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Title: The Blue Goose
Author: Nason, Frank Lewis, 1856-1928
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Blue Goose" ***

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                                     The BLUE GOOSE

                                    FRANK LEWIS NASON

                            AUTHOR OF TO THE END OF THE TRAIL


COPYRIGHT, 1903, BY
McCLURE, PHILLIPS & CO.
NEW YORK

Published, March, 1903, R
Second Impression

       *       *       *       *       *

"_So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a
noise and behold a shaking, and the bones came together bone to bone._

"_And, lo, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, but there was no
breath in them._

"_Son of man, prophesy unto the wind. Come from the four winds, O
breath, and breathe upon these that they may live._

"_And the breath came into them and they lived._"

    To
    MY FRIEND OF TWENTY-ONE YEARS,
    CHARLES EMERSON BEECHER,

who, with infinite skill and patience, has breathed the breath of life
into the dry bones of Earth's untold ages of upward struggle, who has
made them speak of the eternity of their past, and has made them
prophesy hope for the eternity to come, this book is dedicated by the
author.



CONTENTS


       I. THE BLUE GOOSE

      II. THE OLD MAN

     III. ÉLISE

      IV. THE WATCHED POT BEGINS TO BOIL

       V. BENNIE OPENS THE POT AND FIRMSTONE COMES IN

      VI. THE FAMILY CIRCLE

     VII. MR. MORRISON TACKLES A MAN WITH A MIND OF HIS OWN AND A MAN WITHOUT
          ONE

    VIII. MADAME SEEKS COUNSEL

      IX. THE MEETING AT THE BLUE GOOSE

       X. ÉLISE GOES FORTH TO CONQUER

      XI. THE DEVIL'S ELBOW

     XII. FIGS AND THISTLES

    XIII. THE STORK AND THE CRANES

     XIV. BLINDED EYES

      XV. BENDING THE TWIG

     XVI. AN INSISTENT QUESTION

    XVII. THE BEARDED LION

   XVIII. WINNOWED CHAFF

     XIX. THE FLY IN THE OINTMENT

      XX. THE RIVER GIVES UP ITS PREY

     XXI. THE SWORD THAT TURNS

    XXII. GOOD INTENTIONS

   XXIII. AN UNEXPECTED RECRUIT

    XXIV. THE GATHERING TO ITS OWN

     XXV. A DIVIDED HOUSE

    XXVI. THE DAY OF RECKONING

   XXVII. PASSING CLOUDS



THE BLUE GOOSE



CHAPTER I

_The Blue Goose_


"_Mais oui!_ I tell you one ting. One big ting. Ze big man wiz ze glass
eyes, he is vat you call one slik stoff. Ze big man wiz ze glass eyes."

"The old man?"

"Zat's him! One slik stoff! _Écoutez!_ Listen! One day, you mek ze gran'
trip. Look hout!" Pierre made a gesture as of a dog shaking a rat.

The utter darkness of the underground laboratory was parted in solid
masses, by bars of light that spurted from the cracks of a fiercely
glowing furnace. One shaft fell on a row of large, unstoppered bottles.
From these bottles fumes arose, mingled, and fell in stifling clouds of
fleecy white. From another bottle in Pierre's hands a dense red smoke
welled from a colourless liquid, crowded through the neck, wriggled
through the bar of light, and sank in the darkness beneath. The darkness
was uncanny, the fumes suffocating, the low hum of the furnace forcing
out the shafts of light from the cracks of the imprisoning walls
infernally suggestive.

Luna shivered. He was ignorant, therefore superstitious, and
superstition strongly suggested the unnatural. He knew that furnaces and
retorts and acids and alkalies were necessary to the refinement of gold.
He feared them, yet he had used them, but he had used them where the
full light of day robbed them of half their terrors. In open air acids
might smoke, but drifting winds would brush away the fumes. Furnaces
might glow, but their glow would be as naught in sunlight. There was no
darkness in which devils could hide to pounce on him unawares, no walls
to imprison him. The gold he retorted on his shovel was his, and he had
no fear of the law. In the underground laboratory of Pierre the element
of fear was ever present. The gold that the furnace retorted was stolen,
and Luna was the thief. There were other thieves, but that did not
matter to him. He stole gold from the mill. Others stole gold from the
mine. It all came to Pierre and to Pierre's underground furnace. He
stood in terror of the supernatural, of the law, and, most of all, of
Pierre. In the darkness barred with fierce jets of light, imprisoned by
walls that he could not see, cut off from the free air of open day,
stifled by pungent gases that stung him, throat and eye, he felt an
uncanny oppression, fear of the unknown, fear of the law, most of all
fear of Pierre.

Pierre watched him through his mantle of darkness. He thrust forward his
head, and a bar of light smote him across his open lips. It showed his
gleaming teeth white and shut, his black moustache, his swarthy lips
parted in a sardonic smile; that was all. A horrible grin on a
background of inky black.

Luna shrank.

"Leave off your devil's tricks."

"_Moi?_"

Pierre replaced the bottle of acid on the shelf and picked up a pair of
tongs. As he raised the cover of the glowing crucible a sudden
transformation took place. The upper part of the laboratory blazed out
fiercely, and in this light Pierre moved with gesticulating arms, the
lower part of his body wholly hidden. He lifted the crucible, shook it
for a moment with an oscillatory motion, then replaced it on the fire.
He turned again to Luna.

"Hall ze time I mek ze explain. Hall ze time you mek ze question.
_Comment?_"

Luna's courage was returning in the light.

"You're damned thick-headed, when it suits you, all right. Well, I'll
explain. Last clean-up I brought you two pounds of amalgam if it was an
ounce. All I got out of it was fifty dollars. You said that was my
share. Hansen brought you a chunk of quartz from the mine. He showed it
to me first. If I know gold from sulphur, there was sixty dollars in it.
Hansen got five out of it."

Pierre interrupted.

"You mek mention ze name."

"There's no one to hear in this damned hell of yours."

"_Non_," Pierre answered. "You mek mention in zis hell. Bimby you mek
mention," Pierre gave an expressive upward jerk with his thumb, then
shrugged his shoulders.

"I'll look out for that," Luna answered, impatiently. "I'm after
something else now. I'm getting sick of pinching the mill and bringing
the stuff here for nothing. So are the rest of the boys. We ain't got no
hold on you and you ain't playing fair. You've got to break even or this
thing's going to stop."

Pierre made no reply to Luna. He picked up the tongs, lifted the
crucible from the fire, and again replaced it. Then he brought out an
ingot mould and laid it on a ledge of the furnace. The crucible was
again lifted from the fire, and its contents were emptied in the mould.
Pierre and Luna both watched the glowing metal. As it slowly cooled,
iridescent sheens of light swept over its surface like the changing
colours of a dying dolphin. Pierre held up the mould to Luna.

"How much she bin?"

Luna looked covetously at the softly glowing metal. "Two hundred."

"_Bien._ She's bin ze amalgam, ze quart', ze hozer stoff. Da's hall."

Luna looked sceptical.

"That's too thin. How many times have you fired up?"

"Zis!" Pierre held up a single emphasizing finger.

"We'll let that go," Luna answered; "but you listen now. One of the
battery men is off to-night. I'm going to put Morrison on substitute.
He's going to break a stem or something. The mortar's full to the dies.
We're going to clean it out. I know how much it will pan. It's coming to
you. You divide fair or it's the last you'll get. I'll hide it out in
the usual place."

"Look hout! Da's hall!"

The other laughed impatiently.

"Getting scared, Frenchy? Where's your nerve?"

"Nerf! Nerf!" Pierre danced from foot to foot, waving his arms. "_Sacré
plastron!_ You mek ze fuse light. You sit on him, heh? Bimeby, pretty
soon, you got no nerf. You got noddings. You got one big gris-spot on ze
rock. Da's hall." Pierre subsided, with a gesture of intense disgust.

Luna snapped his watch impatiently.

"It's my shift, Frenchy. I've got to go in a few minutes."

"_Bien!_ Go!" Pierre spoke without spirit. "Mek of yourself one gran'
_folie_. _Mais_, when ze shot go, an' you sail in ze air, don' come down
on ze Blue Goose, on me, Pierre. I won't bin here, da's hall."

Luna turned.

"I tell you I've got to go now. I wish you'd tell me what's the matter
with the old man."

Pierre roused himself.

"Noddings. Ze hol' man has noddings ze mattaire. It is you! You! Ze hol'
man, he go roun' lak he kick by ze dev'. He mek his glass eyes to shine
here an' twinkle zere, an' you mek ze gran' chuckle, 'He see noddings.'
He see more in one look dan you pack in your tick head! I tol' you look
hout; da's hall!"

Luna jammed his watch into his pocket and rose.

"It's all right, Frenchy. I'll give you another chance. To-day's
Thursday. Saturday they'll clean up at the mill. It will be a big one. I
want my rake-off. The boys want theirs. It all comes to the Blue Goose,
one way or another. You think you're pretty smooth stuff. That's all
right; but let me tell you one thing: if there's any procession heading
for Cañon City, you'll be in it, too."

Cañon City was the State hostelry. Occasionally the law selected
unwilling guests. It was not over-large, nor was it overcrowded. Had it
sheltered all deserving objects, the free population of the State would
have been visibly diminished.

Pierre only shrugged his shoulders. He followed Luna up the stairs to
the outer door, and watched the big mill foreman as he walked down the
trail to the mill. Then, as was his custom when perturbed in mind,
Pierre crossed the dusty waggon trail and seated himself on a boulder,
leaning his back against a scrubby spruce. He let his eyes rest
contentedly on a big, square-faced building. Rough stone steps led up to
a broad veranda, from which rose, in barbaric splendour, great sheets of
shining plate-glass, that gave an unimpeded view of a long mahogany bar
backed by tiers of glasses and bottles, doubled by reflection from
polished mirrors that reached to the matched-pine ceiling.

Across the room from the bar, roulette and faro tables, bright with
varnish and gaudy with nickel trimmings, were waiting with invitations
to feverish excitement. The room was a modern presentation of Scylla and
Charybdis. Scylla, the bar, stimulated to the daring of Charybdis across
the way, and Charybdis, the roulette, sent its winners to celebrate
success, or its victims to deaden the pain of loss.

At the far end of the room a glass-covered arcade stood in advance of
doors to private club-rooms. At the arcade an obliging attendant passed
out gold and silver coins, for a consideration, in exchange for crumpled
time-checks and greasy drafts.

Pierre grinned and rubbed his hands. Above the plate glass on the
outside a gorgeous rainbow arched high on the painted front. Inscribed
within, in iridescent letters, was: "The Blue Goose. Pierre La Martine."
Beneath the spring of the rainbow, for the benefit of those who could
not read, was a huge blue goose floating aimlessly in a sheet of bluer
water.

This was all of the Blue Goose that was visible to the eyes of the
uninitiated; of the initiated there were not many.

Beneath the floor was a large cellar, wherein was a fierce-looking
furnace, which on occasion grew very red with its labours. There were
pungent jars and ghostly vessels and a litter of sacks, and much
sparkling dust on the earthen floor. All this Pierre knew, and a few
others, though even these had not seen it.

Beneath the shadow of the wings of the Blue Goose dwelt a very plain
woman, who looked chronically frightened, and a very beautiful girl who
did not. The scared woman was Madame La Martine; the unscared girl
passed for their daughter, but about the daughter no one asked questions
of Pierre. About the Blue Goose, its bar, and its gaming-tables Pierre
was eloquent, even with strangers. About his daughter and other things
his acquaintances had learned to keep silence; as for strangers, they
soon learned.

Obviously the mission of the Blue Goose was to entertain; with the
multitude this mission passed current at its face value, but there were
a few who challenged it. Now and then a grocer or a butcher made gloomy
comments as he watched a growing accumulation of books that would not
prove attractive to the most confirmed bibliophile. Men went to the Blue
Goose with much money, but came out with none, for the bar and roulette
required cash settlements. Their wives went in to grocers and butchers
with no money but persuasive tongues, and came forth laden with spoils.

Pandora could raise no taxes for schools, so there were none. Preachers
came and offered their wares without money and without price, but there
were no churches. For the wares of the preachers flushed no faces and
burned no throats, nor were there rattles even in contribution boxes,
and there was no whirr of painted wheels. Even the hundred rumbling
stamps of the Rainbow mill might as well have pounded empty air or
clashed their hard steel shoes on their hard steel dies for all the
profit that came to the far-away stockholders of the great Rainbow mine
and mill.

So it came to pass that many apparently unrelated facts were gathered
together by the diligent but unprosperous, and, being thus gathered,
pointed to a very inevitable conclusion. Nothing and no one was
prosperous, save Pierre and his gorgeous Blue Goose. For Pierre was a
power in the land. He feared neither God nor the devil. The devil was
the bogie-man of the priest. As for God, who ever saw him? But of some
men Pierre had much fear, and among the same was "the hol' man" at the
mill.



CHAPTER II

_The Old Man_


After leaving the Blue Goose Luna went straight to the superintendent's
office. He was nettled rather than worried by Pierre's cautions. Worry
implied doubt of his own wisdom, as well as fear of the old man.
Superintendents had come to, and departed from, the Rainbow. Defiant
fanfares had heralded their coming, confusion had reigned during their
sojourn, their departure had been duly celebrated at the Blue Goose.
This had been the invariable sequence. Through all these changes Pierre
was complacently confident, but he never lost his head. The bottles of
the Blue Goose bar were regularly drained, alike for welcoming and for
speeding the departing incumbent at the Rainbow.

The roulette whirred cheerfully, gold and silver coins clinked merrily,
the underground furnace reddened and dulled at regular periods, and much
lawful money passed back and forth between the Blue Goose and its
patrons. Not that the passing back and forth was equal; Pierre attended
to that. His even teeth gleamed between smiling lips, his swarthy cheeks
glowed, and day by day his black hair seemed to grow more sleek and
oily, and his hands smoother with much polishing.

Pierre read printed words with ease. That which was neither printed nor
spoken was spelled out, sometimes with wrinkling of brows and narrowing
of eyes, but with unmistakable correctness in the end. From the faces
and actions of men he gathered wisdom, and this wisdom was a lamp to his
feet, and in dark places gave much light to his eyes. Thus it happened
that with the coming of Richard Firmstone came also great caution to
Pierre.

The present superintendent blew no fanfares on his new trumpet, he
expressed no opinion of his predecessors, and gave no hint of his future
policy.

Mr. Morrison, who oiled his hair and wore large diamonds in a
much-starched, collarless shirt while at the bar of the Blue Goose,
donned overalls and jumpers while doing "substitute" at the mill, and
between times kept alive the spirit of rebellion in the bosoms of
down-trodden, capitalist-ridden labour. Morrison freely voiced the
opinion that the Rainbow crowd had experienced religion, and had sent
out a Sunday-school superintendent to reform the workmen and to count
the dollars that dropped from beneath the stamps of the big mill. In
this opinion Luna, the mill foreman, concurred. He even raised the ante,
solemnly averring that the old man opened the mill with prayer, sang
hallelujahs at change of shift, and invoked divine blessing before
chewing his grub. Whereat the down-trodden serfs of soulless
corporations cheered long and loud, and called for fresh oblations at
the bar of the Blue Goose.

All these things Luna pondered in his mind, and his indignation waxed
hot at Pierre.

"The damned old frog-eater's losing his nerve; that's what! I ain't
going to be held up by no frog-spawn."

He opened the office door and clumped up to the railing.

The superintendent looked up.

"What is it, Luna?"

"Long, on number ten battery, is sick and off shift. Shall we hang up
ten, or put on Morrison?"

The superintendent smiled.

"Is it Morrison, or hang up?" he asked.

The question was disconcerting. The foreman shifted his footing.

"Morrison is all right," he said, doggedly. "He's a good battery man.
Things ain't pushing at the Blue Goose, and he can come as well as not."

"What's the matter with Morrison?" The superintendent's smile broadened.

The foreman looked puzzled.

"I've just been telling you--he's all right."

"That's so. Only, back east, when a horse jockey gets frothy about the
good points of his horse, we look sharp."

The foreman grew impatient.

"You haven't told me whether to hang up ten or not."

"I'm not going to. You are foreman of the mill. Put on anyone you want;
fire anyone you want. It's nothing to me; only," he looked hard, "you
know what we're running this outfit for."

The foreman appeared defiant. Guilty thoughts were spurring him to
unwise defence.

"If the ore ain't pay I can't get it out."

"I'll attend to the ore, that's my business. Get out what there is in
it, that's yours." He leaned forward to his papers.

The foreman shifted uneasily. His defence was not complete. He was not
sure that he had been attacked. He knew Morrison of the Blue Goose. He
knew the workings of the mill. He had thought he knew the old man. He
was not so sure now. He was not even sure how much or how little he had
let out. Perhaps Pierre's words had rattled him. He shifted from foot to
foot, twirling his hat on his fingers. He half expected, half hoped, and
half waited for another opening. None came. Through the muffled roar of
the stamps he was conscious of the sharp scratch of the superintendent's
pen. Then came the boom of the big whistle. It was change of shift. The
jar of the office door closing behind him was not heard. At the mill he
found Morrison.

"You go on ten, in Long's place," he said, gruffly, as he entered the
mill.

Morrison stared at the retreating foreman.

"What in hell," he began; then, putting things together in his mind, he
shook his head, and followed the foreman into the mill.

The superintendent was again interrupted by the rasping of hobnailed
shoes on the office floor and the startled creak of the office railing
as a large, loose-jointed man leaned heavily against it. His trousers,
tucked into a pair of high-laced, large-eyed shoes, were belted at the
waist in a conspicuous roll. A faded gray shirt, rolled up at the
sleeves, disclosed a red undershirt and muscular arms. A well-shaped
head with grey streaked hair, and a smooth, imperturbable face was
shaded by a battered sombrero that was thrust back and turned squarely
up in front.

The superintendent's smile had nothing puzzling now.

"Hello, Zephyr. Got another Camp Bird?"

"Flying higher'n a Camp Bird this time."

"How's that?"

"Right up to the golden gates this time, sure. It's straight goods. St.
Peter ain't going to take no post-prandial siestas from now on. I'm
timbering my shots to keep from breaking the sky. Tell you what, I'm
jarring them mansions in heaven wuss'n a New York subway contractor them
Fifth Avenue palaces." Zephyr paused and glanced languidly at the
superintendent.

Firmstone chuckled.

"Go on," he said.

"I've gone as far as I can without flying. It's a lead from the golden
streets of the New Jerusalem. Followed it up to the foot of Bingham
Pass; caught it above the slide, then it took up the cliff, and
disappeared in the cerulean. Say, Goggles, how are you off for chuck?
I've been up against glory, and I'm down hungrier than a she-bear that's
skipped summer and hibernated two winters."

"Good! Guess Bennie will fix us up something. Can you wait a few
minutes?"

"I think I can. I've been practising on that for years. No telling when
such things will come in handy. You don't object to music, Goggles?"

"Not to music, no," Firmstone answered, with an amused glance at Zephyr.

Zephyr, unruffled, drew from his shirt a well-worn harmonica.

"Music hath charms," he remarked, brushing the instrument on the sleeve
of his shirt. "Referring to my savage breast, not yours."

He placed the harmonica to his lips, holding it in hollowed hands. His
oscillating breath jarred from the metal reeds the doleful strains of
_Home, Sweet Home_, muffled by the hollow of his hands into mournful
cadences.

At last Firmstone closed his desk.

"If your breast is sufficiently soothed, let's see what Bennie can do
for your stomach."

As they passed from the office Zephyr carefully replaced the harmonica
in his shirt.

"I'd rather be the author of that touching little song than the owner of
the Inferno. That's my new claim," he remarked, distantly.

Firmstone laughed.

"I thought your claim was nearer heaven."

"The two are not far apart. 'Death, like a narrow sea, divides.' But my
reminiscences were getting historical, which you failed to remark. I
ain't no Wolfe and Pierre ain't no Montcalm, nor the Heights of Abraham
ain't the Blue Goose. Pierre's a hog. At least, he's a close second. A
hog eats snakes and likewise frogs. Pierre's only got as far as frogs,
last I heard. Pierre's bad. Morrison's bad. Luna ain't. He thinks he is;
but he ain't. I'm not posting you nor nothing. I'm only meditating out
loud. That's all."

They entered the mill boarding-house. Bennie, the cook, greeted Zephyr
effusively.

"Goggles invited me to pay my respects to you," Zephyr remarked. "I'm
empty, and I'm thinking you can satisfy my longing as nothing else can
do."

Zephyr addressed himself to Bennie's viands. At last he rose from the
table.

"To eat and to sleep are the chief ends of man. I have eaten, and now I
see I am tired. With your consent, uttered or unexpressed, I'll wrap the
drapery of my bunk around me and take a snooze. And say, Goggles," he
added, "if, the next time you inventory stock, you are shy a sack of
flour and a side of bacon, you can remark to the company that
prospectors is thick around here, and that prospectors is prone to evil
as the sparks fly upward. That's where the flour and bacon are going. Up
to where St. Peter can smell them cooking; leastways he can if he hangs
his nose over the wall and the wind's right."



CHAPTER III

_Élise_


Bennie was an early riser, as became a faithful cook; but, early as he
usually was, this morning he was startled into wakefulness by a jarring
chug, as Zephyr, with a relieved grunt, dropped a squashy sack on the
floor near his bunk. Bennie sprang to a sitting posture, rubbing his
sleepy eyes to clear his vision; but, before he could open his eyes or
his mouth beyond a startled ejaculation, Zephyr had departed. He soon
reappeared. There was another chug, another grunt, and another
departure. Four times this was repeated. Then Zephyr seated himself on
the bunk, and, pushing back his sombrero, mopped his perspiring brow.

"What the--" Bennie started in, but Zephyr's uplifted hand restrained
him.

"The race is not to the swift, Julius Benjamin. The wise hound holds his
yap till he smells a hot foot. Them indecisive sacks is hot footses,
Julius Benjamin; but it isn't your yap, not by quite some."

"What's up, Zephyr?" asked Bennie. "I'm not leaky."

"Them gelatinous sacks," Zephyr went on, eyeing them meditatively, "I
found hidden in the bushes near the mine, and they contain mighty
interesting matter. They're an epitome of life. They started straight,
but missed connections. Pulled up at the wrong station. I've thrown the
switch, and now you and me, Julius, will make it personally conducted
the rest of the trip."

"Hm!" mused Bennie. "I see. That stuff's been pinched from the mill."

"Good boy, Julius Benjamin! You're doing well. You'll go into words of
two syllables next."

Zephyr nodded, with a languid smile.

"But, to recapitulate, as my old school-teacher used to say, there's
thousands of dollars in them sacks. The Rainbow ain't coughing up no
such rich stuff as that. That rock is broken; ergo, it's been under the
stamps. It's coarse and fine, from which I infer it hasn't been through
the screens. And furthermore----"

Bennie interrupted eagerly.

"They've just hung up the stamps and raked out the rich stuff that's
settled between the dies!"

"Naturally, gold being heavier than quartz. Julius Benjamin, you're fit
for the second reader."

Bennie laughed softly.

"It's Luna or Morrison been robbing the mill. Won't Frenchy pull the
long face when he hears of your find?"

Zephyr made no farther reply than to blow _There'll Be a Hot Time_ from
pursed lips as he rolled a cigarette.

"So there will be," Bennie answered.

"Not to-night, Bennie." Zephyr was puffing meditative whiffs in the air.
"Great things move slowly. Richard Firmstone is great, Benjamin; leave
it to him."

Bennie was already dressed, and Zephyr, throwing the stub of his
cigarette through the open window, followed him to the kitchen. He ate
his specially prepared breakfast with an excellent appetite.

"I think I'll raise my bet. I mentioned a sack of flour and a side of
bacon. I'll take a can of coffee and a dab of sugar. St. Peter'll
appreciate that. 'Tis well to keep on the right side of the old man.
Some of us may have occasion to knock at his gate before the summer is
over. You've heard of my new claim, Bennie?"

Bennie made no reply. Between packing up Zephyr's supplies, attending to
breakfast for the men, and thinking of the sacks of stolen ore, he was
somewhat preoccupied.

Zephyr stowed the supplies in his pack and raised it to his shoulder.
Bennie looked up in surprise.

"You're not going now, are you?"

Zephyr was carefully adjusting the straps of his pack.

"It looks pretty much that way, Benjamin. When a man's got all he wants,
it's time for him to lope. If he stays, he might get more and
possibly--less."

"What will I do with these sacks?" Bennie asked hurriedly, as Zephyr
passed through the door.

Zephyr made no reply, further than softly to whistle _Break the News to
Mother_ as he swung into the trail. He clumped sturdily along,
apparently unmindful of the rarefied air that would ordinarily make an
unburdened man gasp for breath. His lips were still pursed, though they
had ceased to give forth sound. He came to the nearly level terrace
whereon, among scattered boulders, were clustered the squat shanties of
the town of Pandora.

He merely glanced at the Blue Goose, whose polished windows were just
beginning to glow with the light of the rising sun. He saw a door open
at the far end of the house and Madame La Martine emerge, a broom in her
hands and a dust-cloth thrown over one shoulder.

Pierre's labours ended late. Madame's began very early. Both had an
unvarying procession. Pierre had much hilarious company; it was his
business to keep it so. He likewise had many comforting thoughts; these
cost him no effort. The latter came as a logical sequence to the former.
Madame had no company, hilarious or otherwise. Instead of complacent
thoughts, she had anxiety. And so it came to pass that, while Pierre
grew sleek and smooth with the passing of years, Madame developed many
wrinkles and grey hairs and a frightened look, from the proffering of
wares that were usually thrust aside with threatening snarls and many
harsh words. Pierre was not alone in the unstinted pouring forth of the
wine of pleasure for the good of his companions and in uncorking his
vials of wrath for the benefit of his wife.

Zephyr read the whole dreary life at a glance. A fleeting thought came
to Zephyr. How would it have been with Madame had she years ago chosen
him instead of Pierre? A smile, half pitying, half contemptuous, was
suggested by an undecided quiver of the muscles of his face, more
pronounced by the light in his expressive eyes. He left the waggon trail
that zig-zagged up the steep grade beyond the outskirts of the town,
cutting across their sharp angles in a straight line. Near the foot of
an almost perpendicular cliff he again picked up the trail. Through a
notch in the brow of the cliff a solid bar of water shot forth. The
solid bar, in its fall broken to a misty spray, fell into a mossy basin
at the cliff's foot, regathered, and then, sliding and twisting in its
rock-strewn bed, gurgled among nodding flowers and slender, waving
willows that were fanned into motion by the breath of the falling spray.
Where the brook crossed the trail Zephyr stood still. Not all at once.
There was an indescribable suggestion of momentum overcome by the
application of perfectly balanced power.

Zephyr did not whistle, even softly. Instead, there was a low hum--

    _But the maiden in the garden
    Was the fairest flower of all._

Zephyr deliberately swung his pack from his shoulders, deposited it on
the ground, and as deliberately seated himself on the pack. There was an
unwonted commotion among the cluster of thrifty plants at which Zephyr
was looking expectantly. A laughing face with large eyes sparkling with
mischievous delight looked straight into his own. As the girl rose to
her feet she tossed a long, heavy braid of black hair over her shoulder.

"You thought you would scare me; now, didn't you?" She came forth from
the tangled plants and stood before him.

Zephyr's eyes were resting on the girl's face with a smile of quiet
approbation. Tall and slender, she was dressed in a dark gown, whose
sailor blouse was knotted at the throat with a red scarf; at her belt a
holster showed a silver-mounted revolver. An oval face rested on a
shapely neck, as delicately poised as the nodding flowers she held in
her hand. A rich glow, born of perfect health and stimulating air,
burned beneath the translucent olive skin.

Zephyr made no direct reply to her challenge.

"Why aren't you helping Madame at the Blue Goose?"

"Because I've struck, that's why." There was a defiant toss of the head,
a compressed frown on the arching brows. Like a cloud wind-driven from
across the sun the frown disappeared; a light laugh rippled from between
parted lips. "Daddy was mad, awfully mad. You ought to have seen him."
The flowers fell from her hands as she threw herself into Pierre's
attitude. "'Meenx,'" she mimicked, "'you mek to defy me in my own house?
Me? Do I not have plenty ze troub', but you mus' mek ze more? _Hein?_
Ansaire!' And so I did. So!" She threw her head forward, puckered her
lips, thrusting out the tip of her tongue at the appreciative Zephyr.
"Oh, it's lots of fun to get daddy mad. 'Vaire is my whip, my dog whip?
I beat you. I chastise you, meenx!'" The girl stooped to pick up her
scattered flowers. "Only it frightens poor mammy so. Mammy never talks
back only when daddy goes for me. I'd just like to see him when he comes
down this morning and finds me gone. It would be lots of fun. Only, if I
was there, I couldn't be here, and it's just glorious here, isn't it?
What's the trouble, Zephyr? You haven't said a word to me all this
time."

"When your blessed little tongue gets tired perhaps I'll start in.
There's no more telling when that will be than what I'll say, supposing
I get the chance."

"Oh, I knew there was something I wanted especially to see you about."
The face grew cloudy. "What do you think? You know I was sixteen my last
birthday, just a week ago?" She paused and looked at Zephyr
interrogatively. "I want to know where you are all the time now. It's
awfully important. I may want to elope with you at a moment's notice!"
She looked impressively at Zephyr.

Zephyr's jaw dropped.

"What the mischief----"

Élise interrupted:

"No, wait; I'm not through. Daddy got very playful that day, chucked my
chin, and called me _ma chère enfant_. That always means mischief.
'Élise bin seexten to-day, heh? Bimeby she tink to liv' her hol' daddy
and her hol' mammy and bin gone hoff wiz anodder feller, _hein_?' Then
he made another dab at my chin. I knew what he meant." She again assumed
Pierre's position. "'What you say, _ma chérie_? I pick you hout one nice
man! One ver' nice man! _Hein?_ M'sieu Mo-reeson. A ver' nice man. He
ben took good care _ma chérie_!'"

Zephyr was betrayed into a startled motion. Élise was watching him with
narrowed eyes. There was a gleam of satisfaction.

"That's all right, Zephyr. That's just what I did, only I did more. I
told daddy I'd just like M'sieu Mo-reeson to say marry to me! I told
daddy that I'd take the smirk out of M'sieu Mo-reeson's face and those
pretty curls out of M'sieu Mo-reeson's head if he dared look marry at
me. Only," she went on, "I'm a little girl, after all, and I thought the
easiest way would be to elope with you. I would like to see M'sieu
Mo-reeson try to take me away from a big, strong man like you." There
was an expression of intense scorn on her face that bared the even
teeth.

Zephyr was not conscious of Élise. There was a hard, set look on his
face. Élise noted it. She tossed her head airily.

"Oh, you needn't look so terribly distressed. You needn't, if you don't
want to. I dare say that the superintendent at the mill would jump at
the chance. I think I shall ask him, anyway." Her manner changed. "Why
do they always call him the old man? He is not such a very old man."

"They'd call a baby 'the old man' if he was superintendent. Do they say
much about him?" Zephyr asked, meditatively.

"Oh yes, lots. M'sier Mo-reeson"--she made a wry face at the name--"is
always talking about that minion of capitalistic oppression that's
sucking the life-blood of the serfs of toil. Daddy hates the old man.
He's afraid of him. Daddy always hates anyone he's afraid of, except
me."

Zephyr grunted absently.

"That's so." Élise spoke emphatically. "That's why I'm here to-day. I
told daddy that if I was old enough to get married I was old enough to
do as I liked."

In spite of his languid appearance Zephyr was very acute. He was getting
a great deal that needed careful consideration. He was intensely
interested, and he wanted to hear more. He half hesitated, then decided
that the end justified the means.

"What makes you think that Pierre hates the old man?" he ventured,
without changing countenance.

"Oh, lots of things. He tells Luna and M'sieu Mo-reeson"--another wry
face--"to 'look hout.' He talks to the men, tells them that the 'hol'
man ees sleek, ver' sleek, look hout, da's hall, an' go slow,' and a lot
of things. I'm awfully hungry, Zephyr, and I don't want to go down for
breakfast. Haven't you got something good in your pack? It looks awfully
good." She prodded the pack with inquisitive fingers.

Zephyr rose to his feet.

"It will be better when I've cooked it. You'll eat a breakfast after my
cooking?"

Élise clapped her hands.

"That will be fine. I'll just sit here and boss you. If you're good, and
you are, you know, I'll tell you some more about M'sieu. Suppose we just
call him M'sieu, just you and me. That'll be our secret."

Zephyr gathered dry sticks and started a fire. He opened his pack, cut
off some slices of bacon, and, impaling them on green twigs, hung them
before the fire. A pinch of salt and baking powder in a handful of flour
was mixed into a stiff paste, stirred into the frying-pan, which was
propped up in front of the fire. He took some cups from his pack, and,
filling them with water, put them on the glowing coals.

Élise kept up a rattling chatter through it all.

"Oh, I almost forgot. Daddy says M'sieu is going to be a great man, a
great labour leader. That's what M'sieu says himself--that he will lead
benighted labour from the galling chains of slavery into the glorious
light of freedom's day." Élise waved her arms and rolled her eyes. Then
she stopped, laughing. "It's awfully funny. I hear it all when I sit at
the desk. You know there's only thin boards between my desk and daddy's
private room, and I can't help but hear. That coffee and bacon smell
good, and what a lovely bannock! Aren't you almost ready? It's as nice
as when we were on the ranch, and you used to carry me round on your
back. That was an awful long time ago, though, wasn't it?"

Zephyr only grunted in reply. He pursed his lips for a meditative
whistle, thought better of it, took the frying-pan from its prop, and
sounded the browning bannock with his fingers.

    _For the babbling streams of youth
    Grow to silent pools of truth
    When they find a thirsty hollow
    On their way._

He spoke dreamily.

"What are you talking about?" Élise broke in.

"Oh, nothing in particular. I was just thinking--might have been
thinking out loud."

"That's you, every time, Zephyr. You think without talking, and I talk
without thinking. It's lots more fun. Do you think I will ever grow into
a dear, sober old thing like you? Just tell me that." She stooped down,
taking Zephyr's face in both her hands and turned it up to her own.

Zephyr looked musingly up into the laughing eyes, and took her hands
into his.

"Not for the same reasons, I guess, not if I can help it," he added,
half to himself. "Now, if you'll be seated, I'll serve breakfast." He
dropped the hands and pointed to a boulder.

Élise ate the plain fare with the eager appetite of youth and health.
From far down the gulch the muffled roar of the stamps rose and fell on
the light airs that drifted up and down. Through it all was the soft
swish of the falling spray, the sharp _blip! blip!_ as points of
light, gathered from dripping boughs, grew to sparkling gems, then,
losing their hold, fell into little pools at the foot of the cliff. High
above the straggling town the great cables of the tram floated in the
air like dusty webs, and up and down these webs, like black spiders,
darted the buckets that carried the ore from mine to mill, then
disappeared in the roaring mill, and dumping their loads of ore shot up
again into sight, and, growing in size, swept on toward the cliff and
passed out of sight over the falls above.

Across the narrow gulch a precipice sheered up eight hundred feet, a
hard green crown of stunted spruces on its retreating brow, above the
crown a stretch of soft green meadow steeply barred with greener
willows, above the meadow jagged spires of blackened lava, thrust up
from drifts of shining snow: a triple tiara crowning this silent priest
of the mountains.

To the east the long brown slide was marked with clifflets mottled as
was Joseph's coat of many colours, with every shade of red and yellow
that rusting flecks of iron minerals could give, brightened here and
there with clustered flowers which marked a seeping spring, up and up,
broken at last by a jagged line of purple that lay softly against the
clear blue of the arching sky.

To the west the mountains parted and the vision dropped to miles of
browning mesa, flecked with ranchers' squares of irrigated green. Still
farther a misty haze of distant mountains rose, with the great soft bell
of the curving sky hovering over all.

Zephyr ate in a silence which Élise did not care to break. Her restless
eyes glanced from Zephyr to the mountains, fell with an eager caress on
the flowers that almost hid the brook, looked out to the distant mesa,
and last of all shot defiance at the blazing windows of the Blue Goose
that were hurtling back the fiery darts of the attacking sun.

She sprang to her feet, brushing the crumbs from her clothes.

"Much obliged, Mr. Zephyr, for your entertainment." She swept him a low
courtesy. "I told you I was out for a lark to-day. Now you can wash the
dishes."

Zephyr had also risen. He gave no heed to her playful attitude.

"I want you to pay especial attention, Élise."

"Oh, gracious!" she exclaimed. "Now I'm in for it." She straightened her
face, but she could not control the mischievous sparkle of her eyes.

There was little of meditation but much decision in Zephyr's words.

"Don't let Pierre tease you, persuade you, frighten you, or bulldoze you
into marrying that Morrison. Do you hear? Get away. Run away."

"Or elope," interrupted Élise. "Don't skip that."

"Go to Bennie, the old man, or to anyone, if you can't find me."

"What a speech, Zephyr! Did any of it get away?"

Zephyr was too much in earnest even to smile.

"Remember what I say."

"You put in an awful lot of hard words. But then, I don't need to
remember. I may change my mind. Maybe there'd be a whole lot of fun
after all in marrying M'sieu. I'd just like to show him that he can't
scare me the way daddy does mammy. It would be worth a whole box of
chips. On the whole I think I'll take daddy's advice. Bye-bye, Zephyr."
She again picked up her scattered flowers and went dancing and skipping
down the trail. At the turn she paused for an instant, blew Zephyr a
saucy kiss from the tips of her fingers, then passed out of sight.

A voice floated back to the quiet figure by the fire.

"Don't feel too bad, Zephyr. I'll probably change my mind again."



CHAPTER IV

_The Watched Pot Begins to Boil_


Of all classes of people under the sun, the so-called labouring man has
best cause to pray for deliverance from his friends. His friends are, or
rather were, of three classes. The first, ardent but wingless angels of
mercy, who fail to comprehend the fact that the unlovely lot of their
would-be wards is the result of conditions imposed more largely from
within than from without; the second, those who care neither for lots
nor conditions, regarding the labourer as a senseless tool with which to
hew out his own designs; the third, those who adroitly knock together
the heads of the labourer and his employer and impartially pick the
pockets of each in the general _mêlée_ which is bound to follow.

The past _were_ is designedly contrasted with the present _are_, for it
is a fact that conditions all around are changing for the better;
slowly, perhaps, but nevertheless surely.

The philanthropic friend of the labourer is learning to develop
balancing tail-feathers of judgment wherewith to direct the flights of
wings of mercy. The employer is beginning to realise the beneficial
results of mutual understanding and of considerate co-operation, and the
industrious fomenter of strife is learning that bones with richer marrow
may be more safely cracked by sensible adjustment than with grievous
clubs wielded over broken heads.

Even so, the millennium is yet far away, and now, as in the past, the
path that leads to it is uphill and dim, and is beset with many
obstacles. There are no short cuts to the summit. In spite of
pessimistic clamours that the rich are growing richer and the poor
poorer, frothy yowls for free and unlimited coinage at sixteen to one,
or for fiat paper at infinity to nothing, the fact remains that, whereas
kings formerly used signets for the want of knowledge to write their
names, licked their greasy fingers for lack of knives and forks, and
starved in Ireland with plenty in France, the poorest to-day can, if
they will, indite readable words on well-sized paper, do things in
higher mathematics, and avoid the thankless task of dividing eight into
seven and looking for the remainder.

Potatoes are worth fifty cents a bushel. Any yokel can dig a hole in the
ground and plant the seed and in due time gather the ripened tubers. The
engineer who drives his engine at sixty miles an hour, flashing by
warning semaphores, rolling among coloured lights, clattering over frogs
and switches, is no yokel. Therefore, because of this fact, with the
compensation of one day he can, if he so elects, buy many potatoes, or
employ many yokels.

Had Sir Isaac Newton devoted to the raising of potatoes the energy which
he gave to astronomy, he might have raised larger potatoes and more to
the hill than his yokel neighbour. But, his conditions having been
potatoes, his reward would have been potatoes, instead of the deathless
glory of the discovery and enunciation of the law of gravity. The
problem is very simple after all. The world has had a useless deal of
trouble because no one has ever before taken the trouble to state the
problem and to elaborate it. It is just as simple as is the obvious fact
that _x_ plus _y_ equals _a_.

There is a possibility, however, that we have been going too fast, and
have consequently overlooked a few items of importance. We forgot for
the moment, as often happens, that the factors in the problem are not
homogeneous digits with fixed values, but complex personalities with
decided opinions of their own as to their individual and relative
importance, as well as pugnacious tendencies for compelling an
acceptance of their assumptions by equally pugnacious factors which
claim a differential valuation in their own favour. This consideration
presents a somewhat different and more difficult phase of the problem.
It really compels us to defer attempts at final solution, for the time
being, at least; to make the best adjustment possible under present
conditions, putting off to the future the final application, much on the
same principle that communities bond their present public possessions
for their own good and complacently bestow upon posterity the obligation
of settling the bills. Considered in this light, the end of the struggle
between capital and labour is not yet. Each is striving for the sole
possession and control of things which belong to neither alone. Each
looks upon the other not as a co-labourer but as a rival, instead of
making intelligent and united effort for an object unattainable by
either alone. If capital would smoke this in his cigar and labour the
same in his pipe, the soothing effects might tend to more amicable and
effective use of what is now dissipated energy.

However, universal panaceas are not to be hoped for. The mailed fist
puts irritating chips upon swaggering shoulders, and the unresentful
turning of smitten cheeks is conducive to a thrifty growth of gelatinous
nincompoops.

The preceding _status quo_ existed in general at the Rainbow mines and
mill, besides having a few individual characteristics peculiarly their
own. Miners and millmen, for the most part recent importations from all
countries of Europe, had come from the realms of oppression to the land
of the free with very exaggerated notions of what freedom really was.
The dominant expression of this idea was that everyone could do as he
pleased, and that if the other fellow didn't like it, he, the other
fellow, could get out. The often enunciating of abstract principles led
to their liberal application to concrete facts. In this application they
had able counsel in the ambitious Morrison.

"Who opened these mountain wilds?" Morrison was wont to inquire, not for
information, but for emphasis. "Who discovered, amidst toils and dangers
and deprivations and snowslides, these rich mines of gold and silver?
Who made them accessible by waggon trail and railroads and burros? Who
but the honest sons of honest toil? Who, when these labours are
accomplished, lolls in the luxurious lap of the voluptuous East, reaping
the sweat of your brows, gathering in the harvest of hands toiling for
three dollars a day or less? Who, but the purse-proud plutocrat who sits
on his cushioned chair in Wall Street, sending out his ruthless minions
to rob the labourer of his toil and to express his hard-won gold to the
stanchless maw of the ghoulish East. Rise, noble sons of toil, rise!
Stretch forth your horny hands and gather in your own! Raise high upon
these mountain-peaks the banner of freedom's hope before despairing eyes
raised from the greed-sodden plains of the effete East!"

Whereat the sons of toil would cheer and then proceed to stretch forth
hands to unripened fruits with such indiscriminating activity that both
mine and mill ceased to yield expenses to the eastern plutocrat, and
even the revenues of the Blue Goose were seriously impaired, to the
great distress of Pierre.

These rhodomontades of Morrison had grains of plausible truth as nuclei.
The workmen never, or rarely, came in personal contact with their real
employers. Their employers were in their minds men who reaped where
others had sown, who gathered where they had not strewn. The labourer
gave no heed to costly equipment which made mines possible, or at best
weighed them but lightly against the daily toil of monotonous lives.
They saw tons of hard-won ore slide down the long cables, crash through
the pounding stamps, saw the gold gather on the plates, saw it retorted,
and the shining bars shipped East. Against this gold of unknown value,
and great because unknown, they balanced their daily wage, that looked
pitifully small.

The yield of their aggregate labour in foul-aired stopes and roaring
mill they could see in one massive lump. They could not see the
aggregate of little bites that reduced the imposing mass to a tiny
dribble which sometimes, but not always, fell into the treasury of the
company. They would not believe, even if they saw.

For these reasons, great is the glory of the leaders of labour who are
rising to-day, holding restraining hands on turbulent ignorance and
taking wise counsel with equally glorious leaders who are striving to
enforce the truth that all gain over just compensation is but a sacred
trust for the benefit of mankind. These things are coming to be so
to-day. But so long as sons of wealth are unmindful of their
obligations, and so long as ignorance breathes forth noxious vapours to
poison its victims, so long will there be battles to be fought and
victories to be won.

Thus was the way made ready for the feet of one of the labourer's
mistaken friends. Morrison was wily, if not wise. He distinguished
between oratory and logic. He kindled the flames of indignation and
resentment with the one and fed them with the other. But in the
performance of each duty he never lost sight of himself.

Under the slack management of previous administrations, the conditions
of the Rainbow mine and mill had rapidly deteriorated. In the mine a
hundred sticks of powder were used or wasted where one would have
sufficed. Hundreds of feet of fuse, hundreds of detonators, and pounds
of candles were thrown away. Men would climb high in the mine to their
work only to return later for some tool needed, or because their
supplies had not lasted through their shift. If near the close of hours,
they would sit and gossip with their fellow-workmen. Drills and hammers
would be buried in the stope, or thrown over the dump. Rock would be
broken down with the ore, and the mixed mass, half ore and half rock,
would be divided impartially and sent, one-half to the dump and one-half
to the mill.

At the mill was the same shiftless state of affairs. Tools once used
were left to be hunted for the next time they were wanted. On the night
shift the men slept at their posts or deserted them for the hilarious
attractions of the Blue Goose. The result was that the stamps, unfed,
having no rock to crush, pounded steel on steel, so that stamps were
broken, bossheads split, or a clogged screen would burst, leaving the
half-broken ore to flow over the plates and into the wash-sluices with
none of its value extracted.

Among the evils that followed in the train of slack and ignorant
management not the least was the effect upon the men. If a rich pocket
of ore was struck the men stole it all. They argued that it was theirs,
because they found it. The company would never miss it; the company was
making enough, anyway, and, besides, the superintendent never knew when
a pocket was opened, and never told them that it was not theirs. These
pilfered pockets were always emptied at the Blue Goose. On these
occasions the underground furnace glowed ruddily, and Pierre would stow
the pilfered gold among other pilfered ingots, and would in due time
emerge from his subterranean retreat in such cheerful temper that he had
no heart to browbeat the scared-looking Madame. Whereupon Madame would
be divided in her honest soul between horror at Pierre's wrong-doing and
thankfulness for a temporary reprieve from his biting tongue.

The miners stole supplies of all kinds and sold them or gave them to
their friends. Enterprising prospectors, short of funds, as is usually
the case, "got a job at the mine," then, having stocked up, would call
for their time and go forth to hunt a mine of their own.

The men could hardly be blamed for these pilferings. A slack land-owner
who makes no protest against the use of his premises as a public
highway, in time not only loses his property but his right to protest as
well.

So it happened at the Rainbow mine and mill that, as no locks were
placed on magazines, as the supply-rooms were open to all, and as no
protest was made against the men helping themselves, the men came to
feel that they were taking only what belonged to them, whatever use was
made of the appropriated supplies.

These were some of the more obvious evils which Firmstone set about
remedying. Magazines and supply-rooms were locked and supplies were
issued on order. Workmen ceased wandering aimlessly about while on
shift. Rock and ore were broken separately, and if an undue proportion
of rock was delivered at the mill it was immediately known at the mine
and in unmistakable terms.

The effect of these changes on the men was various. Some took an honest
pride in working under a man who knew his business. More chafed and
fumed under unwonted restrictions. These were artfully nursed by the
wily Morrison, with the result that a dangerous friction was developing
between the better disposed men and the restless growlers. This feeling
was also diligently stimulated by Morrison.

"Go easy," was his caution; "but warm it up for them."

"Warm it up for them!" indignantly protested one disciple. "Them fellers
is the old man's pets."

Morrison snorted.

"Pets, is it? Pets be damned! It's only a matter of time when the old
man will be dancing on a hot stove, if you've got any sand in your
crops. The foreman's more than half with you now. Get the union
organised, and we'll run out the pets and the old man too. You'll never
get your rights till you're organised."

At the mill, Firmstone's nocturnal visits at any unexpected hour made
napping a precarious business and visits to the Blue Goose not to be
thought of.

The results of Firmstone's vigilance showed heavily in reduced expenses
and in increased efficiency of labour; but these items were only
negative. The fact remained that the yield of the mill in bullion was
but slightly increased and still subject to extreme variations. The
conclusion was inevitable that the mill was being systematically
plundered. Firmstone knew that there must be collusion, not only among
the workmen, but among outsiders as well. This was an obvious fact, but
the means to circumvent it were not so obvious. He knew that there were
workmen in the mill who would not steal a penny, but he also knew that
these same men would preserve a sullen silence with regard to the
peculations of their less scrupulous fellows. It was but the grown-up
sense of honour, that will cause a manly schoolboy to be larruped to the
bone before he will tell about his errant and cowardly fellow.

Firmstone was well aware of the simmering discontent which his rigid
discipline was arousing. He regretted it, but he was hopeful that the
better element among the men would yet gain the ascendant.

"He's square," remarked one of his defenders. "There was a mistake in my
time, last payroll, and he looked over the time himself." "That's so,"
in answer to one objector. "I was in the office and saw him."

"You bet he's square," broke in another. "Didn't I get a bad pair of
boots out of the commissary, and didn't he give me another pair in their
place? That's what."

If Morrison and Pierre had not been in active evidence Firmstone would
have won the day without a fight.



CHAPTER V

_Bennie Opens the Pot and Firmstone Comes in_


Firmstone was late to breakfast the day of Zephyr's departure, and
Bennie was doing his best to restrain his impatience. When at last the
late breakfaster appeared, Bennie's manner was noticeably different from
the ordinary. He was a stanch defender of the rights of the American
citizen, an uncompromising opponent of companies and trusts, a fearless
and aggressive exponent of his own views; but withal a sincere admirer
and loyal friend of Firmstone. Bennie knew that in his hands were very
strong cards, and he was casting about in his mind for the most
effective mode of playing them.

"Good morning, Bennie," Firmstone called out, on entering the
dining-room.

Bennie returned the greeting with a silent nod. Firmstone glanced at the
clock.

"It is pretty late for good morning and breakfast, that's a fact."

Bennie disappeared in the kitchen. He returned and placed Firmstone's
breakfast before him.

"What's the matter, Bennie?" Firmstone thought he knew, but events were
soon to show him his mistake.

"Matter enough, Mr. Firmstone, as you'll soon find." Bennie was getting
alarming.

Firmstone ate in silence. Bennie watched with impassive dignity.

"Is your breakfast all right?" he finally asked, unbendingly.

"All right, Bennie. Better than I deserve, pouncing on you at this
hour." He again looked up at the clock.

"Come when you like, late or early, you'll get the best I can give you."
Bennie was still rigid.

Firmstone was growing more puzzled. Bennie judged it time to support his
opening.

"I'm an outspoken man, Mr. Firmstone, as becomes an American citizen. If
I take an honest dollar, I'll give an honest return."

"No one doubts that, Bennie." Firmstone leaned back in his chair. He was
going to see it out.

Bennie's support was rapidly advancing.

"You know, Mr. Firmstone, that I have my opinions and speak my mind
about the oppression of the poor by the rich. I left my home in the East
to come out here where it was less crowded and where there was more
freedom. It's only change about, I find. In the East the rich were
mostly Americans who oppressed the dagoes, being for their own good; but
here it's the other way. Here's Mike the Finn, and Jansen the Swede, and
Hansen the Dane, and Giuseppe the dago, and Pat the Irishman the boss of
the whole dirty gang. Before God I take shame to myself for being an
honest man and American born, and having this thieving gang to tell me
how long I can work, and where I can buy, with a swat in the jaw and a
knife in my back for daring to say my soul is my own and sticking to it
against orders from the union."

"Thunder and Mars, Bennie! What's the matter?"

Bennie's reserves came up with a rush. He thrust open the door of his
room and jerked a blanket from the sacks which Zephyr had left there.

Firmstone gave a low whistle of surprise.

"There's matter for you, Mr. Firmstone."

"Where under the sun did you get these?" Firmstone had opened one of the
sacks and was looking at the ore.

"I didn't get them. Zephyr got them and asked me to see that you had
them. There's a man for you! 'Twas little white paint the Lord had when
he came West, but he put two good coats of it on Zephyr's back."

Firmstone made no reply to Bennie's eulogy of Zephyr. He closed and
retied the opened sacks.

"There's mighty interesting reading in these sacks, Bennie."

"Those were Zephyr's words, sir."

"That ore was taken from the mill last night. Luna was on shift, Long
was sick, and Luna put Morrison in his place." Firmstone looked at
Bennie inquisitively. He was trying his facts on the cook.

"That's so, sir," remarked Bennie. "But you'll never make a hen out of a
rooster by pulling out his tail-feathers."

Firmstone laughed.

"Well, Bennie, that's about the way I sized it up myself. Keep quiet
about this. I want to get these sacks down to the office some time
to-day." He left the room and went to the office.

Luna reported to the office that night as usual before going on shift.
Firmstone gave a few directions, and then turned to his work.

Shortly after twelve Luna was surprised at seeing the superintendent
enter the mill.

"Cut off the feed in the batteries."

The order was curt, and Luna, much bewildered, hastened to obey.

Firmstone followed him around back of the batteries, where automatic
machines dropped the ore under the stamps. Firmstone waited until there
began to come the sound of dropping stamps pounding on the naked dies,
then he gave orders to hang up the stamps and shut down the mill. This
was done. The rhythmic cadence of the falling stamps was broken into
irregular blows as one by one the stamps were propped up above the
revolving cams, till finally only the hum of pulleys and the click of
belts were heard. These sounds also ceased as the engine slowed and
finally stopped.

"Shall I lay off the men?" asked the foreman.

"No. Have them take out the screens."

This also was done, and then Firmstone, accompanied by Luna, went from
battery to battery. They first scraped out the loose rock, and
afterward, with a long steel spoon, took samples of the crushed ore from
between the dies. The operation was a long one; but at length the last
battery was sampled. Firmstone put the last sample in a sack with the
others.

"Shall I carry the sack for you?" asked Luna.

"No. Start up the mill, and then come to the office." Firmstone turned,
and, with the heavy sack on his shoulder, left the mill.

There were a hundred stamps in the mill. The stamps were divided into
batteries of ten each. Each battery was driven separately by a belt from
the main shaft. There was a man in attendance on every twenty stamps.
Firmstone had taken samples from each battery, and each sample bore the
number of the battery. He had taken especial care to call this to Luna's
attention.

The foreman saw to replacing the screens, and, when the mill was again
started, he went to the superintendent's office. He knew very well that
an unpleasant time awaited him; but, like the superintendent, he had his
course of action mapped out. The foreman was a very wise man within a
restricted circle. He knew that the battle was his, if he fought within
its circumference. Outside of the circle he did not propose to be
tempted. Firmstone could not force him out. Those who could, would not
attempt it for very obvious and personal reasons. Luna was aware that
Firmstone knew that there was thieving, and was morally certain as to
who were the thieves, but lacked convincing proof. This was his
protecting circle. Firmstone could not force him out of it. Morrison and
Pierre knew not only of the thieving, but the thieves. They could force
him out, but they would not. Luna was tranquil.

Luna saw Firmstone in the laboratory as he entered the railed enclosure.
He opened the railing gate, passed through the office, and entered the
laboratory. Firmstone glanced at the foreman, but he met only a stolid
face with no sign of confusion.

"Pan these samples down."

Without a word Luna emptied the sacks into little pans and carefully
washed off the crushed rock, leaving the grains of gold in the pans.
Eight of the pans showed rich in gold, the last two hardly a trace.

Firmstone placed the pans in order.

"What do you make of that?" he asked, sharply.

Luna shook his head.

"That's too much for me."

"What batteries did these two come from?" Firmstone pointed to the two
plates.

"Nine and Ten," the foreman answered, promptly.

"Who works on Nine and Ten?"

"Clancy day and Long night," was the ready answer.

"Did Long work last night?"

"No. He was sick. I told you that, and I asked you if I should put on
Morrison. You didn't say nothing against it."

"Did Nine and Ten run all night?"

"Except for an hour or two, maybe. Nine worked a shoe loose and Ten
burst a screen. That's likely to happen any time. We had to hang up for
that."

"You say you can give no explanation of this?" Firmstone pointed to the
empty pans.

"No, sir."

"Look this over." Firmstone went to his desk in the office and Luna
followed him. He picked up a paper covered with figures marked "Mine
Assays, May," and handed it to the foreman.

Luna glanced over the sheet, then looked inquiringly at Firmstone.

"Well?" he finally ventured.

"What do you make of it?" Firmstone asked.

Luna turned to the assay sheet.

"The average of two hundred assays taken twice a week, twenty-five
assays each time, gives twenty-five dollars a ton for the month of May."
Luna read the summary.

Firmstone wrote the number on a slip of paper, then took the sheet from
the foreman.

"You understand, then, that the ore taken from the mine and sent to the
mill in May averaged twenty-five dollars a ton?"

"Yes, that's right." Luna was getting puzzled.

"Very good. You're doing well. Now look at this sheet." Firmstone handed
him another paper. "Now read the summary."

Luna read aloud:

"Average loss in tailings, daily samples, May, two dollars and
seventy-five cents a ton."

"You understand from this, do you not, that the gold recovered from the
plates should then be twenty-two dollars and twenty-five cents a ton?"

"Yes, sir." Luna's face was reddening; beads of perspiration were oozing
from his forehead.

"Well, then," pursued Firmstone, "just look over this statement. Read it
out loud."

Luna took the paper offered him, and began to read.

"What do you make out of that?" Firmstone was looking straight into the
foreman's eyes.

Luna tried his best to return the look, but his eyes dropped.

"I don't know," he stammered.

"Then I'll tell you. Not that I need to, but I want you to understand
that I know. It means that out of every ton of ore that was delivered to
this mill in May thirteen dollars and forty-five cents have been
stolen."

Luna fairly gasped. He was startled by the statement to a cent of the
amount stolen. He and his confederates had been compelled to take
Pierre's unvouched statements. Therefore he could not controvert the
figures, had he chosen. He did not know the amount.

"There must have been a mistake, sir."

"Mistake!" Firmstone blazed out. "What do you say to this?"

He pulled a canvas from the sacks of ore that had been brought to the
office. He expected to see Luna collapse entirely. Instead, a look of
astonishment spread over the foreman's face.

"I'll give up!" he exclaimed. He looked Firmstone squarely in the face.
He saw his way clearly now. "You're right," he said. "There has been
stealing. It's up to me. I'll fire anyone you say, or I'll quit myself,
or you can fire me. But, before God, I never stole a dollar from the
Rainbow mill." He spoke the literal truth. The spirit of it did not
trouble him.

Firmstone was astonished at the man's affirmations, but they did not
deceive him, nor divert him from his purpose.

"I'm not going to tell you whom to let out or take in," he replied. "I'm
holding you responsible. I've told you a good deal, but not all, by a
good long measure. This stealing has got to stop, and you can stop it.
You would better stop it. Now go back to your work."

That very night Firmstone wrote a full account of the recovery of the
stolen ore, the evils which he found on taking charge of the property,
the steps which he proposed for their elimination. He closed with these
words:

"It must be remembered that these conditions have had a long time in
which to develop. At the very least, an equal time must be allowed for
their elimination; but I believe that I shall be successful."



CHAPTER VI

_The Family Circle_


On the morning of Élise's strike for freedom, Pierre came to breakfast
with his usual atmosphere of compressed wrath. He glanced at his
breakfast which Madame had placed on the table at the first sound which
heralded his approach. There was nothing there to break the tension and
to set free the pent-up storm within. Much meditation, with fear and
trembling, had taught Madame the proper amount of butter to apply to the
hot toast, the proportion of sugar and cream to add to the coffee, and
the exact shade of crisp and brown to put on his fried eggs. But a man
bent on trouble can invariably find a cause for turning it loose.

"Where is Élise?" he demanded.

"Élise," Madame answered, evasively, "she is around somewhere."

"Somewhere is nowhere. I demand to know." Pierre looked threatening.

"Shall I call her?" Madame vouchsafed.

"If you know not where she is, how shall you call her? Heh? If you know,
mek ansaire!"

"I don't know where she is."

"_Bien!_" Pierre reseated himself and began to munch his toast savagely.

Madame was having a struggle with herself. It showed plainly on the
thin, anxious face. The lips compressed with determination, the eyes
set, then wavered, and again the indeterminate lines of acquiescent
subjection gained their accustomed ascendency. Back and forth assertion
and complaisance fled and followed; only assertion was holding its own.

The eggs had disappeared, also the greater part of the toast. Pierre
swallowed the last of his coffee, and, without a look at his silent
wife, began to push his chair from the table. Madame's voice startled
him.

"Élise is sixteen," she ventured.

Pierre fell back in his chair, astonished. The words were simple and
uncompromising, but the intonation suggested that they were not final.

"Well?" he asked, explosively.

"When are you going to send Élise away to school?"

"To school?" Pierre was struggling with his astonishment.

"Yes." Madame was holding herself to her determination with an effort.

"To school? _Baste!_ She read, she write, she mek ze figure, is it not
suffice? Heh?"

"That makes no difference. You promised her father that you would send
her away to school."

Pierre looked around apprehensively.

"Shut up! Kip quiet!"

"I won't shut up, and I won't keep quiet." Madame's blood was warming.
The sensation was as pleasant as it was unusual. "I will keep quiet for
myself. I won't for Élise."

"Élise! Élise! Ain't I do all right by Élise?" Pierre asked,
aggressively. "She have plenty to eat, plenty to wear, you tek good care
of her. Don't I tek good care, also? Me? Pierre? She mek no complain,
heh?"

"That isn't what her father wanted, and it isn't what you promised him."

Pierre looked thoughtful; his face softened slightly.

"We have no children, you and me. We have honly Élise, one li'l girl,
_la bonne_ Élise. You wan' mek me give up _la bonne_ Élise? _P'quoi?_"
His face blazed again as he looked up wrathfully. "You wan' mek her go
to school! _P'quoi?_ So she learn mek _teedle, teedle_ on ze piano? So
she learn speak gran'? So she tink of me, Pierre, one li'l Frenchmens,
not good enough for her, for mek her shame wiz her gran' friends? Heh?
Who mek ze care for ze li'l babby? Who mek her grow up strong? Heh? You
mek her go school. You mek ze gran' dam-zelle. You mek her go back to
her pip'l. You mek me, Pierre, you, grow hol' wiz noddings? Hall ze res'
ze time wiz no li'l Élise? How you like li'l Élise go away and mek ze
marry, and w'en she have li'l children, she say to her li'l children,
'_Mes enfants, voila!_ Pierre and Madame, _très bon_ Pierre and Madame,'
and _les petits enfants_ mek big eyes at Pierre and Madame and li'l
Élise? She say, '_Pauvres enfants_, Pierre and Madame will not hurt you.
_Bon_ Pierre! _Bonne_ Madame!'" Pierre made a gesture of deprecating
pity.

Madame was touched to the quick. Starting tears dimmed the heavy eyes.
Had she not thought of all this a thousand times? If Pierre cared so
much for li'l Élise how much more reason had she to care? Li'l Élise had
been the only bright spot in her dreary life, yet she was firm. Élise
had been very dear to her in the past, but her duty was plain. Her voice
was gentler.

"Élise is not ours, Pierre. It is harder to do now what we ought to have
done long ago."

Pierre rose and walked excitedly back and forth. He was speaking half to
himself, half to Madame.

"Sixtin year 'go li'l Élise mammy die. Sixtin year! She no say, 'Madame
Marie, tek my li'l babby back Eas' to my friend, _hein_? No. She say,
'Madame Marie, my poor li'l babby ain' got no mammy no mo'. Tek good
care my poor li'l babby.' Then she go die. We mek good care of ze li'l
Élise, me and you, heh? We sen' away Élise? _Sacré non!_ Nevaire!"
Pierre stopped, and looked fiercely at Madame.

"Yes," answered Madame. "Her mammy asked me to care for her little baby,
but it was for her father. When her father died he made you promise to
give her to her friends. Don't I know how hard it is?" Her tears were
flowing freely now. "Every year we said, 'She is yet too young to go.
Next year we will keep our promise,' and next year she was dearer to us.
And now she is sixteen. She must go."

Pierre broke in fiercely:

"She shall not! Sixtin year? Sixtin year she know honly me, Pierre, her
daddy, and you, her mammy. What you tink, heh? Élise go school in one
beeg city, heh? She mek herself choke wiz ze brick house and ze stone
street. She get sick and lonesome for ze mountain, for her hol' daddy
and her hol' mammy, for ze grass and ze flower."

"That is for her to say. Send her away as you promised. Then"--Madame's
heavy eyes grew deep, almost beautiful--"then, if she comes back to us!"

Pierre turned sullenly.

"She is mine. Mine and yours. She shall stay."

Madame's tears ceased flowing.

"She shall go." Her temerity frightened her. "I will tell her all if you
don't send her away."

Pierre did not explode, as she expected. Instead, there was the calm of
invincible purpose. He held up one finger impressively.

"I settle hall zis. _Écoutez!_ She shall marry. Right away. Queek. Da's
hall." He left the room before Madame had time to reply.

Madame was too terrified to think. The possibility conveyed in her
husband's declaration had never suggested itself to her. Élise was still
the little baby nestling in her arms, the little girl prattling and
playing indoors and out, on the wide ranch, and later, Madame shuddered,
when Pierre had abandoned the ranch for the Blue Goose, waiting at the
bar, keeping Pierre's books, redeeming checks at the desk, moving out
and in among the throng of coarse, uncouth men, but through it all the
same beautiful, wilful, loving little girl, so dear to Madame's heart,
so much of her life. What did it matter that profanity died on the lips
of the men in her presence, that at her bidding they ceased to drink to
intoxication, that hopeless wives came to her for counsel, that their
dull faces lighted at her words, that in sickness or death she was to
them a comfort and a refuge?

What if Pierre had fiercely protected her from the knowledge of the more
loathsome vices of a mining camp? It was no more than right. Pierre
loved her. She knew that. Pierre was hoarding every shining dollar that
came to his hand. Was he lavish in his garnishment of the Blue Goose? It
was only for the more effective luring of other gold from the pockets of
the careless, unthinking men who worked in mines or mills, or roamed
among the mountains or washed the sands of every stream, spending all
they found, hoping for and talking of the wealth which, if it came,
would only smite them with more rapid destruction. And all these little
rivulets, small each one alone, united at the Blue Goose into a growing
stream that went no farther. For what end? Madame knew. For Pierre, life
began and ended in Élise. Madame knew, and sympathized with this; but
her purpose was not changed. She knew little of life beyond the
monotonous desolation of a western ranch, the revolting glamour of a
gambling resort, where men revelled in the fierce excitement of
shuffling cards and clicking chips, returning to squalid homes and to
spiritless women, weighed down and broken with the bearing of many
children, and the merciless, unbroken torture of thankless, thoughtless
demands upon their lives. Madame saw all this. She saw and felt the
dreary hopelessness of it all. Much as she loved Élise, if it parted her
from all that made life endurable she would not shrink from the
sacrifice. She knew nothing of life beyond her restricted circle, but
anything outside this circle was a change, and any change must be for
the better.

"She shall marry. Right away." Pierre's words came to her again with
overwhelming terror. Overwhelming, because she saw no way of averting
the threatened blow.

From behind, Madame felt two soft hands close on her straining eyes, and
a sympathetic voice:

"Has daddy been scolding you again? What was it about this time? Was it
because I ran away this morning? I did run away, you know."

For reply Madame only bowed her head from between the clasping hands
that for the first time had distress instead of comfort for her groping
soul. She did not pray for guidance. She never thought of praying. Why
should she? The prisoned seed, buried in the dank and quickening soil,
struggles instinctively toward the source of light and strength. But
what instinct is there to guide the human soul that, quickened by
unselfish love, is yet walled in by the Stygian darkness of an ignorant
life?

Madame's hands were clinched. Her hot eyes were dry and hard. No light!
No help! Only a fierce spirit of resistance. At length she was conscious
of Élise standing before her, half terrified, but wholly determined. Her
eyes moistened, then grew soft. Her outstretched arms sought the girl
and drew her within their convulsive grasp.

"My poor Élise! My poor little girl, with no one to help her but me!"

"What is it, mammy? What is it?"

Madame only moaned.

"My poor little Élise! My poor little girl!"

Élise freed herself from the resisting arms.

"Tell me at once!" She stamped her foot impatiently.

Madame sprang to her feet.

"You shall not marry that man. You shall not!" Her voice rose. "I will
tell you all--everything. I will, if he kills me. I will! I will!"

The door from the saloon was violently opened, and Pierre strode in. He
pushed Élise aside, and, with narrowed eyes and uplifted hand,
approached his wife.

"You will? You will, heh?"

The threatening blow fell heavily, but upon Élise. She thrust forth her
hands. Pierre stumbled backward before the unexpected assault. His eyes,
blazing with ungoverned fury, swept around the room. They rested upon a
stick. He grasped it, and turned once more toward Madame.

"You will! You will! I teach you bettaire. I teach you say 'I will' to
me! I teach you!" Then he stopped. He was looking squarely into the
muzzle of a silver-mounted revolver held in a steady hand and levelled
by a steady eye.

Pierre was like a statue. Another look came into his eyes. Youth toyed
with death, and was not afraid. Pierre knew that. At threatening weapons
in the hands of drink-crazed men Pierre smiled with scorn. The bad man
stood in terror of the law as well as of Pierre. But when determined
youth laid hold on death and shook it in his face Pierre knew enough to
stand aside.

Élise broke the tense silence.

"Don't you ever dare to strike mammy again. Don't you dare!"

Without a word Pierre left the room. He had loved Élise before with as
unselfish a love as he could know. But hitherto he had not admired her.
Now he rubbed his hands and chuckled softly, baring his teeth with
unsmiling lips.

"A-a-ah!" he breathed forth. "_Magnifique! Superb! La petite diable!_
She mek ze shoot in her eye! In ze fingaire! She bin shoot her hol' man,
her hol' daddy, _moi!_ Pierre." Pierre thoughtfully rubbed his smooth
chin. "_La petite diable!_"

Poor Madame! Poor Pierre! The dog chases his tail with undiminished
zest, and is blissfully rewarded if a straggling hair but occasionally
brushes his nose. He licks his accessible paws, impelled alone by a
sense of duty.



CHAPTER VII

_Mr. Morrison Tackles a Man with a Mind of His Own and a Man without
One_


Mr. Morrison was a slick bird--in fact, a very slick bird. It was his
soul's delight to preen his unctuous feathers and to shiver them into
the most effective and comfortable position, to settle his head between
his shoulders, and, with moistened lips, to view his little world from
dreamy, half-closed eyes. This, however, only happened in restful
moments of complacent self-contemplation. He never allowed these moods
to interfere with business. He had broached the subject of marriage to
Pierre, and Pierre had of course fallen in with his views. The fact that
Élise evidently loathed him disturbed no whit his placid mind. He was in
no hurry. He assumed Élise as his own whenever he chose to say the word.
He regarded her in much the same way as a half-hungered epicure a
toothsome dinner, holding himself aloof until his craving stomach should
give the utmost zest to his viands without curtailing the pleasure of
his palate by ravenous haste. He served Pierre with diligence and
fidelity. The Blue Goose would sooner or later come to him with Élise.

He had ambitions, political especially, not acquired, but instinctive.
Not that he felt inspired with a mission to do good unto others, but
that others should do good unto him, and also that the particular kind
of good should be of his own choosing. He knew very well the
temperaments of his chosen constituency, and he adapted himself to their
impressionable peculiarities. To this end he dispensed heavily padded
gratuities with much ostentation on selected occasions, but gathered his
tolls in merciless silence. He did this without fear, for he knew that
the blare of the multitude would drown the cries of the stricken few.

Mr. Morrison had long meditated upon the proper course to take in order
best to compass his ends. The unrest among the employees of the Rainbow
Company came to him unsought, and he at once grasped the opportunity.
The organisation of a miners' and millmen's union would be an obvious
benefit to the rank and file; their manifestation of gratitude would
naturally take the very form he most desired. To this end before the
many he displayed the pyrotechnics of meaningless oratory, in much the
same manner as a strutting peacock his brilliant tail; but individuals
he hunted with nickel bullets and high-power guns. On various occasions
he had displayed the peacock tail; this particular afternoon he took
down his flat-trajectoried weapon and went forth to gun for Bennie.

Bennie had washed the dinner dishes, reset his table, prepared for the
coming meal, and now, as was his custom, was lying in his bunk, with an
open book in his hands, prepared to read or doze, as the spirit moved
him.

Mr. Morrison appeared before him.

"Howdy, Bennie! Taking a nap?"

"I'm taking nothing but what's my own." Bennie looked meaningly at
Morrison.

Morrison slipped into what he mistook for Bennie's mood.

"You're wise, if you get it all. Many's the ignorant devil that takes
only what's given him and asks no questions, worse luck to him!"

"You'll do well to go on," remarked Bennie, placidly. "There's many that
gets more, and then damns the gift and the giver."

"And just what might that mean, Bennie?" Morrison looked a little
puzzled.

"It means that, if more got what they deserved, 'twould be better for
honest men." Bennie was very decided.

Morrison's face cleared. He held out his hand.

"Shake!" he said.

Bennie took the proffered hand.

"Here's hoping you'll come to your own!" he remarked, grimly.

The clasped hands each fell to its own. Morrison's hands went to his
pocket as he stretched out his crossed legs with a thankful look on his
face.

"I'm not specially troubled about myself. I've had fairly good luck
looking out for Patrick Morrison, Esq. It's these poor devils around
here that's troubling me. They get nipped and pinched at every turn of
the cards."

"It's God's truth you're talking. And you want to help them same poor
devils?"

"That's what."

"Then listen to me. Smash your roulette and faro. Burn down the Blue
Goose, first taking out your whisky that'll burn only the throats of the
fools who drink it. Do that same, and you'll see fat grow on lean bones,
and children's pants come out of the shade of the patches."

Morrison lifted his hat, scratching his head meditatively.

"That isn't exactly what I'm at."

"Eagles to snowbirds 'tis not!" put in Bennie, aside.

Morrison gave no heed to the interruption.

"Every man has the right to spend his own money in his own way."

"The poor devils get the money and the Blue Goose furnishes the way,"
Bennie again interpolated.

Morrison was getting uneasy. He was conscious that he was not making
headway.

"You can't do but one thing at a time in good shape."

"You're a damned liar! At the Blue Goose you're doing everyone all the
time."

Morrison rose impatiently. The nickel bullets were missing their billet.
He began tentatively to unfold the peacock's tail.

"You see," he said, "it's like this. In union is strength. What makes
the rich richer? Because they hang together like swarming bees. You pick
the honey of one and you get the stings of all. Learn from the rich to
use the rich man's weapons. Let us poor workingmen band together like
brothers in a common cause. Meet union with union, strength with
strength. Then, and only then, can we get our own."

"It took more than one cat to make strings for that fiddle," Bennie
remarked, thoughtfully. "Just what might that mean?"

Morrison again looked puzzled. He went back to his bullets.

"To be specific," he spoke impressively, "as things stand now, if one
workingman thinks he ought to have more pay he goes to the company and
asks for it. The company says no. If he gets troublesome, they fire him.
If one man works in a close breast with foul air the company tells him
to go back to his work or quit. It costs money to timber bad ground. One
poor workman's life doesn't count for much. It's cheaper for the company
to take chances than to put in timber." He paused, looking sharply at
Bennie.

"You're talking sense now. How do you propose to help it?"

Morrison felt solid ground beneath his feet.

"Do as I said. Learn from the rich. Unite. If the men are not getting
fair wages, the union can demand more."

Bennie lifted an inquiring finger.

"One word there. You want to organise a union?"

"That's it. That's the stuff." Morrison was flatteringly acquiescent. "A
company can turn down one man, but the union will shove it up to them
hard."

"If one man breaks five tons of ore a day, and another man breaks only
one, will the union see that both get the same pay?"

"A workingman is a workingman." Morrison spoke less enthusiastically. "A
man that puts in his time earns all that he gets."

Bennie looked musingly at the toes of his boots.

"The union will equalise the pay?"

"You bet it will!"

"They'll make the company ventilate the mines and keep bad ground
timbered?"

"They'll look after these things sharp, and anything else that comes
up."

"The union will run the company, but who'll run the union?"

Morrison waxed enthusiastic.

"We'll take our turn at bossing all right. Every man in the union stands
on the same floor, and when any of the boys have a grievance the
president will see them through. The president and the executive
committee can tie up the whole camp if the company bucks."

"Is the union organised?" asked Bennie.

"Not yet. It's like this." Morrison's voice had a tinge of patronage.
"You see, I want to get a few of the level-headed men in the camp worked
up to the idea; the rest will come in, hands down."

"Who have you got strung?"

"Well, there's Luna, and----"

"Luna's a crowd by himself. He's got more faces than a town-clock
telling time to ten streets. Who else?"

"There's Thompson, the mine foreman----"

"Jim Thompson? Don't I know him now? He'll throw more stunts than a
small boy with a bellyful of green apples. Who else?"

Morrison looked a little sulky.

"Well, how about yourself. That's what I'm here to find out."

Bennie glared up wrathfully.

"You'll take away no doubts about me, if my tongue isn't struck by a
palsy till it can't bore the wax of your ears. When it comes to bosses,
I'll choose my own. I'm American and American born. I'd rather be bossed
by a silk tile and kid gloves than by a Tipperary hat and a shillalah,
with a damned three-cornered shamrock riding the necks of both. It's a
pretty pass we've come to if we've got to go to Irish peat-bogs and
Russian snow-banks to find them as will tell us our rights and how to
get them, and then import dagoes with rings in their ears and Hungarians
with spikes in their shoes to back us up. Let me talk a bit! I get my
seventy-five dollars a month for knowing my business and attending to
it, because my grub goes down the necks of the men instead of out on the
dump; because I give more time to a side of bacon than I do to
organising unions. And I'll tell you some more facts. The rich are
growing richer for using what they have, and the poor are growing poorer
because they don't know enough to handle what they've got. Organise a
union for keeping damned fools out of the Blue Goose, and from going
home and lamming hell out of their wives and children, and I'll talk
with you. As it is, the sooner you light out the more respect I'll have
for the sense of you that I haven't seen."

Morrison was blazing with anger.

"You'll sing another tune before long. We propose to run every scab out
of the country."

"Run, and be damned to you! I've got a thousand-acre ranch and five
hundred head of cattle. I've sucked it from the Rainbow at seventy-five
a month, and I've given value received, without any union to help me.
Only take note of this. I've laid my eggs in my own nest, and not at the
Blue Goose."

Morrison turned and left the room. Over his shoulder he flung back:

"This isn't the last word, you damned scab! You'll hear from me again."

"'Tis not the nature of a pig to keep quiet with a dog at his heels."
Bennie stretched his neck out of the door to fire his parting shot.

Morrison went forth with a vigorous flea in each ear, which did much to
disturb his complacency. Bennie had not made him thoughtful, only
vengeful. There is nothing quite so discomposing as the scornful
rejection of proffers of self-seeking philanthropy. Bennie's indignation
was instinctive rather than analytical, the inherent instinct that puts
up the back and tail of a new-born kitten at its first sight of a
benevolent-appearing dog.

Morrison had not gone far from the boarding-house before he chanced
against Luna.

Morrison was the last person Luna would have wished to meet. Since his
interview with Firmstone he had scrupulously avoided the Blue Goose, and
he had seen neither Morrison nor Pierre. His resolution to mend his ways
was the result of fear, rather than of change of heart. Neither Morrison
nor Pierre had fear. They were playing safe. Luna felt their
superiority; he was doing his best to keep from their influence.

"Howdy!"

"Howdy!" Luna answered.

"Where've you been this long time?" asked Morrison, suavely.

Luna did not look up.

"Down at the mill, of course."

"What's going on?" pursued Morrison. "You haven't been up lately."

"There's been big things going on. Pierre's little game's all off." Luna
shrank from a direct revelation.

"Oh, drop this! What's up?"

"I'll tell you what's up." Luna looked defiant. "You know the last lot
of ore you pinched? Well, the old man's got it, and, what's more, he's
on to your whole business."

Morrison's face set.

"Look here now, Luna. You just drop that little _your_ business. It
looks mighty suspicious, talking like that. I don't know what you mean.
If you've been pulling the mill and got caught you'd better pick out
another man to unload on besides me."

"I never took a dollar from the mill, and I told the old man so. I----"

But Morrison interrupted:

"You've been squealing, have you? Well, you just go on, only remember
this. If you're going to set in a little game of freeze-out, you play
your cards close to your coat."

Luna saw the drift of Morrison's remarks, and hastened to defend
himself.

"It's gospel truth. I haven't squealed." He gave a detailed account of
his midnight interview with Firmstone, defining sharply between his
facts and his inferences. He finally concluded: "The old man's sharp.
There isn't a corner of the mine he doesn't know, and there isn't a
chink in the mill, from the feed to the tail-sluice, that he hasn't got
his eye on." Luna's mood changed from the defensive to the assertive.
"I'll tell you one thing more. He's square, square as a die. He had me
bunched, but he give me a chance. He told me that I could stop the
stealing at the mill, that I had got to, and, by God, I'm going to, in
spite of hell!"

Morrison was relieved, but a sneer buried the manifestation of his
relief.

"Well," he exclaimed, "of all the soft, easy things I ever saw you're
the softest and the easiest!"

Luna only looked dogged.

"Hard words break no bones," he answered, sullenly.

"That may be," answered Morrison; "but it doesn't keep soft ones from
gumming your wits, that's sure."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean just this. You say the old man had you bunched. Well, he's got
you on your back now, and roped, too."

Luna answered still more sullenly:

"There's more'n one will be roped, then. If it comes to a show-down,
I'll not be alone."

"All right, Mr. Luna." Morrison spoke evenly. "When you feel like
calling the game just go right ahead. I'm not going to stop you."

Luna made no immediate reply. Morrison waited, ostentatiously
indifferent. Luna finally broke the silence.

"I don't see how the old man's got me roped."

"Well, now you're acting as if you had sense. I'll tell you. I'm always
ready to talk to a man that's got sense. Just answer a few straight
questions. In the first place, you've been stealing from the mill."

"I tell you I haven't," broke in Luna; "but I can tell you who has." He
looked sharply at Morrison.

Morrison waved his hand with wearied endurance.

"Well, you're foreman at the mill. If there's been stealing, and you
know your business, you know where it was done and how it was done. If
you don't know your business what are you there for, and how long are
you going to stay? You say yourself the old man is sharp, and he is. How
long is he going to keep either a thief or a fool in your place?"

"I'm not a thief," Luna answered, hotly. "I'm not a fool, either, and
I'm not going to be made one any longer by you, either."

"If you're not a fool listen to me, and keep quiet till I'm through."
Morrison leaned forward, checking his words with his fingers. "The old
man's sharp, and he's got you roped, any turn. There's been stealing at
the mill. You say this. You're foreman there. It doesn't make any
difference whether you stole or someone else. They hold you responsible.
The old man's got the cards in his hands. The men saw him come in the
mill, shut down, and take samples to back him up."

"Well, what of it?"

"What of it, you fool! This is what of it. He's got you just where he
wants you. You'll walk turkey from now on, according to his orders. If
there's any dirty work to be done you'll do it. You squeal or you kick,
and he'll start the whole slide and bury you."

"I'm not obliged to do any dirty work for him or any other man. Not even
for you. I can quit."

"And get another job?" Morrison asked, mockingly.

"That's what."

"Let me just point out a few things. You get mad and quit. Call for your
time. Pack your turkey and go to another mill. They will ask your name.
Then, 'Excuse me a minute.' Then they'll go to a little book, and
they'll find something like this, 'Henry Luna, mill man, foreman Rainbow
mill. Richard Firmstone, superintendent. Discharged on account of
stealing ore from the mill.' Then they'll come back. 'No place for you,
Mr. Luna,' and you'll go on till hell freezes, and that little record of
yours will knock you, every clip. When you wear the skin off your feet,
and the shirt off your back, you'll come back to the Rainbow, and Mr.
Firmstone will politely tell you that, if you've walked the kick out of
you, he'll give you another try."

Luna was open-eyed. He had grasped but one thing.

"What little book are you talking about?" he asked.

"It's known as the Black List, little lambie. You'll know more about it
if you keep on. Every company in Colorado or in the United States has
one. You'll run up against it, all right, if you keep on."

Luna had vague ideas of this powerful weapon; but it had never seemed so
real before. He was growing suspicious. He recalled Firmstone's words,
"I've told you a good deal, but not all by a good long measure." They
had seemed simple and straightforward at the time, but Morrison's
juggling was hazing them.

"What's a fellow to do?" he asked, helplessly.

"Nothing alone, except to take what's given you. You stand alone, and
you'll be cut alone, worked overtime alone, kicked alone, and, when it
gets unendurable, starve alone. But, if you've got any sense or sand,
don't stand alone to get kicked and cuffed and robbed by a company or by
a bunch of companies. Meet union with union, strength with strength,
and, if worst comes to worst, fight with fight. Us workingmen have
things in our own hands, if we stand together." Morrison was watching
the foreman narrowly. "And there's another thing. When a long-toothed,
sharp-nosed, glass-eyed company bull-dog puts up a padded deck on a
workingman, he'll have the backing of the union to put him down."

"The union ain't going to take up no private grievance?" Luna spoke,
half questioningly.

"They ain't, heh? What's it for, then? Bunching us up so they can pick
us off one by one, without hunting us out like a flock of sheep. That
ain't the union." Morrison paused, looking keenly at Luna. "There's no
use scattering. There's nothing as skittish as a pocketful of dollars in
a dress suit. If there's a grievance, private or common, go to the
company in a bunch. Remonstrate. If that don't work, strike, fight,
boycott! No weapons? The poor man's dollar will buy rifles and
cartridges as quick as a rich man's checks. We've got this advantage,
too. Rich men have to hire men to fight for them; but, by God, we can
fight for ourselves!"

Luna's thick wits were vibrating betwixt fear and vengeance. He had all
the ignorant man's fear of superior brains, all the coward's sneaking
resentment of a fancied imposition. He could see that fear had blinded
his eyes to the real but covert threat of Firmstone's words. Here was
his chance to free himself from Firmstone's clutches. Here his chance
for revenge.

Morrison was watching him closely.

"Are you with us, or are you going down alone?"

Luna held out his hand.

"I'm with you, you bet!"

"Come up to the Blue Goose some night when you're on day-shift. We'll
talk things over with Pierre."

Then they parted.



CHAPTER VIII

_Madame Seeks Counsel_


There are many evil things in the world which are best obviated by being
let severely alone.

The clumsy-minded Hercules had to be taught this fact. Tradition relates
that at one time he met an insignificant-looking toad in his path which
he would have passed by in disdain had it not been for its particularly
ugly appearance. Thinking to do the world a service by destroying it he
thumped the reptile with his club, when, to his surprise, instead of
being crushed by the impact, the beast grew to twice its former size.
Repeated and heavier blows only multiplied its dimensions and ugliness,
until at length the thoroughly frightened hero divested himself of his
clothing with the intention of putting an end to his antagonist. His
formidable club was again raised, but before it could descend, he was
counselled to wait. This he did, and to his greater surprise the ugly
beast began to shrink, and finally disappeared.

Pierre had no convenient goddess to instruct him in critical moments, so
he depended on his own wit. Of this he had inherited a liberal portion,
and this by diligent cultivation had been added to manyfold. So it
happened that after Madame's surprising exhibition of an unsuspected
will of her own, and her declaration of her intention to enforce it,
Pierre had studiously let her alone.

This course of action was as surprising to Madame as it was
disconcerting. The consequences were such as her wily husband had
foreseen. Encountering no externally resisting medium, its force was
wasted by internal attrition, so that Madame was being reduced to a
nervous wreck, all of which was duly appreciated by Pierre.

This particular instance, being expanded into a general law, teaches us
that oftentimes the nimble wit of an agile villain prevails against the
clumsy brains of a lofty-minded hero.

Madame had had long years of patient endurance to train her in waiting;
but the endurance had been passive and purposeless, rather than active,
and with a well-defined object. Now that an object was to be attained by
action the lessons of patient endurance counted for naught. Instead of
determined action against her open revolt, Pierre had been smilingly
obsequious and non-resisting.

She knew very well that Pierre had been neither cowed into submission
nor frightened from his purpose; but his policy of non-interference
puzzled and terrified her. She knew not at what moment he might confront
her with a move that she would have neither time nor power to check. In
this state of mind day after day passed by with wearing regularity. She
felt the time going, every moment fraught with the necessity of action,
but without the slightest suggestion as to what she ought to do.
Pierre's toast might be burned to a crisp, his eggs scorched, or his
coffee muddy, but there was no word of complaint. Regular or irregular
hours for meals were passed over with the same discomposing smiles. She
did not dare unburden her mind to Élise, for fear of letting drop some
untimely word which would immediately precipitate the impending crisis.
For the first time in her life Élise was subjected to petulant words and
irritating repulses by the sorely perplexed woman.

One evening, after a particularly trying day during which Élise had been
stung into biting retorts, an inspiration came to Madame that rolled
every threatening cloud from her mind.

The next morning, after long waiting, Pierre came to the dining-room,
but found neither breakfast nor Madame, and for the best of reasons.
With the first grey light of morning, Madame had slipped from the door
of the Blue Goose, and before the sun had gilded the head of Ballard
Mountain she was far up the trail that led to the Inferno.

Zephyr was moving deliberately about a little fire on which his
breakfast was cooking, pursing his lips in meditative whistles, or
engaged in audible discussion with himself on the various topics which
floated through his mind. An unusual clatter of displaced rocks brought
his dialogue to a sudden end; a sharp look down the trail shrank his
lips to a low whistle; the sight of a hard knob of dingy hair, strained
back from a pair of imploring eyes fringed by colourless lashes, swept
his hat from his head, and sent him clattering down to Madame with
outstretched hands.

"You're right, Madame. You're on the right trail, and it's but little
farther. It's rather early for St. Peter, it's likely he's taking his
beauty sleep yet; but I'll see that it's broken, unless you have a
private key to the Golden Gates, which you deserve, if you haven't got
it." His address of welcome had brought him to Madame's side.

Her only reply was a bewildered gaze, as she took his hands. With his
help she soon reached the camp, and seated herself in a rude chair which
Zephyr placed for her.

Zephyr, having seen to the comfort of his guest, returned to his
neglected breakfast.

"It takes a pretty cute angel to catch me unawares," he glanced at
Madame; "but you've got the drop on me this time. Come from an
unexpected direction, too. I've heard tell of Jacob's vision of angels
passing up and down, but I mostly allowed it was a pipe dream. I shall
have to annotate my ideas again, which is no uncommon experience,
statements to the contrary notwithstanding." Zephyr paused from his
labours and looked inquiringly at Madame.

Madame made no reply. Her bewildered calm began to break before the
apparent necessity of saying or doing something. Not having a clear
perception of the fitting thing in either case, she took refuge in a
copious flood of tears.

Zephyr offered no impediment to the flow, either by word or act. He was
not especially acquainted with the ways of women, but being a close
observer of nature and an adept at reasoning from analogy, he assumed
that a sudden storm meant equally sudden clearing, so he held his peace
and, for once, his whistle.

Zephyr's reasoning was correct. Madame's tears dried almost as suddenly
as they had started. Zephyr had filled a cup with coffee, and he
tendered it deferentially to Madame.

"A peaceful stomach favours a placid mind," he remarked, casually;
"which is an old observation that doesn't show its age. From which I
infer that it has a solid foundation of truth."

Madame hesitatingly reached for the proffered coffee, then she thought
better of it, and, much to Zephyr's surprise, again let loose the
fountains of her tears. Zephyr glanced upward with a cocking eye, then
down the steep pass to where the broken line of rock dropped sheer into
Rainbow Gulch where lay Pandora and the Blue Goose.

"About this time look for unsettled weather," he whispered to himself.
Zephyr had dropped analogy and was reasoning from cold facts. He was
thinking of Élise.

Tears often clear the mind, as showers the air, and Madame's tears, with
Zephyr's calm, were rapidly having a salubrious effect. This time she
not only reached for the coffee on her own initiative, but, what was
more to the purpose, drank it. She even ate some of the food Zephyr
placed before her.

Zephyr noted with approval.

"Rising barometer, with freshening winds, growing brisk, clearing
weather."

Madame looked up at Zephyr's almost inaudible words.

"How?" she ventured, timidly.

"That's a fair question," Zephyr remarked, composedly. "The fact is, I
get used to talking to myself and answering a fool according to his
folly. It's hard sledding to keep up. You see, a fellow that gets into
his store clothes only once a year or so don't know where to hang his
thumbs."

Madame looked somewhat puzzled, began a stammering reply, then, dropping
her useless efforts, came to her point at once.

"It's about Élise."

Zephyr answered as directly as Madame had spoken.

"Is Élise in trouble?"

"Yes. I don't know what to do." Madame paused and looked expectantly at
Zephyr.

"Pierre wants her to marry that Morrison?"

Madame gave a sigh of relief. There was no surprise in her face.

"Pierre says she shall not go to school and learn to despise him and me.
He says she will learn to be ashamed of us before her grand friends. Do
you think she will ever be ashamed of me?" There was a yearning look in
the uncomplaining eyes.

Zephyr looked meditatively at the fire, pursed his lips, and,
deliberately thrusting his hand into the bosom of his shirt, drew forth
his harmonica. He softly blew forth a few bars of a plaintive melody,
then, taking the instrument from his lips, began to speak, without
raising his eyes.

"If my memory serves me right, I used to know a little girl on a big
ranch who had a large following of beasts and birds that had got into
various kinds of trouble, owing to their limitations as such. I also
remember that that same little girl on several appropriate occasions
banged hell--if you will excuse a bad word for the sake of good
emphasis--out of two-legged beasts for abusing their superior kind. Who
would fly at the devil to protect a broken-winged gosling. Who would
coax rainbows out of alkali water and sweet-scented flowers out of hot
sand. My more recent memory seems to put it up to me that this same
little girl, with more years on her head and a growing heart under her
ribs, has sat up many nights with sick infants, and fought death from
said infants to the great joy of their owners. From which I infer, if by
any chance said little girl should be lifted up into heaven and seated
at the right hand of God, much trouble would descend upon the Holy
Family if Madame should want to be near her little Élise, and any of the
said Holies should try to stand her off."

Madame did not fully understand, but what did it matter? Zephyr was on
her side. Of that she was satisfied. She vaguely gleaned from his words
that, in his opinion, Élise would always love her and would never desert
her. She hugged this comforting thought close to her cramped soul.

"But," she began, hesitatingly, "Pierre said that she should not go to
school, that she should marry right away."

"Pierre is a very hard shell with a very small kernel," remarked Zephyr.
"Which means that Pierre is going to do what he thinks is well for
Élise. Élise has got a pretty big hold on Pierre."

"But he promised her father that he would give back Élise to her
friends, and now he says he won't."

"Have you told Élise that Pierre is not her father?"

"No; I dare not."

"That's all right. Let me try to think out loud a little. The father and
mother of Élise ran away to marry. That is why her friends know nothing
of her. Her mother died before Élise was six months old, and her father
before she was a yearling. Pierre promised to get Élise back to her
father's family. It wasn't just easy at that time to break through the
mountains and Injuns to Denver. You and Pierre waited for better times.
When better times came you both had grown very fond of Élise. A year or
so would make no difference to those who did not know. Now Élise is
sixteen. Pierre realizes that he must make a choice between now and
never. He's got a very soft spot in his heart for Élise. It's the only
one he ever had, or ever will have. Élise isn't his. That doesn't make
very much difference. Pierre has never had any especial training in
giving up things he wants, simply because they don't belong to him. You
haven't helped train him otherwise." Zephyr glanced at Madame. Madame's
cheeks suddenly glowed, then as suddenly paled. A faint thought of what
might have been years ago came and went. Zephyr resumed: "As long as
Élise is unmarried, there is danger of his being compelled to give her
up. Well," Zephyr's lips grew hard, "you can set your mind at rest.
Élise isn't going to marry Morrison, and when the proper time comes,
which will be soon, Pierre is going to give her up."

Madame had yet one more episode upon which she needed light. She told
Zephyr of Pierre's threatened attack, and of Élise's holding him off at
the point of her revolver. She felt, but was not sure, that Élise by her
open defiance had only sealed her fate.

Zephyr smiled appreciatively.

"She's got her father's grit and Pierre's example. Her sense is rattling
round in her head, as her nonsense is outside of it. She'll do all right
without help, if it comes to that; but it won't."

Madame rose, as if to depart. Zephyr waved her to her seat.

"Not yet. You rest here for a while. It's a hard climb up here and a
hard climb down. I'll shake things up a little on my prospect. I'll be
back by dinner-time."

He picked up a hammer and drills and went still farther up the mountain.
Having reached the Inferno, he began his work. Perhaps he had no thought
of Jael or Sisera; but he smote his drill with a determined emphasis
that indicated ill things for Pierre. Jael pinned the sleeping head of
Sisera to the earth. Sleeping or waking, resisting or acquiescent,
Pierre's head was in serious danger, if it threatened Élise.

Zephyr loaded the hole and lighted the fuse, then started for the camp.
A loud explosion startled Madame from the most peaceful repose she had
enjoyed for many a day.

After dinner Zephyr saw Madame safely down the worst of the trail.

"Pierre is not all bad," he remarked, at parting. "You just _restez
tranquille_ and don't worry. It's a pretty thick fog that the sun can't
break through, and, furthermore, a fog being only limited, as it were,
and the sun tolerably persistent, it's pretty apt to get on top at most
unexpected seasons."

Madame completed the remainder of her journey with very different
emotions from those with which she had begun it. She entered the back
door of the Blue Goose. Pierre was not in the room, as she had half
expected, half feared. She looked around anxiously, then dropped into a
chair. The pendulum changed its swing. She was under the old influences
again. Zephyr and the mountain-top were far away. A thousand questions
struggled in her mind. Why had she not thought of them before? It was no
use. Again she was groping for help. She recalled a few of Zephyr's
words.

"Élise isn't going to marry Morrison, and Pierre's going to give her
up."

They did not thrill her with hope. She could not make them do so by oft
repeating. Confused recollections crowded these few words of hope. She
could not revivify them. She could only cling to them with blind,
uncomprehending trust, as the praying mother clings to the leaden
crucifix.



CHAPTER IX

_The Meeting at the Blue Goose_


An algebraic formula is very fascinating, but at the same time it is
very dangerous. The oft-times repeated assumption that _x_ plus _y_
equals _a_ leads ultimately to the fixed belief that a is an attainable
result, whatever values may be assigned to the other factors. If we
assign concrete dollars to the abstract _x_ and _y_, _a_ theoretically
becomes concrete dollars as well. But immediately we do this, another
factor known as the personal equation calls for cards, and from then on
insists upon sitting in the game. Simple algebra no longer suffices;
calculus, differential as well as integral, enters into our problem, and
if we can succeed in fencing out quaternions, to say nothing of the
_nth_ dimension, we may consider ourselves fortunate.

Pierre was untrained in algebra, to say nothing of higher mathematics;
but it is a legal maxim that ignorance of the law excuses no one, and
this dictum is equally applicable to natural and to human statutes.
Pierre assumed very naturally that five dollars plus five dollars equals
ten dollars, and dollars were what he was after. He went even further.
Without stating the fact, he felt instinctively that, if he could tip
the one-legged plus to the more stable two-legged sign of
multiplication, the result would be twenty-five dollars instead of ten.
He knew that dollars added to, or multiplied by, dollars made wealth;
but he failed to comprehend that wealth was a variable term with no
definite, assignable value. In other words, he never knew, nor ever
would know, when he had enough.

Pierre had started in life with the questionable ambition of becoming
rich. As foreman on a ranch at five dollars a day and found, he was
reasonably contented with simple addition. On the sudden death of his
employer he was left in full charge, with no one to call him to account,
and addition became more frequent and with larger sums. His horizon
widened, the Rainbow mine was opened, and the little town of Pandora
sprang into existence. Three hundred workmen, with unlimited thirst and
a passion for gaming, suggested multiplication, and Pierre moved from
the ranch to the Blue Goose. Had he fixed upon a definition of wealth
and adhered to it, a few years at the Blue Goose would have left him
satisfied. As it was, his ideas grew faster than his legitimate
opportunities. The miners were no more content with their wages than he
with his gains, and so it happened that an underground retort was added
to the above-ground bar and roulette. The bar and roulette had the
sanction of law; the retort was existing in spite of it. The bar and
roulette took care of themselves, and incidentally of Pierre; but with
the retort, the case was different. Pierre had to look out for himself
as well as the furnace. As proprietor of a saloon, his garnered dollars
brought with them the protection of the nine points of the
law--possession; the tenth was never in evidence.

As a vender of gold bullion, with its possession, the nine points made
against rather than for him. As for the tenth, at its best it only
offered an opportunity for explanation which the law affords the most
obviously guilty.

Morrison allowed several days to pass after his interview with Luna
before acquainting Pierre with the failure to land their plunder. The
disclosure might have been delayed even longer had not Pierre made some
indirect inquiries. Pierre had taken the disclosure in a very different
manner from what Morrison had expected. Morrison, as has been set forth,
was a very slick bird, but he was not remarkable for his sagacity. His
cunning had influenced him to repel, with an assumption of ignorance,
Luna's broad hints of guilty complicity; but his sagacity failed utterly
to comprehend Pierre's more cunning silence. Pierre was actively
acquainted with Morrison's weak points, and while he ceased not to
flatter them he never neglected to gather rewards for his labour. If the
fabled crow had had the wit to swallow his cheese before he began to
sing he would at least have had a full stomach to console himself for
being duped. This is somewhat prognostical; but even so, it is not safe
to jump too far. It sometimes happens that the fox and the crow become
so mutually engrossed as to forget the possibility of a man and a gun.

Late this particular evening Luna entered the Blue Goose, and having
paid tribute at the bar, was guided by the knowing winks and nods of
Morrison into Pierre's private club-room, where Morrison himself soon
followed.

Morrison opened the game at once.

"That new supe at the Rainbow is getting pretty fly." He apparently
addressed Pierre.

Pierre bowed, in smiling acquiescence.

"Our little game is going to come to an end pretty soon, too."

"To what li'l game you refer?" Pierre inquired, blandly. Pierre did not
mind talking frankly with one; with two he weighed his words.

Morrison made an impatient gesture.

"You know. I told you about the old man's getting back that ore."

Pierre rubbed his hands softly.

"Meestaire Firmstone, he's smooth stuff, ver' smooth stuff."

"He's getting too smooth," interrupted Luna. "I don't mind a supe's
looking out for his company. That's what he's paid for. But when he
begins putting up games on the men, that's another matter, and I don't
propose to stand it. Not for my part."

"He's not bin populaire wiz ze boy?" inquired Pierre.

"No."

Pierre chuckled softly.

"He keeps too much ze glass-eye on ze plate, on ze stamp, heh?"

"That's not all."

"No," Pierre continued; "he mek ze sample; he mek ze assay, hall ze
time."

"That's not all, either. He----"

"A--a--ah! He bin mek ze viseete in ze mill in ze night, all hour, any
hour. Ze boy can't sleep, bin keep awake, bin keep ze han'--" Pierre
winked knowingly, making a scoop with his hand, and thrusting it into
his pocket.

Luna grinned.

"At ze mine ze boy get two stick powdaire, four candle, all day, eh? No
take ten, fifteen stick, ten, fifteen candle, use two, four, sell ze
res'?" Pierre again winked smilingly.

"You're sizing it up all right."

"_Bien!_ I tol' you. Ze hol' man, he's bin hall right. I tol' you look
out. Bimeby I tol' you again. Goslow. Da's hall."

Morrison was getting impatient.

"What's the use of barking our shins, climbing for last year's birds'
nests? The facts are just as I told you. The old man's getting too fly.
The boys are getting tired of it. The question is, how are we going to
stop him? If we can't stop him can we get rid of him?"

"I can tell you one way to stop him, and get rid of him at the same
time," Luna broke in.

"How is that?" asked Morrison.

"Cut the cable when he goes up on the tram."

"Will you take the job?" Morrison asked, sarcastically.

Luna's enthusiasm waned under the question.

"Such things have happened."

"Some odder tings also happens." Pierre slipped an imaginary rope around
his neck.

Morrison passed the remark and started in on a line of his own.

"I've been telling Luna and some of the other boys what I think. I don't
mind their making a little on the side. It's no more than they deserve,
and the company can stand it. It doesn't amount to much, anyway. But
what I do kick about is this everlasting spying around all the time.
It's enough to make a thief out of an honest man. If you put a man on
his honour, he isn't going to sleep on shift, even if the supe doesn't
come in on him, every hour of the night. Anyway, a supe ought to know
when a man does a day's work. Isn't that so?" He looked at Luna.

"That's right, every time."

"Then there's another point. A man has some rights of his own, if he
does work for $3 a day. The old man is all the time posting notices at
the mine and at the mill. He tells men what days they can get their pay,
and what days they can't. If a man quits, he's got to take a time-check
that isn't worth face, till pay-day. Now what I want to know is this:
Haven't the men just as good a right to post notices as the company
has?" Morrison was industriously addressing Pierre, but talking at Luna.
Pierre made no response, so Luna spoke instead.

"I've been thinking the same thing."

Morrison turned to Luna.

"Well, I'll tell you. You fellows don't know your rights. When you work
eight hours the company owes you three dollars. You have a right to your
full pay any time you want to ask for it. Do you get it? Not much. The
company says pay-day is the 15th of every month. You have nothing to say
about it. You begin to work the first of one month. At the end of the
month the company makes up the payroll. On the 15th you get pay for last
month's work. The 15th, suppose you want to quit. You ask for your time.
Do you get your pay for the fifteen days? Not much. They give you a
time-check. If you'll wait thirty days you'll get a bank-check or cash,
just as they choose. Suppose you want your money right away, do you get
it?" Morrison looked fixedly at Luna.

Luna shook his head in reply.

"Of course not. What do you do? Why, you go to a bank, and if the
company's good the bank will discount your check--one, two, three, or
five per cent. Your time amounts to $60, less board. The bank gives you,
instead of $60, $57, which means that you put in one hard day's work to
get what's your due."

"The law's done away with time-checks," objected Luna.

"Oh, yes, so it has. Says you must be paid in full." Morrison called on
all his sarcasm to add emphasis to his words. "So the company complies
with the law. It writes out a bank-check for $60, but dates it thirty
days ahead, so the bank gets in its work, just the same."

Luna glanced cunningly from Morrison to Pierre.

"It strikes me that the Blue Goose isn't giving the bank a fair show. I
never cashed in at the bank."

"What time ze bank open, eh?" Pierre asked, languidly.

"Ten to four." Luna looked a trifle puzzled.

"_Bien!_ Sunday an' ze holiday?" pursued Pierre.

"'Tain't open at all."

"_Très bien!_ Ze Blue Goose, she mek open hall ze time, day, night,
Sunday, holiday."

"Well, you get paid for it," answered Luna, doggedly.

"Oh, that isn't all," Morrison interrupted, impatiently. "I just give
you this as one example. I can bring up a thousand. You know them as
well as I do. There's no use going over the whole wash." There was no
reply. Morrison went on, "There's no use saying anything about short
time, either. You keep your own time; but what does that amount to? You
take what the company gives you. Of course, the law will take your time
before the company's; but what does that amount to? Just this: You're
two or three dollars shy on your time. You go to law about it, and
you'll get your two or three dollars; but it will cost you ten times as
much; besides, you'll be blacklisted."

It may appear that Morrison was training an able-bodied Gatling on a
very small corporal's guard, and so wasting his ammunition. The fact is,
Morrison was an active dynamo to which Luna, as an exhausted battery,
was temporarily attached. Mr. Morrison felt very sure that if Luna were
properly charged he would increase to a very large extent the radius of
dynamic activity.

Inwardly Pierre was growing a little restless over Morrison's zeal. It
was perfectly true that in the matter of paying the men the company was
enforcing an arbitrary rule that practically discounted by a small per
cent. the men's wages; but the men had never objected. Understanding the
reason, they had never even considered it an injustice. There was no
bank at Pandora, and it was not a very safe proceeding for a company,
even, to carry a large amount of cash. Besides, the men knew very well
that the discount did not benefit the company in the least. An
enforcement of the law would interfere with Pierre's business. If Pierre
found no butter on one side of his toast, he was accustomed to turn it
over and examine the other side before he made a row. Recalling the fact
that last impressions are the strongest, he proceeded to take a hand
himself. He turned blandly to Luna.

"How long you bin work in ze mill?" he asked.

"About a year."

"You get ze check every month?"

"Why, yes; of course."

"How much he bin discount?"

"Nothing."

"_Bien!_ You mek ze kick for noddings?"

"I don't know about that," remarked Luna. "The way I size it up, that's
about all that's coming my way. It's kick or nothing."

There was a knock at the door.

"Come in," called Morrison.

The door swung open, and the mine foreman entered.

"Why, howdy, Jim? You're just the fellow we've been waiting for. How's
things at the mine?"

"Damned if I know!" replied Jim, tossing his hat on the floor. "The old
man's in the mix-up, so I don't know how much I'm supposed to know."

"What are you supposed to know?" Morrison was asking leading questions.

"Well, for one thing, I'm supposed to know when a man's doing a day's
work."

"Well, don't you?"

"Not according to the old man. He snoops around and tells me that this
fellow's shirking, and to push him up; that that fellow's not timbering
right, doesn't know his business, that I'd better fire him; that the
gang driving on Four are soldiering, that I'd better contract it."

"Contract it, eh?"

"Yes."

"Did you?"

"I had to!"

"How are the contractors making out?"

"Kicking like steers; say they ain't making wages."

"Who measures up?"

"The old man, of course."

"Uses his own tape and rod, eh?"

"Yes. Why?"

"Oh, nothing; only, if I were you, I'd just look over his measures. You
never heard of tapes that measured thirteen inches to the foot, did you?
Nor of rods that made a hole three feet, when it was four?"

"What are you feeding us?" the foreman asked, in surprise.

"Pap. You're an infant. So's the gang of you."

"What do you mean?"

"Just this." Morrison looked wearied. "Thirteen inches to the foot means
eight and one-third feet to the hundred. That is, it's likely the
contractors are doing one hundred and eight feet and four inches, and
getting pay for a hundred. No wonder they're kicking. That's $75 to the
good for the company."

"I never thought of that," replied the foreman.

"I don't know that it's to be wondered at," answered Morrison. "After a
man's pounded steel all day and got his head full of powder smoke, he's
too tired and sick to think of anything. How are you coming on with the
organisation?"

"Oh, all right. Most of the boys will come in all right. Some are
standing off, though. Say they'd as soon be pinched by the company as
bled by the union."

"Oh, well, don't trouble them too much. We'll attend to them later on.
It's going to be a bad climate for scabs when we get our working clothes
on."

"It means a strike to get them out."

To this sentiment Luna acquiesced with an emphatic nod.

"Strike!" ejaculated Morrison. "That's just what we will do, and pretty
soon, too!" He was still smarting with the memory of Bennie's words.

Pierre again took a hand.

"Who mek ze troub', heh? Meestaire Firmstone. I bin tol' you he's smooth
stuff, ver' smooth stuff. You mek ze strike. _P'quoi?_ Mek Meestaire
Firmstone quit, eh? _Bien!_ You mek ze strike, you mek Meestaire
Firmstone keep his job. _P'quoi?_ Ze company say Meestaire Firmstone one
good man; he mek ze boy kick. _Bien!_ Meester Firmstone, he stay."

"He'll stay, anyway," growled Morrison, "unless we can get him out."

Pierre shook his head softly.

"Ze strike mek him to stay."

"What do you propose, then?" asked Morrison, impatiently.

"Meestaire Jim at ze mine bin foreman. Meestaire Luna at ze mill bin
foreman. Slick men! Ver' slick men! An' two slick men bin ask hol'
Pierre, one hol' Frenchmans, how mek for Meestaire Firmstone ze troub'."
Pierre shook his head deprecatingly. "Mek one suppose. Mek suppose ze
mill all ze time broke down. Mek suppose ze mine raise hell. _Bien!_
Bimeby ze company say, 'Meestaire Firmstone bin no good.'"

"Frenchy's hitting pay dirt all right," commented Luna. "That's the
stuff!"

Pierre rose to his feet excitedly.

"_Bien!_ Ze mill broke down and ze mine blow hup. Bimeby ze company say,
'Meestaire Firmstone mek _beaucoup_ ze troub' all ze time!' _Bien!_ Ze
steel get hin ze roll, ze stamp break, ze tram break, ze men kick. Hall
ze time Meestaire Firmstone mek ze explain. _Comment!_ 'Meestaire
Firmstone, you ain't bin fit for no superintend. Come hoff; we bin got
anodder fel'.'"

Luna expressed his comprehension of Pierre's plan. He was seconded by
the mine foreman. Morrison was not wholly enthusiastic; but he yielded.

"Well," he said, "warm it up for him. We'll give it a try, anyway. I'd
like to see that smooth-faced, glass-eyed company minion dancing on a
hot iron."

The assembly broke up. The very next day the warming process began in
earnest.



CHAPTER X

_Élise Goes Forth to Conquer_


Élise had been environed by very plebeian surroundings. Being ignorant
of her birth-right, her sympathies were wholly with her associates. Not
that as yet they had had any occasion for active development; only the
tendencies were there. In a vague, indefinite way she had heard of kings
and queens, of lords and ladies, grand personages, so far above common
folk that they needs must have mongrel go-betweens to make known their
royal wills. Though she knew that kings and queens had no domain beneath
the eagle's wings, she had absorbed the idea that in the distant East
there was springing up a thrifty crop of nobilities who had very royal
wills which only lacked the outward insignia. These, having usurped that
part of the eagle's territory known as the East, were now sending into
the as yet free West their servile and unscrupulous minions.

This was common talk among the imported citizens who flocked nightly to
the Blue Goose, and in this view of the case the home-made article
coincided with its imported fellows. There were, however, a few
independents like Bennie, and these had a hard row of corn. By much
adulation the spirit of liberty was developing tyrannical tendencies,
and by a kind of cross-fertilization was inspiring her votaries with the
idea that freedom meant doing as they pleased, and dissenters be damned!

On this evening Élise was in attendance as usual at the little arcade,
which was divided from the council-room by a thin partition only.
Consequently, she had overheard every word that passed between Pierre
and his visitors. She had given only passive attention to Morrison's
citation of grievances; but to his proposed plan of action she listened
eagerly.

Her sympathies were thoroughly enlisted over his proposed strike more
than over Pierre's artful suggestion of covert nagging. Not that she
considered an ambushed attack, under the circumstances, as
reprehensible, but rather because open attack revealed one's personality
as much as the other course concealed it. The first year only of
humanity is wholly satisfied, barring colic, with the consciousness of
existence. The remaining years are principally concerned with impressing
it upon others.

Élise was very far from possessing what might be termed a retiring
disposition. This was in a large measure due to a naturally vivacious
temperament; for the rest, it was fostered by peculiarly congenial
surroundings. In this environment individuality was free to express
itself until it encountered opposition, when it was still more freely
stimulated to fight for recognition, and, by sheer brute force, to push
itself to the ascendant. This being the case, Élise was sufficiently
inspired by the exigencies of the evening to conceive and plan an
aggressive campaign on her own account. Being only a girl, she could not
take part either in Morrison's open warfare, or in Pierre's more
diplomatic intrigues. Being a girl, and untrammelled by
conventionalities, she determined upon a raid of her own. Her objective
point was none other than Firmstone himself. Having come to this
laudable conclusion, she waited impatiently an opportunity for its
execution.

Early one morning, a few days later, Élise saw Firmstone riding
unsuspiciously by, on his way to the mine. Previous observations had
taught her to expect his return about noon. So without ceremony, so far
as Pierre and Madame were concerned, Élise took another holiday, and
followed the trail that led to the mine. At the falls, where she had
eaten breakfast with Zephyr, she waited for Firmstone's return.

Toward noon she heard the click of iron shoes against the rocks, and,
scattering the flowers which she had been arranging, she rose to her
feet. Firmstone had dismounted and was drinking from the stream. She
stood waiting until he should notice her. As he rose to his feet he
looked at her in astonished surprise. Above the average height, his
compact, athletic figure was so perfectly proportioned that his height
was not obtrusive. His beardless face showed every line of a
determination that was softened by mobile lips which could straighten
and set with decision, or droop and waver with appreciative humour. His
blue eyes were still more expressive. They could glint with set purpose,
or twinkle with quiet humour that seemed to be heightened by their
polished glasses.

Élise was inwardly abashed, but outwardly she showed no sign. She stood
straight as an arrow, her hands clasped behind her back, every line of
her graceful figure brought out by her unaffected pose.

"So you are the old man, are you?" The curiosity of the child and the
dignity of the woman were humorously blended in her voice and manner.

"At your service." Firmstone raised his hat deliberately. The dignity of
the action was compromised by a twinkle of his eyes and a wavering of
his lips.

Élise looked a little puzzled.

"How old are you?" she asked, bluntly.

"Twenty-eight."

"That's awfully old. I'm sixteen," she answered, decisively.

"That's good. What next?"

"What's a minion?" she asked. She was trying to deploy her forces for
her premeditated attack.

"A minion?" he repeated, with a shade of surprise. "Oh, a minion's a
fellow who licks the boots of the one above him and kicks the man below
to even up."

Élise looked bewildered.

"What does that mean?"

"Oh, I see." Firmstone's smile broadened. "You're literal-minded.
According to Webster, a minion is a man who seeks favours by flattery."

"Webster!" she exclaimed. "Who's Webster?"

"He's the man who wrote a lexicon."

"A lexicon? What's a lexicon?"

"It's a book that tells you how to spell words, and tells you what they
mean."

Élise looked superior.

"I know how to spell words, and I know what they mean, too, without
looking in a--. What did you call it?"

"Lexicon. I thought you just said you knew what words meant."

"I didn't mean big words, just words that common folks use."

"You aren't common folks, are you?"

"That's just what I am," Élise answered, aggressively, "and we aren't
ashamed of it, either. We're just as good as anybody," she ended, with a
toss of her head.

"Oh, thanks." Firmstone laughed. "I'm common folks, too."

"No, you aren't. You're a minion. M'sieu Mo-reeson says so. You're a
capitalistic hireling sent out here to oppress the poor workingman. You
use long tape-lines to measure up, and short rods to measure holes, and
you sneak in the mill at night, and go prying round the mine, and
posting notices, and--er--oh, lots of things. You ought to be ashamed of
yourself." She paused in breathless indignation, looking defiantly at
Firmstone.

Firmstone chuckled.

"Looks as if I were a pretty bad lot, doesn't it? How did you find out
all that?"

"I didn't have to find it out. I hear M'sieu Mo-reeson and Daddy and
Luna and lots of others talking about it. Daddy says you're 'smooth,
ver' smooth stuff,'" she mimicked. Élise disregarded minor
contradictions. "'Twon't do you any good, though. The day is not far
distant when down-trodden labour will rise and smite the oppressor.
Then----" her lips were still parted, but memory failed and inspiration
refused to take its place. "Oh, well," she concluded, lamely, "you'll
hunt your hole all right."

"You're an out-and-out socialist, aren't you?"

"A socialist?" Élise looked aghast. "What's a socialist?"

"A socialist is one who thinks that everyone else is as unhappy and
discontented as he is, and that anything that he can't get is better
than what he can. Won't you be seated?" Firmstone waved her to a
boulder.

Élise seated herself, but without taking her eyes from Firmstone's face.

"Now you're making fun of me."

"No, I'm not."

"Yes, you are."

"What makes you think so?"

"Because you sit there and grin and grin all the time, and use big words
that you know I can't understand. Where did you learn them?"

"At school."

"Oh, you've been to school, then, have you?"

"Yes."

"How long did you go to school?"

"Ten or twelve years, altogether."

"Ten or twelve years! What an awful stupid you must be!" She looked at
him critically; then, with a modifying intonation, "Unless you learned a
whole lot. I know I wouldn't have to go to school so long." She looked
very decided. Then, after a pause, "You must have gone clear through
your arithmetic. Zephyr taught me all about addition and division and
fractions, clear to square root. I wanted to go through square root, but
he said he didn't know anything about square root, and it wasn't any
use, anyway. Did you go through square root?"

"Yes. Do you want me to teach you square root?"

"Oh, perhaps so, some time," Élise answered, indifferently. "What else
did you study?"

"Algebra, trigonometry, Latin, Greek." Firmstone teasingly went through
the whole curriculum, ending with botany and zoology.

Élise fairly gasped.

"I never knew there was so much to learn. What's zoo--what did you call
it--about?"

"Zoology," explained Firmstone; "that teaches you about animals, and
botany teaches you about plants."

"Oh, is that all?" Élise looked relieved, and then superior. "Why, I
know all about animals and plants and birds and things, and I didn't
have any books, and I never went to school, either. Do all the big folks
back East have to have books and go to school to learn such things? They
must be awful stupids. Girls don't go to school out here, nor boys
either. There aren't any schools out here. Not that I know of. Mammy
says I must go to school somewhere. Daddy says I sha'n't. They have no
end of times over it, and it's lots of fun to see daddy get mad. Daddy
says I've got to get married right away. But I won't. You didn't tell me
if girls went to school with you."

"No; they have schools of their own."

Élise asked many questions. Then, suddenly dropping the subject, she
glanced up at the sun.

"It's almost noon, and I'm awfully hungry. I think I'll have to go."

"I'll walk down with you, if you'll allow me."

He slipped his arm through the bridle and started down the trail. Élise
walked beside him, plying him with questions about his life in the East,
and what people said and did. Firmstone dropped his teasing manner and
answered her questions as best he could. He spoke easily and simply of
books and travel and a thousand and one things that her questions and
comments suggested. Her manner had changed entirely. Her simplicity,
born of ignorance of the different stations in life which they occupied,
displayed her at her best. Her expressive eyes widened and deepened, and
the colour of her cheeks paled and glowed under the influence of the new
and strange world of which he was giving her her first glimpse.

They reached the Blue Goose. Firmstone paused, raising his hat as he
turned toward her. But Élise was no longer by his side. She had caught
sight of Morrison, who was standing on the top step, glowering savagely,
first at her, then at Firmstone.

Morrison was habilitated in his usual full dress--that is, in his
shirt-sleeves, unbuttoned vest, a collarless shirt flecked with
irregular, yellowish dots, and a glowing diamond. Just now he stood with
his hands in his pockets and his head thrust decidedly forward. His
square, massive jaw pressed his protruding lips against his curled
moustache. His eyes, narrowed to a slit, shot forth malignant glances,
his wavy hair, plastered low upon a low forehead and fluffed out on
either side, flattened and broadened his head to the likeness of a
venomous serpent preparing to strike.

Élise reached the foot of the stone steps, shot a look of fierce
defiance at the threatening Morrison, then she turned toward Firmstone,
with her head bent forward till her upturned eyes just reached him from
beneath her arching brows. She swept him a low courtesy.

"Good-bye, Mr. Minion!" she called. "I've had an awfully nice time."

She half turned her head toward Morrison, then, as Firmstone lifted his
hat in acknowledgment, she raised her hand to her laughing lips and
flung him a kiss from the tips of her fingers. Gathering her skirts in
her hand, she darted up the steps and nearly collided with Morrison, who
had deliberately placed himself in her way.

She met Morrison's indignant look with the hauteur of an offended
goddess. Morrison's eyes fell from before her; but he demanded:

"Where did you pick up that--that scab?" It was the most opprobrious
epithet he could think of.

Élise's rigid figure stiffened visibly.

"It's none of your business."

"What have you been talking about?"

"It's none of your business. Is there any more information you want that
you won't get?"

"I'll make it my business!" Morrison burst out, furiously. "I'll----"

"Go back to your gambling and leave me alone!" With unflinching eyes,
that never left his face, she passed him almost before he was aware of
it, and entered the open door.

Could Morrison have seen the change that came over her face, as soon as
her back was toward him, he might have gained false courage, through
mistaking the cause. Loathing and defiance had departed. In their place
were bewildering questionings, not definite, but suggested. For the
first time in her life her hitherto spontaneous actions waited
approbation before the bar of judgment. The coarse, venomous looks of
Morrison ranged themselves side by side with the polished ease and
deference of Firmstone.

As she passed through the bar-room long accustomed sights were, for the
first time, seen, not clearly, but comparatively. In the corridor that
led to the dining-room she encountered Pierre. She did not speak to him.
The quick eyes of the little Frenchman noted the unwonted expression,
but he did not question her. At the proper time he would know all.
Meantime his concern was not to forget.

Élise opened the door of the dining-room and entered. Madame looked up
as the door closed. Élise stood with distant eyes fixed upon the
pathetically plain little woman. Never before had she noticed the
lifeless hair strained from the colourless tan of the thin face, the
lustreless eyes, the ill-fitting, faded calico wrapper that dropped in
meaningless folds from the spare figure. Madame waited patiently for
Élise to speak, or to keep silence as she chose. For a moment only Élise
stood. The next instant Madame felt the strong young arms about her,
felt hot, decided kisses upon her cheeks. Madame was surprised. Élise
was fierce with determination. Élise was doing penance. Madame did not
know it.

Élise left Madame standing bewildered, and darted upstairs to her little
room. She flung herself on her bed and fought--fought with ghostly,
flitting shadows that elusively leered from darker shades, grasped at
fleeting phantoms that ranged themselves beside the minatory demons,
until at last she grew tired and slept.

Élise had left the Blue Goose in the morning, a white-winged, erratic
craft, skimming the sparkling, land-locked harbours of girlhood. She
returned, and already the first lifting swells beyond the sheltering bar
were tossing her in their arms. She had entered the shoreless ocean of
womanhood.

Pierre passed from the corridor to the bar-room. He glanced from the bar
to the gaming-tables, where a few listless players were engaged at
cards, and finally stepped out upon the broad piazza. He glanced at
Morrison, who was following Firmstone with a look of malignant hatred.

"Meestaire Firmstone, he bin come from ze mine?"

"To hell with Firmstone!" growled Morrison. He turned and entered the
saloon.

Pierre followed him with knowing eyes.

"To hell wiz Firmstone, heh?" He breathed softly. "_Bien!_"

Pierre stood looking complacently over the broken landscape. Much
understanding was coming to him. The harmlessness of the dove radiated
from his beaming face, but the wisdom of the serpent was shining in his
eyes.



CHAPTER XI

_The Devil's Elbow_


If Firmstone had flattered himself that his firm but just treatment of
Luna in the case of the stolen ore had cleared his path of difficulties
he would have been forced by current events to a rude awakening. He had
been neither flattered nor deceived. He knew very well that a prop put
under an unstable boulder may obscure the manifestation of gravity; but
he never deceived himself with the thought that it had been eliminated.
The warming-up process, recommended by Pierre, was being actively
exploited. Scarcely a day passed but some annoying accident at the mine
or mill occurred, frequently necessitating prolonged shut-downs. Day by
day, by ones, by twos, by threes, his best men were leaving the mine.
There was no need to ask them why, even if they would have given a
truthful answer. He knew very well why. Yet he was neither disheartened
nor discouraged. He realised the fact clearly, as he had written to his
Eastern employers that it would take time and much patient endeavour to
restore order where chaos had reigned so long undisturbed. There was
another element impeding his progress which he by no means ignored--that
was the Blue Goose.

He had no tangible evidence against the resort beyond its obvious
pretensions. He had no need of the unintentional but direct evidence of
Élise's words that the habitués of the Blue Goose there aired their
grievances, real or imagined, and that both Pierre and Morrison were
assiduously cultivating this restlessness by sympathy and counsel. He
was morally certain of another fact--that the Blue Goose was indirectly,
at least, at the bottom of the extensive system of thieving, in offering
a sure market for the stolen gold. This last fact had not especially
troubled him, for he felt sure that the careful system of checks which
he had inaugurated at the outset would eventually make the stealing so
dangerous that it would be abandoned.

So far in the history of the camp, when once the plates were cleaned and
gold, as ingots, was in possession of the company, it had been perfectly
safe. No attempts at hold-ups had ever been made. Yet Firmstone had
provided, in a measure, safeguards against this possibility. The ingots
had been packed in a small steel safe and shipped by stage to the
nearest express office, about ten miles distant. Shipments had not been
made every day, of course. But every day Firmstone had sent the safe,
loaded with pigs of lead. The next day the safe was returned, and in it
was the agent's receipt. Whether the safe carried gold or lead, the
going and the returning weight was the same. If the safe carried gold
enough lead was added by the express agent to make the returning weight
the same. This fact was generally known, and even if a stage hold-up
should be attempted, the chances were thirty to one that a few pounds of
lead would be the only booty of the robbers.

This afternoon Firmstone was at his office-desk in a meditative and
relieved frame of mind. He was meditative over his troubles that, for
all his care, seemed to be increasing. Relieved in that, but an hour
before, $50,000 in bullion had been loaded into the stage, and was now
rolling down the cañon on the way to its legitimate destination. His
meditations were abruptly broken, and his sense of relief violently
dissipated, when the office-door was thrust open, and hatless, with
clothing torn to shreds, the stage-driver stood before him, his beard
clotted with blood which flowed from a jagged cut that reached from his
forehead across his cheek.

Firmstone sprang to his feet with a startled exclamation. The driver
swept his hand over his blood-clotted lips.

"No; 'tain't a hold-up; just a plain, flat wreck. The whole outfit went
over the cliff at the Devil's Elbow. I stayed with my job long's I
could, but that wa'n't no decades."

Firmstone dragged the man into his laboratory, and carefully began to
wash the blood from his face.

"That's too long a process, gov'ner." The driver soused his head into
the bucket of cold water which Firmstone had drawn from the faucet.

"Can you walk now?" Firmstone asked.

"Reckon I'll try it a turn. Been flyin', for all I know. Must have been,
to get up the cliff. I flew down; that much I know. Lit on a few places.
That's where I got this." He pointed to the cut.

Firmstone led the man to his own room adjoining the office, and opening
a small chest, took out some rolls of plaster and bandages. He began
drying the wound.

The office-door again opened and the bookkeeper entered.

"Go tell Bennie to come down right away," Firmstone ordered, without
pausing in his work.

Satisfied that the man's skull was not fractured, he drew the edges of
the wound together and fastened them with strips of plaster. A few
minutes later Bennie, followed by Zephyr, hurriedly entered the office.
Paying no attention to their startled exclamations, Firmstone said:

"I wish you would look after Jim. He's badly hurt. He'll tell you about
it. You said at the Devil's Elbow?" turning to the driver.

Zephyr glanced critically at the man; then, making up his mind that he
was not needed, he said:

"I'll go along with you. Are you heeled?"

Firmstone made no audible reply, but took down his revolver and
cartridge-belt, and buckled them on.

"'Tain't the heels you want; it's wings and fins. They won't be much
good, either. The whole outfit's in the San Miguel. I followed it that
far, and then pulled out." The driver was attempting to hold out gamely,
but the excitement and the severe shaking-up were evidently telling on
him.

Firmstone and Zephyr left the office and followed the wagon-trail down
the cañon. Neither spoke a word.

They reached the scene of the wreck and, still silent, began to look
carefully about. A hundred feet below them the San Miguel, swollen by
melting snows, foamed and roared over its boulder-strewn bed. Near the
foot of the cliff one of the horses was impaled on a jagged rock; its
head and shoulders in the lapping water. In mid-stream and further down
the other was pressed by the current against a huge rock that lifted
above the flood. No trace of the stage was to be seen. That, broken into
fragments by the fall, had been swept away.

The spot where the accident occurred was a dangerous one at best. For
some distance after leaving the mill the trail followed a nearly level
bench of hard slate rock, then, dipping sharply downward, cut across a
long rock-slide that reached to the summit of the mountain a thousand
feet above. On the opposite side a square-faced buttress crowded the
trail to the very brink of the cañon. The trail followed along the foot
of this buttress for a hundred feet or more, and at the edge it again
turned from the gorge at an acute angle. At the turning-point a cleft,
twenty feet wide, cut the cliff from the river-bed to a point far above
the trail. A bridge had spanned the cleft, but it was gone. The accident
had been caused by the giving way of the bridge when the stage was on
it.

"Well, what do you make of it?" Firmstone turned to Zephyr and Zephyr
shook his head.

"That's a superfluous interrogation. Your thinks and mine on this
subject under consideration are as alike as two chicks hatched from a
double-yolked egg."

"This is no accident." Firmstone spoke decidedly.

Zephyr nodded deliberately.

"That's no iridescent dream, unless you and I have been hitting the same
pipe."

"The question is," resumed Firmstone, "was the safe taken from the stage
before the accident?" He looked at Zephyr inquiringly.

"That depends on Jim Norwood." Zephyr whistled meditatively, then spoke
with earnest decision. "That safe's in the river. The Blue Goose has
been setting for some time. This ain't the first gosling that's pipped
its shell, and 'tain't going to be the last one, either, unless the nest
is broken up."

"That's what I think." Firmstone spoke slowly. "But this is a dangerous
game. I didn't think it would go so far."

"It's up to you hard; but that isn't the worst of it. It's going to be
up to you harder yet. They never reckoned on Jim's getting out of this
alive." Zephyr seated himself, and his hand wandered unconsciously to
his shirt. Then, changing his mind, he spoke without looking up. "You
don't need this, Goggles, but I'm going to give it to you, just the
same. You're heavier calibre and longer range than the whole crowd. But
I am with you, and there are others. The gang haven't landed their
plunder yet, and, what's more, they aren't going to, either. I'll see to
that. You just _restez tranquille_, and give your mind to other things.
This little job is about my size."

Firmstone made no reply to Zephyr. He knew his man, knew thoroughly the
loyal sense of honour that, though sheltered in humourous, apparently
indifferent cynicism, was ready to fight to the death in defence of
right.

"I think we might as well go back to the mill. We've seen all there is
to be seen here."

They walked back in silence. At the office-door Zephyr paused.

"Won't you come in?" asked Firmstone.

"I think not, dearly beloved. The spirit moveth me in sundry places. In
other words, I've got a hunch. And say, Goggles, don't ask any
embarrassing questions, if your grub mysteriously disappears. Just
charge it up to permanent equipment account, and keep quiet, unless you
want to inquire darkly whether anyone knows what's become of that fellow
Zephyr."

"Don't take any risks, Zephyr. A man's a long time dead. You know as
well as I the gang you're up against. I think I know what you're up to,
and I also think I can help you out."

Firmstone entered the office with no further words. It was the hardest
task of many that he had had, to send a report of the disaster to the
company, but he did not shrink from it. He made a plain statement of the
facts of the case, including the manner in which the bridge had been
weakened to the point of giving way when the weight of the stage had
been put upon it. He also added that he was satisfied that the purpose
was robbery, and that he knew who was at the bottom of the whole
business, that steps were being taken to recover the safe; but that the
conviction of the plotters was another and a very doubtful proposition.
Above all things, he asked to be let alone for a while, at least. The
driver, he stated, had no idea that the wrecking of the stage was other
than it appeared on the face, an accident pure and simple. The letter
was sealed and sent by special messenger to the railroad.

One thing troubled Firmstone. He was very sure that his request to be
let alone would not be heeded. Hartwell, the Eastern manager of the
company, was a shallow, empty-headed man, insufferably conceited. He
held the position, partly through a controlling interest in the shares,
but more through the nimble use of a glib tongue that so man[oe]uvred
his corporal's guard of information that it appeared an able-bodied
regiment of knowledge covering the whole field of mining.

If Firmstone had any weaknesses, one was an open contempt of flatterers
and flattery, the other an impolitic, impatient resentment of patronage.
There had been no open breaks between the manager and himself; in fact,
the manager professed himself an admiring friend of Firmstone to his
face. At directors' meetings "Firmstone was a fairly promising man who
only needed careful supervision to make in time a valuable man for the
company." Firmstone had strongly opposed the shipping of bullion by
private conveyance instead of by a responsible express company. In this
he was overruled by the manager. Being compelled to act against his
judgment, he had done his best to minimise the risk by making dummy
shipments each day, as has been explained.

The loss of the month's clean-up was a very serious one, and he had no
doubt but that it would result in a visit from the manager, and that the
manager would insist upon taking a prominent part in any attempt to
recover the safe, if indeed he did not assume the sole direction. The
opportunity to add to his counterfeit laurels was too good to be lost.
In the event of failure, Firmstone felt that no delicate scruples would
prevent the shifting of the whole affair upon his own shoulders.

Firmstone had not made the mistake of minimising the crafty cunning of
Pierre, nor of interpreting his troubles at the mine and mill at their
obvious values. Cunningly devised as was the wreck of the stage, he felt
sure that there was another object in view than the very obvious and
substantial one of robbery. With the successful wrecking of the stage
there were yet large chances against the schemers getting possession of
the safe and its contents. Still, there was a chance in their favour. If
neither Pierre nor the company recovered the bullion, Pierre's scheme
would not have miscarried wholly. The company would still be in
ignorance of the possibilities of the mine. Firmstone arranged every
possible detail clearly in his mind, from Pierre's standpoint. His
thorough grasp of the entire situation, his unwearying application to
the business in hand made further stealing impossible. Pierre was bound
to get him out of his position. The agitation inaugurated by Morrison
was only a part of the scheme by means of which this result was to be
accomplished. A whole month's clean-up had been made. If this reached
the company safely, it would be a revelation to them. Firmstone's
position would be unassailable, and henceforth Pierre would be compelled
to content himself with the yield of the gambling and drinking at the
Blue Goose. Whether the bullion ever found its way to the Blue Goose or
not, the wrecking of the stage would be in all likelihood the
culminating disaster in Firmstone's undoing.

Firmstone's indignation did not burn so fiercely against Pierre and
Morrison--they were but venomous reptiles who threatened every decent
man--as at the querulous criticisms of his employers, which were a
perpetual drag, clogging his every movement, and threatening to
neutralise his every effort in their behalf. He recalled the words of an
old and successful mine manager:

"You've got a hard row of corn. When you tackle a mine you've got to
make up your mind to have everyone against you, from the cook-house
flunkey to the president of the company, and the company is the hardest
crowd to buck against."

Firmstone's face grew hard. The fight was on, and he was in it to win.
That was what he was going to do.

Zephyr, meantime, had gone to the cook-house. He found Bennie in his
room.

"How's Jim?" he asked.

"Sleeping. That's good for him. He'll pull out all right. Get on to
anything at the bridge?" Bennie was at sharp attention.

"Nothing to get on to, Julius Benjamin. The bridge is gone. So's
everything else. It's only a matter of time when Goggles will be gone,
too. This last will fix him with the company." Zephyr glanced slyly at
Bennie with the last words. "The jig is up. The fiddle's broke its last
string, and I'm going, too."

Bennie's eyes were flaming.

"Take shame to yourself for those words, you white-livered frog-spawn,
with a speck in the middle for the black heart of you! You're going?
Well, here's the bones of my fist and the toe of my boot, to speed you!"

"You'll have to put me up some grub, Benjamin."

"Grub! It's grub, is it? I'll give you none. Stay here a bit and I'll
grub you to more purpose. I'll put grit in your craw and bones in your
back, and a sup of glue, till you can stand straight and stick to your
friends. Lacking understanding that God never gave you, I'll point them
out to you!"

Zephyr's eyes had a twinkle that Bennie's indignation overlooked.

"The Lord never passed you by on the other side, Julius. He put a heavy
charge in your bell-muzzle. You're bound to hit something when you go
off. If He'd only put a time-fuse on your action, 'twould have only
perfect. Not just yet, Julius Benjamin!" Zephyr languidly lifted a
detaining hand as Bennie started to interrupt. "I'm going a long journey
for an uncertain time. This is for the public. But, Julius, if you'll
take a walk in the gloaming each day, and leave an edible bundle in the
clump of spruces above the Devil's Elbow you'll find it mysteriously
disappears. From which you may infer that I'm travelling in a circle
with a small radius. And say, Julius, heave over some of your wind
ballast and even up with discretion. You're to take a minor part in a
play, with Goggles and me as stars."

"It's lean ore you're working in your wind-mill. Just what does it
assay?" Bennie was yet a little suspicious.

"For a man of abundant figures, Julius, you have a surprising appetite
for ungarnished speech. But here's to you! The safe's in the river.
There's fifty thousand in bullion in the safe that's in the river. The
Blue Goose crowd is after the bullion that's in the safe that's in the
river. Say, Julius Benjamin, this is hard sledding. It's the story of
the House that Jack Built, adapted to present circumstances. I'm going
to hang out in the cañon till the river goes down, or till I bag some of
the goslings from the Blue Goose. Your part is to work whom it may
concern into the belief that I've lit out for my health, and meantime to
play raven to my Elijah. Are you on?"

"Yes, I'm on," growled Bennie. "On to more than you'll ever be. You have
to empty the gab from your head to leave room for your wits."



CHAPTER XII

_Figs and Thistles_


Though Zephyr had not explained his plan of operations in detail,
Firmstone found no difficulty in comprehending it. It was of prime
importance to have the river watched by an absolutely trustworthy man,
and Firmstone was in no danger of having an embarrassing number from
whom to choose. A day or two of cold, cloudy weather was liable to occur
at any time, and this, checking the melting of the snow, would lower the
river to a point where it would be possible to search for, and to
recover the safe.

It was with a feeling of relief that he tacitly confided the guarding of
the river to Zephyr. While he offered no opposition to Zephyr's carrying
out his scheme of having his mysterious disappearance reported, he was
fully satisfied that it would not deceive Pierre for an instant.
Firmstone, however, was deceived in another way. It was a case of
harmless self-deception, the factors of which were wholly beyond his
control. His reason assured him unmistakably that Hartwell would start
at once for Colorado on learning of the loss of the bullion, and that
the manager would be a hindrance in working out his plans, if indeed he
did not upset them entirely.

Firmstone's confidence in his ability to emerge finally triumphant from
his troubles came gradually to strengthen his hope into the belief that
he would be let alone. A telegram could have reached him within a week
after he had reported the loss, but none came. He was now awaiting a
letter.

The bridge had been repaired, and travel resumed. A meagre account of
the accident had been noted in the Denver, as well as in the local
papers, but no hint was given that it was considered otherwise than as
an event incidental to mountain travel. The miraculous escape of the
driver was the sole item of interest. These facts gratified Firmstone
exceedingly. Pierre was evidently satisfied that the cards were in his
own hands to play when and as he would. He was apparently well content
to sit in the game with Firmstone as his sole opponent. Firmstone was
equally well content, if only----

There came the sharp click of the office gate. Inside the railing stood
a slender man of medium height, slightly stooped forward. On his left
arm hung a light overcoat. From a smooth face, with a mouth whose thin
lips oscillated between assumed determination and cynical half-smiles, a
pair of grey eyes twinkled with a humorously tolerant endurance of the
frailties of his fellow-men.

"Well, how are you?" The gloved right hand shot out an accompaniment to
his words.

Firmstone took the proffered hand.

"Nothing to complain of. This is something of a surprise." This was true
in regard to one mental attitude, but not of another. Firmstone voiced
his hopes, not his judgment.

"It shouldn't be." The eyes lost their twinkle as the mouth straightened
to a line. "I'm afraid you hardly appreciate the gravity of the
situation. The loss of $50,000 is serious, but it's no killing matter to
a company with our resources. It's the conditions which make such losses
possible."

"Yes." Firmstone spoke slowly. The twinkle was in his eyes now. "As I
understand it, this is the first time conditions have made such a loss
possible."

The significance of the words was lost on Hartwell. The possibility of a
view-point other than his own never occurred to him.

"We will not discuss the matter now. I shall be here until I have
straightened things out. I have brought my sister with me. Her physician
ordered a change of air. Beatrice, allow me to introduce my
superintendent, Mr. Firmstone."

A pink and white face, with a pair of frank, blue eyes, looked out from
above a grey travelling suit, and acknowledged the curt introduction.

"I am very happy to meet you." Firmstone took the proffered hand in his
own.

Miss Hartwell smiled. "Don't make any rash assertions. I am going to be
here a long time. Where are you going, Arthur?" She turned to her
brother, who, after fidgeting around, walked briskly across the room.

"I'll be back directly. I want to look after your room. Make yourself
comfortable for a few minutes." Then addressing Firmstone, "I suppose our
quarters upstairs are in order?"

"I think so. Here are the keys. Or will you allow me?"

"No, thanks. I'll attend to it." Hartwell took the keys and left the
room.

Firmstone turned to Miss Hartwell.

"What kind of a trip did you have out?"

"Delightful! It was hot and dusty across the plains, but then I didn't
mind. It was all so new and strange. I really had no conception of the
size of our country before."

"And here, even, you are only a little more than half way across."

"I know, but it doesn't mean much to me."

"Does the altitude trouble you?"

"You mean Marshall Pass?"

"Yes. In part, but you know Denver is over five thousand feet. Some
people find it very trying at first."

"Perhaps I might have found it so if I had stopped to think. But I had
something else to think of. You know I had a ridiculous sensation, just
as if I were going to fall off the world. Now you speak of it, I really
think I did gasp occasionally." She looked up smilingly at Firmstone. "I
suppose you are so accustomed to such sights that my enthusiasm seems a
bore."

"Do you feel like gasping here?"

"No; why do you ask?"

"Because you are a thousand feet higher than at Marshall Pass, and here
we are three thousand feet below the mine. You would not only have the
fear of falling off from the world up there, but the danger of it as
well."

Miss Hartwell looked from the office window to the great cliff that rose
high above its steep, sloped talus.

"I told Arthur that I was going to see everything and climb everything
out here, but I will think about it first."

"I would suggest your seeing about it first. Perhaps that will be
enough."

Hartwell bustled into the room with a preoccupied air. "Sorry to have
kept you waiting so long."

Miss Hartwell followed her brother from the room and up the stairs.

"Make yourself as comfortable as you can, Beatrice. I gave you full
warning as to what you might expect out here. You will have to look out
for yourself now. I shall be very busy; I can see that with half an
eye."

"I think if Mr. Firmstone is one half as efficient as he is agreeable
you are borrowing trouble on a very small margin." Miss Hartwell spoke
with decided emphasis.

"Smooth speech and agreeable manners go farther with women than they do
in business," Hartwell snapped out.

"I hope you have a good business equipment to console yourself with."

Hartwell made no reply to his sister, but busied himself unstrapping her
trunk.

"Dress for supper as soon as you can. You have an hour," he added,
looking at his watch.

Hartwell did not find Firmstone on re-entering the office. He seated
himself at the desk and began looking over files of reports of mine and
mill. Their order and completeness should have pleased him, but, from
the frown on his face, they evidently did not.

Firmstone, meanwhile, had gone to the cook-house to warn Bennie of his
coming guests, and to advise the garnishing of the table with the
whitest linen and the choicest viands which his stores could afford.

"What sort of a crowd are they?" Bennie inquired.

"You'll be able to answer your own question in a little while. That will
save you the trouble of changing your mind."

"'Tis no trouble at all, sir! It's a damned poor lobster that doesn't
know what to do when his shell pinches!"

Firmstone, laughing, went to the mill for a tour of inspection before
the supper hour. Entering the office a little later, he found Hartwell
at his desk.

"Well," he asked, "how do you find things?"

Hartwell's eyes were intrenched in a series of absorbed wrinkles that
threw out supporting works across a puckered forehead.

"It's too soon to speak in detail. I propose to inform myself generally
before doing that."

"That's an excellent plan."

Hartwell looked up sharply. Firmstone's eyes seemed to neutralise the
emphasis of his words.

"Supper is ready when you are. Will Miss Hartwell be down soon?"

Miss Hartwell rustled into the room, and her brother led the way to the
cook-house.

Bennie had heeded Firmstone's words. Perhaps there was a lack of
delicate taste in the assortment of colours, but scarlet-pinks, deep red
primroses, azure columbines, and bright yellow mountain sunflowers
glared at each other, each striving to outreach its fellow above a
matted bed of mossy phlox. Hartwell prided himself, among other things,
on a correct eye.

"There's a colour scheme for you, Beatrice; you can think of it in your
next study."

Bennie was standing by in much the same attitude as a suspicious
bumble-bee.

"Mention your opinion in your prayers, Mr. Hartwell, not to me. They're
as God grew them. I took them in with one sweep of my fist."

Miss Hartwell's eyes danced from Firmstone to Bennie.

"Your cook has got me this time, Firmstone." Hartwell grinned his
appreciation of Bennie's retort.

They seated themselves, and Bennie began serving the soup. Hartwell was
the last. Bennie handed his plate across the table. They were a little
cramped for room, and Bennie was saving steps.

"It's a pity you don't have a little more room here, Bennie, so you
could shine as a waiter."

"Good grub takes the shortest cut to a hungry man with no remarks on
style. There's only one trail when they meet."

Hartwell's manner showed a slight resentment that he was trying to
conceal. "This soup is excellent. It's rather highly seasoned"--he
looked slyly at Bennie--"but then there's no rose without its thorns."

"True for you. But there's a hell of a lot of thorns with the roses, I
take note. Beg pardon, Miss!"

Miss Hartwell laughed. "You have had excellent success in growing them
together, Bennie."

"Thank you, Miss!" Bennie was flushed with pleasure. "I've heard tell
that there were roses without thorns, but you're the first of the kind
I've seen."

Bennie had ideas of duty, even to undeserving objects. Consequently,
Hartwell's needs were as carefully attended to as his sister's or
Firmstone's, but in spite of all duty there is a graciousness of manner
that is only to be had by a payment in kind. Bennie paraded his duty as
ostentatiously as his pleasure, and with the same lack of words.
Hartwell noted, and kept silence.

Hartwell looked across to the table which Bennie was preparing for the
mill crew.

"Do you supply the men as liberally as you do your own table,
Firmstone?"

"Just the same."

"Don't think I want to restrict you, Firmstone. I want you to have the
best you can get, but it strikes me as a little extravagant for the
men."

Bennie considered himself invaded.

"The men pay for their extravagance, sir."

"A dollar a day only, with no risks," Hartwell tendered, rather stiffly.

"I'll trade my wages for your profits," retorted Bennie, "and give you a
commission, and I'll bind myself to feed them no more hash than I do
now!"

The company rose from the table. For the benefit of Miss Hartwell and
Firmstone, Bennie moved across the room with the dignity of a
drum-major, and, opening the door, bowed his guests from his presence.



CHAPTER XIII

_The Stork and the Cranes_


In spite of Élise's declaration that she would see him again, Firmstone
dropped her from his mind long before he reached his office. She had
been an unexpected though not an unpleasant, incident; but he had
regarded her as only an incident, after all. Her beauty and vivacity
created an ephemeral interest; yet there were many reasons why it
promised to be only ephemeral. The Blue Goose was a gambling, drinking
resort, a den of iniquity which Firmstone loathed, a thing which, in
spite of all, thrust itself forward to be taken into account. How much
worse than a den of thieves and a centre of insurrection it was he had
never stated to himself. He, however, would have had no hesitancy in
completing the attributes of the place had he been asked. The fact that
the ægis of marriage vows spread its protecting mantle over the
proprietor, and its shadow over the permanent residents, would never
have caused a wavering doubt, or certified to the moral respectability
of the contracting parties. Firmstone was not the first to ask if any
good thing could come out of Nazareth, or if untarnished purity could
dwell in the tents of the Nazarenes. It occasionally happens that a
stork is caught among cranes and, even innocent, is compelled to share
the fate of its guilty, though accidental, associates.

Thus it happened that when Élise, for the second time, met Firmstone at
the falls he hardly concealed his annoyance. Élise was quick to detect
the emotion, though innocence prevented her assigning it its true
source. There was a questioning pain in the large, clear eyes lifted to
Firmstone's.

The look of annoyance on Firmstone's face melted. He spoke even more
pleasantly than he felt.

"Well, what I can do for you this time?"

"You can go away from my place and stay away!" Élise flashed out.

Firmstone's smile broadened.

"I didn't know I was a trespasser."

"Well, you are! I had this place before you came, and I'm likely to have
it after you are gone!" The eyes were snapping.

"You play Cassandra well." Firmstone was purposely tantalising. He was
forgetting the cranes, nor was he displeased that the stork had other
weapons than innocence.

Élise's manner changed.

"Who is Cassandra?"

The eager, hungry look of the changing eyes smote Firmstone. The
bantering smile disappeared. It occurred to him that Élise might be
outdoing her prototype.

"She was a very beautiful lady who prophesied disagreeable things that
no one believed."

Élise ignored the emphasis which Firmstone unconsciously placed on
_beautiful_. She grew thoughtful, endeavouring to grasp his analogy.

"I think," she said, slowly, "I'm no Cassandra." She looked sharply at
Firmstone. "Daddy says you're going; Mo-reeson says you're going, and
they put their chips on the right number pretty often."

Firmstone laughed lightly.

"Oh, well, it isn't for daddy and Morrison to say whether I'm to go or
not."

"Who's this Mr. Hartwell?" Élise asked, abruptly.

"He's the man who can say."

"Then you are up against it!" Élise spoke with decision. There was a
suggestion of regret in her eyes.

"These things be with the gods." Firmstone was half-conscious of a lack
of dignity in seeming to be interested in personal matters, not intended
for his immediate knowledge. Several times he had decided to end the
episode, but the mobile face and speaking eyes, the half-childish
innocence and unconscious grace restrained him.

"I don't believe it." Élise looked gravely judicial.

"Why not?"

"Because God knows what he's about. Mr. Hartwell doesn't; he is only
awfully sure he does."

Firmstone chuckled softly over the unerring estimate which Élise had
made. He began gathering up the reins, preparatory to resuming his way.
Élise paid no attention to his motions.

"Don't you want to see my garden?" she asked.

"Is that an invitation?"

"Yes."

"You are sure I'll not trespass?"

Élise looked up at him.

"That's not fair. I was mad when I said that."

She turned and hurriedly pushed through the matted bushes that grew
beside the stream. There was a kind of nervous restlessness which
Firmstone did not recall at their former meeting. They emerged from the
bushes into a large arena bare of trees. It was completely hidden from
the trail by a semicircle of tall spruces which, sweeping from the cliff
on either side of the fall, bent in graceful curves to meet at the
margin of the dividing brook. Moss-grown boulders, marked into miniature
islands by cleaving threads of clear, cold water, were half hidden by
the deep pink primroses, serried-massed about them. Creamy cups of
marshmallows, lifted above the succulent green of fringing leaves, hid
the threading lines of gliding water. On the outer border clustered
tufts of delicate azure floated in the thin, pure air, veiling modest
gentians. Moss and primrose, leaf and branch held forth jewelled fingers
that sparkled in the light, while overhead the slanting sunbeams broke
in iridescent bands against the beaten spray of the falling water. The
air, surcharged with blending colours, spoke softly sibilant of visions
beyond the power of words, of exaltation born not of the flesh, of
opening gates with wider vistas into which only the pure in heart can
enter. The girl stood with dreamy eyes, half-parted lips, an unconscious
pose in perfect harmony with her surroundings.

As Firmstone stood silently regarding the scene before him he was
conscious of a growing regret, almost repentance, for the annoyance that
he had felt at this second meeting. Yet he was right in harbouring the
annoyance. He felt no vulgar pride in that at their first meeting he had
unconsciously turned the girl's open hostility to admiration, or at
least to tolerance of himself. But she belonged to the Blue Goose, and
between the Blue Goose and the Rainbow Company there was open war.
Suppose that in him Élise did find a pleasure for which she looked in
vain among her associates; a stimulant to her better nature that
hitherto had been denied her? That was no protection to her. Even her
unconscious innocence was a weapon of attack rather than a shield of
defence. She and she alone would be the one to suffer. For this reason
Firmstone had put her from his mind after their first meeting, and for
this reason he had felt annoyance when she had again placed herself in
his path. But this second meeting had shown another stronger side in the
girl before him. That deep in her nature was an instinct of right which
her surroundings had not dwarfed. That this instinct was not to be
daunted by fear of consequences. She had evidently come to warn him of
personal danger to himself. This act carried danger--danger to her, and
yet she apparently had not hesitated. Perhaps she did not realise the
danger, but was he to hold it of less value on that account? Was he to
accept what she gave him, and then through fear of malicious tongues
abandon her to her fate without a thought? The idea was revolting, but
what could he do? His lips set hard. There must be a way, and he would
find it, however difficult. In some way she should have a chance. This
chance must take one of two forms: to leave her in her present
surroundings, and counteract their tendencies by other influences, or,
in some way, to remove her from the Blue Goose.

Firmstone was deeply moved. He felt that his course of action must be
shaped by the calmest judgment, if Élise were to be rescued from her
surroundings. He must act quickly, intelligently. If he had known of her
real parentage he would have had no hesitancy. But he did not know. What
he saw was Élise, the daughter of Pierre and Madame. To him they were
her parents. Whatever opportunities he offered her, however much she
might desire to avail herself of them, they could forbid; and he would
be helpless. Élise was under age; she was Pierre's, to do with as he
would. This was statute law. Firmstone rebelled against it
instinctively; but it was hopeless. He knew Pierre, knew his greed for
gold, his lack of scruple as to methods of acquiring it. He did not know
Pierre's love for Élise; it would not have weighed with him had he
known. For he was familiar with Pierre's class. Therefore he knew that
Pierre would rather see Élise dead than in a station in life superior to
his own, where she would either despise him or be ashamed of him. It was
useless to appeal to Pierre on the ground of benefit to Élise. This
demanded unselfish sacrifice, and Pierre was selfish.

Firmstone tried another opening, and was confronted with another danger.
If Pierre suspected that efforts were being made to weaken his hold on
Élise there was one step that he could take which would forever thwart
Firmstone's purpose. He had threatened to take this step. Firmstone's
pulses quickened for a moment, then calmed. His course was clear. The
law that declared her a minor gave her yet a minor's rights. She could
not be compelled to marry against her own wishes. Élise must be saved
through herself. At once he would set in motion influences that would
make her present associates repugnant to her. The strength of mind, the
hunger of soul, these elements that made her worth saving should be the
means of her salvation. Should Pierre attempt to compel her marriage,
even Firmstone could defeat him. Persuasion was all that was left to
Pierre. Against Pierre's influence he pitted his own.

"Where is Zephyr?" Élise broke the silence.

"Why do you ask?" The Blue Goose was in the ascendant. Firmstone was
casting about for time. The question had come from an unexpected
direction.

"Because he is in danger, and so are you."

"In danger?" Firmstone did not try to conceal his surprise.

"Yes." Élise made a slightly impatient gesture. "It's about the stage.
They will kill him. You, too. I don't know why."

"They? Who are they?"

"Morrison and Daddy."

"Did they know you would meet me to-day?"

"I don't know, and I don't care."

"You came to warn me?"

"Yes."

Firmstone stretched out his hand and took hers.

"I cannot tell you how much I thank you. But don't take this risk again.
You must not. I will be on my guard, and I'll look out for Zephyr, too."
He laid his other hand on hers.

At the touch, Élise looked up with hotly flaming cheeks, snatching her
hand from his clasp. Into his eyes her own darted. Then they softened
and drooped. Her hand reached for his.

"I don't care. I can take care of myself. If I can't, it doesn't
matter." Her voice said more than words.

"If you are ever in trouble you will let me know?" Firmstone's hand
crushed the little fingers in a tightening grasp.

"Zephyr will help me."

Firmstone turned to go.

"I cannot express my thanks in words. In another way I can, and I will."



CHAPTER XIV

_Blinded Eyes_


An old proverb advises us to be sure we are right, then go ahead. To the
last part of the proverb Hartwell was paying diligent heed; the first,
so far as he was concerned, he took for granted. Hartwell was carrying
out energetically his declared intention of informing himself generally.
He was accumulating a vast fund of data on various subjects connected
with the affairs of the Rainbow Company, and he was deriving great
satisfaction from the contemplation of the quantity. The idea of a
proper valuation of its quality never occurred to him. A caterpillar in
action is a very vigorous insect; but by means of two short sticks
judiciously shifted by a designing mind he can be made to work himself
to a state of physical exhaustion, and yet remain precisely at the same
point from whence he started.

Hartwell's idea was a fairly laudable one, being nothing more nor less
than to get at both sides of the question at issue individually from
each of the interested parties. Early and late he had visited the mine
and mill. He had interviewed men and foremen impartially, and the amount
of information which these simple sons of toil instilled into his
receptive mind would have aroused the suspicions of a less self-centred
man.

Of all the sources of information which Hartwell was vigorously
exploiting, Luna, on the whole, was the most satisfactory. His guileless
simplicity carried weight with Hartwell, and this weight was added to by
a clumsy deference that assumed Hartwell's unquestioned superiority.

"You see, Mr. Hartwell, it's like this. There's no need me telling you;
you can see it for yourself, better than I can tell it. But it's all
right your asking me. You've come out here to size things up generally."
Luna was not particularly slow in getting on to curves, as he expressed
it. "And so you are sizing me up a bit to see do I know my business and
have my eyes open." He tipped a knowing wink at Hartwell. Hartwell
nodded, with an appreciative grin, but made no further reply. Luna went
on:

"You see, it's like this, as I was saying. Us labouring men are sharp
about some things. We have to be, or we would get done up at every turn.
We know when a boss knows his business and when he don't. But it don't
make no difference whether he does or whether he don't, we have to stand
in with him. We'd lose our jobs if we didn't. I'm not above learning
from anyone. I ain't one as thinks he knows it all. I'm willing to
learn. I'm an old mill man. Been twenty years in a mill--all my life, as
you might say--and I'm learning all the time. Just the other day I got
on to a new wrinkle. I was standing watching Tommy; he's battery man on
Five. Tommy was hanging up his battery on account of a loose tappet.
Tommy he just hung up the stamp next the one with the loose tappet, and
instead of measuring down, he just drove the tappet on a level with the
other, and keyed her up, and had them dropping again inside of three
minutes. I watched him, and when he'd started them, I up and says to
Tommy, 'Tommy,' says I, 'I'm an old mill man, but that's a new one on
me!' Tommy was as pleased as a boy with a pair of red-topped,
copper-toed boots. It's too bad they don't make them kind any more; but
then, they don't wear out as fast as the new kind. But, as I was saying,
some bosses would have dropped on Tommy for that, and told him they
didn't want no green men trying new capers."

Luna paused and looked at Hartwell. Hartwell still beamed approbation,
and, after casting about for a moment, Luna went on:

"You see, a boss don't know everything, even if he has been to college.
Most Eastern companies don't know anything. They send out a boss to
superintend their work, and they get just what he tells them, and no
more. None of the company men ever come out here to look for themselves.
I ain't blaming them in general. They don't know. Now it's truth I'm
telling you. I'm an old mill man. Been in the business twenty years, as
I was telling you, and your company's the first I ever knew sending a
man out to find what's the matter, who knew his business, and wa'n't too
big to speak to a common workman, and listen to his side of the story."

It was a strong dose, but Hartwell swallowed it without a visible gulp.
Even more. He was immensely pleased. He was gaining the confidence of
the honest toiler, and he would get the unvarnished truth.

"This is all interesting, very interesting to me, Mr. Luna. I'm a very
strict man in business, but I try to be just. I'm a very busy man, and
my time is so thoroughly taken up that I am often very abrupt. You see,
it's always so with a business man. He has to decide at once and with
the fewest possible words. But I'm always ready to talk over things with
my men. If I haven't got time, I make it."

"It's a pity there ain't more like you, Mr. Hartwell. There wouldn't be
so much trouble between capital and labour. But, as I was saying, we
labouring men are honest in our way, and we have feelings, too."

Luna was getting grim. He deemed that the proper time had arrived for
putting his personal ax upon the whirling grindstone. He looked fixedly
at Hartwell.

"As I was saying, Mr. Hartwell, us labouring men is honest. We believe
in giving a fair day's work for a fair day's pay, and it grinds us to
have the boss come sneaking in on us any time, day or night, just like a
China herder. He ain't running the mill all the time, and he don't know
about things. Machinery won't run itself, and, as I was saying, there
ain't no man knows it all. And if the boss happens to catch two or three
of us talking over how to fix up a battery, or key up a loose
bull-wheel, he ain't no right to say that we're loafing and neglecting
our business, and jack us up for it. As I said, Mr. Hartwell, the
labouring man is honest; but if we're sneaked on as if we wasn't,
'tain't going to be very long before they'll put it up that, if they're
going to be hung for sheep-stealing, they'll have the sheep first,
anyway."

Luna paused more for emphasis than for approbation. That he could see in
every line of Hartwell's face. At length he resumed:

"As I said, that ain't all by a long shot. There's all sorts of
pipe-dreams floating around about men's stealing from the mine and
stealing from the mill. But, man to man, Mr. Hartwell, ain't the
superintendent got a thousand chances to steal, and steal big, where a
common workman ain't got one?" Luna laid vicious emphasis on the last
words, and his expression gave added weight to his words.

To do Hartwell simple justice, dishonesty had never for an instant
associated itself in his mind with Firmstone. He deemed him inefficient
and lacking a grasp of conditions; but, brought face to face with a
question of honesty, there was repugnance at the mere suggestion. His
face showed it. Luna caught the look instantly and began to mend his
break.

"I'm not questioning any man's honesty. But it's just like this. Why is
it that a poor labouring man is always suspected and looked out for, and
those as has bigger chances goes free? That's all, and, man to man, I'm
asking you if that's fair."

Luna's garrulity was taking a line which Hartwell had no desire to
investigate, for the present, at least. He answered directly and
abruptly:

"When a man loses a dollar, he makes a fuss about it. When he loses a
thousand, he goes on a still hunt."

Luna took his cue. He winked knowingly. "That's all right. You know your
business. That's plain as a squealing pulley howling for oil. But I
wasn't telling you all these things because you needed to be told.
Anyone can see that you can just help yourself. I just wanted to tell
you so that you could see that us labouring men ain't blind, even if
everyone don't see with eyes of his own the way you're doing. You are
the first gentleman that has ever given me the chance, and I'm obliged
to you for it. So's the men, too."

Hartwell felt that, for the present, he had gained sufficient
information, and prepared to go.

"I'm greatly obliged to you, Mr. Luna, for the information you and your
men have given me." He held out his hand cordially. "Don't hesitate to
come to me at any time."

Hartwell had pursued the same tactics at the mine, and with the same
results. He had carefully refrained from mentioning Firmstone's name,
and the men had followed his lead. Hartwell made a very common mistake.
He underrated the mental calibre of the men. He assumed that, because
they wore overalls and jumpers, their eyes could not follow the pea
under the shell which he was nimbly manipulating. In plain English, he
was getting points on Firmstone by the simple ruse of omitting to
mention his name. There was another and far more important point that
never occurred to him. By his course of action he was completely
undermining Firmstone's authority. There is not a single workman who
will ever let slip an opportunity to give a speeding kick to a falling
boss on general principles, if not from personal motives. Hartwell never
took this factor into consideration. His vanity was flattered by the
deference paid to him, never for a moment dreaming that the bulk of the
substance and the whole of the flavour of the incense burned under his
nose was made up of resentment against Firmstone, nor that the waning
stores were nightly replenished at the Blue Goose. Had Hartwell remained
East, as devoutly hoped by Firmstone, it is all but certain that
Firmstone's methods would have averted the trouble which was daily
growing more threatening.

Hartwell had occasionally dropped in for a social drink at the Blue
Goose, and the deferential welcome accorded to him was very flattering.
Each occasion was but the prologue to another and more extended visit.
The open welcome tendered him by both Pierre and Morrison had wholly
neutralised the warnings embodied in Firmstone's reports. He was certain
that Firmstone had mistaken for deep and unscrupulous villains a pair of
good-natured oafs who preferred to make a living by selling whisky and
running a gambling outfit, to pounding steel for three dollars a day.

In starting out on the conquest of the Blue Goose, Hartwell acted on an
erroneous concept of the foibles of humanity. The greatness of others is
of small importance in comparison with one's own. The one who ignores
this truth is continually pulling a cat by the tail, and this is
proverbially a hard task. Hartwell's plan was first to create an
impression of his own importance in order that it might excite awe, and
then, by gracious condescension, to arouse a loyal and respectful
devotion. Considering the object of this attack, he was making a double
error. Pierre was not at all given to the splitting of hairs, but in
combing them along the line of least resistance he was an adept.

Hartwell, having pacified the mine and the mill, had moved to the
sanctum of the Blue Goose, with the idea of furthering his benign
influence. Hartwell, Morrison, and Pierre were sitting around a table in
the private office, Hartwell impatient for action, Pierre unobtrusively
alert, Morrison cocksure to the verge of insolence.

"Meestaire Hartwell will do me ze honaire to mek ze drink?" Pierre
inquired.

"Thanks." Hartwell answered the question addressed to him. "Mine is
brandy."

"A-a-ah! Ze good discrimination!" purred Pierre. "Not ze whisky from ze
rotten grain; but ze _eau-de-vie_ wiz ze fire of ze sun and ze sweet of
ze vine!"

Morrison placed glasses before each, a bottle of soda, and Pierre's
choicest brand of cognac on the table.

"Help yourself," he remarked, as he sat down.

Sipping his brandy and soda, Hartwell opened the game.

"You see," he began, addressing Pierre, "things aren't running very
smoothly out here, and I have come out to size up the situation. The
fact is, I'm the only one of our company who knows a thing about mining.
It's only a side issue with me, but I can't well get out of it. My
people look to me to help them out, and I've got to do it."

"Your people have ze great good fortune--ver' great." Pierre bowed
smilingly.

Hartwell resumed: "I'm a fair man. I have now what I consider sufficient
knowledge to warrant me in making some radical changes out here; but I
want to get all the information possible, and from every possible
source. Then I can act with a perfectly clear conscience." He spoke
decidedly, as he refilled his glass.

"Then fire that glass-eyed supe of yours," Morrison burst out. "You
never had any trouble till he came."

Hartwell looked mild reproach. Morrison was going too fast. There was a
pause. Morrison again spoke, this time sullenly and without raising his
eyes.

"He's queered himself with the men. They'll do him if he stays. They
ain't going to stand his sneaking round and treating them like dogs.
They----"

"Mistaire Mo-reeson speak bad English, ver' bad." Pierre's words cut in
like keen-edged steel. "On ze odder side ze door, it not mek so much
mattaire."

Morrison left the room without a word further. There was a look of
sullen satisfaction on his face. Hartwell smiled approvingly at Pierre.

"You've got your man cinched all right."

"Hall but ze tongue." Pierre shrugged his shoulders, with a slight wave
of his hands.

"Well," Hartwell resumed, "I want to get at the bottom of this stage
business. Fifty thousand doesn't matter so much to us; it's the thing
back of it. What I want to know is whether it was an accident, or
whether it was a hold-up."

"Feefty tousand dollaire!" Pierre spoke musingly. "She bin a lot of
monnaie. A whole lot." Pierre hesitated, then looked up at Hartwell.

"Well?" Hartwell asked.

"How you know she bin feefty tousand dollaire hin ze safe?"

"Mr. Firmstone advised me of its shipment."

"_Bien!_ Ze safe, where she bin now?"

"In the river."

"A-a-ah! You bin see her, heh?"

"No. The water's too high."

"When ze wattaire bin mek ze godown, you bin find her, heh?"

"I suppose so."

"_Bien!_ Mek ze suppose. When ze wattaire mek ze godown, you not find ze
safe?"

To some extent, Hartwell had anticipated Pierre's drift, but he
preferred to let him take his own course.

"It would look as if someone had got ahead of us."

Pierre waved his hand impatiently. "Feefty tousand dollaire bin whole
lot monnaie. Big lot men like feefty tousand dollaire, ver' big lot.
Bimeby somebody get ze safe. Zey find no feefty tousand dollaire--only
pig lead, heh?" Pierre looked up shrewdly. "Ze men no mek ze talk 'bout
feefty tousand dollaire, no mek ze talk 'bout honly pig lead, heh?"

"You think, then, the bullion was never put into the safe?" Hartwell had
hardly gone so far as Pierre. "In other words, that Mr. Firmstone kept
out the bullion, planned the wreck, caused the report to be spread that
there was fifty thousand in the safe, with the idea of either putting it
out of the way himself, or that someone else would get it?"

Pierre looked up with well-feigned surprise.

"_Moi?_" he asked. "_Moi?_" He shrugged his shoulders. "I mek ze fact,
ze suppose. You mek ze conclude."

Hartwell looked puzzled.

"But," he said, "if what you say is true, there is no other conclusion."

Pierre again shrugged his shoulders impatiently.

"_Bien!_ I mek no conclude. You mek ze conclude. Ze suppose mek ze
conclude. She's bin no mattaire _á moi_. I mek no conclude." Pierre's
words and manner both intimated that, so far as he was concerned, the
interview was closed.

Pierre was a merciful man and without malice. When he felt that his
dagger had made a mortal thrust he never turned it in the wound. In this
interview circumstances had forced him farther than he cared to go. He
was taking chances, and he knew it. Zephyr was booked to disappear.
Others than Zephyr were watching the river. But Zephyr might escape; the
company might recover the money. What, then? Only his scheme would have
miscarried. The recovery of the money would clear Firmstone and leave
him where he was before. Pierre's diagnosis of Hartwell was to the
effect that, if an idea was once lodged in his mind, an earthquake would
not jar it out again. Even in this event Pierre's object would be
accomplished. Firmstone would have to go.

Hartwell made several ineffectual attempts to draw out Pierre still
farther, but the wily Frenchman baffled him at every turn. And there the
matter rested. Had Hartwell taken less of Pierre's good brandy, he would
hardly have taken so freely of his sinister suggestions. As it was, the
mellow liquor began to impart a like virtue to his wits, and led him to
clap the little Frenchman's back, as he declared his belief that Pierre
was a slick bird, but that his own plumage was smoothly preened as well.
Followed by Pierre, he rose to leave the room. His eyes fell upon Élise,
sitting quietly at her desk, and he halted.

His outstretched hand had hardly touched the unsuspecting girl when
Pierre caught him by the collar, and, with a twist and shove, sent him
staggering half-way across the room. Little short of murder was blazing
from Pierre's eyes.

"_Crapaud!_" he hissed. "You put ze fingaire hon my li'l Élise! _Sacré
mille tonnerre!_ I kill you!" Pierre started as if to carry out his
threat, but restraining hands held him back, while other hands and feet
buffeted and kicked the dazed Hartwell into the street.

The safe guarding of Élise was the one bright spot in Pierre's very
shady career. To the fact that it was bright and strong his turning on
Hartwell bore testimony. Every point in Pierre's policy had dictated
conciliation and sufferance; but now this was cast aside. Pierre rapidly
gained control of his temper, but he shifted his animus from the lust of
gain to the glutting of revenge.



CHAPTER XV

_Bending the Twig_


Firmstone had done a very unusual thing for him in working himself up to
the point where anything that threatened delay in his proposed rescue of
Élise made him impatient. The necessity for immediate action had
impressed itself so strongly upon him that he lost sight of the fact
that others, even more deeply concerned than himself, might justly claim
consideration. He knew that in some way Zephyr was more or less in touch
with Pierre and Madame. Just how or why, he was in no mood to inquire.

Only a self-reliant mind is capable of distinguishing between that which
is an essential part and that which seems to be. So it happened that
Firmstone, when for the second time he met Zephyr at the Devil's Elbow,
listened impatiently to the latter's comments on the loss of the safe.
When at last he abruptly closed that subject and with equal abruptness
introduced the one uppermost in his mind the cold reticence of Zephyr
surprised and shocked him.

The two men had met by chance, almost the first day that Firmstone had
assumed charge of the Rainbow properties, and each had impressed the
other with a feeling of profound respect. This respect had ripened into
a genuine friendship. Zephyr saw in Firmstone a man who knew his
business, a man capable of applying his knowledge, whose duty to his
employers never blinded his eyes to the rights of his workmen, a man who
saw clearly, acted decisively, and yielded to the humblest the respect
which he exacted from the highest. These characteristics grew on Zephyr
until they filled his entire mental horizon, and he never questioned
what might be beyond. Yet now he had fear for Élise. Firmstone was so
far above her. Zephyr shook his head. Marriage was not to be thought of,
only a hopeless love on the part of Élise that would bring misery in the
end. This was Zephyr's limit, and this made him coldly silent in the
presence of Firmstone's advances. Firmstone was not thus limited.
Zephyr's silent reticence was quickly fathomed. His liking for the man
grew. He spoke calmly and with no trace of resentment.

"Of course, Élise is nothing to me in a way. But to think of a girl with
her possibilities being dwarfed and ruined by her surroundings!" He
paused, then added, "I wish my sister had come out with me. She wanted
to come."

Zephyr caught at the last words for an instant, then dropped them. His
answer was abrupt and non-committal. "There are some things that are
best helped by letting them alone."

Firmstone rose. "Good night," he said, briefly, and started for the
mill.

Firmstone was disappointed at Zephyr's reception; but he had reasoned
himself out of surprise. He had not given up the idea of freeing Élise
from her associates. That was not Firmstone.

The next morning, as usual, he met Miss Hartwell at breakfast.

"I am going up to the mine, this morning. Wouldn't you like to go as far
as the Falls? It is well worth your effort," he added.

"I would like to go very much." She spoke meditatively.

"If that means yes, I'll have a pony saddled for you. I'll be ready by
nine o'clock."

Miss Hartwell looked undecided. Firmstone divined the reason.

"The trail is perfectly safe every way, and the pony is sure-footed, so
you have nothing to fear."

"I believe I will go. My brother will never find time to take me
around."

"I'll get ready at once."

A seeming accident more often accomplishes desirable results than a
genuine one. Firmstone was fairly well satisfied that one excursion to
the Falls would incline Miss Hartwell to others. If she failed to meet
Élise on one day she was almost certain to meet her on another.

Promptly at nine the horses were at the door, and as promptly Miss
Hartwell appeared in her riding habit. In her hand she carried a
sketch-book. She held it up, smiling.

"This is one weakness that I cannot conceal."

"Even that needn't trouble you. I'll carry it."

"You seem to have a weakness as well." She was looking at a small box
which Firmstone was fastening to his saddle.

"This one is common to us all. We may not be back till late, so Benny
put up a lunch. The Falls are near Paradise; but yet far enough this
side of the line to make eating a necessity."

They mounted and rode away. Firmstone did not take the usual trail by
the Blue Goose, though it was the shorter. The trail he chose was longer
and easier. At first he was a little anxious about his guest; but Miss
Hartwell's manner plainly showed that his anxiety was groundless.
Evidently she was accustomed to riding, and the pony was perfectly safe.
The trail was narrow and, as he was riding in advance, conversation was
difficult, and no attempt was made to carry it on. At the Falls
Firmstone dismounted and took Miss Hartwell's pony to an open place,
where a long tether allowed it to graze in peace.

Miss Hartwell stood with her eyes resting on reach after reach of the
changing vista. She turned to Firmstone with a subdued smile.

"I am afraid that I troubled you with a useless burden," she said.

"I do not know to what you refer in particular; but I can truthfully
deny trouble on general principles."

"Really, haven't you been laughing at me, all this time? You must have
known how utterly hopeless a sketch-book and water-colours would be in
such a place. I think I'll try botany instead. That appeals to me as
more attainable."

Firmstone looked at his watch.

"I must go on. You are quite sure you won't get tired waiting? I have
put your lunch with your sketch-book. I'll be back by two o'clock,
anyway."

Miss Hartwell assured him that she would not mind the waiting, and
Firmstone went on his way.

Miss Hartwell gathered a few flowers, then opened her botany, and began
picking them to pieces that she might attach to each the hard name which
others had saddled upon it. At first absorbed and intent upon her work,
at length she grew restless and, raising her eyes, she saw Élise. On the
girl's face curiosity and disapprobation amounting almost to resentment
were strangely blended. Curiosity, for the moment, gained the
ascendency, as Miss Hartwell raised her eyes.

"What are you doing to those flowers?" Élise pointed to the fragments.

"I am trying to analyse them."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Analysis?" Miss Hartwell looked up inquiringly; but Élise made no
reply, so she went on. "That is separating them into their component
parts, to learn their structure."

"What for?" Élise looked rather puzzled, but yet willing to hear the
whole defence for spoliation.

"So that I can learn their names."

"How do you find their names?"

It occurred to Miss Hartwell to close the circle by simply answering
"analysis"; but she forebore.

"The flowers are described in this botany and their names are given. By
separating the flowers into their parts I can find the names."

"Where did the book get the names?"

If Miss Hartwell was growing impatient she concealed it admirably. If
she was perplexed in mind, and she certainly was, perplexity did not
show in the repose of her face. Her voice flowed with the modulated
rhythm of a college professor reciting an oft-repeated lecture to
ever-changing individuals with an unchanging stage of mental
development. If her choice of answer was made in desperation nothing
showed it.

"Botanists have studied plants very carefully. They find certain
resemblances which are persistent. These persistent resemblances they
classify into families. There are other less comprehensive resemblances
in the families. These are grouped into genera and the genera are
divided into species and these again into varieties, and a name is given
to each."

Élise in her way was a genius. She recognised the impossible. Miss
Hartwell's answers were impossible to her.

"Oh, is that all?" she asked, sarcastically. "Have you found the names
of these?" Again she pointed to the torn flowers.

Miss Hartwell divided her prey into groups.

"These are the Ranunculaceæ family. This is the Aquilegia Cærulea. This
is the Delphinium Occidentale. This belongs to the Polemoniaceæ family,
and is the Phlox Cæspitosa. These are Compositæ. They are a difficult
group to name." Miss Hartwell was indulging in mixed emotions. Mingled
with a satisfaction in reviewing her erudition was a quiet revenge
heightened by the unconsciousness of her object.

"You don't love flowers." There was no indecision in the statement.

"Why, yes, I certainly do."

"No; you don't, or you wouldn't tear them to pieces."

"Don't you ever pick flowers?"

"Yes; but I love them. I take them to my room, and they talk to me. They
do, too!" Élise flashed an answer to a questioning look of Miss
Hartwell, and then went on, "I don't tear them to pieces and throw them
away. Not even to find out those hideous names you called them. They
don't belong to them. You don't love them, and you needn't pretend you
do." Élise's cheeks were flushed. Miss Hartwell was bewildered in mind.
She acknowledged it to herself. Élise was teaching her a lesson that she
had never heard of before, much less learned. Then came elusive
suggestions, vaguely defined, of the two-fold aspect of nature. She
looked regretfully at the evidences of her curiosity. She had not yet
gone far enough along the new path to take accurate notes of her
emotions; but she had an undefined sense of her inferiority, a sense of
wrong-doing.

"I am very sorry I hurt you. I did not mean to."

Élise gave a quick look of interrogation. The look showed sincerity. Her
voice softened.

"You didn't hurt me; you made me mad. I can help myself. They can't."

Miss Hartwell had left her sketch-book unclosed. An errant breath of
wind was fluttering the pages.

"What is that?" Élise asked. "Another kind of book to make you tear up
flowers?" Her voice was hard again.

Miss Hartwell took up the open book.

"Perhaps you would like to see these. They may atone for my other
wrong-doing."

Élise seated herself and received the sketches one by one as they were
handed to her. Miss Hartwell had intended to make comments as necessity
or opportunity seemed to demand; but Élise forestalled her.

"This is beautiful; only----" She paused.

Miss Hartwell looked up.

"Only what?"

Élise shook her head impatiently.

"You've put those horrid names on each one of them. They make me think
of the ones you tore to pieces."

Miss Hartwell stretched out her hand.

"Let me take them for a moment, please."

Élise half drew them away, looking sharply at Miss Hartwell. Then her
face softened, and she placed the sketches in her hand. One by one the
offending names were removed.

"I think that is better."

Élise watched curiously, and her expression did not change with the
reception of the sketches.

"Don't you ever get mad?" she asked.

"Sometimes."

"That would have made me awfully mad."

"But I think you were quite right. The names are not beautiful. The
flowers are."

"That wouldn't make any difference with me. I'd get mad before I
thought, and then I'd stick to it anyway."

"That is not right."

Élise looked somewhat rebuked, but more puzzled.

"How old are you?" she asked.

This was too much. Miss Hartwell could not conceal her astonishment. She
recovered quickly and answered, with a smile:

"I was twenty-five, last February."

Élise resumed her examination of the water-colours. There was a look of
satisfaction on her face.

"Oh, well, perhaps when I get to be as old as that I won't get mad,
either. How did you learn to make flowers?" Her attention was fixed all
the time on the colours.

"I took lessons."

"Is it very hard to learn?"

"Not very, for some people. Would you like to have me teach you?"

Élise's face was flushed and eager.

"Will you teach me?" she asked.

"Certainly. It will give me great pleasure."

"When can you begin?"

"Now, if you like."

Miss Hartwell had taste, and she had been under excellent instruction.
Her efforts had been praised and herself highly commended; but no
sweeter incense had ever been burned under her nostrils than the intense
absorption of her first pupil. It was not genius; it was love, pure and
simple. There was no element of self-consciousness, only a wild love of
beauty and a longing to give it expression. Nominally, at least, Miss
Hartwell was the instructor and Élise the pupil; but that did not
prevent her learning some lessons which her other instructors had failed
to suggest. The comments of Élise on the habits and peculiarities of
every plant and flower that they attempted demonstrated to Miss Hartwell
that the real science of botany was not wholly dependent upon forceps
and scalpel. Another demonstration was to the effect that the first and
hardest step in drawing, if not in painting, was a clear-cut conception
of the object to be delineated. Élise knew her object. From the first
downy ball that pushed its way into the opening spring, to the unfolding
of the perfect flower, every shade and variety of colour Élise knew to
perfection.

Miss Hartwell's lessons had been purely mechanical. She had brought to
them determination and faithful application; but unconsciously the
object had been herself, not her subject, and her work showed it. Élise
was no genius; but she was possessed of some of its most imperative
essentials, an utter oblivion of self and an abounding love of her
subjects. Miss Hartwell was astonished at her easy grasp of details
which had come to her after much laborious effort.

They were aroused by the click of iron shoes on the stony trail as
Firmstone rode toward them.

He was delighted that his first attempt at bringing Élise in contact
with Miss Hartwell had been so successful. There was a flush of pleasure
on Miss Hartwell's face.

"I believe you knew I would not be alone. Why didn't you tell me about
Élise?"

"Oh, it's better to let each make his own discoveries, especially if
they are pleasant."

Firmstone looked at the paint-smudged fingers of Élise. "You refused my
help in square root, and are taking lessons in painting from Miss
Hartwell."

"Miss who?"

Firmstone was astonished at the change in the girl's face.

"Miss Hartwell," he answered.

Élise rose quickly to her feet. Brush and pencil fell unheeded from her
lap.

"Are you related to that Hartwell at the mill?" she demanded.

"He is my brother."

Fierce anger burned in the eyes of Élise. Without a word, she turned and
started down the trail. Miss Hartwell and Firmstone watched the
retreating figure for a moment. She was first to recover from her
surprise. She began to gather the scattered papers which Élise had
dropped. She was utterly unable to suggest an explanation of the sudden
change that had come over Élise on hearing her name. Firmstone was at
first astonished beyond measure. A second thought cleared his mind. He
knew that Hartwell had been going of late to the Blue Goose. Élise, no
doubt, had good grounds for resentment against him. That it should be
abruptly extended to his sister was no matter of surprise to Firmstone.
Of course, to Miss Hartwell he could not even suggest an explanation.
They each were wholly unprepared for the finale which came as an
unexpected sequel.

A delicate little hand, somewhat smudged with paint, was held out to
Miss Hartwell, who, as she took the hand, looked up into a resolute
face, with drooping eyes.

"I got mad before I thought, and I've come back to tell you that it
wasn't right."

Miss Hartwell drew the girl down beside her.

"Things always look worse than they really are when one is hungry. Won't
you share our lunch?"

With ready tact she directed her words to Firmstone, and she was not
disappointed in finding in him an intelligent second. Before many
minutes, Élise had forgotten disagreeable subjects in things which to
her never lacked interest.

At parting Élise followed the direct trail to the Blue Goose. As
Firmstone had hoped, another series of lessons was arranged for.



CHAPTER XVI

_An Insistent Question_


Had Firmstone been given to the habit of self-congratulation he would
have found ample opportunity for approbation in the excellent manner
with which his plan for the rescue of Élise was working out. The
companionship of Élise and Miss Hartwell had become almost constant in
spite of the unpropitious dénouement of their first meeting. This
pleased Firmstone greatly. But there was another thing which this
companionship thrust upon him with renewed interest. At first it had not
been prominent. In fact, it was quite overshadowed while Miss Hartwell's
unconscious part in his plan was in doubt. Now that the doubt was
removed, his personal feelings toward Élise came to the front. He was
neither conceited nor a philanthropist with more enthusiasm than sense.
He did not attempt to conceal from himself that philanthropy, incarnated
in youth, culture, and a recognised position, directed toward a young
and beautiful girl was in danger of forming entangling alliances, and
that these alliances could be more easily prevented than obviated when
once formed.

Firmstone was again riding down from the mine. He expected to find Élise
and Miss Hartwell at the Falls, as he had many times of late. He placed
the facts squarely before himself. He was hearing of no one so much as
of Élise. Whether this was due to an awakening consciousness on his part
or whether his interest in Élise had attracted the attention of others
he could not decide. Certain it was that Miss Hartwell was continually
singing her praise. Jim, who was rapidly recovering from his wounds and
from his general shaking up at the wreck of the stage, let pass no
opportunity wherein he might express his opinion.

"Hell!" he remarked. "I couldn't do that girl dirt by up and going dead
after all her trouble. Ain't she just fed me and flowered me and coddled
me general? Gawd A'mighty! I feel like a delicatessen shop 'n a flower
garden all mixed up with angels."

Bennie was equally enthusiastic, but his shadowing gourd had a devouring
worm. His commendation of Élise only aroused a resentful consciousness
of the Blue Goose.

"It's the way of the world," he was wont to remark, "but it's a damned
shame to make a good dog and then worry him with fleas."

There was also Dago Joe, who ran the tram at the mill. Joe had a goodly
flock of graduated dagoes in assorted sizes, but his love embraced them
all. That the number was undiminished by disease he credited to Élise,
and the company surgeon vouched for the truth of his assertions. Only
Zephyr was persistently silent. This, however, increased Firmstone's
perplexity, if it did not confirm his suspicions that his interest in
Élise had attracted marked attention. There was only one way in which
his proposed plan of rescue could be carried out that would not
eventually do the girl more harm than good, especially if she was
compelled to remain in Pandora. Here was his problem--one which demanded
immediate solution. He was at the Falls, unconsciously preparing to
dismount, when he saw that neither Élise nor Miss Hartwell was there. He
looked around a moment; then, convinced that they were absent, he rode
on down the trail.

As he entered the town he noted a group of boys grotesquely attired in
miner's clothes. Leading the group was Joe's oldest son, a boy of about
twelve years. A miner's hat, many sizes too large, was on his head,
almost hiding his face. A miner's jacket, reaching nearly to his feet,
completed his costume. In his hand he was swinging a lighted candle. The
other boys were similarly attired, and each had candles as well.
Firmstone smiled. The boys were playing miner, and were "going on
shift." He was startled into more active consciousness by shrill screams
of agony. The boys had broken from their ranks and were flying in every
direction. Young Joe, staggering behind them, was almost hidden by a jet
of flame that seemed to spring from one of the pockets of his coat. The
boy was just opposite the Blue Goose. Before Firmstone could spur his
horse to the screaming child Élise darted down the steps, seized the boy
with one hand, with the other tore the flames from his coat and threw
them far out on the trail. Firmstone knew what had happened. The miner
had left some sticks of powder in his coat and these had caught fire
from the lighted candle. The flames from the burning powder had scorched
the boy's hand, licked across his face, and the coat itself had begun to
burn, when Élise reached him. She was stripping the coat from the
screaming boy as Firmstone sprang from his horse. He took the boy in his
arms and carried him up the steps of the Blue Goose. Élise, running up
the steps before him, reappeared with oil and bandages, as he laid the
boy on one of the tables. Pierre and Morrison came into the bar-room as
Firmstone and Élise began to dress the burns. Morrison laid his hand
roughly on Firmstone's arm.

"You get back to your own. This is our crowd."

"Git hout! You bin kip-still." Pierre in turn thrust Morrison aside.
"You bin got hall you want, Meestaire Firmstone?"

"Take my horse and go for the doctor."

Pierre hastily left the room. The clatter of hoofs showed that
Firmstone's order had been obeyed. Élise and Firmstone worked busily at
the little sufferer. Oil and laudanum had deadened the pain, and the boy
was now sobbing hysterically; Morrison standing by, glaring in helpless
rage.

Another clatter of hoofs outside, and Pierre and the company surgeon
hurried into the room. The boy's moans were stilled and he lay staring
questioningly with large eyes at the surgeon.

"You haven't left me anything to do." The surgeon turned approvingly to
Élise.

"Mr. Firmstone did that."

The surgeon laughed.

"That's Élise every time. She's always laying the blame on someone else.
Never got her to own up to anything of this kind in my life."

Joe senior and his wife came breathless into the room. Mrs. Joe threw
herself on the boy with all the abandon of the genuine Latin. Joe looked
at Élise, then dragged his wife aside.

"The boy's all right now, Joe. You can take him home. I'll be in to see
him later." The surgeon turned to leave the room.

Joe never stirred; only looked at Élise.

"It's all right, Joe."

The surgeon shrugged his shoulders in mock despair.

"There it is again. I'm getting to be of no account."

Something in Élise's face caused him to look again. Then he was at her
side. Taking her arm, he glanced at the hand she was trying to hide.

"It doesn't amount to anything." Élise was trying to free her arm.

From the palm up the hand was red and blistered.

"Now I'll show my authority. How did it happen?"

"The powder was burning. I was afraid it might explode."

"What if it had exploded?"

Firmstone asked the question of Élise. She made no reply. He hardly
expected she would. Nevertheless he did not dismiss the question from
his mind. As he rode away with the company surgeon, he asked it over and
over again. Then he made answer to himself.



CHAPTER XVII

_The Bearded Lion_


Zephyr was doing some meditation on his own account after the meeting
with Firmstone at the Devil's Elbow.

That not only Firmstone's reputation, but his life as well, hung in the
balance, Zephyr had visible proof. This material proof he was absently
tipping from hand to hand, during his broken and unsatisfactory
interview with Firmstone. It was nothing more nor less than a
nickel-jacketed bullet which, that very morning, had barely missed his
head, only to flatten itself against the rocks behind him.

The morning was always a dull time at the Blue Goose. Morrison slept
late. Élise was either with Madame or rambling among the hills. Only
Pierre, who seemed never to sleep, was to be counted upon with any
certainty.

By sunrise on the day that Firmstone and Miss Hartwell were riding to
the Falls Zephyr was up and on his way to the Blue Goose. He found
Pierre in the bar-room.

"_Bon jour, M'sieur._" Zephyr greeted him affably as he slowly sank into
a chair opposite the one in which Pierre was seated.

Pierre, with hardly a movement of his facial muscles, returned Zephyr's
salutation. From his manner no one would have suspected that, had
someone with sufficient reason inquired as to the whereabouts of Zephyr,
Pierre would have replied confidently that the sought-for person was
bobbing down the San Miguel with a little round hole through his head.
Zephyr's presence in the flesh simply told him that, for some unknown
reason, his plan had miscarried.

Zephyr lazily rolled a cigarette and placed it between his lips. He
raised his eyes languidly to Pierre's.

"M'sieu Pierre mek one slick plan. Ze Rainbow Company work ze mine, ze
mill. _Moi_, Pierre, mek ze gol' in mon cellaire." Zephyr blew forth the
words in a cloud of smoke.

Pierre started and looked around. His hand made a motion toward his hip
pocket. Zephyr dropped his bantering tone.

"Not yet, Frenchy. You'll tip over more soup kettles than you know of."
He dropped the flattened bullet on the table and pointed to it. "That
was a bad break on your part. It might have been worse for you as well
as for me, if your man hadn't been a bad shot."

Pierre reached for the bullet, but Zephyr gathered it in.

"Not yet, M'sieur. It was intended for me, and I'll keep it, as a token
of respect. I know M'sieur Pierre. Wen M'sieur Pierre bin mek up ze min'
for shoot, M'sieur Pierre bin say,'_Comment!_ Zat fellaire he bin too
damn smart _pour moi_.' Thanks! Me and Firmstone are much obliged."

Pierre shrugged his shoulders impatiently. Zephyr noted the gesture.

"Don't stop there, M'sieur. Get up to your head. You're in a mess, a bad
one. Shake your wits. Get up and walk around. Explode some _sacrés_.
Pull out a few handfuls of hair and scatter around. No good looking
daggers. The real thing won't work on me, and you'd only get in a worse
mess if it did. That's Firmstone, too. We both are more valuable to you
alive than dead. Of what value is it to a man to do two others, if he
gets soaked in the neck himself?"

Pierre was angered. It was useless to try to conceal it. His swarthy
cheeks grew livid.

"_Sacré!_" he blurted. "What you mean in hell?"

"That's better. Now you're getting down to business. When I find a man
that's up against a thing too hard for him, I don't mind giving him a
lift."

"You lif' and bedam!" Pierre had concluded that pretensions were useless
with Zephyr, and he gave his passion full play. Even if he made breaks
with Zephyr, he would be no worse off.

"I'll' lif'' all right. 'Bedam' is as maybe. Now, Frenchy, if you'll
calm yourself a bit, I'll speak my little piece. You've slated Firmstone
and me for over the divide. _P'quoi, M'sieur?_ For this. Firmstone
understands his business and tends to it. This interferes with your
cellar. So Mr. Firmstone was to be fired by the company. You steered
that safe into the river to help things along. You thought that Jim
would be killed and Firmstone would be chump enough to charge it to a
hold-up, and go off on a wrong scent. Jim got off, and Firmstone was
going to get the safe. I know you are kind-hearted and don't like to do
folks; but Firmstone and me were taking unwarranted liberties with your
plans. Now put your ear close to the ground, Frenchy, and listen hard
and you'll hear something drop. If you do Firmstone you'll see
cross-barred sunlight the rest of your days. I'll see to that. If you do
us both it won't make much difference. I've been taking my pen in hand
for a few months back, and the result is a bundle of papers in a safe
place. It may not be much in a literary way; but it will make mighty
interesting reading for such as it may concern, and you are one of them.
Now let me tell you one thing more. If this little damned thing had gone
through my head on the way to something harder, in just four days you'd
be taking your exercise in a corked jug. My game is worth two of yours.
Mine will play itself when I'm dead; yours won't."

Pierre's lips parted enough to show his set teeth.

"_Bien!_ You tink you bin damn smart, heh? I show you. You bin catch one
rattlesnake by ze tail. _Comment?_ I show you." Pierre rose.

"Better wait a bit, Frenchy. I've been giving you some information. Now
I'll give you some instructions. You've been planning to have Élise
married. Don't do it. You've made up your mind not to keep your promise
to her dead father and mother. You just go back to your original
intentions. It will be good for your body, and for your soul, too, if
you've got any. You're smooth stuff, Pierre, too smooth to think that
I'm talking four of a kind on a bob-tail flush. Comprenny?"

Pierre's eyes lost their fierceness, but his face none of its
determination.

"I ain't going to give hup my li'l Élise. _Sacré, non!_"

"That's for Élise to say. You've got to give her the chance."

There was a moment's pause. "How you bin mek me, heh?" Pierre turned
like a cat. There was a challenge in his words; but there were thoughts
he did not voice.

Zephyr was not to be surprised into saying more than he intended.

"That's a slick game, Pierre; but it won't work. If you want to draw my
fire, you'll have to hang more than an empty hat on a stick. In plain,
flat English, I've got you cinched. If you want to feel the straps draw,
just start in to buck."

Pierre rose from the table. His eyes were all but invisible. There was
no ursine clumsiness in his movements, as he walked to and fro in the
bar-room. As became a feline, he walked in silence and on his toes. He
was thinking of many a shady incident in his past career, and he knew
that with the greater number of his shaded spots Zephyr was more or less
familiar. With which of them was Zephyr most familiar, and was there any
one by means of which Zephyr could thwart him by threatening exposure?
Pierre's tread became yet more silent. He was half crouching, as if
ready for a spring. Zephyr had referred to the cellar. There was his
weakest spot. Luna, the mill foreman, dozens of men, he could name them
every one--all had brought their plunder to the Blue Goose.

Every man who brought him uncoined gold was a thief, and they all felt
safe because in the eyes of the law he, Pierre, was one of them. He
alone was not safe. Not one of the thieves was certainly known to the
others; he was known to them all. It could not be helped. He had taken
big chances; but his reward had been great as well. That would not help
him, if--Unconsciously he crouched still lower. "If there's any
procession heading for Cañon City you'll be in it, too." Someone had got
frightened. Luna, probably. Firmstone was working him, and Zephyr was
helping Firmstone. Pierre knew well the fickle favour of the common man.
A word could destroy his loyalty, excite his fears, or arouse him to
vengeance. Burning, bitter hatred raged in the breast of the little
Frenchman. Exposure, ruin, the penitentiary! His hand rested on the butt
of his revolver as he slowly turned.

Zephyr was leaning on the table. There was a look of languid assurance,
of insolent contempt in the eye that was squinting along a polished
barrel held easily, but perfectly balanced for instant action.

"Go it, Frenchy." Zephyr's voice was patronising.

Pierre gave way to the passion that raged within him.

"_Sacré nom du diable! Mille tonnerres!_ You bin tink you mek me scare,
_moi_, Pierre! Come on, Meestaire Zephyr, come on! Fourtin more just
like it! Strew de piece hall roun' ze dooryard!"

Zephyr's boots thumped applause.

"A-a-ah! Ze gran' _spectacle_! _Magnifique!_ By gar! She bin comedown
firsrate. Frenchy, you have missed your cue. Take the advice of a
friend. Don't stay here, putting addled eggs under a painted goose. Just
do that act on the stage, and you'll have to wear seven-league boots to
get out of the way of rolling dollars."



CHAPTER XVIII

_Winnowed Chaff_


Hartwell had a rule of conduct. It was a Procrustean bed which rarely
fitted its subject. Unlike the originator of the famous couch, Hartwell
never troubled himself to stretch the one nor to trim the other. If his
subjects did not fit, they were cast aside. This was decision. The
greater the number of the too longs or the too shorts the greater his
complacence in the contemplation of his labours. There was one other
weakness that was strongly rooted within him. If perchance one worthless
stick fitted his arbitrary conditions it was from then on advanced to
the rank of deity.

Hartwell was strongly prejudiced against Firmstone, but was wholly
without malice. He suspected that Firmstone was at least
self-interested, if not self-seeking; therefore he assumed him to be
unscrupulous. Firmstone's words and actions were either counted not at
all, or balanced against him.

In approaching others, if words were spoken in his favour, they were
discounted or discarded altogether. Only the facts that made against him
were treasured, all but enshrined. Even in his cynical beliefs Hartwell
was not consistent. He failed utterly to take into account that it might
suit the purpose of his advisers to break down the subject of his
inquiry.

For these reasons the interview with Pierre, even with its mortifying
termination, left a firm conviction in his mind that Firmstone was
dishonest, practically a would-be thief, and this on the sole word of a
professional gambler, a rumshop proprietor, a man with no heritage, no
traditions, and no associations to hold him from the extremities of
crime.

Not one of the men whom Hartwell had interviewed, not even Pierre
himself, would for an instant have considered as probable what Hartwell
was holding as an obvious truth. This, however, did not prevent
Hartwell's actions from hastening to the point of precipitation the very
crisis he was blindly trying to avert. He had not discredited Firmstone
among the men, he had only nullified his power to manage them. Hartwell
had succeeded in completing the operation of informing himself
generally. Having reached this point, he felt that the only thing
remaining to be done was to align his information, crush Firmstone
beneath the weight of his accumulated evidence, and from his dismembered
fragments build up a superintendent who would henceforth walk and act in
the fear of demonstrated omniscient justice. He even grew warmly
benevolent in the contemplation of the gratefully reconstructed man who
was to be fashioned after his own image.

Firmstone coincided with one of Hartwell's conclusions, but from a
wholly different standpoint. Affairs had reached a state that no longer
was endurable. Among the men there was no doubt whatever but that it was
a question of time only when Firmstone, to put it in the graphic phrase
of the mine, "would be shot in the ear with a time check." Firmstone had
no benevolent designs as to the reconstruction of Hartwell, but he had
decided ones as to the reconstruction of the company's affairs. The
meeting thus mutually decided upon as necessary was soon brought about.

Firmstone came into the office from a visit to the mine. It had been
neither a pleasant nor a profitable one. The contemptuous disregard of
his orders, the coarse insolence of the men, and especially of the
foremen and shift bosses, organised into the union by Morrison, had
stung Firmstone to the quick. To combat the disorders under present
conditions would only expose him to insult, without any compensation
whatever. Paying no attention to words or actions, he beat a dignified,
unprotesting retreat. He would, if possible, bring Hartwell to his
senses; if not, he would insist upon presenting his case to the company.
If they failed to support him he would break his contract. He disliked
the latter alternative, for it meant the discrediting of himself or the
manager. He felt that it would be a fight to the death. He found
Hartwell in the office.

"Well," Hartwell looked up abruptly; "how are things going?"

"Hot foot to the devil."

"Your recognition of the fact does you credit, even if the perception is
a little tardy. I think you will further recognise the fact that I take
a hand none too soon." The mask on Hartwell's face grew denser.

"I recognise the fact very clearly that, until you came, the fork of the
trail was before me. Now it is behind and--we are on the wrong split."

"Precisely. I have come to that conclusion myself. In order to act
wisely, I assume that it will be best to get a clear idea of conditions,
and then we can select a remedy for those that are making against us. Do
you agree?"

"I withhold assent until I know just what I am expected to assent to."

Hartwell looked annoyed. "Shall I go on?" he asked, impatiently.
"Perhaps your caution will allow that."

Firmstone nodded. He did not care to trust himself to words.

"Before we made our contract with you to assume charge of our properties
out here I told you very plainly the difficulties under which we had
hitherto laboured, and that I trusted that you would find means to
remedy them. After six months' trial, in which we have allowed you a
perfectly free hand, can you conscientiously say that you have bettered
our prospects?"

Hartwell paused; but Firmstone kept silence.

"Have you nothing to say to this?" Hartwell finally burst out.

"At present, no." Firmstone spoke with decision.

"When will you have?" Hartwell asked.

"When you are through with your side."

Hartwell felt annoyed at what he considered Firmstone's obstinacy.
"Well," he said; "then I shall have to go my own gait. You can't
complain if it doesn't suit you. In your reports to the company you have
complained of the complete disorganisation which you found here. That
this disorganisation resulted in inefficiency of labour, that the mine
was run down, the mill a wreck, and, worst of all, that there was
stealing going on which prevented the richest ore reaching the mill, and
that even the products of the mill were stolen. You laid the stealing to
the door of the Blue Goose. You stated for fact things which you
acknowledged you could not prove. That the proprietor of the Blue Goose
was striving to stir up revolt among the men, to organise them into a
union in order that through this organised union the Blue Goose might
practically control the mine and rob the company right and left. You
pointed out that in your opinion many of the men, even in the
organisation, were honest; that it was only a scheme on the part of
Morrison and Pierre to dupe the men, to blind their eyes so that,
believing themselves imposed on and robbed by the company, they would
innocently furnish the opportunity for the Blue Goose to carry on its
system of plundering."

Firmstone's steady gaze never flinched, as Hartwell swept on with his
arraignment.

"In all your reports, you have without exception laid the blame upon
your predecessors, upon others outside the company. Never in a single
instance have you expressed a doubt as to your own conduct of affairs.
The assumed robbery of the stage I will pass by. Other points I shall
dwell upon. You trust no one. You have demonstrated that to the men. You
give orders at the mine, and instead of trusting your foremen to see
that they are carried out you almost daily insist upon inspecting their
work and interfering with it. The same thing I find to be true at the
mill. Day and night you pounce in upon them. Now let me ask you this. If
you understand men, if you know your business thoroughly, ought you not
to judge whether the men are rendering an equivalent for their pay,
without subjecting them to the humiliation of constant espionage?" He
looked fixedly at Firmstone, as he ended his arraignment.

Firmstone waited, if perchance Hartwell had not finished.

"Is your case all in?" he finally asked.

"For the present, yes." Hartwell snapped his jaws together decidedly.

"Then I'll start."

"Wait a moment, right there," Hartwell interrupted.

"No. I will not wait. I am going right on. You've been informing
yourself generally. Now I'm going to inform you particularly. In the
first place, how did you find out that I had been subjecting the men to
this humiliating espionage, as you call it?" Firmstone waited for a
reply.

"I don't know that I am under obligations to answer that question,"
Hartwell replied, stiffly.

"Then I'll answer it for you. You've been to my foremen, my shift
bosses, my workmen; you've been, above all other places, to the Blue
Goose. You've been to anyone and everyone whose interest it is to weaken
my authority and to render me powerless to combat the very evils of
which you complain."

Hartwell started to interrupt; but Firmstone waved him to silence.

"This is a vital point. One thing more: instead of acquiring information
as to the conditions that confront me and about my method of handling
them, you go to my enemies, get their opinions and, what is worse, act
upon them as your own."

"Wait a minute right there." Hartwell spoke imperiously. "You speak of
'my foremen' and 'my shift bosses.' They are not your men; they are
ours. We pay them, and we are going to see to it that we get an
equivalent return, in any way we think advisable." Hartwell ignored
Firmstone's last words.

"That may be your position. If it is it is not a wise one, and, what is
more, it is not tenable. You put me out here to manage your business,
and you hold me responsible for results. I ask from you the same
consideration I give to my foremen. I do not hire a single man at the
mine or mill; my foremen attend to that. I give my orders direct to my
foremen, and hold them strictly responsible. The men are responsible to
my foremen, my foremen are responsible to me, and I in turn am wholly
responsible to you. If in one single point you interfere with my
organisation I not only decline to assume any responsibility whatever,
but, farther, I shall tender my resignation at once."

Hartwell listened impatiently, but nevertheless Firmstone's words were
not without effect. They appealed to his judgment as being justified;
but to accept them and act upon them meant a repudiation of his own
course. For this he was not ready. In addition to his vanity, Hartwell
had an abiding faith in his own shrewdness. He was casting about in his
mind for a plausible delay which would afford him time to retreat from
his position without a confession of defeat. He could find none.
Firmstone had presented a clean-cut ultimatum. He was in an unpleasant
predicament. Some one would have to be sacrificed. He was wholly
determined that it should not be himself. Perhaps after all it would be
better to arrange as best he might with Firmstone, rather than have it
go farther.

"It seems to me, Firmstone, as if you were going altogether too fast.
There's no use jumping. Why not talk this over sensibly?"

"There is only one thing to be considered. If you are going to manage
this place I am going to put it beyond your power even to make me appear
responsible."

"You forget your contract with us," Hartwell interposed.

"I do not forget it. If you discharge me, or force me to resign, I still
demand a hearing."

Hartwell was disturbed, and his manner showed it. Firmstone presented
two alternatives. Forcing a choice of either of them would bring
unpleasant consequences upon himself. Was it necessary to force the
choice?

"Suppose I do neither?" he asked.

"That will not avert the consequences of what you have already done."

"Are you determined to resign?" Hartwell asked, uneasily.

"That is not what I meant."

"What did you mean, then?"

"This. Before you came out, I had things well in hand. In another month
I would have had control of the men, and the property would have been
paying a good dividend. As it is now----" Firmstone waved his hand, as
if to dismiss a useless subject.

"Well, what now?" Hartwell asked, after a pause.

"It has to be done all over again, only under greater difficulties, the
outcome of which I cannot foresee."

"To what difficulties do you refer?" Firmstone's manner disturbed
Hartwell.

"The men were getting settled. Now you have played into the hands of two
of the most unscrupulous rascals in Colorado. Between you, you've got
the men stirred up to a point where a strike is inevitable." For a time,
Hartwell was apparently crushed by Firmstone's unanswerable logic, as
well as by his portentous forecasts. He could not but confess to himself
that his course of action looked very different under Firmstone's
analysis than from his own standpoint alone. He drummed his fingers
listlessly on the desk before him. He was all but convinced that he
might have been wrong in his judgment of Firmstone, after all. Then
Pierre's suggestions came to him like a flash.

"You are aware, of course, that I shall have to make a full report of
the accident to the stage to our directors?"

"I made a report of all the facts in the case, at the time. Of course,
if you have discovered other facts, they will have to be given in
addition."

Hartwell continued, paying no attention to Firmstone.

"That in the report which I shall make, I may feel compelled to arrange
my data in such a manner that they will point to a conclusion somewhat
at variance with yours?"

"In which case," interrupted Firmstone; "I shall claim the right to
another and counter statement."

Hartwell looked even more intently at Firmstone.

"In your report you stated positively that there were three thousand,
one hundred and twenty-five ounces of bullion in your shipment; that
this amount was lost in the wreck of the stage."

"Exactly."

Hartwell leaned forward, his eyes still fixed on Firmstone's eyes. Then,
after a moment's pause, he asked, explosively,--

"Was there that amount?"

Firmstone's face had a puzzled look.

"There certainly was, unless I made a mistake in weighing up." His brows
contracted for a moment, then cleared decisively. "That is not possible.
The total checked with my weekly statements."

Hartwell settled back in his chair. There was a look of satisfied
cunning on his face. He had gained his point. He had attacked Firmstone
in an unexpected quarter, and he had flinched. He had no further doubts.
This, however, was not enough. He would press the brimming cup of
evidence to his victim's lips and compel him to drink it to the last
drop.

"Who saw you put the bullion in the safe?"

"No one."

"Then, if the safe is never recovered, we have only your word that the
bullion was put in there, as you stated?"

Firmstone was slowly realising Hartwell's drift. Slowly, because the
idea suggested appeared too monstrous to be tenable. The purple veins on
his forehead were hard and swollen.

"That is all," he said, from between compressed lips.

"Under the circumstances, don't you think it is of the utmost importance
that the safe be recovered?"

"Under any circumstances. I have already taken all the steps possible in
that direction." Firmstone breathed easier. He saw, as he thought, the
error of his other half-formed suspicion. Hartwell was about to suggest
that Zephyr should not be alone in guarding the river.

Hartwell again leaned forward. He spoke meditatively, but his eyes were
piercing in their intensity.

"Yes. If in the event of the unexpected," he emphasised the word with a
suggestive pause, "recovery of the safe, it should be found not to
contain that amount, in fact, nothing at all, what would you have to
say?"

Every fibre of Firmstone's body crystallised into hard lines. Slowly he
rose to his feet. Pale to the lips, he towered over the general manager.
Slowly his words fell from set lips.

"What have I to say?" he repeated. "This. That, if I stooped to answer
such a question, I should put myself on the level of the brutal idiot
who asked it."



CHAPTER XIX

_The Fly in the Ointment_


At last the union was organised at mill and mine.

The men had been duly instructed as to the burden of their wrongs and
the measures necessary for redress. They had been taught that all who
were not for them were against them, and that scabs were traitors to
their fellows, that heaven was not for them, hell too good for them, and
that on earth they only crowded the deserving from their own. In warning
his fellows against bending the knee to Baal, Morrison did not feel it
incumbent upon him to state that there was a whole sky full of other
heathen deities, and that, in turning from one deity to make obeisance
to another, they might miss the one true God. He did not even take the
trouble to state that there was a chance for wise selection--that it was
better to worship Osiris than to fall into the hands of Moloch.

With enthusiasm, distilled as much from Pierre's whisky as from
Morrison's wisdom, the men had elected Morrison leader, and now awaited
his commands. Morrison had decided on a strike. This would demonstrate
his power and terrify his opponents. There was enough shrewdness in him
to select a plausible excuse. He knew very well that even among his most
ardent adherents there was much common sense and an inherent perception
of justice; that, while this would not stand in the way of precipitating
a strike, it might prevent its perfect fruition. Whatever his own
convictions, Morrison felt intuitively that ideas in the minds of the
majority of men were but characters written on sand which the first
sweep of washing waves would wipe out and leave motiveless; that others
must stand by with ready stylus, to write again and again that which was
swept away. In other words, he must have aides; that these aides, if
they were to remain steadfast, must be thinking men, impressed with the
justice of their position.

Hartwell had supplied just the motive that was needed. As yet, it was
not apparent; but it was on the way. When it arrived there would be no
doubt of its identity, or the course of action which must then be
pursued. Morrison was sure that it would come, was sure of the riot that
would follow. His face darkened, flattened to the similitude of a
serpent about to strike.

There was a flaw in Morrison's otherwise perfect fruit. Where hitherto
had been the calm of undisputed possession was now the rage of baffled
desire. Aside from momentary resentment at Élise's first interview with
Firmstone, the fact had made little impression on him. As Pierre ruled
his household, even so he intended to rule his own, and, according to
Morrison's idea of the conventional, a temporary trifling with another
man was one of the undeniable perquisites of an engaged girl. Morrison
had been too sure of himself to feel a twinge of jealousy, rather
considering such a course of action, when not too frequently indulged,
an additional tribute to his own personality. What Morrison mistook for
love was only passion. It was honourable, insomuch as he intended to
make Élise his wife.

Morrison ascribed only one motive to the subsequent meetings which he
knew took place between Élise and Firmstone. Élise was drifting farther
and farther from him, in spite of all that he could do. "Rowing," as he
expressed it, had not been of infrequent occurrence between himself and
Élise before Firmstone had appeared on the scene; but on such occasions
Élise had been as ready for a "mix-up" as she was now anxious to avoid
one. There was another thing to which he could not close his eyes. There
had been defiance, hatred, an eager fierceness, both in attack and
defence, which was now wholly lacking. On several recent occasions he
had sought a quarrel with Élise; but while she had stood her ground,
there was a contempt in her manner, her eyes, her voice, which could not
do otherwise than attract his attention.

To do Morrison the justice which he really deserved, there was in him as
much of love for Élise as his nature was capable of harbouring for any
one outside himself. He looked upon her as his own, and he was defending
this idea of possession with the same pugnacity that he would protect
his dollars from a thief. Morrison had been forced to the conclusion
that Élise was lost to him. Hitherto Firmstone had been an impersonal
obstacle in his path. Now--The eyes narrowed to a slit, the venomous
lips were compressed. Morrison was a beast. Only the vengeance of a
beast could wipe out the disgrace that had been forced upon him.

In reality Élise was only a child. Unpropitious and uncongenial as had
been her surroundings to her finer nature, these had only retarded
development; they had not killed the germ. Her untrammelled life had
been natural, but hardly neutral. To put conditions in a word, her
undirected life had stored up an abundant supply of nourishing food that
would thrust into vigorous life the dormant germ of noble womanhood when
the proper time should come. There had been no hot-house forcing, but
the natural growth of the healthy, hardy plant which would battle
successfully the storms that were bound to come.

In the cramped and sordid lives which had surrounded her there was much
to repel and little to attract. The parental love of Pierre was strong
and fierce, but it was animal, it was satiating, selfish, and
undemonstrative. Hence Élise was almost wholly unconscious of its
existence. As for Madame, hers was a love unselfish; but dominated and
overshadowed, in terror of her husband, she stood in but little less awe
of Élise. These two, the one selfish, with strength of mind sufficient
to bend others to his purposes, the other unselfish, but with every
spontaneous emotion repressed by stronger personalities, exerted an
unconscious but corresponding influence upon their equally unconscious
ward. These manifestations were animal, and in Élise they met with an
animal response. She felt the domineering strength of Pierre, but
without awe she defied it. She felt the unselfish and timorous love of
Madame. She trampled it beneath her childish feet, or yielded to a storm
of repentant emotion that overwhelmed and bewildered its timid
recipient. She was surrounded and imbued with emotions, unguided,
unanalysed, misunderstood, that rose supreme, or were blotted out as the
strength of the individual was equal to or inferior to its opposition.
They were animal emotions that one moment would lick and caress and
fight to the death, the next in a moment of rage would smite to the
earth. As Élise approached womanhood, these emotions were intensified,
but were otherwise unmodified. There was another element which came as a
natural temporal sequence. She had seen with unseeing eyes young girls
given in marriage; she had no question but that a like fate was in store
for her. So it happened that when Pierre, announcing to her her
sixteenth birthday, had likewise broached the subject of marriage she
opposed it not on rational grounds but simply on general principles. She
was not at first conscious of any objections to Morrison. Being ignorant
of marriage she had no grounds upon which to base a choice. To her
Morrison was no better and no worse than any other man she had met.
Morrison was perfectly right in his assumptions. Had not circumstances
interfered, in the end he would have had his way. Morrison was also
perfectly wrong. Élise was not Madame in any sense of the word. His
reign would have been at least troubled, if not in the end usurped. The
first circumstance which had already interfered to prevent the
realisation of his desire was one which, very naturally, would be the
last to appeal to him. This circumstance was Zephyr.

From the earliest infancy of Élise, Zephyr had been, in a way, her
constant guardian and companion. With enough strength of character to
make him fearless, it was insufficient to arouse the ambition to carve
out a distinctive position for himself. He absorbed and mastered
whatever came in his way, but there his ambition ceased. He was
respected and, to a certain extent, feared, even by those who were
naturally possessed of stronger natures.

There may be something in the fabled power of the human eye to cow a
savage beast, but unfortunately it will probably never be satisfactorily
demonstrated. A man confronted with the beast will invariably and
instinctively trust to his concrete "44" rather than to the abstract
force of human magnetism. Yet there is a germ of truth in the proverbial
statement. Brought face to face with his human antagonist, the thinking
man always stands in fear of himself, of his sense of justice, while the
brute in his opponent has no scruples and no desires save those of
personal triumph.

These things Élise did not see. The things she saw which appealed to her
and influenced her were, first of all, Zephyr's fearlessness of others
who were feared, his good-natured, philosophical cynicism which
ridiculed foibles that he did not feel called upon to combat, his
protecting love for her which was always considerate but never
obsequious, which was unrestraining yet restrained her in the end.
Against his cynical stoicism the waves of her childish rage beat
themselves to calm, or, hurt and wounded, she wept out her childish
sorrows in his comforting arms. The protecting value of it she did not
know, but in Zephyr, and that was the only name by which she knew him,
was the only untrammelled outlet for every passion of her childish as
well as for her maturing soul.

Zephyr alone would have thwarted Morrison's designs on Élise. But
Morrison despised Zephyr, even though he feared him. Zephyr in a neutral
way had preserved Élise from herself and from her surroundings. Neutral,
because his efforts were conserving, not developmental. Neutral, for,
while he could keep her feet from straying in paths of destruction, he
had through ignorance been unable to guide them in ways that led to a
higher life.

This mission had been left to Firmstone. Not that Zephyr's work had been
less important, for the hand that fallows ground performs as high a
mission as the hand that sows the chosen seed. Unconsciously at first,
Firmstone had opened the eyes of Élise to vistas, to possibilities which
hitherto had been undreamed of. It mattered little that as yet she saw
men as trees, the great and saving fact remained, her eyes were opened
and she saw.

Morrison's eyes were also opened. He saw first the growing influence of
Firmstone and later the association of Élise with Miss Hartwell. He
could not see that Élise, with the influence of Firmstone, was an
impossibility to him. Like a venomous serpent that strikes blindly at
the club and not at the man who wields it, Morrison concentrated the
full strength of his rage against Firmstone.

Perhaps no characterisation of Élise could be stronger than the bald
statement that as yet she was entirely oblivious of self. The opening
vistas of a broader, higher life were too absorbing, too intoxicating in
themselves, to permit the intrusion of the disturbing element of
personality. Her eager absorption of the minutest detail, her keen
perception of the slightest discordant note, pleased Miss Hartwell as
much as it delighted Firmstone.

Élise was as spontaneous and unreserved with the latter as with the
former. She preferred Firmstone's company because with him was an
unconscious personality that met her own on even terms. Firmstone loved
strength and beauty for themselves, Miss Hartwell for the personal
pleasure they gave her. She was flattered by the childish attention
which was tendered her and piqued by the obvious fact that her
personality had made only a slight impression upon Élise as compared
with that of Firmstone.

This particular afternoon Élise was returning from a few hours spent
with Miss Hartwell at the Falls. It had been rather unsatisfactory to
both. As the sun began to sink behind the mountain they had started down
the trail together, but the walk was a silent one. Miss Hartwell had a
slight flush of annoyance. Élise, sober and puzzled, was absorbed by
thoughts that were as yet undifferentiated and unidentified. They parted
at the Blue Goose.

Élise turned at the steps and entered by the back door. Morrison was
watching, unseen by either. He noted Élise's path, and as she entered he
confronted her. Élise barely noticed him and was preparing to go
upstairs. Morrison divined her intention and barred her way.

"You're getting too high-toned for common folks, ain't you?"

Élise paused perforce. There was a struggling look in her eyes. Her
thoughts had been too far away from her surroundings to allow of an
immediate return. She remained silent. The scowl on Morrison's face
intensified.

"When you're Mrs. Morrison, you won't go traipsing around with no
high-toned bosses and female dudes more than once. I'll learn you."

Élise came back with a crash.

"Mrs. Morrison!" She did not speak the words, she shrank from them and
left them hanging in their self-polluted atmosphere. "Learn me!" The
words were vibrant with a low-pitched hum, that smote and bored like the
impact of an electric wave. "You--you--snake; you--how dare you!"

Morrison did not flinch. The blind fury of a dared beast flamed in his
eyes.

"Dare, you vixen! I'll make you, or break you! I've been in too many
scraps and smelled too much powder to get scared by a hen that's trying
to crow."

The animal was dominant in Élise. Fury personified flew at Morrison.

"You'll teach me; will you? I'll teach you the difference between a hen
and a wild cat."

The door from the kitchen was opened and Madame came in. She flung
herself between Élise and Morrison. The repressed timorous love of years
flamed upon the thin cheeks, flashed from the faded eyes. There was no
trace of fear. Her slight form fairly shook with the intensity of her
passion.

"Go! Go! Go!" The last was uttered in a voice little less than a shriek.
"Don't you touch Élise. She is mine. Why don't you go?"

Her trembling hands pushed Morrison toward the open door. Bewildered,
staggered, cowed, he slunk from the room. Madame closed the door. She
turned toward Élise. The passion had receded, only the patient pleading
was in her eyes.

The next instant she saw nothing. Her head was crushed upon Élise's
shoulder, the clasping arms caressed and bound, and hot cheeks were
pressed against her own. Another instant and she was pushed into a
chair. For the first time in her life, Madame's hungry heart was fed.
Élise loved her. That was enough.

The westward sinking sun had drawn the veil of darkness up from the
greying east. Its cycles of waxing and waning were measured by the click
of tensioned springs and beat of swinging pendulums. But in the growing
darkness another sun was rising, its cycles measured by beating hearts
to an unending day.



CHAPTER XX

_The River Gives up its Prey_


Because Zephyr saw a school of fishes disporting themselves in the
water, this never diverted his attention from the landing of the fish he
had hooked.

This principle of his life he was applying to a particular event. The
river had been closely watched; now, at last, his fish was hooked. The
landing it was another matter. He needed help. He went for it.

Zephyr found Bennie taking his usual after-dinner nap.

"Julius Benjamin, it's the eleventh hour," he began, indifferently.

Bennie interrupted:

"The eleventh hour! It's two o'clock, and the time you mention was born
three hours ago. What new kind of bug is biting you?"

Zephyr studiously rolled a cigarette.

"Your education is deficient, Julius. You don't know your Bible, and you
don't know the special force of figurative language. I'm sorry for you,
Julius, but having begun I'll see it through. Having put my hand to the
plough, which is also figuratively speaking, it's the eleventh hour, but
if you'll get into your working clothes and whirl in, I'll give you full
time and better wages."

Bennie sat upright.

"What?" he began.

Zephyr's cigarette was smoking.

"There's no time to waste drilling ideas through a thick head. The wagon
is ready and so is the block and ropes. Come on, and while we're on the
way, I'll tackle your wits where the Almighty left off."

Bennie's wits were not so muddy as Zephyr's words indicated. He sprang
from his bed and into his shoes, and before the stub of Zephyr's
cigarette had struck the ground outside the open window Bennie was
pushing Zephyr through the door.

"Figures be hanged, and you, too. If my wits were as thick as your
tongue, they'd be guessing at the clack of it, instead of getting a
wiggle on the both of us."

The stableman had the wagon hooked up and ready. Zephyr and Bennie
clambered in. Bennie caught the lines from the driver and cracking the
whip about the ears of the horses, they clattered down the trail to the
Devil's Elbow.

Zephyr protested mildly at Bennie's haste.

"Hold your hush," growled Bennie. "There's a hell of a fight on at the
office this day. If you want to see a good man win the sooner we're back
with the safe the better."

There were no lost motions on their arrival at the Devil's Elbow. The
actual facts that had hastened Zephyr's location of the safe were
simple. He had studied the position which the stage must have occupied
before the bridge fell, its line of probable descent. From these assumed
data he inferred the approximate position of the safe in the river and
began prodding in the muddy water. At last he was tolerably sure that he
had located it. By building a sort of wing dam with loose rock, filling
the interstices with fine material, the water of the pool was cut off
from the main stream and began to quiet down and grow comparatively
clear. Then Zephyr's heart almost stood still. By careful looking he
could distinguish one corner of the safe. Without more ado he started
for Bennie.

The tackle was soon rigged. Taking a hook and chain, Zephyr waded out
into the icy water, and after a few minutes he gave the signal to hoist.
It was the safe, sure enough. Another lift with the tackle in a new
position and the safe was in the wagon and headed for its
starting-point.

Bennie was rigid with important dignity on the way to the office and was
consequently silent save as to his breath, which whistled through his
nostrils. As for Zephyr, Bennie's silence only allowed him to whistle or
go through the noiseless motions as seemed to suit his mood. The driver
was alive with curiosity and spoiling to talk, but his voluble efforts
at conversation only confirmed his knowledge of what to expect. When
later interrogated as to the remarks of Zephyr and Bennie upon this
particular occasion he cut loose the pent-up torrent within him.

"You fellows may have heard," he concluded, "that clams is hell on
keeping quiet; but they're a flock of blue jays cussin' fer a prize
compared with them two fellers."

As Firmstone turned to leave the office the door was thrust open and the
two men entered. Bennie led, aggressive defiance radiating from every
swing and pose. Zephyr, calm, imperturbable, confident, glanced at the
red-faced Hartwell and at the set face of Firmstone. He knew the game,
he knew his own hand. He intended to play it for its full value. He had
an interested partner. He trusted in his skill, but if he made breaks it
was no concern of his.

"Assuming," he began; "that there's an interesting discussion going on,
I beg leave to submit some important data bearing on the same."

"Trim your switches," burst out Bennie. "They'll sting harder."

The unruffled Zephyr bent a soothing eye on Bennie, moved his hat a
little farther back from his forehead, placed his arms leisurely akimbo,
and eased one foot by gradually resting his weight on the other. It was
not affectation. It was the physical expression of a mental habit.

"Still farther assuming," here his eyes slowly revolved and rested on
Hartwell, "that truth crushed to earth sometimes welcomes a friendly
boost, uninvited, I am here to tender the aforesaid assistance." He
turned to Bennie. "Now, Julius, it's up to you. If you'll open the
throttle, you can close your blow-off with no danger of bursting your
boiler." He nodded his head toward the door.

Hartwell's manner was that of a baited bull who, in the multiplicity of
his assailants, knew not whom to select for first attack. For days and
weeks he had been marshalling his forces for an overwhelming assault on
Firmstone. He had ignored the fact that his adversary might have been
preparing an able defence in spite of secrecy on his part. It is a wise
man who, when contemplating the spoliation of his neighbour, first takes
careful account of defensive as well as of offensive means. His personal
assault on Firmstone had met with defeat. In the mental rout that
followed he was casting about to find means of concealing from others
that which he could not hide from himself. The irruption of Bennie and
Zephyr threatened disaster even to this forlorn hope. Firmstone knew
what was coming. Hartwell could not even guess. As he had seen Firmstone
as his first object, so now he saw Zephyr. Blindly as he had attacked
Firmstone, so now he lowered his head for an equally blind charge on the
placid Zephyr.

"Who are you, anyway?" he burst out, with indignant rage.

"Me?" Zephyr turned to Hartwell, releasing his lips from their habitual
pucker, his eyes resting for a moment on Hartwell. "Oh, I ain't much. I
ain't a sack of fertilizer on a thousand-acre ranch." His eyes drooped
indifferently. "But at the same time, you ain't no thousand-acre ranch."

"That may be," retorted Hartwell; "but I'm too large to make it safe for
you to prance around on alone."

Zephyr turned languidly to Hartwell.

"That's so," he assented. "I discovered a similar truth several decades
ago and laid it up for future use. Even in my limited experience you
ain't the first thorn-apple that I've seen pears grafted on to. In
recognition of your friendly warning, allow me to say that I'm only one
in a bunch."

A further exchange of courtesies was prevented by the entrance of four
men, of whom Bennie was one. Their entrance was heralded by a series of
bumps and grunts. There was a final bump, a final grunt, and the four
men straightened simultaneously; four bended arms swept the moisture
from four perspiring faces.

"That's all." Bennie dismissed his helpers with a wave of his hand, then
stood grimly repressed, waiting for the next move.

The scene was mildly theatrical; unintentionally so, so far as Zephyr
was concerned, designedly so on the part of Bennie, who longed to push
it to a most thrilling climax. It was not pleasant to Firmstone; but the
cause was none of his creating, he was of no mind to interfere with the
event. He was only human after all, and that it annoyed and irritated
Hartwell afforded him a modicum of legitimate solace. Besides, Zephyr
and Bennie were his stanch friends; the recovery of the safe and the
putting it in evidence at the most effective moment was their work. The
manner of bringing it into play, though distasteful to him, suited their
ideas of propriety, and Firmstone felt that they had earned the right to
an exhibition of their personalities with no interference on his part.
He preserved a passive, dignified silence.

As for Hartwell, openly attacked from without, within a no less violent
conflict of invisible forces was crowding him to self-humiliation. To
retreat from the scene meant either an open confession of wrong-doing,
or a refusal on his part to do justice to the man whom he had wronged.
To remain was to subject himself to the open triumph of Zephyr and
Bennie, and the no less assured though silent triumph of Firmstone.

Hartwell's reflections were interrupted by Zephyr's request for the keys
to the safe. There was a clatter as Firmstone dropped them into his open
hand. Hartwell straightened up with flushed cheeks. Pierre's words again
came to him. The whole thing might be a bluff, after all. The safe might
be empty. Here was a possible avenue of escape. With the same blind
energy with which he had entered other paths, he entered this. He leaned
back in his chair with tolerant resignation.

"If it amuses you people to make a mountain out of a molehill I can
afford to stand it."

Bennie looked pityingly at Hartwell. "God Almighty must have it in for
you bad, or he'd let you open your eyes t'other end to, once in a
while."

As the safe was finally opened and one by one the dull yellow bars were
piled on the scales, there was too much tenseness to allow of even a
show of levity. Zephyr had no doubts. No one could have got at the safe
while in the river; he could swear to that. From its delivery to the
driver by Firmstone there had been no time nor opportunity to tamper
with its contents. As for Firmstone, he had too much at stake to be
entirely free from anxiety, though neither voice nor manner betrayed it.
He had had experience enough to teach him that it was not sufficient to
be honest--one must at all times be prepared to prove it.

The last ingot was checked off. Firmstone silently handed Hartwell the
copy of his original letter of advice and the totalled figures of the
recent weighing. Hartwell accepted them with a cynical smile and laid
them indifferently aside.

"Well," he remarked; "all I can say is, the company recovered the safe
in the nick of time, from whom I don't pretend to say. We've got it, and
that's enough." There was a grin of cunning defiance on his face. He had
entered a covert where further pursuit was impossible.

For once Bennie felt unequal to the emergency. He turned silently, but
appealingly, to Zephyr.

It was a new experience for Zephyr as well. For the first time in his
life he felt himself jarred to the point of quick retort, wholly
unconsonant with his habitual serenity. His face flushed. His hand moved
jerkily to the bosom of his shirt, only to be as jerkily removed empty.
The harmonica was decidedly unequal to the task. His lips puckered and
straightened. His final resort was more satisfying. He deliberately
seated himself on the safe and began rolling a cigarette. Placing it to
his lips, he drew a match along the leg of his trousers. The shielded
flame was applied to the cigarette. There came a few deliberate puffs,
the cigarette was removed. His crossed leg was thrust through his
clasped hands at he leaned backward. Through a cloud of soothing smoke
his answer was meditatively voiced.

"When the Almighty made man, he must have had a pot of sense on one hand
and foolishness on the other, and he put some of each inside every empty
skull. He got mighty interested in his work and so absent-minded he used
up the sense first. Leastways, some skulls got an unrighteous dose of
fool that I can't explain no other way. I ain't blaming the Almighty;
he'd got the stuff on his hands and he'd got to get rid of it somehow.
It's like rat poison--mighty good in its place, but dangerous to have
lying around loose. He just forgot to mix it in, that's all, and we've
got to do it for him. It's a heap of trouble and it's a nasty job, and I
ain't blaming him for jumping it."



CHAPTER XXI

_The Sword that Turns_


As Zephyr and Bennie left the office Hartwell turned to Firmstone. There
was no outward yielding, within only the determination not to recognise
defeat.

"The cards are yours; but we'll finish the game."

The words were not spoken, but they were in evidence.

Firmstone was silent for a long time. He was thinking neither of
Hartwell nor of himself.

"Well," he finally asked; "this little incident is happily closed. What
next?"

Hartwell's manner had not changed. "You are superintendent here. Don't
ask me. It's up to you."

Firmstone restrained himself with an effort. "Is it?"

The question carried its own answer with it. It was plainly negative,
only Hartwell refused to accept it.

"What else are you out here for?"

Firmstone's face flushed hotly. "Why can't you talk sense?" he burst
out.

"I am not aware that I have talked anything else." Hartwell only grew
more rigid with Firmstone's visible anger.

"If that's your opinion the sooner I get out the better." Firmstone rose
and started to the door.

"Wait a moment." Firmstone's decision was, by Hartwell, twisted into
weakening. On this narrow pivot he turned his preparation for retreat.
"The loss of the gold brought me out here. It has been recovered and no
questions asked. That ends my work. Now yours begins. When I have your
assurance that you will remain with the company in accordance with your
contract, I am ready to go. What do you say?"

Firmstone thought rapidly and to the point. His mind was soon made up.
"I decline to commit myself." The door closed behind him, shutting off
further discussion.

The abrupt termination of the interview was more than disappointing to
Hartwell. It carried with it an element of fear. He had played his game
obstinately, with obvious defiance in the presence of Zephyr and Bennie;
with their departure he had counted on a quiet discussion with
Firmstone. He had no settled policy further than to draw Firmstone out,
get him to commit himself definitely while he, with no outward sign of
yielding, could retreat with flying colours. He now recognised the fact
that the knives with which he had been juggling were sharper and more
dangerous than he had thought, but he also felt that, by keeping them in
the air as long as possible, when they fell he could at least turn their
points from himself. Firmstone's departure brought them tumbling about
his ears in a very inconsiderate manner. He must make another move, and
in a hurry. Events were no longer even apparently under his control;
they were controlling him and pushing him into a course of action not at
all to his liking.

The element of fear, before passive, was now quivering with intense
activity. He closed his mind to all else and bent it toward the
forestalling of an action that he could not but feel was immediate and
pressing.

Partly from Firmstone, partly from Pierre, he had gathered a clear idea
that a union was being organised, and this knowledge had impelled him to
a course that he would now have given worlds to recall.

This act was none else than the engaging of a hundred or more non-union
men. On their arrival, he had intended the immediate discharge of the
disaffected and the installing of the new men in their places. He had
chuckled to himself over the dismay which the arrival of the men would
create, but even more over the thought of the bitter rage of Morrison
and Pierre when they realised the fact that they had been outwitted and
forestalled. The idea that he was forcing upon Firmstone a set of
conditions for which he would refuse to stand sponsor had occurred to
him only as a possibility so remote that it was not even considered. He
was now taking earnest counsel with himself. If Firmstone had
contemplated resignation under circumstances of far less moment than the
vital one of which he was still ignorant--Hartwell drew his hand slowly
across his moistening forehead, then sprang to his feet. Why had he not
thought of it before? He caught up his hat and hurried to the door of
the outer office. There was not a moment to lose. Before he laid his
hand on the door he forced himself to deliberate movement.

"Tell the stable boss to hitch up the light rig and bring it to the
office."

As the man left the room, Hartwell seated himself and lighted a cigar.
In a few moments the rig was at the door and Hartwell appeared,
leisurely drawing on a pair of driving-gloves. Adjusting the dust-robe
over his knees, as he took the lines from the man, he said:

"If Mr. Firmstone inquires for me tell him I have gone for a drive."

Down past the mill, along the trail by the slide, he drove with no
appearance of haste. Around a bend which hid the mill from sight, the
horses had a rude awakening. The cigar was thrown aside, the reins
tightened, and the whip was cracked in a manner that left no doubt in
the horses' minds as to the desires of their driver.

In an hour, foaming and panting, they were pulled up at the station.
Hitching was really an unnecessary precaution, for a rest was a thing to
be desired; but hitched they were, and Hartwell hurried into the dingy
office.

The operator was leaning back in his chair, his feet beside his clicking
instrument, a soothing pipe perfuming the atmosphere of placid dreams.

"I want to get off a message at once." Hartwell was standing before the
window.

The operator's placid dreams assumed an added charm by comparison with
the perturbed Hartwell.

"You're too late, governor." He slowly raised his eyes, letting them
rest on Hartwell.

"Too late!" Hartwell repeated, dazedly.

"Yep. At once ain't scheduled to make no stops." The operator resumed
his pipe and his dreams.

"I've no time to waste," Hartwell snapped, impatiently.

"Even so," drawled the man; "but you didn't give me no time at all. I
don't mind a fair handicap; but I ain't no jay."

"Will you give me a blank?"

"Oh, now you're talking U. S. all right. I savvy that." Without rising,
he pushed a packet of blanks toward the window with his foot.

Hartwell wrote hurriedly for a moment, and shoved the message toward the
operator. Taking his feet from the desk, he leaned slowly forward,
picked up a pencil and began checking off the words.

     John Haskins, Leadville, Colorado.

     Do not send the men I asked for. Will explain by letter.

     Arthur Hartwell.

"Things quieting down at the mine?" The operator paused, looking up at
Hartwell.

Hartwell could not restrain his impatience.

"I'm Mr. Hartwell, general manager of the Rainbow Company. Will you
attend to your business and leave my affairs alone?"

"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Hartwell. My name is Jake Studley, agent for
R. G. S. I get fifty dollars a month, and don't give a damn for no one."
He began clearing the papers from before his instrument and drumming out
his call.

The call was answered and the message sent. The operator picked up the
paper and thrust it on a file.

Hartwell's face showed conflicting emotions. He wanted to force the
exasperating man to action; but his own case was urgent. He drew from
his pocket a roll of bills. Selecting a ten-dollar note, he pushed it
toward the operator, who was refilling his pipe.

"I want that message to get to Haskins immediately, and I want an
answer."

The operator shoved the bill into his pocket with one hand, with the
other he began another call. There was a pause, then a series of clicks
which were cut off and another message sent. The man closed his
instrument and winked knowingly at Hartwell.

"I squirted a little electricity down the line on my own account. Told
them the G. M. was in and ordered that message humped. 'Tain't up to me
to explain what G. M. is here."

Hartwell went out on the platform and paced restlessly up and down. In
about an hour he again approached the window.

"How long before I can expect an answer?"

"I can't tell. It depends on their finding your man. They'll get a
wiggle on 'em, all right. I'll stir them up again before long.
Jehosaphat! There's my call now!" He hurriedly answered, then read, word
by word, the message as it was clicked off.

     Arthur Hartwell, Rainbow, Colorado.

     Message received. Too late. Men left on special last night.

     John Haskins.

Hartwell caught up another blank.

     John Haskins, Leadville, Colorado.

     Recall the men without fail. I'll make it worth your while.

     Arthur Hartwell.

There was another weary wait. Finally the operator came from his office.

"Sorry, Mr. Hartwell, but Leadville says Haskins left on train after
sending first despatch. Says he had a ticket for Salt Lake."

"When will that special be here?" Hartwell's voice was husky in spite of
himself.

"Ought to be here about six. It's three now."

"Is there no way to stop it?"

"Not now. Haskins chartered it. He's the only one that can call it off,
and he's gone."

Hartwell's face was pale and haggard. He again began pacing up and down,
trying in vain to find a way of doing the impossible. The fact that he
had temporised, resolutely set his face against the manly thing to do,
only to find the same alternative facing him at every turn, more ominous
and harder than ever, taught him nothing. The operator watched him as he
repeatedly passed. His self-asserting independence had gone, in its
place was growing a homely sympathy for the troubled man. As Hartwell
passed him again he called out:

"Say, governor, I know something about that business at the mine, and
'tain't up to you to worry. Your old man up there is a corker. They're
on to him all right. He'll just take one fall out of that crowd that'll
do them for keeps."

Hartwell paused, looking distantly at the speaker. He was not actively
conscious of him, hardly of his words. The operator, not understanding,
went on with more assurance.

"I know Jack Haskins. This ain't the first time he's been called on to
help out in this kind of a racket, you bet! He's shipped you a gang that
'ud rather fight than eat. All you've got to do is to say 'sick 'em' and
then lay back and see the fur fly."

Hartwell turned away without a word and went to his rig. He got in and
drove straight for the mill. His mind was again made up. This time it
was made up aright. Only--circumstances did not allow it to avail.

As he drove away he did not notice a man in miner's garb who looked at
him sharply and resumed his way. The operator was still on the platform
as the man came to a halt. He was deriving great satisfaction from the
crackling new bill which he was caressing in his pocket. The new bill
would soon have had a companion, had he kept quiet, but this he could
not know.

Glancing at the miner, he remarked, benevolently:

"Smelling trouble, and pulling out, eh?"

"What do you mean?" The new-comer looked up stupidly.

"Just this. I reckon you've run up against Jack Haskins's gang before,
and ain't hankering for a second round."

"Jack Haskins's gang comin'?" There was an eagerness in the man's manner
which the operator misunderstood.

"That's what, and a hundred strong."

The man turned.

"Thanks, pard. Guess I'll go back and tell the boys. Perhaps they'd like
a chance to git, too; then again they mightn't." Tipping a knowing wink
at the open-mouthed operator, he turned on his heel and walked briskly
away. He too was headed for the mill.

The operator's jaw worked spasmodically for a moment.

"Hen's feathers and skunk oil! If he ain't a spy, I'll eat him. Oh,
Lord! Old Firmstone and Jack Haskins's gang lined up against the Blue
Goose crowd! Jake, my boy, listen to me. You can get another job if you
lose this; but to-morrow you are going to see the sight of your life."



CHAPTER XXII

_Good Intentions_


Returning from the station, Hartwell drove rapidly until he came to the
foot of the mountain that rose above the nearly level mesa. Even then he
tried to urge his jaded team into a pace in some consonance with his
anxiety; but the steep grades and the rarefied air appealed more
strongly to the exhausted animals than did the stinging lash he wielded.
As, utterly blown, they came to a rest at the top of a steep grade,
Hartwell became aware of the presence of three men who rose leisurely as
the team halted. Two of them stood close by the horses' heads, the third
paused beside the wagon.

"Howdy!" he saluted, with a grin.

"What do you want?" A hold-up was the only thing that occurred to
Hartwell.

"Just a little sociable talk. You ain't in no hurry?" The grin
broadened.

"I am." Hartwell reached for his whip.

"None of that!" The grin died away. The two men each laid a firm hand on
the bridles.

"Will you tell me what this means?" There was not a quaver in Hartwell's
voice, no trace of fear in his eyes.

"By-and-by. You just wait. You got a gun?"

"No; I haven't."

"I don't like to dispute a gentleman; but it's better to be safe. Just
put up your hands."

Hartwell complied with the request. The man passed his hands rapidly
over Hartwell's body, then turned away.

"All right," he said, then seated himself and began filling his pipe.

"How long am I expected to wait?" Hartwell's tone was sarcastic.

"Sorry I can't tell you. It just depends. I'll let you know when."

He relapsed into silence that Hartwell could not break with all his
impatient questions or his open threats. The men left the horses' heads
and seated themselves in the road. It occurred to Hartwell to make a
dash for liberty, but there was a cartridge-belt on each man and
holsters with ready guns.

In the deep cañon the twilight was giving way to darkness that was only
held in check by the strip of open sky above and by a band of yellow
light that burned with lambent tongues on the waving foliage which
overhung the eastern cliff. Chattering squirrels and scolding magpies
had long since ceased their bickerings; if there were other sounds that
came with the night, they were overcome by the complaining river which
ceased not day nor night to fret among the boulders that strewed its
bed. Like a shaft of light piercing the darkness a whistle sounded,
mellowed by distance. The man near the wagon spoke.

"That's a special. Where in hell's Jack?"

"On deck." A fourth man came to a halt. He paused, wiping the
perspiration from his face. "They're coming, a hundred strong. Jakey
coughed it up, and it didn't cost a cent." He laughed. "It's Jack
Haskins's crowd, too."

The man by the wagon addressed Hartwell.

"I can tell you now. It's an all-night wait. Tumble out lively. Better
take your blankets, if you've got any. It's liable to be cool before
morning right here. It'll be hotter on the mountain, but you'd better
stay here."

Hartwell did not stir.

"Out with you now, lively. We ain't got no time to waste."

Hartwell obeyed. The man sprang into the wagon and, pitching out the
blankets, gathered up the lines.

"Come on, boys." Turning to his companion, he said, "You stay with him,
Jack. He ain't heeled; but don't let him off." To Hartwell direct,
"Don't try to get away. We'll deliver your message about the special."

His companions were already in the wagon and they started up the trail.

Jack turned to his charge.

"Now, if you'll just be a good boy and mind me, to-morrow I'll take you
to the circus."



CHAPTER XXIII

_An Unexpected Recruit_


Like the majority of men in the West, Jake Studley took the view that
all men are equal, and that the interests of one are the concerns of
all. A civil answer to what in other climes would be considered
impertinent curiosity was the unmistakable shibboleth of the coequal
fraternity. Hartwell's manner had been interpreted by Jakey as a
declaration of heresy to his orthodox code and the invitation to mind
his own business as a breach of etiquette which the code entailed. Jakey
thereupon assumed the duties of a defender of the faith, and, being
prepared for action, moved immediately upon the enemy. The attack
developed the unexpected. Hartwell's bill, tendered in desperation, was
accepted in error, not as a bribe, but as an apology. Jakey sounded
"cease firing" to his embattled lines, and called in his attacking
forces. He had taken salt, henceforth he was Hartwell's friend and the
friend of his friends.

Jakey took neither himself nor his life seriously. He was station agent,
freight agent, express agent, and telegraph operator at Rainbow Station,
R. G. S., and he performed his various duties with laudable promptness,
when nothing more promising attracted his attention. Just now the "more
promising" was in sight. The company had no scruples in dismissing
employees without warning, and Jakey had no quixotic principles which
restrained him for a moment from doing to others what they would do to
him if occasion arose.

Jakey did not hold that the world owed him a living, but he considered
that it possessed a goodly store of desirable things and that these were
held in trust for those who chose to take them. Being "broke" did not
appal him, nor the loss of a job fill him with quaking. The railroad was
not the whole push, and if he could not pump electric juice he could
wield a pick or rope a steer with equal zeal. Just now the most
desirable thing that the world held in trust was the coming fight at the
Rainbow. Accordingly he wired the R. G. S. officials that there was a
vacancy at Rainbow Station. The said officials, being long accustomed to
men of Jakey's stamp, merely remarked, "Damn!" and immediately wired to
the nearest junction point to send another man to take the vacant
position.

Jakey admired Firmstone, and this admiration prepossessed him in
Firmstone's favour. The prepossession was by no means fixed and
invulnerable, and had not Hartwell cleared himself of suspected heresy,
he would have lent the same zeal, now kindling within him, to the Blue
Goose rather than the Rainbow.

In what he recognised as the first round of the opening fight Jakey
realised that the Blue Goose had scored. But, before the special pulled
in, he was ready, and this time he was sure of his move.

"By the Great Spirit of the noble Red Man," Jakey was apostrophising the
distant mountains in ornate language; "what kind of a low-down bird are
you, to be gathered in by a goose, and a blue one at that?" Jakey
paused, gazing earnestly at the retreating figure of the miner. Then,
shaking his fist at the man's back, "Look here, you down-trodden serf of
capitalistic oppression, I'll show you! Don't you fool yourself! Tipped
me the grand ha-ha; did you? Well, you just listen to me! 'Stead of
milking the old cow, you've just rubbed off a few drops from her calf's
nose. That's what, as I'll proceed to demonstrate."

Jakey's loyalty had been wavering, passive, and impersonal. Now his
personal sympathies were enlisted, for the path of self-vindication lay
through the triumph of the Rainbow.

Before the special had come to a standstill its animated cargo began to
disembark. Coatless men with woollen shirts belted to trousers, the
belts sagging with their heavy loads of guns and cartridges, every man
with a roll of blankets and many with carbines as well, testified to the
recognition of the fact that the path of the miner's pick must be
cleared by burning powder.

Jakey, thrusting his way through the boisterous crowd, forced upon the
resentful conductor his surrendered insignia of office, then mingled
with his future associates. He met a hilarious welcome, as the knowledge
spread from man to man that he was with them. Its practical expression
was accompanied by the thrusting of uncorked bottles at his face and
demands that he should "drink hearty" as a pledge of fellowship. Jakey
waved them aside.

"Put them up, boys, put them up. Them weapons ain't no use, not here.
They're too short range, and they shoot the wrong way."

The leader pushed his way through the crowd around Jakey.

"That's right, boys. It's close to tally now. Where's the Rainbow
trail?"

With elaborate figures, punctuated by irreverent adjectives, Jakey
pointed out the trail and his reasons against taking it.

"It's good medicine to fight a skunk head on," he concluded; "but when
you go up against a skunk, a coyote, and a grizzly wrapped up in one
skin, you want to be circumspect. Morrison's a skunk, Pierre's a coyote,
and the rest are grizzlies, and you don't want to fool yourselves just
because the skin of the beast grows feathers instead of fur."

The leader listened attentively and, from the thick husk of Jakey's
figures, he stripped the hard grains of well-ripened truth. Jakey laid
small emphasis on the manner in which the envoy of the Blue Goose had
gained his information. He had personal reasons for that, but the fact
that the information was gained sufficed.

The men grew silent as they realised that the battle was on and that
they were in the enemy's country. Under the guidance of Jakey they
tramped up the track, turned toward what appeared as a vertical cliff,
and clambered slowly and painfully over loose rocks, through stunted
evergreens, and at last stood upon the rolling surface of the mesa
above. From here on, the path was less obstructed. It was near midnight
when the dull roar of the mill announced the proximity of their goal. As
silently as they had followed the tortuous trail, so silently each
wrapped himself in his blankets and lay down to sleep.



CHAPTER XXIV

_The Gathering to its Own_


Had Firmstone known of Hartwell's move, which was to bring affairs to an
immediate and definite crisis, his actions would have been shaped along
different lines.

But the only one who could have given this knowledge blindly withheld it
until it was beyond his power to give. At the mill Firmstone noticed a
decided change in Luna. The foreman was sullen in look and act. He
answered Firmstone's questions almost insolently, but not with open
defiance. His courage was not equal to giving full voice to his sullen
hatred. Firmstone paid little heed to the man's behaviour, thinking it
only a passing mood. After a thorough inspection of the mill, he
returned to the office.

"Mr. Hartwell said, if you inquired for him, that I was to tell you he
had gone for a drive." The man anticipated his duty before Firmstone
inquired.

"Very well," Firmstone replied, as he entered the office.

He busied himself at his desk for a long time. Toward night he ordered
his horse to be saddled. He had determined to go to the mine. He had
decided to move with a strong hand, to force his authority on the
rebellious, as if it had not been questioned, as if he himself had no
question as to whether it would be sustained. Hartwell had refused to
indicate his position; he would force him to act, if not to speak. His
after course events would decide; but half-way measures were no longer
to be tolerated.

As he rode by the Falls, he met Zephyr on his way down. Zephyr was the
first to speak.

"A weather-cock," he remarked, "has a reputation for instability of
character which it does not deserve. It simply pays impartial attention
to a breeze or a hurricane. In fact, it's alive to anything that's going
in the wind line. We call a weather-cock fickle and a man wide-awake for
doing the same thing." He paused, looking inquiringly at Firmstone.

Firmstone was in anything but an allegorical mood, yet he knew that
Zephyr had something of interest to communicate, and so restrained any
manifestation of impatience which he might have felt.

"Well?" he answered.

"Say, Goggles"--Zephyr continued his allegory--"I've studied
weather-cocks. I take note that when one of them so-called fickle-minded
inanimates goes jerking around the four cardinal points and feeling of
what's between, it's just responding to the fore-running snorts of a
pull-up and come-along cyclone. That's why I'm bobbing up and down like
an ant looking for its long-lost brother. There's a cyclone on its way,
Goggles, and it's going to light hereabouts right soon."

"I guess you're right, Zephyr." Firmstone gathered his reins,
preparatory to resuming his way, but Zephyr laid a detaining hand on the
horse's neck.

It was not in Zephyr to make haste easily. His undulating shoulders
indicated a necessity for immediate speech. The words, sizzling from
between closed lips, were a compromise.

"You have more sense than many weather-cocks, and more sand than a
gravel train." Zephyr's face began to twitch. "Wait!" The word came
forth explosively; the detaining hand grasped the bridle firmly. "Say,
Goggles, I was dead wrong. Do you hear? About Élise. You remember? At
the Devil's Elbow. She ain't Pierre's girl. She's as much of a lady as
you are. Keep still! Listen! A hurricane ain't got sense. It'll pull up
a weed as quick as an oak. It's coming. For the love of God and me
especially, if I get pulled, look out for her! Say yes, and go along.
Don't fool with me! You'll swallow a barrel of water to get a drink of
whisky."

Firmstone only stretched out his hand. Zephyr took it for an instant,
then flung it aside. The next moment he was striding down the trail.
Firmstone heard the strain of the jarring reeds of the harmonica shrill
triumphantly, penetrated now and then by louder notes as a plunging step
jarred a stronger breath through his lips.

At the mine, Firmstone found his work cut out for him. On the narrow
platform of the mine boarding-house, the foreman was standing with his
cap shoved far back on his head, his hands in his pockets. There was an
insolent poise to the head that only intensified the sneering smile on
the lips. He was surrounded by a dozen or more of the men whom Firmstone
had marked as makers of trouble.

"Well, what in hell you up here for? Think I can't run a mine?" The
foreman called into play every expression of coarse contempt at his
command.

"Not this one for me. Go into the office, and I'll make out your time."

The foreman did not move.

Firmstone made no threatening gesture as he advanced. The foreman's eyes
wavered, cast behind him at the gaping men, then he turned as Firmstone
ordered.

In the office Firmstone wrote out a time check and tendered it to the
man.

"Now pack up and get down the hill."

There were discordant cries outside that grew nearer and more distinct.
As the foreman opened the door to pass out he flung back a defiant grin,
but his words were drowned by a babel of voices that were surging into
the ante-room from the platform and dining-room. Firmstone closed and
locked the office door behind him. In an instant he was surrounded by a
crowd of gesticulating, shouting men. There was a spreading pressure on
all sides, as men were pushed back from an opening ring in the centre of
the room. A man with blood-stained face rose, only to be again hurled to
the floor by a stunning blow. Firmstone crushed his way into the ring.

"No fighting here."

The man dropped his eyes.

"I ain't going to be called down by no scab."

"If you want to fight, get off the company's grounds!" Firmstone moved
between them.

"I want my time." The man's eyes were still downcast.

"You'll get it."

The ring closed up again.

"Are we let out?"

"The whole push fired?"

A burly, red-faced man pushed his way to the front.

"Say, Mr. Firmstone! Don't make no mistake. This ain't you. You're the
whitest boss that ever looked down my shirt collar. That's so. That's
what the boys all say. Just you pull out from the company and go with
us. We'll carry you right up to glory on the back of a fire-snorting
alligator."

Firmstone paid no attention to the man. He went from end to end of the
room. The men gave way in front, only closing in behind. There was a
hushed silence.

"There's no shut-down. Any man who wants work can have it and be taken
care of. Any one who wants to quit, come for your time right now!"

As Firmstone again turned toward the office he was conscious for the
first time of a thick-set man with kindly eyes, now steely-hard, who
followed his every motion. It was the night-shift boss.

"You're with me?"

"You bet, and plenty more."

"Hold them down. Send the men in, one by one, who want to quit. How
about the magazine?"

"All right. Two men and four guns. They're with you till hell freezes,
and then they'll skate."

It was midnight before the last man called for his time. Firmstone laid
down his pen.

"I'm shy a foreman. Will you take the job?" Firmstone addressed the
shift boss.

"Yes, till you can do better."

"All right. You better move around pretty lively for to-night. I'll stay
in the office till morning."

The man left the office. He had not been gone long before there was a
timid knock at the office door.

"Come in," Firmstone called.

The door was opened hesitatingly and two men entered. They stood with
lowered eyes, shifting their caps from hand to hand, and awkwardly
balancing from foot to foot.

"Well?" Firmstone spoke sharply.

"Me and my partner want our jobs back."

"You'll have to see Roner. He's foreman now."

"Where is he?"

"In the mine."

"Can we take our bunks till morning, sir?"

"Yes."

The men left the office. Outside, their manner changed. Nudging elbows
grated each other's ribs. The darkness hid their winks.

Firmstone had made a sad mistake. He was not omniscient. The men knew
what he did not. They had been down to the Blue Goose and had returned
with a mission.



CHAPTER XXV

_A Divided House_


In her little alcove at the Blue Goose Élise was gaining information
every day of the progress of affairs, but in spite of impatience, in
spite of doubt, she had seen nothing, heard nothing that seemed to
demand immediate action on her part. She had made up her mind that a
crisis was approaching. She had also determined with whom she would cast
in her lot.

It was late when Hartwell's team pulled up at the Blue Goose. A crowd of
excited men surrounded it, but the driver and his companions made no
reply to loud questions as they sprang from the wagon and entered the
door. Morrison was the first to halt them. The driver broke out with a
string of oaths.

"It's so. Jack Haskins's gang is coming. Hartwell is taken care of all
right. If his crowd try to make it through the cañon, there won't a
hundred show up, to-morrow." He ended with a coarse laugh.

Morrison listened till the driver had finished. Then he turned toward
Pierre. Pierre was standing just in front of the alcove, hiding Élise
from Morrison. Morrison advanced, shaking his fist.

"Now you've got it, you trimmer. What are you going to do? I told you
they were coming, and I've fixed for it."

Pierre stood with his hands in his pockets. There was the old oily smile
on his face, but his eyes were dangerous. Morrison did not observe them.

"Why don't you speak? You're called." Morrison glanced over his shoulder
at the silent crowd. "He's got a frog in his throat! The last one he
swallowed didn't go down."

Morrison was very near death. He noticed the crowd part hurriedly and
turned in time to look into the muzzle of Pierre's revolver. The parting
of the crowd was explained.

An unlighted cigar was between Pierre's teeth. They showed gleaming
white under his black moustache. Only bright points of light marked his
eyes between their narrowed lids. Still holding his revolver
point-blank, with thumb and finger he raised and lowered the hammer. The
sharp, even click pierced Morrison's nerves like electric shocks. It was
not in man to endure this toying with death. Surprise gave place to
fear, and this in turn to mortal agony. His face paled. Great drops
stood out on his forehead, gathered and streamed down his face. He
feared to move, yet he trembled. His legs shook under him. There was a
final stagger, but his terrified eyes never left Pierre's face. With a
shuddering groan, he sank helpless to the floor. Pierre's smile
broadened horribly. He lowered his weapon and, turning aside, thrust it
in his pocket.

Morrison had died a thousand deaths. If he lived he would die a thousand
more. This Pierre knew. For this reason and others he did not shoot.
Pierre also knew other things. Morrison had refused to take heed to his
words. He had gone his own way. He had made light of Pierre before the
men. Last of all, he had gained courage to taunt Pierre to his face with
weakening, had bitterly accused him of using Élise as a means of
ingratiating himself with the Rainbow crowd. Pierre was not above taking
a human life as a last resort; but even then he must see clearly that
the gain warranted the risk. Morrison had been weighed and passed upon.
A dead Morrison meant a divided following. A living Morrison, cowed and
beaten and shamed before them all, was dead to Pierre. This was Pierre's
reasoning, and he was right. The first step had been taken. The next one
he was not to take; but this fact did not nullify Pierre's logic. Given
time, Pierre knew that Morrison would be beaten, discredited, do what he
would.

Luna helped the fallen Morrison to his feet. The first thing Morrison
noticed was Pierre walking away toward the private office. Luna again
approached Morrison with a brimming glass of brandy.

"Take this down. Lord! That was a nerve-peeler! I don't blame you for
going under."

Morrison swallowed the liquor at a gulp. The pallor died away and a hot
flush mounted his face.

"I've got him to settle with, too. I'll make him squeal before I'm
done."

The crowd had surged to the door to meet a swarm of howling men who had
just come down from the mine. Three or four remained with Luna around
Morrison. His voice was hoarse and broken.

"He's thrown us over. You see that? It's up to us to play it alone. He's
put it up to your face that he's with you, but he's playing against you.
He can't stop us now. It's gone too far. The first tug is coming,
to-morrow. We'll win out, hands down. The Rainbow first, then Pierre."
He ended with a string of profanity.

Luna took up Morrison's broken thread.

"There's fifty men with rifles in the cañon. Hartwell's gang will never
get through. The boys are going to shoot at sight."

"Where's Firmstone?" Morrison's face writhed.

"Up to the mine. He's getting in his work." Luna looked over his
shoulder at the crowd of miners.

"That's so. The foreman's fired. So am I. He is going to die boss." The
man grinned, as he held out a time check.

"He'll die, anyway." Morrison's jaws set. "You're sure he's at the
mine?"

"Dead sure. He's got his work cut out to-night. Lots of scabs held out.
He's put the night boss in foreman." The man grinned again.

Morrison laid a hand on his shoulder.

"You're game?"

"You bet I am!"

"Go back to the mine to-night----"

"And miss all the fun down here?" the man interrupted.

Morrison's hand rested more heavily on the shoulder.

"Don't get flip. Have some fun of your own up there. The supe will hear
the racket down here early. He'll start down with his scabs to help out.
Two men can start a racket there that will keep him guessing. If he's
started it will fetch him back. If he hasn't he won't start at all."

"What kind of a racket, for instance?"

Morrison swung impatiently on his foot.

"What's the matter with letting off a box or two of powder under the
tram?"

"Nothing. Is that our job?"

"Yes. And see that it's done."

"That's me. Come on, Joe. Let's have a drink first."

These two were the penitents whom Firmstone had taken back.

The greater number of the men were crowded around the gilded bar,
drinking boisterously to the success of the union and death to scabs and
companies. A few, more sober-minded, but none the less resolute,
gathered around Morrison. They were the leaders upon whom he depended
for the carrying out of his orders, or for acting independently of them
on their own initiative, as occasion might demand. With logic fiendish
in its cunning, he pointed out to them their right to organise, laid
emphasis on their pacific intentions only to defend their rights, and
having enlarged upon this, he brought into full play Hartwell's fatal
error.

"You see," he concluded; "right or wrong, the company's gone in to win.
They ain't taking no chances, and the law's at their backs. You know
Haskins's gang. You know what they're here for. They're here to shoot,
and they'll shoot to kill. Suppose you go out like lambs? That won't
make no difference. It'll be too tame for them, unless some one's
killed. What if it is murder and one of the gang is pulled? They've got
the whole gang at their back and the company's money. Suppose we go out
one by one and shoot back? Self-defence?" Morrison snapped his fingers.
"That's our chance to get off. We've got to pull together. In a general
mix-up, we'll be in it together, and there ain't no law to string up the
whole push. Stick together. That's our hold. If Haskins's gang is wiped
out to-morrow, and that glass-eyed supe with them, who'll get jumped? If
the mine and mill both get blowed up, who's done it? The fellows who did
it ain't going to tell, and it won't be good medicine for any one else
to do it, even if he wants to."

"Who's going to open up?" one of the men asked, soberly.

Morrison turned carelessly.

"That's a fool question. Folks that ain't looking for trouble don't put
caps and powder in a bag to play foot-ball with. Both sides are putting
up kicks. Who's to blame?"

The man looked only half convinced.

"Well, we ain't, and we don't want to be. If we keep quiet, and they
open up on us, we've got a right to defend ourselves. Unless," he added,
meditatively, "we get out beforehand, then there won't be any questions
to ask."

Morrison turned fiercely.

"How much did you get?"

"Get for what?"

"How much did the company put up to stand you off?"

"I haven't been bought off by the company," the man answered, fiercely;
"and I ain't going to be fooled off by you."

Morrison lifted his hand, palm outward.

"That's all right. Go right on, first door right. Go right in. Don't
knock. You'll find Pierre. He's scab-herding now."

Morrison passed among the thronging men, giving suggestions and orders
for the morning's struggle. His manner was forced, rather than
spontaneous. Pierre's leaven was working.

To Élise at her desk it seemed as if the revel would never end. She had
made up her mind what to do, she was awaiting the time to act. She did
not dare to leave her place now; Morrison would be certain to notice her
absence and would suspect her designs. There was nothing to do but wait.
It was after one o'clock when, slipping out from the alcove, she
ostentatiously closed the office-door and, locking it, walked through
the passage that led to the dining-room. Her footsteps sounded loudly as
she went upstairs to her room. She intended they should. In her room,
she took down a dark, heavy cloak, and, throwing it over her shoulders,
drew the hood over her head. A moment she stood, then turned and
silently retraced her steps.

As the outside door closed noiselessly behind her, there was a momentary
tightening around her heart. After all, she was leaving the only friends
she had ever known. They were crude, coarse, uncouth, but she knew them.
She knew that they would not remain ignorant of her actions this night.
It would cut her off from them forever, and what was her gain?

Only those she had known for a day, those whose very words of kindness
had shown her how wide was the gulf that parted her from them. How wide
it was she had never realised till now when she was to attempt to cross
it, with the return for ever barred. She recalled the easy grace of Miss
Hartwell, considerate with a manner that plainly pointed to their
separate walks in life. And Firmstone? He had been more than kind, but
the friendly light in his eyes, the mobile sympathy of his lips, these
did not come to her now. What if the steel should gleam in his eyes, the
tense muscles draw the lips in stern rebuke, the look that those eyes
and lips could take, when they looked on her, not as Élise of the Blue
Goose, but Élise, a fugitive, a dependant?

The colour deepened, the figure grew rigid. She was neither a fugitive
nor a dependant. She was doing right; how it would be accepted was no
concern of hers.

The shadow of the great mountain fell across the gulch and lay sharp and
clear on the flank of the slide beyond. Overhead, in the deep blue, the
stars glinted and shone, steely hard. Élise shivered in a hitherto
unknown terror as she crept into the still deeper shadow of the stunted
spruces that fringed the talus from the mountain. She did not look
behind. Had she done so she might have seen another shadow stealing
cautiously, but swiftly, after her, only pausing when she passed from
sight within the entrance to the office at the mill.

Zephyr had despoiled the Blue Goose of its lesser prey. He had no
intention of stopping at that.

Élise had gained her first objective point. It was long before the light
in Miss Hartwell's room over the office descended the stairs and
appeared at the outer door. Her face was pale, but yet under control.
Only, as she clasped the hand that had knocked for admission, she could
not control the grasp that would not let go its hold, even when the door
was relocked.

"It was very good of you to come."



CHAPTER XXVI

_The Day of Reckoning_


If Miss Hartwell was a debtor she was a creditor as well. In spite of a
calm exterior, the hand that so tightly clasped Élise's throbbed and
pulsed with every tumultuous beat of the heart that was stirred with a
strange excitement born of mortal terror. Gradually the rapid strokes
slowed down till, with the restful calm that comes to strained nerves in
the presence of a stronger, unquestioning will, the even ebb and flow of
pulsing blood resumed its normal tenor.

The bread that Élise had cast upon the waters returned to her in a
manifold measure. The vague sense of oppression which she had felt on
leaving the doors of the Blue Goose gave way to an equally vague sense
of restful assurance. She could dissect neither emotion, nor could she
give either a name. The sense of comfort was vague; other emotions stood
out clearly. These demanded immediate attention. She rose gently, but
decidedly. The calm beat of the clasping hand again quickened with her
motion.

"I must leave you now." Her voice was even, but full of sympathy.

"Don't. Please don't. I can't bear it."

"I must; and you must." She was gently freeing the clasping hand.

"Where are you going?"

"To the mine, to warn Mr. Firmstone."

"Don't go! Why not telephone?" The last was spoken with eagerness born
of the inspiration of despair.

"The wires are cut." Her hand was free now and Miss Hartwell was also
standing. There was a deathly pallor on the quiet face, only the rapid
beat of the veins on her temples showed the violence of the emotion she
was mastering so well.

"But my brother?"

"Your brother is perfectly safe." Élise told briefly the circumstances
of Hartwell's capture and detention. "They have men posted in the cañon;
they have men between here and the mine. Mr. Firmstone does not know it.
He will try to come down. They will kill him. He must not try to come
down."

"How can you get up there?" Miss Hartwell clutched eagerly at this
straw.

Élise smiled resolutely.

"I am going up on the tram. Now you must listen carefully." She
unbuckled her belt and placed her revolver in Miss Hartwell's listless
hands. "Keep away from the windows. If there is any firing lie down on
the floor close to the wall. Nothing will get through the logs." She
turned toward the door. "You must come and lock up after me."

At the door Miss Hartwell stood for a moment, irresolute. She offered no
further objections to Élise's going. That it cost a struggle was plainly
shown in the working lines of her face. Only for a moment she stood,
then, yielding to an overmastering impulse, she laid her hands on the
shoulders of Élise.

"Good-bye," she whispered. "You are a brave girl."

Élise bent her lips to those of Miss Hartwell.

"Yours is the hardest part. But it isn't good-bye."

The door closed behind her, and she heard the click of the bolt shot
home.

There were a few resolute men in the mill. It was short-handed; but the
beating stamps pounded out defiance. In the tram tower Élise spoke to
the attendant.

"Stop the tram."

The swarthy Italian touched his hat.

"Yes, miss."

The grinding brake was applied and an empty bucket swung gently to and
fro.

"Now, Joe, do just as I tell you. I am going up in this bucket." She
glanced at the number. "When three-twenty comes in stop. Don't start up
again for a half hour at least."

The man looked at her in dumb surprise.

"You go in the tram?" he asked. "What for?"

"To warn Mr. Firmstone."

For reply, the man brushed her aside and began clambering into the empty
bucket.

"Me go," he said, grimly.

Élise laid a detaining hand upon him.

"No. You must run the tram. I can't."

"Me go," he insisted. "Cable jump sheave? What matter? One damn dago
gone. Plenty more. No more Élise."

Élise pulled at him violently. He was ill-balanced. The pull brought him
to the floor, but Élise did not loose her hold. Her eyes were flashing.

"Do as I told you."

The man brought a ladder and Élise sprang lightly up the rounds.

"All right," she said. "Go ahead."

The man unloosed the brake. There was a tremor along the cable; the next
instant the bucket shot from the door of the tower and glided swiftly up
the line.

"Don't forget. Three-twenty." Already the voice was faint with distance.

In spite of injunctions to the contrary, Miss Hartwell was looking out
of the window. She saw, below the shafts of sunlight already streaming
over the mountain, the line of buckets stop, swing back and forth, saw
the cable tremble, and again the long line of buckets sway gently as the
cable grew taut and the buckets again slid up and down. Her heart was
beating wildly as she lifted her eyes to the dizzy height. She knew well
what the stopping and the starting meant. Sharp drawn against the lofty
sky, the great cable seemed a slender thread to hold a human life in
trust. What if the clutch should slip that held the bucket in place?
What if other clutches should slip and let the heavy masses of steel
slide down the cable to dash into the one that held the girl who had
grown so dear to her? In vain she pushed these possibilities aside. They
returned with increased momentum and hurled themselves into her
shrinking soul. There were these dangers. "All employees of the Rainbow
Company are forbidden to ride on the tram. ANY EMPLOYEE VIOLATING THIS
RULE WILL BE INSTANTLY DISCHARGED." These words burned themselves on her
vision in characters of fire. Élise had explained all of these things to
her, and now! She buried her face in her trembling hands. Not for long.
Again her face, pale and drawn, was turned upward. She moaned aloud. A
black mass clinging to the cable was rising and sinking, swaying from
side to side, a slender figure poised in the swinging bucket, steadied
by a white hand that grasped the rim of steel. She turned from the
window resolved to see no more. Her resolution fled. She was again at
the window with upturned face and straining eyes, white lips whispering
prayers that God might be good to the girl who was risking her life for
another. The slender threads even then had vanished. There was only a
fleck of black floating high above the rambling town, above the rocks
mercilessly waiting below. She did not see all. At the mine two stealthy
men were even then stuffing masses of powder under the foundations that
held the cables to their work. Even as she looked and prayed a
flickering candle flame licked into fiery life a hissing, spitting fuse
and two men scrambled and clambered to safety from the awful wreck that
was to come. A smoking fuse eating its way to death and "320" not yet in
the mill! She saw another sight.

From out the shadow of the eastern mountain, a band of uncouth men
emerged, swung into line and bunched on the level terrace beyond the
boarding-house. Simultaneously every neighbouring boulder blossomed
forth in tufts of creamy white that writhed and widened till they melted
in thin air like noisome, dark-grown fungi that wilt in the light of
day. Beyond and at the feet of the clustered men spiteful spurts of dust
leaped high in air, then drifted and sank, to be replaced by others.
Faint, meaningless cries wove through the drifting crash of rifles,
blossoming tufts sprang up again and again from boulders near and far.
Answering cries flew back from the opening cluster of men, other tufts
tongued with yellow flame sprang out from their levelled guns. Now and
then a man spun around and dropped, a huddled grey on the spurting sand.

It was not in man long to endure the sheltered fire. Dragging their
wounded, Jack Haskins's gang again converged, and headed in wild retreat
for the office. The opposing tufts came nearer, and now and then a dark
form straightened and advanced to another shelter, or was hidden from
sight by a bubble of fleecy white that burst from his shoulder. Close at
the heels of the fleeing men the spiteful spurts followed fast, till
they died out in the thud of smitten logs and the crashing glass of the
office.

The answering fire of the beleaguered men died to silence. The dark,
distant forms grew daring, ran from shelter and clustered at the foot of
the slide, across the trail from the Blue Goose. Rambling shots, yells
of defiance and triumph, broke from the gathering strikers. The shafts
of sunlight had swept down the mountain, smiting hard the polished
windows of the Blue Goose that blazed and flamed in their fierce glory.

Suddenly the clustered throng of strikers broke and fled. Cries of
terror pierced the air.

"The cables! The cables!"

Overhead the black webs were sinking and rising with spiteful snaps that
whirled the buckets in wild confusion and sent their heavy loads of ore
crashing to the earth, five hundred feet below. Then, with a rushing,
dragging sweep, buckets and cables whirled downward. Full on the Blue
Goose the tearing cables fell, dragging it to earth, a crushed and
broken mass.

Morrison's emissaries had done their work well. The tram-house at the
mine had been blown up. They had accomplished more than he had hoped
for. Pierre was in the bar-room when the cables fell. He had no time to
escape, even had he seen or known.

Momentarily forgetful, the strikers swarmed around the fallen building,
tearing aside crushed timbers, tugging at the snarled cable, if
perchance some of their own were within the ruins. There came the
spiteful spat of a solitary bullet, then a volley. With a yell of
terror, the strikers broke and fled to the talus behind the saloon. They
were now the pursued. They paused to fire no return shots. Stumbling,
scrambling, dodging, through tangled scrub and sheltering thicket, down
by the mill, down through the cañon, spurred by zipping bullets that
clipped twigs and spat on stones around them; down by the Devil's Elbow
they fled, till sheltering scrub made pursuit dangerous; then,
unmolested, they scattered, one by one, in pairs, in groups, never to
return.

Even yet the startled echoes were repeating to the peaceful mountains
the tale of riot and death, but they bent not from their calm to the
calm below that was looking up to them with the eyes of death. Set in
its frame of splintered timbers, the body of Pierre rested, a ruined
life in a ruined structure, and both still in death. Wide-open eyes
stared from the swarthy face, the strained lips parted in a sardonic
smile, showing for the last time the gleaming teeth. Morrison had
triumphed, but the wide open eyes saw the triumph that was yet defeat.
Far up on the mountain-side they looked and saw death pursuing death.
They saw Morrison climbing higher and higher, saw him strain his eyes
ever ahead, never behind, saw them rest on two figures, saw Morrison
crouch behind a rock and a shimmer of light creep along the barrel of
his levelled rifle. The eyes seemed eager as they rested on another
figure above him that stretched forth a steady hand; saw jets of flame
spring from two guns. Then they gleamed with a brighter light as they
saw the rifle fall from Morrison's hand; saw Morrison straighten out,
even as he lay, his face upturned and silent. That was all in life that
Pierre cared to know. Perhaps the sun had changed, but the gleam of
triumph in the staring eyes faded to the glaze of death.

Élise knew well the danger that went with her up the line. It laid
strong hold upon her, as the loosened brake shot the bucket up the dizzy
cable. As she was swept up higher and higher she could only hope and
pray that the catastrophe which she knew was coming might be delayed
until the level stretch above the Falls was reached, where the cables
ran so near the ground she might descend in safety. She had given Joe
the right number, and she knew that nothing short of death would keep
him from heeding her words. She turned her thoughts to other things.
Cautiously she raised her eyes above the rim of the bucket and scanned
the winding trail. She saw men crouching behind boulders, but Firmstone
was not in sight, and strength and courage returned. Her bucket swept up
over the crest of the Falls, and her heart stood still, as it glided
along swiftly, eating up the level distance to another rise. The saddle
clipped over the sheave, swung for an instant, then stood still. She
clambered out, down the low tower, then sped to the trail and waited.

She rose to her feet, as from behind a sheltered cliff Firmstone
emerged, stern, erect, determined. He caught sight of Élise.

"What are you doing here?" he asked, fiercely.

"To keep you from going to the mill." There was an answering fierceness
in her eyes.

"Well, you are not going to." He brushed her aside.

"I am." She was again in his path.

He took hold of her almost harshly.

"Don't be a fool."

"Am I? Listen." There was the glint of steel on steel in the meeting
eyes. Echoing shots dulled by distance yet smote plainly on their ears.
"Morrison's men are guarding the trail. They are in the cañon. You can't
get through."

Firmstone's eyes softened as he looked into hers. The set line broke for
an instant, then he looked down the trail. Suddenly he spun around on
his heel, wavered, then sank to the ground.

Élise dropped on her knees beside him, mumbling inaudible words with
husky voice. The hands that loosened the reddening collar of his shirt
were firm and decided. She did not hear the grate of Zephyr's shoes. She
was only conscious of other hands putting hers aside. His knife cut the
clothes that hid the wound. Zephyr took his hat from his head.

"Water," he said, holding out the hat.

Élise returned from the brook with the brimming hat. The closed eyes
opened at the cooling drops.

"It's not so bad." He tried to rise, but Zephyr restrained him.

"Not yet."

Élise was looking anxiously above the trail. Zephyr noted the direction.

"No danger. 'Twas Morrison. He's done for."

Three or four miners were coming down the trail. They paused at the
little group. Zephyr looked up.

"You're wanted. The old man's hit."

A litter was improvised and slowly and carefully they bore the wounded
man down the trail. Zephyr was far in advance. He returned.

"It's all right. The gang's on the run."

The little procession headed straight for the office, and laid their
burden on the floor.

The company surgeon looked grave, as he carefully exposed the wound. To
Élise it seemed ages.

Finally he spoke.

"It's a nasty wound; but he'll pull through."



CHAPTER XXVII

_Passing Clouds_


In spite of the surgeon's hopeful words, the path to recovery lay
fearfully near the gate of death. Firmstone had been shot from above,
and the bullet, entering at the base of the neck just in front of the
throat, had torn its way beneath the collar-bone, passing through the
left arm below the shoulder.

During the period of trying suspense, when Firmstone's life wavered in
the balance, through the longer period of convalescence, he lacked not
devotion, love, nor skill to aid him. Zephyr was omnipresent, but never
obtrusive. Bennie, with voiceless words and aggressive manner, plainly
declared that a sizzling cookstove with a hot temper that never cooled
was more efficacious than a magazine of bandages and a college of
surgeons.

Élise cared for Firmstone, Madame for Élise. Zephyr's rod and rifle,
with Bennie's stove, supplied that without which even the wisest counsel
comes to an inglorious end. Over all Élise reigned an uncrowned queen,
with no constitution, written or unwritten, to hamper her royal will.
Even the company surgeon had to give a strict accounting. The soft, red
lips could not hide the hard, straight lines beneath rounded curves, nor
the liquid black of velvet eyes break the insistent glint of an active,
decisive mind.

Miss Hartwell was still pretty and willing, but yet helpless and
oppressed. It was therefore with a regretted sense of relief that the
arrival of Miss Firmstone removed the last appearance of duty that kept
her in useless toleration. Hartwell's capacious sleeve held a ready card
which awaited but an obvious opportunity for playing. No sooner was
Firmstone pronounced out of danger than the card, in the form of urgent
business, was played, and Hartwell and his sister left for the East.

Like her brother, Miss Firmstone evidently had a will of her own, and,
also like her brother, a well-balanced mind to control its
manifestations. There was a short, sharp battle of eyes when first the
self-throned queen was brought face to face with her possible rival. The
conflict was without serious results, for Miss Firmstone, in addition to
will and judgment, had also tact and years superior to Élise. These were
mere fortuitous adjuncts which had been denied Élise. So it happened
that, though a rebellious pupil, Élise learned many valuable lessons.
She was ready and willing to defy the world individually and
collectively; yet she stood in awe of herself.

One afternoon Firmstone was sitting in his room, looking out of his
window, and in spite of the grandeur of the mountain there was little of
glory but much of gloom in his thoughts. The mine was in ruins; so, as
far as he could see, were his labours, his ambitions, and his prospects.
He tried to keep his thoughts on the gloom of the clouds and shut his
eyes to their silver lining. The silver lining was in softly glowing
evidence, but he could not persuade himself that it was for him. Step by
step he was going over every incident of his intercourse with Élise.
Their first meeting, her subsequent warning that his life was in serious
danger, her calm, resolute putting aside of all thought of danger to
herself, her daring ride up the tram to keep him from sure death when
she knew that the tram-house was to be blown up, that the catastrophe
might occur at any moment, her unremitting care of him, wounded near to
death: all these came to him, filled him with a longing love that left
no nerve nor fibre of heart or soul untouched with thrills that, for all
their pain, were even yet not to be stilled by his own volition.
Firmstone grew more thoughtful. He realised that Élise was only a girl
in years, yet her natural life, untrammelled by conventional proprieties
which distract and dissipate the limited energy in a thousand divergent
channels, had forced her whole soul into the maturity of many waxing and
waning seasons. Every manifestation of her restless, active mind had
stood out clear and sharp in the purity of unconscious self. This was
the disturbing element in Firmstone's anxious mind. Responsive to every
mood, fiercely unsparing of herself, yet every attempted word of
grateful appreciation from him had been anticipated and all but fiercely
repelled. With all his acumen, Firmstone yet failed to comprehend two
very salient features of a woman's heart, that, however free and
spontaneous she may be, there is one emotion instinctively and jealously
guarded, that she will reject, with indignation, gratitude offered as a
substitute for love.

Firmstone's meditations were interrupted by a knock on the door. Zephyr
came in, holding out a bulky envelope. It was from the eastern office of
the Rainbow Company. Firmstone's face stiffened as he broke the seals.
Zephyr noted the look and, after an introductory whistle, said:

"'Tisn't up to you to fret now, Goggles. Foolishness at two cents an
ounce or fraction thereof is more expensive than passenger rates at four
dollars a pound."

Firmstone looked up absently.

"What's that you're saying?"

Zephyr waved his hand languidly.

"I was right. Have been all along. I knew you had more sense than you
could carry in your head. It's all over you, and you got some of it shot
away. I'm trying to make it plain to you that foolishness on paper ain't
near so fatal as inside a skull. Consequently, if them Easterners had
had any serious designs on you, they'd sent the real stuff back in a
Pullman instead of the smell of it by mail."

Firmstone made no reply, but went on with his letter. There was
amusement and indignation on his face as, having finished the letter, he
handed it to Zephyr.

The letter was from Hartwell and was official. Briefly, it expressed
regret over Firmstone's serious accident, satisfaction at his recovery,
and congratulations that a serious complication had been met and
obviated with, all things considered, so slight a loss to the company.
The letter concluded as follows:

     We have carefully considered the statement of the difficulties with
     which you have been confronted, as reported by our manager, and
     fully comprehend them. We have also given equal consideration to
     his plans for the rehabilitation of the mine and mill, and heartily
     assent to them as well as to his request that you be retained as
     our superintendent and that, in addition to your salary, you be
     granted a considerable share in the stock of our company. We feel
     that we are warranted in pursuing this course with you, recognising
     that it is a rare thing, in one having the ability which you have
     shown, to take counsel with and even frankly to adopt the
     suggestions of another.

     By order of the President and Board of Directors of the Rainbow
     Milling Company, by

     ARTHUR HARTWELL,

     Gen. Man. and Acting Secretary.

Zephyr's face worked in undulations that in narrowing concentrics
reached the puckered apex of his lips.

"Bees," he finally remarked, "are ding-twisted, ornery insects. They
have, however, one redeeming quality not common to mosquitoes and black
flies. If they sting with one end they make honey with the other. They
ain't neither to be cussed nor commended. They're just built on them
lines."

Firmstone looked thoughtful.

"I'm inclined to think you're right. If you're looking for honey you've
got to take chances on being stung."

"Which I take to mean that you have decided to hive your bees in this
particular locality."

Firmstone nodded.

Zephyr looked expectantly at Firmstone, and then continued:

"I also wish to remark that there are certain inconveniences connected
with being an uncommonly level-headed man. There's no telling when
you've got to whack up with your friends."

"All right." Firmstone half guessed at what was coming.

"Madame," Zephyr remarked, "having been deprived by the hand of death of
her legal protectors, namely, Pierre and Morrison, wishes to take
counsel with you."

Zephyr, waiting no further exchange of words, left the room and shortly
returned with Madame. She paused at the door, darted a frightened look
at Firmstone, then one of pathetic appeal to the imperturbable Zephyr.
Again her eyes timidly sought Firmstone, who, rising, advanced with
outstretched hand. Madame's hands were filled with bundled papers. In
nervously trying to move them, in order to accept Firmstone's proffered
hand, the bundles fell scattered to the floor. With an embarrassed
exclamation, she hastily stooped to recover them and in her effort
collided with Zephyr, who had been actuated by the same motive.

Zephyr rubbed his head with one hand, gathering up the papers with the
other.

"If Madame wore her heart on her neck instead of under her ribs, I would
have had two hands free instead of one. Which same being put in literal
speech means that there's nothing against nature in having a hard head
keeping step with a tender heart."

Madame was at last seated with her papers in her lap. She was ill at
ease in the fierce consciousness of self, but her flushed face and
frightened eyes only showed the growing mastery of unselfish love over
the threatening lions that waited in her path. One by one, she tendered
the papers to Firmstone, who read them with absorbed attention. As the
last paper was laid with its fellows Madame's eyes met fearlessly the
calm look of the superintendent. Slowly, laboriously at first, but
gathering assurance with oblivion of self, she told the story of Élise's
birth. With the intuition of an overpowering love, she felt that she was
telling the story to one absolutely trustworthy, able and willing to
counsel her with powers far beyond her own. Firmstone heard far more
than the stumbling words recited. His eyes dimmed, but his voice was
steady.

"I think I understand. You want Élise restored to her friends?"

Madame's eyes slowly filled with tears that welled over the trembling
lids and rolled down her cheeks. She did not try to speak. She only
nodded in silent acquiescence. She sat silent for a few moments, then
the trembling lips grew firm, but her voice could not be controlled.

"We ought to have done it long ago, Pierre and I. But I loved her.
Pierre loved her. She was all we had." It was worse than death. Death
only removes the presence, it leaves the consoling sense of possession
through all eternity.

Zephyr started to speak, but Firmstone, turning to Madame, interrupted.

"You have no need to fear. Where you cannot go Élise will not."

Madame looked up suddenly. The rainbow of hope glowed softly for an
instant in the tear-dimmed eyes. Then the light died out. "She will be
ashamed of her hol' daddy and her hol' mammy before her gran' friends."
Pierre's words came to her, laden with her own unworthiness.

The door opened and Élise and Miss Firmstone came in. Miss Firmstone
took in the situation at a glance.

"You are reliable people to trust with a convalescent, aren't you? And
after the doctor's warning that all excitement was to be avoided!"

"Doctors don't know everything," Zephyr exploded, in violence to his
custom. Then, more in accord with it, "It does potatoes no end of good
to be hilled."

Élise looked questioning surprise, as her glance fell on Madame, then on
Zephyr. Her eyes rested lightly for a moment on Firmstone. There was a
fleeting suggestion that quickened his pulses and deepened the flush on
his face. Again her eyes were on Madame. Pity, love, glowed softly at
sight of the bowed head. She advanced a step, and her hand and arm
rested on Madame's shoulders. Madame shivered slightly, then grew rigid.
Nothing should interfere with her duty to Élise.

Élise straightened, but her arm was not removed.

"What is it? What have you been saying?" She was looking fixedly at
Firmstone. There was no tenderness in her eyes, only a demand that was
not to be ignored.

Firmstone began a brief capitulation of his interview with Madame. When
he told her that she was not Madame's daughter, that she was to be
restored to her unknown friends, that Madame wished it, the change that
came over the girl amazed him. Her eyes were flashing. Her clinched
hands thrust backward, as if to balance the forward, defiant poise of
her body.

"That is not so! You have frightened her into saying what she does not
mean. You don't want me to leave you; do you? Tell me you don't!" She
turned to Madame, fiercely.

Firmstone gave Madame no time to answer.

"Wait," he commanded. "You don't understand." His words were impetuous
with the intensity of his emotion. "I don't want you to leave Madame.
You are not going to. Don't you understand?" He laid his hand on hers,
but she shook it off.

He withdrew his hand.

"Very well, but listen." Himself he put aside; but he was not to be
diverted from his purpose. He felt that in the life of the girl before
him a vital crisis was impending, that, unforeseeing of consequences,
she, in the sheer delight of overcoming opposing wills, might be
impelled to a step that would bring to naught all her glorious
possibilities. The thought hardened his every mental fibre. He was
looking into eyes that gleamed with open, resolute defiance.

"You and Madame are not to be separated. You are going East with my
sister and Madame is going with you: You are going to your father's
friends."

"Is that all?" The voice was mocking.

"No. I want your word that you will do as I say."

Without seeming to turn her defiant eyes, Élise laid her hand firmly on
Madame.

"Come."

Madame rose in response to the impulse of hand and word. She cast a
frightened, appealing look at Firmstone, then with Élise moved toward
the door.

On the threshold Firmstone barred the way.

"I have not had my answer."

"No?"

"I can wait."

Élise and Firmstone stood close. There was a measure of will opposed to
will in the unflinching eyes. Élise felt a strange thrill, strange to
her. With Pierre and Madame opposition only roused her anger, their
commands only gave piquancy to revolt. But now, as she looked at the
strong, resolute man before her, there was a new sensation fraught with
subtler thrills of delight, the yielding to one who commanded and took
from her even the desire to resist. She felt warm waves of blood surging
to her face. The defiant poise of her head was unchanged, her eyes
softened, but the drooping lids hid them from those that she
acknowledged master.

"May I go if I give my answer?"

"If your answer is right, yes."

The eyes were veiled, but the mobile lips were wavering.

"Madame and I have decided to go East."

The look on Firmstone's face changed from resolution to pleading.

"I have no right to ask more, unless you choose to give it. Don't you
know what I want to ask? Will you give me the right to ask?"

The drooping head bent still lower, a softer flush suffused the quiet
face.

Firmstone took the girl's unresisting hands in his own.

"Can't you give me my answer, dear? You have come to be all the world to
me. You are going away for the sake of your friends. Will you come back
some time for mine?"

Élise slowly raised her eyes to his. He read his answer. There was a
slight answering pressure, then her hands were gently withdrawn.
Firmstone stood aside. Élise and Madame moved over the threshold, the
door swinging to behind them, not quite shut; then it opened, just
enough to show a flushed face, with teasing, roguish eyes.

"I forgot to ask. Is that all, Mr. Minion?"

Then the door closed with a decided click.


THE END



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