got that much. I've been saving it toward Lola's
schooling next year."

"What, have you been sending her to pay-school?" Keene looked
surprised, and unexpectedly his eyes began to dim. "I'd have been a
better man if I'd had any luck," he said, with apparent irrelevance.

Jane made no moral observations. She did not point out that a man's
virtue ought not to depend altogether on his income. She said simply,
"Will that much do?"

Mr. Keene, controlling his emotion, said it would, and they parted upon
the understanding that they should meet at Lynn two days later, for the
transference of the fund.

Then Jane plodded wearily back to the pavilion, and mutely watched the
cow-ponies rush and buck around the course. She beheld Valentino
Cortés, a meteoric vision in white cotton trousers, girdled in crimson,
flash by to victory amid the wild "_Vivas!_" of his compatriots. She
saw the burros trot past in their little dog-trot of a race.

But although she essayed a pleased smile at these things, and listened
with enforced attention to the speeches and the music, there were
present with her foreboding and unrest. For usually the Dauntless
pursued no vigorous labor in summer, but merely kept the water out of
its slope and "took up" and sold to various smelters such "slack" as it
had made during the winter. There would be no royalties coming in to
Jane, since no coal would be mined; and presently it would be
September, and no money for Lola's school.

So Jane's cares were thickening. Not only did the mine soon enter on
its summer inactivity, but worse befell. The mine boss came one day to
tell Jane that, because of a certain "roll" in the east entries, it was
deemed inadvisable farther to work these levels.

"The coal over there makes too much slack, anyhow," said the mine boss,
"so we intend hereafter to stick to the west." Whereupon, unaware of
leaving doom behind him, he went cheerfully away.

Jane's horizons had always lain close about her. She had never been
one to scent trouble afar off. To be content in the present, to be
trustful in the future, was her unformulated creed. And now, as she
mused, it came to her swiftly that she need not despair so long as she
had over her head a substantial dwelling. This abode, in its mere
cubhood, had afforded her financial succor. It would be queer if such
an office were beyond it now. Only this time the doctor must not be
approached; his reasoning before had been too searching.

Jane therefore wrote to a lawyer in Trinidad, authorizing him to obtain
for her a certain amount of money. She felt assured of the outcome of
this letter, but presently there came a reply which stupefied her. The
lawyer wrote that there happened to be in court a suit concerning the
boundaries of an old Spanish land grant, which, it was claimed,
extended north of the Purgatory River, and touched upon her own and
other neighboring property. The lawyer wrote that matters would
probably be settled in favor of the present landholders, but that, so
long as litigation pended, all titles were so clouded as to make any
questions of loans untenable.

Jane felt as if a ruthless destiny were pressing her home. She looked
at Lola, and her heart sank at the girl's air of springlike happiness
and hope. Must these sweet hours be broken upon with a tale of
impending penury?

Lola of late had seemed gentler, and the silent, stony moods were
leaving her, together with her childish impulse toward sudden anger. So
much Jane saw. Lola herself was sensible of a changing sway of feeling
which she did not seek to understand. To read of a noble deed brought
swift tears to her eyes in these days of mutation, and stirred her to
emulative dreams.

She did not know what power of action lay in her; but there seemed to
be some vital promise in the eager essence of spirit which spread
before her such visions of beautiful enterprise. Lola did not realize
how favorable to ripening character was the atmosphere in which she
lived. She could not yet know how she had been impressed by the simple
page of plain, undramatic kindness and generosity which Jane's life
opened daily to her eyes.

One day Jane spoke to her sadly.

"Lola," she said, "I'm afraid there won't be enough money to send you
away to school this year."

"But papa never denies me anything, _tia_."

"I know, dear."

"How funny you say that! Is--has he--lost his money, _tia_? You're
keeping something from me!"

"Lola," said Jane, in a moved voice, "I don't know a great deal about
your father's means. I can't say they're less than they were; but
there's reasons--why I'm afraid you can't--go to Pueblo this coming
fall. No, Lola--don't ask me any questions--I can't speak out! I've
done wrong! I can't say any more!" and to Lola's surprise she hurried
out of the room.

Never before had Lola witnessed in Jane such confusion and distress.
The sight bewildered and troubled her so sorely as for the moment to
exclude from mind the bearing upon her own future of Jane's ambiguous,
faltering words. Something was surely amiss; but the girl as yet fully
realized only one fact--that tia, always so steadfast and strong and
cheerful, had gone hastily from the room in the agitation of one who
struggled with unaccustomed tears. Lola hesitated to follow Jane. Some
inward prompting withheld her.

"She is like me," mused the girl. "She would rather be alone when
anything troubles her. I will wait. Maybe she will come back soon and
tell me everything."

Outside it was as dry and bright as ever. The Peaks stood bald and
pink against the flawless sky. Over in the Vigil yard Lola saw the
smaller Vigil boys lassoing one another with a piece of clothes-line,
while, dozing over her sewing, Señora Vigil herself squatted in the
doorway. Propped against the house-wall, Diego Vigil sat munching a
corn-cake and frugally dispersing crumbs to the magpies which hovered
about him in short, blue-glancing flights.

Diego was two years old--quite old enough to doff his ragged frock for
the "pantalones" which his mother was still working upon, after weeks
of listless endeavor. The señora's thread was long enough to reach
half-way across the yard, and it took time and patience to set a
stitch. For very weariness the señora nodded over her labor, and made
many little appeals to the saints that they might guide aright the
tortuous course of her double cotton.

"Life is hard!" sighed the señora, pausing over a knot in her endless
thread. "Ten children keep the needle hot. Ay, but this knot is a hard
one! There are evil spirits about."

She laid down her work to wipe her eyes, and, observing two of her sons
grappling in fraternal war at the house corner, she arose to cuff each
one impartially, exclaiming, "_Ea, muchachos!_ You fight before my very
eyes, eh? Take that! and that!" Waddling reluctantly back to her
sewing, she saw Lola standing in the white-pillared porch of the big
adobe house beyond, and a gleam of inspiration crossed the señora's
dark, fat face.

"She shall take out this knot," thought Señora Vigil. "Señorita!" she
called. "Come here, I pray you! There is a tangle in my thread and all
my girls are away!"

And, as Lola came across the field, she added, "I am dead of
loneliness, Lolita. Ana and Benita and Ines and Marina and Alejandro
are gone up the Trujillo to the wedding-party of their cousin, Judita
Vasquez. To-morrow she marries the son of Juan Montoya. _Hola!_ She
does well to get so rich a one! He has twenty goats, a cow and six
dogs. His house has two rooms and a shed. They will live splendid! It
is to be hoped these earthly grandeurs will not turn Judita's thoughts
from heaven!" The señora shook her head cheerfully. "My Ana told Judita
she ought to be thankful so plain a face as hers should find favor with
José Montoya. My Ana is full of loving thoughts! She never lets her
friends forget what poor, sinning mortals they are!"

"Indeed, no!" agreed Lola, feelingly, while she smoothed out the
thread.

"Take a stitch or two that I may be sure the cotton is really all
right!" implored the señora. "Yes, truly Ana is a maid of rare charms.
When she marries I shall be desolate!"

"Is there talk of that?" asked Lola, with interest. Ana was now
sixteen, and was nearly as heavy as her mother, and much more sedate.
In true Mexican fashion the look of youth had left her betimes, and her
swarthy plumpness had early hardened and settled to a look of maturity
to which future years could add little.

"There is Juan Suarez," said the señora, in a mysterious whisper, "and
if I would I could mention others; for, as you know, Lolita, my Ana is
very beautiful."

Lola maintained a judicious silence, and the señora continued placidly,
"Though she is my child, I am bound to admit it. Her nature is a rare
one, too. And when suitors throng about her she only shakes her head.
She is lofty. She will not listen. 'No, _caballeros_,' she says, 'I
have regarded your corral. It is too empty.' And one by one they go
away weeping, the poor caballeros! She is cruel, my Ana, being so
beautiful! Me, I own it--though my heart aches to see the caballeros
shedding tears!"

Lola, finding her own face expanding irresistibly, bent lower over
Diego's small trousers. The picture of Ana, standing disdainful among
the sorrowing caballeros and waving off their pleas with an imperious
hand, was one to bring a smile to lips of deadliest gravity. Ana, with
her hands on her broad hips, short and thick as a squat brown jug with
its handles akimbo,--Ana, with her great clay-colored face and tiny,
glittering eyes, with her thick, pale lips and coarse, black
hair,--surely none but a mother could view in Ana such charms as
bedewed Señora Vigil's eyes only to think of!

"To see unhappiness is a very blade in my heart!" sighed Señora Vigil,
recovering herself. "Do not make the thread short, Lolita! No, no! I
shall have to thread the needle again before the week is out, if you
do. Ah, yes! I wept much the day when you were lost, and Bev Gribble,
the vaquero, brought you home on his horse. 'Twas long ago. And now you
are grown tall and can play the piano. Shall you go on fretting your
poor head with more schooling, _chiquita_?"

[Illustration: "'DO NOT MAKE THE THREAD SHORT LOLITA!'"]

At this question Lola's mind sharply reverted to the distressing scene
which had by a moment preceded her neighbor's summons. There had been
in Jane's words a broken, yet oddly definite, assertion of impending
poverty. She had spoken of the unlikelihood of another year in Pueblo
for Lola, and the girl for the first time began to realize this fact
with a sinking of the heart. Her voice had a tremor as she said
hesitatingly, "I'm afraid I can't go back to Pueblo this fall."

"Not go back? The Jonas señorita goes back! Why not you? Has thy father
lost money? I am thy friend, Lolita. Tell me!"

"I can't tell what I don't know, señora. I don't know if he has lost
money. _Tia_ only said that--that I mightn't go back to school. She
didn't say why, but she will, no doubt."

Señora Vigil's eyes narrowed. She recalled certain rumors long afloat
in town as to Jane's extravagance, and the inability of her means to
such luxuries as pianos. Also, although half-consciously, the señora's
inner memory dwelt upon that corner of her back yard which it had been
Jane's sad fortune to take away.

The señora was not unkind or vindictive, but she had a mouse-trap sort
of mind which only occasionally was open to the admittance of ideas,
but which snapped fast forever upon such few notions as wandered into
it. Having once accepted the belief that Jane was not averse to snatch
at any good in her way, even if it belonged to another, the señora
found herself still under the sway of this opinion.

"The big house of Mees Combs has cost too much!" she asserted. "Where
has the money come from? From the coal? Some, perhaps, yes; but for all
of the great house, ah, it cannot be! Every one has been saying there
was not enough coal in her tract to pay for what she has done; and new
debts press, doubtless. What could be easier than to take the money of
thy father? I tell you, Lolita, that you cannot go to school because
Mees Combs has had to use your money to pay them! Eh, but your father
will be mad! He is not working himself to a bone that strangers should
build themselves fine houses! My Pablo said a little time ago that
people said your father's riches were going astray. Me, I did not
listen. Now I know he spoke true." The señora's tongue wagged on in a
diatribe of accusation and pity.

Lola let the sewing fall. Against her stoutest effort there prevailed a
vivid remembrance of Jane's manner and statements, of Jane's
self-impeachment and agitation, and, try as hard as she could to
forget them, the words which Jane had used kept coming to mind. "I have
done wrong!" Had not Jane said this? Had she not covered her
face--could it be _guiltily_--and gone away?

"No," said Lola, hoarsely, half to herself, half to her hearer, "it
isn't true! You make mistakes, Señora Vigil! Do you hear? You make
mistakes!"

"Alas, for thy soft heart!" moaned the señora. "Thou art changed much!
Me, I would not be hard on Mees Combs, though her sin is clear. Who am
I to judge? Nay, even I try to forget that me she has also despoiled;
that she took a corner of our back yard, and plants corn in it to this
day! I am all for forgiving. But the saints are not so easy!" said the
señora, unconscious of any disparagement to the saints, and referring
merely to a judicial quality in them.

Lola was not listening. She had a burning wish to escape from the soft
buzzing of the señora's words, which, a velvety, sting-infested swarm,
whirred around her bee-like, seeking hive and home.

"Don't think I believe anything against _tia_!" she heard herself
saying sternly, as the gate slipped from her impetuous hand and she
rushed away, the quarry of emotions which no speed, however swift,
could outdistance.



BEWILDERING SATISFACTION



CHAPTER SIX

BEWILDERING SATISFACTION


Lola found herself walking up the cañon, between the rocky hills beside
the dry _arroyo_. Summer dust whitened the road, and rose to her tread
in alkaline clouds. It was warm, too, under the remorseless Colorado
sun, but nothing touched Lola. She was struggling with a thing that was
half anguish and half anger, and that lifted upon her a face more and
more convincing in its ugliness.

It seemed impossible to doubt that Jane had indeed worked the wrong of
which Señora Vigil accused her--although Jane's own word, and no word
of the señora's, bore this conviction to Lola's breast. Jane had
faltered in the trust which she had assumed, and now, confronted with
the embarrassment of facing Lola's father in a plain confession of her
delinquency, she hesitated and was miserable and afraid and reluctant.
Rather than state her situation she would even keep Lola from school.

"It isn't that I care for that!" throbbed Lola. It was not the stoppage
of her own course, indeed, although this was a misery, but the loss of
trust in all humanity which distrust of Jane seemed to the girl to
inflict upon her. If Jane were not true, none could be; and the
suspicion and unrest rioted back again to the bosom which belief in
Jane and the world had softened and calmed.

There was nothing to do. Lola's father could easily repair Jane's
shortcoming, but not without having an explanation of the facts of the
case. The facts of the case he must never know. Even in her pain and
indignation, Lola never made a question of this.

"Suppose it is true!" thought the girl, suddenly overcome by a new tide
of feeling. "What am I blaming her for? She would never have fixed the
house or bought things for herself! She did it all for me. And although
I would rather have gone to school than have the piano, am I to blame
_tia_ for not knowing this? She never thought where she was coming out.
She just went on and on. And now that there is no more money, she is
frightened and sorry and ashamed. She has done everything for me--even
herself she has fairly made over to please me. Poor _tia_! Oh,
ungrateful that I am to have been thinking unkindly of her!"

Suddenly all the bitterness left her, like an evil thing exorcised by
the first word of pitying tenderness. Tears stole sweetly to her eyes.
Peace came upon her shaken spirit. The day had been full of strange
revelations; and now it showed her how good for the human heart it is
to be able to pity weakness, to love, to forbear and to forgive.

In the strange peacefulness which brooded over her she walked home
between the piñon-sprinkled hills, where doves were crooning and the
far bleating of an upland herd echoed among the barren ridges. She
reflected quietly upon meeting Jane without a hint of any shadow in her
face, but in such sunniness of humor as should gladden and reassure.
And Jane would never dream of the dark hour which had visited her
child. She would never know that any slightest thought, unnurtured in
affection, had risen to cast between them the least passing shadow;
although from Lola's heart might never pass away that little,
inevitable sense of loss which those know whose love survives a
revelation of weakness in one believed to be strong.

As she came in sight of the hollow roof of the Dauntless she saw the
doctor riding toward her.

"Hello!" he said. "What have you been doing up the cañon? Building
Spanish castles?"

"Watching Spanish castles fall," said Lola, smiling. "What would you
do," she went on lightly, "if you had planned something worth while,
and it became impossible?"

The doctor looked down at her young, questioning face. It was grave,
although she spoke gaily, and looked so mere a slip of girlhood with
her brown throat and cheek and lifted black-lashed eyes.

Unexpectedly the doctor remembered when he, too, had meant to do things
that should be "worth while." He thought of Berlin and Vienna and
Paris, and the clinics where he had meant to acquire such skill as,
aiding his zeal, should write him among the first physicians of his
day. And here he was, practising among a few Mexicans and miners,
tending their bruises, doling them out quinine, and taking pay of a
dollar a month from every man, sick or well, enrolled on the mine
books, and frequently getting nothing at all from such as were not
therein enrolled. Never a volume of his had startled the world of
science. Surgery was bare of his exploits. Medical annals knew him not.
All he had thought to do was undone by him; and yet here he was,
contented, happy and healthy in a realm of little duties. In so
unpretentious a life as this he had found satisfaction; and for the
first time it came upon him that thus simply and calmly satisfaction
comes to the great mass of men who have nothing to do with glory or
hope of glory.

"When great things become impossible, what would you do?" said Lola,
tossing back her long, braided hair.

"I would do little things," said the doctor, with whimsical soberness.

An unusual equipage was turning in from the Trinidad road--an equipage
on which leather and varnish shone, and harness brasses flashed, while
the dust rolled pompously after it in a freakish fantasy of postilions
and outriders. The driver made a great business of his long whip. The
horses were sleek and brown. Altogether the vehicle had a lordly air,
easily matching that of the individual sitting alone on the purple
cushions--a man whose features were not very clear at the distance,
although the yellowness of his beard, the glitter of his studded
shirt-front, and whole consequential, expansive effect recalled to the
doctor's mind an image of the past, less ornate, indeed, and affluent,
but of similar aspect. He narrowed his eyes, staring townward over
Lola's head, and wondering if yonder princely personage might not in
very truth be Lola's father.

But the girl's eyes were bent upon the ground. She did not see the
equipage or the man on the purple cushions.

"You do little things?" she said, raising her eyes gravely to the
doctor's. He had always seemed to her the man who did great things. "I
will try," she added, seriously.

While she talked with the doctor the world seemed to Lola a pleasant
place, with a golden light on its long levels and a purple glamour on
its hills. And after he had left her, she went with a light heart down
the unpaved street that she had lately traversed in unseeing
bitterness. The very hum of the mine cars was full of good cheer;
children splashed joyously in the ditch; magpies gossiped; the
blacksmith-shop rang with a merry din of steel.

Set emerald-like in the yellow circle of the prairies, the green young
cottonwood grove about Jane's house shone fresh and vivid. At the white
gate a carriage waited--a strange carriage which Lola scrutinized
wonderingly as she approached. With delighted eyes she noted the
purple cushions and the satin coats of the horses. Who could have
come? Whose voice was that which issued from the house in an unbroken
monologue, genial, laughing, breathless?

Suddenly, as she mounted the porch steps, a persuasion of familiarity
in those light accents overcame her. Could it be that her father had
come at last? That, after all her waiting, she was to see him and talk
with him and sob out on his breast her appreciation of his long labors
in her behalf, his kindness, unselfishness and goodness?

She forgot that she had sometimes been hurt at his silence and absence.
Her childhood swam before her; she recalled the sweetness of her
mother's face, and in that memory he who awaited her in Jane's
sitting-room gathered a graciousness which exalted him, as if he, too,
had been dead and was alive again.

The talk broke off at her impetuous entrance. Upon a chair sat a man
with a round and ruddy face, with bright blue eyes and a curling spread
of yellow beard. Lola hesitated. She doubted if this richly arrayed,
somewhat stout man could be the slim, boyish-looking father she
remembered. Then the unalterable joyousness of his glance reassured
her, and she rushed forward crying, "Oh, it's you! It's you!"

She had not noticed Jane, who sat opposite, mute and relaxed, like one
in whom hope and resolution flag and fail; but Jane's deep eyes
followed Lola's swift motion, and her look changed a little at the
girl's air of eager joy. As she saw Lola fling herself upon his breast
and cling there, she winced, and her heart yearned at the sight of a
love which she had somehow failed to win with all her efforts, and
which now she should never win, since Lola was about to leave her
forever.

The hour so long dreaded by Jane seemed surely to have come at
last--the hour of her child's departure. Forth to life's best and
brightest Lola would go, as was meet. Happiness illimitable awaited the
girl she had cherished. It was right that this should be so; yet, alas
for the vast void gray of the empty heart which Lola would leave
behind!

"Well, this is a kind of surprise!" said Mr. Keene, holding his
daughter away for a better sight of her radiant face. "You are taller
than I expected. She's got real Spanish eyes, aint she, Miss Combs?
Like her mother's. The Keenes are all sandy. I'm not sure I'd have
known you, Lola."

"Oh, papa, you've been away so long! You've been kind and good to
me--yet--"

"We'll have to let bygones be bygones," declared her father, gratified
to learn that she had thought him good and kind--for this point had
rather worried him. "I've felt at times as if I hadn't done you just
right."

"Don't say so, papa!"

"Well, I won't," agreed Mr. Keene, willingly. "Only I'm glad to find
you haven't cherished anything against me for leaving you like I did.
When I persuaded Miss Jane to take you, I couldn't foresee what hard
luck I was going to strike, could I?" As he paused he caught Jane's eye
upon him in a significance which he did not understand.

"She doesn't know," said Jane, in a sort of whisper, indicating Lola,
whose back was toward her.

"Doesn't know what?" asked Mr. Keene, unwitting and bewildered. "Of
course she doesn't know all I suffered, what with taking up one
worthless claim after another month in and out--if you mean that! Why,
I actually thought one time of giving up prospecting and settling down
to day's work! Yes'm! It was sure enough that grub-stake you gave me
last Fourth of July that brought me my first luck! I put it right into
Pony Gulch and my pick struck free-milling ore the first blow! Some of
the stuff runs ninety dollars to the ton and some higher. I've already
had good offers for my claim from an English syndicate, but I haven't
decided to sell. Seems queer it should be such a little while ago that
I called you out of that pavilion, Miss Jane, and told you what a fix I
was in! You remember you said you hadn't the money--and then afterward
you turned in, real friendly, and raised me what I needed."

Lola exclaimed, "You were here in town on the Fourth of July? O papa!
Why didn't I see you? Oh--what--"

"You came near enough to seeing me," laughed Mr. Keene, "and to going
away with me, too! I'm glad things happened like they did. That
boarding-house was no place for you, Lola. I realize it now! But I was
pushed to the wall. But for Miss Jane's helping me out, I'd have had to
take you away, sure enough! She told you, didn't she?"

"Told me? Told me what?"

"Why, about my idea of getting you that situation up in Cripple? They
needed help bad up in the boarding-house where I lived, and I'd made
'em a promise to fetch you. It was easy work in the dining-room, and
right good pay."

"And--and--_tia_ fixed it--so--you decided to leave me here?"

"That's what she did! I'm mighty glad of it, too, for I see you're not
cut out for any such work. I'm not forgetting what I owe Miss Jane.
She's been a good friend to us both. I was sorry to hear down in
Trinidad about your mortgaging your house that time, Miss Combs. Yes,
I'm downright ashamed to think I've let you pay me month by month for
Lola's services, when really you were out of pocket for her schooling
and all. But I didn't realize how things were, and now we'll level
things up."

"My services!" Lola sprang to her feet. Everything was clear enough
now. No need to summon charity for Jane's shortcomings! No need to
overlook, to palliate, to forgive! Jane's fault had been merely too
lavish a generosity, too large a love. There had been no question with
her of property. She had simply given everything she had to a forsaken,
ungrateful child--home, food, raiment, schooling.

These were the facts. The flood of unutterable feeling which swept over
Lola as the knowledge of it all flashed upon her was something deeper
than thought, something more moving than any mere matter of perception.
A passionate gratitude throbbed in her heart, confused with a
passionate self-reproach. She desired to speak, but somehow her lips
refused utterance. She trembled and turned white, and stood wringing
her hands.

"I was always a generous man," said Mr. Keene, lost to his daughter's
looks in pleasant introspection, "and I mean to do right by you, Miss
Combs. You'll find I'm not ungrateful. Lola'll always write to you,
too, wherever we are. I'm thinking some of Paris. How'd that suit you,
Lola? A person can pick up a mighty good time over there, they say. And
bonnets--how many bonnets can you manage, Lola? Why, she looks kind of
stunned, don't she, Miss Combs?"

Jane was gazing at the girl. She knew well with what force the blow so
long averted had fallen at last. In her own breast she seemed to feel
the pain with which Lola had received her father's revelations.

"Lola," she cried, leaning forward, "don't feel so, my lamb! I'm sorry
you had to know this. I tried hard to keep it from you. But it's all
out now, and you must try to bear it. Your father don't realize--he
hasn't meant to hurt you. He's fond of you, dearie. And he's going to
take you to foreign lands, and you can see all the great pictures and
statues, and have a chance to learn all the things you spoke
of--designing and such. Don't look so, my child!"

Mr. Keene began to feel highly uncomfortable. Evidently, in his own
phrase, he had "put his foot into it;" he had said too much. He had
disclosed fallacies in himself of which Lola, it seemed, knew nothing.
And now Lola, who had received him with such flattering warmth, was
turning her face away and looking strange and stern and stricken.

Nor did Miss Combs seem fairly to have grasped the liberality of his
intentions. She, too, had a curious air of not being exalted in any way
by so much good fortune. She appeared to be engaged solely in trying to
reconcile Lola to a situation which Mr. Keene considered dazzling.

Altogether it was very disturbing, especially to a man who did not
understand what he had done to bring about so unpleasant a turn. He
was about to ask some explanation, when Lola said slowly, "And you,
_tia_, you have done so much for me that you have nothing left? Is that
so?"

"I don't need much, Lola. I'll be all right. Don't you worry."

"You won't mind living here alone and poor?"

"She won't be poor, Lola," interpolated Mr. Keene. "Haven't I said so?
And you can come and see her, you know. Everything will come out all
right."

Lola turned a little toward him, and he was glad to see that her eyes
were soft and gentle and that the stern look had disappeared. "Yes,"
she said, "it will come out all right for tia, because I shall be here
to see that it does."

She caught her breath and added, "You couldn't think I should be
willing to go away and leave her like this? Even if I hadn't heard how
much more she has done for me than I dreamed? For I have been ignorant
till now of many things; but I shouldn't have forgotten that she loved
me and had reared me and cared for me when there was no one else. No,
father, no! And now that you have let me find out what I owe her, do
you think I sha'n't remember it always with every beat of my heart? Oh,
yes--although I can never repay her for all she has suffered in keeping
me from knowing things which would have hurt me too much when I was
little and--and could not make allowances--as I can now. My home is
here. My heart is here, father. You must let me stay!"

She had taken Jane's hand and was holding it closely--that happy hand
which for very blessedness and amazement trembled more than her own.
And so holding it, she cried, "_Tia_, you want me to stay, don't you?
Say yes! Tell him I may stay! It is my home where you are. And oh, how
different I will be!"

Jane, listening, could only press those slender, clinging fingers in
speechless comfort, and look up silently into the imploring eyes of her
child--eyes filled with tears and love. A moment of silence ensued.
Then, clearing his throat suddenly, Mr. Keene rose and walked to the
window.

"Lola," he said presently, turning to face the two others, "I don't
blame you one bit. Miss Jane's done a heap more for you than I had any
notion. 'Tisn't only that she's done all you say, but she's raised you
to be a girl I'm proud of--a right-minded, right-hearted girl. I never
thought how it would look for you to be willing to rush off at the
first word and leave behind you the person you owed most to in the
world! But I'm free to say I wouldn't have liked it when I come to
think of it. I wouldn't have felt proud of you like I do now. Knocking
around the foot-hills has shaken me up pretty well, but I know what's
right as well as any man. There's things in my life I'd like to forget;
but they say it's never too late to mend. And I have hopes of myself
when I see what a noble girl my daughter's turned out."

[Illustration: "'TIA, YOU ARE A LADY OF FORTUNE!'"]

He put his handkerchief away and came and stood before them, adding, "I
haven't had a chance to finish my other story. When Miss Jane gave me
that grub-stake she didn't know, I reckon, that half of anything I
might strike would belong to her--that in law, grub-stakes always means
halves! But I never had any intention of not dealing fair and square.
So when I said she wasn't going to be poor, I meant it! For half 'the
Little Lola' belongs to her. And if she's willing, I'll just run the
mine for the next year or so, and after that we can talk about
traveling."

Mr. Keene, during the past hour, had been made sensible of certain
deficiencies in himself. No one had accused him or reproached him, yet
he felt chagrined as he saw his own conduct forcibly contrasted with
the conduct of a different sort. But now, as his daughter sent a
beaming glance toward him, his spirits rose again, and he began once
more to regard himself hopefully, as a man who, despite some failings,
was honest in the main, and generous and well-meaning.

"Oh, how glad I am!" said Lola. "_Tia, tia_, do you hear? You are a
lady of fortune and must have a velvet gown! And, oh, _tia_, a tall,
silver comb in your hair!" She dropped a sudden kiss down upon the
smooth, brown bands, and added in a deeper tone, "But nothing, nothing,
can make you better or dearer!"

Jane smiled uncertainly as if she were in a dream. Could this
unlooked-for, bewildering satisfaction be indeed real, and not a
visionary thing which would presently fade? She looked about. There
was actuality in the scene. The cottonwoods rustled crisply, Alejandro
Vigil was calling to his dog, and the tinkle of his herd stole softly
upon her ear. The great hills rose majestic as of old upon the glorious
western sky; the plains stretched off in silvery, sea-like waves to the
very verge of the world. And hard by many a familiar thing spoke of a
past which she knew; pots of geraniums, muslin shades and open piano.
There, too, was Mr. Keene, sitting at ease in his chair; there was
Lola, bending over her in smiling reassurance. And finally, there was
Tesuque himself regarding her from his shelf in an Olympian calm which
no merely mortal emotion could touch or stir. Tesuque's little bowl was
still empty, but in his adobe glance Jane suddenly grew aware how truly
her own cup overflowed.


[THE END]



A PRAIRIE INFANTA

By EVA WILDEER BRODHEAD

A clever Western story that develops in a little Colorado mining town.
One is made to see the green, tall cottonwoods, the straggling
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Cloth, ornamental, illustrated, 50 cents


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By AMOS R. WELLS

PICTURES BY L. J. BRIDGMAN

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A GOURD FIDDLE

By GRACE MACGOWAN COOKE

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BUMPER AND BABY JOHN

By ANNA CHAPIN RAY

PICTURES BY CURTIS WAGER-SMITH

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Cloth, ornamental, illustrated, 50 cents


A LITTLE ROUGH RIDER

By TUDOR JENKS

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PICTURES BY REGINALD B. BIRCH

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       *       *       *       *       *


Transcriber's Notes

Page 43: Changed Sanish to Spanish:
  (who knew Sanish best, being a bronco from the south).





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