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Title: A Romance in Transit
Author: Lynde, Francis, 1856-1930
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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A ROMANCE IN TRANSIT

by

FRANCIS LYNDE

Third Edition



Charles Scribner's Sons
New York 1899

Copyright, 1897, by
Charles Scribner's Sons

Trow Directory
Printing and Bookbinding Company
New York



To the small person who unconsciously
provided the _motif_ herein wrought upon,
this transitory tale is affectionately attributed
by THE AUTHOR



CONTENTS


       I. P. P. C. ARIADNE

      II. THE "PERSONALLY CONDUCTED"

     III. THE PRIVATE CAR

      IV. THE DINNER STATION

       V. AT THE MEETING-POINT

      VI. REGARDLESS ORDERS

     VII. A DINNER ON WHEELS

    VIII. THE CAB OF THE TEN-WHEELER

      IX. FIFTY MILES AN HOUR

       X. A CONFIDENCE EN ROUTE

      XI. AN ARRIVAL IN TRANSIT

     XII. THE ANCIENTS AND INVALIDS

    XIII. BETWEEN STATIONS

     XIV. WITH DENVER IN SIGHT

      XV. YARD-LIMITS

     XVI. THE MADDING CROWD

    XVII. ON THE NARROW-GAUGE

   XVIII. FLAGGED DOWN

     XIX. THE FOOLISH WIRES

      XX. CHIEFLY SCENIC

     XXI. ON THE HEIGHTS

    XXII. ON THE SPUR-TRACK

   XXIII. THE LAND OF HEART'S DELIGHT

    XXIV. THE END OF A STOP-OVER

     XXV. WESTWARD HO!

    XXVI. A BLIND SIDING

   XXVII. THE DRUMMING WHEELS



A ROMANCE IN TRANSIT



I

P. P. C. ARIADNE


Train Number Three, the "Flying Kestrel," vestibuled, had crossed the
yellow Rubicon of the West and was mounting toward the Occident up the
gentle acclivities of the Great Plain. The morning was perfect, as early
autumn mornings are wont to be in the trans-Missouri region; the train
was on time; and the through passengers in the Pullman sleeping-car
"Ariadne" had settled themselves, each according to his gifts, to enjoy
or endure the day-long run.

There was a sun-browned ranchman in lower eleven, homeward bound from
the Chicago stockyards; a pair of school-teachers, finishing their
vacation journey, in ten; a Mormon elder, smug in ready-made black and
narrow-brimmed hat, _vis-à-vis_ in lower five with two hundred pounds of
good-natured, comfort-loving Catholic priesthood in lower six. Two
removes from the elder, a Denver banker lounged corner-wise in his
section, oblivious to everything save the figures in the financial
column of the morning paper; and diagonally across from the banker were
the inevitable newly married ones, advertising themselves as such with
all the unconscious _naïveté_ of their kind.

Burton and his wife had lower three. They were homing from the passenger
agents' meeting in Chicago; and having gone breakfastless at the
Missouri River terminal by reason of a belated train, were waiting for
the porter to serve them with eggs and coffee from the buffet. The
narrow table was between them, and Burton, who was an exact man with an
eye to symmetrical detail, raised the spring clips and carefully
smoothed the wrinkles out of the table-cloth as he talked. A private car
had been attached to the train at the Missouri River, and its freightage
was of moment to the couple in section three.

"Are you sure it's the President?" asked the wife, leaning back to give
the cloth-laying a fair field. "I thought the Naught-fifty was General
Manager Cadogan's car."

"So it is; but President Vennor always borrows it for his annual
inspection trip. And I'm quite sure, because I saw Miss Vennor on the
platform when the car was coupled on."

"Then we'll get home just in time to go on dress-parade," said the
little lady, flippantly. "Colorado and Utah Division, fall in! 'Shun,
company! Eyes right! The President is upon you!" and she went through a
minimized manual of arms with the table-knife.

The general agent frowned and stroked his beard. "Your anarchistic
leanings will get us into trouble some time, Emily. Mr. Vennor is not a
man to be trifled with, and you mustn't forget that he is the President
of the Colorado and Utah Railway Company, whose bread you eat."

"Whose bread I should like to eat, if that slow-poke in the buffet would
ever bring it," retorted the wife. "And it is you who forget. You are a
man, and Mr. Vennor is a man; these are the primal facts, and the
business relation is merely incidental. He doesn't think any more of you
for standing in awe of him."

"I don't stand in awe of him," Burton began; but the opportune arrival
of the buffet porter with the breakfast saved him the trouble of
elaborating his defence.

Half way through the frugal meal the swing-door of the farther vestibule
gave back, and a young man came down the aisle with the sure step of an
accustomed traveller. He stopped to chat a moment with the
school-teachers, and the ranchman in section eleven, looking him over
with an appreciative eye, pronounced him a "man's man," and the terse
epithet fitted. He was a vigorous young fellow, clean-limbed and well
put together, and good-looking enough to tolerate mirrors in their
proper places. While he chatted with the two young women, he pushed his
hat back with a quick gesture which was an index to his character.
Open-hearted frankness looked out of the brown eyes, and healthy
optimism gave an upward tilt to the curling mustache. A young man with a
record clean enough to permit him to look an accusative world in the
face without abashment, one would say.

When he reached the breakfasting pair in three, he stopped again and
held out a hand to each.

"Well, well; you two!" he said. "I didn't see you when I went forward.
Where did you get on?"

"At the river," replied Mrs. Burton, making room for him in the seat
beside her. "Won't you sit down and break bread with us? literally, you
know; there isn't anything else to break unless you'll wait for the
shell of an egg that is not yet cooked."

"No, thank you; I had my breakfast a good two hours ago. Where have you
been? and where are you going?"

"We have been at the passenger meeting in Chicago, and we are on the way
home," said the general agent.

"Yes, running a race with the President," cut in Mrs. Burton. "John is
dreadfully afraid we sha'n't get to Salt Lake in time to be keel-hauled
with the rest of the force."

The young man sat back on the arm of the opposite seat with the light of
inquiry in his eyes. "What President?" he asked.

"Vennor, of our company. Didn't you know he was in the Naught-fifty?"
said Burton.

"No. They coupled it on just as we were leaving the river, and I
thought--I took it for granted that our General Manager was aboard. It's
Mr. Cadogan's car."

"I know; but President Vennor always borrows it for his annual trip."

"Are you sure? Have you seen him?"

"Quite sure. I saw Miss Vennor on the platform with some other young
people whom I don't know. It's Mr. Vennor's party."

The young man pushed his hat back, and the look of frankness became
introspective. "Do you know the Vennors? personally, I mean."

The little lady made answer:

"Yes. We met them at Manitou last summer. Do you know them?"

The young man seemed unaccountably embarrassed. "I--I've met Miss
Gertrude--that was last summer, too," he stammered. "Did you--did you
like her, Mrs. Burton?"

"Very much, indeed; she is as sweet and lovable as her father is odious.
_Do_ have a cup of coffee, won't you?"

"No, thank you. Then you didn't admire the President?"

"Indeed I didn't; no one could. He is one of the cool, contemptuous kind
of people; always looking you over as if he had half a mind to buy you.
He was barely civil to me, and he was positively rude to John."

"Oh, no; not quite that, Emily," amended the husband. "I'm only one of a
good many employees to him."

"Draws the money-line sharp and clear, does he?" said the young man, who
appeared to be more deeply interested than a merely casual topic would
account for.

The little lady nodded vigorously. "That's it, exactly. You can fairly
hear the double eagles clink when he speaks."

The general agent deprecated disloyalty, and was fain to change the
subject.

"What are you doing so far away from your territory, Fred?" he asked.

"I'm in charge of the party of old people and invalids in the Tadmor.
They'd a mind to be 'personally conducted,' and they threaten to take me
all the way across to the Coast."

"Good!" exclaimed the small person. "Then you can stop over and visit us
in Salt Lake."

The passenger agent shook his head. "I sha'n't get that far. I must
break away at Denver, by all means."

"Would nothing tempt you to go on?"

"I'm afraid not; that is--I--er--" the young man's embarrassment
suddenly returned, and he stopped helplessly.

Mrs. Burton's curiosity was instantly on the alert. "Then there _is_
something? Do tell me what it is," she pleaded.

"It's nothing; in fact, it's much less than nothing. I hesitated because
I--because your way of putting it is very--that is, it covers a great
deal of ground," he stammered.

"Don't make him quibble any more than he has to," said Burton, with mock
severity. "You see it's quite impossible for him to tell the truth."

The young man laughed good-naturedly. "That's the fact. I've been in the
passenger service so long that I can't always be sure of recognizing the
verities when I meet them. But to get back to the original sheep; I
mustn't go on--not beyond Denver. It would have been better for all
concerned if I had cut it short at the river."

"For all concerned? for yourself and the invalids, you mean?" queried
the curious one.

"Yes, and perhaps for some others. But speaking of the invalids, I'll
have to be getting back to them; they'll think I've deserted them. I'll
be in again later in the day."

Mrs. Burton waited until the swing-door of the vestibule had winged
itself to rest behind him. Then she arched her eyebrows at her husband
and said, "I wonder if Fred isn't the least little bit _épris_ with
Gertrude Vennor?"

To which the general agent replied, with proper masculine contumely, "I
believe you would infer a whole railroad from a single cross-tie. Of
course he isn't. Brockway is a good fellow, and a rising young man, but
he knows his place."

None the less it was the arrow of the woman's intuition, and not that of
the man's reason, that pierced the truth. In the vestibule the passenger
agent suddenly changed his mind about rejoining his party in the Tadmor,
turning aside into the deserted smoking-room of the Ariadne to burn a
reflective cigar, and to piece out reminiscence with present fact.

Notwithstanding his expressed reluctance, he had intended going on to
the Pacific Coast with the party in the Tadmor; had, in effect, more
than half promised so to do. It was the time of year when he could best
be spared from his district; and the members of the party had made a
point of it. But the knowledge that Miss Gertrude Vennor was a passenger
on the train opened up a new field wherein prudence and reawakened
passion fought for the mastery, to the utter disregarding of the mere
business point of view.

They had met in Colorado the previous summer--the passenger agent and
the President's daughter--and Brockway had lost his heart to the
sweet-faced young woman from the farther East before he had so much as
learned her name. He was convoying a train-load of school-teachers
across the continent; and then, as now, she was a member of a party in
her father's private car. Their meeting was at Silver Plume, where she
had become separated from her father's party, and had boarded the
excursion train, mistaking it for the regular which was to follow
Brockway's special as second section. The obvious thing for Brockway to
have done was to put her off at Georgetown, where the following section
would have picked her up in a few minutes. But he did no such unselfish
thing. Before the excursion train had doubled the final curve of the
Loop he was ready to purchase her continued presence at a price.

This he accomplished by omitting to mention the obvious expedient.
Leaving a message with the Georgetown operator, notifying the President
that his daughter was on the excursion train, Brockway went on his way
rejoicing; and, by a judicious conspiracy with his own conductor and
engineer, managed to keep the special well ahead of the regular all the
way to Denver.

That was the beginning of it, and fate, kindly or unkindly, had added
yet other meetings; at Manitou, at Leadville, and again at Salt Lake
City, where the President's daughter had voluntarily joined Brockway's
sight-seeing party on the strength of an acquaintance with two of the
Boston school-mistresses. The temporary chaperons were kind, and the
friendship had burgeoned into something quite like intimacy before the
"Mormon day" was overpast. But there it had ended. Since that day he had
neither seen her nor heard from her; and when he had come to look the
matter squarely in the face in the light of sober afterthought, he was
minded to put his infatuation under foot, and to try honestly to be glad
that their lives had gone apart. For he had learned that Mr. Francis
Vennor was a multi-millionnaire, and that his daughter was an heiress in
her own right; and no poor gentleman was ever more fiercely jealous of
his poverty rights than was this shrewd young soldier in the unnumbered
army of the dispossessed.

But the intervention of half a continent of space is one thing, and that
of a mere car-length is another. Now that he had to walk but the length
of the Tadmor to be with her again, the eager passion which he had
fondly believed to be safely dead and buried rose up in its might and
threatened to put poverty-pride, and all other calmly considered springs
of action to the sword; did presently run them through, for when
Brockway left the smoking-room of the Ariadne and crossed the jarring
platforms to the door of the Tadmor, he was flogging his wits to devise
some pretext which would excuse an invasion of the private car.



II

THE "PERSONALLY CONDUCTED"


In view of the certain proximity of Miss Gertrude Vennor, Brockway
wanted nothing so much as a quiet opportunity to think his mind clear in
the matter of his love-affair, but time and place were both denied him.
Lying in wait for him at the very door of the Tadmor was a thin old
gentleman, with hock-bottle shoulders and penthoused eyes. His voice was
high-pitched and rasping; and his speech was petulance grown old and
unreasoning.

"Mr. ah--Brockway, I protest! Do you consider it fair to us, your
patrons, to absent yourself for the ah--better part of the morning? Here
I've been waiting for you more than an hour, sir, and----"

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Jordan; I'm sorry," Brockway cut in. "What can I
do for you?"

"You can attend to your ah--business a little closer, for one thing, Mr.
ah--Brockway," quavered the aggrieved one, taking a yard-long coupon
ticket from his breast-pocket; "and for another, you can give me the
sixty days going limit on this ticket that I ah--stipulated for when I
bought it, sir."

Brockway glanced at the ticket and called attention to the conditions in
the contract. "The going limit of thirty days is plainly stated here,
Mr. Jordan. Didn't you read the contract before signing it?"

"Don't make any difference, sir; I ah--stipulated for sixty days, and I
require you to make the stipulation ah--good, sir."

"But, my dear sir, I can't. No representative of any one of the lines
interested is authorized to change these conditions."

"Very well, sir; v-e-r-y well." The irascible one folded the ticket with
tremulous fingers and sought to replace it in his pocket-book. "I shall
know what road to ah--patronize next time, and it won't be yours, Mr.
ah--Brockway; you may depend upon that, sir."

The passenger agent's forte was placability. "Don't worry about your
ticket, Mr. Jordan," he said. "We'll take good care of you, and if you
should happen to be more than thirty days in reaching Los Angeles----"

"Thirty days!" gasped the objector. "Great ah--heavens, sir, you told us
you could put us there in ah--four days and a half!"

"So I did, and so we shall, barring the stop-overs the party may wish to
make; but in that case I don't see why you should require a sixty-day
limit," said Brockway, with an affable smile.

By this time quite a little group had gathered around them, and anxious
queries began to beat thick and fast upon Brockway's ears.

"What's that about our tickets?"

"Thirty days, did you say?"

"Can't have stop-overs?"

Brockway got upon his feet. "One moment, if you please," he protested.
"There is nothing wrong--nothing different. Mr. Jordan and I were merely
discussing the question of an extra limit on his own ticket; that was
all."

"Oh."

"Ah."

"Where do we get dinner?"

"What time do we reach Denver?"

"Is there a dining-car on this train?"

Brockway answered the inquiries in sequence, and when the norm of quiet
was restored, a soft-spoken little gentleman in a grass-cloth duster and
a velvet skull-cap drew him away to the smoking-compartment.

"Let's go and smoke," he said; and Brockway went willingly, inasmuch as
the little gentleman with the womanish face and the ready cigar-case was
the only person in the party who seemed to be capable of travelling
without a guardian.

"Worry the life out of you, don't they, my boy," said the comforter,
when his cigar was alight.

"Oh, no; I'm well used to it."

"I presume you are, in a way. Still, some of the complaints are so
ridiculous. I suppose you've heard the latest?"

"Nothing later than Mr. Jordan's demand for sixty days in which to
complete a week's journey."

"Oh, it isn't that; that's an individual grievance. The other involves
the entire party. Of course, you are aware that the Tadmor is no longer
the rear car in the train?"

"Oh, Lord! are they going to fight about that?"

"Unquestionably. Didn't you promise some of them that this particular
chariot should be at the tail-end of the trans-continental procession?"

"No. It was merely an answer to a question. I said that extra cars were
usually put on behind. Are they going to demand it as a right?"

"Yes; I believe the deputation is waiting for you now."

"Heavens--what a lot of cranks!" said Brockway, despairingly. "The thing
can't be done, but I may as well go and fight it out."

The deputation was in section six, and one of the committee rose and
gave him a seat.

"There is a little matter we should like to have adjusted," began the
courteous one; but Brockway interrupted.

"Mr. Somers was just telling me about it. I hope you are not going to
insist----"

There were two elderly ladies on the committee, and they protested as
one person.

"Now, Mr. Brockway! You know we made it a positive condition--so we
could go out on the platform and see the scenery."

"But, my dear madam, let me explain----"

"There is nothing to explain; it was an explicit promise, and we insist
on its fulfilment."

"Just one word," Brockway pleaded. "The car behind us is our General
Manager's private car, lent to President Vennor, of the Colorado and
Utah. If we should put it ahead of this, Mr. Vennor's party would be
continually disturbed by the passengers and train-men going back and
forth. Don't you see----"

The fourth member of the deputation put in his word at this.

"How long has it been since the railway companies began to put the
convenience of their guests before the rights of their patrons, Mr.
Brockway? Answer me that, if you please."

"I should like to know!" declared one of the ladies. "_We_ have paid for
our accommodations."

The courteous one summed up the matter in set phrase.

"It's no use, Mr. Brockway, as you see. If you don't carry out your part
of the agreement, I'm afraid we shall have to telegraph to your
superiors."

For a moment Brockway was tempted to answer four fools according to
their folly. Then he bethought him that he had but now been seeking a
pretext which would open the door of the private car. Here was a
makeshift; a poor one, to be sure, but better than none. Wherefore,
instead of quarrelling with the deputation, he rose with placatory
phrases in his mouth.

"Very well; I'll see what can be done. But you must give me a little
time; the scenery--" pointing to the monotonous landscape circling
slowly with the onward sweep of the train--"is not exactly of the
rear-platform variety yet."

After which he retreated to the rear vestibule of the Tadmor and stood
looking out through the glass panel in the door at the hamper-laden
front platform of the Naught-fifty, trying to muster courage to take the
chilling plunge. For he knew that the year agone episode was not
altogether pleasing to the father of Miss Gertrude Vennor.



III

THE PRIVATE CAR


"Yes, sah; mighty sorry, sah; but we cayn't cook you-all's dinner,
no-how, sah. Wateh-pipe's done bu'sted in de range."

President Vennor turned and regarded the big-bodied cook of the
Naught-fifty with the eye-sweep of appraisal which Mrs. Burton had found
so annoying.

"No dinner, you say? That's bad. Why did you burst the pipe?"

"I--I didn't bu'sted it, sah; hit des bu'sted hitse'f--'deed it did,
sah!"

"Well, can't you serve us a cold lunch?"

"Might do dat--yes, sah; ef dat'll do."

"What is that, papa; no luncheon to-day?" asked a young woman, coming
down the compartment to stand beside the President's chair.

There was a family resemblance, but in the daughter the magic of
femineity had softened the severer characteristics until they became
winsome and good to look upon. The cool gray eyes of the father were
Gertrude's inheritance, also; but in the eyes of the daughter the
calculating stare became the steady gaze of clean-hearted guilelessness;
and in her even-tinted complexion there was only a suggestion of the
sallow olive of the father's clean-shaven face. For face and figure,
Gertrude owed much to birth and breeding, and it was small wonder that
Frederick Brockway had lost his heart to her in time-honored and
romantic fashion.

The President answered his daughter's query without taking his eyes from
the big-bodied cook.

"No; there is something the matter with the range. Ask the others if
they would prefer a cold luncheon in the car to the _table d'hôte_ at
the dinner station."

Gertrude went to the other end of the compartment and stated the case to
Mrs. Dunham, the chaperon of the party; to Priscilla and Hannah
Beaswicke, two young women of the Annex; to Chester Fleetwell, A.B.,
Harvard, by the skin of his teeth, but the ablest oarsman of his class
by a very safe majority; and to Mr. Harold Quatremain, the President's
secretary.

The dinner station carried it unanimously, and Gertrude announced the
vote.

"We're all agreed upon the _table d'hôte_," she said; and the
Falstaffian negro shook himself free and backed into the vestibule.
"What is its name? and when do we arrive?"

"I'll have to inquire," Mr. Vennor replied. "I'll go forward and have
the conductor wire ahead for a separate table."

But Gertrude said: "Please don't; let's go with the crowd for once. I'm
so tired of being always specialized."

The President's smile was suggestive of the metallic smirk on the face
of a George-the-Fourth penny. "Just as you please," he rejoined; "but
I'll go and find out when and where."

Now it chanced that at this precise moment Brockway had laid his hand on
the Tadmor's door-knob preparatory to taking the plunge; and when he
opened the door he found himself face to face with the President.
Whereupon he fell back and lost the power of speech, while the incomer
appraised him with his eyes and tried to remember where he had seen him
before. Recognition brought with it a small frown of annoyance.

"Your name is Brockway, I believe," the President said.

"Ye-yes," Brockway stammered, being by no means so sure of it at the
moment.

"H-m; and, if I remember correctly, you are an employee of this line?"

"I am." The passenger agent was beginning a little to recover his
scattered store of self-possession.

"Very good. Possibly you can tell me what I want to know. What is the
dinner station, and when do we reach it?"

"Moreno--twelve-ten. Shall I wire ahead for a private table?" Brockway
asked, eager to preface his unwelcome purpose with some small token of
service.

"By no means; we are no better than the patrons of your company. What is
good enough for them ought to suffice for us."

"Of course, if you don't wish it," Brockway began; and then the plunge:
"I am in charge of the excursionists in this car, and they want it
placed behind yours. If you will kindly consent to humor their whim----"
He stopped in deference to the frown of displeasure which was gradually
overspreading the President's brow.

"And so make our private car a thoroughfare for everybody," said he,
indignantly; then, with a sudden turn which confused Brockway until he
saw its drift, "But you are quite right; the patrons of your company
should always be considered first. We are only guests. By all means,
make the change at the first opportunity."

"Please don't misunderstand me," Brockway said, courageously. "I didn't
propose it. If you object, just say so, and I'll see them all hanged
first."

The President shook his head reprovingly, and Brockway fancied he could
feel the cold gray eyes pinning him against the partition.

"Certainly not; I am afraid you don't sufficiently consider your duty to
your employers. I not only authorize the change--I desire it. I shall
request it if you do not."

Brockway winced under the patronizing tone, but he was determined not to
let pride stand in the way of better things. So he said, "Thank you for
helping me out. I'll have the change made at the dinner station, and
we'll try not to annoy you any more than we can help."

That ended it, and he was no nearer the penetralia of car Naught-fifty
than before. Mr. Vennor turned to go, but at the door he bethought him
of the crippled range.

"A water-pipe has burst in our kitchen range," said he. "Can we get it
repaired this side of Denver?"

Brockway considered it for a moment. Back of his passenger department
service there was an apprenticeship in mechanics, and he was weighing
the scanty furnishings of the engineer's tool-box against the probable
askings of the undertaking. It was a chance to show his good-will, and
he concluded to risk it.

"Hardly. We don't stop long enough at the division station. Is it a very
bad break?"

"Indeed, I know nothing about it. The cook tells me he can't use the
range."

"May I go in and look at it?" Brockway asked.

Now President Vennor, upon recognizing Gertrude's acquaintance of the
previous summer, had determined to prevent a renewal of the intimacy at
whatever cost; but he abhorred _tables d'hôte_ and railway
eating-stations, and was willing to make some concessions to avoid them.
So he gave the coveted permission, and a minute later they were in the
kitchen of the private car, inspecting the disabled range.

"It isn't as bad as it might be," Brockway announced, finally. "I think
I can stop the leak with what tools I can find in the engineer's box."

"You?"

"Yes; I'm a machinist by trade, you know. I earned my living at it
awhile, before I went into the passenger department." Brockway found a
certain measure of satisfaction in running counter to the presumed
anti-craftsman prejudice of the man of inherited wealth.

"I'm sure it is very good of you to offer, but I couldn't think of
troubling you," the President said, sparring to gain time in which to
perfect a little plan which had just suggested itself.

"Oh, it's no trouble; I shall be glad enough to help you out."

"Very well, then--if you wish to try. I will make it worth your while."

Brockway straightened up and met the appraising eyes unflinchingly.

"Excuse me, Mr. Vennor, but you've mistaken your man this time," he
said, steadily. "I'll gladly do it as a kindness--not otherwise."

The President smiled. "I beg your pardon, Mr. Brockway," he apologized,
with the faintest possible emphasis on the prefix; "we shall be most
grateful if you will come to our rescue upon your own terms. I presume
you won't have time before noon?"

"N--no," said Brockway, glancing at his watch and generously burying his
pique with the provocation; "but I'll attack it as soon as we leave
Moreno. It won't take long."

Mr. Vennor bowed, and saw his newly pledged servitor safely out upon the
hamper-laden platform. He cherished a little theory of his own
respecting the discouraging of youthful and sentimental intimacies, and
it was based upon conditions which Brockway's proposed undertaking might
easily fulfil. Gertrude had been distinctly pleased with the young man
the preceding summer. Other things had happened since, and, fortunately,
Fleetwell was along to look after his own interests. None the less, it
might be well for them to meet under conditions which would make it
impossible for the passenger agent to pose as Gertrude's social equal.
Accordingly, the President sought out the porter and gave him his
instructions.

"William, that young man will come in this afternoon to repair the
range. When he is well at work, I want you to come and tell me."



IV

THE DINNER STATION


The railway company's hotel at Moreno is a pretentious Queen Anne
cockle-shell, confronted by a broad platform flowing in an unrippled
tide of planking between the veranda and the track, with tributary
wooden streams paralleling the rails.

Brockway knew this platform by length and by breadth; and when the
"Flying Kestrel" ranged alongside he meant to project himself into the
procession of dinner-seekers what time Miss Vennor should be passing the
Tadmor. But _l'homme propose, et la femme_----

"Oh, Mr. Brockway; _will_ you help me find my satchel? the one with the
monogram, you know. I can't find it anywhere." Thus one of the
unescorted ladies whose major weakness was a hopeless inability to keep
in touch with her numerous belongings.

The train was already at a stand, but Brockway smothered his impatience
and joined the search for the missing hand-bag, contenting himself with
a glimpse of the President's daughter as she passed the windows of the
Tadmor. Fleeting as it was, the glimpse fired his heart anew. The year
had brought her added largesse of beauty and winsomeness. The wind was
blowing free and riotous, caressing the soft brown hair under the dainty
travelling hat, and twisting the modest gray gown into clinging
draperies as she breasted it. Brockway gazed and worshipped afresh, and
prudence and poverty-pride vanished when he observed that she was
leaning upon the arm of an athletic young man, whose attitude was
sufficiently lover-like to make the passenger agent abjure wisdom and
curse common sense.

"That's what I get for playing the finical idiot!" he groaned. "A year
ago I might have had it all my own way if I hadn't been a pride-ridden
fool. Confound the money, anyway; it's enough to make a man wish it were
all at the bottom of the sea!"

With which anarchistic reflection he went out to arrange for
transferring the Tadmor, and, incidentally, to get his own dinner. When
the first was done there was scant time for the second, and he was at
the lunch counter when the President's party went back to the
Naught-fifty.

"Why, they've taken on another car," said Gertrude, noticing the change.

"No," her father rejoined, shortly; "we have a passenger agent on board,
and he has seen fit to put his excursionists' car in the rear."

At the word, Gertrude's thoughts went back to a certain afternoon filled
with a swift rush down a precipitous canyon, with a brawling stream at
the track-side, and a simple-hearted young man, knowing naught of the
artificialities and much of the things that are, at her elbow.

The train of reflection paused when they reached the sitting-room of the
private car, but it went on again when the President's daughter had
curled herself into the depths of a great wicker sleepy-hollow to watch
the unending procession of stubble-fields slipping past the car window.
How artlessly devoted he had been, this earnest young private in the
great business army; so different from--well, from Chester Fleetwell,
for example. Chester's were the manners of a later day; a day in which
the purely social distinctions of sex are much ignored. That, too, was
pleasant, in its way. And yet there was something very charming in the
elder fashion.

And Mr. Brockway knew his rôle and played it well--if, indeed, it were a
rôle, which she very much doubted. Old school manners are not to be put
on and off like a garment, nor is sincerity to be aped as a fad. Just
here reflection became speculative. What had become of Mr. Brockway
since their "Mormon day"? Had he gone on with his school-mistresses and
ended by marrying one of them? There was something repellent in the
thought of his marrying any one, but when reason demanded a reason,
Gertrude's father had joined her.

"I hope we shall be able to have dinner in the car," the President said,
drawing up a chair. "I stumbled upon a young mechanic when I went
forward to inquire about the eating-station, and he agreed to repair the
range this afternoon."

"How fortunate!"

"Yes," the President rejoined; and then he began to debate with himself
as to the strict truth of the affirmative, and the conversation
languished.

Meanwhile, Brockway had hastened out to the engine at the cry of "All
aboard!" The 828 was sobbing for the start when he climbed to the
foot-board, and the engineer, who knew him, grinned knavishly.

"Better get you some overclothes if you're goin' to ride up here," he
suggested.

"I'm not going to stay. Lend me a pair of overalls, and a jumper, and a
pair of pipe-tongs, and a hammer, and a few other things, will you?"

"Sure thing," said the man at the throttle. "What's up? One o' your
tourists broke a side-rod?"

Brockway laughed and dropped easily into the technical figure of speech.

"No; crown-sheet's down in the Naught-fifty's cook-stove, and I'm going
to jack it up."

"Good man," commented the engineer, who rejoiced in Brockway's happy
lack of departmental pride. "Help yourself to anything you can find."

Brockway found a grimy suit of overclothes and took off his coat.

"Goin' to put 'em on here and go through the train in uniform?" laughed
the engineer.

"Why not?" Brockway demanded. "I'm not ashamed of the blue denim yet.
Wore it too long."

He donned the craftsman's uniform. The garments were a trifle short at
the extremities, but they more than made up for the lack equatorially.

"How's that for a lightning change?" he shouted, trying to make himself
heard above the din and clangor of the engine. "Just hang on to my coat
and hat till I get back, and I'll swap with you again." And gathering up
the handful of tools, he climbed back over the coal and disappeared
through the door of the mail car.



V

AT THE MEETING-POINT


Brockway made his way unrecognized through the train, and found the
Falstaffian cook awaiting him in the kitchen of the Naught-fifty. Five
minutes later, he was hard at work on the disabled stove, quite reckless
of soot and grime, and intent only upon making a workmanlike job of the
repairs. The narrow compartment was none too well ventilated, and he was
soon working in an atmosphere rivalling that of the hot-room in a
Turkish bath. Wherefore he wrought arduously, and in due time the leaky
joint was made whole.

After turning the water on and satisfying himself of the fact, Brockway
crawled out from behind the range and got upon his feet with a sigh of
relief. Just then the portway into the waiter's pantry filled with faces
like the arch of a proscenium-box in a theatre. Brockway wheeled quickly
at the sound of voices and saw the President, one young woman with
eye-glasses and another without, a clean-faced young man with uncut
hair, and--Miss Vennor.

"Ha!" said the President, with the King George Fourth smile and his
coldest stare; "we caught you fairly in the midst of it, didn't we, Mr.
Brockway? Do you still assert that we shall dine at our own table this
evening?"

The effect of Mr. Vennor's dramatic little surprise was varied and not
altogether as he had prefigured. As for the person most deeply
concerned, no one was ever less ashamed of a craftsman's insignia than
was Brockway; but when he saw that the President had permitted him to do
a service for the sole purpose of making him appear ridiculous, his
heart was hot in just proportion to the magnitude of the affront.

As for Gertrude, she could have wept with pity and indignation. This was
the "young mechanic" her father had found and used, only to make him a
laughing-stock! The light of a sudden purpose flashed in the steady gray
eyes, and she spoke quickly, before Brockway could reply to her father's
gibe.

"Why, Mr. Brockway! where did you come from? It really seems that you
are fated to be our good angel. Have you actually got it repaired?" The
winsome face disappeared from the portway, and before Brockway could
open his lips she was standing beside him. "Show me what was the matter
with it," she said.

He obeyed, with proper verbal circumstance, gaining a little
self-possession with every added phrase. Gertrude led him on, laughing
and chatting and dragging the others into the rescue until Brockway
quite forgot that he was supposed to be a laughing-stock for gods and
men.

"I'm very glad to meet you, I'm sure," he said, bowing gravely to the
Misses Beaswicke, when Gertrude had actually gone the length of
introducing him; "Mr. Fleetwell, I've heard of you--and that's probably
more than you can say of me. Mr. Vennor, I think you may safely count
upon having your dinner in the Naught-fifty."

"Yes, thanks to you," said Gertrude, quickly. "Have you--will your other
engagements let you join us?"

Brockway was of four different minds in as many seconds. Here was a
chance to defeat Mr. Vennor at his own game; and love added its word.
But he could not consent to break unwelcome bread, and was about to
excuse himself when the President, in answer to an imperative signal
flying in Gertrude's eyes, seconded the invitation.

"Yes, come in and join us, Mr. Brockway; we shall be glad to have you,
I'm sure." The stony stare which accompanied the words was anything but
hospitable, but the President felt that he had done his whole duty and
something over and above.

Brockway hesitated a moment, glanced at Gertrude, and accepted. Then he
began to gather up the tools. Gertrude caught up her skirts and stepped
into the vestibule to give him room.

"You'll not disappoint us, will you?" she said, by way of leave-taking.
"You may come as early as you please. I want you to meet Cousin
Jeannette."

The portway proscenium-box was empty by this time, and Brockway dropped
his tools and spoke his mind.

"Miss Vennor, I know, and you know, that I ought not to come at all. It
was awfully good of you to ask me, but----"

"But what?" she said, encouragingly.

"I think you must understand what I want to say and can't," he went on.
"You saw that I was like to be overtaken by a fit of very foolish
self-consciousness, and you were kind enough to come to my rescue. I
appreciate it, but I don't want to take undue advantage of it."

"I'm sure I don't know what you mean," she laughed. "We shall look for
you between six and seven. And you'll come, because I'm going to run
away now, before you have a chance to retract. Good-by--till this
evening."



VI

REGARDLESS ORDERS


Ten hours' westing from the Missouri River takes a moderately fast train
well into the great grazing region whose name is Length and Breadth, and
whose horizon is like that of the sea. Since leaving Antelope Springs,
however, the "Flying Kestrel" had been lagging a little. For this cause,
the supper station was still more than an hour away when Brockway
deserted his ancients and invalids and crossed the platforms to the rear
door of the private car.

The admission that he dreaded the ordeal is not to be set down to his
discredit. His life had been an arduous struggle, for an education and
the necessities first, and for advancement afterward. In such a
conflict, utility speedily becomes the watchword, and if the passenger
agent were less of a workaday drudge than his fellows, he was modestly
unaware of the fact.

In the course of the afternoon all the reasons why he should manage to
get himself left behind at some convenient station were given a hearing,
but love finally triumphed, and half-past six o'clock found him at the
door of the Naught-fifty. Fortunately for his introduction, the
occupants of the sitting-room were well scattered; and Gertrude came
forward at once to welcome him.

"Thank you for coming," she said, putting her hand in his with the
cordiality of an old friend; "I was afraid you might forget us, after
all. Let me introduce you to my cousin, Mrs. Dunham; Cousin Jeannette,
this is Mr. Brockway."

Brockway bent low in the direction of an elderly lady with a motherly
face; bowed to the Misses Beaswicke and to Fleetwell, and acknowledged
the President's nod.

"I'm only too happy to be permitted to come," he said to Gertrude,
drawing up a chair to make a group of three with the chaperon. "The
social side of a business man's life is so nearly a minus quantity that
your thoughtfulness takes rank as an act of Christian charity."

Gertrude laughed softly. "Tell me how a business man finds time to
acquire the art of turning compliments," she said; but Mrs. Dunham came
to his rescue.

"I suppose your occupation keeps you away from home a great deal,
doesn't it?" she asked.

"It certainly would if I had a home," Brockway replied.

"Do you have to travel all the time?"

"Rather more than nine-tenths of it, I should say."

"How dreadfully tiresome it must become! Of course, when one is seeing
things for the first time it is very interesting; but I should imagine
the car-window point of view would become hackneyed in a very little
while."

"It does; and it is pathetically unsatisfying if one care for anything
more than a glimpse of things. I have gone up and down in my district
for four years, and yet I know nothing of the country or the people
outside of a narrow ribbon here and there with a railway line in the
centre."

"That is a good thought," Gertrude said. "I have often boasted of having
seen the West, but I believe I have only threaded it back and forth a
few times."

"That is all any of us do," Brockway asserted. "Our knowledge of the
people outside of the railway towns is very limited. I once made a
horseback trip through the back counties of East Tennessee, and it was a
revelation to me. I never understood until then the truth of the
assertion that people who live within sight of a railway all have the
'railway diathesis'."

"Meaning that they lose in originality what they gain in
sophistication?" said Gertrude.

"Just that. They become a part of the moving world; and as the railway
civilizing process is much the same the country over, they lose their
identity as sectional types."

Mrs. Dunham leaned back in her chair and began to make mental notes with
queries after them. Mr. Vennor had given her to understand that they
were to have a _rara avis_, served underdone, for dinner; and, in the
kindness of her heart, she had determined to see that the "young
artisan," as her cousin had called him, was not led on to his own
undoing. Now, however, she began to suspect that some one had made a
mistake. This young man seemed to be abundantly able to fight his own
battles.

"I presume you are very familiar with this part of the country--along
your own line, Mr. Brockway," she said, when the waiter came in to lay
the plates.

"In the way that I have just indicated, yes. I know so much of its face
as you can see from this window. But my knowledge doesn't go much beyond
the visible horizon."

"Neither does mine, but I can imagine," Gertrude said.

"Ah, yes; but imagination isn't knowledge."

"No; it's often better."

"Pleasanter, you mean; I grant you that."

"No, I meant more accurate."

"For instance?"

Gertrude smiled. "You are quite merciless, aren't you? But if I must
defend myself I should say that imagination paints a composite picture,
out of drawing as to details, perhaps, but typically true."

Brockway objected. "Being unimaginative, I can't quite accept that."

"Can't you? That is what Priscilla Beaswicke would call the disadvantage
of being Occidentalized."

"I suppose I am that," Brockway admitted cheerfully. "I can always
breathe freer out here between these wide horizons; and the majesty of
this Great Flatness appeals to me even more than that of the mountains."

They followed his gesture. The sun was dipping to the western edge of
the bare plain, and the air was filled with ambient gold. The tawny
earth, naked and limitless, melted so remotely into the dusty glow of
the sky as to leave no line of demarcation. The lack of shadows and the
absence of landmarks confused the senses until the flying train seemed
to stand with ungripping wheels in the midst of a slowly revolving disk
of yellow flatness, through which the telegraph-poles and mile-posts
darted with sentient and uncanny swiftness.

"I can feel its sublimity," Gertrude said, softly, answering his
thought; "but its solemn unchangeableness depresses me. I love nature's
moods and tenses, and it seems flippant to mention such things in the
presence of so much fixity."

Brockway smiled. "The prairie has its moods, too. A little later in the
year we should be running between lines of fire, and those big balls of
tumbleweed would be racing ahead of the wind like small meteors. Later
still, when the snows come, it has its savage mood, when anything with
blood in its veins may not go abroad and live."

"I suppose you have been out here in a blizzard, haven't you?" said the
chaperon; but when he would have replied there was a general stir, and
the waiter announced:

"Dinner is served."



VII

A DINNER ON WHEELS


When the President's party gathered about the table, Mrs. Dunham placed
Brockway at her right, with Gertrude beside him. Mr. Vennor disapproved
of the arrangement, but he hoped that Priscilla Beaswicke, who was
Brockway's _vis-à-vis_, might be depended upon to divert the passenger
agent's attention. Miss Beaswicke confirmed the hope with her second
spoonful of soup by asking Brockway what he thought of Tourguénief.

Now, to the passenger agent, the great Russian novelist was as yet no
more than a name, and he said so frankly and took no shame therefore.
Whereupon Mr. Vennor:

"Oh, come, Priscilla; you mustn't begin on Mr. Brockway like that. I
fancy he has had scant time to dabble in your little intellectual fads."

Gertrude looked up quickly, and the keen sense of justice began to
assert itself. Having escaped the pillory in his character of artisan,
the passenger agent was to be held up to ridicule in his proper person.
Not if she could help it, Gertrude promised herself; and she turned
suddenly upon the collegian.

"What do you think of Tourguénief, Cousin Chester?" she asked, amiably.

"A good bit less than nothing," answered the athlete, with his eyes in
his plate. "What is there about him that we ought to know and don't?"

"Tell us, Priscilla," said Gertrude, passing the query along.

But the elder Miss Beaswicke refused to enlighten anyone. "Go and get
his book and read it, as I did," she said.

"I sha'n't for one," Fleetwell declared. "I can't read the original, and
I won't read a translation."

"Have you read him in the original, Priscilla?" Gertrude inquired,
determined to push the subject so far afield that it could never get
back.

"Oh, hush!" said the elder Miss Beaswicke. "What is the matter with you
two. I refuse positively to be quarrelled with."

That ended the Russian divagation, and it had the effect of making the
table-talk impersonal. This was precisely what Mr. Vennor desired. What
he meant to do was to set a conversational pace which would show
Gertrude that Brockway was hopelessly out of his element in her own
social sphere.

The plan succeeded admirably. So far as the social aspect of the meal
was concerned, the passenger agent might as well have been dining at the
table of the Olympians. Art, literature, Daudet's latest book, and
Henriette Ronner's latest group of cats, the decorative designs in the
Boston Public Library, and the renaissance of Buddhism in the nineteenth
century--before these topics Brockway went hopelessly dumb. And not once
during the hour was Mrs. Dunham or Gertrude permitted to help him,
though they both tried with charitable and praiseworthy perseverance, as
thus:

_Mrs. Dunham_, in a desperate effort to ignore the Public Library: "I'm
afraid all this doesn't interest you very much, Mr. Brockway. It's so
fatally easy----"

_Fleetwell_, whose opinion touching a portion of the design has been
contravened by Mr. Vennor: "I say, Cousin Jeannette, isn't the Sargent
decoration for the staircase hall--" _et sequentia_, until Brockway
sinks back into oblivion to come to the surface ten minutes later at a
summons from the other side.

_Gertrude_, purposely losing the thread of Priscilla Beaswicke's remarks
on the claims of theosophy to an unprejudiced hearing: "What makes you
so quiet, Mr. Brockway? Tell me about your other adventures with the
school-teachers--after you left Salt Lake City, you know."

_Brockway_, catching at the friendly straw with hope once more reviving:
"Then you haven't forgotten--excuse me; Miss Beaswicke is speaking to
you." And the door shuts in his face and leaves him again in outer
darkness.

In the nature of things mundane, even the most leisurely dinner cannot
last forever. Brockway's ordeal came to an end with the black coffee,
and when he was free he would have vanished quickly if Gertrude had not
detained him.

"You are not going to leave us at once, are you?" she protested.

"I--I think I'd better go back to my 'ancients and invalids,' if you'll
excuse me."

Gertrude was conscience-stricken, and her hospitable angel upbraided her
for having given her guest an unthankful meal. Wherefore she sought to
make amends.

"Don't go just yet unless you are obliged to," she pleaded. "Sit down
and tell me about the schoolma'ams. How far did you go with them?"

"I had to make the whole blessed circuit," he said, tarrying willingly
enough.

"Do you often have such deliciously irresponsible people to convoy?"

"Not often; but the regular people usually make up for it in--well, in
cantankerousness; that's about the only word that will fit it." Brockway
was thinking of the exacting majority in the Tadmor.

"And yet it doesn't make you misanthropic? I should think it would. What
place is this we are coming to?"

"Carvalho--the supper station."

Gertrude saw her father coming toward them; she guessed his purpose and
resented it. If she chose to make kindly amends to the passenger agent
for his sorry dinner, she would not be prevented.

"We stop here a little while, don't we?" she asked of Brockway.

"Yes; twenty minutes or more. Would you like to go out for a breath of
fresh air?" She had risen and caught up her wrap and hat.

"I should; it is just what I was going to propose. Cousin Jeannette, I'm
going to walk on the platform with Mr. Brockway. Come," she said; and
they escaped before Mr. Vennor could overtake them.

Once outside, they paced up and down under the windows of the train,
chatting reminiscently of four bright days a year agone, and shunning
the intervening period as two people will whose lives have met and
touched and gone apart again. At the second turn, they met Mrs. Dunham
and Fleetwell; and at the third, the President, sandwiched between
Hannah and Priscilla Beaswicke. Whereupon Brockway, scenting espionage,
drew Gertrude away toward the engine.

The great, black bulk of the heavy ten-wheeler loomed portentous, and
the smoky flare of the engineer's torch, as he thrust it into the
machinery to guide the snout of his oil-can, threw the overhanging mass
of iron and steel into sombre relief.

Brockway shaded his eyes under his hand and peered up at the number
beneath the cab window. "The new 926," he said; "we'll get back some of
our lost time behind her."

"Do you know them all by name?" Gertrude queried.

"Oh, no; not all."

"I suppose you've ridden on them many times?"

Brockway laughed. "I should say I had--on both sides, as the enginemen
say."

"What does that mean?"

"It's slang for firing and driving; I've done a little of both, you
know."

"I didn't know it. Isn't it terribly dangerous? When anything happens,
the men on the engine are almost always killed, aren't they?"

"When they are it's because they haven't time to save themselves. It's
all nonsense--newspaper nonsense, mostly--about the engineer sticking to
his post like the boy on the burning deck. A man can do whatever there
is to be done toward stopping his train while you could count ten, and
no amount of heroism could accomplish any more."

"I have often thought I should like to ride on an engine," Gertrude
said.

"I wish I had known it earlier in the day; your wish might have been
gratified very easily."

"Might it? I suppose they never let any one ride on the night engines,
do they?"

Brockway caught his breath. "Do you mean--would you trust me to take you
on the engine to-night?" he asked, wondering if he had heard aright.

"Why not?" she said, with sweet gravity.

The engineer had oiled his way around to their side, and Brockway spoke
to him.

"Good-evening, Mac," he said; and the man turned and held up his torch.

"Hello, Fred," he began; and then, seeing Gertrude: "Excuse _me_, I
didn't see the lady."

At a sign from Gertrude, Brockway introduced the engineer. "Miss Vennor,
this is Mr. Maclure--one of our oldest runners."

"I'm very glad to know you, Mr. Maclure," said Gertrude, sweetly; and
the man of machinery scraped his feet and salaamed.

"Mac, Miss Vennor thinks she would like to take a night spin on the 926.
May we ride a little way with you?"

"Well, I should say!" assented Maclure. "Just pile in and make
yourselves at home; and excuse _me_--I hain't quite got through oilin'
'round yet."

"Thank you," said Brockway; then to Gertrude: "We must find your father
or Mrs. Dunham quick; we haven't more than a minute or two."

They ran back and fortunately came upon Mrs. Dunham and the collegian.

"Cousin Jeannette, I'm going to ride on the engine with Mr. Brockway,"
Gertrude explained, breathlessly. "Don't say I sha'n't, for I will. It's
the chance of a lifetime. Good-by; and don't sit up for me."

"I'll take good care of her," Brockway put in; and before the astonished
lady could expostulate or approve, they were scudding forward to the
926.



VIII

THE CAB OF THE TEN-WHEELER


Engineer Maclure was leaning out of the cab window, watching for the
conductor's signal, when Brockway and Gertrude came up.

"Didn't know but you'd backed out," he said, jocosely, when they had
climbed aboard.

"Oh, no, indeed; we had to get word to my father," said Gertrude.

The engineer waved them across the cab. "Make yourselves at home; the
926 belongs to you as long as you want to own her. Just you pre-empt
Johnnie's box over there, Fred, and make the young lady comfortable."

Brockway stuck a propitiatory cigar into the pocket of the fireman's
jumper, and proceeded to carry out his instructions. Before the tardy
signal came, Gertrude was perched upon the high seat, with her skirts
gathered up out of harm's way, and Brockway had fashioned a pad out of a
bunch of waste and tied it upon the boiler-head brace at her feet.

"It's hot," he explained. "When she begins to roll you can put your foot
against that and steady yourself. Are you quite comfortable?"

"Quite; and you?" She looked over her shoulder to ask the question, and
the strong red glow from the open door of the fire-box glorified the
sweet face.

"Comfortable? No, that is hardly the word for it"--he tried the
window-fastening, that he might have an excuse for bending over
her--"I'm happy; happy to my finger-tips. Do you know why?"

He sought to look up into her face, but at that moment the red glow of
the fire-light went out suddenly with the crash of the closing door, and
the clangor of the bell made her reply inaudible. None the less, by the
dim, half light of the gauge-lamp he saw her eyelashes droop and her
lips say No.

For a passing instant the social barriers went down and became as though
they never were. Standing beside her and blessing the clamor that
isolated them, he said:

"Because I am here with you; because, no matter what happens to either
of us in the future, no one can ever rob me of this."

He half expected a rebuke, and waited a moment with becoming humility.
When it did not come, he swung himself into the seat behind her and held
his peace until she spoke again. That was five full minutes afterward.
For that length of time Gertrude was crushed under an avalanche of new
sensations. The last switch-light in the Carvalho yards had flashed to
the rear, and the 926 was quickening her speed with sharp little forward
lunges under Maclure's skilful goading. The dizzying procession of
grayish-white telegraph-poles hurling itself past the cab windows; the
thousand clangorous voices of the great machine; the intermittent glare
from the fire-box door, alternating with the fiery shower of sparks
pouring from the smoke-stack--it was a bit of pandemonium detached and
dashing through space, and she sat cowed and stunned by the rush and the
uproar. But presently the warm wine of excitement began to quicken her
heart-beats.

"Isn't it glorious!" she exclaimed, trying to look back at him.

It is quite possible for two persons to converse in the cab of a flying
locomotive, but the factor of distance must be eliminated. Wherefore he
bent over her till his mustache brushed the pink ear.

"I am glad you like it. Are you still quite comfortable?"

"Yes, indeed; thank you. How fast are we going now?"

"About twenty-five miles an hour; but we'll double that when Maclure
gets her warmed up."

"Double it! Why, we seem to be fairly flying now!"

"Wait," said Brockway.

Maclure was sitting sphynx-like on his box, coming to life now and then
to reduce the angle of the reversing-lever, or to increase that of the
throttle. The fireman labored steadily, swaying back and forth between
the coal-chute and the fire-box door, his close-fitting cap on the back
of his head, and Brockway's cigar,--unlighted, in deference to
Gertrude,--between his teeth.

"What dreadfully hard work it must be to shovel coal that way all
night," Gertrude said, following the rhythmic swing of the fireman's
sinewy figure with her eyes.

"He's getting his fire into shape, now," Brockway explained. "He'll have
it easier after a bit."

"Why doesn't he smoke his cigar?"

Brockway smiled. "Because, down under the grime and coal-dust and other
disguises, there is a drop or two of gentle blood, I fancy."

"You mean it's because I'm here? Please tell him to light his cigar, if
he wants to."

Brockway obeyed, and the fireman unbent and bobbed his head in
Gertrude's direction. "Thank ye, ma'am," he shouted, with a good-natured
grin on his boyish face; "but I'm thinkin' a dhry smoke's good enough
for the lady's car"--and he bent to his work again, while the endless
procession of telegraph-poles hurtled past with ever-increasing
swiftness, and the sharp blasts of the exhaust lost their intermittence,
and became blent in a continuous roar.

Presently, the laboring engine began to heave and roll like a
storm-tossed vessel, and Gertrude was fain to make use of the foot-rest.
Being but a novice, she made unskilful work of it; and when her foot
slipped for the third time, Brockway took his courage in both hands.

"Just lean back and brace yourself against my shoulder," he said; "I'm
afraid you'll get a fall."

She did it, and he held himself in watchful readiness to catch her if
she should lose her balance.

"Is that better?"

She nodded. "Much better, thank you. Have we doubled it yet?"

Brockway took out his watch and timed the revolutions of the flying
drive-wheels. "Not quite, but we're bettering the schedule by several
miles. Do you still enjoy it?"

"Yes, much; but it's very dreadful, isn't it? I don't see how he dares!"

"Who? Maclure?"

"Yes; or anyone else. To me it seems braver than anything I ever read
of--to drive a great thing like this with so many precious lives behind
it. The responsibility must be terrible."

"It would be if a fellow thought of it all the time; but one doesn't,
you know. Now I'll venture a guess that Mac is just speculating as to
how much of the 'Kestrel's' lost time he can get back between this and
the end of his run."

But the shrewd old pioneer with the Scottish name was thinking of no
such prosaic thing. On the contrary, he was wondering who Miss Vennor
was; if she would be a worthy helpmate for the passenger agent; and if
so, how he could help matters along.

The switch-lights of Arriba were twinkling in the distance, and his hand
was on the whistle-lever, when the engineer reached a conclusion. The
next instant Gertrude shrieked and would have tumbled ignominiously into
the fireman's scoop if Brockway had not caught her.

"How silly of me!" she said, shame-facedly. "One would think I had never
heard a locomotive whistle before. But it was so totally unexpected."

"I should have warned you, but I didn't think. This is Arriba; do you
want to go back?"

Gertrude was enjoying herself keenly, after a certain barbaric and
unfettered fashion hitherto undreamed of, and she was tempted to drink a
little deeper from the cup of freedom before going back to the
proprieties. Moreover, there was doubtless a goodly measure of reproof
awaiting her, and when she remembered this, she determined to get the
full value of the castigation.

"I'll go on, if you'll let me," she said.

"Let you!" Brockway had been trembling for fear his little bubble of joy
was about to burst, and would have multiplied words. But before he could
say more, the 926 thundered past the station and came to a stand.

Maclure released the air-brake, and clambering down from his box,
dragged the passenger agent from his seat and so out to the gangway.

"Say, Fred, is she goin' back?" he whispered.

"No, not just yet."

"Bully for her; she's got sand, she has. Reckon you could run a spell
and talk to her at the same time?"

Brockway's nerves tingled at the bare suggestion. "Try me and see," he
said.

"It's a go," said Maclure. "Get her over there on my side, and I'll
smoke me a pipe out o' Johnnie's window. Swear to bob I won't look
around once!"



IX

FIFTY MILES AN HOUR


"Let me promote you, Miss Vennor," Brockway said, helping Gertrude to
the foot-board; "Mr. Maclure says you may have his seat for awhile."

Gertrude acquiesced unquestioningly. For some cause as yet unclassified,
acquiescence seemed to be quite the proper thing when she was with
Brockway, though docility with others was not her most remarkable
characteristic. When she was safely bestowed, Maclure rang the bell and
gave Brockway his instructions.

"Next stop's Red Butte--twenty-seven miles--thirty-eight minutes o'
card-time--no allowance for slowin' down at Corral Siding. And if you
can twist 'em any quicker, do it. Turn her loose."

The engineer betook himself to the fireman's box, and Brockway's
resolution was taken on the spur of the moment.

"Do just as I tell you, Miss Vennor, and I'll give you a brand-new
experience," he said, quickly. "Take hold of this lever and pull--both
hands--pull hard!"

Gertrude did it simply because she was told to, and it was not until the
engine lunged forward that she understood what it was she was doing.
"Oh, Mr. Brockway--I can't!" she cried; "it won't mind me!"

"Yes, it will; I'll show you how. Push it back a little; you mustn't
tear your fire. There; let her make a few turns at that."

Gertrude clung to the throttle as if she were afraid it was alive and
would escape, but her eyes sparkled and the flush of excitement mounted
swiftly to cheek and brow.

"Now give her a little more--just a notch or two--that's enough. You
needn't hold it; it won't run away," Brockway said, laughing at her.

"I shall go daft if I don't hold something! Oh, _please_, Mr. Brockway!
I know I shall smash everything into little bits!"

"No, you won't; I sha'n't let you. A little more steam, if you please;
that's right. Now take hold of this lever with both hands, brace
yourself and pull steadily."

The reversing-lever of a big ten-wheeler is no child's plaything, and he
stood ready to help her if she could not manage it. But Miss Vennor did
manage it, though the first notch or two had to be fought for; and
Maclure, who had quite forgotten his promise not to look on, applauded
enthusiastically.

"Good!" said Brockway, approvingly; "you are doing famously. Now a
little more throttle; that's enough."

The 926 forged ahead obediently, and Gertrude began to enter into the
spirit of the thing.

"This is simply Titanic!" she exclaimed. "What shall I do next?"

"Cut her back a little more," Brockway commanded; "two notches. Now a
little more steam--more yet; that will do."

The great engine lunged forward like a goaded animal, and Gertrude sat
up very straight and clung to the reversing-lever when the cab began to
lurch and sway. But she obeyed Brockway's directions promptly and
implicitly.

"Don't be afraid of her," he said. "You have a clear track and a heavy
rail."

"I'm not afraid," she asserted; "I'm miles beyond that, now. If anything
should happen, we'd all be dead before we found it out, so I can be
perfectly reckless."

Mile after mile of the level plain swept backward under the drumming
wheels, and Brockway's heart made music within him because it had some
little fragment of its desire. In order to see the track through the
front window of the cab, he had to lean his elbow on the cushion beside
her, and it brought them very near--nearer, he thought, than they would
ever be again.

Gertrude was much too full of the magnitude of things to care to talk,
but she was finally moved to ask another question.

"Are we really running along on the rails just like any well-behaved
train? It seems to me we must have left the track quite a while ago."

Brockway laughed. "You would know it, if we had. Do you see those two
little yellow lights away out ahead?"

"Yes; what are they?"

"They are the switch-lights at Corral Siding. Take hold of this lever
and blow the whistle yourself; then it won't startle you so much."

Gertrude did that, also, although it was more trying to her nerves than
all that had gone before. Then Brockway showed her how to reduce speed.

"Push the throttle in as far as it will go; that's right. Now the
reversing-lever--both hands, and brace yourself--that's it. Now take
hold of this handle and twist it that way--slowly--more yet--" the air
whistled shrilly through the vent, and the song of the brake-shoes on
the wheels of the train rose above the discordant clangor--"that will
do--turn it back," he added, when the speed had slackened sufficiently;
and he leaned forward with his hand on the brake-lever and scanned the
approaching side-track with practised eyes.

"All clear!" he announced, springing back quickly. "Pull up this lever
again, and give her steam."

Gertrude obeyed like an automaton, though she blenched a little when the
small station building at the Siding roared past, and in a few seconds
the 926 was again bettering the schedule.

"How fast are we going now?" she asked, when the engine was once more
pitching and rolling like a laboring ship.

Brockway consulted his watch. "A little over fifty miles an hour, I
should say. You will be quite safe in calling it that, anyway, when you
tell your friends that you have run a fast express train."

"They'll never believe it," she said; "but I wouldn't have missed it for
the world. What must I do now?--watch the track?"

Brockway said "Yes," though, with all his interest in other things, he
had not omitted that very important part of an engineer's duty from the
moment of leaving Arriba. After a roaring silence of some minutes,
during which Brockway gave himself once more to the divided business of
scanning the rails and burning sweet incense on the altar of his love,
she spoke again.

"What is that we are coming to, away out there?" she asked, trying
vainly to steady herself for a clearer view.

"The lights of Red Butte," he answered, relaxing his vigilance for the
moment at the thought that his little side-trip into the land of joy
would so shortly come to an end.

"No, I don't mean those!" she exclaimed, excitedly; "but this side of
the lights. Don't you see?--on the track!"

Brockway allowed himself but a single swift glance. Half-way between the
flying train and the station the line crossed a shallow sand creek on a
low trestle. On both sides of the swale, crowding upon the track and
filling the bed of the creek, was a mass of moving forms, against which
the lines of glistening rails ended abruptly.

At such a crisis, the engineer in a man, if any there be, asserts itself
without reference to the volitional nerve-centres. In the turning of a
leaf, Brockway had thrown himself upon the throttle, dropped the
reversing-lever, set the air-brake, and opened the sand-box; while
Maclure, seeing that his substitute was equal to the emergency, woke the
echoes with the whistle. A hundred yards from the struggling mass of
frightened cattle, Brockway saw that the air-brake was not holding.

"Don't move!" he cried; and Gertrude cowered in her corner as the heavy
reversing-lever came over with a crash, and the great engine heaved and
buckled in the effort to check its own momentum.

It was all over before she could cry out or otherwise advertise her very
natural terror. The moving mass had melted away before the measured
approach of the train; the trestle had rumbled under the wheels; and the
926 was steaming swiftly up to the station under Brockway's guidance.

"Have you had more than enough?" he asked, when he had brought the train
to a stand opposite the platform at Red Butte.

"Yes--no, not that, either," she added, quickly. "I'm glad to have had a
taste of the real danger as well. But I think I'd better go back; it's
getting late, isn't it?"

"Yes. Mac, we resign. Sorry I had to put your old tea-kettle in the
back-gear; but the air wasn't holding, and we didn't want any chipped
beef for supper. Good-night, and many thanks. Don't pull out till I give
you the signal."

They hurried down the platform arm-in-arm, and Gertrude was the first to
speak.

"Didn't you think we were all going to be killed?"

"No; but I did think I should never forgive myself if anything happened
to you."

"It wouldn't have been your fault. And I've had a glorious bit of
distraction; I shall remember it as long as I live."

"Yes; you have actually driven a train fifty miles an hour," laughed
Brockway, handing her up the steps of car Naught-fifty.

"I have; and now I shall go in and be scolded eighty miles an hour to
pay for it. But I sha'n't mind that. Good-night, and thank you ever so
much. We shall see you in the morning?"

"Yes." Brockway said it confidently, and gave a tug at the bell-cord, to
let Maclure know they were safely aboard; but when the door of the
private car had yawned and swallowed Miss Vennor, he remembered the
President's probable frame of mind, and thought it doubtful.



X

A CONFIDENCE EN ROUTE


When Brockway pulled the bell-cord, he meant to drop off and wait till
the Tadmor came along--a manoeuvre which would enable him to rejoin
his party without intruding on the President's privacy. Then that
reflection about Mr. Vennor's probable frame of mind, and the thought
that the late excursion into the fair country of joy would doubtless
never be repeated, came to delay him, and he let the train get under way
before he remembered what it was that he had intended doing. Whereupon,
he scoffed at his own infatuation, and went into the Ariadne to chat
with the Burtons until another halt should give him a chance to get back
to the Tadmor.

The route to the body of the car led past the smoking-room, and the
passenger agent, having missed his after-dinner cigar, was minded to
turn aside. But the place was crowded, and he hung hesitant upon the
threshold.

"Come in," said Burton, who was one of the smokers.

"No, I believe not; there are too many of you. I'll go and talk to Mrs.
Burton."

"Do; she's spoiling to quiz you."

"To quiz me? What about?"

"You wouldn't expect me to tell, if I knew. Go on and find out."

Brockway went forward with languid curiosity.

"I thought you had quite deserted us," said the little lady. "Sit down
and give an account of yourself. Where have you been all afternoon?"

"With my ancients and invalids," Brockway replied.

Mrs. Burton shook a warning finger at him. "Don't begin by telling me
fibs. Miss Vennor is neither old nor infirm."

Brockway reddened and made a shameless attempt to change the subject.

"How did you like the supper at Carvalho?" he asked.

The general agent's wife laughed as one who refuses to be diverted.
"Neither better nor worse than you did. We had a buffet luncheon--baked
beans and that exquisite tomato-catchup, you know--served in our
section, and we saw one act of a charming little comedy playing itself
on the platform at the supper station. Be nice and tell me all about it.
Did the cold-blooded gentleman with the overseeing eyes succeed in
overtaking you?"

Brockway saw it was no use, and laughed good-naturedly. "You are a born
detective, Mrs. Burton; I wouldn't be in Burton's shoes for a farm in
the Golden Belt," he retorted. "How much did you really see, and how
much did you take for granted?"

"I saw a young man, who didn't take the trouble to keep his emotions out
of his face, marching up and down the platform with Miss Vennor on his
arm. Then I saw an elderly gentleman pacing back and forth between two
feminine chatterboxes, and trying to outgeneral the two happy people.
Naturally, I want to know more. Did you really go without your supper to
take a constitutional with Miss Gertrude? And did the unhappy father
contrive to spoil your _tête-à-tête_?"

There was triumph in Brockway's grin.

"No, he didn't--not that time; I out-witted him. And I didn't go without
my supper, either. I had the honor of dining with the President's party
in the Naught-fifty."

"You did! Then I'm sure she must have invited you; _he'd_ never do it.
How did it happen?"

Brockway told the story of the disabled cooking-stove, and Mrs. Burton
laughed till the tears came. "How perfectly ridiculous!" she exclaimed,
between gasps. "And she took your part and invited you to dinner, did
she? Then what happened?"

"I was properly humiliated and sat upon," said Brockway, in wrathful
recollection. "They talked about everything under the sun that I'd never
heard of, and I had to sit through it all like a confounded oyster!"

"Oh, nonsense!" said Mrs. Burton, sweetly; "you know a good many things
that they never dreamed of. But how did you manage to get Gertrude away
from them all?"

"I didn't; she managed it for me. When we got up from the table the
train was just slowing into Carvalho. I was going to run away, as
befitted me, but she proposed a breath of fresh air on the platform."

"Then you had a chance to show her that you weren't born dumb, and I
hope you improved it. But how did you dodge Mr. Vennor?"

"We missed a turn and went forward to look at the engine. Then Ger--Miss
Vennor thought she would like to take a ride in the cab, and----"

"And, of course, you arranged it. You knew that was just the thing of
all others that would reinstate you. It was perfectly Machiavellian!"

Brockway opened his eyes very wide. "Knew what?" he said, bluntly. "I
only knew it was the thing she wanted to do, and that was enough. Well,
we skipped back and notified Mrs. Dunham--she's the chaperon, you
know--and then we chased ahead again and got on the engine."

"Where I'll promise you she enjoyed more new sensations in a minute than
you had all through their chilly dinner," put in Mrs. Burton, who had
ridden on many locomotives.

"She did, indeed," Brockway rejoined, exultantly, living over again the
pleasure of the brief hour in the retelling. "At Arriba, the engineer
turned the 926 over to me, and I put Miss Vennor up on the box and let
her run between Arriba and Red Butte."

"Well--of all things! Do you know, Fred, I've had a silly idea all
afternoon that I'd like to help you, but dear me! you don't need my
help. Of course, after that, it was all plain sailing for you."

Brockway shook his head. "You're taking entirely too much for granted,"
he protested. "It was only a pleasant bit of 'distraction,' as she
called it, for her, and there was no word--that is I--oh, confound it
all! I couldn't presume on a bit of good comradeship like that!"

"You--couldn't--presume! Why, you silly, _silly_ boy, it was the chance
of a lifetime! So daringly original--so utterly unhackneyed! And you
couldn't presume--I haven't a bit of patience with you."

"I'm sorry for that; I need a little sympathy."

"You don't deserve it; but perhaps you'd get it if you could show
cause."

"Can't you see? Don't you understand that nothing can ever come of it?"
Brockway demanded, relapsing fathoms deep into the abyss of
hopelessness.

"Nothing ever will come of it if you go on squandering your chances as
you have to-day. What is the matter with you? Are you afraid of the
elderly gentleman with the calculating eye?"

"Not exactly afraid of him; but he's a millionnaire, and Miss Vennor has
a fortune in her own right. And I----"

"Don't finish it. I understand your objection; you are poor and
proud--and that's as it should be; but tell me--you are in love with
Miss Vennor, aren't you? When did it begin?"

"A year ago."

"You didn't permit yourself to fall in love with her until you knew all
about her circumstances and prospects, of course?"

"You know better than that. It was--it was what you'd call love at first
sight," he confessed, rather shame-facedly; and then he told her how it
began.

"Very good," said Mrs. Burton, approvingly. "Then you did actually
manage to fall in love with Gertrude herself, and not with her money.
But now, because you've found out she has money, you are going to spoil
your chance of happiness, and possibly hers. Is that it?"

Brockway tried to explain. "It's awfully good of you to try to put it in
that light, but no one would ever believe that I wasn't mercenary--that
I wasn't a shameless cad of a fortune-hunter. I couldn't stand that, you
know."

"No, of course not; not even for her sake. Besides, she doubtless looks
upon you as a fortune-hunter, and----"

"What? Indeed she doesn't anything of the kind."

"Well, then, if you are sure she doesn't misjudge you, what do you care
for the opinion of the world at large?"

"Much; when you show me a man who doesn't care for public opinion, I'll
show you one who ought to be in jail."

"Fudge! Please don't try to hide behind platitudes. But about Gertrude,
and your little affair, which is no affair; what are you going to do
about it?"

"Nothing; there is nothing at all to be done," Brockway replied with
gloomy emphasis.

"I suppose nothing would ever induce you to forgive her for being rich?"

"I can never quite forgive myself for being poor, since it's going to
cost me so much."

"You are too equivocal for any use. Answer my question," snapped the
small inquisitor.

"How can I?" Brockway inquired, with masculine density. "Forgiveness
implies an injury, and----"

"Oh, _oh_--how stupid you can be when you try! You know perfectly well
what I mean."

"I'm not sure that I do," said Brockway, whose wit was easily confounded
by a sharp tongue.

"Then I'll put it in words of one syllable. Do you mean to ask Miss
Vennor to be your wife?"

"I couldn't, and keep my self-respect."

"Not if you knew she wanted you to?" persisted the small tormentor.

"Oh, I say--that couldn't be, you know," he protested. "I'm nothing more
than a pleasant acquaintance to her, at the very most."

"But if you knew she did?"

"How could I know it?"

"We are not discussing ways and means; answer the question."

Thereat the man, tempted beyond what he could bear, abdicated in favor
of the lover. "If I could be certain of that, Mrs. Burton--if I could be
sure she loves me, nothing on earth should stand in the way of our
happiness. Is that what you wanted me to say?"

The little lady clapped her hands enthusiastically. "I thought I could
find the joint in your armor, after awhile. Now you may go; I want to be
by myself and think. Good-night."

Brockway took the summary dismissal good-naturedly, and, as the train
was just then slowing into a station, he ran out to drop off and catch
the upcoming hand-rail of the Tadmor.



XI

AN ARRIVAL IN TRANSIT


When Gertrude bade Brockway good-night, she changed places for the
moment with a naughty child on its way to face the consequences of a
misbehavior, entering the private car with a childish consciousness of
wrong-doing fighting for place with a rather militant determination to
meet reproof with womanly indifference. Much to her relief, she found
her father alone, and there was no distinguishable note of displeasure
in his greeting.

"Well, Gertrude, did you enjoy your little diversion? Sit down and tell
me about it. How does the cab compare with the sitting-room of a private
car?"

The greeting was misleading, but she saw fit to regard it as merely the
handshaking which precedes a battle royal.

"I enjoyed it much," she answered, quietly. "It was very exciting; and
very interesting, too."

"Ah; I presume so. And your escort took good care of you--made you quite
comfortable, I suppose."

"Yes."

Mr. Vennor leaned back in his chair and regarded her gravely through the
swirls of blue smoke curling upward from his cigar. "Didn't it strike
you as being rather--ah--a girlish thing for you to do? in the night,
you know, and with a comparative stranger?"

Gertrude thought the battle was about to open, and began to throw up
hasty fortifications. "Mr. Brockway is not a stranger; you may remember
that we became quite well acquainted----"

"Pardon me," the President interrupted; "that is precisely the point at
which I wished to arrive--your present estimate of this young man. I
have nothing to say about your little diversion on the engine. You are
old enough to settle these small questions of the proprieties for
yourself. But touching this young mechanic, it might be as well for us
to understand each other. Have you fully considered the probable
consequences of your most singular infatuation?"

It was a ruthless question, and the hot blood of resentment set its
signals flying in Gertrude's cheeks. Up to that evening, she had thought
of the passenger agent only as an agreeable young man of a somewhat
unfamiliar type, of whom she would like to know more; but Brockway's
moment of abandonment in the cab of the 926 had planted a seed which
threatened to germinate quickly in the warmth of the present discussion.

"I'm not quite sure that I understand you," she said, picking and
choosing among the phrases for the least incendiary. "Would you mind
telling me in so many words, just what you mean?"

"Not in the least. A year ago you met this young man in a most casual
way, and--to put it rather brutally--fell in love with him. I haven't
the slightest idea that he cares anything for you in your proper person,
or that he would have thrust himself upon us to-day if he had known that
your private fortune hangs upon the event of your marriage under certain
conditions which you evidently purpose to ignore. If, after the
object-lesson you had at the dinner-table this evening, you still prefer
this young fortune-hunter to your cousin Chester, I presume we shall all
have to submit; but you ought at least to tell us what we are to
expect."

If he had spared the epithets, she could have laughed at the baseless
fabric of supposition, but the contemptuous sentence passed upon
Brockway put her quickly upon his defence, and, incidentally, did more
to further that young man's cause than any other happening of that
eventful day.

"I suppose you have a right to say and think what you please about me,"
she said, trying vainly to be dispassionate; "but you might spare Mr.
Brockway. He didn't invite himself to dinner; and it was I who proposed
the walk on the platform and the ride on the engine."

"Humph! you are nothing if not loyal. Nevertheless, I wish you might
look the facts squarely in the face."

Gertrude knew there were no facts, of the kind he meant, but his
persistence brought forth fruit after its kind, and she stubbornly
resolved to neither affirm nor deny. Wherefore she said, a little
stiffly:

"I'm quite willing to listen to anything you wish to say."

"Then I should like to ask if you have counted the cost. Assuming that
this young man's intentions are unmercenary--and I doubt that very
much--it isn't possible that there can be anything in common between
you. The social world in which you move, and that to which he belongs,
are as widely separated as the poles. I do not say yours is the higher
plane, or his the lower--though I may have my own opinion as to
that--but I do say they are vastly different; and the woman who
knowingly marries out of her class has much to answer for. Admitting
that you will do no worse than this, how can you hope to find anything
congenial in a man who has absolutely nothing to say for himself at an
ordinary family dinner-table?"

"I'm not at all sure that Mr. Brockway hadn't anything to say for
himself, though he couldn't be expected to know or care much about the
things we talked of. And it occurred to me at the time that it wasn't
quite kind in us to talk intellectual shop from the soup to the dessert,
as we did."

The President smiled, but the cold eyes belied the outward manifestation
of kindliness. "You may thank me for that, if you choose," he went on,
in the same calm argumentative tone. "I wanted to point a moral, and if
I didn't succeed, it wasn't the fault of the subject. But that is only
the social side; a question of taste. Unfortunately, there is a more
serious matter to be considered. You know the terms of your granduncle's
will; that your Cousin Fleetwell's half of the estate became his
unconditionally on his coming of age, and that your portion is only a
trust until your marriage with your cousin?"

"I ought to know; it's been talked of enough."

"And you know that if the marriage fail by your act, you will lose this
legacy?"

"Yes."

"And that it will go to certain charitable institutions, and so be lost,
not only to you, but to the family?"

"I know all about it."

"You know it, and yet you would deliberately throw yourself away on a
fortune-hunting mechanic--a man whom you have known only since
yesterday? It's incredible!"

"It is you who have said it--not I," she retorted; "but I'm not willing
to admit that it would be all loss and no gain. There would at least be
a brand-new set of sensations, and I'm very sure they wouldn't all be
painful."

It was rebellion, pure and simple, and for once in his life Francis
Vennor gave place to wrath--plebeian wrath, vociferous and undignified.

"Shame on you!" he cried; "you are a disgrace to the name--it's the
blood of that cursed socialist on your mother's side. Sit still and
listen to me--" Gertrude, knowing her own temper, was about to run
away--"If you marry that infernal upstart, you'll do it at your own
expense, do you hear? You sha'n't finger a penny of my money as long as
I can keep you out of it. Do you understand?"

"I should be very dull if I didn't understand," she replied, preparing
to make good her retreat. "If you are quite through, perhaps you will
let me say that you are tilting at a windmill of your own building. So
far as I know, Mr. Brockway hasn't the slightest intention of asking me
to marry him; and until you took the trouble to demonstrate the
possibility, I don't think it ever occurred to me. But after what you've
said, I don't think I can ever consent to be married to Cousin
Chester--it would be too mercenary, you know;" and with this parting
shot she vanished.

In the privacy of her own stateroom she sat at the window to think it
all out. It was all very undutiful, doubtless, and she was sorry for her
part in the quarrel almost before the words were cold. She could
scarcely forgive herself for having allowed her father to carry his
assumption to such lengths, but the temptation had proved irresistible.
It was such a delicious little farce, and if it might only have stopped
short of the angry conclusion--but it had not, and therein lay the sting
of it. Whereupon, feeling the sting afresh, she set her face flintwise
against the prearranged marriage.

"I sha'n't do it," she said aloud, pressing her hot cheek against the
cool glass of the window. "I don't love Chester, and I never shall--not
in the way I should. And if I marry him, I shall be just what papa
called Mr. Brockway--only he isn't that, or anything of the kind. Poor
Mr. Brockway! If he knew what we have been talking about----"

From that point reflection went adrift in pleasanter channels. How
good-natured and forgiving Mr. Brockway had been! He must have known
that he was purposely ignored at the dinner-table, where he was an
invited guest, and yet he had not resented it; and what better proof of
gentle breeding than this could he have given? Then, in that crucial
moment of danger, how surely his presence of mind and trained energies
had forestalled the catastrophe. That was grand--heroic. It was well
worth its cost in terror to look on and see him strive with and conquer
the great straining monster of iron and steel. After that, one couldn't
well listen calmly to such things as her father had said of him.

And, admitting the truth of what had been said about his intellectual
shortcomings, was a certain glib familiarity with the modern catch-words
of book-talk and art criticism a fair test of intellectuality? Gertrude,
with her cheek still touching the cool window-pane, thought not. One
might read the reviews and talk superficially of more books than the
most painstaking student could ever know, even by sight. In like manner,
one might walk through the picture galleries and come away freighted
with great names wherewith to awe the untravelled lover of art. It was
quite evident that Mr. Brockway had done neither of these things, and
yet he was thoughtful and keenly observant; and if he were ignorant of
art, he knew and understood nature, which is the mother of all art.

From reinstating the passenger agent in his rights and privileges as a
man, she came presently upon the little incident in the cab of the 926.
How much or how little did he mean when he said he was happy to his
finger-tips? On the lips of the men of her world, such sayings went for
naught; they were but the tennis-balls of persiflage, served deftly, and
with the intent that they should rebound harmless. But she felt sure
that such a definition went wide of Mr. Brockway's meaning; of
compliments as such, he seemed to know less than nothing. And then he
had said that whatever came between them--no, that was not it--whatever
happened to either of them.... Ah, well, many things might happen--would
doubtless happen; but she would not forget, either.

The familiar sighing of the air-brake began again, and the low thunder
of the patient wheels became the diapason beneath the shrill song of the
brake-shoes. Then the red eye of a switch-lamp glanced in at Gertrude's
window, and the train swung slowly up to the platform at another prairie
hamlet. Just before it stopped, she caught a swift glimpse of a man
standing with outstretched arms, as if in mute appeal. It was Brockway.
He was merely standing in readiness to grasp the hand-rail of the Tadmor
when it should reach him; but Gertrude knew it not, and if she had, it
would have made no difference. It was the one fortuitous touch needed to
open that inner chamber of her heart, closed, hitherto, even to her own
consciousness. And when the door was opened she looked within and saw
what no woman sees but once in her life, and having once seen, will die
unwed in very truth if any man but one call her wife.

Once more the drumming wheels began the overture; the lighted bay-window
of the station slipped backward into the night, and the bloodshot eye of
another switch-lamp peered in at the window and was gone; but Gertrude
neither saw nor heard. The things of time and place were around and
about her, but not within. A new song was in her heart, its words
inarticulate as yet, but its harmonies singing with the music of the
spheres. A little later, when the "Flying Kestrel" was again in
mid-flitting, and the separate noises of the train had sunk into the
soothing under-roar, she crept into her berth wet-eyed and thankful, and
presently went to sleep too happy to harbor anxious thought for the
morrow of uncertainties.



XII

THE ANCIENTS AND INVALIDS


Brockway was up betimes the following morning, though not of his own
free will. Two hours before the "Flying Kestrel" was due in Denver, the
porter of the Tadmor awakened him at the command of the irascible
gentleman with the hock-bottle shoulders and diaphanous nose. While the
passenger agent was sluicing his face in the wash-room some one prodded
him from behind, and a thin, high-pitched voice wedged itself into the
thunderous silence.

"Mr. ah--Brockway; I understand that you are purposing to take the party
to ah--Feather Plume or ah--Silver Feather, or some such place to-day,
and I ah--protest! I have no desire to leave Denver until my ticket is
made to conform to my stipulations, sir."

Brockway had soap in his eyes, and the porter had carefully hidden the
towels; for which cause his reply was brief and to the point.

"Please wait till I get washed and dressed before you begin on me, won't
you?"

"Wait? Do you say ah--wait? I have been doing nothing but wait, sir,
ever since my ah--stipulations were ignored. It's an outrage, sir,
I----"

Brockway had found a towel and was using it vigorously as a
counter-irritant.

"For Heaven's sake, go away and let me alone until I can get my clothes
on!" he exclaimed. "I promised you yesterday you should have the thirty
days that you don't need."

The aggrieved one had his ticket out, but he put it away again in
tremulous indignation. "Go away? Did I ah--understand you to tell me to
go away, sir? I ah-h-h----" but words failed him, and he shuffled out of
the wash-room, cannoning against the little gentleman in the grass-cloth
duster and velvet skull-cap in the angle of the vestibule.

"Good-morning, Mr. Brockway," said the comforter, cheerily. "Been having
a tilt with Mr. Ticket-limits to begin the day with?"

"Oh, as a matter of course," Brockway replied, flinging the damp towel
into a corner, and brushing his hair as one who transmutes wrath into
vigorous action.

"Find him a bit trying, don't you? What particular form does his mania
take this morning?"

"It's the same old thing. I promised him, yesterday, I'd get the
extension on his ticket, and now he says he won't leave Denver till it's
done. He 'ah-protests' that I sha'n't go to Silver Plume with the party;
wants me to stay in Denver and put in the day telegraphing."

"Of course, you'll do it; you do anything anybody asks you to."

"Oh, I suppose I'll have to--to keep the peace. And if I don't go and
'personally conduct' the others, there'll be the biggest kind of a row.
Isn't it enough to wear the patience of a good-natured angel to
frazzles?"

"It is, just that. Have a cigar?"

"No, thank you. I don't smoke before breakfast."

"Neither do I, normally; but like most other people, I leave all my good
habits at home when I travel. But about Jordan and the thirty-odd; how
are you going to dodge the row?"

"The best way I can. There is a good friend of mine on the train--Mr.
John Burton, the general agent of the C. & U., in Salt Lake--and perhaps
I can get him to go up the canyon for me."

"Think he will do it?"

"I guess so; to oblige me. He'd lose only a day; and he'd make
thirty-odd friends for the C. & U., don't you see."

"I must confess that I don't see, from a purely business point of view,"
was the rejoinder. "We are all ticketed out and back, and we can't
change our route if we want to."

Brockway laughed. "The business of passenger soliciting is far-reaching.
Some of you--perhaps most of you--will go again next year; and if the
general agent of the C. & U. is particularly kind and obliging, you may
remember his line."

"Dear me--why, of course! You say your friend is on the train?"

"Yes."

"Very well; you go and see him, and I'll help you out by breaking the
news to the thirty-odd."

Brockway struggled into his coat and shook hands with the friendly one.
"Mr. Somers, you're my good angel. You've undertaken a thankless task,
though."

The womanish face under the band of the skull-cap broke into a smile
which was not altogether angelic. "I shall get my pay as I go along; our
friend with the bad case of ticket dementia will be carrying the entire
responsibility for your absence before I get through."

"Good! pile it on thick," said Brockway, chuckling. "Make 'em understand
that I'd give all my old shoes to go--that I'm so angry with Jordan for
spoiling my day's pleasure that I can't see straight."

"I'll do it," the little man agreed. "Take a cigar to smoke after
breakfast"--and the gray duster and velvet skull-cap disappeared
forthwith around the angle in the vestibule.

Not until he was ready to seek Burton did the passenger agent recollect
that the Naught-fifty was between the Tadmor and the Ariadne, and that
it would be the part of prudence to go around rather than through the
President's car. When he did remember it he stepped out into the
vestibule of the Tadmor to get a breath of fresh air while he waited for
the train to come to a station. Mrs. Dunham was on the Naught-fifty's
rear platform, and she nodded, smiled, and beckoned him to come across.

"I'm glad to know that somebody else besides a curious old woman cares
enough for this grand scenery to get up early in the morning," she said,
pleasantly.

"You mustn't make me ashamed," Brockway rejoined. "I'm afraid I should
have been sound asleep this minute if I hadn't been routed out by one of
my people."

Mrs. Dunham smiled. "Gertrude was telling me about some of your
troubles. Do they get you up early in the morning to ask you foolish
questions?"

"They do, indeed"--and Brockway, glad enough to find a sympathetic
listener, told the story of the pertinacious human gadfly masquerading
under the name of Jordan.

"Dear, dear! How unreasonable! Will you have to give up the Silver Plume
trip and stay in Denver with him?"

"I suppose so. I'm going forward presently to try to get Mr. Burton and
his wife to take my place with the party for the day."

"Not Mr. John Burton, of the Colorado & Utah?"

"Yes; do you know him?"

"Only through Gertrude; she met them when she was out here last year,
and she likes Mrs. Burton very much indeed."

"I'm glad of that," said Brockway, with great _naïveté_; "they are very
good friends of mine."

In the pause that succeeded he was reminded that his way and Gertrude's
would shortly diverge again, and in the face of that thought he could
not well help asking questions.

"I suppose you are going straight on to Utah," he said, not daring to
hope for a negative reply.

"Not to-day. I believe it is Mr. Vennor's plan to go on to-morrow
morning."

When he realized what this meant for him, Brockway forgave his evil
genius in the Tadmor. Then he gasped to think how near he had come to
missing his last chance of seeing Gertrude. But he must know more of the
movements of the President's party.

"Will you go to a hotel?" he inquired.

"I think not. I heard Mr. Vennor order dinner in the car, so I presume
we shall make it our headquarters during the day."

Brockway reflected that the private car would doubtless be side-tracked
on the spur near the telegraph office in the Union Depot, and wrote it
down that prearrangement itself could do no more. When the train drew up
at Bovalley a little later, he excused himself and ran quickly forward
to board the Ariadne. Come what might, Burton must be over-persuaded;
the thirty-odd must be given no chance to defeat the Heaven-born
opportunity made possible by the pertinacity of the gadfly.

So marched the intention, but the fates willed delay. Bovalley is but a
flag-station, and the passenger agent had barely time to swing up to the
rear platform of the regular sleeper when the train moved on. Then he
found that he had circumvented one obstacle only to be hampered by
another. The rear door of the Ariadne was locked, and the electric bell
was out of repair. Wherefore it was forty minutes later, and Denver was
in sight, when the rear brakeman opened the door and admitted him.



XIII

BETWEEN STATIONS


When Mrs. Dunham returned to the central compartment of the
Naught-fifty, the waiter was laying the table for breakfast, and the
President was looking on with the steadfast gaze which disconcerts.

"Good-morning, Cousin Jeannette. Up early to see the scenery, are you?"
The genial greeting had no hint in it of inward disquietude, past or
present.

"Yes, and I wish I had been earlier. I have been out on the platform
watching the mountains grow."

"Grand, isn't it? You might have had a better view if our car had been
left in its proper place in the rear; but our friend the passenger agent
took good care to secure that for his own party."

Mrs. Dunham was inclined to be charitable. "I fancy he couldn't help it.
From what he tells me, his people must be very exacting."

"Have you seen him this morning?" the President inquired, with some
small show of curiosity.

"Yes; out on the platform. He has been telling me some of his
exasperating experiences."

The President smiled indulgently. "I suspect our young friend has fallen
into a habit of magnifying his difficulties," he said. "It's very easy
to do, you know, when one's business makes a fine art of exaggeration."

"Why, he doesn't impress me that way, at all," said the good lady, who
knew nothing of her cousin's very excellent reasons for disliking
Brockway. "He seems to be a very pleasant young man, and quite
intelligent."

Mr. Vennor shrugged his shoulders. "I don't question his
intelligence--though it wasn't very remarkable at the dinner-table last
night. Did you happen to find out whether he is going all the way across
with his party?"

"He didn't say. His people are going up to Silver Plume to-day, but he
can't go with them. He has to stay in Denver with one of the exacting
ones whose ticket is out of repair."

"Ha! that's a very sharp little trick," said the President; but inasmuch
as he did not elucidate, the chaperon misunderstood.

"To get him into trouble with the others? I fancy that is only
incidental. Mr. Brockway is going to try to get Mr. Burton--our Mr.
Burton, of Salt Lake City, you know--who is on the train, to take charge
of the party on the Silver Plume trip."

Mr. Vennor said, "Oh," and then the young people began to appear, and
the waiter announced breakfast. During the meal the President was too
deeply engrossed in the working out of a small counterplot to hear or
heed much of the desultory table-talk. It was quite evident that the
passenger agent had learned of the proposed stop-over in Denver, and was
preparing to take advantage of it. His confidence with Mrs. Dunham was
only a roundabout way of notifying Gertrude.

Mr. Vennor considered many little schemes of the frustrating sort, and
finally choosing one which seemed to meet all the requirements, put it
in train immediately after breakfast.

"What are you going to do with yourself to-day?" he asked of Fleetwell,
when they had drawn apart and lighted their cigars.

"Don't know," replied the collegian, between whiffs; "whatever the
others want to do."

"I was just thinking," the President continued, carelessly. "The
Beaswicke girls want to call on some friends of theirs, and that
eliminates them. I expect to be busy all day; and Cousin Jeannette says
she doesn't care to go about. Suppose you and Gertrude take a run up
into the mountains on one of the narrow-gauges. It'll fill in the day,
and you can be back in time for dinner this evening."

"I don't mind, if Gertrude wants to go; but I don't believe she does,"
said Fleetwell, with so little enthusiasm that the President looked at
him sharply.

"Think not?"

"I'm almost sure she doesn't," the collegian replied, placidly.

Mr. Francis Vennor was a conservative man, slow to admit even the
contradiction of facts. While waiting for Gertrude the previous evening,
he had convinced himself that his daughter was about to sacrifice
herself. To an impartial onlooker--and he prided himself on being no
less--the evidence was logically conclusive; and, notwithstanding
Gertrude's tardy denial, he still believed that his major premise was
correct, or, at most, only errant in time.

Having thus set his judgment a bad example, it easily broke bounds again
in the same direction. How should Fleetwell know that Gertrude would not
care to spend the day in his company? Probably because they had found
time before breakfast for another of their foolish disagreements. In
that case, it would be the part of wisdom to separate them for the day;
and a plan by which this might be accomplished, and the passenger agent
checkmated at the same time, suggested itself at the instant.

"We'll let it go at that, then," he said, answering Fleetwell's
assumption. "You can manage to wear out the day in town. Perhaps the
Beaswicke girls will let you go calling with them."

"Think so? I'll go and ask them," Fleetwell said, with more animation
than he had yet exhibited; and he threw away his cigar and went about
it.

The President rose and crossed over to Mrs. Dunham's chair.

"Where is Gertrude?" he inquired.

"She complained of a headache and went to her room. Shall I call her?"

"Oh, no; but if you haven't already done so, I wish you wouldn't mention
what Brockway told you, this morning--about his spending the day in
Denver, I mean."

"Certainly not, if you wish it," the chaperon agreed; but the expression
of her face was so plainly interrogative that the President was
constrained to go on.

"There is nothing to be anxious about yet," he hastened to say; "but you
know the old adage about the ounce of prevention. Gertrude is very
self-willed, and they were together rather more than I could wish, last
summer."

"I think you are altogether mistaken, Cousin Francis," said the good
lady, in whom there was no drop of match-making blood. "She has talked
very freely with me about him, and a young girl doesn't do that if there
is any sentiment in the air."

"I hope you are right. But it will do no harm to give ourselves the
benefit of the doubt. I fancy Chester didn't quite approve of the little
diversion last evening--on the engine, you know."

"Pooh! I don't believe he gave it a second thought."

"Possibly not; but he had a very good right to object. It was a reckless
bit of impropriety."

"You sat up for Gertrude last night; did you say as much to her?" the
chaperon asked, shrewdly.

"Not quite that," said the President, who was unwilling to go into
particulars.

"Because, if you did, it was injudicious, that's all. Gertrude is your
own daughter, and she is enough like you to resent anything of that kind
in a way to make you regretful. That accounts for the headache this
morning."

Gertrude's father smiled rather grimly. "I shall presently find a remedy
for the headache, and you'll see that it will work like a charm. But its
efficacy will depend upon your discretion. Not a word about the
passenger agent, if you please."

Mrs. Dunham promised, rather reluctantly, and Mr. Vennor put on his hat
and left the compartment. He had business in the Ariadne; and a little
later, Mrs. Burton, who was buttoning her shoe, looked up to find the
calculating eyes of the President making a calm and leisurely valuation
of her.



XIV

WITH DENVER IN SIGHT


There was the usual early morning confusion in the aisle of the Ariadne
when Brockway picked his way forward to section three over a litter of
opened hand-bags, lately polished shoes, and unshod feet. He found the
Burton section empty, with the porter putting the finishing touches to
his morning's work of scene-shifting.

"Yes, sah; de gemman's in de washroom, an' de lady----"

"Is right here," said a voice at Brockway's elbow. "Good-morning, Mr.
Frederick; how do you find yourself--or aren't you lost?"

The forty-minute lock-out had left scant time for preliminaries, and
Brockway left off the preamble.

"I'm not lost, but I'm going to be if you and John don't help me out.
Will you do it?"

"Sight unseen." The little lady was eying her shoes wistfully and hoping
that Brockway would be brief.

"I thought I could count on you. What is your programme for to-day?"

"For John, business, I suppose; for myself, a carriage, a handy
card-case, and any number of 'how do you dos' and 'good-byes.' Why?"

"I want you both to give me the day, out and out. Listen, and don't say
no till you've heard me through."

"Go on, but don't let it lap over into Denver; we're 'most there."

Brockway stated his case briefly. "It's probably the last chance I'll
ever have to see her," he concluded.

"Why should you want to see her when there is nothing to be done, as you
say?"

"I don't know that--but I do, and you must help me. Will you?"

"Help you carry on a brazen flirtation with that poor, innocent girl?
Never! But if John says he'll go, I suppose I can't help
myself"--resignedly.

"Thank you; I knew you wouldn't be cruel. And if John should happen to
balk a little----"

"Why, I'll talk him over, of course; is that what you want?"

"That's it exactly. Thank you some more."

"Don't mention it. Is that all?"

"Y--yes, all but one little trifle of detail. Have you told John about
my--my lunacy?"

"No."

"Then don't; it's bad enough to be an idiot and know it myself."

"I sha'n't--perhaps. Is _that_ all?"

"Yes, I believe so."

"Then for mercy's sake do go and talk to John, and let me put on my
shoes," said Mrs. Burton, impatiently. "I can't go to breakfast in my
slippers."

Brockway vanished obediently, and presently found Burton struggling into
his outer garments in the smoking-room.

"Hello, Fred; how are the invalids this morning? Get you out bright and
early?"

"One of them did--that old fellow with the bad case of ticket-limits.
I'm in trouble up to my neck, and you've got to help me out."

"Say the word and I'll do it if it costs me something," said Burton, who
was nothing if not helpful to his friends.

"It's going to cost you something--a whole day, in fact. I promised to
'personally conduct' the crowd up to Silver Plume to-day, and the
arrangements are all made. Now this old fellow says he isn't going; says
I've got to stay in Denver with him and telegraph another thirty days to
his ticket, or the heavens will fall. I'm going to do it, and I want you
to take my place with the party."

"Same old maker of hard-and-fast promises, aren't you, Fred," said the
general agent, smiling. "I suppose I can do it, if you can square it
with Emily."

"I've done that already; she's awfully good about it--says she'll go
along and help you out. What's this place? Overton? By Jove! I'll have
to be getting back to my car; we're only fifteen miles out. Thank you
much, old man--see you later"--and the passenger agent pushed through
the group in the wash-room and dropped off to once more make the circuit
of car Naught-fifty.



XV

YARD-LIMITS


It was while Brockway was making his second circuit of the private car
that Mrs. Burton looked up and encountered the calculating gaze of the
President.

"Ah--good-morning, Mrs. Burton; you remember me, I see. On your way back
to Utah, are you?"

"Yes--" the "sir" was on the tip of her tongue, but she managed to
suppress it. "We have been to Chicago, to the passenger meeting."

"So I inferred. Do you enjoy Chicago, Mrs. Burton?"

She felt that five minutes of this would unhinge her reason, but she
made shift to answer, intelligently: "Yes, in a way; but I've never been
about much. Mr. Burton is always so busy when we are there."

"Precisely; always busy; that is the whole history of civilized man in
two words, isn't it? But where is your good husband?"

"He is in the wash-room," she began; but at that moment Burton appeared.

"Ha!" said the President; "good-morning, Mr. Burton. You didn't expect
to find me here chatting with your wife, did you?"

"Well, no, not exactly--that is--" Burton's one weakness lay in undue
deference to his superior officers, and he stumbled helplessly. But his
wife came promptly to the rescue.

"It's such a distinction, Mr. Vennor, that we don't know how to properly
acknowledge it," she retorted, laughing, "Will you excuse me if I finish
buttoning my shoe?"

"Certainly, certainly"--the President's tone was genially paternal; "I
merely wanted to have a word with Mr. Burton;" and he rose and drew the
general agent across to the opposite section.

"Sit down, sit down, Burton; don't stand on ceremony with me," he said,
patronizingly. "I came to ask a favor of you, and positively you
embarrass me."

Burton sat down mechanically.

"I learned a few minutes ago through young Brockway that you were on the
train," the President continued, lowering his voice, "and I understand
that he wishes you to take charge of his party for the day on the trip
up Clear Creek Canyon. Has he spoken to you about it?"

"Yes; he was here just now." Burton answered as he had sat
down--mechanically.

"And you consented to do it, I presume?"

"Why, yes; he asked it as a personal favor, and I thought I might make a
few new friends for our line. But if you don't approve----"

"Don't misunderstand me," interrupted the President, with well-feigned
magnanimity; "as I said, I came to ask a favor. You met my daughter,
Gertrude, when we were out last summer, I believe?"

"Yes, at Manitou." The general agent was far beyond soundings on the sea
of mystery by this time.

"Well, you must know she took a great fancy to your wife, and when I
heard of this arrangement, I determined to ask you to take her along
with you for the day. May I count upon it?"

"Why, certainly; we shall be delighted," Burton rejoined. "Let me
tell----"

But the President stopped him. He had taken time to reflect that a
little secrecy might be judicious at this point; and he was shrewd
enough to distrust women in any affair bordering upon the romantic. So
he said:

"Suppose we make it a little surprise for both of them. Keep it to
yourself, and when your train is ready to leave, I'll bring Gertrude
over to you. How will that do?"

Burton was in a fair way to lose his head at being asked to share a
secret with his President, and he promised readily.

"Not a word. Mrs. Burton will be delighted. I'll be on the lookout for
you."

So it was arranged; and with a gracious word of leave-taking for the
wife, Mr. Vennor went back to his car, rubbing his hands and smiling
inscrutably. He found his daughter curled up in the great wicker chair
in an otherwise unoccupied corner of the central compartment.

"Under the weather this morning, Gertrude?" he asked, wisely setting
aside the constraint which might naturally be supposed to be an
unpleasant consequence of their latest interview.

"Yes, a little," she replied, absently.

"I presume you haven't made any plans for the day," he went on; "I fancy
you don't care to go visiting with the Beaswicke girls."

"No, indeed; I can do that at home."

"How would you like to go up to Silver Plume with Mr. Brockway's party?"

She knew well enough that her father's cold eyes had surprised the
sudden flash of gladness in hers, but she was not minded to reopen the
quarrel.

"Oh, that would be delightful," she said, annulling the significance of
the words with the indifference of her tone; "quite as delightful as it
is impossible."

"But it isn't impossible," said the President, blandly; "on the
contrary, I have taken the liberty of arranging it--subject to your
approval, of course. I chanced upon two old friends of ours who are
going with the party, and they will take care of you and bring you back
this evening."

"Friends of ours?" she queried; "who are they?"

"Ah, I promised not to tell you beforehand. Will you go?"

"Certainly, if you have arranged it," she rejoined, still speaking
indifferently because she was unwilling to show him how glad she was.
For she was frankly glad. The glamour of last night's revelation was
over the recollection of those other days spent with Brockway, and she
was impatiently eager to put her impressions quickly to the test of
repetition--to suffer loss, if need be, but by all means to make sure.
And because of this eagerness, she quite overlooked the incongruity of
such a proposal coming from her father--an oversight which Mr. Vennor
had shrewdly anticipated and reckoned upon.

It was 7.30, and the train was clattering through the Denver yards,
measuring the final mile of the long westward run. Gertrude rose to go
and get ready.

"You needn't hurry," said her father; "the narrow-gauge train doesn't
leave for half an hour. I'll come for you when it is time to go."

He watched her go down the compartment and enter her stateroom without
stopping to speak to any of the others. Then he held up his finger for
the secretary.

"Harry, when the train stops, I want you should get off and see where
Brockway goes. You know him, and you might make an excuse to talk with
him. When you have found out, come and tell me. Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir," said Quatremain; and when he had kicked his pride into a
proper attitude of submission, he went about the errand.



XVI

THE MADDING CROWD


Twice a day, in the time whereof these things are written, the platform
of the Denver Union Depot gave the incoming migrant his first true
glimpse of the untrammelled West. A broad sea of planking, open to the
heavens--and likewise to the world at large--was the morning and evening
arena of a moving spectacle the like of which is not to be witnessed in
any well-ordered railway station of the self-contained East.

Trains headed north, east, south, and west, backed across the platform
and drawn apart in the midst to leave a passageway for the crowds; other
trains going and coming, with shouting yard-men for outriders to clear
the tracks; huge shifting pyramids of baggage piled high on tilting
trucks, dividing with the moving trains the attention of the dodging
multitude; the hurrying throngs imbued for the moment with the strenuous
travail-spirit of the New West; these were the persons and the
properties. And the shrieking safety-valves, the clanging bells, the
tinnient gong of the breakfast-room, the rumbling trucks, and the
under-roar of matter in motion, were the pieces in the orchestra.

It is all very different now, I am told. They have iron railings with
wicket-gates and sentinels in uniform who ask to see your ticket, and a
squad of policemen to keep order, and rain-sheds over the platforms (it
used not to rain in the Denver I knew), and all the other appurtenances
and belongings of a well-conducted railway terminus. But the elder order
of disorder obtained on the autumn morning when the "Flying Kestrel"
came to rest opposite the gap in the bisected trains filling the other
tracks. Brockway was the first man out of the Tadmor, but the gadfly was
a close second.

"No, sir; I don't intend to lose sight of you, Mr. ah--Brockway," he
quavered; and he hung at the passenger agent's elbow while the latter
was marshalling the party for the descent on the breakfast-room, a
process which vocalized itself thus:

_Brockway_, handing the ladies in the debarking procession down the
steps of the car: "Breakfast is ready in the dining-room. Special tables
reserved for this party. Wait, and we'll all go in together. Leave your
hand-baggage with the porter, unless it's something you will need during
the day. Take your time; you have thirty minutes before the train leaves
for Clear Creek Canyon and the Loop."

_Chorus of the Personally Conducted:_

"How long did you say we'd have?"

"What are they going to do with our car while we're gone?"

"Say, Mr. Passenger Agent, are you sure the baggage will be safe if we
leave it with the porter?"

"What time have you now?"

"How far is it over to those mountains?"

"Oh, Mr. Brockway; won't this be a good chance to see if my trunk was
put on the train with the others?"

"Say; what time did you say that Clear Creek Canyon train leaves?"

_Brockway_, answering the last question because the inquirer happens to
be nearest at hand: "Eight o'clock."

_The Querist_, with his watch (which he has omitted to set back to
mountain time) in his hand: "Eight o'clock? Then it's gone--it's
half-past eight now! Look here."

_Brockway_, who is vainly endeavoring to persuade an elderly maiden lady
to leave her canary in charge of the porter during the day: "That is
central time you have, Mr. Tucker; mountain time is one hour slower.
Careful, Mr. Perkins; let me take your grip. You won't need it to-day."

_The Elderly Maiden Lady:_ "Now, Mr. Brockway, are you _sure_ it'll be
perfectly safe to leave Dicky with the porter?"

_Mr. Somers, sotto voce_ in Brockway's ear: "Hang Dicky! Let's go to
breakfast."

_The Gadfly:_ "Mr. ah--Brockway, you will oblige me by sitting at my
table. I don't ah--purpose to lose sight of you, sir."

_Brockway_, to the porter: "All out, John?"

_The Porter_, with the cavernous smile of his kind: "All out, sah."

_Brockway_, sandwiching himself between two of the unescorted ladies:
"All aboard for the dining-room!"

So much Harry Quatremain, standing aloof, saw and heard, and was minded
to go back to President Vennor and make his report accordingly. But the
yard crew, already busily dismembering the "Flying Kestrel," whipped the
Tadmor and the private car out into the yard, and the secretary was left
standing in the unquiet crowd.

Having nothing better to do, he sauntered across to the depot, not
intending to spy further upon the passenger agent, but rather cudgelling
his brain to devise some pretext upon which he could safely lie to the
President and so appease his self-respect. The pretext did not suggest
itself; and after looking into the dining-room, where he saw Brockway
and his thirty-odd in one corner, and the Burtons, whom he knew by
sight, in another, he strolled out to the end of the building where the
yard-crew was switching the Naught-fifty to its place on the short spur.
The President was standing on the front platform; and Quatremain, having
no plausible falsehood ready, reported the simple fact.

"Very good," said his employer. "Now go back and keep your eye on him;
and, at precisely five minutes of eight, come and tell me where he is
and what he is doing."

Quatremain turned on his heel and swore a clerkly oath, well smothered,
to the effect that he would do nothing of the sort. It was not the first
time the President had used him as a private detective, but, happily,
use had not yet dulled his reluctance. None the less, he went back to
the door of the dining-room and waited, and while he tarried curiosity
came to keep wrath company. What was afoot that the President should be
so anxious about the movements of the passenger agent? The secretary
could not guess, but he determined to find out.

Three minutes before Quatremain's time-limit expired, Brockway, followed
closely by a slope-shouldered old gentleman with close-set eyes, came
out with Burton. He nodded to the secretary and kept on talking to the
general agent. Quatremain could scarcely help overhearing.

"You can introduce yourself," he was saying; "there isn't time for any
formalities. You'll find them docile enough--they haven't any kick
coming with you, you know--and I'll be here to take them off your hands
when you get back. No, I'll not go over to the train, unless you want me
to; I'm going to the telegraph office with Mr. Jordan here, and then
up-town to see our general agent about his ticket. Good-by, old man; and
thank you again."

Quatremain looked at his watch. It was 7.55, to the minute, and he
walked leisurely around to the private car.

"Well?" said the President, and the steady gaze of the cold eye slew the
falsehood which the secretary was about to utter.

"He's in the telegraph office with one of his people," Quatremain
replied, angry enough to curse himself for being so weak as to tell the
truth.

"Very good. Go into my stateroom and get the mail ready. I'll come in
and dictate to you presently."

The secretary obeyed as one who may not do otherwise, and left the
stateroom door ajar. A moment later, he heard a tap at the door of
Gertrude's room, and then the President and his daughter left the car
together. Quatremain slammed down the cover of his desk, snatched his
hat, and followed them. He had paid the servile price, and he would at
least gratify his curiosity.

He caught sight of them in the crowd streaming out toward the Colorado
Central train, and scored the first point when he observed that the
President made a detour to avoid passing the open door of the telegraph
office. Then he kept them in view till he saw Miss Vennor give her hand
to Burton at the steps of one of the narrow-gauge cars.

At that moment, Mrs. Burton, who was comfortably established in the
midst of a carful of the Tadmorians, chanced to look out of the window.
She saw the President and his daughter come swiftly across the platform,
saw her husband step out to meet them and shake hands with Gertrude,
remarked the quick flash of glad surprise on the young girl's face, and
the nervous anxiety with which the President consulted his watch, and
was immediately as well apprised of the inwardness of the little plot as
if she had devised it herself.

"Oh! _oh!_" she said to herself, with indignant emphasis; "that
venerable old tyrant is turning her over to us to get her out of Fred's
way! _And he hasn't told her that Fred isn't going!_"

Now, to the Emily Burton type of woman-kind, the marring of a plot is
only less precious than the making of one. The little lady had never
been known to think deeply, but a grain of swift wit is sometimes worth
an infinity of tardy logic. Whatever intervened, the conclusion was
clear and definite; Brockway's chance must be rescued at all
hazards--and there were only two minutes in which to do it.

She scanned the throng on the platform eagerly, hoping to catch sight of
him, but the faces were all strange save one. That was the face of the
President's private secretary; and, without a moment's hesitation, she
beckoned him.

Quatremain saw the signal, and made his way to her window, taking care
to keep as many human screens as possible between himself and the group
at the car steps.

"Mrs. Burton, I believe," he said, lifting his hat.

"Yes"--hurriedly. "Do you know Mr. Brockway?"

Quatremain bowed.

"Do you know where he is now?"

"Yes; he's over in the telegraph office."

"Will you take him a message from me, quickly?"

"Certainly, with pleasure."

"Then tell him I say he is going to be lost if he doesn't catch this
train; he'll understand. And _please_ hurry--there isn't a second to
spare!"

Quatremain nodded, and vanished in the crowd. He understood nothing of
what was toward, but he suspected that what he was about to do would
somehow interfere with the President's plans, and that was sufficient to
make him run when he was well out of sight. He found Brockway in the
telegraph office, writing a message, with the slope-shouldered gentleman
at his elbow, and delivered Mrs. Burton's message _verbatim_ and shorn
of any introduction whatsoever.

The effect on the passenger agent was surprising, if not explanatory.
"Says I'm going to be--Not if I know it! I say, Tom"--flinging
the pad of blanks at the operator, to call his attention--"wire
anything--everything--this gentleman wants you to; I'm off!"

"But, Mr. ah--Brockway, I--I protest!" buzzed the gadfly, clutching at
the passenger agent; but he was not quick enough, and when the protest
was formulated, there was no one but the operator to listen to it.

The engine-bell was ringing and the train had begun to move when
Brockway dashed out of the office, and the appreciative bystanders made
way for him and cheered him as he sped away across the platform. It was
neck-and-neck, and nothing to choose; but he was making it easily, when
he collided squarely in mid career with the tall figure of the
President. For a single passionate instant Mr. Francis Vennor forgot his
traditions, and struck out savagely at the passenger agent. The blow
caught Brockway full in the chest and made him gasp and stagger; but he
gathered himself quickly, swerved aside, and ran on, catching the rear
hand-rail of the last car as the train swept out of the station.



XVII

ON THE NARROW-GAUGE


For a certain breath-cutting minute after he had made good his grasp on
the hand-rails of the rear car, Brockway was too angry to congratulate
himself. A blow, even though it be given by a senior, and that senior
the father of the young woman with whom one chances to be in love, is
not to be borne patiently save by a philosopher or a craven, and
Brockway was far enough from being either the one or the other.

But, fortunately for his own peace of mind, the young man reckoned a
quick temper among his compensations. By the time he had recovered his
breath, some subtle essence of the clean, crisp morning air had gotten
into his veins, and the insult dwindled in the perspective until it
became less incendiary. Nay, more; before the engineer whistled for
Argo, Brockway was beginning to find excuses for the exasperated father.
He assumed that Gertrude was on the train with the Burtons--Mrs.
Burton's message could mean no less--and Mr. Francis Vennor had
doubtless been at some pains to arrange the little plan of separation.
And to find it falling to pieces at the last moment was certainly very
exasperating. Brockway admitted it cheerfully, and when he had laughed
aloud at the President's discomfiture until the sore spot under his
right collar-bone ached again, he thought he was fit to venture among
the Tadmorians. Accordingly, he made his way forward through the two
observation-cars to the coach set apart for the thirty-odd.

His appearance was the signal for a salvo of exclamatory inquiry from
the members of the party, but Brockway had his eyes on the occupants of
a double seat in the middle of the coach, and he assured himself that
explanations to the thirty-odd might well wait. A moment later he was
shaking hands with Mrs. Burton and Miss Vennor.

"Dear me!" said the proxy chaperon, with shameless disingenuousness; "I
was really beginning to be afraid you were left. Where have you been all
the time?"

"Out on the rear platform, taking in the scenery," Brockway replied,
calmly, sitting down beside Gertrude. "Didn't you see me when I got on?"

Mrs. Burton had seen the little incident on the station platform out of
the tail of her eye as the train was getting under way, so she was
barely within truthful limits when she said "No." But she looked very
hard at Brockway and succeeded in making him understand that Gertrude
was not to know anything about the plot or its marring. The young man
telegraphed acquiescence, though his leaning was rather toward straight
forwardness.

"Did you rest well after your spin on the engine last night?" he asked
of Gertrude.

"Quite well, thank you. Have you ever ridden on an engine, Mrs. Burton?"

"Many times," replied the marplot; and then she made small-talk
desperately, while she tried to think of some way of warning her husband
not to be surprised at the sudden change in Brockway's itinerary for the
day. Nothing better suggesting, she struck hands with temerity when
Burton appeared at the forward door with the conductor, and ordered
Brockway to take Gertrude back to the observation-car.

"It's a shame that Miss Vennor should be missing the scenery," she said.
"Go along with her and make yourself useful. We will take care of your
ancients."

The small plotter breathed freer when they were gone. She knew she had a
little duel to fight with her conservative husband, and she preferred to
fight it without seconds. Her premonition became a reality as soon as he
reached her.

"How is this?" he began; "did you know Fred had changed his plans?"

She shook her head. "He didn't take me into his confidence."

"Well, what did he say for himself?"

"About changing his mind? Nothing."

"He didn't? that's pretty cool! What does he mean by running us off up
here on a wild-goose chase?"

"How should I know, when he didn't tell me?"

"Well, I'll just go and find out," Burton declared, with growing
displeasure.

But his wife detained him. "Sit down and think about it for a few
minutes, first," she said, coolly. "You are angry now, and you mustn't
forget that he's with Miss Vennor."

"By Jove! that is the very thing I'm not forgetting. I believe you were
more than half-right in your guess, yesterday; but we mustn't let them
make fools of themselves--anyway, not while we are responsible."

"I don't quite _savez_ the responsibility," retorted the little lady,
flippantly. "But what do you imagine?"

"I don't imagine--I know. He found out, somehow, that she was going with
us, and just dropped things and ran for it."

"Do you think he did that?"

"Of course he did. And if we're not careful the odium of the whole thing
will fall on us."

"Well, what are you going to do about it?"

"I don't know. I suppose we ought to go back from Golden and take Miss
Vennor along with us."

"Wouldn't that be assuming a great deal? You would hardly want to tell
the President that you had brought his daughter back because you were
afraid she might do something rash."

"Oh, pshaw!" said Burton, who was rather out of his element in trying to
pick his way among the social ploughshares.

"But that is what you will have to tell him, if we go back," she
insisted, with delicious effrontery.

Burton thought about it for a moment, and ended by accepting the fact
merely because it was thrust upon him. "I couldn't very well do that,
you know," he objected, and she nearly laughed in his face because he
had fallen so readily into her small trap; "but if we don't break it
off, what shall we do?"

"Do? why, nothing at all! Mr. Vennor asks us to take his daughter with
us on a little pleasure-trip, and he doesn't tell us to bring her back
instanter if we happen to find Fred on the train."

Burton was silenced, but he was very far from being convinced, and he
gave up the return project reluctantly, promising himself that he should
have a very uncomfortable day of it.

In the meantime, the two young people in the observation-car were making
hard work of it. A good many undiscussable happenings had intervened
between their parting and their meeting, and these interfered sadly with
the march of a casual conversation. As usually befalls, it was the young
woman who first rose superior to the embarrassments.

"I'm glad of this day," she said, frankly, when they had exhausted the
scenery, the matchless morning, the crisp air, and half a dozen other
commonplaces. "I enjoyed our trip down from Silver Plume a year ago so
much, and it seemed the height of improbability to imagine that we'd
ever repeat it. Did you think we ever should?"

"No, indeed," replied Brockway, truthfully; "but I have wished many
times that we might. Once in awhile, when I was a boy, I used to get a
day that was all my own--a day in which I could go where I pleased and
do as I liked. Those days are all marked with white stones now, and I
often envy the boy who had them."

"I think I can understand that."

"Can you? I didn't know little girls ever had such days."

"I've had a few, but I think they were never given me. They were usually
stolen, and so were doubly precious."

Brockway laughed. "Suppose we call this a stolen day, and try to make it
as much like the others as we can. Shall we?"

"It's a bargain," she said, impulsively.

"From this minute, I am any irresponsible age you please; and you--you
are to do nothing whatever that you meant to do. Will you agree to
that?"

"Gladly," Brockway assented, the more readily since his plans for the
day had been so recently demolished and rebuilt. "We'll go where we
please, and do as we like; and for this one day nobody shall say
'Don't!'"

She laughed with him, and then became suddenly grave. "It's no use; we
can't do it," she said, with mock pathos; "the 'ancients and invalids'
won't let us."

"Yes, they will," Brockway asserted, cheerfully; "Burton will take care
of them--that's what he's here for. Moreover, I shall take it upon
myself to abolish the perversities, animate or inanimate."

"Please do. And if Mrs. Burton scold me----"

"She'd better not," said Brockway, with much severity. "If she does,
I'll tell tales out of school and give her something else to think
about."

"Could you?"

"You would better believe it; she is trembling in her shoes this blessed
minute for fear I may. But you would have to stand by me."

"I? Well, I've promised, you know. What place is this?"

The train had entered the great gateway in Table Mountain, and was
clattering past the Golden smelting works.

"It is Golden--you remember, don't you?" And then Brockway bethought him
of something. "Will you excuse me a minute, while I get off and speak to
the agent?"

"Certainly," said Gertrude; and when the train skirted the high
platform, Brockway sprang off and ran quickly to the telegraph office.
The operator was just coming out with a freshly written message in his
hand.

"Hello, Fred," he said; "didn't know you were on. Do you happen to know
a Miss Gertrude Vennor? She's with John Burton's party."

"Yes," said Brockway, tingling to get hold of the message before Burton
should come along.

"All right; give her this, will you? I can't leave that blessed wire a
minute."

Brockway thrust the telegram into his pocket, dodged around the throng
of station loungers, and won back to the rear platform of the
observation-car without seeing or being seen of the general agent. Then
he drew the crumpled paper from his pocket and read it shamelessly.

     "TO MISS GERTRUDE VENNOR,
     "Care John Burton,
     "On Colorado Central Train 51.

     "Come back from Golden on first train. Have changed our plans,
     and shall leave Denver at 1.30 P.M.

     "FRANCIS VENNOR."



XVIII

FLAGGED DOWN


Brockway read the President's telegram twice, folded it very small, and
tucked it into his waistcoat pocket.

"That's just about what I expected he'd do, and it's a straight bluff,"
he muttered. "All the same, she's not going back. And I've got to block
it without getting Burton into trouble."

There was no time for anything but the simplest expedient. He jumped off
again and ran back to the telegraph office.

"Say, Jim, that message to Miss Vennor is bulled. Ask Denver to repeat
it to Beaver Brook, will you?" he said, interrupting the operator as he
was repeating the train order.

The man of dots and dashes finished the order. "Can't do it, Fred; get
me into hot water up to my neck. Think of something else."

"Will you help me if I do?"

"Sure; any way that won't cost me my job."

The conductor and engineer had signed the order, but Brockway begged for
a respite. "Just a minute, Halsey, while I write a message," he said,
snatching a pad of blanks and writing hastily, while the conductor
waited.

     "TO FRANCIS VENNOR,
     "Private Car 050, Denver.

     "Can't you reconsider and leave Denver to-morrow morning, as
     previously arranged? Am quite sure Miss Vennor prefers to go
     on. Answer at Beaver Brook.

     "FREDERICK BROCKWAY."

He tossed the pad to the operator.

"There you are, Jim; don't break your neck to make a 'rush' of it; and
when you hear the answer coming do what you can to make it limp a
little--anything to change the sense a bit."

"I'll do it," quoth the operator; and then the conductor gave the
signal, and Brockway boarded the train and rejoined Gertrude.

"Did you think I had deserted you?" he asked.

"Oh, no; and Mr. Burton's been in to keep me company. He came to ask if
I didn't want to go back to Denver."

"Did he?" said Brockway, wondering if Burton had also had a message.
"And you told him no?"

"Of course I did. Haven't we made a compact?"

"Yes, but----"

"But what?"

"You said you were going to be irresponsible, you know, and I didn't
know just where it might crop out."

"Not in that direction, you may be sure. You said we were to do as we
pleased, and I don't please to go back to Denver. But Mr. Burton seemed
to be quite anxious about it, for some reason. I wonder why?"

"So do I," rejoined Brockway, innocently.

Gertrude stole a glance at him, and he tried to look inscrutable, and
failed. Then they both laughed.

"You are keeping something back; tell me all about it," Gertrude
commanded.

"I am afraid you will be very angry if I do."

"I shall be quite furious if you don't. My! how close that rock was!"

The train was storming up the canyon, dodging back and forth from wall
to wall, roaring over diminutive bridges, and vying with the foaming
torrent at the track-side in its twistings and turnings. The noise was
deafening, but it was bearable, since it served to isolate them.

"Does the compact mean that we are to have no secrets from each other?"
he asked, not daring to anticipate the answer; but Gertrude parried the
direct question.

"What do two people who are trying to be very young and foolish and
irresponsible know about secrets?" she demanded. "You are beating about
the bush, and I won't have it. Tell me!"

For reply, he took the telegram from his pocket, opened it, smoothed it
carefully on his knee, and handed it to her. She read it at a glance,
and a faint flush came and went in her cheek, but whether of vexation or
not he could not determine.

"You are very daring," she said, passing the square of paper back to
him, and her voice was so low that he barely caught the words.

"You told me I wasn't to do anything that I meant to do: I certainly did
not premeditate intercepting your telegrams--or answering them," he
added.

"Then you have answered it? How?"

He turned the paper over and wrote his reply on the back, word for word.

"You dared to say that to my father!" she exclaimed. "How could you?"

"Under some circumstances, I think I could dare anything. But you are
angry, as I said you'd be."

"Of course I am--very. I demand to be taken back to Denver this minute."

"Do you mean that?"

"Didn't I say it?"

Brockway tried in vain to read a contradiction in her face, but the
steady eyes were veiled, and it is the eyes that speak when the lips are
silent.

"I'm sorry," he began; "it meant a great deal to me, but I know it was
inexcusable. I'll go and tell Burton, and you can go back from the
Forks, where the trains meet."

Now Gertrude had builded upon the supposition that she was safe beyond
the reach of recall, and she made haste to retract.

"Yes, do!" she said, tragically; "make me go down on my knees and beg
you not to--I'll do it, if you insist. How was I to know that you were
only trying to humiliate me?"

The swift little recantation gave Brockway a glimpse into her
personality which was exceedingly precious while it lasted. A man may
fall in love with a sweet face on slight provocation and without
preliminaries, but he knows little of the height and depth of passion
until association has taught him. But love of the instantaneous variety
has this to commend it, that its demands are modest and based upon
things visible. Wherefore, certain small excellences of character in the
subject, brought to light by a better acquaintance, come in the nature
of so many ecstatic little surprises.

That is the man's point of view. The woman takes the excellences for
granted, and if they are lacking, one of two things may happen: a great
smashing of ideals, or an attack of heavenly blindness. Gertrude was of
the tribe of those who go blind; and deep down in her heart she rejoiced
in Brockway's audacity. Hence it was only for form's sake that she said,
"How was I to know that you were only trying to humiliate me?"

"I humiliate you!" he repeated, quite aghast at the bare suggestion.
"Not knowingly, you may be very sure. But about the telegram; you are
not angry with me because I was desperate enough to answer it without
having first shown it to you?"

"I said I was, and so I must be. But I don't see how you could have done
otherwise--not after you had promised not to let anything interfere. Do
you think Mr. Burton had a telegram, too?"

"I was just wondering," Brockway rejoined, reflectively. "I think we are
safe in assuming that he hadn't."

"I don't care; I'm not going back," said Gertrude, with fine
determination. "Papa gave me this day, early in the morning, and I'm
going to keep it. What do you think of an irresponsible young person who
says such an unfilial thing as that?"

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you what I think."

"Try me and see."

"That is one of the things I don't dare--not yet."

"You'd better not abate any of your daring; you'll need it all when we
get back," laughed Gertrude, speaking far better than she knew.

"To take the consequences of my impudence?"

"Yes. You don't know my father; he is steel and ice when he is angry."

Remembering the object-lesson on the station platform in Denver,
Brockway ventured to dissent from this, though he was politic enough not
to do so openly.

"You think he will be very angry, then?"

"Indeed I don't--I know it."

"I'm sorry; but I'm afraid he will be angrier yet, before long."

"Why?"

"You read my message: I asked him to answer at Beaver Brook. He'll be
pretty sure to send you a peremptory order to turn back from Forks
Creek, won't he?"

"Why, of course he will; and I'll have to go back, after all--I sha'n't
dare disobey. Oh, why didn't you make it impossible, while you were
doing it?"

"I had to do what I could; and you, and Burton, and the operator, had to
be saved blameless. But I'll venture a prediction. As well as you know
your father, you may prepare yourself to be surprised at what he will
say. I am no mind-reader, but I'm going to prophesy that he doesn't
recall you."

"But why? I don't understand----"

"We are due at Beaver Brook in five minutes; wait, and you will see."

So they waited while the pygmy locomotive snorted and labored, and the
yellow torrent roared and fled backward, and the gray cliffs on either
hand flung back the clamorous echoes, and the cool damp air of the
canyon, flushed now and then with a jet of spray, blew in at the car
windows.

For the first time since her father had suggested the trip with the
Burtons, Gertrude began to understand that it could scarcely have been
his intention to give her an uninterrupted day in the company of the
passenger agent. But in that case, why had he proposed the trip, knowing
that Brockway's party would be on the train? The answer to this query
did not tarry. She had caught the surprised exclamations of the
Tadmorians when Brockway made his appearance, and they pointed to the
supposition that his presence on the train was unexpected. And he had
been evidently embarrassed; and Mrs. Burton was curiously distrait and
unmistakably anxious to get them out of the way before her husband
should return.

These things were but straws, but they all pointed to one conclusion.
Her father knew, or thought he knew, that the passenger agent was to
stay behind in Denver, and he had deliberately sent her away for the day
to preclude the possibility of another meeting. And when he had
discovered that the little plan had miscarried, he had quite as
deliberately ordered her return.

Speaking broadly, the President's daughter was not undutiful; but she
was sufficiently like her father to be quickly resentful of coercive
measures. Wherefore, when she had cleared up the small mystery to her
own satisfaction, she hardened her heart and promised herself that
nothing short of a repetition of the peremptory order should make her
return on the forenoon train. And the shriek of the engine, whistling
for Beaver Brook, punctuated the resolve.



XIX

THE FOOLISH WIRES


When President Vennor returned to his stateroom in the private car after
the choleric little incident on the platform, he found his secretary
waiting with open note-book and a sheaf of well-sharpened pencils.
Quatremain's hands were a trifle unsteady when he began to write at the
President's dictation, but his employer did not observe it. As a matter
of fact, Mr. Francis Vennor was deep in the undercurrent of his private
thoughts--thoughts which were quite separate and apart from the unbroken
flow of words trickling out through Quatremain's pencil-point upon the
pages of the note-book. Mere business was very much a matter of habit
with the President, and the dictating of a few letters to be signed
"Francis Vennor, President," did not interfere with a coincident search
for some means of retrieving the morning's disaster.

It was a disaster, and no less. He began by calling it a mistake, but
mistakes which involve the possible loss of fortunes, small or great,
are not to be lightly spoken of. By the time he reached the end of the
fifth letter, he had run the gamut of expedients and concluded to try
the effect of a little wholesome parental authority.

"Go out and get me a Colorado Central time-card," he said to Quatremain;
and when the secretary returned with a copy of the official time-table,
Mr. Vennor traced out the schedule of the morning trains, east and west.
Number Fifty-one was not yet due at Golden, and a telegram to that
station would doubtless reach Gertrude.

"Take a message to Miss Gertrude, Harry," he began; but while he was
trying to formulate it in words which should be peremptory without being
incendiary, he thought better of it and went out to send it himself.
There was a querulous old gentleman in the telegraph office who was
making life burdensome for the operator, and it was with no little
difficulty that the President secured enough of the young man's time and
attention to serve his purpose.

"You are quite sure you can reach Golden before the train gets there,
are you?" he said, writing the number of his telegraph frank in the
corner of the blank.

"Oh, yes," replied the operator, with an upward glance at the clock;
"there's plenty of time. I'll send it right away."

"But I ah--protest!" declared the querulous gentleman, and he failed not
to do so most emphatically after the President left the office.

The operator turned a deaf ear, and sent the message to Miss Vennor; and
when, in due course of time, Brockway's answer came, he sent it out to
the private car. The President was still dictating and was in the midst
of a letter when the yellow envelope was handed him, but he stopped
short and opened the telegram. The reading of Brockway's insolent
question imposed a severe test upon Mr. Vennor's powers of self-control,
and the outcome was not wholly a victory on the side of stoicism.

"Curse his impudence!" he broke out, wrathfully; "I'll make this cost
him something before he's through with it!" and he sprang to his feet
and hurried out with the inflammatory message in his hand.

It is a trite saying that anger is an evil counsellor, and whoso
hearkens thereto will have many things to repent of. No one knew the
value of this aphorism better than Francis Vennor, but for once in a way
he allowed himself to disregard it. He knew well enough that a
delicately worded hint to Burton would bring the general agent and his
wife and Gertrude back to Denver on the next train, but wrath would not
be satisfied with such a placable expedient. On the contrary, he
resolved to communicate directly with Gertrude herself, and to rebuke
her openly, as her undutiful conduct deserved.

In the telegraph office the operator was still having trouble with the
querulous gentleman, but the President went to the desk to write his
message, shutting his ears to the shrill voice of the gadfly.

"But, sir, I must ah--protest. I distinctly heard Mr. ah--Brockway tell
you to send anything I desired, and I demand that you send this; it was
part of the ah--stipulation, sir!"

"This" was a message of five hundred-odd words to the local railway
agent in the small town where Mr. Jordan had purchased his ticket,
setting forth his grievance at length; and the operator naturally
demurred. While he was trying to persuade the pertinacious gentleman to
cut the jeremiad down to a reasonable length, the President finished his
telegram to his daughter. It was curt and incisive.

     "TO MISS GERTRUDE VENNOR,
     "On Train 51.

     "If you do not return this forenoon we shall not wait for you.

     "FRANCIS VENNOR."

The operator took it, and the President glanced at his watch.

"Can you catch that train at Beaver Brook?" he inquired.

"Yes, just about."

"Do it, then, at once. Excuse me--" to the gadfly--"this is very
important, and you have all day for your business."

The brusque interruption started the fountain of protests afresh, but
the operator turned away and sat down to his instrument. Beaver Brook
answered its call promptly, and the message to Miss Vennor clicked
swiftly through the sounder.

For a quarter of an hour or more, Brockway's friend in the Golden office
had been neglecting his work and listening intently to the irrelevant
chattering of his sounder. He heard Denver call Beaver Brook, and when
the station in the canyon answered, he promptly grounded the wire and
caught up his pen. The effect of this manoeuvre was to short-circuit
that particular wire at Golden, cutting off all stations beyond; but
this the Denver operator could not know. As a result, the President's
telegram got no farther than Golden, and Brockway's friend took it down
as it was sent. At the final word he opened the wire again in time to
hear Beaver Brook swear at the prolonged "break," and ask Denver what
was wanted.

Thereupon followed a smart quarrel in telegraphic shorthand, in which
Denver accused Beaver Brook of going to sleep over his instrument, and
Beaver Brook intimated that Denver was intoxicated. All of which gave
the obstructionist at Golden a clear minute in which to determine what
to do.

"If I only knew what Fred wants to have happen," he mused, "I might be
able to fix it up right for him. As I don't, I'll just have to make hash
of it--no, I won't, either; I'll just trim it down a bit and make it
talk backward--that's the idea! and three words dropped will do it, by
jing! Wonder if I can get the switchboard down fine enough to cut them
out? Here she comes again."

The quarrel was concluded and Denver began to repeat the message.
Brockway's friend bent over his table with his soul in his ears and his
finger-tips. Denver was impatient, and the preliminaries chattered
through the sounder as one long word. At the final letter in the
address, the Golden man's switch-key flicked to the right and then back
again; and at the tenth word in the message the movement was repeated.

"O. K.," said Beaver Brook.

"Repeat," clicked Denver.

"No time; train's here," came back from the station in the canyon; and
Brockway's friend sat back and chuckled softly.



XX

CHIEFLY SCENIC


When the train drew up to the platform at Beaver Brook, Brockway asked
Gertrude if he should go and see if there were a message for her.

"No," she said, perversely; "let it find me, if it can."

It came, a minute later, by the hand of Conductor Halsey. She read it
with a little frown of perplexity gathering between the straight brows.

"Do we live or die?" Brockway asked, crucially anxious to know what his
friend had been able to do for him.

"Why, I don't understand it at all; it's simply Greek, after the other
one. Papa says: 'Do not return on forenoon train. We shall wait for
you.'"

"Good; I am a true prophet, and our white day is assured."

"Y--yes, but I don't begin to understand how he came to change his mind
so quickly."

"Perhaps it was the moral force of my impudence," ventured Brockway.

"Don't make any such mistake as that," she said, quickly. "Papa will not
forgive or forget that, and I am sorry you did it."

"You are a bundle of inconsistencies, as you promised to be," Brockway
retorted. "But I'm not sorry, and I don't pretend to be. If I had
smothered my little inspiration and given you your telegram at Golden,
you wouldn't be enjoying this magnificent scenery now."

"No; and it is grand beyond words, isn't it? If it wasn't for the name
of it, I could rave over it like a veritable 'Cooky.' Can't we go out on
the platform?"

"Yes; but you'll get your eyes full of cinders."

"I don't care. Let's go, anyway."

They did it and, for a wonder, found the rear platform of the second
observation-car unoccupied. Gertrude wanted to sit on the step, but
Brockway objected, on the score of danger from the jutting rocks; so
they stood together, bracing themselves and clinging to the hand-rails.

"Show me the 'Old Man of the Mountain' when we come to it," she said;
"of course, there _is_ an 'Old Man of the Mountain'?"

"There is, indeed, but we passed him long ago--at least, the one that is
always pointed out to the 'Cookies' as you call them. But if you will
watch the outlines of the cliffs you can find one of your own in any
half-mile of the canyon."

"I don't want one if they are as cheap as that. I suppose you have made
them at a pinch, haven't you? when you had forgotten to point out the
real one?"

"I'm afraid I have; just as I have been obliged to invent statistics.
But that is the fault of the man with a note-book; he will have them,
you know."

"Why don't you tell him the truth?"

"Because he is too numerous in my calling; and again, because I don't
often know enough of the truth to satisfy him."

"But it is wrong to invent things," she protested, dropping her
irresponsible rôle to fight for the love of truth which was her Puritan
birthright.

"I agree with you; but ciceronic lying is almost a disease. It's a
paragrapher's proverb that railwaymen can't tell the truth, though I
think a good many of us try to confine ourselves to the scenic lie. That
seems to be almost necessary."

Gertrude did not reply. The bounding, swaying rear platform of a moving
train which is reeling off miles and mountain heights of a stupendous
natural panorama is not exactly the place for a dispassionate discussion
of ethical principles. It hurt her to believe that her companion did not
love truth in the abstract, and she meant to have it out with him later;
but for the moment she put duty aside and opened the door to enthusiasm.

"Just think!" she exclaimed; "yesterday the horizon was so far away that
it was actually invisible; and now you can almost reach out and touch
it. Please don't let me miss anything that I ought to see."

"Did anyone show you 'The Mule' when you were up here last year?"

"No."

"It is just around the second curve ahead. Look well up the
mountain-side for a big bowlder facing the canyon; it's a picture, not a
figure."

She followed his directions, grasping the hand-rails and leaning far out
to get a wider view. Brockway wanted to put his arm around her and hold
her, but not daring to, stood by to catch her if she should lose her
balance. Presently the great bowlder circled into view, and she got a
very satisfactory sight of the pictured mule on its face before a sudden
swerve of the train swept it out of range.

"How wonderful!" she exclaimed. "How did anyone ever get up there to
paint it?"

"It is only a 'water-painting,' as the people up here call it; a natural
discoloration on the face of the rock," he answered. "Isn't it
life-like, though?"

"Indeed, it is; it is almost incredible." Then, suddenly: "That isn't a
scenic fib, is it?"

"No. If you'll agree not to flog me with my own whip, I'll promise to
tell you the truth and nothing but the truth, all day."

"Isn't that a very large promise?"

Brockway had a fleeting glimpse into the book of prophecy and saw that
it might easily become so. None the less, he would not go back.

"Large or small, I'll keep it to the letter. But now I want to show you
something else. Stand right here beside me and watch the outlines of
those cliffs on the right; just the outline against the sky, I mean.
Follow it steadily and tell me what you see when I give the word."

The train darted around a sharp curve and sped away up one of the few
tangents in its tortuous path. "Now!" said Brockway, as the timbers of a
culvert roared under the trucks of the observation-car.

"It's the Sphynx!" she said, with a little tremor of awe in her voice;
"solemn, and majestic, and grander than anything I ever imagined! And I
never even heard of it before. Do people know about it?"

"Not many; and those who do are hardened by familiarity. I have seen it
a great many times, but it always gets near to me, just as it did to
you."

"I shall never forget it. Please don't show me any more wonders just
now. I shall rave like the most foolish 'Cooky' of them all if you do."

"I can't," said Brockway; "I don't know any more." A shrill whistle from
the engine cut the sentence short, and Gertrude asked if they were
coming to a station.

"Yes, it's Forks Creek, famous for its pies. Everybody eats pie at the
Forks. Will you climb down from the heights of the sublime and go and
eat pie with me?"

"Anything you say," she rejoined, laughing; and a few minutes later,
John Burton the canny was scandalized to see the President's daughter
walking up and down the narrow platform with the passenger agent, eating
her half of an apple turnover which Brockway had bought and shared with
her.



XXI

ON THE HEIGHTS


John Burton was scandalized, and he said as much to his wife when the
train was once more on its way up the canyon.

"Emily, there's going to be a fracas when we get back to-night. It's my
opinion that the President sent his daughter with us to get her out of
Fred's reach."

"Then it serves him right," said Mrs. Burton, complacently. "She is not
a child; she's old enough to know her own mind."

"That may be, but it doesn't let us out. I wish you'd go back and sit
with them awhile."

"And get myself disliked? No, thank you. I may not shine as a star in
the chaperonic firmament, but I'm a human being. Think of it; put
yourself in Fred's place, if you haven't hopelessly outlived the
possibility, and see how you'd like to be duennaed at such a time."

"It isn't a question of likes and--" but at that moment the truants
appeared to speak for themselves.

"It's chilly out there in the open car, and we came in to talk and get
warm," said Gertrude. "Did you get any pie, Mrs. Burton?"

"No; Mr. Burton wasn't as thoughtful as Fr--as Mr. Brockway."

"Mr. Brockway was twice thoughtful," laughed Gertrude, as the passenger
agent drew a pie from under his coat and proceeded to cut it into
quarters with his pocket-knife.

Burton said, "Oh, pshaw!" with deprecatory emphasis, but he accepted his
allotment and ate it with the others. Afterward, when the talk took
flight into the region of badinage, he went away and devoted himself
dutifully to the Tadmorians.

When he was gone, the trio made merry with true holiday zest. For
Gertrude, the little plunge into the stream of unconventionality was
refreshing and keenly exhilarating, and she bore her part joyously,
forgetting the day of reckoning, and seeking only to make the most of
the few hours of outlawry.

Brockway, too, drank of the cup of levity, but in his inmost parts he
stood amazed with sheer joy in the presence of the real Gertrude--of the
woman he loved divested of the mask of conventionality. He had loved her
well for what he thought she was, and had been content to set her upon a
pedestal to be worshipped from afar as the apotheosis of adorable
womanhood. But the light of this later revelation individualized her;
ideals and abstractions vanished before her living, breathing
personality, and Brockway was made to know that she could never again be
to him the mere archetype of lovable woman-kind. She was infinitely
more. She was the one woman in all the world whose life might be the
complement of his; the other half of the broken talisman; the major and
truer portion of a mystic circle of which his being was the other
segment.

All of which was doubtless very romantic and unmodern in a sensible
young man of Brockway's practical and workaday upbringing; but there are
more curious seeds lying dormant in the soil of human nature than the
analyst has ever yet classified; and ideality and romanticism are but
skin-masked in many a man whose outward presentment is merely the _abc_
of modern realism.

So Brockway beheld and rhapsodized in secret, and laughed and chatted
openly, and sank deeper and deeper in the pit of perplexity as the train
burrowed its way into the heart of the mountains. For, keeping even pace
with the gallop of love, pride rode militant. Life without Gertrude
would be but a barren waste, said one; and, better a desert and solitude
therein than an Eden envenomed by the serpent of inequality, retorted
the other. Which proves that class distinctions are buttressed from
below no less securely than they are suspended from above; and that
feudalism in the subject has become extinct in one form only to flourish
quite vigorously in another.

But these were under-thoughts. In his proper person, the passenger agent
was doing his best to keep his promise to Gertrude; to make the day a
little oasis of care-free enjoyment in the humdrum desert of
commonplace.

At Georgetown, Burton proposed the transfer of the entire party to one
of the observation-cars for the better viewing of the Loop, and the
thing was done forthwith. But at the last moment Gertrude decided to
remain in the coach, and Brockway stayed with her, as a matter of
course.

"I've seen it twice, and I don't care to hang over the edge of it," she
said. "Besides, it's very comfortable in here; don't you think so?"

"I'm not finding any fault," Brockway rejoined. "I wish we might have
the coach to ourselves for the rest of the day."

"Do you? I thought you had been enjoying yourself all along."

"So I have, in a way; but I hate and abhor a crowd--I've had to be the
nucleus of too many of them, I suppose."

"What do you call a crowd?" she inquired, laughing at the outburst of
vindictiveness.

"Three people--sometimes. Half the pleasure of this forenoon has been
slain by the knowledge that we'll have to fight for our dinners with the
mob at that wretched little _table d'hôte_ at Graymont."

"Can't we escape it?"

"Not without going hungry."

"I think Mr. and Mrs. Burton are going to escape it."

"What makes you think that?"

"This," said Gertrude, pointing to a well-filled lunch-basket under the
seat.

"Praised be Allah!" Brockway exclaimed, fervently. "You can trust Burton
to look out for the small personal comforts. And he never so much as
hinted at this when I was grumbling about the dinner awhile ago. I've a
mind to punish him."

"How?"

"By confiscating the basket. We could run away by ourselves and have a
quiet little picnic dinner while they wrestle with the mob."

But Gertrude demurred. "That would be too callously villanous," she
objected. "Can't we divide with them?"

"And go away by ourselves with the spoils?"

"Yes, if you like."

"I do like. I know a place, and the way to get there. Are you good for a
climb?"

Brockway possessed himself of the basket, spread a newspaper on the
opposite seat, and began to make a very fair and equitable division of
the eatables.

"I'm good for anything," she said; then she pulled off her gloves and
helped him divide the luncheon.

When the train stopped at Graymont, Burton went forward to get the
luncheon. The coach was empty when he reached it, and the looted basket
bore witness to the designs of the two young people. The general agent
wagged his head dubiously, and when he had seen the last of the
Tadmorians securely wedged into his place at the crowded table in the
hotel dining-room, he failed not to lay the burden of gloomy prophecy
once more upon the shoulders of the small person who, as he more than
half suspected, was responsible for Brockway's presence.

By that time the subjects of the prophecy were well out of sight and
hearing in the narrow ravine in which the great canyon has its
beginnings. They walked the ties to the end of the track, and beyond
that point picked their way over the rough ground until they came to a
trail leading up the northern acclivity. Here Brockway took Gertrude's
arm and together they began the ascent.

"Don't forget what I told you", he cautioned; "you are not to look back
until I give the word."

"Should I turn into a pillar of salt if I did?" she asked.

"Possibly."

"Then I'll not do it; it would be rather awkward for both of us."

A hundred feet or more above the level of the railway track they came to
a small plateau, and in the midst of it, Brockway stopped suddenly and
spun her around with her face to the southward. No uninspired pen may
set down in unmalleable phrase a description of what she saw; nor can
any tide-gauge of language, spoken or written, measure the great wave of
emotion which swept over her, choking the flood-gates of expression.
From the moment the ascending train enters the canyon at Golden until it
pauses opposite the hotel at Graymont, the scenery is rugged and
inspiring, but it belittles itself by its very nearness. But from the
plateau where they were standing, the vista expands as if by magic. The
mighty mountain at whose foot the train pauses becomes but a foothill,
and just beyond it, in indescribable grandeur and majesty, rises the
huge, snow-clad bulk of Gray's Peak, stupendous, awe-inspiring, dazzling
the eye with its unspotted mantle of shimmering white, and slaying the
sense of proportion with its immeasurable vastness.

Gertrude caught her breath, and Brockway stood uncovered beside her,
silent and watchful. When her eyes began to fill with tears, he broke
the spell.

"Forgive me," he said, quickly; "it was almost cruel not to prepare you,
but I wanted to see if it would appeal to you as it does to me."

"It is unspeakable," she said, softly. "Shall we stop here?"

"No." He took her arm again and together they climbed higher on the
mountain-side; silently, as befitted time and place, but each with a
heartful of thoughts too large for speech.



XXII

ON THE SPUR-TRACK


At the precise moment when Gertrude and Brockway, pausing in their
breath-cutting scramble up the bowlder-strewn mountain-side, were
casting about for a suitable place in which to eat their luncheon,
President Vennor and his guests were rising from the table after a
rather early midday meal in car Naught-fifty. When the ladies had gone
to their staterooms, the President sent Quatremain upon a wholly
unnecessary errand to the post-office, and drew up a chair to smoke a
cigar with Fleetwell.

It was not for nothing that he banished the secretary. The forenoon
train from Clear Creek Canyon had arrived without bringing Gertrude; and
the wires, which he had waited upon with increasing disquietude, still
remained churlishly silent. A crisis in Gertrude's affair seemed
imminent, and, as a last resort, Mr. Vennor had resolved to admonish
Fleetwell, to the end that the collegian's wooing might be judiciously
accelerated.

"I am afraid you have been lukewarm with Gertrude once too often,
Chester, my boy," he began, with studied bluntness. "You ought by all
means to have gone up in the mountains with her to-day."

Fleetwell tried to look properly aggrieved, and succeeded fairly well.
"That's rather hard on me, isn't it? when I didn't so much as know she
was going?"

"That is precisely the point I wished to arrive at," the President
asserted, blandly. "You should have known. You can scarcely expect her
to thrust her confidence upon you."

In his way, Fleetwell could be quite as plain-spoken as his hard-eyed
cousin, and he answered the President's implication without pretending
to misunderstand it.

"You mean that I've been shirking; that I haven't been properly reading
my lines in the little comedy planned by my grandfather; is that it?"

"Well, not exactly shirking, perhaps, but the most observant person
would never suspect that you and Gertrude were anything more than
civilly tolerant cousins. I know her better than you do, my boy, and I
can assure you that she's not to be so lightly won. Ours is a fairly
practical family. I think I may say, but there is a streak of romance in
it which comes to the surface now and then in the women, and Gertrude
has her full share of it. Moreover, she doesn't care a pin for the
provisions of the will."

"Confound the will!" said the collegian. "I don't see why the old
gentleman had to fall back on a medieval dodge that always defeats
itself."

"Nor I; the matter would have been very much simplified if he had not.
But, unfortunately, we have to do with the fact."

"It strikes me that we've had to do with it all along. I used to think
Gertrude was rather fond of me, but since this money affair has come up,
I'm not so sure of it."

"Have you ever asked her?" inquired the President, with an apparent lack
of interest which was no index to his anxiety.

"Why--no; not in so many words, I believe. But how the deuce is a fellow
to make love to a girl when his grandfather has done it for him?"

"That, my dear Chester, is a question you ought to be able to answer for
yourself. You can hardly expect Gertrude to beg you to save her little
patrimony for her."

It was an unfortunate way of putting it, and Mr. Vennor regretted his
unwisdom when Fleetwell carried the thought to its legitimate
conclusion.

"There it is again, you see. That cursed legacy tangles the thing every
time you make a rush at it. I can understand just how she feels about
it. If she refuses me it will cost her something; if she doesn't there
will be plenty of the clan who will say that she had an eye to the
money."

"What difference will that make, so long as you know better?"

The question was so deliberate and matter-of-fact that Fleetwell forgot
himself and let frankness run away with him.

"That's just it; how the deuce is a fellow going to know----" but at
this point the cold eyes checked him, and he suddenly remembered that he
was speaking to Gertrude's father. Whereupon he stultified himself and
made a promise.

"Perhaps you are right, after all," he added. "Anyway, I'll have it out
with her to-night, after she comes back."

"'Have it out with her' doesn't sound very lover-like," suggested the
President, mildly. "I can assure you beforehand that you will have to
take a different tone with her, whether you are sincere or not;
otherwise you will waste your breath and enrich half a dozen charities
we know of."

"Oh, I'll do it right," said Fleetwell, nonchalantly; "but I'd give my
share of the money twice over if it didn't have to be done at all--that
is, if the money matter could be taken out of it entirely, I mean."

They smoked on in reflective silence for five full minutes before the
President saw fit to resume the conversation. Then he said, slowly and
in his levellest tone:

"You are going to speak to her to-night; very good--you have my best
wishes, as you know. But if anything should happen; if you should agree
to disagree; it is you who must take the initiative. If you don't mean
to marry her, you must tell her so plainly, and before you have given
her a chance to refuse you. Do you understand?"

Fleetwell sprang to his feet as if he had received a blow. He was a
young giant in physique, and he looked uncomfortably belligerent as he
towered above the President's chair.

"By Jove, I do understand you, Cousin Francis, and I'm ashamed to admit
it!" he burst out, wrathfully. "The men on my side of the family have
all been gentlemen, so far as I know, and I'll not be the first to break
the record. I shall do what my grandfather expected me to do--what
Gertrude has a right to expect me to do--and in good faith; you may be
very sure of that!" And having thus spoken his mind, he went out,
leaving Mr. Francis Vennor to his own reflections, which were not
altogether gladsome.



XXIII

THE LAND OF HEART'S DELIGHT


"Here is the place I was looking for," said Brockway, handing Gertrude
to a seat on a great fallen fir which had once been a sentinel on the
farthest outpost of the timber-line. "It's three years since I was here,
but I remember this log and the little stream of snow-water. Isn't it
clear and pure?"

"Everything ought to be that, up here in the face of that great shining
mountain," she said; and then they spread their luncheon on the
tree-trunk between them, and pitied the crowded Tadmorians in the little
hotel below.

"I feel as if I could look down benignantly on the whole world,"
Gertrude declared, searching for the paper of salt and finding it not.
"The things of yesterday seem immeasurably far away; and as for
to-morrow, I could almost persuade myself there isn't going to be any."

"I wish there wasn't going to be any," said Brockway; but the manner in
which he attacked the cold chicken slew the pessimism in the remark.

"Do you? I could almost say Amen to that," she rejoined, soberly.

"You? I should have thought you would be the last person in the world to
want to stop Time's train."

She laughed softly. "That is very human, isn't it? I was thinking
precisely the same thing of you. Tell me why you would like to abolish
the to-morrows--or is it only the very next one that ever will be that
you want to escape?"

"It's all of them, I think: but you mustn't ask me to tell you why."

"Why mustn't I?"

"Because I can't do it and keep my promise to tell you the truth."

"That is frank, at least," she retorted. "I hope you are not a
conscience-stricken train-robber, or a murderer, or anything of that
kind."

"Hardly," Brockway replied, helping himself to another sandwich; "but
you would be quite horrified if I should tell you what I have really
done."

"Do you think so? You might try me and see," she said, half pleading and
half jesting.

Brockway thought about it for a moment.

"I'll do it--on one condition."

"You ought to be ashamed to propose conditions to me. What is it?"

"That you will tell me quite as truthfully why you agreed with me about
the abolition of the to-morrows."

It was Gertrude's turn to consider, but she ended by accepting the
proviso.

"After you," she said, with a constrained little laugh. "But who would
ever think of exchanging confidences at this altitude over a stolen
luncheon!"

"Not many, perhaps; but it's quite in keeping with our compact; we were
not to do ordinary things, you know. And I'm sure this confession I am
going to make is unpremeditated."

"Is it so very dreadful?"

"It is, I assure you, though I can make it in five words. I am
hopelessly in love--don't laugh, please; there isn't the slightest
element of levity in it for me."

Nevertheless, she did laugh, albeit there was pain at the catching of
her breath.

"Forgive me," she said, quickly. "I don't mean to be silly if I can help
it. Tell me about it, and why it is hopeless."

"It's the old story of Jack and his master," Brockway continued. "I have
had the audacity to fall in love with the daughter of one of my
betters."

"One of your betters? I'm afraid I can't quite understand that. Don't we
live in a golden age when Jack is as good as his master, if he choose to
make himself so?"

"By no manner of means," asserted this modern disciple of feudalism;
"the line is drawn just as sharply now as it was when Jack was a bond
thrall and his master was a swashbuckling baron."

"Who draws it? the thrall or the baron?"

The question opened up a new view of the matter, and Brockway took time
to think about it.

"I'm not sure as to that," he said, doubtfully. "I've always taken it
for granted it was the baron; but perhaps it's both of them."

"You may be very sure there are two sides to that shield, as to all
others," she asserted. "But tell me more about your own trouble. Is it
altogether impossible? Does the--the young woman think as you do?"

"It is; and I don't know what she thinks. I've never asked her, you
know."

"You haven't? And still you sit here on this log and eat cold chicken
and tell me calmly that it's hopeless! I said awhile ago that you were
very daring, but I'll retract in deference to that."

"It's not exactly a lack of courage," Brockway objected, moved to defend
himself when he would much rather have done something else. "There is
another obstacle, and it is insurmountable. She is rich--rich in her own
right, I'm told; and I am a poor man."

"How poor?"

"Pitifully so, from her point of view. So poor that if I gave her a
five-room cottage and one servant, I could do no more."

"Many a woman has been happy with less."

"Doubtless, but they were not born in the purple."

"Some of them were, if by that you mean born with money to throw away. I
suppose you might say that of me."

Brockway suddenly found the Denver eating-house cake very dry, but he
could not take his eyes from her long enough to go and get a drink from
the rill at the log-end.

"But you would never, marry a poor man," he ventured to say.

"Wouldn't I? That would depend very much upon circumstances," she
rejoined, secure in the assurance that her secret was now double-locked
in a dungeon of Brockway's own building. "If it were the right thing to
do I shouldn't hesitate, though in that case I should go to him as
destitute as the beggar maid did to King Cophetua."

Brockway's heart gave a great bound and then seemed to forget its
office.

"How is that? I--I don't understand," he stammered.

Gertrude gazed across at the shining mountain and took courage from its
calm passivity.

"I will tell you, because I promised to," she said. "I, too, have money
in my own right, but it is only in trust, and it will be taken from me
if I do not marry in accordance with the provisions of my granduncle's
will. So you see, unless I accept my--the person named in the will, I
shall be as dowerless as any proud poor man could ask."

"But you will accept your cousin," said Brockway, quickly putting
Fleetwell's name into the hesitant little pause.

She looked steadfastly at the great peak and shook her head.

"I shall not," she answered, and her voice was so low that Brockway saw
rather than heard the denial.

"Why?" he demanded.

She turned to him with sudden reproach in her eyes. "You press me too
hardly, but I suppose I have given you the right. The reason is because
I--I don't think enough of him in the right way."

"Tell me one other thing, if you can--if you will. Do you love someone
else?" His voice was steadier now, and his eyes held her so that she
could not turn back to the shining mountain, as she wanted to. None the
less, she answered him truthfully, as she had promised.

"I do."

"Is he a poor man?"

"He says he is."

"How poor?"

"As poor as you said you were a moment ago."

"And you will give up all that you have had--all that you could
keep--and go out into the world with him to take up life at its
beginnings?"

"If he asks me to. But he will not ask me; he is too proud."

"How do you know?"

His gaze wavered for an instant, and she turned away quickly. "Because
he has told me so."

Brockway rose rather unsteadily and went to the rivulet to get a drink.
The sweetly maddening truth was beginning to beat its way into his
brain, and he stood dazed for a moment before he remembered that he had
brought no drinking-cup. Then he knelt by the stream, and, turning his
silk travelling-cap inside out, filled it to the brim with the clear,
cold water. His hands trembled a little, but he made shift to carry it
to her without spilling much.

"It is a type of all that I have to offer you, besides myself--not even
so much as a cup to drink out of," he said, and his voice was steadier
than his hands. "Will you let me be your cup-bearer--always?"

She was moved to smile at the touch of old-world chivalry, but she fell
in with his mood and put his hands away gently.

"No--after you; it is I who should serve." And when he had touched his
lips to the water, she drank deeply and thanked him.

Brockway thrust the dripping cap absently into his pocket, and stood
looking down on her like a man in a maze; stood so long that she glanced
up with a quizzical little smile and said, "Are you sorry?"

He came to himself with a start and sat down on the tree-trunk beside
her. "Sorry? You know better than that. But I do believe I'm a bit
idiotic with happiness. Are you quite sure you know what you have done?"

"Quite. I think I made up my mind last night to do it--if you should ask
me. It was after our ride on the engine; after my father had let me see
what was in his mind."

"Ah, yes--your father. He will be very angry, won't he?"

"Yes"--reluctantly.

"But you will not let him make you recant?"

She laughed joyously. "You think you are in love with me, and yet that
shows how little you really know of me, or of the family
characteristics. We have plenty of unlovelinesses, but fickleness isn't
one of them."

"Forgive me," he said, humbly; "but it seems to me there is so little to
hold you, and so much to turn you aside. I----"

A series of shrill shrieks from the locomotive in the valley below
interrupted him, and he rose reluctantly. "They're calling us in; we'll
have to go."

She took his arm and they ran down the steep declivity, across the small
plateau, and so on to the bottom of the railway cutting. Just before
they reached the train, Brockway asked if he should tell the Burtons.

"As you please," she replied. "I shall tell my father and Cousin
Jeannette as soon as we get back."

They found the passengers all aboard and the train waiting for them, and
Mrs. Burton scolded them roundly for their misdeeds.

"We had a mind to go off and leave you," she said; "it would have served
you right for running away. Where ever have you been?"

"Up on the hill, taking in the scenery," Brockway replied; and Gertrude
abetted him with an enthusiastic description of Gray's Peak as seen from
the plateau--a description which ran on without a break until the train
paused at Silver Plume, where the Tadmorians debarked to burrow in a
silver mine. Burton burrowed with them, as a matter of course, but his
wife declined to go.

"I shall stay right here and keep an eye on these truants," she
declared, with great severity. And Brockway and Gertrude exchanged
comforting glances--as who should say, "What matters it now?"--and
clasped hands under cover of the stir of debarkation. And Mrs. Burton
saw all this without seeming to, and rejoiced gleefully at the bottom of
her match-making heart.

When the Tadmorians had inspected the mine, and had come back muddy and
besprinkled with water and besmirched with candle-drippings, the train
went on its way down the canyon. Having done what he might toward
pumping the well of tourist curiosity dry on the outward journey, Burton
was given a little rest during the afternoon; and the quartette sat
together in the coach and talked commonplace inanities when they talked
at all. And the burden of even this desultory conversation fell mainly
upon the general agent and his wife. The two young people were
tranquilly happy, quite content to be going or staying, or what not, so
long as they could be together.

At Golden, Brockway ran out and secured a copy of the President's
telegram as it stood when written; and when opportunity offered, he
showed it to Gertrude.

"It was purposely garbled by a friend of mine," he confessed,
shamelessly; "but how much or how little I didn't know till now. I have
no excuse to offer but the one you know. I thought it was my last chance
to ever spend a day with you, and I would have done a much worse thing
rather than lose it. Can you forgive me?"

"Forgive you for daring to make me happy? I should be something more or
less than a woman if I didn't. But my father won't."

"No, I suppose not. But you must not try to shield me. When you tell
him, let it be clearly understood that I alone am to blame. Is there any
probability that he has carried out his threat of leaving you behind?"

"Not the least," she replied, confidently; "it was only what you of the
West would call a--a little bluff, I think."

"You still think it will be better for you to tell him first? that I'd
better not go to him at once?"

"I do; but you may speak to him afterward, if you think best."

"It must be this evening. When shall I come?"

"Any time after dinner. If you will watch the window of my stateroom,
I'll let you know when you can find him alone."

The day was going out in a dusty twilight, and they were again standing
on the rear platform of the second observation-car.

When the train clattered in over the switches and stopped on the outer
track of the Denver station platform, this last car was screened by the
dimly lighted hulk of the Tadmor switched in to receive its lading.
Brockway ran down the steps and swung Gertrude lightly to the platform;
after which he put his arms about her and kissed her passionately.

"God knows when the next time will be," he said, with a sudden
foreboding of evil; and then he took her arm and led her swiftly across
to the private car, leaving the Burtons to go whither they would.



XXIV

THE END OF A STOP-OVER


The waiter was laying the plates for dinner when Gertrude came out of
her stateroom, and Fleetwell rose and placed a chair for her where they
would be out of earshot of the others.

"Had a comfortably good time to-day?" he inquired, stretching himself
lazily on the lounge at her side.

"Yes. What have you been doing?"

"'Socializing,' as Priscilla says; cantering about all over Denver,
looking up people we shouldn't nod to at home. Where are your friends?"

"The Burtons? I think they went to a hotel. They are not going on till
to-morrow night."

"I wonder what became of the passenger agent; I haven't seen him since
morning," said the collegian, with his eyes lying in wait to pounce upon
her secret.

"He was with us," she replied, calmly, and Fleetwell sat up immediately.

"Oughtn't I to be jealous?" he demanded.

"I don't know why you should be?"

"I fancy the others would say I ought to be."

"Why?"

"For obvious reasons; aren't we supposed to be as good as engaged?"

"I don't know about the supposition; but we are not engaged."

"No; and your father says it's my fault. Will you set the day?"

Her smile was sweet and ineffable. "What an enthusiastic wooer you are,
Cousin Chester. Couldn't you rake up the embers and fan them into a tiny
bit of a blaze? just for form's sake, you know."

"That's nonsense," he answered, placidly. "We've known each other too
long for anything of that sort. But you haven't answered my question."

"About the day? That is nonsense, too. You know perfectly well there
isn't going to be any day--not for us."

Fleetwell drew a long breath and ran his fingers through his hair.

"Don't let us make any mistake about this," he said, soberly. "I'm
asking you in good faith to be my wife, you know."

"And I am refusing you in equally good faith. I don't love you at
all--not in that way."

"You are quite sure of that?"

"Yes, surer now than ever before, though I've known it all along."

"Then you refuse me point blank?"

"I do."

He fetched another long breath and took her hand.

"That's the kindest thing you ever did for me, Gerty," he said, out of a
full heart. "I--I'm ashamed to confess it, but I've been disloyal all
along. It's----"

"It's Hannah Beaswicke; I knew it," she said, smiling wisely. "But don't
humiliate yourself; I, too, have been 'disloyal,' as you call it."

"You?"

"Yes; I'll tell you about it some time--no, not now"--shaking her
head--"dinner is ready."

It was thus that Fleetwell kept his promise to his cousin, and there had
been never so much as a word about what Mr. Francis Vennor considered
the main question at issue, namely, the fate of Gertrude's legacy. And
when they came to the table together they were so evidently at peace
that the President drew another false conclusion and wore his best King
George smile throughout the entire dinner-hour.

At the conclusion of the meal, Fleetwell dodged the customary cigar with
his cousin. Under the circumstances he deemed it prudent to give the
chapter of accidents a clear field. Moreover, he conjectured that
Gertrude had somewhat to say to her father, and would be grateful for an
undisturbed half-hour; wherefore he proposed a stroll up-town to Mrs.
Dunham and the Misses Beaswicke, and presently left the car with the
three of them in tow.

The President was in his stateroom, refilling his cigar-case; and when
he came out, Gertrude and Quatremain were alone in the large
compartment.

"Where are the others?" he asked, pausing at her chair to light his
cigar.

"They have gone up-town for a walk."

"H-m; and left you behind?"

"I didn't care to go." She saw that her opportunity was come, and gave
the secretary a look which should have made him vanish at once. It did
not, but her father cut the knot of that difficulty.

"It's a fine night; will you take a turn outside with me, while I
smoke?" he said.

She acquiesced, and they went out to pace up and down the long platform.
Two turns they made in silence while Gertrude sought vainly for words
confessional, and at the third her father helped her without intending
to.

"When is it to be?" he asked, abruptly.

She supposed he meant her marriage to Brockway, but she determined to
make him speak plainly. So she said, "When is what to be?"

"Your marriage. Didn't you and Chester settle matters between you just
before dinner?"

She laid fresh hold of her courage and answered, truthfully. "Yes, but
not as you imagine. Chester asked me, because, I fancy, you told him to;
and I refused him."

She expected nothing less than an outpouring of bitter words, but she
was disappointed. Once and again they measured the length of the great
platform before he spoke. Then he said, quite temperately, she thought,
"So it is the passenger agent, after all, is it?"

"Yes." She said it resolutely, as one who may not be moved.

"Very good; you are your own mistress, and if you elect to be the wife
of a wage-earning mechanic, I suppose it's your own affair."

There was so little heat in the innuendo that it seemed scarcely worth
while to resent it; nevertheless she ventured to say: "Great-grandfather
Vennor was a carpenter, and I suppose he worked for wages."

"Doubtless; but there is the better part of a century between then and
now. However, I presume you have counted the cost. You lose your money,
and that's the end of it--unless Chester happens to marry first."

"What difference would that make? It was I who set the conditions of the
will aside."

"All the difference in the world. In this case, the law takes no
cognizance of intention. If Chester marries first, it would be taken as
_prima facie_ evidence that he had prevented you from fulfilling your
part of the conditions. But that is neither here nor there; Chester is
not exactly the kind of man to be caught in the rebound; and I presume
you wouldn't be mercenary enough to wait for anything so indefinite as
his marriage, anyway."

"No."

"Then you lose your money." He could not forbear the repetition.

"I know it."

"Does your--does the young man know it?"

"Yes; otherwise he would not have spoken."

"No?" There was the mildest suggestion of incredulity in the upward
inflection. "Since you have made your decision, it is as well you should
think so. You are quite willing to begin at the bottom with him, are
you?"

"I am."

"Because I meant what I said last night. You have made your bed, and you
will have to lie on it; you will get nothing from me."

"We ask nothing but--but your good will." Gertrude was as
undemonstrative as the daughter of Francis Vennor had a right to be, but
his coldness went near to breaking down her fortitude.

"My good will!" He turned upon her almost fiercely. "You have no right
to expect it. What has come over you in the last twenty-four hours that
you should override the traditions and training of your whole life? Has
this fellow but to crook his finger at you to make you turn your back
upon everything that is decent and respectable?"

"Don't," she said, with a little sob in her voice; "I can't listen if
you abuse him. I love him; do you understand what that means?"

"No, I don't; you are daft, crazy, hypnotized." The gathering throng was
beginning to make privacy impossible on the platform, and he led her
back to the car. "You'll do as you please in the end, I suppose, but not
here or now." He handed her up the steps of the private car and turned
to go away.

"Papa--one word," she pleaded. "Won't you see Mr. Brockway to-night?"

"No; and if I do, it will be the worse for him." And when she had
entered the car, he went away quickly and climbed the stairs to the
train-despatcher's office on the second floor of the Union Depot.

Meanwhile, Brockway had eaten his supper and posted himself where he
could watch what he supposed to be the window of Gertrude's stateroom
for the promised signal. He saw the car empty itself, first of Fleetwell
and the ladies, and then of the President and his daughter, and while he
was waiting for the latter to return, Fleetwell came back, breathless.

"By Jove, Mr. Brockway, this is great luck!" he exclaimed. "You know
Denver pretty well, don't you?"

"Fairly well. I knew it better when I lived here."

"Do you happen to know this gentleman?" handing Brockway a card with a
name written across it.

"Yes; very well, indeed."

"Then I wish you'd come and help me find him. I've been out in a cab
once, and the driver got lost. Will you do it?"

"With pleasure, if you'll get me back here quick. I have an engagement
that can't be put off."

They ran out through the building and took a carriage. "Just get me to
the house," said the collegian, "and you can come straight away back in
the cab," but beyond this he offered no explanations, and Brockway gave
the order to the driver.

When they reached the house in question, Fleetwell rang the bell, and
the answer from within seemed to be satisfactory. "All right," he called
back from the doorway; and a few minutes later Brockway was again on the
station platform, watching the non-committal windows of the private car.

It was while the passenger agent was up-town with Fleetwell that
President Vennor went to the despatcher's room. The result of his visit
may be told in the words of a terse order which presently clicked
through the sounder in the yardmaster's office.

     "J. H. M.,

     "Denver Yard.

     "Send out Car Naught-fifty, President Vennor and party, on
     Number 103, ten-five this P.M.

     "A. F. V."

Of this Brockway knew nothing, and he haunted the vicinity of the
spur-track with great patience for the better part of two hours. At
nine-forty-five, Fleetwell and the ladies returned. They were all
laughing and chatting gayly, and when they entered the car, Brockway
gave up his vigil. It was too late to hope for a private interview with
Mr. Vennor, and he concluded to go over to the Tadmor to see if his
people were settled for the night.

Passing the telegraph office, he asked if there were any messages. There
was one; the much requested extension of the gadfly's ticket; and
thrusting it into his pocket, the passenger agent hurried across to the
special sleeper.

Two minutes afterward, a switching-engine ran around on the spur-track,
bumped gently against the Naught-fifty, and presently backed out into
the yard with the private car in tow.



XXV

WESTWARD HO!


When Brockway boarded the Tadmor, most of the thirty-odd had gone to
bed; but a committee of three was waiting in the smoking-room on the
chance that the passenger agent would put in an appearance before the
departure of the night train for the west. The little gentleman in the
grass-cloth duster and velvet skull-cap was chairman of this committee,
and he stated its object.

"We've been trying to make you more trouble, Mr. Brockway," he said,
pleasantly. "Before the others went to bed, we discussed the
advisability of leaving Denver to-night, instead of in the morning. It
would give us an extra day in Salt Lake City, and that is what most of
us would like. Can it be done?"

Brockway glanced at his watch and answered promptly. "It'll take sharp
work; the train leaves in ten minutes. I'll try it, but if I make it, I
can't go with you. My hand-baggage is at the hotel, and there's no time
to send for it."

Ordinarily, the amendment would have killed the original proposition;
but Mr. Somers saw that in Brockway's eyes which made him hasten to
forestall argument.

"I was afraid of that," he said; "but it can't be helped. Of course,
we'd like to have you with us, but I believe the extra day is of greater
importance."

Brockway made a dumb show expressive of his gratitude. "All right; then
I'll bid you all good-by, and get you out to-night, if I can."

"But I ah--protest!" came with shrill emphasis from the vestibule, and
the night-capped head of the gadfly was thrust around the door-jamb. "I
ah--stipulated----"

Brockway snatched the ticket-extending telegram from his pocket, thrust
it into Mr. Somers's hand, and fled without another word. One minute
later he was pleading eloquently with the train-despatcher.

"Oh, say, Fred, let up!" protested the man of orders. "It's too late, I
tell you. The train'll pull out in two minutes, and I couldn't raise the
yard in that time."

But the passenger agent would not be denied. He carried his point, as he
usually did, and was shortly racing out across the platform, clothed
with authority to hold the train until the Tadmor could be coupled
thereto. Graffo, the conductor, was found just as he was about to give
the signal, but he waited while the switching-engine whipped the Tadmor
around and coupled it to the rear of the train, grumbling meanwhile, as
was his time-honored prerogative.

"Like to know how the blazes I'm going to make time to-night, with them
two extras hooked on at the last minute!" he growled; but Brockway
corrected him.

"There's only one," he began; and when Graffo would have contradicted
him, two belated passengers came in sight, hurrying across the platform
to catch the waiting train. Brockway considerately ran back to help them
aboard. It was the general agent and his wife; and Mrs. Burton made
breathless explanations.

"Changed our minds at the last minute," she gasped. "John was afraid the
President might not find him with his nose in his desk when he gets
there." Then, with truly feminine irrelevance: "I've been dying to get a
chance to ask you how you made out--to-day--with Gertrude; quick--the
train's going!"

Brockway grinned. "You're the best chaperon in the world, Mrs.
Burton--after the fact."

"Oh, I'm _so_ glad. Can't you come along and visit with us in Salt
Lake?"

"Not for a king's ransom," retorted Brockway, laughing. "You may be very
sure I sha'n't leave Denver while the Naught-fifty stays over there
on----" He turned to point out the President's car and went speechless
in the midst of his declaration at sight of the empty spur-track. The
glare of the masthead arc-lights left no room for uncertainty. The
private car was gone.

"Why, Fred! what is the matter?" queried Mrs. Burton anxiously from the
step of the sleeping-car; but at that moment Graffo swung his lantern
and the train began to move.

Brockway stood staring across at the empty spur in witless amazement,
but he sprang back out of the way when the step of the car next to the
regular sleeper brushed him in passing. The touch broke the spell. As he
started back, the sheen of the nearest electric lamp fell fairly upon
the oval medallion on the side of the moving car, and he saw the gilt
figures "050" flash for a half-second before his eyes.

In a twinkling he knew what had been done, and what he should do. When
the Tadmor came up, he caught the hand-rail and boarded the train
without so much as a thought for his belongings left behind at the
up-town hotel. The Tadmor's smoking-room was deserted, and he went in to
burn a reflective cigar, and to ponder over the probable outcome of this
latest proof of the President's resentment.

Having failed to get speech with Gertrude, he could only guess at the
result of her interview with her father, but the sudden change in the
itinerary spoke for itself, and thus far the guess was twin brother to
the truth. But two hours had intervened between Mr. Vennor's hasty
decision and the departure of Train Number 103, and many things may
befall in two hours.



XXVI

A BLIND SIDING


When the President went back to the Naught-fifty after his visit to the
despatcher, he meant to tell Gertrude at once what he had done, and the
reason therefore; but she had retreated to her stateroom, and in reply
to his tap at the door had begged to be excused. After that, there was
ample time for reflection, and the President walked the floor of the
central compartment, smoking many cigars, and dividing the time
impartially between wondering what had become of the other members of
the party, and speculating as to the probable effect upon Gertrude's
hallucination of the sudden and unannounced flitting.

Almost at the last moment, when he had begun to fear they had gone to
the theatre, Mrs. Dunham and the young people returned, full to the lips
with suppressed excitement; and in the midst of the bustle of departure
the two young women made a descent upon Gertrude's room, while Mrs.
Dunham took the President aside. What passed between them, Quatremain,
who was pretending to be asleep in the nearest chair, could not
overhear; but that Mrs. Dunham's news was startling and not altogether
unpleasant was plainly evident to the secretary.

By this time the private car had been switched to its place in the
train, and when the steady rumbling of the wheels betokened the
beginning of the westward journey, Gertrude appeared with the two young
women, and there was a dramatic little scene in the central compartment,
through which the secretary did not even pretend to sleep. The
President's daughter demanded to know where they were going, and why she
had not been told, ending by throwing herself into Mrs. Dunham's arms
and crying as if her heart would break. And, for the first time in
Quatremain's knowledge of him, the President had nothing to say, while
Fleetwell spoke his mind freely, though in terms unintelligible to the
secretary, and Mrs. Dunham bore the weeping young woman away to the
privacy of her own stateroom. After which, Mr. Vennor, deserted of all
of them, lighted another cigar and betook himself to the rear vestibule,
to what meditative end Quatremain could only guess.

The train was well out of Denver and speeding swiftly through the night
on its flight over the swelling plain. The President stood at the rear
door of his car, gazing abstractedly at the bobbing and swaying front
end of the sleeper which had been coupled to the Naught-fifty at the
moment of departure. After a time the train paused at a station, and
when it moved on again the light from the operator's bay-window flashed
upon the name over the door of the following car. The President saw it
and started back with an ejaculation which would have sounded very like
an oath, had there been any one to hear it. Then he came close to the
glass-panelled door and scowled out at the Tadmor as if it were a thing
alive and perversely and personally responsible for this latest
interference with his plans.

He was fond of boasting that he had no creed, but, in his way, Francis
Vennor was a better fatalist than many who assume the name. When the
grim humor of the relentless pursuit began to appeal to him, the
wrathful scowl relaxed by degrees and gave place to the metallic smile.
It could scarcely be prearrangement this time, he decided; it was fate
and no less; and having admitted so much, he crossed the platforms and
let himself into the ante-room of the Tadmor.

Brockway was still sitting in the smoking-room, and he was so taken
aback that he returned the President's nod of recognition no less
stiffly than it was given. Whereupon Mr. Vennor entered the compartment,
gathered up his coat-tails, and sat down beside the passenger agent to
finish his cigar.

Now Brockway inferred, naturally, that Gertrude's father had come to
have it out with him, and for the first five minutes he waited nervously
for the President to begin. Then it occurred to him that possibly Mr.
Vennor had come to accord him the interview which Gertrude had promised
to procure for him; and he spent five other minutes of tongue-tied
embarrassment trying to pull himself together sufficiently to state his
case with becoming clarity and frankness. The upshot of all this was
that they sat smoking solemnly and in phlegmatic silence for upwards of
a quarter of an hour, at the end of which time the President rose and
tossed his cigar-butt out of the window.

"Going on through with your people, are you?" he said, steadying himself
by the door-jamb.

"Yes; as far as Salt Lake," Brockway replied, wondering if he ought to
apologize for the intention.

"H-m; changed your plans rather suddenly, didn't you?"

"The party changed them; I wasn't notified till ten minutes before
train-time."

"No? I suppose you didn't know we were going on to-night, either, did
you? or did the despatcher tell you?"

"No one told me. I knew nothing of it till I saw the Naught-fifty in the
train."

"And that was?----"

"Just at the last moment--after the train had started, in fact."

"Ah. Then I am to understand that our movements have nothing to do with
your being here now?"

Brockway had begun by being studiously deferential and placable, but the
questions were growing rather personal.

"You are to understand nothing of the sort," he replied. "On the
contrary, I am here solely because you saw fit to change your
itinerary."

President Vennor was so wholly unused to anything like a retort from a
junior and an inferior that he sat down in the opposite seat and felt
mechanically in his pockets for a cigar. Brockway promptly capped the
climax of audacity by offering one of his own, and the President took it
absently.

"It is scarcely worth your while to be disrespectful, Mr. Brockway," he
said, when the cigar was alight.

"I don't mean to be."

"But you intercepted my telegram this morning, and sent me a most
impertinent reply."

"I did; and a little while before that, you had tried to knock me down."

"So I did, but the provocation was very considerable; you must admit
that."

"Cheerfully," said Brockway, who was coming to his own in the matter of
self-possession with gratifying rapidity. "But I take no shame for the
telegram. As I told Miss Gertrude, I would have done a much worse thing
to compass the same end."

The President frowned and coughed dryly. "The incentive was doubtless
very strong, but I am told that you have since been made aware of the
facts in the case--relative to my daughter's forfeiture of her
patrimony, I mean."

"The 'incentive,' as you call it, was the only obstacle. When I learned
that it did not exist, I asked your daughter to be my wife."

"Knowing that my consent would be withheld?"

"Taking that for granted--yes."

"Very good; your frankness is commendable. Before we go any farther, let
me ask one question. Would anything I could give you induce you to go
about your business--to disappear, so to speak?"

"Yes."

"Name it," said the President, with ill-concealed satisfaction.

"Your daughter's hand in marriage."

"Ah;"--he lost his hold upon the hopeful alternative and made no
sign--"nothing less?"

"Nothing less."

"Very good again; then we may go on to other matters. How do you expect
to support a wife whose allowance of pin-money has probably exceeded
your entire income?"

"As many a better man has done before me, when the woman of his choice
was willing to put love before luxury," quoth Brockway, with more
philosophy than he could properly lay claim to.

"H-m; love in a cottage, and all that, I suppose. It's very romantic,
but you'll pardon me if I confess I'm not able to take any such
philosophical view of the matter."

"Oh, certainly; I didn't suppose you would be. But if you don't like it,
the remedy is in your own hands," said Brockway, with great composure.

"Ah; yesterday you told me I was mistaken in my man; this time it is you
who are mistaken. Gertrude will get nothing from me."

Brockway met the cool stare of the calculating eyes without flinching,
and refused to be angry.

"You know very well I didn't mean that," he said, calmly. "I wouldn't
touch a penny of your money under any circumstances that I can imagine
just now."

"Then what do you mean?" demanded the President.

Brockway thought he might as well die fighting, so he shrugged his
shoulders and made shift to look indifferent and unconcerned.

"I'm well enough satisfied with my present income and prospects, and
Gertrude is quite willing to share them with me; but if you think I'm
not earning enough money, why, you are the President of a very
considerable railway company, and I'll cheerfully attack anything you
see fit to give me from the general passenger agency down."

"Ha!" said the President, and for once in a way he acknowledged himself
fairly outdone in cold-blooded assurance; "you have the courage of your
convictions to say that to me."

"Not at all," replied Brockway, riding at a gallop along the newly
discovered road to the President's favor; "I merely suggest it to help
you out. I'm very well contented where I am."

"Oh, you are. And yet you would consent to take service under me, after
what has passed between us? I say you have courage; I could break you in
a year."

"Possibly; but you wouldn't, you know."

The President rose and held out his hand with a smile which no man might
analyze.

"You refuse to be bullied, don't you? and you say you would attack
anything. I believe you would, and I like that; you shall be given the
opportunity, and under a harder master than you have ever had. You may
even find yourself required to make bricks without straw. Come, now,
hadn't you better retract and go about your business?"

"Never a word; and where Gertrude goes, I go," said Brockway, taking the
proffered hand with what show of indifference he could command.

"Very well, if you will have it so. If you are of the same mind in the
morning, perhaps you'd better join us at breakfast and we can talk it
over. Will you come?"

"Yes, if you will tell the other members of your party why I am there."

The President smiled again, sardonically this time.

"I think the occasion for that has gone by," he said. "Good-night."

When the outer door closed behind his visitor, Brockway collapsed as was
his undoubted privilege. Then he revived under the stimulus of an
overwaxing and masterful desire to see Gertrude again before he
slept--to share the good news with her before the burden of it should
crush him. And he was considering how it might be brought about when the
engineer blew the whistle for Bending Bow.



XXVII

THE DRUMMING WHEELS


Bending Bow is but an insignificant side-track on the
mountain-buttressed plain some thirty miles from Denver; and I would for
the sake of the two young persons whose romance this is, that it might
have been a meeting-point with a delayed train.

When the first of the switch-lights flashed past the windows of the
Tadmor, Brockway went out and stood on the step ready to drop off when
the speed should slacken sufficiently to permit it. While hanging from
the hand-rail he glanced ahead and saw that which made his heart glad.
The signal-lamp at the station turned a crimson eye toward the train,
and that meant orders, and a few more seconds of precious time.

At the first shrill sigh of the air-brakes, he sprang off and ran beside
the private car, trying to peer into the darkened windows, and taking
all sorts of risks considering the hazard he ran of lighting upon the
wrong one.

But good fortune was with him. Before the smoking wheels had quite
ceased grinding fire out of the brake-shoes, he came to a window with a
tiny corner of a handkerchief fluttering beneath it. It was Gertrude's
signal, and he understood then that he had been keeping tryst on the
wrong side of the car as it stood on the spur-track in Denver. The
window was closed and curtained like the others, but it went up
noiselessly when he tapped on the glass.

Now it was pitchy dark, both within and without, but love has sharpened
senses and eyes which no night has ever yet been black enough to befool.
"Frederick!" said a soft voice from within, and there was joyful
surprise in the single word. Then a hand came out to him, and he
possessed himself of it as one who will keep that which is his.

"God bless you," he whispered; "I hardly dared hope to find you up."

"I wasn't up," said the tender voice, with a touch of sweet shyness in
it; "but I couldn't go to sleep for thinking how disappointed you must
be. How did you find out we were going?"

"By the merest chance; but it's all right now--your father has just been
in to see me."

"Has he? Oh, I hope you didn't quarrel!"

"Not at all," said Brockway, reassuringly. "We sat together and smoked
like two Indians at a pow-wow, and neither of us said a word for nearly
half an hour. After that, he got up to go away, and then he thought
better of it and sat down again, and we had it out about the telegrams
and other things. That cleared the air a bit, and before he left, he
accepted the situation without saying so in so many words, and promised
to graft me on the C. & U. in some place where I can earn more money.
Don't cry; it's too good to be true, but the fact remains."

"I'm not crying, but I'm glad enough to do a much more foolish thing.
You won't let my money make any difference now, will you?"

"Your money isn't in it, and I think I made your father understand that
I'd never have spoken if I hadn't known you were going to lose it."

"But I--I haven't lost it. Didn't he tell you?"

"Tell me what?"

"About Cousin Chester and Hannah Beaswicke; they were married this
evening. I don't understand the legal part of it, but papa says that
saves my money. You won't let it make any difference?"

Brockway gripped the small hand as if he were afraid it might escape him
after all, and tried to flog himself around to the new point of view. It
was a breath-taking process, but he compassed it more quickly since
there was no time for the nice weighing of scruples. Moreover, it was
too late to give poverty-pride a second hearing. So he said:

"I can't let it make a difference now, but I shall always be glad that I
asked you when we both believed you were going to lose it. And I ought
to have guessed about your cousin's marriage, but I didn't--I helped him
find the County Clerk, and wondered why he was so anxious about it. I'm
glad you didn't have to break his heart."

She laughed happily. "There was no question of hearts between us; he
knew it, and I knew it; and when he spoke to me to-night, we settled it
definitely. Are you glad or sorry? about the money, I mean."

"Both, I think; glad for your sake, though."

"I'll go and live in the five-roomed cottage with you, if you like, and
we'll forget all about it."

"I believe you'd do it"--Brockway glanced up, and, seeing the red signal
still displayed, blessed the tardy operator who was doubtless bungling
the train-order--"but I shan't insist." Then with a touch of graver
earnestness: "We are properly engaged now, aren't we?"

"I should hope so"--shyly.

He took a ring from his pocket and slipped it over the finger of the
captive hand.

"It isn't every one who goes prepared," he said, with quiet humor; "it
was a gift from a train-load of Grand Army people I took across last
year; and I've carried it in my pocket ever since because I didn't think
I had any right to wear diamonds. Will you wear it for me?"

"Always."

"Will you wear it to-morrow--before all the others? I'm coming in to
breakfast, you know. Your father asked me."

"I said always."

_Conductor Graffo_, coming out of the telegraph office with a scrap of
tissue paper in his hand: "All abo-o-ard!"

"That parts us again," said Brockway, sorrowfully. "Good-night, dear;
God keep you safe"--the air-brakes sighed sympathetically, and he kissed
her hand and released it--"till to-morrow." His face was at the window,
and two soft arms came out of the square of darkness and went about his
neck, and two lips that he could not see brushed his cheek.

"Till to-morrow," she repeated; and then the train began to move and she
let him go quickly that he might run no risk of stumbling.

The engine groaned and strained, filling the air with a jarring as of
nearby thunder; the steam hissed from the cylinders, and the great
driving-wheels began once more to measure the rails. Brockway swung
lightly up to the step of the Tadmor, and when the last switch-lamp had
shot backward into the night, went to his berth to wrestle with his
happiness until tardy sleep came, bringing in its train a beatific
vision in which the song of the drumming wheels became the overture to a
wedding march, and the mellow blasts of the whistle rang a merry peal of
joy-bells.



THE IVORY SERIES

    AMOS JUDD. By J. A. Mitchell, Editor of "Life"
    IA. A Love Story. By Q. [Arthur T. Quiller-Couch]
    THE SUICIDE CLUB. By Robert Louis Stevenson
    IRRALIE'S BUSHRANGER. By E. W. Hornung
    A MASTER SPIRIT. By Harriet Prescott Spofford
    MADAME DELPHINE. By George W. Cable
    ONE OF THE VISCONTI. By Eva Wilder Brodhead
    A BOOK OF MARTYRS. By Cornelia Atwood Pratt
    A BRIDE FROM THE BUSH. By E. W. Hornung
    THE MAN WHO WINS. By Robert Herrick
    AN INHERITANCE. By Harriet Prescott Spofford
    THE OLD GENTLEMAN OF THE BLACK STOCK. By Thomas Nelson Page
    LITERARY LOVE LETTERS AND OTHER STORIES. By Robert Herrick
    A ROMANCE IN TRANSIT. By Francis Lynde
    IN OLD NARRAGANSETT. By Alice Morse Earle
    SEVEN MONTHS A PRISONER. By J. V. Hadley
    "IF I WERE A MAN." By Harrison Robertson
    SWEETHEARTS AND WIVES. By Anna A. Rogers
    A CIVILIAN ATTACHÉ. By Helen Dawes Brown





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