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Title: The Angel of the Gila: - A Tale of Arizona
Author: Marsland, Cora
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Libraries.)



Transcriber's notes are at end of text.



[Illustration: _She forgot the flowers in her arms, forgot
the sunset, and stood entranced in prayer._]



THE ANGEL OF THE GILA

_A Tale of Arizona_

CORA MARSLAND

_With Illustrations by
S. S. HICKS and GEM VAUGHN_

[Illustration]

RICHARD G. BADGER

THE GORHAM PRESS

BOSTON



COPYRIGHT, 1911, BY RICHARD G. BADGER

_All Rights Reserved_

_THE GORHAM PRESS, BOSTON, U. S. A._



TO MY MOTHER



     CONTENTS


     CHAPTER                               PAGE

        I THE MINING CAMP                   11

       II THE DAWN OF A NEW DAY             19

      III CLAYTON RANCH                     30

       IV THE ANGEL OF THE GILA             41

        V THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN BALL           57

       VI A SOUL'S AWAKENING                78

      VII THE GILA CLUB                     89

     VIII THE COW LASSES                   107

       IX A VISIT AT MURPHY RANCH          117

        X CARLA EARLE                      132

       XI AN EVENTFUL DAY                  140

      XII CHRISTMAS DAY                    154

     XIII THE ADOPTION OF A MOTHER         167

      XIV THE GREAT TRANSFORMATION         182

       XV SOME SOCIAL EXPERIENCES          194

      XVI OVER THE MOUNTAINS               205

     XVII THE GREAT RACE                   217

    XVIII NIGHT ON THE RANGE               225

      XIX INASMUCH                         238

       XX A WOMAN'S NO                     241

      XXI THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW         248

     XXII THE GREATEST OF THESE IS LOVE    265

    XXIII AT SUNSET                        271

     XXIV AFTERMATH                        278



THE ANGEL OF THE GILA



The Angel of The Gila



CHAPTER I

THE MINING CAMP


It was an October day in Gila,[1] Arizona. The one street of the
mining camp wound around the foothills, and led eastward to Line
Canyon, which, at that point, divides Arizona from New Mexico. Four
saloons, an opium den, a store of general merchandise,--owned and
operated by the mining company,--a repair shop, one large, pretentious
adobe house,--the headquarters of the company, where superintendent,
assayers, and mining engineers boarded,--several small dwelling
houses, and many miners' shacks, constituted the town.

[1] Pronounced hé la.

A little further to the eastward, around a bend in the foothills, and
near Line Canyon, lay Clayton Ranch,--the most historic, as well as
the most picturesque spot in that region. Near the dwelling house, but
closer to the river than the Clayton home, stood a little adobe
schoolhouse.

The town, facing south, overlooked Gila River and its wooded banks.
Beyond the Gila, as in every direction, stretched foothills and
mountains. Toward the south towered Mt. Graham, the highest peak of
the Pinaleno range, blue in the distance, and crowned with snow.

Up a pathway of the foothills, west of the town, bounding forward as
if such a climb were but joy to her, came a slight, girlish figure.
She paused now and then to turn her face westward, watching the
changing colors of sunset.

At last she reached a bowlder, and, seating herself, leaned against
it, removed her sombrero hat, pushed back the moist curls from her
forehead, and turned again to the sunset. The sun, for one supreme
moment, poised on a mountain peak, then slowly sank, flashing its
message of splendor into the majestic dome of the sky, over
snow-capped mountains, over gigantic cliffs of red sandstone, over
stretches of yellow foothills, and then caught the white-robed figure,
leaning against the bowlder, in its rosy glow. The girl lifted her
fine, sensitive face. Again she pushed the curls from her forehead. As
she lifted her arm, her sleeve slipped back, revealing an arm and hand
of exquisite form, and patrician to the tips of the fingers.

She seemed absorbed in the scene before her, unconscious that she was
the loveliest part of it. But if she was unconscious of the fact, a
horseman who drew rein a short distance away, and who watched her
intently a few moments, was not. At last the girl stirred, as though
to continue on her way. Instantly the horseman gave his horse a sharp
cut with his whip, and went cantering up the ascent before her.

The sudden sound of a horse's hoofs startled her, and she glanced up
to see the horseman and his thoroughbred speeding toward the town.

She swung her sombrero hat over her shoulder, and gathered up her
flowers; then, with a lingering glance to westward, turned and walked
rapidly toward Gila.

By the time she had reached the one long street, many cowboys and
miners had already congregated about the saloons. She dreaded to pass
there at this hour, but this she must do in order to reach Clayton
Ranch, nearly a mile beyond.

As she drew near one saloon, she heard uproarious laughter. The voices
were loud and boisterous. It was impossible for her to escape hearing
what was said. It was evident to her that she herself was at that
moment the topic of conversation.

"She'll git all the Bible school she wants Sunday afternoon, or my
name's not Pete Tompkins," ejaculated a bar-tender as he stepped to
the bar of a saloon.

"What're ye goin' ter do, Pete?" asked a young miner. "I'm in f'r y'r
game, or my name ain't Bill Hines."

"I?" answered the individual designated as Pete Tompkins, "I mean ter
give 'er a reception, Bill, a _reception_." Here he laughed
boisterously. "I repeat it," he said. "I'll give 'er a reception, an'
conterive ter let 'er understan' that no sech infernal business as a
Bible school 'll be tol'ated in these yere parts o' Arizony. Them as
wants ter join me in smashin' this cussed Sunday business step ter the
bar. I'll treat the hull blanked lot o' ye."

The girl passing along the street shuddered. The brutal voice went on:

"Set up the glasses o' whiskey, Keith. Here, Jess an' Kate. We want
yer ter have a hand in smashin' this devilish Bible school. Another
glass fur Jess, Keith, an' one fur Kate."

The pedestrian quickened her pace, but still the voice followed her.

"Here's ter y'r healths, an' ter the smashin' o' the Bible school, an'
ter the reception we'll give the new schoolma'am."

The stranger heard the clink of glasses, mingled with the uproar of
laughter. Then she caught the words:

"Ye don't jine us, Hastings. P'r'aps y're too 'ristercratic, or
p'r'aps y're gone on the gal! Ha-ha-ha-ha!"

The saloon rang with the laughter of the men and women.

The girl who had just passed quickened her pace, her cheeks tingling
with indignation. As she hastened on, the man addressed as Hastings
replied haughtily:

"I am a _man_, and being a man I cannot see insult offered to any
woman, especially when that woman is making an effort to do some good
in this Godless region."

"He's gone on 'er, sure, Bill. Ha-ha-ha-ha! Imagine me, Pete Tompkins,
gone on the schoolma'am! Ha-ha-ha-ha!"

His companions joined in his laughter.

"What'ud she think o' my figger, Bill?" he asked, as he strutted
across the saloon. "How 'ud I look by 'er side in Virginny reel, eh?
I'm afeared it 'ud be the devil an' angel in comp'ny. Ha-ha-ha!"

"Y're right thar," replied one of the men. "Ye certain are a devil,
an' she do look like a angel."

"Say, fellers," said Bill Hines, "me an' Pete an' all o' ye ought ter
git some slime from the river, an' throw on them white dresses o'
hern. I don't like nobody settin' theirselves up to be better'n we be,
even in clo'es, do ye, Jess?"

Jess agreed with him.

"What's all this noise about?" interrupted a new comer.

"Hello, Mark Clifton, is that you? Well, me an' Bill an' Jess an' the
other kids is plannin' ter smash schoolma'am's Bible school, Sunday.
We're goin' ter give 'er a reception."

"What do you mean by that?" asked Clifton.

"Ye kin jine the party an' we'll show yer."

"Let me urge you to leave Miss Bright alone. She has not harmed you.
Leave the Bible school alone, too, and attend to your own business."

"Oh, he's a saint, ain't he! He is!" sneered Pete Tompkins. "What about
this gal as he has with him here? More whiskey! Fill up the glasses,
Keith. Come, Jess. Come, Kate Harraday." And the half-intoxicated man
swung one woman around and tried to dance a jig, failing in which, he
fell to the floor puffing and swearing.

Mark Clifton's face darkened. He grasped a chair and stepped forward,
as if to strike the speaker. He hesitated. As he did so, a handsome
cowboy entered, followed by a little Indian boy of perhaps six years
of age.

"What's the row, Hastings?" asked the cowboy in a low voice.

"Pete Tompkins and Bill Hines and their ilk are planning to give Miss
Bright, the new teacher, some trouble when she attempts to start a
Bible school to-morrow afternoon. Clifton remonstrated, and they
taunted him about Carla Earle. That enraged him."

"What do they plan ter do?"

"I fancy they'll do every blackguard thing they can think of. They are
drunk now, but when they are sober they may reconsider. At any rate,
the decent men of the camp ought to be on the spot to protect that
girl, Harding."

"I'll be there fur one, Hastings. Have yer seen 'er?"

"Yes. As I rode into camp just now I passed someone I took to be Miss
Bright."

"Pretty as a picter, ain't she?" said Jack Harding.

"Look, there she goes around the bend of the road towards Claytons'.
There goes y'r teacher, Wathemah."

The Indian child bounded to the door.

"Me teacher, _me_ teacher," he said over and over to himself, as he
watched the receding figure.

"_Your_ teacher, eh, sonny," said Kenneth Hastings smiling. He laid
his hand on the child's head.

"Yes, _me_ teacher," said the boy proudly.

His remark was overheard by Pete Tompkins.

"Lookee here, boys! There goes Wathemah's teacher. Now's y'r chance,
my hearties. See the nat'ral cur'osity as is to start a religion shop,
an' grind us fellers inter angels. Are my wings sproutin'?"

As he spoke the words, he flapped his elbows up and down. Kenneth
Hastings and Jack Harding exchanged glances. Mark Clifton had gone.

Pete Tompkins hereupon stepped to the door and called out:

"Three cheers fur the angel o' the Gila, my hearties. One, two, three!
Now! That's it. Now! Death to the Bible school!"

"Death to the Bible school!" shouted they in unison.

The little Indian heard their words. He knew that insult and,
possibly, injury threatened his teacher, and, stepping up to Pete
Tompkins, he kicked his shins with all his childish strength, uttering
oaths that drew forth hilarious laughter from the men.

"Y're a good un," said one.

"Give 'im a trounce in the air," added another.

In a moment, the child was tossed from one to another, his passionate
cries and curses mingling with their ribald laughter. At last he was
caught by John Harding, who held him in his arms.

"Never mind, Wathemah," he said soothingly.

Hoarse with rage, the child shrieked, "You blankety blanked devils!
You blankety blanked devils!"

A ruffian cursed him.

He was wild. He struggled to free himself, to return to the fray, but
Jack Harding held him fast.

"You devils, devils, devils!" he shrieked again. His little frame
trembled with anger, and he burst into tears.

"Never mind, little chap," said his captor, drawing him closer, "ye go
with me."

For once John Harding left the saloon without touching liquor. The
Indian child was clasped in his arms. When he reached a place beyond
the sound of the men's voices, he set the little lad on his feet. He
patted him on the head, and looked down compassionately into the
tear-stained face.

"Poor little chap," he said, "poor little chap. Y're like me, ain't
ye? Ye ain't got nobody in the world. Let's be pards, Wathemah!"

"Pards?" repeated the child between sobs.

"Yes, pards, sonny. That's what I said."

Wathemah clasped his arms about Jack's knees.

"Me _teacher_ pard too?" he asked, trying bravely to stop crying.

"Yourn, not mine, sonny," answered Harding, smiling. Then hand in hand,
they strolled toward Clayton Ranch. And this was the strengthening of
the comradeship between the two, which was as loyal as it was tender.

Kenneth Hastings overtook them, then passed them. He reached Clayton
Ranch, hesitated a moment, then walked rapidly toward Line Canyon.

For some indefinable reason he did not call that evening at Clayton
Ranch as was his custom, nor did he knock at that door for many days.
On the following Monday, he was called to a distant mining camp, where
he was detained by business. So it happened that he was one of the
last to meet the new teacher whose coming was to mean so much to his
life and to the people of Gila.



CHAPTER II

THE DAWN OF A NEW DAY


For many days, public attention had been centered upon Esther Bright,
the new teacher in Gila. Her grasp of the conditions of the school,
her power to cope with the lawless element there, and her absolute
mastery of the situation had now become matters of local history. Her
advent in Gila had been a nine days' wonder to the Gilaites; now, her
presence there had come to be regarded as a matter of course.

Every new feature introduced into the school life, every new
acquaintance made, deepened her hold upon the better life of the
community. Moreover, her vital interest in the people awakened in them
a responsive interest in her.

Fearlessly she tramped the foothills and canyons, returning laden with
flowers and geological specimens. Learning her interest in these
things, many people of the camp began to contribute to her
collections.

Here in the Rockies, Nature pours out her treasures with lavish hand.
White men had long dwelt in the midst of her marvelous wealth of
scenic beauty, amazingly ignorant of any values there save that which
had a purchasing power and could be counted in dollars and cents.

The mountains were ministering to the soul life of Esther Bright. The
strength of the hills became hers. Nature's pages of history lay open
before her; but more interesting to her than cell or crystal, or tree
or flower, or the shining company of the stars, were the human beings
she found fettered by ignorance and sin. The human element made
demands upon her mind and heart. Here was something for her to do. If
they had been a colony of blind folk or cripples, their condition
could not have appealed more strongly to her sympathy. Profanity,
gambling, drunkenness and immorality were about her everywhere. The
vices of the adults had long been imitated as play by the children. So
one of Esther Bright's first innovations in school work was to
organize play and teach games, and be in the midst of children at
play. She was philosopher enough to realize that evil habits of years
could not be uprooted at once; but she did such heroic weeding that
the playground soon became comparatively decent. How to save the
children, and how to help the older people of the community were
absorbing questions to her. She was a resourceful woman, and began at
once to plan wisely, and methodically carried out her plans. In her
conferences with Mr. Clayton, her school trustee, she repeatedly
expressed her conviction that the greatest work before them was to
bring this great human need into vital relation with God. So it came
about very naturally that a movement to organize a Bible school began
in Gila.

Into every home, far and near, went Esther Bright, always sympathetic,
earnest and enthusiastic. Her enthusiasm proved contagious. There had
been days of this house to house visitation, and now the day of the
organization of the Bible school was at hand.

In the morning, Esther went to the schoolhouse to see that all was in
readiness. She paused, as she so often did, to wonder at the glory of
the scene. The schoolhouse itself was a part of the picture. It was
built of huge blocks of reddish brown adobe, crumbled at the corners.
The red tile roof added a picturesque bit of color to the landscape.
Just above the roof, at the right, rose an ample chimney. At the left,
and a little back of the schoolhouse, towered two giant cactuses. To
the north, stretched great barren foothills, like vast sand dunes by
the sea, the dreariness of their gray-white, or reddish soil relieved
only by occasional bunches of gray-green sage, mesquite bushes, cacti
and the Spanish dagger, with its sword-like foliage, and tall spikes
of seed-pods.

Beyond the foothills, miles away, though seeming near, towered rugged,
cathedral-like masses of snow-capped mountains. The shadows flitted
over the earth, now darkening the mountain country, now leaving floods
of light.

All along the valley of the Gila River, stretched great fields of
green alfalfa. Here and there, above the green, towered feathery
pampas plumes.

The river, near the schoolhouse, made a bend northward. Along its
banks were cottonwood trees, aspen, and sycamore, covered with green
mistletoe, and tangles of vines. No wonder Esther paused to drink in
the beauty. It was a veritable garden of the gods.

At last she entered the schoolhouse. She carried with her Bibles, hymn
books, and lesson leaves, all contributions from her grandfather.
Already, the room was decorated with mountain asters of brilliant
colors. She looked around with apparent satisfaction, for the room had
been made beautiful with the flowers. She passed out, locked the door,
and returned to the Clayton home.

In the saloons, all that morning, the subject of gossip had been the
Bible school. John Harding and Kenneth Hastings, occasionally
sauntering in, gathered that serious trouble was brewing for the young
teacher.

The hour for the meeting drew near. As Esther approached the
schoolhouse, she found perhaps forty people, men, women and children,
grouped near the door. Some of the children ran to meet her, Wathemah,
the little Indian, outrunning all of them. He trudged along proudly by
his teacher's side.

Esther Bright heard groans and hisses. As she looked at the faces
before her, two stood out with peculiar distinctness,--one, a proud,
high-bred face; the other, a handsome, though dissipated one.

There were more hisses and then muttered insults. There was no
mistaking the sounds or meaning. The Indian child sprang forward,
transformed into a fury. He shook his little fist at the men, as he
shouted, "Ye Wathemah teacher hurt, Wathemah kill ye blankety blanked
devils."

A coarse laugh arose from several men.

"What're yer givin' us, kid?" said one man, staggering forward.

"Wathemah show ye, ye blankety blanked devil," shrieked he again.

Wild with rage, the child rushed forward, uttering oaths that made his
teacher shudder. She too stepped rapidly forward, and clasped her arms
about him. He fought desperately for release, but she held him,
speaking to him in low, firm tones, apparently trying to quiet him. At
last, he burst into tears of anger.

For a moment, the mutterings and hisses ceased, but they burst forth
again with greater strength. The child sprang from his teacher, leaped
like a squirrel to the back of one of the ruffians, climbed to his
shoulder, and dealt lightning blows upon his eyes and nose and mouth.
The man grasped him and hurled him with terrific force to the ground.
The little fellow lay in a helpless heap where he had fallen. Esther
rushed to the child and bent over him. All the brute seemed roused in
the drunken man. He lunged toward her with menacing fists, and a
torrent of oaths.

"Blank yer!" he said, "Yer needn't interfere with me. Blank y'r hide.
Yer'll git out o' Gila ter-morrer, blank yer!"

But he did not observe the three stern faces at the right and left of
Esther Bright and the prostrate child. Three men with guns drawn
protected them.

The men who had come to insult and annoy knew well that if they
offered further violence to the young teacher and the unconscious
child, they would have to reckon with John Clayton, Kenneth Hastings
and John Harding. Wordless messages were telegraphed from eye to eye,
and one by one the ruffians disappeared.

Esther still knelt by Wathemah. He had been stunned by the fall. Water
revived him; and after a time, he was able to walk into the
schoolhouse.

Oh, little child of the Open, so many years misunderstood, how
generously you respond with love to a little human kindness! How
bitterly you resent a wrong!

Afterwards, in describing what Miss Bright did during this trying
ordeal, a Scotch miner said:

"The lass's smile fair warmed the heart. It was na muckle, but when
she comforted the Indian bairn I could na be her enemy."

As Esther entered the door, she saw two middle-aged Scotch women clasp
hands and exchange words of greeting. She did not dream then, nor did
she know until months after, how each of these longed for her old
home in Scotland; nor did she know, at that time, how the heart of
each one of them had warmed towards her.

Several women and children and a few men followed the teacher into the
schoolroom. All looked around curiously.

Esther looked into the faces before her, some dull, others hard; some
worn by toil and exposure; others disfigured by dissipation. They were
to her, above everything else, human beings to be helped; and
ministration to their needs became of supreme interest to her.

There were several Scotch people in the audience. As the books and
lesson leaves were passed, Esther gave out a hymn the children knew,
and which she fancied might be familiar to the Scotch people
present,--"My Ain Countrie."

She lifted her guitar, played a few opening chords, and sang,

     "I am far frae my hame, an' I'm weary aftenwhiles
     For the longed-for hame-bringin', an' my Faither's welcome
         smiles;
     An' I'll ne'er be fu' content, until mine een do see
     The gowden gates o' Heaven, an' my ain countrie."

At first a few children sang with her, but finding their elders did
not sing, they, too, stopped to listen.

The two Scotch women, who sat side by side, listened intently. One
reached out and clasped the hand of the other; and then, over the
cheeks furrowed by toil, privation and heart-hunger, tears found their
unaccustomed way.

The singer sang to the close of the stanza, then urged all to sing
with her. A sturdy Scotchman, after clearing his throat, spoke up:

"Please, Miss, an' will ye sing it all through y'rsel? It reminds me
o' hame."

Applause followed. The singer smiled, then lifting her guitar, sang in
a musical voice, the remaining stanzas.

When she prayed, the room grew still. The low, tender voice was
speaking as to a loving, compassionate Father. One miner lifted his
head to see the Being she addressed, and whose presence seemed to fill
the room. All he saw was the shining face of the teacher. Months
later, he said confidentially to a companion that he would acknowledge
that though he had never believed in "such rot as a God an' all them
things," yet when the teacher prayed that day, he somehow felt that
there was a God, and that he was right there in that room. And he
added:

"I felt mighty queer. I reckon I wasn't quite ready ter have Him look
me through an' through."

From similar testimony given by others at various times, it is clear
that many that day heard themselves prayed for for the first time in
their lives. And they did not resent it.

The prayer ended. A hush followed. Then the lesson of the day was
taught, and the school was organized. At the close, the teacher asked
all who wished to help in the Bible school to remain a few moments.

Many came to express their good will. One Scotch woman said, "I dinna
wonder the bairns love ye. Yir talk the day was as gude as the sermons
i' the Free Kirk at hame."

Then another Scotch woman took both of Esther Bright's hands in her
own, and assured her it was a long day since she had listened to the
Word.

"But," she added, "whatever Jane Carmichael can dae tae help ye,
Lassie, she'll dae wi' a' her heart."

The first of the two stepped forward, saying apologetically, "I forgot
tae say as I am Mistress Burns, mither o' Marget an' Jamesie."

"And I," added the other, "am the mither o' Donald."

Mr. Clayton, elected superintendent at the organization of the Bible
school, now joined the group about the teacher. At last the workers
only remained, and after a brief business meeting, they went their
several ways. Evidently they were thinking new thoughts.

Mrs. Burns overtook Mrs. Carmichael and remarked to her, "I dinna ken
why the Almighty came sae near my heart the day, for I hae wandered.
God be thankit, that He has sent the lassie amang us."

"Aye," responded Mrs. Carmichael, "let us be thankfu', an' come back
hame tae God."

Esther Bright was the last to leave the schoolhouse. As she strolled
along slowly, deep in thought over the events of the day, she was
arrested by the magnificence of the sunset. She stopped and stood
looking into the crystal clearness of the sky, so deep, so
illimitable. Across the heavens, which were suddenly aflame with
crimson and gold, floated delicate, fleecy clouds. Soon, all the
colors of the rainbow were caught and softened by these swift-winged
messengers of the sky. Away on the mountains, the snow glowed as if on
fire. Slowly the colors faded. Still she stood, with face uplifted.
Then she turned, her face shining, as though she had stood in the very
presence of God.

Suddenly, in her path, stepped the little Indian, his arms full of
goldenrod. He waited for her, saying as he offered the flowers:

"_Flowers_, me teacher."

She stooped, drew him to her, and kissed his dirty face, saying as she
did so, "Flowers? How lovely!"

He clasped her hand, and they walked on together.

The life story of the little Indian had deeply touched her. It was now
three years since he had been found, a baby of three, up in Line
Canyon. That was just after one of the Apache raids. It was believed
that he was the child of Geronimo. When the babe was discovered by the
white men who pursued the Indians, he was blinking in the sun. A
cowboy, one Jack Harding, had insisted upon taking the child back to
the camp with them. Then the boy had found a sort of home in Keith's
saloon, where he had since lived. There he had been teased and petted,
and cuffed and beaten, and cursed by turns, and being a child of
unusually bright mind, and the constant companion of rough men, he had
learned every form of evil a child can possibly know. His naturally
winsome nature had been changed by teasing and abuse until he seemed
to deserve the sobriquet they gave him,--"little savage." Now at the
age of perhaps six years, he had been sent to the Gila school; and
there Esther Bright found him. The teacher was at once attracted to
the child.

Many years after, when Wathemah had become a distinguished man, he
would tell how his life began when a lovely New England girl, a
remarkable teacher, found him in that little school in Gila. He never
failed to add that all that he was or might become, he owed entirely
to her.

The Indian child's devotion to the teacher began that first day at
school, and was so marked it drew upon him persecution from the other
children. Never could they make him ashamed. When the teacher was
present, he ignored their comments and glances, and carried himself as
proudly as a prince of the realm; but when she was absent, many a boy,
often a boy larger than himself, staggered under his furious attacks.
The child had splendid physical courage. Take him for all in all, he
was no easy problem to solve. The teacher studied him, listened to
him, reasoned with him, loved him; and from the first, he seemed to
know intuitively that she was to be trusted and obeyed.

On this day, he was especially happy as he trudged along, his hand in
that of his Beloved.

"Did you see how beautiful the sunset is, Wathemah?" asked the
teacher, looking down at the picturesque urchin by her side. He gave a
little grunt, and looked into the sky.

"Flowers in sky," he said, his face full of delight. "God canyon put
flowers, he Wathemah love?"

"Yes, dear. God put flowers in the canyon because he loves you."

They stopped, and both looked up into the sky. Then, after a moment,
she continued:

"You are like the flowers of the canyon, Wathemah. God put you here
for me to find and love."

"Love Wathemah?"

"Yes."

Then she stooped and gathered him into her arms. He nestled to her.

"You be Wathemah's mother?" he questioned.

She put her cheek against the little dirty one. The child felt tears.
As he patted her cheek with his dirty hand, he repeated anxiously:

"Me teacher be Wathemah mother?"

"Yes," she answered, as though making a sacred covenant, "I,
Wathemah's teacher, promise to be Wathemah's mother, so help me God."

The child was coming into his birthright, the birthright of every
child born into the world,--a mother's love. Who shall measure its
power in the development of a child's life?

They had reached the Clayton home. Wathemah turned reluctantly,
lingering and drawing figures in the road with his bare feet, a
picture one would long remember.

He was a slender child, full of sinuous grace. His large, lustrous
dark eyes, as well as his features, showed a strain of Spanish blood.
He was dressed in cowboy fashion, but with more color than one sees in
the cowboy costume. His trousers were of brown corduroy, slightly
ragged. He wore a blue and white striped blouse, almost new. Around
his neck, tied jauntily in front, was a red silk handkerchief, a gift
from a cowboy. He smoothed it caressingly, as though he delighted in
it. His straight, glossy black hair, except where cut short over the
forehead, fell to his shoulders. Large loop-like ear-rings dangled
from his ears; but the crowning feature of his costume, and his
especial pride, was a new sombrero hat, trimmed with a scarlet ribbon
and a white quill. He suddenly looked at his teacher, his face
lighting with a radiant smile, and said:

"Mother, _me_ mother."

"Tell me, Wathemah," she said, "what you learned to-day in the Bible
school."

He turned and said softly:

"Jesus love."

Then the little child of the Open walked back to the camp, repeating
softly to himself:

"Jesus love! Mother love!"



CHAPTER III

CLAYTON RANCH


Early traders knew Clayton Ranch well, for it was on the old stage
route from Santa Fe to the Pacific coast.

The house faced south, overlooking Gila River, and commanded a
magnificent view of mountains and foothills and valleys. To the
northeast, rose a distant mountain peak always streaked with snow.

The ranch house, built of blocks of adobe, was of a creamy cement
color resembling the soil of the surrounding foothills. The building
was long and low, in the Spanish style of a rectangle, opening on a
central court at the rear. The red tile roof slanted in a shallow
curve from the peak of the house, out over the veranda, which extended
across the front. Around the pillars that supported the roof of the
veranda, vines grew luxuriantly, and hung in profusion from the strong
wire stretched high from pillar to pillar. The windows and doors were
spacious, giving the place an atmosphere of generous hospitality.
Northeast of the house, was a picturesque windmill, which explained
the abundant water supply for the ranch, and the freshness of the
vines along the irrigating ditch that bordered the veranda. The
dooryard was separated from the highway by a low adobe wall the color
of the house. In the yard, palms and cacti gave a semi-tropical
setting to this attractive old building. Port-holes on two sides of
the house bore evidence of its having been built as a place of
defense. Here, women and children had fled for safety when the Apache
raids filled everyone with terror. Here they had remained for days,
with few to protect them, while the men of the region drove off the
Indians.

Senor Matéo, the builder and first owner of the house, had been slain
by the Apaches. On the foothills, just north of the house, ten lonely
graves bore silent witness to that fatal day.

Up the road to Clayton Ranch, late one November afternoon, came Esther
Bright with bounding step, accompanied, as usual, by a bevy of
children. She heard one gallant observe to another that their teacher
was "just a daisy."

Although this and similar compliments were interspersed with miners'
and cowboys' slang, they were none the less respectful and hearty, and
served to express the high esteem in which the new teacher was held by
the little citizens of Gila.

As the company neared the door of the Clayton home, one little girl
suddenly burst forth:

"My maw says she won't let her childern go ter Bible school ter be
learned 'ligion by a Gentile. Me an' Mike an' Pat an' Brigham wanted
ter go, but maw said, maw did, that she'd learn us Brigham Young's
'ligion, an' no sech trash as them Gentiles tells about; 'n' that the
womern as doesn't have childern'll never go ter Heaven, maw says. My
maw's got ten childern. My maw's Mormon."

Here little Katie Black paused for breath. She was a stocky,
pug-nosed, freckle-faced little creature, with red hair, braided in
four short pugnacious pigtails, tied with white rags.

"So your mother is a Mormon?" said the teacher to Katie.

"Yep."

"Suppose I come to see your mother, Katie, and tell her all about it.
She might let you come. Shall I?"

Her question was overheard by one of Katie's brothers, who said
heartily:

"Sure! I'll come fur yer. Maw said yer was too stuck up ter come, but
I said I knowed better."

"Naw," said Brigham, "she ain't stuck up; be yer?"

"Not a bit." The teacher's answer seemed to give entire satisfaction
to the company.

The children gathered about her as they reached the door of Clayton
Ranch. Esther Bright placed her hand on Brigham's head. It was a
loving touch, and her "Good night, laddie," sent the child on his way
happy.

Within the house, all was cheer and welcome. The great living room was
ablaze with light. A large open fireplace occupied the greater part of
the space on one side. There, a fire of dry mesquite wood snapped and
crackled, furnishing both light and heat this chill November evening.

The floor of the living room was covered with an English three-ply
carpet. The oak chairs were both substantial and comfortable. On the
walls, hung three oil paintings of English scenes. Here and there were
bookcases, filled with standard works. On a round table near the
fireplace, were strewn magazines and papers. A comfortable low couch,
piled with sofa pillows, occupied one side of the room near the
firelight. Here, resting from a long and fatiguing journey, was
stretched John Clayton, the owner of the house.

As Esther Bright entered the room, he rose and greeted her cordially.
His manner indicated the well-bred man of the world. He was tall and
muscular, his face, bronzed from the Arizona sun. There was something
very genial about the man that made him a delightful host.

"Late home, Miss Bright!" he said in playful reproof. "This is a rough
country, you know."

"So I hear, mine host," she said, bowing low in mock gravity, "and
that is why we have been scared to death at your long absence. I
feared the Indians had carried you off."

"I was detained unwillingly," he responded. "But, really, Miss Bright,
I am not joking. It _is_ perilous for you to tramp these mountain
roads as you do, and especially near nightfall. You are tempting
Providence." He nodded his head warningly.

"But I am not afraid," she persisted.

"I know that. More's the pity. But you ought to be. Some day you may
be captured and carried off, and no one in camp to rescue you."

"How romantic!" she answered, a smile lurking in her eyes and about
her mouth.

She seated herself on a stool near the fire.

"Why didn't you ask me why I was so late? I have an excellent excuse."

"Why, prisoner at the bar?"

"Please, y'r honor, we've been making ready for Christmas." She
assumed the air of a culprit, and looked so demurely funny he laughed
outright.

Here Mrs. Clayton and Edith, her fifteen-year-old daughter, entered
the room.

"What's the fun?" questioned Edith.

"Miss Bright is pleading guilty to working more hours than she
should."

"Oh, no, I didn't, Edith," she said merrily. "I said we had been
making ready for Christmas."

Edith sat on a stool at her teacher's side. She, too, was ready for a
tilt.

"You're not to pronounce sentence, Mr. Judge, until you see what we
have been doing. It's to be a great surprise." And Edith looked wise
and mysterious.

Then Esther withdrew, returning a little later, gowned in an old-rose
house dress of some soft wool stuff. She again sat near the fire.

"Papa," said Edith, "I have been telling Miss Bright about the annual
Rocky Mountain ball, and that she must surely go."

John Clayton looked amused.

"I'm afraid Edith couldn't do justice to that social function. I am
quite sure you never saw anything like it. It is the most primitive
sort of a party, made up of a motley crowd,--cowboys, cowlassies,
miners and their families, and ranchmen and theirs. They come early,
have a hearty supper, and dance all night; and as many of them imbibe
pretty freely, they sometimes come to blows."

He seemed amused at the consternation in Esther's face.

"You don't mean that I shall be expected to go to such a party?" she
protested.

"Why not?" he asked, smiling.

"It seems dreadful," she hastened to say, "and besides that, I never
go to dances. I do not dance."

"It's not as bad as it sounds," explained John Clayton. "You see these
people are human. Their solitary lives are barren of pleasure. They
crave intercourse with their kind; and so this annual party offers
this opportunity."

"And is this the extent of their social life? Have they nothing
better?"

"Nothing better," he said seriously, "but some things much worse."

"I don't see how anything could be worse."

"Oh, yes," he said, "it could be worse. But to return to the ball. It
is unquestionably a company of publicans and sinners. If you wish to
do settlement work here, to study these people in their native haunts,
here they are. You will have an opportunity to meet some poor
creatures you would not otherwise meet. Besides, this party is given
for the benefit of the school. The proceeds of the supper help support
the school."

"Then I must attend?"

"I believe so. With your desire to help these people, I believe it
wise for you to go with us to the ball. You remember how a great
Teacher long ago ate with publicans and sinners."

"Yes, I was just thinking of it. Christ studied people as he found
them; helped them where he found them." She sat with bent head,
thoughtful.

"Yes," John Clayton spoke gently, "Christ studied them as he found
them, helped them where he found them."

He sometimes smiled at her girlish eagerness, while more and more he
marveled at her wisdom and ability. She had set him to thinking; and
as he thought, he saw new duties shaping before him.

It may have been an hour later, as they were reading aloud from a new
book, they heard a firm, quick step on the veranda, followed by a
light knock.

"It's Kenneth," exclaimed John Clayton in a brisk, cheery tone, as he
hastened to open the door. The newcomer was evidently a valued friend.
Esther recognized in the distinguished looking visitor one of the men
who had protected her the day of the organization of the Bible school.

John Clayton rallied him on his prolonged absence. Mrs. Clayton told
him how they had missed him, and Edith chattered merrily of what had
happened since his last visit.

When he was presented to Esther Bright, she rose, and at that moment,
a flame leaped from the burning mesquite, and lighted up her face and
form. She was lovely. The heat of the fire had brought a slight color
to her cheeks, and this was accentuated by her rose-colored gown.
Kenneth Hastings bowed low, lower than his wont to women. For a moment
his eyes met hers. His glance was keen and searching. She met it
calmly, frankly. Then her lashes swept her cheeks, and her color
deepened.

They gathered about the hearth. Fresh sticks of grease woods, and pine
cones, thrown on the fire, sent red and yellow and violet flames
leaping up the chimney. The fire grew hotter, and they were obliged to
widen their circle.

What better than an open fire to unlock the treasures of the mind and
heart, when friend converses with friend? The glow of the embers seems
to kindle the imagination, until the tongue forgets the commonplaces
of daily life and grows eloquent with the thoughts that lie hidden in
the deeps of the soul.

Such converse as this held this group of friends in thrall. Kenneth
Hastings talked well, exceedingly well. All the best stops in his
nature were out. Esther listened, at first taking little part in the
conversation. She was a good listener, an appreciative listener, and
therein lay some of her charm. When he addressed a remark to her, she
noticed that he had fine eyes, wonderful eyes, such eyes as belonged
to Lincoln and Webster.

One would have guessed Kenneth Hastings' age to be about thirty. He
was tall, rather slender and sinewy, with broad, strong shoulders. He
had a fine head, proudly poised, and an intelligent, though stern
face. He was not a handsome man; there was, however, an air of
distinction about him, and he had a voice of rare quality, rich and
musical. Esther Bright had noticed this.

The visitor began to talk to her. His power to draw other people out
and make them shine was a fine art with him. His words were like a
spark to tinder. Esther's mind kindled. She grew brilliant, and said
things with a freshness and sparkle that fascinated everyone. And
Kenneth Hastings listened with deepening interest.

His call had been prolonged beyond his usual hour for leave-taking,
when John Clayton brought Esther's guitar, that happened to be in the
room, and begged her for a song. She blushed and hesitated.

"Do sing," urged the guest.

"I am not a trained musician," she protested.

But her host assured his friend that she surely could sing. Then all
clamored for a song.

Esther sat thrumming the strings.

"What shall I sing?"

"'Who is Sylvia,'" suggested Mrs. Clayton.

This she sang in a full, sweet voice. Her tone was true.

"More, more," they insisted, clapping their hands.

"Just _one_ more song," pleaded Edith.

"Do you sing, 'Drink to me only with thine eyes'?" asked Kenneth. For
answer, she struck the chords, and sang; then she laid down the
guitar.

"Please sing one of your American ballads. Sing 'Home, Sweet Home,'"
he suggested.

She had been homesick all day, so there was a home-sigh in her voice
as she sang. Kenneth moved his chair into the shadow, and watched her.

At last he rose to go; and with promises of an early return, he
withdrew.

Not to the saloon did he go that night, as had been his custom since
coming to the mining camp. He walked on and on, out into the vast
aloneness of the mountains. Once in a while he stopped, and looked
down towards Clayton Ranch. At intervals he whistled softly.--The
strain was "Home, Sweet Home."

John Clayton and his wife sat long before the fire after Esther and
Edith had retired. Mary Clayton was a gentle being, with a fair, sweet
English face. And she adored her husband. They had been talking
earnestly.

"Any way, Mary," John Clayton was saying, "I believe Miss Bright could
make an unusually fine man of Kenneth. I believe she could make him a
better man, too."

"That might be, John," she responded, "but you wouldn't want so rare a
soul as she is to marry him to reform him, would you? She's like a
snow-drop."

"No, like a rose," he suggested, "all sweet at the heart. I'd really
like to see her marry Kenneth. In fact, I'd like to help along a
little."

"Oh, my dear! How could you?" And she looked at him reproachfully.

"Why not?" he asked. "Tell me honestly." He lifted her face and
looked into it with lover-like tenderness. "You like Kenneth, don't
you? And we are always glad to welcome him in our home."

"Y-e-s," she responded hesitatingly, "but--"

"But what?"

"I fear he frequents the saloons, and is sometimes in company totally
unworthy of him. In fact, I fear he isn't good enough for Miss Bright.
I can't bear to think of her marrying any man less pure and noble than
she is herself."

He took his wife's hand in both of his.

"You forget, Mary," he said, "that Miss Bright is a very unusual
woman. There are few men, possibly, who are her peers. Don't condemn
Kenneth because he isn't exactly like her. He's not perfect, I admit,
any more than the rest of us. But he's a fine, manly fellow, with a
good mind and noble traits of character. If the right woman gets hold
of him, she'll make him a good man, and possibly a great one."

"That may be," she said, "but I don't want Miss Bright to be that
woman."

"Suppose he were your son, would you feel he was so unworthy of her?"

"Probably not," came her hesitating answer.

"Mary, dear," he said, "I fear you are too severe in your judgment of
men. I wish you had more compassion. You see, it is this way: many who
seem evil have gone astray because they have not had the influence of
a good mother or sister or wife." He bent his head and kissed her.

A moment later, he leaned back and burst into a hearty laugh.

"Why, what's the matter?" she asked. "I don't think it's a laughing
matter."

"It's so ridiculous, Mary. Here we've been concerning ourselves about
the possible marriage of Kenneth and Miss Bright, when they have only
just met, and it isn't likely they'll ever care for each other,
anyway. Let's leave them alone."

And the curtain went down on a vital introductory scene in the drama
of life.



CHAPTER IV

THE ANGEL OF THE GILA


Days came and went. The Bible school of Gila had ceased to be an
experiment. It was a fact patent to all that the adobe schoolhouse had
become the social center of the community, and that the soul of that
center was Esther Bright. She had studied sociology in college and
abroad. She had theorized, as many do, about life; now, life itself,
in its bald reality, was appealing to her heart and brain. She did not
stop to analyze her fitness for the work. She indulged in no morbid
introspection. It was enough for her that she had found great human
need. She was now to cope, almost single handed, with the forces that
drag men down. She saw the need, she realized the opportunity. She
worked with the quiet, unfailing patience of a great soul, leaving the
fruitage to God.

Sometimes the seriousness in Esther's face would deepen. Then she
would go out into the Open. On one of these occasions, she strayed to
her favorite haunt in the timber along the river, and seated herself
on the trunk of a dead cottonwood tree, lying near the river bank.
Trees, covered with green mistletoe, towered above her. Tremulous
aspens sparkled in the sunshine. The air was crystal clear; the vast
dome of the sky, of the deepest blue. She sat for a long time with
face lifted, apparently forgetful of the open letter in her hand. At
last she turned to it, and read as follows:

     LYNN, MASS., Tenth Month, Fifth Day, 1888.

     MY BELOVED GRANDDAUGHTER:

     Thy letter reached me Second Day. Truly thou hast found
     a field that needs a worker, and I do not question that
     the Lord's hand led thee to Gila. What thou art doing
     and dost plan to do, interest me deeply; but it will
     tax thy strength. I am thankful that thou hast felt a
     deepening sense of God's nearness. His world is full of
     Him, only men's eyes are holden that they do not know.
     All who gain strength to lead and inspire their
     fellows, learn this surely at last:--that the soul of
     man finds God most surely in the Open. If men would
     help their fellows, they must seek inspiration and
     strength in communion with God.

     To keep well, one must keep his mind calm and cheerful.
     So I urge thee not to allow the sorrowfulness of life
     about thee to depress thee. Thou canst not do thy most
     effective work if thy heart is always bowed down. The
     great sympathy of thy nature will lead thee to sorrow
     for others more than is well for thee. Joy is necessary
     to all of us. So, Beloved, cultivate joyousness, and
     teach others to do so. It keeps us sane, and strong and
     helpful.

     I know that the conditions thou hast found shock and
     distress thee, as they do all godly men and women; but
     I beg thee to remember, Esther, that our Lord had
     compassion on such as these, on the sinful as well as
     on the good, and that He offers salvation to all. How
     to have compassion! Ah, my child, men are so slow in
     learning that. Love,--compassion, is the key of
     Christ's philosophy.

     I am often lonely without thee; but do not think I
     would call thee back while the Lord hath need of thee.

     Thy Uncle and Aunt are well, and send their love to
     thee.

     I have just been reading John Whittier's 'Our Master.'
     Read it on next First Day, as my message to thee.

     God bless thee.

     Thy faithful grandfather,

     DAVID BRIGHT.

As she read, her eyes filled.

In the veins of Esther Bright flowed the blood of honorable,
God-fearing people; but to none of these, had humanity's needs called
more insistently than to her. Her grandfather had early recognized and
fostered her passion for service; and from childhood up, he had
frequently taken her with him on his errands of mercy, that she might
understand the condition and the needs of the unfortunate. Between the
two there existed an unusual bond.

After reading the letter, Esther sat absorbed in thought. The present
had slipped away, and it seemed as though her spirit had absented
itself from her body and gone on a far journey. She was aroused to a
consciousness of the present by a quick step. In a moment Kenneth
Hastings was before her; then, seated at her side.

"Well!" he began. "How fortunate I am! Here I was on my way to call on
you to give you these flowers. I've been up on the mountains for
them."

"What beautiful mountain asters!" was her response, her face lighting
with pleasure. "How exquisite in color! And how kind of you!"

"Yes, they're lovely." He looked into her face with undisguised
admiration. Something within her shrank from it.

Three weeks had now passed since the meeting of Kenneth Hastings and
Esther Bright. During this time, he had become an almost daily caller
at Clayton Ranch. When he made apologies for the frequency of his
calls, the Claytons always assured him of the pleasure his presence
gave them, saying he was to them a younger brother, and as welcome.

It was evident to them that Kenneth's transformation had begun. John
Clayton knew that important changes were taking place in his daily
life; that all his social life was spent in their home; that he had
ceased to enter a saloon; and that he had suddenly become fastidious
about his toilet.

If Esther noted any changes in him, she did not express it. She was
singularly reticent in regard to him.

At this moment, she sat listening to him as he told her of the
mountain flora.

"Wait till you see the cactus blossoms in the spring and summer." He
seemed very enthusiastic. "They make a glorious mass of color against
the soft gray of the dry grass, or soil."

"I'd love to see them." She lifted the bunch of asters admiringly.

"I have some water colors of cacti I made a year ago. I'd like to show
them to you, Miss Bright, if you are interested."

She assured him she was.

"I was out in the region of Colorado River a year ago. It is a
wonderful region no white man has yet explored. Only the Indians know
of its greatness. I have an idea that when that region is explored by
some scientist, he will discover that canyon to be the greatest marvel
of the world. What I saw was on a stupendous, magnificent scale."

"How it must have impressed you!"

"Wonderfully! I'll show you a sketch I made of a bit of what I found.
It may suggest the magnificence of the coloring to you."

"How did you happen to have sketching materials with you?"

"I agreed to write a series of articles for an English magazine, and
wished illustrations for one of the articles."

"How accomplished you are!" she exclaimed. "A mining engineer, a
painter, an author--"

"Don't!" he protested, raising a deprecatory hand.

Having launched on the natural wonders of Arizona, he grew more and
more eloquent, till Esther's imagination made a daring leap, and she
looked down the gigantic gorge he pictured to her, over great acres of
massive rock formation, like the splendor of successive day-dawns
hardened into stone, and saw gigantic forms chiseled by ages of
erosion.

"Do you ride horseback, Miss Bright?" he asked, suddenly changing the
conversation.

"I am sorry to say that I do not. I do not even know how to mount."

"Let me teach you to ride," he said, with sudden interest.

"You would find me an awkward pupil," she responded, rising.

"I am willing to wager that I should not. When may I have the pleasure
of giving you the first lesson?"

"Any time convenient for you when I am not teaching." She began to
gather up her flowers and hat.

Then and there, a day was set for the first lesson in horsemanship.

"Sit down, please," said Kenneth. "I want you to enlighten me. I am
painfully dense."

She seated herself on the tree trunk again, saying as she did so:

"I had not observed any conspicuous signs of density on your part, Mr.
Hastings, save that you think I could be metamorphosed into a
horsewoman. Some women are born to the saddle. I was not. I am not an
Englishwoman, you see."

"But decidedly English," he retorted. "I wish you would tell me your
story."

Her face flushed.

"I beg your pardon," he hastened to say. "I did not mean to be rude.
You interest me deeply. Anything you think or do, anything that has
made you what you are, is of deep interest to me."

"There is nothing to tell," she said simply. "Just a few pages, with
here and there an entry; a few birthdays; graduation from college;
foreign travel; work in Gila; a life spent in companionship with a
wonderfully lovely and lovable grandfather; work at his side, and
life's history in the making. That is all."

"All?" he repeated. "But that is rich in suggestion. I have studied
you almost exclusively for three weeks, and I know you."

She looked up. The expression in his eyes nettled her. Her spinal
column stiffened.

"Indeed! Know a woman in three weeks! You do well, better than most of
your sex. Most men, I am told, find woman an unsolvable problem, and
when they think they know her, they find they don't."

This was interesting to him. He liked the flash in her eye.

"Some life purpose brings you to Gila, to work so unselfishly for a
lot of common, ignorant people."

"What is that to you?"

Her question sounded harsh in her own ears, and then she begged his
pardon.

"No apology is necessary on your part," he said, changing from banter
to a tone of seriousness. "My words roused your resentment. I am at
fault. The coming of a delicately nurtured girl like you into such a
place of degradation is like the coming of an angel of light down to
the bottomless pit. I beg forgiveness for saying this; but, Miss
Bright, a mining camp, in these days, is a hotbed of vice."

"All the more reason why people of intelligence and character should
try to make the life here clean. I believe we can crowd out evil by
cultivating the good."

"You are a decided optimist," he said; "and I, by force of
circumstances, have become a confirmed pessimist."

"You will not continue to be a pessimist," she said, prophetically,
seeing in her mind's eye what he would be in the years to come. "You
will come to know deep human sympathy; you will believe in the
possibility of better and better things for your fellows. You will use
your strength, your intellect, your fine education, for the best
service of the world about you."

Somehow that prophecy went home to him.

"By George!" he exclaimed, "you make a fellow feel he _must_ be just
what you want him to be, and what he ought to be."

The man studied the woman before him, with deep and increasing
interest. She possessed a strength, he was sure, of which no one in
Gila had yet dreamed. He continued:

"Would you mind telling me the humanitarian notions that made you
willing to bury yourself in this godless place?"

She hesitated. The catechism evidently annoyed her, for it seemed to
savor of impertinent curiosity. But at last she answered:

"I believe my grandfather is responsible for the humanitarian notions.
It is a long story."

She hesitated.

"I am interested in what he has done, and what you are doing. Please
tell me about it."

"Well, it goes back to my childhood. I was my grandfather's constant
companion until I went to college. He is a well-known philanthropist
of New England, interested in the poor, in convicts in prison and
out, in temperance work, in the enfranchisement of woman, in
education, and in everything that makes for righteousness."

She paused.

"And he discussed great questions with you?"

"Yes, as though in counsel. He would tell me certain conditions, and
ask me what I thought we had better do."

"An ideal preparation for philanthropic service." He was serious now.

"There awoke within me, very early, the purpose to serve my fellow men
in the largest possible way. Grandfather fostered this; and when the
time came for me to go to college, he helped me plan my course of
study." She looked far away.

"You followed it out?"

"Very nearly. You see, Mr. Hastings, service is no accident with me.
It dates back generations. It is in my blood."

"Your blood is of the finest sort. Surely service does not mean living
in close touch with immoral, disreputable people."

Her eyes kindled, grew dark in color.

"What _does_ it mean, then? The strong, the pure, the godly should
live among men, teach by precept and example how to live, and show the
loveliness of pure living just as Jesus did. I have visited prisons
with grandfather, have prayed with and for criminals, and have sung in
the prisons. Is it not worth while to help these wretched creatures
look away from themselves to God?"

"Oh, Miss Bright," he protested, "it is dreadful for a young girl like
you even to hear of the wickedness of men."

"Women are wicked, too," she responded seriously, "but I never lose
hope for any one."

"Some day hope will die out in your heart," he said discouragingly.

"God forbid!" she spoke solemnly. In a moment she continued:

"I am sure you do not realize how many poor creatures never have had a
chance to be decent. Just think how many are born of sinful, ignorant
parents, into an environment of sin and ignorance. They live in it,
they die in it. I, by no will or merit of my own, received a blessed
heritage. My ancestors for generations have been intelligent, godly
people, many of them people of distinction. I was born into an
atmosphere of love, of intelligence, of spirituality, and of
refinement. I have lived in that atmosphere all my life. My good
impulses have been fostered, my wrong ones checked."

"I'll wager you were painfully conscientious," he said.

"Why should I have been given so much," she continued, "and these poor
creatures so little, unless it was that I should minister to their
needs?"

"You may be right." He seemed unconvinced. "But I am sure of one
thing. If I had been your grandfather, and you my grandchild, I never
would have let you leave me."

He was smiling.

"You should know my grandfather, and then you would understand."

"How did you happen to come to Gila?" he asked.

"I met Mr. and Mrs. Clayton in the home of one of their friends in
England. We were house guests there at the same time. We returned to
America on the same steamer. Mrs. Clayton knew I was to do settlement
work, and urged me to come to Gila a while instead. So I came."

How much her coming was beginning to mean to him, to others! Both were
silent a while. Then it was Kenneth who spoke.

"Do you know, Miss Bright, it never occurred to me before you came,
that I had any obligations to these people? Now I know I have. I was
indifferent to the fact that I had a soul myself until you came."

She looked up questioningly.

"Yes, I mean it," he said. "To all intents and purposes I had no soul.
A man forgets he has a soul when he lives in the midst of vice, and no
one cares whether he goes to the devil or not."

"Is it the environment, or the feeling that no one cares?" she asked.

"Both." He buried his face in his hands.

"Did you feel that no one cared? I'm sure your mother cared."

She had touched a sore spot.

"My mother?" he said, bitterly. "My mother is a woman of the world."
Here he lifted his head. "She is engrossed in society. She has no
interest whatever in me, and never did have, although I am her only
child."

"Perhaps you are mistaken," she said softly. "I am sure you must be
mistaken."

"When a mother lets year after year go by without writing to her son,
do you think she cares?"

"You don't mean to say that you never receive a letter from your
mother?"

"My mother has not written to me since I came to America. Suppose your
mother did not write to you. Would you think she had a very deep
affection for you?"

Esther's face grew wistful.

"Perhaps you do not know," she answered, "I have no living mother. She
died when I was born."

"Forgive my thoughtless question," he said. "I did not know you had
lost your mother. I was selfish."

"Oh, no," she said, "not selfish. You didn't know, that was all. We
sometimes make mistakes, all of us, when we do not know. I lost my
father when I was a very little child."

"And your grandfather reared you?"

"Yes, grandfather, assisted by my uncle and auntie."

"Tell me about your grandfather, I like to hear."

"He was my first playfellow, and a fine one he was, too."

"How I envy him!"

"You mustn't interrupt me," she said demurely.

"I am penitent. Do proceed."

Then she told him, in brief, the story of her life, simple and sweet
in the telling. She told him of the work done by her grandfather.

"He preaches, you tell me."

"Yes," she said, rambling on, "he is a graduate of Yale, and prepared
to be a physician. But his heart drew him into the ministry, the place
where he felt the Great Physician would have him be. Grandfather is a
Friend, you know, a Quaker."

"So I understood."

"He had a liberal income, so it was possible for him to devote his
entire time to the poor and distressed. He has been deeply interested
in the Negro and American Indian, and in fact, in every one who is
oppressed by his stronger brother."

"An unusual man."

"Very."

"How could you leave him? Did you not feel that your first duty was to
him?"

"It _was_ hard to leave him," she said, while her eyes were brimming
with tears; "but grandfather and I believe that opportunity to serve
means obligation to serve. Besides, love is such a spiritual thing we
can never be separated."

"Love is such a spiritual thing--" he repeated, and again,
"Spiritual."

He was silent a moment, then he spoke abruptly.

"You have already been the salvation of at least one soul. I owe my
soul to you."

"Oh, no, not to me," she protested. "That was God's gift to you from
the beginning. It may have slumbered, but you had it all the while."

"What did your grandfather say to your coming to Gila?"

"When I told him of the call to come here, told him that within a
radius of sixty miles there was no place of religious worship, he made
no response, but sat with his head bowed. At last he looked up with
the most beautiful smile you ever saw, and said, 'Go, my child, the
Lord hath need of thee.'" Her voice trembled a little.

"He was right," said Kenneth earnestly. "The Lord has need of such as
you everywhere. I have need of you. The people here have need of you.
Help us to make something of our lives yet, Miss Bright." There was no
doubting his sincerity.

She had again risen to go.

"Don't go," he said. "I would like to tell you _my_ story, if you care
to hear."

"I shall be glad to hear your story. I know it will not be as meager
as mine."

"I wish," he said earnestly, "that I might measure up to your ideal of
what a man should be. I cannot do that. But I can be honest and tell
you the truth about myself.

"I belong to a proud, high-strung race of people. My father is like
his forbears. He is a graduate of Cambridge; has marked literary
ability.

"My mother is a society woman, once noted as a beauty at court. She
craves admiration and must have it. That is all she cares for. She has
never shown any affection for my father or me.

"I left England when I was twenty-two,--my senior year at Cambridge.
I've been in America eight years, and during that time I have received
but two letters from home, and those were from my father."

"You must have felt starved."

"That's it," he said, "_starved_! I did feel starved. You see, Miss
Bright, a fellow's home has much to do with his life and character.
What is done there influences him. Wine was served on our table. My
parents partook freely of it; so did our guests. I have seen some
guests intoxicated. We played cards, as all society people do. We
played for stakes, also. You call that gambling. My mother's men
admirers were mush-headed fools."

"Such conditions obtain in certain circles in this country, too. They
are a menace to the American home," she said gravely.

"I was sent to Cambridge," he continued, "as my father and his father,
and father's father before him, had been sent. I was a natural student
and always did well in my work. But my drinking and gambling finally
got me into trouble. I was fired. My father was so incensed at my
dismissal he told me never to darken his doors again. He gave me
money, and told me to leave at once for America.

"I went to my mother's room to bid her good-by. She stood before a
mirror while her maid was giving the final touches to her toilet. She
looked regal and beautiful as she stood there, and I felt proud of
her. I told her what had happened, and that I had come to bid her
good-by. She turned upon me pettishly, and asked me how I could mar
her pleasure just as she was going to a ball. Her last words to me
were, 'I hate to be disturbed with family matters!'"

"Did she bid you good-by?"

"No."

"Forget it," she urged. "All women are not like that. I hope you will
find some rare woman who will be as a mother to you."

"Forget it!" he repeated bitterly. "I can't."

"But you will sometime. You came to America. What next?"

"Then I entered the School of Mines at Columbia, and took my degree
the following year, after which I joined Mr. Clayton here. That was
seven years ago."

"Did you know him in England?"

"Yes. During these intervening years I have frequented the saloons. I
have drank some, gambled some, as I did at home. And I have mingled
with disreputable men here, but not to lift them up. I have not cared,
chiefly because I knew no one else cared."

His companion was silent.

"You despise me, Miss Bright," he continued. "I deserve your contempt,
I know. But I would do anything in the power of man to do now, if I
could undo the past, and have a life as blameless as your own."

He glanced at his companion.

"What a brute I have been," he exclaimed, "to pour my ugly story into
your ears!"

"I am glad you told me," she assured him. She looked up with new
sympathy and understanding. "You are going to live down your past now,
Mr. Hastings. We'll begin here and now. You will not speak of this
again unless it may be a relief to you. The matter will not cross my
lips."

She flashed upon him a radiant smile. She believed in him. He could
hardly comprehend it.

"You do not despise me? You forgive my past?" He looked into her face.

"It is God who forgives. Why should I despise whom God forgives?"

"If ever I find my way to God," he said in a low voice, "it will be
through you."

She quoted softly:

"'Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
though they be red as crimson, they shall be as wool.'" Then she
added, "I must go home now."

They walked on to Clayton Ranch. After a few commonplaces, Kenneth
lifted his hat, and turning, walked swiftly toward the company's
headquarters.

Esther stood a moment, watching the easy, graceful stride of the young
engineer. His words then, and long afterwards, rang in her
ears,--"Help us to make something of our lives yet." And as the words
echoed in her heart, a voice aged and full of tender love, came to her
like an old refrain,--"Go, my child, the Lord hath need of thee."

She lifted her face and looked into the sky. Suddenly she became
conscious of the beauty of the hour. The violet light of evening
played about her face and form. She forgot the flowers in her arms,
forgot the sunset, and stood absorbed in prayer.



CHAPTER V

THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN BALL


It was the day of the ball. Parties of mountaineers, some on
horseback, some in wagons, started for Jamison Ranch.

In the early evening, a wagon load made up of the members of the
Clayton household, Kenneth Hastings and some Scotch neighbors, started
for the same destination.

The road skirted the foothills for some distance, then followed the
canyon several miles; and then, branching off, led directly to Jamison
Ranch. As the twilight deepened into night, Nature took on a solemn
and mysterious beauty. The rugged outline of the mountains, the valley
and river below,--were all idealized in the softening light. The New
England girl sat drinking in the wonder of it all. The mountains were
speaking to her good tidings of great joy.

In the midst of merry chatter, some one called out:

"Sing us a song, Miss Bright."

It was Kenneth Hastings. Hearing her name, she roused from her
reverie.

"A song?"

"Yes, do sing," urged several.

"Sing 'Oft in the Stilly Night,'" suggested Mrs. Clayton.

"All sing with me," responded Esther.

Then out on the stillness floated the beautiful old Irish song. Other
voices joined Esther's. Kenneth Hastings was one of the singers. His
voice blended with hers and enriched it.

Song after song followed, all the company participating to some extent
in the singing.

Was it the majesty of the mountain scenery that inspired Esther, that
sent such a thrill of gladness into her voice? Or was it perhaps the
witchery of the moonlight? Whatever may have been the cause, a new
quality appeared in her voice, and stirred the hearts of all who
listened to her singing; it was deep and beautiful.

What wonder if Kenneth Hastings came under the spell of the song and
the singer? The New England girl was a breath of summer in the hard
and wintry coldness of his life.

"Who taught you to sing?" he asked abruptly.

"The birds," she answered, in a joyous, laughing tone.

"I can well believe that," he continued, "but who were your other
instructors?"

Then, in brief, she told him of her musical training.

Would she sing one of his favorite arias some day? naming the aria.

She hummed a snatch of it.

"Go on," he urged.

"Not now; some other time."

"Won't you give us an evening recital soon?" asked John Clayton.

And then and there the concert was arranged for.

"Miss Bright," said Mrs. Carmichael, "I am wondering how we ever got
on without you."

Esther laughed a light-hearted, merry laugh.

"That's it," Kenneth hastened to say. "We 'got on.' We simply existed.
Now we live."

All laughed at this.

"You are not complimentary to our friends. I protest," said Esther.

"You are growing chivalrous, Kenneth," said Mrs. Clayton. "I'm glad
you think as we do. Miss Bright, you have certainly enriched life for
all of us."

"Don't embarrass me," said Esther in a tone that betrayed she was a
little disconcerted.

But now they were nearing their journey's end. The baying of hounds
announced a human habitation. An instant later, the house was in
sight, and the dogs came bounding down the road, greeting the party
with vociferous barks and growls. Mr. Jamison followed, profuse in
words of welcome.

As Kenneth assisted Esther from the wagon, he said:

"Your presence during this drive has given me real pleasure."

Her simple "Thank you" was her only response.

At the door they were met by daughters of the house, buxom lasses, who
ushered them into an immense living room. This opened into two other
rooms, one of which had been cleared for dancing.

Esther noted every detail,--a new rag carpet on the floor; a bright-colored
log-cabin quilt on one of the beds; on the other bed, was a quilt of white,
on which was appliqued a menagerie of nondescript animals of red and green
calico, capering in all directions. The particular charm of this work of
art was its immaculate quilting,--quilting that would have made our
great-grandmothers green with envy.

Cheap yellow paper covered the walls of the room. A chromo, "Fast
Asleep," framed in heavy black walnut, hung close to the ceiling. A
sewing machine stood in one corner.

At first, Esther did not notice the human element in the room.
Suddenly a little bundle at the foot of the bed began to grunt. She
lifted it, and found a speck of humanity about three months old. In
his efforts to make his wants known, and so secure his rightful
attention, he puckered his mouth, doubled up his fists, grew red in
the face, and let forth lusty cries.

As she stood trying to soothe the child, the mother rushed in,
snatched it from the teacher's arms, and gave it a slap, saying as she
did so, "The brat's allus screechin' when I wanter dance!"

She left the babe screaming vociferously, and returned to dance. Four
other infants promptly entered into the vocal contest, while their
respective parents danced in the adjoining room, oblivious of
everything save the pleasure of the hour. Then it was that the New
England girl became a self-appointed nurse, patting and soothing first
one, then another babe; but it was useless. They had been brought to
the party under protest; and offended humanity would not be mollified.

The teacher stepped out into the living room, which was in festive
array. Its picturesqueness appealed to her. A large fire crackled on
the hearth, and threw its transforming glow over the dingy adobe
walls, decorated for the occasion with branches of fragrant silver
spruce. Blocks of pine tree-trunks, perhaps two feet in height, stood
in the corners of the room. Each of these blocks contained a dozen or
more candle sockets, serving the purpose of a candelabrum. Each of the
sockets bore a lighted candle, which added to the weirdness of the
scene.

The room was a unique background for the men and women gathered there.
At least twenty of the mountaineers had already assembled. They had
come at late twilight, and would stay till dawn, for their journey
lay over rough mountain roads and through dangerous passes.

The guests gathered rapidly, laughing and talking as they came.

It was a motley crowd,--cowboys, in corduroy, high boots, spurs,
slouch hats, and knives at belt, brawny specimens of human kind;
cowlasses, who for the time, had discarded their masculine attire of
short skirts, blouse, belt and gun, for feminine finery; Scotchmen in
Highland costume; Mexicans in picturesque dress; English folk, clad in
modest apparel; and Irishmen and Americans resplendent in colors
galore.

For a moment, Esther stood studying the novel scene. Mr. Clayton,
observing her, presented her to the individuals already assembled. The
last introduction was to a shambling, awkward young miner. After
shaking the hand of the teacher, which he did with a vigor quite
commensurate to his elephantine strength, he blurted out, "Will yez
dance a polky wid me?"

She asked to be excused, saying she did not dance.

"Oh, but I can learn yez," he said eagerly. "Yez put one fut so, and
the other _so_," illustrating the step with bovine grace as he spoke.

His efforts were unavailing, so he found a partner among the
cowlasses.

Again Esther was alone. She seated herself near one of the improvised
pine candelabra, and continued to study the people before her. Here
she found primitive life indeed, life close to the soil. How to get at
these people, how to learn their natures, how to understand their
needs, how to help them,--all these questions pressed upon her. Of
this she was sure:--she must come in touch with them to help them.
Men and women older and more experienced than she might well have knit
their brows over the problem.

She was roused to a consciousness of present need by a piercing cry
from one of the infants in the adjoining room. The helpless cry of a
child could never appeal in vain to such a woman as Esther Bright. She
returned to the bedroom, lifted the wailing bundle in her arms, seated
herself in a rocker, and proceeded to quiet it. Kenneth Hastings stood
watching her, while an occasional smile flitted across his face. As
John Clayton joined him, the former said in a low tone:

"Do you see Miss Bright's new occupation, John?"

"Yes, by George! What will that girl do next? Who but Miss Bright
would bother about other people's crying infants? But it's just like
her! She is true woman to the heart. I wish there were more like her."

"So do I, John. I wish I were more like her myself in unselfish
interest in people."

"She has done you great good already, Kenneth."

"Yes, I know."

Then a shadow darkened Kenneth's face. He moved toward the outer door
that stood open, and looked out into the night.

At last Esther's task was accomplished, the babe was asleep, and she
returned to the scene of the dancing. Kenneth sought her and asked her
to dance the next waltz with him. She assured him, also, that she did
not dance.

"Let me teach you," he urged. But she shook her head.

"You do not approve of dancing?" he asked, lifting his brows.

"I did not say I do not approve of dancing; I said I do not dance. By
the way," she said, changing the subject of the conversation, "my
lessons in riding are to begin to-morrow, are they not?"

"To-morrow, if I may have the pleasure. Do you think riding wicked,
too?"

This he said with a sly twinkle in his eye.

"Wicked, too?" she echoed. "What's the 'too' mean?"

"Dancing, of course."

"But I didn't say I thought dancing wicked. I said I do not dance."

"Oh, well, you think it wicked, or you would dance."

She looked amused.

"What would you say if I should tell you I learned to dance years
ago?"

"That you are strait-laced obstinacy personified. Why not dance? It
could do you no harm."

"It is not expedient, that is all. Let me tell you I really did learn.
I am not an accomplished dancer, though. I was taught to dance in a
school I attended. But I have never danced in social life."

"Why not put aside your scruples for once," he urged, "and dance the
next waltz with me? You don't know what pleasure it would give me."

But she still refused. He saw that to pursue the matter further would
be useless. The conversation was interrupted by the entrance of
cowboys and cowlasses, who, as they filed past, were presented to her
by Kenneth Hastings.

"How are ye?" asked one husky fellow, gripping Esther's hand like a
vise.

"Happy ter know yer acquaintance," said another.

The girls snickered and looked foolish, keeping time to the music with
the tapping of their feet.

"You like to dance, I see," said Esther to one girl.

"You bet I do!"

The girl's jaws kept time to the music as she vigorously chewed gum.

"Come, Jim," said another loud-voiced cowlass, "that's our set."

And away they went, hand in hand, edging their way through the crowded
rooms. Soon they were in the midst of the boisterous dancers.

Kenneth joined the human fringe around the dance room. He stood
watching as though what he saw amused him.

"Swing y'r pardners," shouted the fiddler, above the din of voices.
Down came the bow across the strings, that responded in shrill,
piercing notes. Around flew the dancers, their cheeks growing redder
and redder. The clatter of the cowboys' spurs, and the tapping of the
fiddler's foot kept time to the music.

While watching the dancers, Kenneth discovered Jessie Roth, a young
Scotch girl, in from the range. As soon as he could do so, he
presented her to Esther Bright. Jessie responded to the introduction
awkwardly and shyly; but as she looked into Esther's face, she seemed
to gain confidence. It was such a kindly, such a sympathetic face.

Jessie was a girl Esther had long been wishing to meet, and to
interest in better things. She was at heart good, and if wisely
directed would undoubtedly exercise a wholesome influence over other
girls. As the teacher expressed her interest in her, and what they
might do together, Jessie's face beamed.

"Mr. Hastings telt me aboot y'r Bible school, an' how ye wantit me tae
come. Did ye?"

"Indeed I did."

"Dae ye want mony mair tae come?"

"Yes, as many as you can bring, Jessie."

Then the two took seats in the corner of the room, and Esther gave her
an enthusiastic account of her plans for the Gila girls. The Scotch
girl listened, with an occasional comment.

"Do you like the life on the range, Jessie?"

"Rael weel! Y're as free as the air!"

Here the girl gave her body and arms a swing, as though ready to leap
to the back of a running horse. She seemed all muscle.

"My mustang's the best friend I hev. I broke 'er mysel'. My! She can
gae like the wind!"

"You!" said the astonished teacher. "Can you break a horse?"

"Can I?" she repeated in amusement. "I'd like tae show ye. I wad like
tae tak ye oot on the range wi' me. My, but ye'd like it!"

"No doubt. What do you do out on the range?"

"Oh, we rides an' rides an' looks after the cattle; we cooks, an'
plays cards, an' joshes the boys."

Here Jessie laughed.

"What a dreary life this must be," thought Esther. She said aloud,
"You must find the life monotonous and lonely."

"Never lonely, schoolma'am. It's full o' excitement. There's somethin'
doin' all the time. Sometime ye sees herds o' antelope, or ye meets a
grizzly. It's better'n a dance tae bring down a grizzly."

"A bear?" the teacher exclaimed in astonishment. "You don't mean to
say you ever killed a bear?"

The cowlass's eyes sparkled as she said proudly:

"I've shot several, an' other big game too. But the greatest thing on
the range is tae see a stampede o' cattle. It's as much as y'r life's
worth tae be in their way."

The girl, though rough, had a vitality and picturesqueness attractive
to the polished New Englander.

It was equally certain that Esther was attractive to the cowlass.
Jessie left her for a moment, but soon returned, bringing three others
with her. After presenting them, she said:

"Tell 'em, schoolma'am, what ye telt me."

"Tell what, Jessie?"

"Oh, aboot the Bible school an' the parties, an' how ye wants tae dae
somethin' fer the lasses."

Then Esther briefly outlined her plans, during which they occasionally
interrupted her by questions or comments.

"Do you mean, schoolma'am, that y're willin' to learn us outside o'
school hours?"

"Yes."

"Y're mighty good. I love ye already," said one lass.

"But we're sae auld," said Jessie.

"No, you're not. You're not old,--not too old to study."

"Yes, schoolma'am, that's what mother used tae say," said Jessie in a
softer tone. She turned her face aside. Another girl whispered to
Esther, "Her father killed her mother when he was drunk."

Esther slipped her arm around Jessie's waist, and continued to speak
her plans, and how much their co-operation would mean to her.

"Git y'r pardners!" shouted the fiddler.

Soon the lasses were led away to the dance; and for the time, nothing
more was said of their plans; but Esther Bright knew that of all the
days' work she had done in Gila, this would probably count the most.

The rooms were now crowded with people. The huge candles burned lower;
the air grew more stifling; the noise more tiring.

As she looked up, she met the gaze of a young English girl, who
flushed and turned her eyes away. An instant later, Kenneth Hastings
seated himself by Esther and began speaking.

"I was glad to see you talking with the cowlasses, for they need the
gentle, refining influence that you can bring them." He was evidently
deeply in earnest. "You have no idea how full of peril their life is.
You see there is something in this bold, free life of exposure that
almost unsexes a woman. Some of the cowlasses are good-hearted, honest
girls, but many are a hard lot. Your womanly influence would help
them."

As he spoke, he caught sight of the girl who, a moment before, had
attracted Esther's attention.

"Do you see that girl with the cameo-like face?" he asked.

"Yes."

"I have been hoping you could save that child. She can't be more than
seventeen, if she is that. What her previous history is I do not know;
but it is evident she has had gentle breeding."

"What a sweet face she has!"

"Yes. Lovely, isn't it? Like a flower."

"What is her name?" Esther looked sympathetically at the girlish
figure.

"Earle--Carla Earle. She lives at Keith's. I see her often with Mark
Clifton, a young Englishman here. He is a wild fellow. She is shy of
everyone else."

"Poor child!" said Esther, glancing toward her.

"I made bold to speak to her one day, and invited her to come to your
Bible school. I believe if you could meet her you would be her
salvation."

Esther looked up with a grave question in her eyes.

"Well?" he asked.

"You invite her to come to the Bible school, but do not come yourself,
do not offer to help."

"It does seem inconsistent, doesn't it? I will try to explain."

He studied the cracks in the floor.

"You see, I have felt that I would be a hypocrite if I came. I know
nothing about religion; at least, I knew nothing about it until I
began to find it in you."

"And yet religion is the great question of life. I wonder that, with
your habit of thought, you have not been attracted to the study of
philosophy and religion."

"Some of the most materialistic men I have known," he replied, "have
been students of philosophy and religion. They seemed anything but
religious. But your religion is practical. You live it. You make men
believe in your religion, make them believe it is the one real thing
of life. I need to be taught of you."

"Please bring this young girl to me, or take me to her," she
responded.

Together they sought Carla Earle. As Esther was introduced, she
clasped Carla's hand, and began to talk to her of England. Kenneth
excused himself, and the two girls took seats in the corner where he
had left them. At first Carla avoided looking into the face of her
companion. When she did gain courage to look up, she saw that Esther's
face was full of tenderness. What could it mean? Sympathy for her?
Carla Earle? Her chest rose and fell. Suddenly she hid her face in
her hands, while suppressed sobs shook her frame.

Quickly, Esther slipped her arm about her, and drew her to the open
door, and out into the clear night air. There, Nature seemed full of
peace. Up and down, the two walked in the moonlight, talking in low,
earnest tones. Often they paused and looked up into the heavens. Once
the English girl bowed her head on the New England girl's shoulder,
and wept bitterly. The teacher listened, listened to a story whose
pathos touched her heart. Then she said gently:

"You know right from wrong. Leave the wrong life. Come to me for
shelter, until I can find a home for you where you will be safe, and I
hope, contented."

"Oh, I can't," sobbed Carla, "I am so unhappy!"

"I know you can leave if you will," Esther said firmly. "You will have
strength and courage given you to do right. It is wrong for you to
continue in the life you are now living."

Carla shuddered. She was still weeping.

"God will never forgive me," she said. "He has forsaken me."

She seemed utterly hopeless.

"God always forgives those who come to Him penitent, Carla. He has not
forsaken you; you have forsaken Him. I am glad you and I have found
each other. Perhaps I can help you find your way back to God."

Carla gripped her hand. When they re-entered the house, the English
girl slipped into the bedroom.

"Fust couple forrerd an' back!" called out the fiddler, keeping time
with his foot.

There were bows, differing more in quality than in kind; bows
masculine, with spurred foot to rearward; bows feminine, quite
indescribable.

"Swing y'r pardners!" shouted the fiddler, flourishing his bow. Around
flew the lasses, with skirts and ribbons flying; down came the boots
of the cowboys, their spurs clanking time to the music. The room grew
more stifling.

Among the late-comers was a middle-aged woman, immaculately clean. Her
snapping black eyes were set close to her nose, which was sharp and
thin. Her lips closed firmly. Her thin black hair, drawn tightly back,
was fastened in a tight wad at the back of her head. She wore an
antiquated black alpaca dress, sans buttons, sans collar, sans cuffs;
but the crowning glory of her costume, and her particular pride, was a
breastpin of hair grapes. She was accompanied by an easy-going, stubby
little Irishman, and a freckle-faced, tow-headed lad of ten.

"Maw, Maw!" said the child, "there's my teacher!"

"Mind y'r mannerses," said the woman, as she cuffed him on the ear.

"I am mindin' my mannerses," he said sulkily.

The teacher saw the shadow on the child's face, stepped forward to
greet him, then extended her hand to the mother, saying:

"Good evening, Mrs. Black. I am Brigham's teacher."

But Mrs. Murphy was on the warpath.

"I'm not Miz. Black," she snapped, assuming an air of offended
dignity; "I'm Miz Murphy, the wife o' Patrick Murphy. This is my man,"
pointing to the stubby Irishman, with the air of a tragedy queen. The
teacher thereupon shook hands with Patrick. Mrs. Murphy continued:

"My first husband were a Young, my second a Thompson, my third a
Wigger, my fourth a Black, and my fifth a Murphy."

"I wonders who the nixt wan will be," said Patrick, grinning from ear
to ear. "My woman lived wid the Mormons."

Mrs. Murphy's eyes looked daggers. He continued:

"An' she thought if it were good fur wan man to marry many women, it
were equally good fur wan woman ter have many husbands, even if she
didn't have all of thim ter onct." He chuckled.

"Mind y'r bizness!" snapped the irate Mrs. Murphy.

"An' so it came my turrhn, schoolma'am, an' she were that delighted
wid me she have niver tried another man since. Eh, mavourneen?"

Saying which, Patrick made his escape, shaking with laughter.

Then Esther poured oil on the troubled waters, by telling Mrs. Murphy
how interested she was in what Brigham had told her of his little
sisters, Nora and Kathleen.

"Won't you sit down, Mrs. Murphy?"

Esther's voice and manner were very charming at that moment, as she
drew a chair forward for her companion.

Somewhat mollified, Mrs. Murphy seated herself.

"Oh, I don't mind ef I do set down. I'm that tuckered out with
scrubbin' and washin' an' cookin', I'm afeared I can't dance till
mornin'."

As she talked, she fanned herself with her red cotton handkerchief.

"You enjoy dancing, don't you, Mrs. Murphy?" asked the teacher, with
apparent interest.

"Enjoy dancin'? I should say I did!" She suddenly assumed an air of
great importance. "Back East where I was riz, I went ter all the barn
raisin's, an' was accounted the best dancer in the county."

She showed sudden interest in the fiddler, and tapped time to the
music with her foot.

"Then I joined the Mormons. When I lived in Utah, there was plenty o'
dancin', I can tell you."

"You are from New York, Mrs. Murphy, I think you said."

"Yep," complacently. "I was riz in York State, near Syrycuse. My folks
was way up, my folks was. Why, my aunt's husband's sister's husband
kep' a confectony, an' lived on Lexity Street, York City. She were
rich, she were,--an' dressed! My landy! How she dressed! Always latest
style! Ye didn't know her, I s'pose. Miz Josiah Common was her name,
lived at 650 somethin' Lexity Street. Wisht you'd a knowed her."

Here she mopped her face again.

It was not often that Mrs. Murphy found herself in society, and in
society where she wished to make an impression. Her voice rose higher
and shriller.

"Yep," she continued, in a tone of supreme satisfaction, "I'm 'lated,
as it were, to Miz Josiah Common. She gimme this here pin."

Here she took off a hair grape pin, and held it up for inspection. "A
bunch o' grapes, yer see, hereditaried in the family, descended from
father to son, yer know, in memory of the departed."

All this in a tone of one who gives information, and commiserates the
ignorance of the listener. Suddenly Esther Bright lifted her
handkerchief to her eyes.

"Got pink eye?" asked Mrs. Murphy with sudden sympathy. But at this
moment Patrick Murphy joined them, and Mrs. Murphy rose to dance with
him.

As the two left her, Esther saw John Clayton edging his way through
the crowd. An instant later, he presented Lord Kelwin, of Dublin,
Ireland.

"Really," said the newcomer, "I had no idea I should meet an American
lady on the frontier. I am charmed. So delighted, Mr. Clayton, to meet
Mrs. Clayton and Miss Bright. I had anticipated meeting Indians,
Indian princesses, don't you know, like the people we see in the shows
you send us."

"It is too bad you should be disappointed, Lord Kelwin," said the New
Englander, smiling. "There are princesses galore in the southwest, and
a little search will reward you."

"Beg pardon, I did not intend to give the impression that I was
disappointed; rather, I am surprised that here out of civilization,
ah--ah--I should find a lady,--_two_ ladies. I count myself most
fortunate."

John Clayton's eyes twinkled. At the first opportunity he drew Lord
Kelwin aside, and whispered in his ear. The Irishman looked
astonished.

"An Indian princess, did you say? By Jove!"

"Yes, of the blood royal," replied John Clayton, with gravity.

"And possessed of untold wealth? What was it you said?"

"Of untold wealth. I'd rather have her wealth than the crown jewels of
any royal house."

"By George! A fortune and a pretty girl thrown in!"

It was evident that this bit of information was not without effect
upon Lord Kelwin, for he turned to Esther Bright effusively.

"It is such a pleasure, such a great pleasure, to meet one who so
charmingly represents her race."

He bowed deferentially.

Esther looked mystified. Before she could frame a reply, their
conversation was interrupted.

Lord Kelwin drew John Clayton aside.

"An American princess, did you say?"

"Yes, by divine right," responded the older man.

The Irishman adjusted his monocle, to view Esther more critically.

"She looks more like an English woman," he said meditatively. "Rather
too slender to be a beauty."

"She was born on the free soil of America," continued his companion,
"and has some ideas of her own."

The Irishman smiled cynically.

"As if a pretty girl ever had ideas of her own! She usually knows just
what her mamma or governess teaches her. I always find a pretty girl
an easy victim. I've broken more than one innocent's heart." He
twirled his moustache.

"You'll not get on so well with Miss Bright. You see, she is used to
meeting _men_." John Clayton looked a trifle wicked, as he continued,
"She might take you for a long-headed animal with long ears."

But the last remark was lost upon the Irishman, whose attention was
fixed upon Esther Bright.

"You say her ancestors were savages, Mr. Clayton?"

"I suppose they _were_ savages, same as ours. She has the best
heritage the ages can give,--a healthy body, a beautiful mind, and a
heroic soul."

John Clayton's voice, half ironical, had an undertone of seriousness.

"A heroic soul! A heroic soul!" The Irishman raised his monocle again.
"I didn't suppose savages had souls. I've always imagined this fad
about souls came with civilization."

"I have begun to think," answered his companion, "that with much of
the so-called civilization, men and women are losing their souls. Miss
Bright is a remarkable woman. She believes in the possibilities of
every man and woman. It is her purpose in life to awaken the soul
wherever she finds it dormant or atrophied."

"Indeed!"

Again the monocle was raised, and the Irishman's curious gaze was
fixed upon the American girl, then engaged in conversation with a
cowboy.

Patrick Murphy now interrupted this dialogue.

"Lord Kelwin, we wants yez ter dance an Irish jig."

The lord lifted his eyebrows.

"There's no one to dance an Irish jig with me unless you do it
yourself, Patrick."

Here there was a general laugh.

"Come along wid yez," persisted Patrick, half carrying him toward the
dance room.

"Here," he said to Lord Kelwin, "here's light-footed Janette O'Neil
will dance this wid yez."

There was a stir. The center of the room was cleared, then out stepped
Lord Kelwin, leading rosy, graceful Janette. She was lithe and dainty.

The fiddler flourished his bow, drew it across the strings, and
brought forth the strains of "Soldier's Joy,"--a melody that sets an
Irishman's feet flying.

Janette's short, red skirt showed her trim feet and ankles. Down the
room came the two dancers, side by side, their feet fairly flying.
Backward, again they danced, the length of the room, still keeping up
the feathery rapidity of flying feet. Then Lord Kelwin swung his
partner around and around; then facing each other, they danced apart.
Expressions of admiring approval were heard.

"Them's fine dancers!"

"Go it, Kelwin! I'll bet on you."

"Three cheers for ould Ireland!"

Down again the full length of the room sped the flying feet; then back
again. Then, whirling as birds in flight, they faced each other once
more, and danced apart, and finished the dance amid deafening
applause. As it continued, Lord Kelwin raised his hand for attention.

"Give us the Highland fling. Here, Burns, you and Jessie Roth dance
the Highland fling."

"Highland fling! Highland fling!" echoed many voices.

Again the center of the room was cleared, and Robert Burns led forth
Jessie Roth.

In a moment the air of "Bonnie Woods and Braes" shrieked from the
fiddle. With rhythmic swing of body and limb, the graceful Scotch
dancers kept time to the music. Up rose the arm of the girl, with
inimitable grace; forward came one foot, daintily touching the floor.
It was the very poetry of motion. At the close of this dance, the
applause was again deafening.

"Git y'r pardners fer Virginny reel!" shouted the weary fiddler.

In the rush of the dancers, John Clayton was jostled against Esther
Bright and Kenneth Hastings.

"Well!" said he, "I believe we'd better go out to supper, and then
start homeward."

A brief search brought the other members of the party. They seated
themselves at a long improvised table, covered with red tablecloths.
There was but one course, and that included everything from roast
venison and Irish stew, hot biscuit and honey, to New England
doughnuts, hot tamales and whiskey.

Near by sat an Indian half-breed, who, discovering a large plate of
doughnuts, greedily devoured every one. As he had been drinking
heavily, no one interfered, or made audible comments. When the Clayton
party were about to withdraw, there were sounds of scuffling, oaths
and cries, from the adjoining room, followed by a heavy thud. Some one
had fallen. John Clayton rushed out, and finding one of his own
cowboys in the fight, dragged him out into the open air. To keep him
out of the mêlée, he sent him for their team, and he himself returned
to the house for the members of his party. The leave-taking over, the
spirited team dashed away from Jamison Ranch. The lights of the house
grew fainter and fainter, then disappeared. The babble of voices, the
clink of glasses, the clatter of spurs, the sound of dancing feet,
were far behind. To the New England girl, the experience of the night
seemed a strange dream; and the reality, the solemn hush of the
midnight sky brooding over all.



CHAPTER VI

A SOUL'S AWAKENING


The next evening, as the Claytons gathered about the fire, heavy
footsteps were heard on the veranda.

"The cowboys are just in from the range," explained the host.

The door opened, and four cowboys entered. Abashed at the presence of
a stranger, they responded awkwardly to the introduction. They were a
picturesque group in the flickering firelight. All were dressed in
corduroy jackets, belted with heavy leather belts, each of which held
a gun and a sharp knife. Each man wore leather trousers, fringed at
the bottom, high boots, with clanking spurs, and sombrero hats that no
one deigned to remove on entering the room. They were brawny specimens
of human kind, with faces copper-colored from exposure.

The Claytons welcomed them to a place before the fire. Many a curious
glance wandered toward Esther. She listened intently to their tales of
hair-breadth escapes, of breaking bronchos, of stampedes of cattle, of
brandings and round-ups, of encounters with Indians and wolves, and of
perilous feats of mountain climbing. Noticing her interest, their
tongues were loosened, and many a half-truth took on the color of
whole truth.

One of the cowboys had been so absorbed in watching her that he had
taken no part in the conversation. His steady, persistent gaze finally
attracted her attention. She was perplexed as to where she could have
seen him. His face looked strangely familiar to her. Then it came to
her in a flash that it was at the schoolhouse the day of the
organization of the Bible school. He was one of the men who had
protected her. She saw he could not be measured at a glance.

His face, though strikingly handsome, was one men feared. Yet there
were those who could tell of his deeds of gentleness and mercy. These
were in his better moments, for he had better moments.

Many tales were told of his courage and daring. Mr. Clayton sometimes
expressed the belief that if this cowboy had been reared in the right
kind of atmosphere, he would have achieved distinction. His eagle eye
and powerful jaw indicated a forceful personality.

As Esther felt his magnetic gaze, she turned and asked:

"Were you not at the schoolhouse the day we organized the Bible
school?"

"I was there a few minutes," he responded. But he did not add that he
had gone away with the ruffians to prevent their disturbing her.

She expressed the wish that he would visit the Bible school.

"Oh, I haven't been in a church since I was a kid," he blurted out.
"Then my stepfather turned me out ter earn my livin'. I'm now
twenty-eight, an' I don't know nothin' but cattle, an' bears, an'
wolves an' Indians."

"It is sad not to have a home, isn't it?" she said.

"Oh, I don't know 'bout it's bein' sad," he answered, as though
embarrassed. There was a change of expression in his face.

"But then your being thrown upon your own resources has made you
brave, and self-reliant, and strong."

He squared his shoulders.

"In some ways, you have had great opportunities, Mr. Harding,--"

"Oh, don't call me 'Mr. Harding,'" he interrupted, "Call me 'Jack.'"

"I'll try to remember." Her face lighted. "These opportunities have
given you magnificent physical strength. I know people who would give
a fortune just to have your superb strength."

He straightened up.

"Well, I'd be glad to give it to 'em, if I could only have a chance to
know somethin'."

"Know what?"

"Know how a man ought ter live." There was in his voice a deep,
vibrant undertone of earnestness.

"It's a great thing to live, isn't it?" She spoke as though pondering
some vital question. Jack Harding watched her curiously.

"Some jest half live, schoolma'am."

"That is probably true," she responded, "but God created us capable of
something better. He has given us His world to know, and the people in
it."

"The people in it," he repeated contemptuously. "Some people are a bad
lot, schoolma'am, an' I'm one of 'em."

"You must not speak so of yourself. A man who will protect a woman, in
order that she may continue her work unmolested, is not a bad lot. Now
I should call you a pretty _good_ sort of a man." A luminous smile.
Almost any man would have become her willing slave for that smile.

As her voice gave special emphasis to the word "good," he squared his
shoulders again. She continued:

"A man doesn't know how good he really is until he begins to try to
help some one else up. Then he finds out."

"I need to be helped," he said, in a tone that seemed to be intended
for her ear alone. "I am ignorant,--don't know nothin'. Can't hardly
read, or write, or cipher. Could yer learn me?"

She looked at the strong man before her, touched by his appeal.

"What do you wish to learn?"

"First readin' an' writin' an' cipherin'."

"What next?"

"Oh, everythin', I guess."

The others had caught fragments of the conversation, and now joined
in. Mike Maloney spoke first.

"Do yez think yez are a kid again, Jack, that yez are sthartin' wid
book learnin'?"

"No, Mike, not a kid, but a dunce."

Before the teacher could protest, he continued:

"Ye'll find me an ignoramus, schoolma'am. A fellow out on the range, or
in a minin' camp, don't git much schoolin'. But sometimes when ye're
alone under the open sky, an' the stars come out, there's somethin' in
here" (striking himself on the chest) "that is--is--unsatisfied. I want
somethin'. I don't know what it is I want, but I believe you can help
me find out."

Let those scoff who will; there is such a thing as divine unrest; and
when this takes possession of a man, his evolution has begun.

John Harding went on with increasing earnestness.

"Yer see, schoolma'am, this not knowin' is awful. Y're not all a man
should measure up to. Y're in prison like, hide bound. It's come ter
me ter-night, all ter onct, that an ignoramus is in bondage, an' that
only education can set him free."

The tide of his feeling gave him a rough eloquence. It was evident his
words found a responsive echo in the other cowboys' hearts.

The teacher had listened with deepening interest. John Harding had set
her a task,--the greatest task, nay, the greatest pleasure man or
woman can know, of leading a human soul out of bondage into freedom.

One of the cowboys, Jimmie Smith by name, nudged Mike Maloney, and
whispered:

"Ask her to learn us, too."

Mike readily assented.

"Would yez be willin' ter bother wid us too?"

"It would be no bother. I'd be glad to help you."

There was no doubting her sincerity.

In a few moments, the men were seated around the dining table, each
with pencil and paper, and a lesson in penmanship had begun.

"Gosh!" said Jimmie. "Ef that don't look like the rail fences back in
Indianny!"

As he said this, he held up to view the very best he could do after
repeated efforts. He laughed uproariously at himself, the others
joining from pure sympathy, for Jimmie's laugh was contagious.

But Mike worked as though entered for a race. He seemed to need an
astonishing amount of the teacher's attention, especially after she
commended his work.

"Schoolma'am," he called out, beckoning to her with his dirty hand,
"would yez be showin' me the nixt?"

She bent over him, naming principles, explaining slant and spacing, as
she made a group of letters.

"Stim letthers, did yez say? Stim? Stim?"

He held up his work and looked at it critically. "Manin' no disrespict
to yez, schoolma'am, I'll jist call 'em, not stim letthers, but fince
posts."

After the laughs and gibes had ceased, he listened to her a moment,
and then remarked, "The stims should all be sthandin' the same way,
did yez say?"

He grinned as he viewed his writing o'er. It was clear to him, even at
that early stage of the work, that he was not cut out for an expert
penman. Yet his last effort that evening he seemed to regard with
special pride and satisfaction, and this is what the teacher found on
his paper when she returned to observe his work:

     klass
       jimme Smith
       mike maloney
       john harding
       bill weeks
     teecher
       the angle of the gila

Night after night, these cowboys gathered for an hour or more at the
Clayton home for study with Esther Bright. Reading, and arithmetic,
and talks on physical geography followed. The cowboys did not suspect
it, but she was fighting the degrading influences of the saloon.

Days came and went. The interest in the night school increased; so did
the interest in the Bible school. But for some indefinable reason,
John Harding had not visited it.

One Saturday morning, when Esther sought the schoolhouse to do some
work there, he joined her, entered the building, and built a fire for
her. While observing the decorations of the room, he saw on the walls
the words, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten
Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have
everlasting life."

He read and reread the words. What could it mean? He was ashamed to
ask. At last his great dark eyes sought the teacher's face. She saw a
question in them.

"What is it?" she asked.

"What does it mean?"

"What does what mean?"

"Them words,--'God so loved the world', an' so on."

"What don't you understand?"

"I don't understand none of it. Yer see, us fellers uses 'God' as a
cuss-word. That's all I know 'bout God."

"Have you never read in the Bible about Jesus?"

"Bible? I ain't seen one sence I was a kid, 'n' I never read it then,
'n' ef God is a father 'n' anythin' like my stepfather, I reckon I
don't care ter make his acquaintance."

"He is not like your stepfather, for Jesus never turns anyone away. He
invites people to come to Him. Would you like to hear about this,
John?"

"Yes, mum."

"Well, sit down and I'll tell you."

So they sat down near the desk. Then the woman of twenty-four told the
Christ-story to the man of twenty-eight as to a little child. He
listened intently, with the eagerness of a man in whom the passion to
know has just been born. The teacher's words thrilled her listener.
She pictured Jesus a child. Jesus a young man in Nazareth, working
among his fellows, tempted, victorious; Jesus healing the sick and
afflicted, mingling with sinful men, and freeing them from their
bondage to sin. The expression of the man's face was indescribable. As
she reached the story of the Crucifixion, he asked huskily:

"Why did God let the Jews kill him?"

"Many have asked that question. All we know about it is what the Bible
tells us. I used to wonder if there could not have been some other way
of salvation than through the suffering and death of Jesus."

Her look was far away, as of one thinking of things eternal. Again she
read aloud:

"And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, 'The Son of
Man shall be betrayed into the hands of men, and they shall kill him,
and the third day he shall be raised again.' And they were exceeding
sorry."

"He knew it, then, that they would kill him?"

"It seems so." She read on:

"He taught his disciples and said unto them, 'The Son of Man is
delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after
that he is killed, he shall rise the third day.'"

She turned the leaves and read again: "'As Moses lifted up the serpent
in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up: that
whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that
whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting
life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world through Him might be saved.'"

"He died for us?"

She nodded, and continued: "'I tell you the truth; it is expedient for
you that I go away: for if I go not away the Comforter will not come
unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.'"

"The Comforter!"

"Listen, John. 'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay
down his life for his friends.'"

Then she closed the book.

"Greater love hath no man than this," he repeated. She took up the
words, "'that a man lay down his life for his friends.'"

"He--gave--his--life--for--us!"

John Harding spoke slowly. The great truth that has comforted the
human heart for ages had at last reached his dormant soul. The eagle
eye seemed looking inward; the iron jaw set; the strong hand clinched.
In this deep inward look, the man seemed to have forgotten the
presence of the teacher. At last into the hard face flashed a
comprehending light, and he spoke.

"I would give my life for you."

"I believe you would," she said, never doubting. "Just so Jesus gave
his life for all mankind."

He looked up.

"I begin to understand."

"He taught men how to live," explained the teacher. "He taught that
great and worthy love means sacrifice, and that all who would truly
love and serve their fellow men must cease to think about self, and
must get about doing kind, helpful things for other people."

"I have never known the meaning of love or sacrifice," he said. "I
don't know no more about them things than I do about God. But tell me
about Jesus. What happened after they had crucified him?"

He listened with intense interest as she told the story.

"I want ter know more," he said. "I never knowed sech things was in
the Bible. Ef I'd knowed it when I was a kid, I'd a lived a differ'nt
life. I s'pose it's too late now."

"No; not too late." Her voice was low and gentle.

"I don't know how ter begin," he said helplessly. "Tell me how."

"One way is to feel deeply sorry for anything wrong in one's past; to
repent of wrong thoughts, wrong words, wrong deeds."

"But, schoolma'am, my wrong deeds has been so many," and he bowed his
head on his arms on the desk before him.

"Not so many--" her voice was comforting--"but God will forgive them,
if you are truly sorry. Pray every day, pray many times a day, that
God will not only forgive you, but help you become a better man."

He raised his head.

"I don't know how ter pray. I'm afraid ter pray. Do you know," he said
desperately, "I've committed about every crime but murder?"

Again he bowed his head on his arms. His frame shook with sobs. The
calm, well-poised girl had never before seen such a stirring of the
deeps. A strong man in tears is not an easy thing to witness.

"Will yer pray fur me?" he said at length; but he did not lift his
head.

Then upon his ears fell the comforting voice of the teacher. It was
the first time in all his life anyone had prayed for him. Something
choked him. At last he looked up into her eyes.

"Learn me ter pray," he said huskily.

"Say this, John, _now_: 'Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me.'"

He repeated, "'Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me!'"

It was the first prayer John Harding had ever prayed. He rose to go.

"I wisht--." He hesitated.

"What do you wish?"

She reached out a delicate, expressive hand, and laid it gently on his
brawny arm. It came to him, at that hour, like a benediction from God.

"_What_ do you wish?" she repeated.

"I wisht you'd give me a Bible."

She lifted the Bible from her desk, one long used by her and carefully
marked, and placing it in his open hand, she said:

"Never forget, John, that Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, has
bought your soul with a great price, and that it belongs to God."

He tried to thank her. Then turning, without a vocal word of thanks,
he left the room; and with long, easy, rapid strides, sought the
solitude of the mountains.

The something within him that had long been beating to be free, now
asserted itself. It _would_ have way. It seemed to be his real self,
and yet a new man, risen up out of his dead and fruitless past. It
seemed to sing within him, yet it sorrowed. And in the midst of the
sorrow, a great hope was born. He knew it now,--this Something was his
own Soul!

There, on the heights of the rugged foothills, he stood alone. Only
the fathomless deeps of the sky saw the struggle of that human soul.
For a while he seemed to be passing through the tortures of the
damned. He fought his way inch by inch. Great beads of sweat covered
his forehead; then, lifting one clenched hand high in the air, as
though he had burst forth from a dungeon of death into the light of
day, he said:

"God! God!"



CHAPTER VII

THE GILA CLUB


The class of cowboys soon outgrew the living room at Clayton Ranch,
and now occupied the schoolhouse three consecutive evenings a week.
Although the class had organized as the Gila Club, for study and
social life, the meetings thus far had been for the purpose of study
only.

From the inception of the club, it had met with popular favor. For
many a day, nothing had been so much talked of, and talked of with
such unqualified approval. The knowledge of the teacher, her unselfish
interest in the men, her goodness and kindness, were themes upon which
many a rough man grew eloquent. Had Esther Bright been a Sister of
Mercy, in the sacred garb of the Church, she could hardly have been
revered more than she was. It never occurred to her as she went and
came among them, that she needed a protector. Before the year was
over, many a one in that group would have risked his life to save
hers.

And yet, Esther Bright was not such an unusual woman. Such as she may
be found almost anywhere in this land, sanctifying the home; rearing
children to be true men and women; teaching in the schools;
ministering to the sick; protecting the pure; rescuing the fallen; and
exemplifying in every act of their lives, Christ's teachings of love
and mercy. And the work of this great sisterhood goes quietly,
unfalteringly on, making, as no other force does, for the real
progress of the race.

An Esther Bright is never written up in glaring headlines of yellow
journalism; an Esther Bright is never offered in barter for a foreign
title and a degenerate husband; such as she are never seen at the
gaming table, nor among the cigarette and cocktail devotees. We find
her in places where the world's needs are great, calm, well-poised,
intelligent, capable, sympathetic; the greatest moral force of the
age.

The common man, if decent, always respects such a woman. She becomes
to him a saint, an ideal; and in proportion to his respect for her, is
his own moral uplift possible.

So those rough men of Gila, in those days of long ago, came to look
upon Esther Bright as a sort of saint, their Angel, as they called
her; and with this deepening respect for her, there gradually grew up
in them, faint at first, but sure at last, a wholesome respect for all
womankind. Such was the atmosphere of the Gila Club.

Among the first to attend the meetings, after the organization of the
club, was Patrick Murphy, whom Esther had not seen since the night of
the ball. He came with John Harding, and as he entered the room, he
took his pipe from his mouth, jerked his slouch hat from his head, and
gave a queer little duck in lieu of a bow.

"I am plazed to be wid yez, Miss." He smiled broadly.

She assured him of a cordial welcome from all, extending her hand as
she spoke. He gripped it till she winced, and became so engrossed in
hearing himself talk that he forgot to release it.

"The byes has been tellin' av me as yez learn 'em ter git on. Now
that's what Oi allus preach,--git on. There's no use allus bein' wid
yer nose ter the grindstone."

He released her hand to stuff more tobacco in his pipe. After a puff
or two, he continued his remarks:

"The childthren has been gittin' on so well, Oi sez to mesilf, sez Oi,
p'raps the schoolma'am can learn me ter figger, an' read an' write. So
here Oi am," (slapping his chest heartily, as that portion of his
anatomy rose an inch higher) "here Oi am!"

Just then Esther's attention was sought by a group of newcomers.
Kenneth watched her attitude towards the people. She was gracious and
cordial, but there was about her a fine reserve that the commonest man
felt, and tacitly respected.

At first, this young Englishman had been attracted to the young New
England girl by the delicate loveliness of her face, and the elegance
of her manner. He had felt, from the first, that in his social
intercourse with her, he must rise above the empty platitudes of
society. There were times when he flattered himself he had made
progress in her favor. Then, when he presumed upon this, he was met by
a strong wall of reserve.

Here she was now, bestowing smiles and gracious words upon just common
men. He was filled with disgust. Then he, gentleman as he was, man of
the world, university graduate, engineer, felt his self-love wounded;
and he thereupon had an acute attack of sulks.

What was she to him, anyway?

The stern patrician face looked coldly, cynically on at the men around
him. The "vulgar herd," he called them.

Just in the midst of his morbid reflections, he heard a merry,
contagious laugh from Esther. He did not glance up. But, in an
instant, she was at his side, telling with great glee the skit that
had provoked the laughter. It was so irresistibly funny, Kenneth
laughed with them, and the ice was broken.

To be sure, he did not know Esther Bright as he did the alphabet, but
what of that? Who could sound the deeps of such a rare woman's soul?
She _was_ a rare woman. He conceded that every time he held an
argument with himself, when she was the question of the argument.
Always in her life, he was sure, there would be a reserve, through
which no one could pass, unless it might be the ordained of God. She
fascinated him more and more. One moment, in his adoration, he could
have humbled himself to the dust to win one gracious word from her; at
other times, his pride made him as silent and immovable as a sphinx.

On this particular night at the club, Kenneth was in one of his moods.
If Esther saw, she did not betray it. She came to him, telling in a
straightforward way, that the work had grown so she could not do it
all herself, and do justice to the men? Would he help her? There was a
class in arithmetic. Would he kindly teach that for her to-night?
Kenneth looked savage.

"Oh, don't say no," she urged appealingly. "They are working in
compound numbers and are doing so well. _Won't_ you take the class?"
she urged, again. And Kenneth consented.

It is but justice to say that the selection of the teacher proved
wise. What this did for Kenneth himself is not the least part of the
good resulting therefrom.

Soon the click of pencils, and occasional questions and answers
indicated that the arithmetic classes were at work. In one corner, the
dignified and scholarly John Clayton sat helping a young miner learn
to write. By her desk, sat Esther Bright, teaching Patrick Murphy to
read.

Learning to read when a man is forty-five is no easy task. Patrick
Murphy did not find it so. He found it rather humiliating, but his
unfailing good humor helped him out.

The teacher began with script sentences, using objects to develop
these. She wrote the sentences on the blackboard. Again and again the
sentences were erased and then rewritten. But the pupil at last
remembered.

One sentence was, "I am a man." Patrick hesitated; then solemnly said,
as though reading:

"Oi certainly am not a woman, manin' no disrespict to women folk,
Miss."

She read quietly from the blackboard again, "I am a man."

"Perhaps, Miss, it would be more intilligint fur me ter say, 'Oi am an
Oirishman.'"

"Very well," she said, smiling, "I will write the sentence that way."

"You see, Miss," he continued, with droll seriousness, "it is ividint
Oi am a man. Let me read the sintinces agin!" And he read them
correctly.

Here the classes changed, each teacher helping a group of men with a
simple reading lesson. Then followed the lesson in penmanship, taught
by Esther Bright, and the work of the evening was over.

As the three teachers left the schoolhouse door, Mr. Clayton laid his
hand on Kenneth's shoulder, and said:

"Come over to see Mrs. Clayton a little while. It's still early."

Kenneth hesitated.

"Yes, do," urged Esther. "We have some plans to work out for the club,
you know, and we need your help."

Again there was an appeal in her voice. What a brute he had been! What
a fool! So he strolled along with the two. As they stepped on the
veranda, they heard a deep voice.

"Lord Kelwin!" exclaimed John Clayton.

The greetings over, the meeting of the club and its possibilities
became the subject of discussion.

"Why can't you join us, Lord Kelwin?" questioned the host.

"Yes, why not?" said Esther, with sudden animation.

Kenneth Hastings' face darkened.

"Ah--I--well--" stammered Lord Kelwin. "I didn't suppose my
services--ah--would--ah--would be agreeable to the _teacher_,"--and he
looked first at Esther Bright, and then at Kenneth Hastings.

A single, hectic flush suddenly appeared in one of Esther's cheeks.
Then Mr. Clayton spoke.

"You do not seem to understand, Lord Kelwin, that Miss Bright's class
has grown so rapidly she has had to have assistance, and Mr. Hastings
and I, for lack of better material, have been pressed into service.
Come, yourself, and you'll want to help the good work on." Lord Kelwin
raised his monocle.

Esther spoke quickly, with more enthusiasm than usual.

"The girls have been seeking the same opportunity we are giving the
men. They need help just as much, and so we must plan to help them
too!"

"Yes, and kill yourself!" growled Kenneth Hastings.

John Clayton smiled.

"Not if Miss Bright has sufficient help. If she will organize the
work, we can surely assist her."

For a time, it seemed as though a club for girls was doomed. Then Mrs.
Clayton came to Esther's rescue.

"Miss Bright is already in touch with the girls, and knows something
of their great need."

"But they're such a tough lot," rejoined Lord Kelwin.

"Then they need her influence all the more. She can help them if
anyone in the world can." Again Mrs. Clayton had helped her out. The
hectic flush deepened. Esther's eyes grew brilliant. Her voice, when
she spoke, was low, calm, sweet, but vibrating with an earnestness the
group about her had occasionally heard in her voice before. She spoke
with decision:

"I shall help the girls!"

"That settles it!" responded Kenneth, half in admiration, half in
disgust. He could not understand what it was that could make a girl of
her fine and sensitive nature, a girl of her beauty and culture and
great attainments, not only willing, but eager, to help a group of
coarse, uncouth men and women, of doubtful reputation, and who, to his
mind, were utterly incapable of appreciating her.

John Clayton spoke again.

"Won't you join us, Lord Kelwin?"

Again the Irishman looked at the teacher, but her eyes were fixed on
the glowing fire.

"I--well--I suppose--I could."

"Suppose we have a joint meeting of the men and women next Saturday
evening," said Esther. "Have a programme that would not be very long,
but interesting. Then let them have a social time, and treat them to
some cake and coffee."

"That is a happy thought, Miss Bright," said Mrs. Clayton in hearty
approval.

Now plans began to be discussed in earnest. And before the guests
departed, it had been decided that the first social function ever
given by the people of Gila should be given in the schoolhouse the
following Saturday night.

As the two men walked toward the camp, Lord Kelwin questioned his
companion.

"What did Clayton mean by Miss Bright's being of the 'blood royal'?"

"That is what he meant."

"Related to some royal house of Europe, some native ruler here, eh?"

His companion stopped and laughed.

"Royal by nature. It is such blood as hers that should flow in the
veins of the rulers of the earth."

"Then she has no vast estates coming to her?"

The darkness concealed the contempt on Kenneth's face.

"If there is a God, (and I begin to believe there is) she has a rich
reward before her."

"Poor in this world's goods, eh?"

"_Rich_ as few women are."

His companion whistled. Kenneth stopped. Lord Kelwin stopped too.

"Deuced fine girl, isn't she?" said the Irishman. His companion made
no reply. After another remark from Lord Kelwin, Kenneth said sharply:

"I do not care to discuss Miss Bright."

So the conversation ended. But something rankled in the heart of the
Englishman.

Saturday night came. Such jollity! Such overflow of spirits! The
laughter was loud and frequent. People came in a steady stream until
the little schoolhouse was full to overflowing.

Among the first arrivals, were Patrick Murphy and his wife. He was
beaming with good nature. But Mrs. Murphy had come (as she expressed
it) "agin her jedgment." She viewed the company with a chilly glance.
Patrick chuckled.

"It's plazed Oi am wid this evint. Oi've persuaded me woman, here, as
this is quoite equal ter anythin' she iver attinded in York State, not
even barrin' a barrn raisin'."

Mrs. Murphy's beady black eyes seemed to come closer together. Her
mouth set. Her nose rose by gradual gradations into the air, and her
spinal column stiffened. She delivered herself to the following
effect:

"I _will_ confess as I have never been at a club afore. Back in York
State they was only fur men folks. But my 'lations as lives on Lexity
Street, York City, knows what clubs be, an' parties too, I reckon."

But here John Harding, the president of the club, called the meeting
to order. He announced that the first number on the programme would be
a talk on physics, by Mr. Hastings.

After the applause, Patrick Murphy, in facetious mood, exclaimed:

"Begorra, if yez are not commincin' wid physic fur our stomachs!"

"No," responded the speaker, "but physics for your head, Patrick."

When the laugh at Patrick's expense had subsided, Kenneth announced
the subject of his talk as "Magnetism." He talked simply, illustrating
as he talked. Occasionally he was interrupted by questions that showed
a fair degree of intelligence, and a desire to know. At the close of
his talk Patrick, the irrepressible, burst forth again:

"Yez said that a natural magnit could magnetize a bar o' steel, makin'
the steel a sthronger magnit than the iron, an' yit this natural
magnit be jist as magnitic as it was before?"

"Yes."

"Begorra!" said Patrick, slapping his knee, "yez'll have a harrd toime
makin' me belave that. The idea! that anythin' can give to another
more nor it has itself, an' at the same toime have as much lift itself
as it had before it gave away more nor it had!"

Patrick drew himself up. He had assumed a sudden importance in the
community. Did he not know?

The teacher smiled indulgently. As she spoke, there was quiet,
respectful attention.

"You see, Mr. Murphy, the natural magnet is like a human being. The
more strength a man puts forth, the more he will have. If we give of
ourselves, of our talents, to help other people, we are enriched by
it. So the magnet teaches us a lesson, don't you see?"

Patrick scratched his head dubiously. The teacher continued:

"A natural magnet may not have much power in itself, but when it
shares its power with a steel bar, the bar can do vastly more than the
piece of iron could. In the same way, the influence we exert, though
it may not be great in itself, may enable other people to do greater
things than we could possibly do."

The lesson went home.

Patrick shook his head approvingly.

"All right, Miss, all right! Oi'll belave the sthory if yez say so. Oi
foind it hard to understhand what makes a bit o' iron a natural
magnit. What Oi does understhand is yez are loike the steel magnit,
an' yez draws the rist av us to yez!"

And having delivered himself of this compliment, which apparently met
with the hearty approval of the company, he subsided.

Then John Harding announced the next number on the programme,--a talk
on Ireland by Lord Kelwin, illustrated by Mr. Clayton with his magic
lantern. Again there was applause; and as the lights were put out, the
giggling and laughter grew boisterous. In an instant, a picture
flashed on the screen, and the laughter changed to quiet attention.

Lord Kelwin's voice soon made itself heard. He was well-known in camp,
and popular. He spoke in a bright, attractive way, with occasional
flashes of Irish wit, when he provoked laughter and comment again. On
one of these occasions, Patrick burst forth. Patrick was in fine
spirits. He had stopped at the saloon on the way to the party.

"Begorra, the ould counthry is all foine enough in a picture or
lecture; but Oi loike the Imerald Oile on this soide betther. The
Imerald Oile of Ameriky, bounded on the north, by the North Pole; on
the east, by the Atlanthic; on the south, by the South Pole; on the
wist, by the Pacific; an' on the top, by the rist o' the universe.
Hoorah fur the Imerald Oile of Ameriky!"

A howl went up, and a laugh from everyone, followed by much clapping.

"Where did you learn so much geography?" asked one. Again there was a
laugh.

"And this," said the speaker, as a new picture flashed before their
eyes, "is Blarney Castle. Here is where Patrick learned his blarney."

But Patrick was not to be outdone. He chuckled.

"The blairney stone was all roight whin Oi was at Blairney Castle in
the ould counthry; but whin Oi landed in Ameriky, Oi wint to Plymouth,
an' there Oi found an Oirish saint holdin' a rock. Oi sez ter him, sez
Oi, 'Phat do yez call the rock where the Pilgrims landed'? An' he
looks at me scornful loike, an' sez he ter me, sez he, 'Y're
mishthaken', sez he, 'this is the blairney stone of Killairney.
Ameriky imports all the bist things from the ould counthry."

The people fairly howled.

"Includin' you, eh, Patrick?" shouted an Englishman, above the uproar
of laughter.

The address held everyone's attention, and at its close, both Lord
Kelwin and Mr. Clayton were loudly applauded.

"This closes our programme," said John Harding. "We hope ye'll talk
an' have a good time, an' look about the room ter see what the
children of the school have been doin'. Then the women folks will feed
yer cake an' coffee."

This announcement, too, was applauded.

Mrs. Murphy, belle of the back East barn raisings, separated herself
from the company. She came upon a good-sized play house, neatly
painted and papered. It was furnished tastefully with little woven
rugs, wire furniture, and crocheted window curtains. Over different
articles, were placed the names of the children who had made them.
Mrs. Murphy stood in amazed admiration, for her own children had been
among the most skilled workers. She found simple garments, neatly
made, and here and there bits of sewing, clumsy, and botched in some
cases, because baby fingers had been at work.

The teacher joined Mrs. Murphy, who said to her:

"You don't say, schoolma'am, as you learns the young uns to do sich
things as this?"

"Yes. Don't you like it?"

"Like it! I should say! Why, fust I know, they'll be makin' their own
cloes, an' their pap's an' mine!"

"Perhaps."

But in another part of the room, a different conversation was going
on.

"I tell ye," said Jessie Roth, who was talking to Bobbie Burns,
"schoolma'am kens an awfu' lot."

"How dae ye ken?" he asked with an air of scorn, "ye dinna ken muckle
yirsel'."

"Ye jist shut up, Bob Burns," she replied testily. "I may not ken
muckle, neither do ye. Ye has no manners. I tell ye I want ter learn.
I'm a mind ter quit the range an' go ter school."

"What's the matter, Jessie?" asked the teacher, coming up at this
moment, and slipping her arm about the girl's waist. "I believe Bob
has been teasing you. Make up, children;" and smiling kindly, and with
a reassuring grasp of Jessie's hand, she passed on.

"What'd I tell ye?" asked the girl.

"Oh, she's only a woman. Anyway, she don't care much for you lasses,
or she'd had a club for girls."

This was more than Jessie could stand.

"A woman, did ye say? A woman?" Jessie's eyes flashed with anger. "An'
wasna' y'r mither a woman, Bob Burns?"

"I believe she was," answered the boy with a broad grin. He was
enjoying himself.

"An' as fur the schoolma'am's not carin' fur the girls, y're mistaken.
I'm sure she will have a club fur us."

"Yes," taunted the burly fellow, "to hammer things into y'r heads
with."

At this Jessie left him in high dudgeon. She sought Esther and asked:

"_Don't_ ye like we girls as much as the boys?"

"Just a little bit better, perhaps. Why, Jessie?"

"Bob Burns says ye don't care fur the girls, an' he knows ye don't
'cause ye hain't made no club fur them."

"Bob's mistaken, isn't he? We girls," and the teacher paused and
smiled into several faces, "we girls are to have a club soon. Don't
you say so?"

The girls gathered about her. Bob's remark, repeated by Jessie, had
been most timely, and crystallized what had been in the girls'
minds,--to organize such a club for women as had been organized for
the men.

They talked rapidly, several at a time; but at last they listened to
Esther, as she asked them to visit the school at an hour they could
agree upon, on the following Monday. This they promised to do. But at
this juncture, John Harding interrupted the conversation.

"They want ter know as will yer tell 'em a short story, Miss Bright."

"A story? Let--me--see--! What shall I tell them, Jack?"

"Tell 'em about Abraham Lincoln, as didn't have no chance till he made
it hisself."

So she told them a story of a hero, a plain, simple man, a man of
toil, a man of great heart. She pictured his faithfulness to simple
duties, his rise to the highest position his countrymen could bestow
upon him, his death and the nation's sorrow.

As she finished, a cowboy asked, "Did yer say that Abraham Lincoln was
onct president of the United States?"

"Yes."

"My!" he exclaimed, "I wisht I'd 'a knowed him! I wisht I could 'a fit
on his side!"

"It is not too late to fight on his side," she said. "Every time you
try to live a more sober, honest, decent life, every time you try to
be more manly and true, you are fighting on the same side he did."

"Gosh!" he said. "I didn't know that. I thought fightin' meant jest
killin' off the other fellers."

While the refreshments were being served, John Harding extended an
invitation to the men to attend the club regularly, and suggested that
the girls see Miss Bright about a club for girls, adding:

"I believe a club fer women is in the air."

Vociferous applause. Patrick Murphy stepped forward.

"John Harding, y'r honor, I jist wish ter say as this is the foinest
toime Oi've had in Ameriky; an' I tells yez all this: that if any
young feller wishes ter git on, he will have a chance here in this
club. Schoolma'am learns us a lot (the Saints bliss her!). She's a
foine lady! She believes in givin' a man a chance ter be a man. Instid
o' wastin' our earnin's in the saloons Saturday nights, let's come
here t' the club, an' learn how ter git on. Save y'r money, lads. Now
who'll give three cheers f'r Miss Bright?"

The room rang with the cheers.

The festivities were over, the last guest, gone. The officers had
taken their leave, and the Claytons walked on ahead, leaving Kenneth
Hastings to escort Esther Bright home.

"It was a great success," he said enthusiastically.

When Esther spoke, there was an expression of weariness in her voice.

"Tired?" he asked gently, with sudden sympathy.

"A little."

She looked so slight, so fragile, to shoulder a man's work in the
world, he felt a sudden shame at the insignificance of what he had
done. He would stand between her and the world, this he would do.

"You gave an instructive and interesting talk," she was saying. He
recalled his wandering thoughts.

After thanking her, he said he had liked Patrick's remarks about her
being a magnet.

"Patrick's great fun, isn't he?" she laughed.

"Yes, but he usually hits the right nail on the head. It is true, as
he said, you _do_ draw people to you. You draw me to you as no one has
ever done."

"Don't!" she began.

"You have taught me to believe in true womanhood. I used to despise
women. I thought they were a vain, frivolous lot, at the bottom of all
the wrong-doing of the world."

"Indeed! I understand that some Englishmen have very little respect
for woman; that she is regarded as the inferior of man, a little
higher in the scale of intelligence than a horse or dog."

"How sarcastic we are to-night!" he said ironically.

"The Englishwoman trains her daughters to wait on their father and
brothers."

"How extensive has your acquaintance been with the English?"

"Many American men grow up as their fathers have done before them,
chivalrous toward the women of their families, and often chivalrous to
women everywhere."

"Indeed! A paragon of animals, the American man!"

"England kept her universities closed to women, because English men
were afraid bright English women would carry off scholastic honors,
if admitted to the universities."

"What remarkable wisdom you possess in the matter!"

"I read the magazines."

"Indeed!"

"And the daily papers," she added, chuckling.

"Remarkable!"

"I read several English periodicals. I am interested in English
politics."

"The deuce!"

"The--what?" she asked, with a suggestion of suppressed mirth in her
voice.

"The gentleman with horns."

"Ah, yes," she said. "I have heard something of the gentleman. A very
bad-tempered fellow, isn't he? Have you known him long?"

"By George, you think you're funny, don't you?" But by this time he
laughed, too.

"Come in, Kenneth," called John Clayton, when they reached the
veranda.

"No, I thank you," said Kenneth. "Miss Bright has been abusing men,
and Englishmen in particular."

"Well," responded John Clayton laughingly, "you stood up for our sex,
I hope."

"I tried to, but Miss Bright came out ahead. Good night, Miss Bright.
I hope you'll change your opinion of the Englishman, and that he will
not always suffer when compared with your pink of perfection, the
American man."

When he had gone a short distance, she called him back.

"Well?" he said, turning.

"I just wished to remind you that it isn't becoming to you to be
grouchy."

"You wretch!" And he turned on his heel and stalked away.

"What's the matter with Kenneth?" asked John Clayton.

"Oh," said Esther, indifferently, "he thinks altogether too much of
Mr. Kenneth Hastings. He must learn there are other people in the
world besides K.H."

"Don't be too hard on him," said her host warningly.

"No," she said, "I won't. I'll teach him to respect the human being,
irrespective of sex, color or previous condition of servitude.
Good night."



CHAPTER VIII

THE COW LASSES


It was clear that the character of the work for the Gila girls should
differ from that for the men. Esther Bright had thought it all out,
but she resolved to let the girls themselves determine, in large
measure, what it should be. So they came to visit the school that
bright December day to observe.

School! Could this be school? Not school as they recalled it, hours of
dull monotonous tasks, where punishment, merited or unmerited, stood
out in conspicuous boldness. As they now listened, every moment seemed
to open the door to knowledge, and a wonderland of surprising interest
spread before them. The dull drone of the old-time reading lesson had
given place to conversational tones. The children were reading aloud
from a bright, vivacious story that caught and held the attention of
these untutored girls. To learn to read like the teacher became the
proud ambition of these seven visitors.

With a simple lesson in physics the interest deepened. Then came the
lesson in manual training. The deft fingers of the boys and girls were
busy learning the mysteries of tailoring. How to darn a rent in cloth
is no easy thing for untrained fingers to learn. Little fingers, big
fingers, busily plied the needle. The boys were learning how to repair
their clothing. The teacher passed from one to another, helping,
encouraging, commending. She held up a beautiful piece of work for the
visitors to see.

When the school was dismissed for the noon hour, they gathered around
Esther.

"My!" said one, "I wisht I knowed as much as you do, schoolma'am."

"Do you?" asked the teacher, as if to know as much as she did were the
easiest thing in the world.

"You bet I do!" answered the girl.

"Schoolma'am," asked Jessie Roth, "do ye s'pose ye could learn us tae
read as good as them kids did this mornin'?"

"Oh, yes. Even better."

"Better nor them?"

"Indeed, yes, if you will study as hard as they do. One's progress
depends upon one's interest and one's application."

"Oh, we'll study all right," said Kate Keith, "if you'll give us the
chance."

"You bet we will!" said another.

Then Esther told them the history of the Gila Club for men, how it had
begun, how she had taught the men, how the class had grown until it
had seemed imperative to meet in the schoolhouse, and how they
organized as a club.

"Did _you_ learn all them men yourself?" asked a girl just in from the
range. She was a veritable Amazon.

"Yes," was the answer, "until we began to meet in the schoolhouse.
Then I had help."

Esther stood looking into this raw girl's face as though she saw there
the loveliest being on earth. What the teacher really saw there was an
awakening mind and soul.

The girl, rough and uncouth as she was, admired the teacher, and
longed to be like her.

"What can we dae?" asked Jessie Roth, eager to perfect plans for
study.

"That is just what I wish you girls to decide. What would you like to
do?"

In response to the teacher's question, all of them spoke at once.

"One at a time, please, one at a time," Esther said. "Suppose, we
commence with Jessie. What do you wish to do, Jessie?"

"Oh, I'd like tae dae cipherin' an' readin' an' writin'. I wisht I
could read like you, schoolma'am!"

"Could she ever?" questioned Kate Keith, a young English girl.

"Certainly." She showed such belief in them and what they might do
that their enthusiasm rose still higher. Then Kate said impulsively:

"I wisht ye'd learn us to sew. I've been wishin' to know how."

She held up her big, coarse hands, looked at them a moment, and
laughed as she said:

"I don't know as I could handle such a little thing as a needle."

"You wish to learn to sew? I am so glad."

This was just the turn Esther had been hoping would come. "Every
woman," she continued, "ought to know how to sew. I like to sew,
myself. What next?"

A comely maid spoke. "My name's Mandy Young. Me an' Marthy thought
we'd like ter learn ter write letters an'--"

Here she blushed furiously.

"That's good," said the teacher. "What else?"

"Me an' Marthy wanted ter learn ter sing like you do, schoolma'am."

"Now, Martha, it is your turn," said the teacher with an encouraging
smile.

Martha was a great, brawny specimen of humankind. "My name's Miss
Lieben," she said.

"Lieben! Lieben! That's a good name. It means _love_." The cowlass
blushed and snickered. "And Martha's a good name too. There was once a
very careful housekeeper named Martha."

"Oh, I ain't no housekeeper," responded the girl, "but I want ter be.
I want ter learn readin' an' writin', an' cookin', too."

"Cooking! Well! Next?" said Esther, looking into the face of the next
girl.

"My name's Mary Burns."

Mary had a more modest way. "I hardly know what I dae want. I think ye
could plan for us better nor we could plan for oursels. An' we'd a' be
gratefu'."

"Sure," said one.

"That's right," added another. They all nodded their heads in
approval. Then up spoke Bridget Flinn:

"Shure, an' she's on the right thrack. When we can do housework, we
can command a high wage, an' git on. My cousin gits five dollars a
week in New York, an' she says she has mere nothin' ter do, an'
dthresses as good as her misthress. Oi'd loike ter learn ter write
letthers, so as ter wroite ter Pat, an' Oi'd loike ter learn
housekapin', so's I could go out ter sarvice."

Then a pretty Mexican girl, with a soft voice, spoke:

"Martha Castello is my name. I want to learn to read an' write an'
sing."

The teacher stepped to the blackboard, and wrote the following:

     Reading      Arithmetic     Sewing
     Writing      Singing        Housekeeping

The girls watched her intently.

"An' letthers," suggested Bridget.

"To be sure--letters," said Esther, writing the word.

Then followed the organization of the girls' club, resulting in the
election of Jessie Roth as president. It was agreed that for the
present the girls should enter school, and occasionally meet with the
teacher outside of school hours.

That day proved a red-letter day for them. They had come in touch with
an inspiring personality, and their education had begun.

Years have come and gone since that day; but the people of Gila still
tell how a young girl, the sweetest soul that ever lived, came and
dwelt among them, and brought God into their lives. Even the roughest
old men will pause, and say with reverence:

"The Angel of the Gila! God bless her!"

The afternoon session of the school passed quickly. Then followed a
bit of kindly talk with the seven new pupils. Then Esther Bright
walked homeward. She was overtaken by Brigham Murphy and Wathemah.
Something mysterious seemed in the air.

"Miss Bright," blurted out Brigham, "Maw says as will yer come home
with us ter-morrer, ter visit. We're goin' ter have chicken an' lots
o' good things ter eat, ain't we, Wathemah? An' he's comin', too,
ain't yer, Wathemah?"

The Indian child gave an affirmative grunt, and trudged along close to
his teacher. It was a way he had of doing since she had promised to be
his mother.

"Will yer come?" eagerly questioned the representative of the Mormon
household.

"I shall be happy to if you will show me the way."

"Oh, we'll 'scort yer!" And Brigham turned several somersaults, and
ran like a deer along the road leading to the Murphy ranch.

Such a flutter of excitement as the prospective visit brought to the
Murphy household!

"Maw," said Brigham in the midst of his mother's volley of directions
on household arrangements, "Ain't yer goin' ter ask schoolma'am ter
stay all night?" He seemed suddenly interested in social amenities.

"Of course I be! Landy! Don't yer s'pose y'r maw's got no p'liteness?
I told schoolma'am 'bout my 'lations as lives on Lexity Street, York
City, an' keeps a confectony, an' she'll 'spect yer ter be jest as
p'lite an' 'ristercratic as they be. I'll sleep on the floor, an' Kate
an' Kathleen an' Wathemah kin sleep with schoolma'am. She'll think it
a great come-down, Pat Murphy, fur one as is a 'lation, so ter speak,
of Miz Common of Lexity Street, York City, she'll think it's a great
come-down, I say, fur one with sech folks ter live in a common adobe.
Y'r not ter let on y're Irish, but speak as though yer was French
like."

She had given emphasis to her remarks with more and more energetic
movements of her arm, as she washed off the furniture. At last she
paused, and her husband ventured a reply.

"Begorra! An' would yez be afther changin' me mouth to the Frinch
stoile?"

He sidled toward the door, and grinned as he caught the reflection of
himself in the dirty piece of mirror that still remained in the old
black frame on the wall.

There was no denying the fact that Patrick bore unmistakable evidence
of his Irish origin. He realized that he had ventured his remarks as
far as was consistent with peace and safety; so he walked from the
house, chuckling to himself as he went, "Relations on Lexington
Street! Frinch stoile! Begorra!" And he laughed outright.

"Patrick Murphy," his spouse called after him. "This is the first time
a friend o' my 'lations in York City (so ter speak) has visited me.
Patrick Murphy, what _do_ yer s'pose Josiah Common done when my sister
visited there? He took her ter a theatre an' after that he took her
ter a resternt, an' treated her. That's what he done! The least yer
can do is ter scrub up, comb yer har an' put on a clean shirt
ter-morrer. Yer ter clean up, do yer hear?" All this in a high treble.

"Frinch stoile?" inquired Patrick, with a broadening grin. But this
was lost upon Mrs. Murphy, engrossed in plans for the reception of the
coming guest. She smoothed down her hair with both hands.

"Here, Mandy," she called abruptly, "wash out the tablecloth. Sam, you
clean the winders. Jo, you run over to Miz Brown's an' say as y'r
Maw's goin' ter have comp'ny ter-morrer as must have knowed her
'lations as lived on Lexity Street, York City, an' kep' a confectony.
Tell her y'r Maw wants a dozen eggs ter make a cake an' custard. Jake,
oh, Jake!" she called in stentorian tones, "you go ketch them two
settin' hens! The only way yer kin break up a settin' hen when yer
don't want her ter set is jest to make potpie o' her. Y're goin' ter
have a supper that yer'll remember ter y'r dyin' day. We uster have
sech suppers at barn raisin's back East."

The small boys smacked their lips in anticipation. The mother turned
suddenly.

"My landy!" she said. "I forgot somethin'."

"What?" inquired Amanda.

"A napting!"

"A napting? What's that?"

But Mrs. Murphy had begun on the floor, and was scrubbing so
vigorously she did not hear the question.

When order finally evolved from chaos, Mrs. Murphy, with her hair
disheveled and arms akimbo, viewed the scene. Everything was so clean
it was sleek,--sleek enough to ride down hill on and never miss snow
or ice.

"Come 'ere, childern," said Mrs. Murphy, mopping her face with a
corner of her apron. "I want yer to stan' aroun' the room, the hull
ten o' yer, all but the baby. Mandy, do take the baby an' stop her
cryin'. Joseph Smith, stan' at the head, 'cause y're the oldest.
That's the way I uster stan' at the head o' the spellin' class when we
uster spell down 'fore I graduated from deestrict school back in York
State. Y'r Maw was a good speller, ef I do say it. 'Range y'rselfs in
order, 'cordin' to age."

A tumultuous scramble followed. Maternal cuffs, freely administered,
brought a semblance of order.

"Now, childern," said the mother, in a hard shrill voice, "what is y'r
'ligion? Speak up, or yer know what yer'll git!"

"'Ligion o' the Latter Day Saints," answered Samuel.

"An' who is the Prophet o' the Lord?" continued Mrs. Murphy.

"Brigham Young," answered Amanda, assuming an air of conscious
superiority.

"No, he isn't neither," protested Brigham, "for my teacher said so.
Jesus is the only prophet o' the Lord since Old Testament times."

But the heretic was jerked from the line, to await later muscular
arguments. Then the mother continued her catechism.

"Who's another prophet o' the Lord as has had relevations?"

"Joseph Smith," responded Kate, timidly.

"That's right. What divine truth did Joseph Smith teach?"

"That men should marry lots o' wives," said Jake, realizing that he
had answered the most important question of the catechism.

"Yes, childern," she said, with an air of great complacence, "I've
obeyed the prophet o' the Lord. I've had five husbands, an' I've
raised ten young uns. Now what I want yer to understan' is that yer
Maw an' her childern has got all the 'ligion as they wants.
Schoolma'am had better not persume to talk 'ligion to me." She drew
herself up as straight as a ramrod, and her lips set firmly.

"But I wanter show her I'm uster entertainin'. I'll give her the
silver spoon. An' I do wisht I had a napting to put at her place."

"What's that, Maw?" asked Samuel.

"What's what?"

"Why, what yer want ter put at schoolma'am's plate?"

"Oh, a little towel, like. 'Ristercratic people uses them when they
eats. They puts 'em on their laps."

"Won't a dish towel do?"

"Landy! No!"

"Well, we ain't stylish, anyway," said Samuel, philosophically, "an'
it's no use to worry."

"Stylish? We're stylish when we wants to be, an' this is one o' them
times."

"Is it stylish ter go ter Bible school?" asked Brigham. He seemed
greatly puzzled.

"No, sir-ee, it ain't stylish, an' you ain't goin' thar," she said,
giving him a cuff on the ear by way of emphasis.

"She? What's she know 'bout _my_ 'ligion or _y'r_ 'ligion? She ain't
had no relevations. But git off to bed, the hull lot o' yer."

"It's only eight o'clock," said one, sullenly, dragging his feet.

"Well, I don't care. The house is all red up, an' I wants it to stay
red up till schoolma'am comes. Besides, y're all clean yerselfs now,
an' yer won't have to wash an' comb to-morrer."

At last they were driven off to bed, and gradually they quieted down,
and all were asleep in the little adobe house.

But Brigham tossed in terrifying dreams. The scene shifted. He was
with Wathemah, who was telling him of Jesus. Then the teacher's life
was in danger and he tried to save her. He felt her hand upon his
head; a smile flitted across his face, his muscles relaxed; he was in
heaven; the streets were like sunset skies. The teacher took him by
the hand and led him to the loveliest Being he had ever beheld, who
gathered him in His arms, and said, "Suffer little children to come
unto Me."



CHAPTER IX

THE VISIT AT MURPHY RANCH


The hour hand of the clock was on three. Twenty pairs of restless eyes
watched the minute hand as it drew close, very close to twelve. The
books had been placed in the desks; there was a hush of attention. The
children sang "America," saluted the flag, and marched out of the
room. As Wathemah returned to visit with his teacher, she asked him
what he had learned that day.

"Country love!" answered the child. As he spoke, he stepped to the
flag, that hung from the staff in graceful folds, and caressed it.

"Oh, Miss Bright, Miss Bright!" shouted James Burns. "Brigham's come
fur yer! He's brung his horse fur yer ter ride! Golly! But he looks
fine! Come see!"

And James led the way to Brigham and the horse. Sure enough! There
they were. The little lad, radiant with pride, the huge bay horse,
lean and gaunt and hairy, bedight as never was horse before. He seemed
conscious that this was a gala day, and that it behooved him to deport
himself as became a respectable family horse.

Numerous small bouquets, tied to white muslin strings, adorned his
bridle. The animal was guiltless of saddle, but there was an
improvised cinch of white cotton cloth around him. This, likewise, was
adorned with butterfly-like bouquets.

"Ain't he some?" said one lad, admiringly.

"Gee! but I'd like ter ride him!" shouted another.

"Brigham dressed old Jim up just 'cause yer wuz goin' ter ride him,
Miss Bright," said Donald.

To the last remark, the teacher replied:

"Ride him? I never rode bareback in my life. I am afraid to try it. I
might slip off."

"Oh, no, yer won't," said Brigham, who stood holding the horse's
bridle. The teacher pretended to be greatly scared. The company grew
hilarious.

"Brigham," she said, "I am sure I can't stick on. I might go sliding
over the horse's head and land in a heap. Then what would you do?"

"Pick yer up."

This reply increased the hilarity.

Donald seemed to think it would be great sport to see the teacher's
maiden effort at riding bareback.

"Jest git on, Miss Bright, an' see how easy 'tis," he urged.

"I don't know how to mount," she hastened to say. "I haven't learned
even that much."

"Oh, that's easy enough," said a muscular little chap. "I'll show
yer."

And he leaped like a squirrel to the horse's back.

"Oh, I could never do that," said Esther, joining in the laughter of
the children.

"I'll tell yer what," said a large Scotch boy, "ye wait a bit, Miss
Bright, an' I'll bring ye y'r chair, an' then 'twill be easy enough."

So the chair was brought, and the teacher seated herself on the
horse's back, sideways.

"Oh, ye must ride straddles," insisted Donald, "or ye'll sure fall
off."

"Yes, straddles," echoed another; but Esther shook her head
dubiously, and pointed to her full blue flannel walking skirt.

"Oh, that's all right," said the tallest boy, "everybody rides
straddles here."

"Try it," urged Brigham.

So she tried it. But she was not the only passenger who rode astride.
Michael and Patrick, the little Murphy twins, were helped to a place
behind her. Wathemah then climbed up in front of her.

"Is this all?" she asked, laughingly.

"I should think it was enough," said Kenneth Hastings, who at that
moment joined the company.

As he caught Esther's eye, both laughed, and the children joined from
pure sympathy.

When she recovered her composure, Esther said to Kenneth, "Nothing
lacking but some white muslin harness and posies on me."

At last, amid shouts and cheers, the much-bedecked horse and his human
load started up the mountain road.

By three o'clock, the pulse of the Murphy household beat faster. The
temperature rose to fever heat. Three-fifteen, three-thirty; still no
visitors; and what is more, no signs of visitors. Every five minutes,
one of the children would run down the mountain road, and return
disappointed.

"Do yer s'pose they ain't comin'?" queried Kate, who had been kept at
home that day to assist in the preparations.

"Oh, yes, they're comin', I think likely," answered the hostess; "but
I don't see where they're keepin' theirselves."

She frequently straightened the chairs; once more she dusted the
furniture with her clean apron; she straightened the pictures on the
walls; she brought out an old and much-prized album, sacred to Mormon
prophets and elders. The broken mirror, that adorned the wall, had
been cleaned and decorated with tissue paper. Mrs. Murphy stood and
looked in it. She saw reflected a sharp, severe face shining like the
mirror.

"I wisht I had a collar," she said. "I uster wear a collar back in
York State."

Suddenly, she heard a shout from the road.

"They're comin'! They're comin'! Schoolma'am's with 'em! Quick, Maw,
quick!"

There was a rush down the path, Joseph Smith leading the line.

All was expectation. The approaching horse started into a jolting
trot. As he neared the barn he began to buck. The inevitable followed.
Over the horse's head went the passengers in a heap. The twins quickly
extricated themselves, and sprang up uninjured; but the two visitors
lay unconscious.

"Quick, Samuel, bring water!" directed Mrs. Murphy.

In a few minutes, she dashed water in the unconscious faces, and
watched anxiously. The water soon restored Esther, who had been
stunned by the fall. At last Wathemah opened his eyes, and saw his
teacher kneeling by his side. He tried to rise, but fell back with a
cry of pain. One arm lay limp by his side. It was evident that his arm
was broken.

"Is there a surgeon anywhere near Gila?" she asked anxiously.

"There's one about fifteen miles away," responded Joseph.

"Then I'll try to set Wathemah's arm myself. Several times I have
helped my uncle set broken bones. Could you bring me some flat
splints about this size?" she asked, showing Joseph what she wanted.

"Yes, mum," answered the boy, starting on his errand.

"And some strips of muslin, and some pins, Mrs. Murphy?" she
continued.

In a few moments the articles were ready. By this time Wathemah had
recovered consciousness.

"You have broken your arm, dear," she said. "I am going to set it.
It'll hurt you, but I want you to be brave and keep very still."

The child smiled faintly. But as she lifted his arm, he again fainted.
They lifted him, and carried him into the house. Then firmly, deftly,
as though experienced in such work, Esther pulled and pressed the
broken bone into place. The child roused with the pain, but did not
cry out again. At last the arm was bandaged, and placed on a cushion.

"You must be very careful of your arm, Wathemah," she said, patting
his cheek, "until the broken bone grows together."

Before the child could speak, there was a knock at the door. The
children rushed to open it, and there stood Kenneth Hastings.

"I came to see if the cavalcade reached here safely," he said,
smiling. "I followed a short distance behind you, until--"

Here his comprehending glance grasped the situation.

"Wathemah hurt?" he asked in quick sympathy, striding to the child's
side. "I feared something might happen."

"Old Jim threw 'em," explained three or four eager voices.

Kenneth looked inquiringly at Esther.

"Were you hurt, too?" he asked in a low voice.

"I think not," she said, looking intently at Wathemah.

"I believe you _were_. Was she?" he asked, turning to Mrs. Murphy.

"She were stunned like from the fall, but was so busy settin' the
boy's arm, she didn't think of herself."

"Ah." Then turning to Esther again, he questioned her.

The family observed every tone in the questions and answers.

During the setting of the arm, they had watched Esther with
open-mouthed astonishment.

"I tell yer, schoolma'am," remarked Joseph, "I bet yer life yer'll hev
all yer kin do in Gila, now."

"I should think she already had enough to do," suggested Kenneth.

Here Mrs. Murphy, suddenly realizing that certain amenities had been
omitted, blurted out:

"This is my son, Joseph Young; my daughter, Mandy Young you've knowed
already; my son Samuel Young, my son Jacob Black, yer've knowed at
school, 'n' my daughter Kate Black, 'n' Brigham Murphy, aged six, 'n'
Kathleen, aged four, 'n' Nora, aged two."

Mrs. Murphy paused. Samuel at once took the floor.

"We've knowed _you_ ever sence you come. They call you the angel o'
the Gila." He seemed to swell with importance.

"A queer name, isn't it?" said Esther.

Samuel had combed his hair, and wore a clean shirt in honor of the
occasion.

"Miss Bright," said Kenneth, "I am fearful lest you _have_ been
injured by the fall. Let me take you home."

This she would not listen to.

"Then let me call for you later in the evening and take you back with
me. There may be something Mrs. Clayton can do for you." But there was
a chorus of protests.

Mrs. Murphy gave it as her opinion that the schoolma'am knew her own
feelin's best; and it wasn't often they had comp'ny, goodness knows,
especially comp'ny from back East. And Mr. Hastings should leave her
be.

Esther poured oil on the troubled waters; and Mrs. Murphy became so
mollified she pressed Kenneth to stay to supper.

At this juncture Patrick Senior's step was heard.

"Good avenin'," he said, heartily, making a queer little bow. "It's
proud I am ter welcome yez ter me home."

He did not take off his hat nor remove the pipe from his mouth. Esther
rose.

"Kape y'r sate, Miss, kape y'r sate," he said, making a sweeping
gesture. Then he gripped her hand.

"An' Mr. Hastings! It's honored Oi am ter have yez enter me humble
home."

"He's goin' to stay to supper, Pop," said one of the little boys.

Kenneth hastened to excuse himself, but Patrick would have none of it.
Mr. Hastings must stay, and share the fatted calf.

Kenneth laughed.

"Which is the prodigal?" asked he, smiling towards Esther.

"The prodigal? the prodigal?" repeated Mrs. Murphy mystified, and half
resentful at Kenneth's smiles.

"Oh, that's a Bible story, Mrs. Murphy," explained Esther. "A rich man
had two sons. One son spent all he had in riotous living. When he
finally repented and came back home to his father's house, they were
very happy to see him and made a great feast for him. For this purpose
they killed their fatted calf."

"I see," said Mrs. Murphy with great dignity. "An' sence we are happy
to see yer and have killed our fatted hens fur yer, we'll just call
yer the Prodigal."

"I always knew you were prodigal of your strength and talent," Kenneth
said merrily. "Prodigal. That's a good name for you. That was a happy
thought of yours, Mrs. Murphy."

Mrs. Murphy still looked mystified.

"Oi see me little girrls are plazed ter see yez," said Patrick,
beaming proudly upon the little ones. Kathleen held up for his
inspection some paper dolls Esther had brought her. Then the smile on
his face broadened. He laid his pipe on the shelf and examined the
dolls critically.

"Did yez iver see the loike on it, now? Shure, an' did yez say 'Thank
yez' ter the lady?"

"Yep," answered Kathleen, and "Yep," echoed Nora.

"An' phwat is the matther wid Wathemah?" asked Patrick, as he
approached the little Indian.

"Got hurted."

"Broked his arm."

"Fell off old Jim."

"Miss Bright mended his arm," came in quick succession.

"Poor little lad. Oi'm sorry yez got hurted."

And the kind-hearted man patted the child on the head. He liked
Wathemah. But the little visitor was intent on the two little girls
and their gay paper dolls.

Esther now expressed a wish to hear some of her host's stories of
pioneer life in Arizona.

Patrick drew himself up. He felt his self-respect rising.

"Them wuz awful toimes," he said, puffing away at his pipe again; "but
Oi wuz young an' sthrong. The Apaches wuz on the warpath most av the
toime, an' we fellers didn't know but we'd be kilt ony minute. We
slipt wid wan oi open, an' our guns by our soides."

"It must have been very exciting," said Esther, with marked interest.

"It certain wuz exciting. It wuz bad, too, ter come back ter y'r shack
an' foind y'r rations gone, or no shack at all."

"What would you do then?" she asked.

"Oh, we wint hungry till we caught fish, or shot deer."

Here he lighted his pipe again, and drew long whiffs.

"What were you doing in those days?" questioned Kenneth.

"Me business wuz always wid cattle. Sometoimes the Apaches would go
off wid some o' me cattle."

"Did you ever get them back?" asked Esther.

"Sometoimes." He smoked in silence a few minutes.

"I understand the Apaches are still treacherous," she said.

Just then she felt Wathemah's hand on her arm.

"Wathemah Apache," he said. "He no bad. He good."

"Yes," she acknowledged, smiling, "you _are_ getting to be a pretty
good boy, dear." Her smile did more for the child than did the words.

"Pop," said Samuel, "them air Apaches we seen up canyon t'other day's
ben skulkin' aroun'. Yer'd better carry a gun, schoolma'am."

Supper was now announced, and discussion of the Indians ceased. The
younger children, joyfully anticipating the feast before them, had
forgotten all their mother's preliminary instructions on etiquette at
table, and there was a tumultuous scramble.

"Murphy!" called Mrs. Murphy in stentorian tones as she stood with
arms akimbo, "seat schoolma'am at y'r right!"

With a smile that would have done credit to the proudest son of Erin,
Patrick waved his hand toward the place of honor. Patrick Junior and
his twin Michael insisted upon sitting in the same seat by their
visitor. What is more, Michael dealt his brother a severe blow in the
mouth to settle his superior claims. To add to the clamor, Kathleen
pressed her right to the same seat. She screamed lustily.

Mrs. Murphy, family representative of law, started towards the
disturbers of the peace. They dodged. The teacher hereupon made a
suggestion that seemed to satisfy everyone, and so the matter was
settled.

"Set right down, Mr. Hastings, set right down," urged Mrs. Murphy. He
seated himself at Patrick Senior's left. They were scarcely seated
before Michael exclaimed, "Ain't we got a good supper!"

He sprawled on the table, looking longingly at the huge dish of
chicken potpie.

"One'd think yer never had nothin' ter eat," observed Samuel. He
seemed to think it devolved upon him to preserve the decorum of the
family.

While the children were waiting impatiently for their turns, a nudge
started at Mrs. Murphy's right and left. Nine pairs of elbows were
resting upon the table. Nine pairs of eyes were fixed longingly upon
the platter of chicken. Suddenly, as the parental nudge passed along,
nine pairs of elbows moved off the table, and nine figures sat erect.

The family had been instructed to observe the teacher's manners at
table, "fur," observed Mrs. Murphy, "there is no better way fur yer to
learn eatin' manners than to notice how folks does. Ef she sets up
straight-like, yer kin do the same. Jest watch her. Ef she takes her
chicken bone in her hand, y' kin; but ef she cuts her chicken off,
why, y' cut yourn off."

Finally, all were served. In the preparation for the reception of the
teacher, the offspring of Mrs. Murphy had been duly instructed by her
to hold each little finger out stiff and straight while manipulating
the knife and fork. To the dismay of all, Esther did not take her
chicken bone in her hand, nor did she hold her knife and fork
perpendicular, nor did she hold her little fingers out at a right
angle.

The children struggled with their refractory chicken bones, as they
watched the teacher. Patrick Murphy's eyes were twinkling. But at this
juncture, a nudge from Mrs. Murphy again passed around the table. Nine
pairs of eyes were upon the knife and fork of the guest. Amanda was
filled with admiration as she observed Esther Bright.

In talking this over afterwards, Samuel said to his sister:

"Schoolma'am wuz brung up better nor we be. Yer kin see it by the way
she eats. Did yer see how dainty-like she held her knife and fork?"

"Yer don't know nuthin' about it, Sam," said Mandy. "I guess I seen
her myself."

Just as the last nudge passed around, Patrick laughed outright.

"Begorra childthren," he said, "is it Frinch stoile ter eat wid y'r
fingers sthuck out? Phwat ails yez?"

"Pat Murphy," said his wife, "yer never seen good eatin' manners in
y'r life. I hev. Back in York State where I wuz riz, the very best
people in the country come to them barn raisin's."

Her sharp chin tilted upward; her black eyes grew brighter.

"Where I growed up, folks set great store by p'liteness. They allus
had clean plates fur pie when they wuz comp'ny. Yes, Pat Murphy, I wuz
well trained, ef I do say it."

The visitors remained silent. Patrick grinned.

When the teacher's cup was again filled with tea, she stirred it
longer than usual, thinking, possibly, how she could pour oil on
troubled waters. Instantly, around the table nine other spoons were
describing circles in the bottom of each cup. Again Patrick's eyes
laughed. Mrs. Murphy glowered.

The supper over, and all housewife duties of the day performed, Mrs.
Murphy turned to her offspring, standing in line,--at her
suggestion,--on one side of the room.

"Schoolma'am," she said with an air of conscious superiority, "the
childern told me yer wanted 'em to go to Bible school. Now me an' my
childern has all the 'ligion as we wants. I'll show yer."

"Childern, what is y'r 'ligion?"

"Latter Day Saints," answered Joseph.

"An' who is the prophet o' the Lord?"

"Joseph Smith," piped Kate.

"An' what wuz his relevations?"

"That men should marry lots o' wives, an raise lots o' childern,"
answered Jacob.

"Shure, an' did he have rivelations that women should be marryin'
lots o' husbands?" asked Mr. Murphy with a chuckle.

This was an interruption Mrs. Murphy could ill brook. She was on the
warpath; but Patrick, the good-natured, now took matters in his own
hands, and spoke with firmness.

"We'll have no more Mormon talk ter-night. Childthren, set down."

They sat down. Mrs. Murphy's mouth shut like a spring trap. She was
humiliated; she, a connection, so to speak, of the Commonses of
"Lexity Street, York City!"

"Whin me woman there," said Patrick, "was lift wid two babies, Jacob
an' Kate, twelve year ago, lift 'way off in a lonesome place in Utah
by her Mormon husband, Oi felt as though Oi would loike ter go wid
some dacint man, an' give this Mormon who lift his wife an' babies fur
the sake of goin' off wid another woman,--Oi repate it,--Oi'd 'a ben
glad ter have give 'im sich a batin' as he'd remimber ter his dyin'
day. He wuz kilt by the Indians. Whin Oi heerd he wuz kilt, an' knowed
fur shure he wuz dead, Oi persuaded me woman here ter marry me, an'
ter come let me give her an' all her childthren a dacint home in
Arizony.

"Oi don't want ter hear no more about Mormons. Oi know 'em root an'
branch. Oi am a Catholic. Oi belave in the Holy Mither. Oi belave in
good women. Oi belave as a man should have wan wife, a wife wan
husband. Oi wants me childthren an' me woman's childthren too, ter
come ter y'r Bible school. What's more, they shall come. Oi wants 'em
ter learn about God an' the Blissed Virgin. Y're a good woman; that Oi
know. An' yez are as good a Catholic as Oi want ter see. Yer kin jist
count on me fur support in all the good yez are thryin' ter do in
Gila."

Mrs. Murphy's face was suppressed fury.

The teacher spoke in a low, gentle voice:

"So you are a Catholic, Mr. Murphy. Do you know, I have always admired
the reverent way Catholics speak of the mother of Jesus."

Then she turned to Mrs. Murphy, saying:

"I know but little about the belief of the Mormons. Some day I wish
you would tell me about it."

"Mormons are a good sight better'n Catholics," snapped Mrs. Murphy.
"Intelligent people should know about 'em, and what they've done fur
the world. They are honest, they don't smoke, nor chew, nor drink.
They are good moral people, they are."

"Yes," said Esther, "I have heard some admirable things about them."

Kenneth rose to go.

"So you'll not return to Clayton Ranch with me, Miss Bright."

He knew by the expression of her face that she preferred to go rather
than to stay. But she spoke graciously:

"I have not finished my visit yet."

In a moment more Kenneth was gone.

Then a new difficulty arose. Who was to sleep with the teacher? Kate,
the twins, and Kathleen, all pressed their claims. After listening to
the altercation, Esther suggested that it would be necessary for her
to occupy the rocking chair by Wathemah, to see that he did not injure
his broken arm, and asked that she be given the privilege of watching
by him throughout the night.

Then the family withdrew. Soon Esther pretended to be asleep.
Occasionally the child reached out and touched her arm to make sure
his Beloved was there. Then he fell asleep.

But Esther was wakeful. Why had Kenneth come for her? Was she coming
to care too much for him? How would it all end? When she at last fell
asleep, her dreams were troubled.



CHAPTER X

CARLA EARLE


School had been dismissed, and the shadows had begun to lengthen in
the valley. Esther Bright sat in the doorway of the schoolhouse,
leaning against the jamb of the door, her hands resting idly in her
lap. At last she lifted a letter she held, and read over again the
closing words, "Thy devoted grandfather, David Bright."

She brushed her hand across her cheek more than once, as she sat
there, looking off, miles away, to her New England home. She heard a
step, and turning, saw Carla Earle approaching. Before she could rise,
Carla was at her side, half shy, uncertain of herself. Without the
usual preliminary of greeting, Carla said: "Are you homesick?"

She had seen Esther wipe tears from her cheeks.

"A little. I was thinking of my grandfather, and how I'd love to see
him. I am always homesick when his letters come. One came to-day."

"I am homesick, too," said Carla, "for my native land, its green turf,
its stately trees, the hedges, the cottages, the gardens, the flowers
and birds--and--everything!"

"Sit down, Carla. Let's talk. You are homesick for your native land,
and I am homesick for my grandfather."

She took one of the English girl's hands in hers, and they talked long
of England. At last Carla asked Esther to sing for her. For answer,
Esther rose, entered the schoolroom, and returned, bringing her
guitar. Then striking the chords of C Major, she sang softly, "Home,
Sweet Home." As she sang, Carla watched her through tears.

"An exile from home," the teacher sang; but at that moment she heard a
sob. She stopped singing.

"Go on, please," begged the English girl.

Again the cords vibrated to the touch of Esther's fingers, and she
sang the song that has comforted many a sorrowing heart.

     "There were ninety and nine that safely lay
       In the shelter of the fold;
     But one was out on the hills away,
       Far off from the gates of gold."

On she sang, her voice growing more pitifully tender.

     "But none of the ransomed ever knew
       How deep were the waters crossed;
     Nor how dark the night that the Lord passed through,
       Ere He found His sheep that was lost.
     Out in the darkness He heard its cry,--
       Sick and helpless and ready to die."

Then as she sang,

     "And the angels echoed around the throne,
       'Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own!'"

her voice thrilled with triumphant hope.

Was she inspired, or was it simply that she was about her Master's
business? Her voice seemed a message from God to the stricken girl who
listened. Carla, looking into the face of Esther Bright, saw there a
smile that was ineffably sweet; saw, too, the golden light of the
setting sun playing about her face and form.

Song after song was sung from one heart to the other. The guitar was
laid aside. Then hand in hand, the two girls sat talking till the
sunset faded, talking through falling tears, talking of ideals of
life, and of how sweet and good life may be. Then Esther told of the
Blessed One of Galilee whose love and compassion never fail. And at
last Carla told her her whole sad story.

"But you will leave the saloon, Carla, won't you? You will throw off
Mr. Clifton's influence?" Esther said as they rose to go. "I can give
you shelter until I can find a home for you, only leave that dreadful
place."

"I can't; I love him," she answered. Then, covering her face with her
hands, she wept bitterly.

"You _can_ leave him, I know, and you will in time. Come often to see
me, as you have done to-day. Perhaps you and I together, with God's
help, can find a way."

They parted at the schoolhouse, Esther returning home, her heart
sorrowful. She thought of One who centuries before had sought the
mountains alone, the sorrow of a world upon His heart. She understood
it now, understood at least something of the agony of that sorrow. She
went to her room and prayed. When at last she rose from her knees, her
face looked drawn. The feeling as of a heavy weight upon her heart
increased. How helpless she seemed!

She opened her window wider, and looked up into the fathomless blue.
An overwhelming desire to save the tempted English girl had taken
possession of her. What should she do?

As she stood thus, she seemed conscious of a presence, and turned as
though expecting to see some one; but no one was there. She heard no
voice. Notwithstanding the evidence of her eyes, she could not shake
off the feeling of another presence than her own. She turned again
toward the window, and looked out into the crystal deeps. Then a
strange peace came upon her. It seemed a foretaste of heaven. She
threw herself on the lounge in her room, and fell into a refreshing
sleep.

But what of Carla Earle?

On leaving Esther, she walked slowly toward Keith's saloon. Suddenly,
she put her hand to her heart, staggered, and gave a sharp cry. Then
trembling in every limb, she turned abruptly, and walked rapidly
toward the canyon. She reached a place that seemed to have a
fascination for her. She looked at the dark pool and wrung her hands.
Her muscles gave way, and she sank on the bank, while great convulsive
sobs shook her frame. She tried to rise, but her limbs refused to obey
her will. Then it was that her agony of shame, and sorrow, and remorse
burst forth in pitiful cries to God to let her die. She removed her
hat and wrap, and crawled to the verge of the black pool. She
shuddered as she looked. Then a great horror-stricken cry came from
her white lips as she plunged into the seething waters.

There was the sound of a human voice in answer; and a moment later,
Patrick Murphy plunged after her, grasped and caught her floating
skirt, pulled her by it to shore, and lifted her up the bank. He began
to wring the water from her skirts.

"Lass, lass," he said, kindly, "what made yez do it? What's the matter
wid yez?"

Great sobs were his only answer. It seemed as though the girl must die
from the agony of her distress.

Then he lifted her in his arms, and carried her to where he had left
his horse. By the dim light, he had recognized Carla Earle, and he at
once concluded that Mark Clifton was responsible for her deed. His
first impulse, like all of his impulses, was a generous one. He
resolved to take her to his home, and become her protector. As he was
about to lift her to his horse's back, he discovered that she had
fainted. He succeeded in lifting her to the saddle, mounted behind
her, and rode directly to his home.

A few words sufficed to explain to his wife the rescue of the girl,
and the necessity of keeping her whereabouts a profound secret. Every
member of the family was enjoined to strict silence about the presence
of Carla Earle in their home.

Mrs. Murphy undressed Carla and put her in her own bed. The
helplessness of the unconscious girl appealed to her. After a time,
Carla's eyes opened. She looked startled, and began to rave, writhing
and twisting as one in mortal agony. Now she called on Mark Clifton to
keep his promise to her; now she asked Wathemah to go for Miss Bright;
now she begged God to take her; now she was on the brink of the pool,
and in the dark water.

So she raved, and the night passed. From time to time Mrs. Murphy laid
wet cloths on Carla's head, or moistened her lips. The two faithful
watchers did not close their eyes. The day dawned, and they were still
watching; but at last their patient slept.

When Carla finally wakened, she looked around, and seeing Mrs. Murphy,
asked where she was.

"With friends who are going to take good care of yer," answered her
nurse.

"How did I come here?"

Mrs. Murphy explained that her husband had found her unconscious, and
had brought her to his home. And, leaning down, she did an
unprecedented thing. She kissed Carla Earle. At this Carla began to
cry.

"Don't cry, lass, don't cry," said Patrick, who entered just then. He
turned away and blew his nose violently.

"I must get up and help you," said the sick girl, trying to rise. But
she did not rise that day nor for many days. Throughout her illness
that followed, Mrs. Murphy's kindness was unstinted. She waited on the
sick girl with unfailing patience. But Brigham was oftenest at her
bedside when home, telling her of his beloved teacher and what she
taught them. At last Carla begged to see her.

That very day Patrick drove down for Esther, telling her on their way
back to the ranch the particulars of his finding Carla Earle, and of
her subsequent illness.

"You dear, good people!" said Esther, deeply touched. "I feel so
grateful to you."

"Och! That's nothin', Miss," he responded awkwardly. "Whin Oi see the
girl so near desthruction, Oi sez ter mesilf, sez Oi, what if me
sisther or one of me little girrls wuz iver ter be in the clutches of
a Mark Clifton? So Oi sez ter mesilf, sez Oi, Oi'll jist save her.
That's all there wuz av it. My wife has taken care o' the lass. An'
she has grown that fond av her! Beats all!"

"God will bless you for saving her, you may be sure of that,"
responded Esther heartily. "She must have gone directly from me to the
canyon. I had urged her to leave Mr. Clifton and come to me, but she
did not seem to have decision enough to promise then. The canyon must
have been an after-thought, and the result of her despair."

"Poor creetur!" said Patrick, huskily.

When Carla saw Esther, she began to sob, and seemed greatly disturbed.
Her pulse grew more rapid. Such remorse one seldom sees.

Esther placed her own cool hand on the sick girl's forehead, and spoke
to her in low, soothing tones. Carla grasped her hand and held it
tightly.

"I have wanted to see you and tell you--" But Esther interrupted her.

"Yes, dear, you shall tell me by and by. Don't try to tell me now."

"I must. The distress here" (placing her hand over her heart) "will
never go until I tell you. After I left you at the schoolhouse, I was
filled with despair. I felt so utterly strengthless. Then I prayed.
Suddenly it came to me I must never again return to the saloon
or--him. I seemed to have strength given me to go on and on in the
opposite direction. All I remember now is that I resolved to make it
impossible to return. Then I awakened here. They have been so kind to
me, especially little Brigham. He comes in to see me as soon as he
returns from school, and talks to me about you, and it comforts me."

"God has been leading you, Carla," said Esther. "I am sure of that.
And He raised up this kind friend to save you in your dark hour. But
the dark hour is past now, and we are going to help you learn how to
grow happy."

"Can one learn how to grow happy who has made such a blunder of life?"

"Oh, yes. And it is a blessed lesson to learn."

When Esther left, she promised to return on the morrow.

That evening, there was a family council at Clayton Ranch, and the
result of it was that Mrs. Clayton herself soon went to see Carla,
and invited her to make her home with them.

So it came about that Carla Earle became one of the Clayton household;
and in the loving, helpful atmosphere of that home, she began to lift
up her lovely head, as does an early blossoming flower in the April
sunshine after it has been nipped by an untimely frost. And life, with
love enfolding her every hour of each happy day, began to grow worth
while to the English girl.

And Carla grew into the affection of the family, for she was a
refined, winsome creature. She became as a daughter to Mrs. Clayton.

One day Mrs. Clayton said to her husband:

"Do you notice how much Carla is growing like our Miss Bright?"

"Yes," he responded. "There is something very attractive about both.
Only Miss Bright is a remarkably well-poised woman, and Carla is
clinging and dependent. Poor Carla! How bitterly she has been wronged!
I am glad she has found love and shelter at last."

"So am I, John. Why, the poor child was just starved for love."

"I believe, Mary, that she will develop into a strong character. What
she has suffered has been a great lesson to her."

"Poor child! Sometimes when I speak appreciative words to her, she
breaks down, and says she doesn't deserve all our kindness. One day
when she cried, she said, 'Why does God take mothers away from their
children when they need them so?'"

"Well," he responded, "she has at last found a good mother. God bless
the mother and the unfortunate girl!"

And stooping, the husband kissed his wife, and started on a long
journey to a distant mine.



CHAPTER XI

AN EVENTFUL DAY


After Esther Bright and Wathemah returned from their visit at Murphy
Ranch, he became a guest at the Clayton home, and there he remained
until his arm was well.

His sojourn with them strengthened his devotion to Esther Bright, and
brought about several changes for the better in him.

When he was allowed to run and play with the children again, he
returned to school and to Keith's saloon.

The men who had always called him the "little tough," now observed him
with amazement. One observed:

"I'll be blowed ef the Angel o' the Gila can't do anythin' she wants
ter. See that kid? He used ter cuss like a pirate. Do ye hear him cuss
now? No, sir! For why? 'Cause he knows she don't like it. That's why.
Ef she wuz ter be turned loose among the Apaches, she'd civilize 'em.
An' they're the blankedest Indians there be. I don't know what it is
about her. She sort o' makes a feller want ter be somebody. I reckon
God Almighty knows more about 'er nor we do, 'n' she knows more about
us 'n' we do ourselves. Leastways, she do about me."

Having delivered himself to this effect, he left the saloon, sober.

There is no doubt Esther Bright had sown good seed broadcast, and some
had fallen on good ground. The awakening of the cowlasses had been a
continual joy to her. She marveled that some one had not found them
before. Each successive day the little school reached out further to
enrich the life of the community.

One morning, while a class was in the midst of a recitation, there
came a knock at the schoolhouse door.

"I'm Robert Duncan," said a Scotch miner, as Esther opened the door.
He held by the hand a little boy of about three years.

"This is Bobbie," he continued. "I've brought me bairn tae school."

Could the mother spare such a baby? Ah, could she?

Esther stooped and held out her arms to the child, but he hid behind
his father.

"His mither died last week, Miss," he said with a choke in his voice.
"I'd like tae leave him with ye."

"I'm very sorry," she replied, with quick sympathy. Then she promised
to receive Bobbie as a pupil, providing he would stay.

"Oh, he'll stay," the father hastened to say, "if ye'll just call
Donald."

So Donald was called, and he succeeded in coaxing Bobbie into the
schoolroom.

When the child realized that his father had gone and left him, he ran
to the door, crying, "Faither! Faither!" while tears rolled down his
cheeks.

Then the mother heart of Esther Bright asserted itself. She gathered
him in her arms and soothed him, until he cuddled down contentedly and
fell asleep.

Soon after, Kenneth Hastings appeared at the open door, and saw Esther
at her desk with the sleeping child in her arms. He heard her speaking
in a soft tone to the children as she dismissed them for the morning
recess; but Bobbie wakened frightened. At the moment Kenneth entered,
Bobbie was carried out of the room by Donald, the other children
following.

"I came to see if you could go for a horseback ride this afternoon,"
said Kenneth. "It's a glorious day."

"Just delighted! Nothing would please me better."

The two stood inside the open door. As Wathemah saw Kenneth talking to
his teacher, he entered the door, pushed between them, nestled close
to her, and said defiantly:

"Miss Bright _me_ teacher; _mine_!"

"Yours, eh, sonny?" said Kenneth, smiling. Then looking into Esther's
face, he said:

"I wish I could feel as sure that some day you will be mine."

A delicate flush swept over her face. When he went on his way, life
and vigor were in every step. He seemed to walk on air.

The recess over, the children returned to their seats, and Patrick
Murphy entered. The school, for the hour, was transformed into a place
of general merchandise, for the teacher had promised that to-day they
would play store, buy and sell. Business was to be done on a strictly
cash basis, and accounts kept. Several children had been busy for
days, making school money. Scales for weighing, and various measures
were in evidence.

Patrick watched the play of the children, as they weighed and
measured, bought and sold.

At the close of the exercises, he turned to Esther, saying:

"Oi wisht Oi wuz young agin mesilf. Yez larn the chilthren more in wan
hour, 'n' many folks larns in a loife toime. It's thankful Oi am that
yez came ter Gila, fur the school is gittin' on."

Having delivered himself of this compliment, he withdrew, highly
pleased with himself, with the teacher, with the school, and the world
generally. If there was one thing that met with Patrick's unqualified
approval, it was "to git on."

Near the close of the midday intermission, during the absence of
Wathemah, Donald Carmichael said to the teacher, "Ye love Wathemah
mair nor the rest o' us, don't ye?"

"Why?" asked Esther, as she smiled down at the urchin.

"Oh," hanging his head, "ye say 'Wathemah' as though ye likit him mair
nor anybody else."

"As though I loved him?"

"Yep."

"Well," she acknowledged, "I do love Wathemah. I love all the other
children, too. Don't you think I ought to love Wathemah a little
better because he has no father or mother, as you have, to love him?"

Donald thought not.

"You have no idea," said Carla, who now attended school, "what brutal
treatment Wathemah used to receive at the saloon. I have seen him
teased and trounced and knocked around till he was frantic. And the
men took delight in teaching him all the badness they knew. I used to
hear them while I was helping Mrs. Keith." Carla's eyes suddenly
filled.

"Poor little fellow!" said Esther, in response.

"I shall never forget his happiness," continued Carla, "the first day
he went to school. He came to me and said he liked his teacher and
wanted to go live with her."

"Did he? Bless his heart!"

"After that," Carla went on to say, "he came to me every morning to
see if he was clean enough to go to school."

"So _you_ were the good fairy, Carla, who wrought the transformation
in him. He certainly was a very dirty little boy the first morning he
came to school, but he has been pretty clean ever since."

Donald, who had been listening, now spoke up again.

"Oh, Wathemah's all right, only I thocht ye likit him mair nor the
rest o' us."

"No, she don't, neither," stoutly maintained Brigham. "I guess I know.
She's always fair."

At this moment, Wathemah himself drew near. He had been to the timber
for mistletoe, and returned with his arms full of sprays of green,
covered with white waxen berries. He walked proudly to his Beloved,
and gave her his offering. Then he stepped back and surveyed her.

"Wathemah love he teacher," he said in a tone of deep satisfaction.

"She ain't yourn, ye Apache savage," cried Donald. "She don't love ye;
she said so," added the child, maliciously.

Like a flash, Wathemah was upon him, beating him with all his
strength. He took the law into his own hands, settled his score, and
laid his opponent out before Esther could interfere. When she grasped
Wathemah's arm, he turned upon her like a tiger.

"Donald lie!" he cried.

"Yes, Donald did lie," she conceded, "but _you_ should not punish
him."

"Donald call savage. Wathemah kill he!"

The teacher continued to hold him firmly. She tried to reason with
him, but her words made no impression.

The child stood resolute. He lifted a scornful finger toward Donald,
and said in a tone of contempt:

"Donald lie. Wathemah no lie."

The teacher released him, and told him to see her after school. Then
the afternoon session began. But Wathemah's place was vacant.

As the hours passed, it became evident that Donald was not as happy as
usual. He was in disgrace. At last his class was called. He hung his
head in shame. Esther did not press him to recite.

The hour for dismissal came. The little culprit sat alone in the
farther corner of the room. Carla started out to find Wathemah.

The loud accusing tick of the clock beat upon Donald's ear. The
teacher was busy, and at first paid no attention to him. She heard a
sniffling in the corner. Still no attention. At last she sat down by
the lad, and said very gently:

"Tell me about it, Donald."

No answer. He averted his face, and rubbed his dirty fists into his
eyes.

"Tell me why you lied to Wathemah, Donald."

Still no answer.

"How could you hurt his feelings so?"

No answer.

Then Esther talked to him till he buried his face in his arms and
sobbed. She probed down into his heart. At last she asked him what he
thought he should do. Still silence. She waited. The clock ticked
louder and louder in the ears of the child: "Say it! Say it! Say it!"

At last he spoke.

"I ought tae tell Wathemah I lied; but I dinna want tae tell him afore
the lads."

"Ah!" she said, "but you said your untruthful words before them; and
unless you are a coward, your apology ought to be before them."

"I am nae coward," he said, lifting his head.

"Then you must apologize to Wathemah before the children to-morrow."

"Yes, mum."

Then she dismissed him, telling him to remember what he had done, when
he prayed to God that night.

"Did God hear me lie?" he asked.

"I think so, Donald."

The child looked troubled.

"I didna think o' that. I'll tell Him I'm sorry," he said as he left
the schoolroom.

He began to search for Wathemah, that he might make peace with him.

At first Carla's search was fruitless. Then she sought him in a place
she knew he loved, away up the canyon. There, sure enough, she found
him. He sat on a bowlder near a cascade with his back toward her.
Beyond him, on the other side of the stream, rose the overhanging
cliffs. He did not hear her step as he listened to the music of the
waters.

"Wathemah!" she called. He started, then turned toward her. She saw
that he had been crying. She climbed up on the bowlder and sat down
beside him.

"Donald lie!" he said, angrily.

"Yes, Wathemah, but he is sorry for it, and I am sure will tell you
so."

She saw tears roll down the dirty little face. She had the wisdom to
leave him alone; and walking a short distance up the canyon, sent
pebbles skipping the water. After a while this drew him to her.

"Shall we go up stream?" she asked.

He nodded. They jumped from bowlder to bowlder, and at last stopped
where the waters go softly, making a soothing music for the ear.

"Carla!"

"Yes, Wathemah."

"Jesus forgive?"

"Yes, dear, He does." Then Carla's self-control gave way, and she
sobbed out her long-suppressed grief. Instantly the child's arms were
around her neck.

"No cry, Carla!" he said. "No cry, Carla!" patting her cheek.

Then, putting his tear-stained cheek close to hers, he said:

"Jesus love Carla."

She gathered the little comforter in her arms; and though her tears
fell fast, they brought relief to her heart.

At last she persuaded him to return to school the following day, and
to do all he could to atone for leaving it without permission.

On their return, they sought the teacher in the schoolhouse, but she
was gone, and the door was locked; neither was she to be found at the
Clayton ranch. The little penitent lingered a long time, but his
Beloved did not come. At last he walked reluctantly in to camp.

Away up the mountain road, Esther Bright and Kenneth Hastings drew
rein. The Englishman sat his horse well; but it was evident his
companion was not a horsewoman. She might shine in a drawing-room or
in a home, but not on a horse's back. If she had not been riding one
of the finest saddle horses in the country, she would have appeared to
greater disadvantage.

The canter up the mountain road had brought the color to her cheeks.
It had also shaken out her hairpins; and now her wavy brown hair,
with its glint of gold, tumbled about her shoulders.

"You look like a gypsy," Kenneth was saying.

She laughed.

"The last gypsies I ever saw," she said merrily, "were encamped along
the road through Beekman's Woods, as you approach Tarrytown-on-Hudson
from the north. The gypsy group was picturesque, but the individuals
looked villainous. I hope I do not strongly resemble them," she said
still laughing; then added, "They wanted to tell our fortunes."

"Did you let them tell yours?"

"Yes, just for fun."

"What did they tell you?"

"Oh, just foolishness."

"Come, tell _me_ just for fun."

"Well,"--here she blushed--"the old gypsy told me that an Englishman
would woo me, that I'd not know my own mind, and that I would reject
him."

"Interesting! Go on."

"That something dreadful would happen to the suitor; that I'd help
take care of him, and after that, all was cloudland."

"Really, this grows more interesting. The fortune teller realized how
hard-hearted you were. Didn't she ask you to join their caravan? You'd
make an ideal gypsy princess."

Esther touched her horse with her whip. He gave a sudden lunge, and
sped onward like mad. It was all she could do to sit her horse. Before
her, to her dismay, yawned a deep gulch. She could not stop her horse
now, of that she was sure. She tightened her grip, and waited. She
heard the sound of hoofs behind her, and Kenneth's voice shouting
"Whoa!" As well shriek at a tornado to stop. She seemed to catch the
spirit of the horse. The pupils of her eyes dilated. She felt the
quivering of the beast when, for a moment, he reared on his haunches.
Then she felt herself borne through the air, as the animal took the
gulch; then she knew that he was struggling up the bank. In a moment
the beast stopped, quivering all through his frame; his nostrils were
dilated, and his breath came hard.

In a few minutes Kenneth Hastings overtook her. It was evident he had
been alarmed.

"You have done a perilous thing for an inexperienced rider," he said.
"It is dumb luck that you have escaped unhurt. I expected to find you
injured or dead."

"I was dreadfully scared when we came to the gulch. I didn't know
about it, you know; but I couldn't stop the horse then."

"Of course not. What made the animal run? Did you cut him with the
whip?"

"Yes. I thought it'd be such fun to run away from you for calling me a
gypsy."

He laughed. Then he looked grave.

Suddenly Esther Bright grew as cold as ice, and swayed in the saddle.
At last she was forced to say she was ill. Her companion dismounted
and lifted her from the saddle.

"Why, how you tremble!" he was saying. "How cold you are!"

"Just fright," she replied, making an effort to rally. "I am ashamed
of being scared. The fright has made me deathly sick." Even her lips
were white. He seemed deeply concerned.

After a while her color returned, and she assured him that she was
able to go on.

"But are you sure?" he asked, showing the deepest concern.

"Quite sure," she said, positively. "Come, let us go. I have given you
enough trouble already."

"No trouble, I assure you."

He did not add that the very fact that she had needed a service from
him was sufficient recompense.

Then they walked their horses homeward, talking of many things of
common interest to them.

Down in the valley, the soft gray of the dead gramma grass was
relieved by the great beds of evergreen cacti, yucca, and the greenery
of the sage and mesquite. The late afterglow in the sky mingled with
the purple haze that hung like an ethereal veil over the landscape.

They stopped their horses at a turn of the road commanding a fine view
of the mountains.

"How beautiful the world is everywhere!" Esther said, half to herself.

"Especially in Arizona," said Kenneth, as he drew a deep invigorating
breath.

Silence again.

"Miss Bright," he hesitated. "I believe the world would be beautiful
to me anywhere, if you were there."

"You flatter," she said, lifting her hand as if to ward off what might
follow.

"No flattery. Since you came, the whole world has seemed beautiful to
me."

"I am glad if my coming has improved your vision," she said merrily.
"Come, we must hasten, or we'll be late for dinner. You are to dine
with us to-night, I believe."

"Yes, Mrs. Clayton was so kind as to invite me."

Again her horse took the lead. Kenneth touched his with the whip, and
overtook her. For some distance, the horses were neck and neck. As
they came to a steep ascent, they slackened their pace.

Her eyes were sparkling, and she was in excellent spirits.

"If I were a better horsewoman," she said gayly, "I'd challenge you to
a race."

"Why not, anyway?" he suggested. "There are no more gulches."

"I might not be able to stick on."

"We'll try it," he responded, encouragingly, "over the next level
stretch."

So try it they did. They flew like the wind. The cool evening air, the
excitement of the race, the rich afterglow in the heavens,--all were
exhilarating. On they sped, on and on, till they turned into the
canyon road. Again Esther's horse led, but Kenneth soon overtook her,
and then their horses walked slowly on together the rest of the way.

"I wonder if you are as happy as I am," he said, as he assisted her
from the saddle.

"I am in the positive degree of happiness," she said, cheerily. "I am
always happy except when shadowed by someone else's sorrow."

He said something to her about bearing all her future sorrows for her,
adding:

"That is becoming the dearest wish of my heart."

"All must meet sorrow sometime," she responded gravely. "I hope to
meet mine with fortitude when it comes."

She stood stroking the horse's neck.

"I wish I might help you to bear it when it comes. Oh, Miss Bright,"
he said, earnestly, "I wish I could make you realize how I honor
you--and dare I say it?--how I love you! I wish you would try to
understand me. I am not trifling. I am in earnest." He looked at her
downcast face.

"I will try," she said, looking up frankly, with no trace of coquetry
in her voice or manner.

There had been moments when Kenneth's love for Esther had led him to
speak dearer words to her than her apparent interest in him would
warrant. At such times she would retire within herself, surrounded by
an impenetrable reserve. Kenneth Hastings was the only one she ever
treated icily. One day he would be transported to the seventh heaven;
another, he would sink to the deeps of gloom.

It was several days after this ride that he chanced to meet Esther in
the path along the river road. He stopped her, and asked abruptly:

"Why do you treat me so frigidly sometimes?"

"Do I?" she asked in surprise.

He remained silent.

"Do I?" she said, repeating her question.

"Yes, you do. Why do you treat me so?"

She looked distressed.

"I didn't realize I had treated you discourteously, Mr. Hastings. If I
did, it was because I am afraid of you."

"Preposterous! Afraid of me!" Now he was smiling.

"Perhaps--" As she hesitated, she looked up at him in an appealing
manner.

"Perhaps what?"

"Perhaps it is because you have given me a glimpse of your own heart,
and have--"

"Have what?"

"--asked me to reveal mine to you. I can't."

"In other words, you do not love me?"

"I honor you as I do several people I know. Nothing more."

There was a long pause. Kenneth was the first to speak.

"Your friendship! Am I to be deprived of that, too?"

"My friendship is already yours," she said. "You know that."

"I thank you. I need hardly tell you that your friendship is the
dearest thing I know."

Then Kenneth left her, and she walked on alone. But still those words
kept repeating themselves in her mind like a haunting melody, "Your
friendship is the dearest thing I know!" and, like Banquo's ghost,
they would not down.



CHAPTER XII

CHRISTMAS DAY


It was Christmas morning, early. Not a leaf was stirring. The
stillness seemed aware. The sun rose in solemn majesty, heralded by
scarlet runners of the sky. Just as it burst forth from behind the
sleeping mountains, a splendor of coloring beyond the power of man to
describe flooded the earth and the covering dome of the heavens. Then
the snowy mountain peaks, grim sentinels of the ages, grew royal in
crimson and gold. And the far-stretching valley, where the soft gray
of dead gramma grass was relieved by the yellowish tint of desert
soil, took on the glory of the morning. From zenith to horizon, the
crystal clearness seemed for one supreme moment ashine with sifted
gold. But, as if to protect the eyes of man from the too great
splendor of this anniversary of Christ's natal day, a faint purple
veil of haze dropped over the distant mountains. The waters of the
Gila caught the glory of the morning, and became molten gold.

When the Gilaites awakened, the gladness of the morning was upon them;
and men and women remembered, some of them for the first time in
years, that it was Christmas day, and went about with "Merry
Christmas" on their lips.

To the children of Gila, the day that had heretofore been as all other
days, now took on new meaning. They had come to associate it with a
wonderful personality they were learning to know through their
teacher. Christ's birthday she had called Christmas day, Christ their
elder brother, Christ the lover of children.

They had seen the splendor of the morning. What wonder that some of
them were touched with a feeling of awe?

For the first time in the history of Gila, Christmas day was to be
observed, and every child had come to feel a personal interest in the
celebration.

The preparations for the evening exercises to be held in the
schoolhouse had all been so new, so mysteriously interesting!
Expectation ran high. Word had spread to the burro camps on the
mountains, and to the Mexicans tending the charcoal pits up the
canyon. Rumors had reached other camps also, miles away.

The Mexicans, as was their custom, had prepared immense bonfires on
the mountains and foothills for firing Christmas night. But hearing of
the approaching entertainment at the schoolhouse, they caught the
spirit of the hour and outdid themselves.

The saguaro, or giant cactus, sometimes called the sentinel of the
desert, is one of the most interesting varieties of the cactus family.
Sometimes it grows in the form of a fluted column, many times reaching
a height of sixty feet. Often at a distance of perhaps thirty feet
from the ground, this cactus throws out fleshy arms at right angles,
which, after a short distance, shoot upward in columns parallel to the
main column, giving the cactus the appearance of a giant candelabrum.
The saguaro has a skeleton of woody ribs bound together by tough,
woody fibers. In the living cactus, this framework is filled and
covered with green pulp; but when the cactus dies, the pulp dries and
is blown away. The ribs are covered with quantities of resinous thorns
that burn like pitch. The dead saguaro, therefore, when set on fire,
becomes a most effective bonfire, having frequently been used by the
Indians, in early days, as a signal fire.

On this special occasion, the Mexicans had found several of these dead
sentinels of the desert so nearly in the shape of a Roman cross that a
few blows from an ax made them perfectly so. When lighted Christmas
night, the burning crosses on the mountains loomed up against the sky,
no longer symbols of triumphant hate, but of triumphant love.

Early that day, what the Mexicans had done began to be noised abroad;
and with every bulletin that passed from mouth to mouth, interest in
the approaching service at the schoolhouse deepened. It looked as
though the room could not hold all who would come.

The young folk had been generous helpers, and had decorated the place
with spruce, pine, cedar and mistletoe. The air was heavy with spicy
fragrance. Around the room were huge altar candles in improvised
candlesticks of wood. Across one end of the room, was stretched a
large sheet of white cotton cloth.

For many a day, John Clayton, Kenneth Hastings and Esther Bright had
formed a mysterious triumvirate. The two men had been seen bringing
packages from the distant station. What it might mean became an
absorbing topic of conversation. One thing was certain, Gila was
alive.

On Christmas morning, these three, accompanied by Mrs. Carmichael, met
at the schoolhouse to make their final preparations. The beautiful
silver spruce, selected for the Christmas tree, stood out from the
dark greenery of the room. It was a beautiful tree, exquisite in
color, perfect in symmetry, spicy in fragrance. They decorated this
with ornaments, then began to hang gifts on its branches. At one side
of the tree, Esther stacked small pasteboard boxes close and high.
What these contained, only she herself knew; and she preserved a
mysteriously interesting silence.

As the four busied themselves at their happy task, Mrs. Carmichael
suddenly uncovered a huge basket she, thus far, had managed to
conceal. She looked a culprit as she said:

"An' whaur would ye be wishin' the cookies put?"

"Cookies!" they all exclaimed, with one accord, "Cookies!"

Esther sampled one.

"They're just as good as they look!" she said. "What a lot of them!
How did you come to think of it? How good of you!"

"It was Donald. He telt me aboot y'r birthday cakes for the wains. So
I thocht bein's it was the Maister's birthday, each should hae a
birthday cake. A makit one hundred."

"One hundred!" Kenneth whistled. "You know how to find the way to
men's hearts," he laughed. "But you found your way to mine long ago."

"Fie, fie," she said smiling. "I ken ye weel."

When their preparations were completed, they looked about with an air
of satisfaction. It was evident the spirit of Christmas had taken
possession of them. Such kindness! Such good will!

Jack Harding was the last to leave the room. Before he closed and
locked the door, he deposited some packages in an obscure corner.

An hour before the time for the entertainment, the little adobe
schoolhouse was surrounded by people, and they continued to come even
after the teacher, accompanied by the Claytons, opened the door. Soon
every seat was filled; then, all standing space. Then the windows were
crowded with faces. Still there were as many more outside who could
not hope to see, but might possibly hear.

Those fortunate enough to enter the room sniffed the fragrance of
cedar and spruce. The burning mesquite wood in the fireplace snapped
and crackled, and the soft light from the huge candles idealized the
beauty of the tree and the woodsy decorations of the room. And there
was the teacher also, _their_ teacher (for did she not belong to
them?) young, lovely, doing all this for them! They noted every detail
of her simple gray toilet, even to the soft lace at her throat. There
was something exquisite about her that night as she stood before them
in the yellow candle-light. Her face was luminous. Kenneth Hastings
observed it, and said in a low tone to his friend John Clayton, "See
Miss Bright's face! I never saw anything more lovely. The spirit of
Christmas is in it."

John Clayton placed his hand on his friend's shoulder as he responded,
"Yes. It's all due to her beautiful, generous soul."

After several Christmas carols were sung, he told them Miss Bright
would now address them. There was an approving murmur.

Then she told them the old, old story, dearest story of childhood, of
the little child in the khan at Bethlehem, of the star, of the song of
the angels, the coming of the shepherds, and the search by the Wise
Men, as they came with their rich gifts of gold and frankincense and
myrrh, to lay them at the Christ-child's feet. She told the story
briefly and simply.

Among those who listened there that night were Mexicans and
half-breed Indians, Englishmen, Irishmen, Scotchmen and Americans.
There were Catholics and Protestants, Mormons, and men of no faith
whatever. There were four university-bred men; there were also men and
women of deepest ignorance; and there were many others between these
extremes.

While the voice of the teacher still held their attention, John
Harding and Kenneth Hastings put out the lights, and picture after
picture, illustrating the early life of Christ (all copies of famous
paintings), flashed upon the white screen. There were exclamations of
approval such as these:

"Did yez iver now?"

"The Holy Mother! Bless her!"

"Oh!--Oh!--Oh!" in faint whispers.

When Murillo's "Holy Family" appeared, there was a hush. As it
disappeared, some one asked for it again. After complying with this
request, the candles were relighted, and the distribution of gifts
began. There was a subdued hum of interest. These men and women,
throwing aside care and toil for an hour, were as pleased as children.

As gifts were passed, many began to realize what the extra meetings at
the schoolhouse had meant. The children had been making things, and
had made them well. They had been engaged in manual training, though
the teacher had not called it that. She was in advance of the age, and
was doing practical work in manual training years before the
pedagogues of the land had wakened to the necessity of training the
hand.

The Gila children had made gingham aprons for mothers and sisters;
they had crocheted lace and mats; they had made articles for domestic
use, and so on.

When a new blouse waist and a pair of suspenders were given to
Wathemah, his delight knew no bounds. Kenneth and Jack Harding stood
watching him. The child was a favorite with both.

"Do you like your waist, little chap?" asked Kenneth.

"Yes!--Me!--Pretty!" said the child, patting and smoothing his waist
as if it were an object of affection. Then he held his suspenders up
for his two friends to see.

"Do you like 'em, sonny?" asked Jack Harding.

"Mine! Mine!--S'penders!--Wathemah's s'penders!"

The grown-ups smiled. The day had unlocked many a heart long barred
and bolted against human sympathy.

"Two dolls, one for Nora and one for Kathleen Murphy," called out the
superintendent.

"Did yez iver?" said Patrick, smiling with good humor, from the crown
of his bristly head to the extremity of his bristly chin.

Gifts were passed to right and left. It seemed wonderful so many
should be remembered. Some received their gifts with undisguised
pleasure,--pleasure so out of proportion to the intrinsic value of the
gifts, it was pathetic. Esther felt her eyes brimming. More than one
said to her that night that it was the first time he or she had ever
received a Christmas present.

As yet Brigham had received no gifts, but he sat by Wathemah,
apparently enjoying what his friend had received as though it had been
his own. But when his turn came, and his Beloved brought him three
books about animals, he seemed embarrassed, and stammered out:

"For me? All thim for me?"

The teacher stood smiling.

"Yes, for you, dear."

In a short time he and Wathemah, with heads close together, were lost
in one of these books.

Esther watched them from time to time. It was evident to every one in
Gila, that Brigham and Wathemah were very intimate friends of their
teacher's. Brigham had confided to Kenneth that he was "intimater with
her nor anybody else, 'cause she loved him, an' he loved her best of
anybody in the world." He had likewise confided to Kenneth his great
desire to have some animal books, as he called them. And Kenneth had
seen to it that he should not be disappointed.

Suddenly, to her surprise, Esther Bright was presented with a new
chair, and was asked to be seated in it. The excitement of the
children rose. This, to them, was the important moment of the evening.

As one homely little gift after another was presented to her,--all the
work of children's hands, she spoke homely, loving words out of her
heart. Several coat sleeves were put to a new use, and some clean
gingham aprons actually found their way to women's cheeks. A
loving-hearted woman had entered their lives and found them worth
while. What wonder that she became to them, more than ever, what they
had called her at first in ridicule, but later in respect and
affection and reverence,--the angel of the Gila?

When Esther Bright's lap was full of gifts, she tried to express what
she felt. Her words had vanished, and happy tears had taken their
place.

After her unsuccessful effort to speak, Wathemah, who could hardly
comprehend her tears, ran to her, and began to wipe them away with a
sleeve of his new waist. She slipped her arm about him and drew him to
her. He looked up questioningly.

"It's all right, Wathemah," she said, smiling. "I was so happy I
couldn't help crying."

"Now," said the superintendent, "you are each to receive from Miss
Bright a Bible, a box of candy and a Christmas card; and from Mrs.
Carmichael, some delicious Christmas cookies. Here, boys," he said,
beckoning to some of them, "pass these, will you?"

Esther Bright herself took a large panful of cookies to the people
outside of the schoolhouse. As she approached a Mexican, she saw
standing by him his wife, a blanket Indian, and on her back, a
pappoose. As she passed the cakes to them, the squaw reached down and
grabbed two handfuls of them, devouring them ravenously.

Esther patted the child, and smiled into the squaw's face, which she
could see distinctly in the light that streamed from the window.

"Pappoose?" she said to the Indian.

But there was no answering smile in the squaw's eyes. The "emptiness
of ages" was in her face. It was a face Esther was to see again under
very different circumstances; but no premonition warned her of the
fiery ordeal through which she would be called to pass.

Finally the multitude was fed. The boisterous laughter and the loud
talk, within, seemed strangely out of harmony with the solemn
stillness of the night. The moon sent a flood of silvery light over
the scene before her; and, everywhere, the Christmas fires, built by
the Mexicans, were leaping skyward. Esther stood watching; for on
far away mountains and near by foothills, the sentinels of the desert
had become gigantic burning crosses. She had heard that these were to
be a unique feature of the Christmas celebration, but she was not
prepared for the exceeding beauty of it all. The burning cross caught
her fancy. Suddenly, she became aware of the presence of Kenneth
Hastings.

"Wonderfully beautiful,--the scene,--isn't it?" she said, without
turning. "I think I have never seen anything more impressive."

"Yes, beautiful. These Catholic Mexicans have a religious feeling that
finds expression in splendor. Does the burning cross have any
significance to you?"

"Yes," she answered, speaking slowly, as she looked toward one of
them; "the cross, once a symbol of ignominy; but now become, like the
flaming cross on the mountains, a symbol of light."

"Miss Bright," said John Clayton, from the doorway, "you are asked
for."

As she entered the room, Patrick Murphy stepped forward. He raised his
hand for attention. After several gibes from the men, and witty
retorts on his part, the company quieted down again.

"Ladies an' gintlemin," he said, flourishing his empty pipe, as he
made an elaborate gesture, "it's mesilf as feels as we have wid us a
foine Christian lady. Ez Oi watched the picters av the Holy Mither
this avenin', Oi sez ter mesilf, sez Oi, our teacher (the saints bliss
her!) is as lovin' ter the children av this school, as is the blissid
Virgin ter the child in thim picters. Oi sez ter mesilf, this lady is
as good a Catholic as Oi wish ter see. An' she learns 'em all ter git
on. Oi'll sind ivery child o' mine ter day school an' Bible school. Oi
hope yez'll all do the same."

Mrs. Murphy's face was a suppressed thunder-storm; but Patrick was
oblivious of this as he talked on.

"This was a godless region. Miss Bright come like a angel ter tell us
av our sins. Oi belave the Lord sint her.

"See what she done fur us! Her nate little talk ter us, the picters
an' her prisints. All who wish ter thank our koind frind, join wid me
in three cheers fur Miss Bright!"

Then cheer on cheer rose from the people.

As Patrick took his seat, John Clayton rose.

"Now," said he, "three cheers for our good friend, Mrs. Carmichael,
who made the Christmas cookies."

Again the hearty cheers echoed on the still night air.

But Mrs. Carmichael raised a protesting hand. She didn't deserve such
a compliment, she said.

Then the guests went their various ways. John Harding covered the
embers of the fire and took from his teacher's hands whatever she had
to carry, going directly to the Clayton home. She and Kenneth Hastings
were the last to leave. Outside the door, they stood for a moment,
watching the moonlit scene. In the distance, they heard a man's rich
voice singing, "In the Cross of Christ I glory." They listened. Then
they walked on in silence for some moments, the gaze of each fixed
upon a colossal burning cross through whose yellow flames violet, and
green, and red, and blue leaped and died away, then leaped again.

"The cross!" he said at last. "How it has gone in the van of
civilization!"

She stopped and laid her hand on his arm. He, too, stopped and looked
questioningly into her lifted face, which he could see but dimly.

"The world for Christ!" she said, deeply moved. "It will surely be!
Followers of the wonderful Nazarene, filled and actuated by His spirit
of brotherhood, are reaching the uttermost parts of the earth. We
shall live to see the awakening of nations. We shall live to see
strong men and women enlisted on the side of Christ to bring right
and justice and purity into life, God into men's lives."

Again silence.

"I know nothing of God," he responded, "save as I see power manifested
in the physical world. I have read the Bible so little. I am not
intimately familiar with the life and words of Jesus. Before meeting
you, I had always thought of religion with more or less contempt. I
confess my ignorance. But I am learning to know _you_. What you are
and what you do convince me there is something in your religion I have
not found. I am as untaught in spiritual truth as a babe. But now I
want to learn."

"I am glad you do. Will you study your Bible?"

He did not tell her he had no Bible, but he promised to study one.

"Will you pray too?" she asked, with a little choke in her voice.

"Would you have me read the prayers of the church?"

"No; the prayer of your own heart."

Then the man became rash.

"The prayer of my heart?" he repeated, with evident emotion. "The
prayer of my heart? That prayer is that I may win your love, and your
hand in marriage. That is my religion; you, I worship."

"Don't! Don't!" she said, withdrawing her hand from his arm. "Don't;
that seems blasphemous."

"If you could only love me, I might begin to comprehend what you tell
us of the love of God. I love _you_. That I _know_, I understand. You
are the embodiment of all I hold sweet and dear. Can't you love
me--sometime?"

"I do not know," she responded. "What I _do_ know surely is that I do
not love you now. I believe that love of the deep and abiding kind
does not fall at man's feet as manna, nor does it grow like a mushroom
in a night. It takes time for the mighty, resistless forces of nature
to develop a single blade of grass. So love, I take it, must have time
to grow."

"Then I may hope to win your love?" he said eagerly.

"Oh, no; don't think of love. You have my friendship; let us not spoil
the friendship by dreaming of a love that I cannot give you."

"Do you believe," he asked, "that you will never love any other man?"

"I believe if such love ever grows in my heart, I shall walk in glory
all my days. It is a sacred thing, and I could never speak of it
lightly, as many do."

"Good night," he said, "and God bless you."

They had reached the Clayton home. The door closed, and Kenneth was
alone. He turned; and before him, on the foothills, flamed the burning
cross.



CHAPTER XIII

THE ADOPTION OF A MOTHER


Bobbie had become a personality. What is more, he had adopted Esther
Bright as his mother, without any formalities of the law. He had found
a mother heart, and had taken his place there by the divine right of
love. No one seemed to know how it had all come about; all anyone
knew, positively, was that Bobbie suddenly began to call his teacher
"Mither."

At first the children laughed when Bobbie would call her by this new
name; then the baby of the school was broken-hearted, until the
teacher had mended the break with kisses and tender words.

Sometimes at midday recess, the drowsy child would climb into Esther's
lap; and when she would cuddle him, his great blue eyes would look up
into hers with a look of content and trusting love. After a while the
heavy lids would close, and the flaxen hair lie moist on the ruddy
forehead. Then Bobbie would be laid on an improvised bed, to finish
his siesta.

Day after day went by, with increasing love on Bobbie's part, and
deepening tenderness on the part of Esther Bright.

He was not always good. Far from it. He was a healthy little animal,
bright and attractive. His activity sometimes got him into trouble.
Then to divert his mind, his teacher would tell him little stories.
When she would finish, he would say coaxingly, "More."

After a while, he would call for certain stories she had already told
him, and interrupt her all the way along, his face alive with
intelligent interest. At last he himself wanted to tell the stories to
his teacher, with many interpolations and funny variations.

But the funniest thing happened one day when he refused to go home,
and announced that he would stay with his adopted mother.

"Oh, no, Bobbie dear," she said, placing her hand on his shoulder.
"What would your father do without you?"

"He tan det another wain," he said, in a tone of satisfaction.

"No, Bobbie," insisted the teacher; "you must go home."

Still he refused. Then all his Scotch stubbornness asserted itself. He
could not be driven or coaxed home. And when the older children tried
to carry him, he kicked and screamed and fought, till he had freed
himself. He ran to his teacher with heart-rending sobs. She sent the
other children home, and took him in her arms. Gradually his sobs
ceased and he fell asleep. His face was wet with tears. In his sleep,
great sighs, the aftermath of the storm, seemed to come from his
innermost heart.

The adopted mother sat with her arms clasped about him. Such a look of
tender love came into her face as one sometimes sees in the face of a
young mother, bending over her sleeping babe. If ever Esther Bright
was beautiful, it was at that moment. Kenneth Hastings stood a short
distance away, watching her. He lifted his hat and stood with bowed
head. At last he spoke her name. She turned, and nodded toward the
sleeping boy in her arms.

"Come sit down," she said, moving to make room for him on the
doorstep.

"You seem to be a good nurse, too," he responded, taking the proffered
seat. "What's Bobbie doing here this time of day?"

She told him of the child's decision to stay with her, and his refusal
to go home, his fight, and his stormy sorrow. He listened, with an
amused twinkle in his eyes.

"Poor little chap," he said; "he has my sympathy in refusing to be
parted from you."

She flushed slightly.

"Don't waste your sympathy," she replied saucily. Somehow that
provoking smile of his nettled her. He had found her vulnerable.

"Bigger chaps than he feel the same way towards you," he said, smiling
still.

He saw that she was badly teased, and the spirit of mischief led him
on.

"Now _I'd_ like to stay with you always, myself."

She looked as though she would annihilate him.

"And what is more, I'd like to change places with Bobbie this very
minute."

She rose suddenly, but with some effort, for the child was stout and
heavy for his years.

"What are you going to do?" he asked, looking admiringly upon Bobbie.

"I'm going to carry him home."

"How cruel to Bobbie!" he said, stepping near her and extending his
arms for the child. "Let _me_ carry him, do."

"I can carry him myself, thank you," she said, with a sudden air of
independence.

Again she saw his look of amusement, and struggled with her heavy
load, knowing full well that she could not carry him far.

"No, you must not carry him," he said firmly. "He is too heavy for
you." And without more ado, he took Bobbie from her arms.

"Come," he said amicably, "we'll both take him home--to Mrs.
Carmichael's."

So on they trudged. Bobbie roused a moment, but seeing a familiar
face, he reached up his grimy hand and patted the bronzed cheeks, then
cuddled comfortably into the strong arms.

"So Bobbie wanted to stay with you," he was saying.

"Yes, he calls me mither, you know."

"_I'd_ like to call you 'mither' myself some day. It's a beautiful
name."

She felt provoked with herself. Why in the world had she made that
unfortunate remark?

"You love children, don't you?" He was not smiling now.

"Oh, yes; from my childhood up I have loved every child I have seen."

"I see."

But at this juncture Bobbie again roused, rubbed his eyes and demanded
to be put down. So Kenneth set him on his feet. The little lad stood
in sleepy bewilderment a moment, then with an engaging smile, offered
one hand to Esther, and the other to Kenneth. He began to chatter.

"Bobbie loves his mither."

"So do I," responded Kenneth.

Esther bit her lip. She would not look up. But she felt her cheeks
flush.

"Mr. Kenneth love Bobbie's mither?"

Kenneth laughed, a free, happy laugh. It was contagious, and the
child laughed too. So did Esther in spite of herself.

"Mr. Kenneth tan't love Bobbie's mither."

"Can't, eh?" Again the happy laugh. "Who says I can't?"

"I do, his adopted mother," said the girl, demurely.

"I'll just capture you the way Bobbie did, and you can't help
yourself." And again the stern eyes that seldom smiled, were filled
with laughter.

Esther suddenly stopped.

"_I_ can take Bobbie home."

"So can I," he said carelessly, with a suggestion of laughter still in
his voice.

"I command you, Mr. Persistency, to turn about and leave me to take
Bobbie home."

"I refuse to obey, Miss Obstinacy." A low chuckle.

"I suppose I'll have to endure you, then," she said, with mock
seriousness.

"I suppose you will," he said. He seemed to enjoy the tilt. "But Miss
Bright--." He stood still and faced her. "--I didn't know you were
such a fighter. Here I have been trying to make you understand how I
appreciate you, and you almost give me a black eye."

"You had two before--ever you saw me," she said.

"You have looked into them, then," he said, maliciously, "so that you
know their color?"

He was, provokingly confident in his manner. Suddenly she stopped
again. They were almost at Mrs. Carmichael's door, and Robert Duncan's
shack was not far away.

"Really, Mr Hastings," she said, resuming a serious tone, "I do wish
you would leave me."

"No," he persisted, "I am going to see you safely home."

Mrs. Carmichael met them at the door. Donald had already reached home,
and had told her of Bobbie's refusal to return with him. She patted
the little one on the head. He was an attractive little boy, and it
was evident Mrs. Carmichael loved him. She stooped and extended her
arms, and the child ran into them.

"So my Bobbie was nae coming home tae his auntie? What'd I dae wi'oot
him?"

Bobbie hung his head and then said softly:

"Bobbie hae found a mither."

The call was prolonged in order to get Bobbie into a staying frame of
mind. At last they spied Robert Duncan approaching his shack, when
Kenneth stepped over to tell him of Bobbie's decision and afternoon
experience. At first the man smiled, then the tears trickled down his
face.

"Puir bairn, puir bairn," he said, huskily. Kenneth laid a kindly hand
on his shoulder. He knew that Duncan was disheartened, and had spent
much time, lately, in the saloons.

"Come," he said. "Come get the little chap. It is evident he misses
his mother."

"Yes, he misses her, an' I miss her. I'll gie mair time tae him."

So saying, he accompanied Kenneth to the Carmichael home and soon
Bobbie was in his father's arms.

The call of Kenneth and Esther drew to a close.

As the two walked briskly toward the camp, Esther Bright paused from
time to time to draw in great breaths of air, and to drink in the
glory of the world about her.

"Come," her companion said, "we shall be late to dinner. Did you know
I am invited to dine with the Claytons to-night?"

"Really!" She tossed back the curls the stiff breeze had blown across
her eyes.

"Really!" he echoed, in a tone of mockery. "Miss Bright, pardon me,
but you--" He paused.

"Well?" she said. "What about _you_?"

"You look altogether charming."

She stopped. He walked on.

"You are perfectly incorrigible," she called. "Unless you promise to
talk sense, I'll not go a step further with you."

He turned.

"Sense?" he said with mock seriousness, "that's what I have been
talking when in your society all these weeks past. And here you make
me play second fiddle to Jack Harding, Wathemah and Bobbie."

"And you prefer to be _first_ fiddle?"

"Of course!"

She seemed in high spirits, ready for a tilt.

"Do be sensible," she said gayly.

"Sensible? I was never more sensible in my life." He made a long face.

"Unfortunate man!" She sighed, as though his condition were utterly
hopeless.

He laughed.

"Miss Bright!"

"Mr. Hastings!"

"I have been thinking!"

"Marvelous!" She seemed like some mocking sprite.

"Why don't you ask what I am thinking about?" He seemed provokingly
cool.

"Because you are just dying to tell me." She was piquant.

"I vow I'm not. I won't tell you!"

"All right," she returned, quickening her pace.

"Really, now, _don't_ you wish to know what I have been thinking
about?" He stepped nearer to her.

"I'm not the least bit concerned," she answered with airy
indifference. "I wouldn't know for anything."

"Then I'll tell you. I was just thinking what fun it would be to meet
you in society, and have a rattling flirtation with you."

"Indeed!" She lifted her head. "You'd find Greek had met Greek."

"I've no doubt. That would be the fun of it."

"And you might die of a broken heart." Her tone was full of laughter.

"That's what I'm doing already." He looked comical. "And you take no
pity on me."

"You might take a dose of soothing syrup." She looked extremely
solicitous.

"How extremely kind of you, Miss Bright. But my malady is in the
region of the heart. I suspect you think I haven't a heart. But
really, Miss Skeptic, a heart happens to be a part of my anatomy."

"I thought we were to talk sense," she reminded him.

Just then they heard a familiar call, and turning, saw Lord Kelwin
hastening towards them.

"By George!" he said, breathing hard. "I have been trying to overtake
you two for a half mile. You seemed to be having a mighty good time."

"Good time?" echoed Kenneth. "Miss Bright has been abusing me all the
way." He assumed an injured air.

"I have no doubt, Miss Bright, that Mr. Kenneth enjoyed the treatment
he received," remarked Lord Kelwin.

"Enjoyed it?" Kenneth interjected. "I have been a perfect martyr to
feminine cruelty. And would you believe it? Miss Bright has been
trying to palm off on me that she is not a daughter of Eve."

"You are a veritable son of Adam," she rejoined, gayly. "And to think
that I shall have to endure you at dinner!"

"You'll have to endure another son of Adam, too," interjected Lord
Kelwin, "for I am invited also."

At once new light broke in upon Esther.

"I believe you are letting the cat out of the bag," she said, "for I
am sure this is intended to be a surprise for me. I have a birthday
to-day."

"A birthday?" Kenneth said. "Let me see--" he said with comic gravity,
"--you are getting to be a venerable lady. I presume you'll never see
fifty again?"

"Oh, I assure you that is altogether too young." Then she turned to
Lord Kelwin.

"Do you think it proper to suggest such frivolity as a flirtation to
one of my advanced years?"

"Highly improper. Highly improper," said the Irishman, "but I'd like a
hand in such a flirtation myself." He seemed to enjoy the nonsense.

"Then there would be two victims."

"You and I?" questioned Lord Kelwin.

"No; you and Mr. Kenneth."

"I was just thinking--." Lord Kelwin paused, to think of something
that would make him a score.

"Thinking! Thinking!" as though that were quite incomprehensible. "Mr.
Hastings also claimed to be thinking."

"Better leave her alone, Kelwin," laughed Kenneth. "She will have the
last word. She's like the woman with the scissors."

"Good avenin'," said a rich brogue just at hand.

"How are you, Patrick?" said Kenneth.

"Well, sir. How are yez, Miss?" He gave his slouch hat a jerk. "Good
avenin', Lord Kelwin."

They walked on together, and the talk drifted to the Gila Club.

"I'm really surprised, don't you know," said Lord Kelwin, "at the
interest these fellows take in the club."

"It's the first dacint thing the byes has had ter go to. Look at that
saloon there!" he said, pointing to an overgrown shack, where women of
the coarsest type presided. "And look at that opium den," he said,
indicating a small building at their right. "And see that haythen," he
said, pointing to a female who stood in the door of a saloon, her
cheeks painted, and puffing away at a cigarette. "Thim is the things
as has sint the byes to desthruction."

Kenneth Hastings and Lord Kelwin made no reply.

"If yez kape on, schoolma'am," continued Patrick, "yez'll wipe out the
saloons and opium places, an' make dacint min an' women out of these
poor crathers." He nodded his head.

"So pitifully sad!" Esther's vivacious mood suddenly vanished. She was
again grave and thoughtful.

"Aye," said Patrick, "but yez kin do it, Miss, niver yez doubt it. Yez
can do it! Oi used ter go ter the saloon mesilf, but Oi'll go no more,
no more. That's what yez has done fur me."

Just then Wathemah came running and leaping from Keith's saloon. In a
moment he spied them, and ran full tilt towards them.

"It makes me sick at heart," Esther said in a low tone to Patrick,
"whenever I think of Wathemah living longer in the saloon."

"Yez air right, Miss," answered Patrick, "but Misthress Keith is a
purty dacint sort av a woman, and she has been good ter the lad."

"Yes, I realize that. But I wish I could take him myself."

By this time the child was trudging along beside his Beloved.

Lord Kelwin liked to tease him, and said in a bantering tone, "What
are you always hanging on to Miss Bright's hand for, Wathemah? She
don't allow the rest of her admirers to do that."

Wathemah placed his other hand over the hand he clasped.

"_Me_ teacher _mine_!" he said, defiantly.

The men laughed. The teacher placed one hand on the child's head. He
rested his cheek against her hand, as he said softly, "Me _mother_."

"Your mother, eh?" Lord Kelwin looked amused. "I wish she'd mother the
rest of us."

The child did not understand the laughter, and fancying himself
ridiculed by Lord Kelwin, turned, ran and leaped like a squirrel to
his shoulder, and struck him in the face.

"You little savage," the Irishman said, angrily, as he grasped the
child and shook him.

"Let _me_ settle with Wathemah," said Esther, firmly. She stepped
forward, and took him by the arm, and held him. "Go on," she said to
the men, "I will follow."

They sauntered on, leaving her with the refractory urchin. When she
and the child finally overtook them, Wathemah's face was tear-stained.

Nothing more was said to the child until they reached the Clayton
door.

"I guess you had better go back now, dear," Esther said, placing her
hand on Wathemah's shoulder.

"No," he said stoutly, "Mrs. Clayton ask Wathemah he Miss Bright
party."

"Oh, yes," she said, with sudden understanding, "you came to celebrate
my birthday, didn't you?"

He nodded.

"You want me to wash your face and hands, don't you, Wathemah?" she
asked. And off she went with the child.

"By George," said Lord Kelwin, "I never saw such a woman."

"Nor I," returned Kenneth. "There is no other like her."

The other whistled, and Kenneth flushed. His companion went on, "I'd
like to know if she really has a fortune."

"Better ask her." Lord Kelwin did not observe the look of contempt on
Kenneth's face.

But host and hostess had entered the spacious room, and were extending
gracious welcomes.

"Does either of you happen to know of the whereabouts of Miss Bright?"
questioned Mr. Clayton.

On learning of her arrival with them, he rallied them on spiriting her
off. In the midst of the raillery, Esther and Wathemah entered the
room. The latter found his way at once to Mr. Clayton's side, for they
were great friends. The entrance of Esther was the signal for further
badinage.

"John, what do you think of a young lady who tells her escort she
supposes she'll have to endure him?"

"Mr. Clayton," she said, with a saucy tilt of her head, "what do you
think of gentlemen who tell a lady they would like to flirt with
her?"

"That depends," he answered, with a broad smile, "upon who the lady
is. Now if I were not a staid married man--"

"You do not answer my question," she said. "You introduce an
altogether extraneous matter. I asked you what you thought of
gentlemen who would tell a lady they would like to flirt with her."
Here both Lord Kelwin and Kenneth Hastings tried to present their
cases. Esther raised her hand. "Would you not consider this great
frivolity, Mr. Clayton?" And she assumed a prim, shocked expression so
funny that all laughed.

"If you wish to know my candid opinion," he said, with the air of a
judge, "I believe they were within the law; but, if they were guilty
offenders, they have my sympathy."

Wathemah looked from one to another with a puzzled expression as he
listened to their laughter. He seemed to sense the fact that his
Beloved was in some way the butt of their fun. In a moment he had slid
from his place on John Clayton's knee, and was standing leaning
against Esther.

"That's right, Wathemah," she said, pretending to be greatly injured,
"you take my part."

"Look out here, young man," said Lord Kelwin, as Wathemah approached
him with a threatening fist. Kenneth caught the child, and held him
close in his arms, whispering to him, "We're only fooling, Wathemah."

But he said aloud:

"Did you know, John, that Miss Bright has become an adopted mother?"

"No. Whom has she adopted? You?"

"Me? No. That's a good one. She's adopted Duncan's little boy,
Bobbie. And when I suggested that I'd like to change places with
Bobbie, she almost annihilated me."

All seemed to be enjoying the nonsense.

"Really, Miss Bright," continued Lord Kelwin, "I think you should be
at the head of an orphanage."

"I suppose you'd like to be chief orphan," suggested John Clayton.

Then the talk drifted to serious themes, until dinner was announced. A
birthday cake with sixteen lighted candles, in the center of the
table, was the signal for another fusillade of fun.

"Sixteen! sixteen!" said Kenneth Hastings. "I accused Miss Bright,
to-day, of being fifty, and she assured me she was not so young as
that."

"Sixteen! sweet sixteen!" said Lord Kelwin, bowing low.

She, in turn, bowed _her_ head.

"You see," she said, "our good prophet, Mrs. Clayton, cried out, and
the shadow has turned backward on the dial of Ahaz."

"It is not so much the number of years we count on the dial, after
all," spoke Mrs. Clayton, who had thus far listened smilingly to the
others; "it is what we live into those years. And you have lived
already a long life in your few years, dear friend."

"You are right," Kenneth rejoined. "Miss Bright has lived more years
of service to her fellow men in the few months she has been in Gila,
than I have lived in my thirty years." Then, half in jest, half in
earnest, he continued, "I wish Miss Bright could have been my
grandmother, then my mother, then my--" He halted in embarrassment, as
he saw a deep blush sweep over Esther's face.

"And then--" suggested Lord Kelwin, in a provoking tone--"and then?"

"I should like her for my _friend_."

"So say we all of us," rejoined John Clayton. Then observing Esther's
face, he changed the drift of the conversation.

"How would you good people like to make up a party to go to Box Canyon
sometime in the near future?"

"Delightful!" spoke several, simultaneously. And thereupon they began
to describe for Esther the canyon and what she would see.

Before leaving the table, every wineglass save one was filled with
sherry. That glass was turned down. John Clayton rose and lifted his
glass.

"Here's to our dear friend, Miss Bright. May she always be sixteen at
heart, with her ideals of life as true and as sweet as they are now;
may the cares of life sit lightly upon her; may she be given strength
to do all that she will always seek out and find to do; may the love
of the true of heart enfold her; may the Heavenly Father keep her in
all her ways; may the shadow ever turn backward on the dial."

And lifting their glasses, they drank to this toast.

Ah, little did they realize how prophetic in some ways that toast
would prove to be, nor how great was the work that lay before the
lovely and fragile-looking girl. All were happy and light-hearted; at
least, all save Carla Earle. She sat quiet and retiring, when her
duties were over. Wathemah had found refuge in her lap, and his
regular breathing assured her he was fast asleep. So the evening wore
on. At last all the guests except Wathemah had departed. The fire
burned low. And soon all were asleep in the quiet house.



CHAPTER XIV

THE GREAT TRANSFORMATION


John Harding seemed a new man. If ever man fought desperately the evil
in his nature, he did. It would be foolish to say that he became a
saint. Far from it. He was at all times very human.

All the years of his life, his deeper nature had been lying fallow. No
one had ever cared enough about him to suspect or discover its
richness. Now some one had found him who did care, and who knew
instinctively what lay below the forbidding exterior.

He sought Esther Bright with all sorts of questions, many of them
questions a child might have asked (for he was but a child as yet in
knowledge of many things); and she poured out the richness of her own
knowledge, the inspiration of her transcendent faith, until the man
roused from a long sleep, and began to grapple with great questions of
life. He read, he thought, and he questioned.

Sometimes, when long away from Esther's influence, he yielded to the
temptations of the saloon again, and drank heavily. On one of these
occasions, he chanced to cross her path as he came staggering from a
saloon. He tried to avoid her, but failed.

"Oh, Jack," she said, laying her hand on his arm, "is this what Jesus
would have you do? Come home."

"'Taint no use," he answered, in a drunken drawl, "no use. I ain't
nobody; never was nobody. Let me be, I say. Nobody cares a blank for
me." He threw an arm out impatiently.

"'Sh!" she interrupted. "Jesus cares. Mr. and Mrs. Clayton care. I
care. Miss Edith cares. Come home with me, John."

So saying, she led him on to the Clayton ranch.

After a field has lain fallow many years, it must be turned and
overturned again, in order to yield an abundant harvest. So it is with
a soul.

John Harding's soul was slowly but surely being prepared to receive
the seeds of truth. There were days when it seemed as though a demon
possessed him. Then he would mysteriously disappear, and be gone for
days. He always returned worn and haggard, but gentle. Then he would
seek Esther Bright, and say simply:

"I have conquered!"

He seemed to know intuitively that she never lost faith in him. He
felt certain that he would yet become what she wished him to be,--a
true man. And this conviction made every battle with himself less
terrible. At last he knew that the good in him was master.

All this did not come about at once. Months passed before he knew that
he could feel sure of his victory.

In the meantime, the church service had become established in Gila.
Esther Bright preached with deepening spiritual power. The cowlasses
now attended regularly. Other women, too, had come. Miners, dirt
begrimed, had astonished their cronies by coming to hear the teacher
talk. Even men from the charcoal pits and burro camps found their way
to the crowded room.

One Sunday, the atmosphere of the meeting was so remarkable it still
stands out in the memory of many a Gilaite of those early days.

Esther Bright had preached on the Healing of the Lepers. She had told
them of the disease of leprosy, its loathsomeness, its hopelessness.
Then she vividly pictured the ten lepers, the approach of Christ, and
their marvelous restoration. She showed them sin, its power to degrade
men and women, and to weaken the will. She urged the need of God's
help, and the necessity for each one to put forth his will power. Her
low, earnest, heart-searching voice seemed to move many in that
audience. Again and again rough hands brushed away tears they were
ashamed for others to see. Ah, could there be help for them! Could
there!

The speaker seemed filled with a power outside of herself, a power
that was appealing to the consciences of men.

Kenneth Hastings, caught in this great spiritual tide, was swept from
his moorings, out, out, on and away from self, Godward. He rose and
spoke with deep feeling. Then some one sang the first stanza of "Where
are the Nine?" The singing ceased. The Spirit of God seemed brooding
over all. The pregnant silence was followed by a succession of
marvels. A Scotch miner rose and said:

"I am a sinner. Jesus, Maister, hae mercy on _me_."

Then voice after voice was heard confessing sin and praying for mercy.

At the close of the service, there were many touching scenes as men
and women long hardened and burdened, came to this young girl for
words of hope and encouragement.

If ever human being was an instrument in the hands of God, Esther
Bright was that day.

The attendance at the meetings increased so that the schoolhouse could
no longer accommodate the people. It was still too cool to hold
out-of-door meetings. In the midst of Esther's perplexity, she
received a call from one of the saloon keepers.

"I 'ave been attending the meetings," he said, "and see that you need
a larger room. I 'ave come to offer you my saloon."

"Your saloon, Mr. Keith?" she said, aghast.

"Yes," he replied, "my saloon! I'm one of the lepers ye told about the
other day. I 'ave decided to give up the saloon business."

This was beyond Esther's wildest dreams.

"You have decided to give up the saloon?" she said, overjoyed. "I am
so glad! But how will you make your living?"

"I'll go to minin' again, an' my wife'll keep boarders. She's glad to
'ave me give up the dram shop."

Esther's eyes filled with happy tears.

The first Sunday in February had arrived. Nearly all vestiges of a
saloon had disappeared from what had been Keith's saloon. Masses of
mistletoe and fragrant spruce had taken the place of indecent
pictures. A cabinet organ, borrowed for the occasion, stood at one
side. A small table served as the speaker's desk. The billiard tables
had disappeared, and chairs now filled the room.

The crowd that gathered about the door the day of this first service
in the saloon was unusually large, for word had gone out that David
Bright, the grandfather of their pastor, would speak at the meeting.

The saving of the souls of men had come to be the vital question of
the hour in Gila.

As the crowd caught sight of a stately white-haired man accompanying
their leader, there was a respectful hush. Men and women stepped
aside, leaving a passage to the door. The two entered. The singers
were already in their places. The congregation assembled, and the song
service began. At its close, there followed an impressive stillness,
broken only by the joyous notes of a Kentucky cardinal.

The aged preacher sat with bowed head. One would hardly have been
surprised to hear a voice from on high.

At last he rose. Everyone looked intently into his benevolent, kindly
face. Slowly and impressively he repeated:

"Repent ye; for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand."

He repeated the words a second time, then took his seat.

Again the pregnant silence. When David Bright rose the second time, he
read Matthew III., and closing his Bible spoke to them for an hour,
holding their undivided attention.

"Beloved," he said, "this voice is speaking to us to-day. 'Repent ye:
for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.' The kingdom comes to us
individually. It comes only as men's hearts are prepared for it."

Then he carried his audience with him as he preached the need of
repentance, and Christ's compassionate love for every human soul. His
voice rose and fell, and the roughest men listened, while down many
faces flowed repentant tears. Oh miracle of miracles,--the turning
from sin to righteousness! Oh greatest experience of the human
heart,--the entrance of the Divine!

As the godly man took his seat, Esther Bright rose, and sang, with
face shining, "I Love to Tell the Story." As she sang, the notes of
the Kentucky cardinal burst forth, a joyous accompaniment to her glad
song.

To the amazement of all, Ben Keith rose and said:

"I 'ave been a sinful man. May God forgive me. I repent me of my sins.
I 'ave led men and women astray in this saloon. May God forgive me. I
'ave determined to turn face about, and to lead an honest life. I 'ave
sold my last drop o' whiskey. I 'ave poured all I 'ad left on the
ground. I shall keep no more saloon. May God 'ave mercy on my soul,
and on the souls of them as I 'ave led astray."

A sob was heard. It came from the long-suffering Mrs. Keith. Then
another stood, asking for prayers; then another, then another. Last of
all, David Bright rose, and after speaking a few fatherly encouraging
words, he dismissed them with the benediction.

He was soon surrounded by men waiting for a word, a hand grasp. They
asked for personal conferences with him.

"Let us go down to the timber," suggested Jack Harding. So together
these men strolled down to the river bank.

"Thou art troubled about the unpardonable sin, thou sayest?" the
preacher said to a young man walking by his side.

"Yes," replied the youth addressed. "I've been a bad one, but now I
really want to be a Christian. I fear I have committed the
unpardonable sin. Do you suppose--" he asked in a voice that choked a
little, "that God could pardon such a sinner as I am?"

"With God all things are possible," reverently replied the other,
laying a kindly hand on the young man's shoulder. "The only sin that
seems to me to be unpardonable is that unrighteous obstinacy that
forever refuses the _offer_ of salvation."

And into the old man's face came an expression of sorrow.

"But if the offer of salvation is forever _passed by_, what then?"
asked another.

"I believe the soul is lost."

"You mean the soul is in a place of fire and torment, literal hell
fire?" asked the first speaker.

"I said I believe the soul is lost."

"Then you don't believe in hell?" asked another.

"No," answered David Bright; "not as some believe in it,--literal
fire. Spirit or soul is, I believe, immortal. It lives on. To know
God, and Jesus Christ, His Son, is eternal life; not to know them is
death. To obey the laws of God here on earth means a foretaste of
heaven; to disobey them, means a foretaste of hell."

"And you think there can be hell on earth?" asked one.

"Yes: a man's own evil mind and life make for him a constant hell."

"And you believe heaven may begin on earth?"

"I do. Heaven is the rightful heritage of the soul. Heaven is accord
with the Divine. It is the natural environment of the soul. It is more
natural to do right than wrong. It is evil environment that perverts
the soul."

They seated themselves on a dead tree trunk.

"Here," said David Bright, laying his hand on the fallen tree, "you
see an illustration of what happens to many a life. Its environment
has brought a parasite that lays hold upon the life of the tree, saps
its strength, and decay follows. Destructive agencies in a sinful
environment lay hold of human life, sap its strength, and moral decay
follows. Many a strong man has fallen as has this magnificent tree.
Nothing can revitalize the tree once fallen into decay; but, thanks be
to God, there _is_ a force that can revitalize the human being long
after he seems dead and lost to the world, and that is the redemptive
power of Jesus Christ. There is no other name under heaven given
among men whereby we must be saved."

The look of one who bears the sorrow of his race upon his heart came
into the beautiful face. And the men watched him with deepening
reverence for their kind.

One who had thus far been silent spoke.

"But if the soul is immortal, spiritual death cannot come."

The old man looked keenly into the young man's eyes. He spoke with
deepest conviction as he said:

"I believe there is almost no limit to the possibilities of the mind
and soul to him whose ideals are high, whose courage is great, and who
holds himself to the very highest ideals of living. Christ paved the
way for such a life for every young man. That sort of life is real
living, for it means constructive work in the world. It means growth,
immortality.

"To come short of what one might be, steadily, increasingly, brings
moral deterioration, atrophy;--to my mind, the saddest form of death.
It is life to grow toward the Divine. My son, it will soon be too
late. Turn Godward now. Shall we pray?"

Then up to the throne of God went a prayer for these young men,--sons
of parents who had long ago lost their grip on them.

For about two weeks, religious meetings were held daily. Night after
night the room was crowded. The services consisted of talks by David
Bright, songs, short prayers and testimony. Sometimes several men and
women would be on their feet at once, eager to voice their repentance,
and to testify of God's mercy.

The interest did not end here. Down in the mines, brief meetings were
held daily at the noon hour. One group of miners would start a hymn;
then way off, another group would catch up the refrain. On many lips
the oath or unclean story died unspoken.

Men sought David Bright as they would a father confessor, pouring the
story of their lives into his kind and sympathetic ear. They seemed to
know intuitively that he was a man of God. What mattered, if he were
Catholic or Protestant? He found men evil, and left them good.

And Esther Bright's influence was hardly less marked. Her deep
spirituality made her a great power for righteousness.

John Harding seemed scarcely less interested in saving men's souls
than she. "Giving men a chance," he called it. He went from mining
camp to mining camp, carrying the tidings of salvation, and urging men
to repent. And those who heard him not only came to the meetings, but
began to bring others also. And so the work grew.

It was at the close of David Bright's second week in Gila that the
most impressive meeting was held. At its close, the aged evangelist
bade them farewell. Then they crowded about him, thanking him for all
he had done for them, and asking him to remember them in his prayers.

Kenneth Hastings was the last to speak with him. He asked for a
personal interview. Then arm in arm, they strolled up the mountain
road.

What was said during that interview no one ever knew. But when the two
returned to Clayton Ranch, David Bright walked with his hand resting
on the young man's shoulder. Esther heard her grandfather say to him:

"I honor thee for it, my son. I believe under the same circumstances,
I should feel as thou dost. It is a serious question."

Kenneth said something in reply that did not reach Esther's ears. She
heard her grandfather speaking again:

"Yes, she is an unusual woman, as thou sayest. She has always been a
delightful character, and Christlike in her purity. She is
compassionate and loving because she has always walked in the Master's
steps."

The two men entered the house, and John Clayton advanced to greet
them.

"That was a great meeting," he said.

"Yes," David Bright replied, "God has touched the hearts of the
people."

He sat down by his granddaughter, put his arm about her, and drew her
to him.

"The field is white unto the harvest, Beloved," he said, looking into
her upturned face.

"I hadn't thought of the harvest yet, Grandfather," she said simply.
"We have been getting the soil ready to sow good seed at every
opportunity. We are on the verge of the growing time."

"Well, well, as you will, little philosopher," he said, releasing her.

It was a lovely picture to see the two side by side. The white head of
the one suggested a life work near completion; while the golden brown
of the other, suggested life's work at its beginning. Happy would it
be if godly and beautiful age could give up its unfinished tasks to
those who are content to prepare the soil, and sow good seed, intent
on the growing time!

The social hours in the Clayton home that day were ones to be long
remembered. David Bright was a man enriched from many sources. He gave
himself to his companions in intercourse as rare as it was beautiful.
Conversation had never become to him a lost art; it was the flowering
out of the life within.

And Kenneth Hastings listened. If _he_ had only had such a father! He
was beginning to see it all now,--life's great possibility.

At last he was drawn into the conversation.

"I hardly know," he responded to a question from David Bright. How
many things he now realized he "hardly knew!" How vague a notion he
had, anyhow, of many questions affecting the destiny of the human
race! He thought aloud:

"You see Mr. Bright, I was reared in a worldly home, and I was brought
up in the Church of England. My religion is simply a beautiful ritual.
But, further than that, I know nothing about it. I never felt any
interest in religion until--" here his face flushed "--until your
granddaughter came. She found me a heathen--" He hesitated, and
glancing toward Esther, caught her glance. How lovely she was! As he
hesitated, David Bright finished his sentence, smiling genially as he
did so.

"And made you a Christian, I hope."

"I fear not. I am plagued with doubts."

"You will conquer the doubts," responded David Bright, "and be
stronger for the struggle. Triumphant faith is worth battling for."

"Well," said Kenneth, "I feel that I am adrift on a great sea. If
anyone pilots me to a safe harbor, it will be your granddaughter."

"No," she said, looking into his face with a sudden radiance in her
own, "but the Man of Galilee."

And so the talk drifted, talk where each one could be himself and
speak out of his innermost heart, and not be misunderstood. So
blessed is friendship of the higher sort.

The day passed and the morrow dawned. Then David Bright journeyed
eastward again, to minister to the world's unfortunate ones.

He left behind him in Gila an influence that men speak of to this day.
But to no one, probably, did his coming mean more than to John
Harding. John's transformation was now complete. He became the
self-appointed evangelist to numbers of unfortunate and tempted men.
He had risen in the scale of life, and had become a Man!



CHAPTER XV

SOME SOCIAL EXPERIENCES


One evening about the middle of February, Kenneth Hastings called at
the Clayton home. After a few moments of general conversation, he
turned to Mrs. Clayton and begged to be excused from his engagement to
accompany them to Box Canyon.

"Oh, Mr. Kenneth," protested Edith.

"I am sorry, Edith," he said, turning to her, "but I leave to-morrow
for England."

"For England!" ejaculated Esther in astonishment; for she knew that a
visit to England had been remote from his thoughts the last time she
had talked with him.

"Nothing wrong at home, I hope, Kenneth?" said John Clayton, kindly.

"My uncle cabled me that my parents were killed in an accident. It is
imperative that I go at once."

He paused. John Clayton reached over and laid a hand on his arm. Mrs.
Clayton spoke a few words of sympathy; but Esther Bright sat silent.
How she had urged him to make his parents a visit! How he had rebuffed
her, saying they cared nothing for him! She remembered his saying that
he had always been starved for a mother's love. Too late now to give
or to receive.

She felt Kenneth looking at her, expecting her to say some word. She
seemed suddenly dumb. At last she heard him speak her name. He
hesitated, then continued:

"I wish I had gone when you suggested it, Miss Bright."

He bowed his head upon his hand.

"I wish you _had_ gone," she said, simply. "It might have been a
comfort to you."

After awhile he spoke cheerfully of his return, and of what they would
do.

"Don't let Miss Bright work too hard," he said, smiling gravely. "She
does enough work for five men."

"I shall miss your help," was all she said. But she felt a sudden
longing to comfort him. Into her face flashed a look of sympathy. He
knew it was for him.

"It almost makes me homesick, Kenneth, to hear you talk of going
home," said Mrs. Clayton. "England always will seem home to me," she
added, turning to Esther.

"It is a beautiful country to call home," responded the New England
girl. "I love England."

They talked till late, Kenneth receiving message after message from
them to kindred and friends across the sea.

He rose to go, taking leave of Esther last of all. Then he turned to
her with both hands extended. She placed her own in his. He drew her
towards him, and without a word, turned and was gone.

Esther withdrew, and Edith and Carla soon followed, leaving John
Clayton and his wife seated before the fireplace.

"Well, John!" said the wife.

"Well, my dear?" responded the husband, apparently surmising what was
coming.

"Kenneth _loves_ Miss Bright."

"Well, is this the first time you have suspected that?" As though he
had always suspected it.

"No! But--"

"But what?"

"Is he worthy of her, John?"

"Don't be foolish, Mary. Kenneth is a true and honorable man. Yes--"
pausing to listen to her expostulations,--"I know he used to drink
some; but I never saw him intoxicated. He played cards as we do here,
and when he was in the company of men who gambled, he gambled too."

"But morally, John. It's goodness that a woman cares most about. Is he
all right morally?"

He drew his chair close to hers.

"I believe Kenneth to be clean morally. If he had been immoral here, I
should have known of it. And yet he, like the other men, has been
surrounded by temptation. What is gross does not appeal to him. I have
never known him to speak lightly of any woman. For you and Edith he
has the deepest respect; for Carla, he has the utmost compassion; and
for Miss Bright, (bless her!) he has a reverence I have never seen any
man show to any woman."

"Then he loves her, doesn't he?"

"He never told me so," he answered, smiling; "I doubt if he has told
her."

"But after that good-by to-night," she persisted, "I _know_ he loves
her."

"I hope he does, Mary, and that she cares for him. I don't see how she
could help it. I'd like to see them happy,--as happy as you and I are,
Mary."

He leaned toward her, resting his cheek against hers.

"As happy as we are, Beloved. Twenty years married. Am I right? And
lovers still."

"Yes, twenty happy years," she said, "twenty happy years. But, John,
do you think Miss Bright would make Kenneth happy? Would she give up
her philanthropic ideas to devote herself to one ordinary man?"

"Oh, that's what's troubling you now, is it?" he asked, laughing
outright. Then he spoke seriously:

"I believe Miss Bright could and would make Kenneth supremely happy.
You know she is domestic in her tastes, and I believe home would
always be her first consideration. But she is such a broad, public
spirited woman she would always be a public benefactor. And Kenneth is
not an ordinary man. You know that well. He is superior. I do not know
of any man for whom I have such a strong friendship."

"I like Kenneth, too," she admitted. "But I was just thinking."

He rose and covered the embers for the night.

"Better leave them alone," he suggested. "Their story is so beautiful
I'd not like to have it spoiled."

"John!"

"Yes, Mary."

"I just thought of something!"

"Remarkable! What did you think of?"

"Kenneth will inherit a large fortune, won't he?"

"Of course."

"That might change his plans."

"I think not. He loves America, and the woman he loves is here. He
will return. Come! Let's to sleep."

The going of Kenneth Hastings brought a shadow over the household. His
departure was likewise the signal for frequent calls from Lord Kelwin.
It grew more apparent that he felt a marked interest in the teacher.
But whether she felt a corresponding interest in him, no one could
have determined. A few times she went horseback riding with him. He
assured her she was becoming an excellent horsewoman.

Lord Kelwin now became a constant attendant at the meetings of the
club, on all of which occasions he was Esther's self-appointed escort.

Once he ventured a remark about how it happened that a woman of her
rank and fortune and accomplishments should be teaching in a mining
camp.

"My rank? My fortune? My accomplishments?" she repeated, mystified.

"Yes," he said, patronizingly, "a lady of rank and fortune. I have met
several Americans of fortune,--great fortune,--in London and
Paris--ah--I--"

"But I am not a woman of rank and fortune, Lord Kelwin. I am just a
plain working woman."

He did not observe the amused smile about her eyes and mouth. "You are
not likely to find women of rank and fortune in a mining camp."

"It's wonderful how much these American heiresses think of titles,
don't you know, Miss Bright. Why, a man of rank can marry almost any
American girl he pleases."

"Just so," she assented. "He wins a fortune to pay his debts, and
squander otherwise; and she wins a title, dragged into the dust by a
degenerate nobleman, plus enough unhappiness to make her miserable the
rest of her life. An interesting business proposition, truly!"

"Why, really, Miss Bright,--ah--I--ah--I fear you grow sarcastic."

"_Really!_ Did you discern any approach to sarcasm in my remarks? I am
surprised!"

He was not prepared for the mockery in her voice, nor for something
about her that made him feel that she was his superior. Before he
could formulate a suitable reply, one quite in accord with his
sentiments and feelings, she continued:

"We shall doubtless live to see a social evolution. The American man
of genius, and force, and character is too intent on his great task of
carving out a fortune, or winning professional or artistic
distinction, to give his days and nights to social life.

"Now there are noblewomen of the Old World who are women of real
distinction, vastly superior to many men of their class, and who have
not been spoiled by too great wealth simply because their profligate
brothers have squandered the family fortunes.

"Now it occurs to me that it might be a great thing for the progress
of the human race, if the finest noblewomen of the Old World, who are
women of intellect, and culture, and character, should seek in
marriage our men of brains and character.

"The time has come when the American man of the highest type needs
something more than a fashion plate or a tailor's model for his mate."

"And have you no American women who could match your paragons, your
American _tradesmen_?" he asked, contemptuously.

"Oh, yes," she replied. "We have fine and noble American women. I was
just thinking how the Old World could be invigorated by the infusion
of fresh blood from the vital, progressive New World. Just think of a
brainy, womanly Lady Somebody of England, refusing to ally herself
with an inane, worthless nobleman of any country, and deliberately
_choosing_ a man of the people here, a man whose achievements have
made him great! Is there not a college of heraldry somewhere that
places intellect and character and achievement above rank and
fortune?"

He could not fathom her.

"How queer you are, Miss Bright! Such marriages," he continued, in a
tone of disgust, "would not be tolerated."

"Why not? They would be on a higher plane than the ones you boast of.
You exploit the marriage of title and money. I suggest, as an advance
upon that, the marriage of the highest type of the noblewoman of the
Old World, with no fortune but her intellect, her character, and her
fine breeding, with the highest type of noble manhood in America, a
man large enough and great enough to direct the progress of the
world."

"Ally the daughters of our nobility with plebeian Americans?--with
working men?"

"Why not?" she asked.

"Because we despise people in trades," he said, contemptuously.

"But the tradesmen who _make_ the fortunes are quite as good as their
daughters, who barter themselves and their fathers' wealth for titles.
You seem to approve of such alliances."

They had reached the veranda of the Clayton home. Esther Bright's hand
was on the door knob, and her companion took his leave.

How radical she must seem to him!

As she entered her own room, she found a letter bearing a London
postmark. It was the first letter she had received from Kenneth
Hastings, and it was a long one. She read it through, and then reread
it, and buried her face in her arms on the table. After awhile there
came a knock on the door. It was Carla. She had been crying. Esther
slipped an arm about her, and together they sat on the edge of the
bed.

"What is the matter, Carla?" she asked gently.

"Oh, I am so unhappy!"

"Has anyone hurt your feelings, dear?"

"Oh, no. It is not that. It is the other. I wish I could die!"

Esther drew Carla to her.

"You still care for Mr. Clifton; is that it?"

"Yes," she answered, with a sob, "that is it. I am _so_ unhappy!"

"Tell me all about it, Carla," said Esther, in a soothing tone.
"Perhaps it will be a relief for you to tell me. When a load is shared
it grows lighter."

"Well, you see, Papa and Mamma died, and I had no one but distant
kindred. They gave me a home, and I became a sort of servant in the
family. Mark Clifton was their nephew. He seemed to love me, and he
was the only one who did. He talked often of the home we'd have when
we are married, as I told you.

"I was sixteen when he came to America. Then he sent me money to come
to him, saying we'd be married on my arrival here.

"But when I reached Gila, he said he could not disgrace his _family_
by marrying _me_."

These words were followed by violent weeping. Then Esther comforted
her as best she could, and tucked her in her own bed. At last Carla
fell into a heavy sleep.

Again Esther opened Kenneth's letter, read it, and placed it in her
Bible.

So days came and went,--homely days, days of simple duties, days of
ministration to human need. And Esther Bright was happy.

One day as she lingered late at the schoolhouse, she was startled to
see a young Apache, dressed as a cowboy, standing in the doorway. For
an instant, she felt a sickening fear. Then her habit of self-control
asserted itself. She motioned him to a seat, but he did not seem to
understand. He spied her guitar, tried the strings, shook his head,
and muttered words unintelligible to her.

The Indian was, apparently, about her own age, tall, muscular, and
handsome. His long, glossy, black hair hung about his shoulders. On
his head, was a light felt hat, similar to the ones worn by the
cow-punchers. His trousers and jacket were of skins and cloth
respectively. In a moment he looked up at her, from his seat on the
floor, and jabbered something. Apparently, he approved of her. He
touched her dress and jabbered something else.

[2]"N[=e]-sh[=e]-äd-nl[)e]h´," he said, pointing southward towards the
Apache reservation.

[2] You be my squaw.

She told him, in poor Spanish, that she could not understand; but he
apparently understood her, and looked pleased. Again he repeated the
same words, using much gesticulation to help convey his meaning.

There was a step outside, and Robert Duncan appeared with Bobbie.

After greeting the teacher, Robert looked with unbounded astonishment
at her unusual visitor. Apparently the Apache was there on a friendly
visit. The Scotchman was about to pass on, when the teacher asked him
to stay. He entered the room, and said something to the Indian, who
answered, [3]"Indä-stzän´ [=u]´-sn-b[=e]-ceng-k[)e]´."

[3] The white woman is an angel.

Robert seemed to catch his meaning, and answered in Spanish that the
people called her the Angel of the Gila.

The Apache nodded his head approvingly, and said, [4]"Indä-stzän´
[=u]´-sn-b[=e]-tse´!"

[4] The white woman is the daughter of God.

He stepped up to the teacher, and took hold of her arm as if to draw
her away with him. She shook her head, and pointed to Robert Duncan,
who made signs to him that she was his squaw. At last the Indian
withdrew, turning, from time to time, to look back at the vision that,
apparently, had bewitched him.

Then Robert explained his own errand. He was seeking a mither for
Bobbie. The bairn must have a mither. He had understood her interest
in the bairn to be a corresponding interest in himself. He was muckle
pleased, he said, to be singled out for any woman's favor. He was nae
handsome man, he kenned that weel. He was ready tae marry her any time
she telt him. Robert looked wonderfully pleased with himself,
apparently confident of a successful wooing. His experience had been
limited.

"You wish to marry me, Mr. Duncan?" Outwardly, she was serious.

"Yes, Miss, sen ye was sae willin', I thocht I maucht as weel tak ye,
an' then I'd not be bothered wi' ither women.

"Have they troubled you?" she asked, with a look of amusement. "Have
they been attentive to you?"

"Not as attentive as y'rsel'."

"In what way have I been attentive to you, Mr. Duncan?" she asked,
looking still more amused.

"Ye've helpit me bairn, an' cleaned his claes, an' let him ca' ye
mither. Ye'd no hae doon that wi'oot wishin' the faither, too."

His confidence was rather startling.

"But suppose I do not wish the father. What then?"

"Oh, that could never be," he said, "that could never be."

"You have made a mistake, Mr. Duncan," she said, quietly. "You will
have to look elsewhere for a wife. Good afternoon."

Saying which, she turned the key in the door, and left him standing
dumb with astonishment.

After she had gone some distance, he called after her: "Ye are makin'
the mistak o' y'r life!"



CHAPTER XVI

OVER THE MOUNTAINS


One Friday early in May, Edith Clayton suddenly became ill. Esther,
returning from school, found Mrs. Clayton deeply distressed.

"Oh," she said, "if Mr. Clayton or the boys were only here to take
Edith to Carlisle, to see Dr. Brown!"

"How soon will they return?"

"Two days. I'm afraid to drive myself, and Edith sick."

"Does she know the way there, Mrs. Clayton?" Esther seemed weighing
the matter.

"Yes; she has gone with her father several times."

"Then if she is able to ride, and you are not afraid to trust me, I'll
take her. It is Friday, and still early."

"But, my dear, it is fifteen miles away, a long fatiguing journey over
rough mountain roads. You'll have to ford a river, and stay all night
at a ranch beyond the ford. Besides, it is a perilous drive. Oh, dear!
I am so worried!" Here she broke down completely.

"Don't let us waste any time, Mrs. Clayton. If you think Edith can
endure the journey, I am willing to run the risk. I'll take her
myself."

"I believe Edith could go all right,--but--"

"Never mind anything else. Give us the safe team, and we'll start."

A spirited team was soon at the door, and they were placing wraps,
cushions and luncheon in the carriage. Then Esther and Edith started.

For a few miles, they repeatedly crossed bridges over the Gila, then
their road followed the foothills for some distance. The hills were
still yellow with the silky California poppies. Green alfalfa fields,
in the valley below, looked like bits of Eden let down into the grimly
majestic scene. Higher the travelers rode, and higher. At a sudden
turn, they came upon the narrow and perilous canyon road, where they
drove slowly, drinking in the grandeur of it all.

The tinkling of a cowbell warned them that they were approaching a
human habitation. As they rounded a sharp jag, they came upon a
picturesque bridge, near the farther end of which they caught a
glimpse of a pine-slab cabin, half hidden by tremulous aspens. A
little Mexican child stood near the door, helping himself to the pink
and white blossoms of the wild sweet pea. Near by, a white cow, with
her clanking bell, browsed on the green turf that bordered that side
of the stream.

On and up the mountain, the travelers rode, into the heart of the
Rockies.

"Just look at that rose-colored sandstone," said Esther. "How
exquisitely veined! See the gigantic, overhanging mass of rock beyond!
And oh, the cactus blossoms! How glorious! The large scarlet blossoms!
See?"

"Yes. Exquisite, aren't they? But look at those cliffs over in that
direction, Miss Bright," said Edith, pointing to her left, as she
spoke. "Do you see anything unusual?"

"Yes. Quaint figures. Indian art, isn't it? I do wish I could see it
nearer by."

And so they traveled on, reveling in the beauty everywhere about them.

"Does it ever occur to you," asked Edith, "that God is nearer to us
here, in the mountains, than anywhere else?"

"Yes. Does God seem nearer to you here?"

"Much nearer. When we went home to England the last time, I missed
something. It seemed to me it was God. We went to the churches and
heard great preachers, but they did not make me feel the presence of
God as the mountains do. When I come out into the open, as you call
it, and see the mountains, it seems to me I could reach my hand out
and find God."

"The mountains do great things for us," said Esther, looking up at the
jagged cliffs.

Suddenly there was a whir of wings. An enormous eagle roused from his
perch on the rocks, made a bold swoop, and soared grandly above their
heads.

"Look, look!" cried Esther, in excitement. "An eagle, isn't it? Oh,
you splendid creature! How magnificently free!" Her cheeks flushed.

"Did you never see one before?"

"Yes, stuffed; but this bird is alive and free." She looked at Edith.

"You look pale, Edith," she said, with sudden alarm. "Are you feeling
worse?"

"No. Only tired. We'll soon reach the clearing, and just beyond that,
the ford; and just beyond that, the house. So I can soon rest."

Esther drew a deep breath, and said:

"I feel as though the spirit of the eagle had entered into me."

But darkness was coming on apace. To their relief they soon entered
the clearing, and reached the bank of the stream, where they halted a
few minutes. The horses pricked up their ears.

"Do you think the ford is dangerous now, Edith?"

"It is usually quite safe at this season, unless there has been a
cloudburst. The horses know the ford, and are used to crossing. Papa
gives them the rein, and they have always brought him safely through.
We had better place our luggage on the seat," she said, "and keep our
feet up. Tuck your skirts up, or you'll get a drenching."

Then she leaned forward, and called each horse by name.

In a moment they were in the river, with the water up to the horses'
shoulders. They felt the carriage swing with the current, and felt the
team struggling with the force of the waters. Then Esther called to
the horses, in tones that showed no fear, "Well done, Rocket! On,
Star, on!"

It seemed hours to her before the faithful animals were once more on
the shore, and safe.

"Were you frightened, Miss Bright?" asked Edith.

"Just a little. I never forded a stream before. But how nobly the
horses behaved!"

"Yes. It must be a hard struggle for them, though."

In about five minutes, they stopped before a house, tied their team,
and knocked at the door. A refined-looking young woman received them.

"Why, Esther Bright!" she exclaimed, with a little shriek, clasping
Esther in her arms.

"Why, Grace Gale! Bless your heart! Where in the world did you come
from? Grace, this is my friend, Miss Edith Clayton. She is ill, and I
am taking her to see Dr. Brown in Carlisle. We are seeking the
hospitality of this house overnight."

Before she was through speaking, Grace Gale was half carrying Edith
into the house.

"Come right in, come right in!" she said. "I'm delighted! Tickled to
death to see some one I know!"

She ushered them into a room guiltless of carpet, meagerly furnished,
but immaculately clean. Then she excused herself to send some one to
attend to the horses, and to tell her landlady she would entertain two
guests over night. She soon returned.

"But how did _you_ happen to come so far from civilization, Esther?"
she questioned.

"Oh, a combination of circumstances; but chiefly through Mrs. Clayton,
whom I met in England. What brought you out here?"

"I came for restoration of health," she answered, laughing merrily, as
though it were all a joke.

"I don't look very sickly now, do I? I had had double pneumonia, and
my physician ordered me to leave Boston, and go to a dry climate. So I
came to Arizona. I happened to meet the superintendent of education.
He needed teachers. So I came here, just for the fun of the thing."

"And has it been fun?", asked Esther, joining in her friend's
laughter.

"Fun? There have been so many funny things I have laughed myself into
stitches. For example, my landlady refuses to let me have any extra
bedding for to-night."

"Never mind. We have our cushions and lap-robe to help out. Who would
have dreamed, Grace, when we were at Wellesley, that we should meet
way out here in the wilds of Arizona? Oh, I'm _so_ glad to see you!"

"So am I, to see you. Now tell me all you know about the girls of our
class, Esther."

They were in the midst of a vivacious conversation, when a sleek,
tow-headed woman appeared at the door, and was presented to them. Then
she announced supper, and disappeared.

"Don't be frightened," whispered the merry hostess to her guests.
"She's tame, and won't bite, and the food is clean."

The landlady entered the kitchen, and after serving them, left the
room.

The hours sped merrily. The sick girl lay on the little bed, listening
to college reminiscences, and joining occasionally in the conversation
and laughter.

"Esther," said Miss Gale, "let's give the Wellesley yell for Edith."

"Well! Here goes!" said Esther, joining her friend. Suddenly, the
tow-head appeared at the door.

"Be ye sick?" inquired the surprised hostess.

"No," answered Miss Gale, "only giving our college yell."

"Ye don't say! Is them the kind er doin's ye has where ye goes ter
school?"

"A yell is a safety-valve, don't you see, Mrs. Svenson?"

But Mrs. Svenson left the room mumbling to herself.

At a late hour, Grace Gale made a shake down of one blanket, for
Esther and herself. Then Esther proposed they use Mrs. Clayton's
cushions, and shawls, and robe, to complete the preparations. Edith
slept in the bed.

After a while, the hostess asked:

"Are your bones coming through, Esther?"

"No, but I am sorry to put you to such inconvenience. I hope you won't
take cold. There is a chill in the air to-night."

"No more o' that, honey. I'm just glad to see you. This is the
biggest lark I have had since I came to Arizona."

The visitors laughed with her.

"My! It is eleven o'clock, and I must not keep this sick child awake
any longer. Good night, Esther."

"Good night, Grace."

"Good night, Edith."

"Good night."

A long pause.

"Esther," softly, "are you asleep?"

"No."

"I am so glad you came. I was almost dead from homesickness."

"Were you, Grace? I'm so sorry I didn't know you were so near."

On the following morning, the vivacious hostess said:

"I can't let you go. I'm so lonely." And to her surprise, tears rolled
down her cheeks.

"You dear girl!" said Esther, slipping her arm about her.

"Get your hat, and go with us on our visit to Dr. Brown. We have
enough luncheon to last us a week. Come right along."

So off the three drove.

It was a perfect May day, the kind found only in Arizona. The air was
crystal clear, and the sky a deep blue. All along, there were thickets
of sweet briar, and sweet peas; and cactuses, just beginning to bloom,
made the way one of continual splendor. The air was exhilarating; so
was the sunshine; so was Grace Gale.

"Oh, you're just as good as a tonic, Miss Gale," said Edith. All three
seemed to see the funny side of everything, and laughed even when
there was no excuse for laughing. The gladness of the day was
contagious.

The physician looked grave when he saw the unnatural pallor of Edith's
face, and noted her heart action.

"It is well Miss Bright brought you to me at once, Edith," he said.
"You need immediate medical attention. I wish you could remain with us
a few days."

But she insisted upon returning with her teacher.

After a due amount of rest and refreshment, they started homeward,
leaving Miss Gale at her boarding place. Then the two approached the
ford again. The stream was higher than on the preceding day, and the
waters raging.

Once more the spirited team dashed forward. Once more the carriage
swung with the current; only, now, it was swifter and stronger than on
the day before.

"Oh, this is terrible!" said Edith, grasping her companion's arm.

"Keep up courage, Edith," said Esther. "I think we'll make it."

But she noted the deathly whiteness of the girl's face.

"Steady, Rocket! Steady, Star!" said the teacher. Her own face grew
tense and white.

She felt the carriage swing with a sudden lurch, and it began to dawn
upon her that the horses might lose in the struggle. She lifted the
reins, and called out above the roar of the waters:

"On, Rocket! On, Star! Once more, my beauties! Bravo! Oh, God, give
them strength! On!"

She rose in her excitement, and swung the reins.

The noble animals struggled madly. Could they gain the opposite bank?
She was filled with sickening fear.

"On, Rocket! On, Star!" she urged again.

At that moment, the exhausted animals gained the mastery, sprang up
the embankment, and stopped suddenly on the level beyond, quivering
from their terrific struggle.

Esther gave the reins to Edith, and springing from the carriage, she
stepped to the horses' heads, patting and stroking them. Her voice
trembled as she said:

"Rocket, my brave, Star, my beauty, we owe our lives to you."

They whinnied as if they understood.

She put her cheek to their noses, she laughed, she cried.

"I believe they understand," she said.

"I feel sure they do," answered Edith.

When Esther climbed back into the carriage, she found Edith had
fainted. She waited till her patient regained consciousness, and then
they started homeward.

"Do you know," said Edith, after they had gone some distance, "we have
had a very narrow escape? A little more, and we'd have been swept down
the river."

"I didn't realize the full danger until we were in the midst of the
torrent," said Esther. "There was no choice but to go on. I thank God
that your life is safe, dear," she added, drawing the girl
affectionately to her. "I hope our troubles are over now, and that
you'll feel no ill effects from the fright."

They had covered miles of the return journey, and had reached the
canyon road leading directly to Gila. Here, for a short distance, the
canyon stream spreads wide, flowing over a pebbly bottom. The water
sparkled in the sunlight like a stream of diamonds. In the shallows,
the bed of the stream seemed jeweled with rubies and emeralds, opals
and amethysts, as the pebbles below the crystal water shimmered in the
late sunshine.

They were within a mile of Gila when they heard the sharp, shrill cry
of wolves. Esther tightened the reins, and the horses fairly flew.

"Have we a gun with us, Miss Bright? We ought to have one. I always
feel safer when I have a gun. You never know what you may meet on
these mountain roads."

"Can you shoot?" asked Esther.

"Oh, yes; father trained me to shoot. Oh, those terrible wolves!" she
said, as the shrill, mournful cries came nearer.

"On, Rocket! On, Star!" urged Esther, again.

The animals made a sudden lunge, and sped onward like mad. Around
jagged turns they flew, as if inviting death; near precipitous cliffs
they swung, till the driver was filled with sickening terror. On they
raced, the wolves in hot pursuit.

"Oh, dear!" said Edith, looking back. "One large wolf is far in
advance, and close upon us."

Quick as a flash, she stooped, took a great haunch of venison Dr.
Brown had sent to her father, and flung it behind them. Then she
watched in intense excitement.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, striking her hands together, "the wolf has
discovered the venison, and has stopped!"

With that, she took the whip, and gave the already excited animals a
stinging blow. They leaped and plunged madly forward. Esther doubled
the reins around her hands, and called in low, insistent tones:

"Steady, Rocket! Steady, Star!"

They had gained upon their pursuers, and the horses were running at
furious speed.

"The she-wolf," said Edith, looking back, "is again following; but the
smaller wolves are snarling over the venison."

"Ow-ee-ow," came the wolf-cry, shriller, sharper, nearer. Esther
shuddered. She urged the horses on. Edith grasped her arm in terror.

"The wolf is just behind us!" she said.

Suddenly there was the report of a gun. Esther glanced back, and saw
the wolf fall in the road. She glanced ahead, and, at first, she saw
no one. Then, out from the shade of a group of pines, rode Kenneth
Hastings.

"Whoa! Whoa!" he called, as he leaped from his own horse, and caught
Rocket by the bits. With a sudden lurch, the team came to a
standstill.

"Whoa, Rocket! Whoa, Star!" he called soothingly, as he held and
quieted the team.

"Oh, thank you, thank you, Mr. Hastings!" said Esther. "When did you
reach Gila?"

"We're _so_ glad to see you!" said both, as he stepped to the carriage
and extended a hand to each.

"But how did you happen to be here?" asked Esther.

"I came in this morning. Mrs. Clayton told me you had gone to
Carlisle, and would be back about this time. I have felt anxious about
you ever since I heard you had undertaken this journey."

Again both repeated their gratitude for his timely assistance. He
could see they were trembling.

"Your horses were running away," he said. "They are nervous creatures,
and are still frightened."

After a while, he suggested that they drive on slowly, while he kept
guard, in case wolves should pursue them farther. Then he mounted his
horse, and rode beside their carriage.

So they covered the remaining distance, talking of many things that
had happened during the weeks of his absence.

As they approached the Clayton residence, Mrs. Clayton and Carla came
out to welcome them.

"How are you, Edith?" questioned the anxious mother.

"I hardly know," answered the girl. "I've been frightened nearly to
death. I guess the fright cured me."

"I think she is better," added Esther. "Dr. Brown's medicine has
helped her."

"But what frightened you?" asked the mother.

Then Edith told of the peril of the ford, and of the pursuit of the
wolves, dwelling on Kenneth's opportune assistance.

"We owe a great deal to you, Kenneth," said Mrs. Clayton, her eyes
filling with tears.

"Oh, that was only a trifle, Mrs. Clayton," he said, carelessly.

"Come dine with us to-night, Kenneth, won't you?" asked his friend.

After thanking her, he mounted his horse, lifted his cap, and went on
his way to headquarters.

And Esther Bright! What was in her heart? We shall see.



CHAPTER XVII

THE DAY OF THE GREAT RACE


It was pay-day in Gila. Miners from far and near were in camp.
Cow-punchers had come from the range; cowlasses, also, were to be seen
here and there, chaffing with men they knew. The one street had
suddenly taken on human interest. Representatives of different nations
were to be seen in all directions, some going to, and some coming from
the saloons. Groups of men and women gathered to gossip. Comments on
affairs of the community, and especially on the approaching race, were
freely interlarded with profanity. Along the street, strolled Lord
Kelwin, puffing away at a cigar. Apparently he was a good "mixer."

"So you've entered your mare fur the race," said a cow-puncher,
slapping him familiarly on the back. "What in blank do you expect her
to do? She ain't fit fur nothin' but takin' gals hossback ridin', eh?"
And he laughed uproariously at his attempt at wit. "Better cut out
that part of the race. That belongs to another brand o' cattle. Come!
Have a drink." Saying which, they entered the saloon where Pete
Tompkins presided.

The air was already stiff with smoke and profanity. Men had
congregated there soon after receiving their wages.

In a little room apart, sat men intent on a game of cards. Lord
Kelwin joined them. One of the players, a mining engineer, was a
professional gambler, who frequently raked into his pockets the
hard-earned wages of many laboring men. Everyone save the engineer
seemed tense. Once in a while, a smothered oath was heard. At the
close of the game, the Irish lord, also, began to play. He had been
drinking, and though an experienced player, he was no match for the
sober gambler. He lost heavily. At the close of the game, he drank
again, then staggered out of the door. Ah, how many had done the same!

Pete Tompkins followed, gibing him about entering the mare in the
race.

"What in blank are ye enterin' her fur?" asked the aforesaid Pete.

The men gathered about expectant of a fray.

"What am--I--entering her--for--(staggering and hiccoughing)--entering
her for? Ye blanked Americans!--I'm entering her for Miss Bright--Miss
Bright, ye know--Miss Bright--" He laughed a silly laugh. "I'm going
to marry her." Here, he indulged in a drunken jest that sent some of
the men into fits of laughter.

A few, standing outside the door, had attended the men's club and the
Sunday service. Jack Harding, passing at that moment, stopped to speak
with one of the men, and overheard the reference to Esther Bright. His
face grew sternly white. He stepped in front of the boastful Irishman,
and said in a stern, quiet voice:

"Brute, say that you lied."

"Blank you, you religious hypocrite," roared Lord Kelwin, "you can't
bully me!"

Jack Harding sprang upon him, gripped his throat like a vice, and
demanded that he retract every insulting word he had said about the
teacher. "What is that to you? Blank you!" gasped the Irishman.

Jack Harding's grasp tightened.

"Say it," he repeated, in deadly quiet tones. "Say that all you said
about that pure, good woman is a lie."

His tone was as inexorable as fate.

The Irishman's eyes grew fixed with terror, his tongue hung from his
mouth, his face grew purple. Still that calm intense voice reiterating
in his ear:

"Say it! Say that all you said was a lie."

Seeing Lord Kelwin's extreme danger, some one attempted to interfere.
Cries were heard:

"Let them alone!"

"It's none of your funeral!"

"Jack Harding was right. Kelwin _did_ lie, and he's a blackguard for
saying what he did."

Then man after man took up the cry:

"Kelwin, ye blanked coward, _say_ ye lied! Ye know ye lied!"

At last the Irishman gave the sign. Jack Harding released him. Then,
somewhat sobered, he muttered:

"I did lie about a true woman. All I said was a lie."

He staggered from the scene, and Jack Harding passed on his way.

The race was to be on a track in the valley below. As it was Saturday,
John Clayton had suggested to Esther that she and Edith take a
horseback ride with him, to see the last part of the race; for, he
assured her, she would see human life, as well as horse speed, there.

As they approached the track from the mountain road, hoarse cries and
yells could be heard. Excitement ran high.

A few thoroughbreds had been entered for the race, but the greater
number of entries were for horse-flesh that could boast neither
registered sires nor grandsires. They were just "horses."

The last race began just as the Clayton party turned and looked down
on the wriggling, shoving, cursing crowd below. It is doubtful if
Esther Bright had ever heard such language, in all her life, as she
heard that day. She shuddered, and turning to her escort, asked why he
had brought her there.

"Just for you to see what animals human beings are, and how great is
their need of refining, uplifting influences."

"Is John Harding here?" she asked, uneasily.

"We are all here," he answered, smiling, "including Jack. You need
never worry about him again. You found him a sinner, and--"

"And he has become a saint?" she supplemented.

"Not exactly a saint," he answered, "but you have brought about a
complete transformation in the man's life and character. Jack could
never return to what he was, be sure of that!"

"Kelwin! Kelwin's ahead!" shouted a hoarse voice, above the noise of
the crowd.

"Blank ye!" retorted another, "Bill Hines is ahead! I seen 'em turn
fust!"

"Ye lie!" continued the first.

Away to the right, speeding around a curve in the race course, four
horses were straining every muscle. Occasionally a cow-puncher would
lift his quirt, and make it hum through the air, or lash the poor
beast, already straining to its utmost speed.

For a few moments, the racers were concealed from view by a mass of
rocks. When they emerged again, they were greeted by yells from
bystanders. A cowlass, mounted on a spirited animal, was in the lead.
She swore almost constantly at her horse, occasionally cutting him
with her quirt.

Lord Kelwin, now somewhat sobered, made a close second; and Bill Hines
and Bill Weeks were neck and neck behind the Irishman.

The crowd cheered and cheered.

The girl leading was as fine a specimen of the human animal as the
horse she rode was of the horse kind. She sat her horse superbly.

Finally, Lord Kelwin gained upon her, and the horses were neck and
neck. The girl again whirled her quirt around till it cut the air with
a hissing sound, and spoke to her horse. It was enough.

The betting grew louder. The stakes grew heavier.

"I know Kelwin'll win yet."

"No, he won't. Kate Brown'll win. She's a devil to ride, that girl
is!"

Again the Irishman gained upon her. Again she sent her quirt singing
through the air, and her horse obeyed as though horse and rider were
one. He sped faster and faster, passed Lord Kelwin, then the starting
point, and the race was won.

"Hurrah for Kate Brown and Lightning!" shouted hoarse voices; and
cowboys and cowlasses and everyone else yelled and shouted, and
shouted and yelled. It seemed as though pandemonium had been let
loose.

Jack Harding had gone to the races chiefly to dog the steps of Lord
Kelwin; so, if the Irishman had been inclined to speak lightly of
Esther Bright again, he would have had to reckon with him. Kelwin felt
himself shadowed by the cowboy, and a great fear took possession of
him.

As he dismounted, his scant clothing was wet, and clung to his person.
The race had not improved his temper any. To be beaten, and beaten by
a woman, and that woman an American cowlass, was the very limit of
what he could endure from "raw America" that day. He swore to the
right of him; he swore to the left of him. Then glancing over the
crowd, he discovered the Clayton party overlooking the scene.

John Clayton, ignorant of the episode at the saloon, was beckoning him
to join them. Lord Kelwin was about to do so, when Jack Harding
stepped up to him and said:

"Don't you dare enter that woman's presence!"

Lord Kelwin placed his hand on his gun, saying:

"Oh, you needn't give me any of your impudent American advice, you
mongrel cur!"

"Never mind what I am," said Jack; "that woman is one of the truest,
purest souls on earth. You are not fit to enter her presence. You have
_me_ to deal with, remember."

His great eyes flashed upon the Irishman, who quailed before him.

"Oh, you needn't be so high and mighty," said Lord Kelwin, changing
his tactics. "I don't care a blank about her, anyway. She's only an
American working woman, an Indian at that."

"So this is nobility," Jack said to himself. "Nobility! What is it to
be _noble_?"

The race was followed by a dance in one of the saloons, and the lowest
of the low were there. At four o'clock in the morning, those sober
enough went to their homes; the others stretched out anywhere, in a
deep drunken sleep; and pay-day and its pleasuring were over. Men and
women awakened to find their money gone; and for the first time in
years, they felt shame.

Sunday came. The hour of the service drew near. Esther Bright had
thought out what she would say that day about the Race for Life. But
when she rose to speak, she had a strange experience. All she had
thought to say, vanished; and before her mind's eye, she saw the
words, "The wages of sin is death."

There were perhaps a hundred people before her in the timber (where
the services were now held),--men and women among them, who, the day
before, had forgotten they were created in the image of God, and who
had groveled to the level of beasts.

These men, these women, had come to this spot this day, why, they did
not know. Why Esther Bright said the things she said that day, _she_
did not know, either. All she knew was that the words came, and that
there were men and women before her whom she must help.

Those who had sunken so low the day before, cried out in repentance,
as they listened to her words. God's message, through Esther Bright's
voice, had come to men's business and bosoms. Called of God, she said
they were,--called to be true men, true women. From time to time, she
quoted, "The wages of sin is death." One could almost hear his heart
beat.

The meeting was over, so far as Esther Bright's part in it was
concerned; then it passed from her control. First one, then another
rose, confessed his sins, and asked for her prayers.

And what of Esther? She sat as pale as death, her face alight with a
sweetness and compassion that did not seem of earth.

Kenneth Hastings watched her with deepening reverence. Her words had
gone to his heart, too, and he sang with deep feeling:

"Just as I am, without one plea."

As the song ceased, Pete Tompkins (to everyone's amazement) sprang to
his feet.

"Ye'll be s'prised ter hear from me, I reckon,"--Here he shoved his
hand, lean and gaunt, up through his hair. "But I've been listenin'
ter schoolma'am ever sence she begun preachin' in the timber, an' all
I've got ter say is she ain't _our_ brand, or the Devil's brand
either. When the Boss sent out his puncher ter round up folks, he cut
her out an' branded her with the mark o' God. I know she's tellin' the
gospel truth. She's got more courage 'n any blanked one o' yer. I done
'er a mean trick onct. I said blanked mean things about 'er. I'm sorry
I done it, blanked ef I ain't! Ter show 'er an' you that I mean ter be
differ'nt, I say, here an' now, that I wanter see these meetin's go
on, 's long 's schoolma'am 'll be our angel an' pilot us. Ter prove I
mean it, I'll plank down this hunderd dollars" (holding up a
hundred-dollar bill) "toward buildin' a meetin' house; an' I'll give
more, blanked ef I don't! How many wants a meetin' house in Gila?
Stand up!"

Many stood.

"_Stand up, the hull blanked lot o' ye!_" said the self-appointed
leader in forcible tones. To Esther's astonishment, the people rose,
and remained standing.

The notes of a thrush were caught up by a mocking bird, then a warbler
joined in, and the waiting people listened. The song of the birds
"came like the benediction that follows after prayer."

At last the company dispersed, and Esther Bright sat alone, absorbed
in silent prayer.



CHAPTER XVIII

NIGHT ON THE RANGE


The cowboys and cowlasses had long been back on the range, and the
attendance at the clubs had decreased in consequence.

Many still came to the Sunday service in the timber; and the children
remained in the school, notwithstanding the increasing heat.

Continuous labor, and the intense heat, were beginning to tell on
Esther Bright. As June approached, she occasionally spoke of going
home; but whenever she did so, there was a chorus of protests,
especially from Kenneth Hastings. Couldn't she spend the summer in
Arizona, and they would camp on one of the forest mesas, a party of
them? It would give her new life and strength.

She shook her head listlessly. One idea grew and possessed her: she
must go home, home to her grandfather.

Into Esther's manner, when in the presence of Kenneth Hastings, had
come a deepening reserve. And yet, from time to time, she spoke with
feeling of her gratitude to him for rescuing Edith and herself on the
day of his return. Her erstwhile gayety had departed, and in its place
was a seriousness that seemed akin to sadness.

Kenneth Hastings studied her, puzzled. He shared the solicitude the
Claytons evidently felt for her. All knew she had drawn too lavishly
upon her strength in her unselfish service for others. They also knew
that warnings and protests availed nothing; that she must learn
through experience the necessity of conservation of energy. Too useful
a woman, Kenneth Hastings said of her, to wear herself out in service
for a lot of common people. But he did not understand. He was to
learn.

At the close of a fatiguing day, a day of withering heat, John Clayton
came home to dinner, bringing Kenneth with him. Esther Bright and
Edith Clayton sat on the veranda as they approached.

"Miss Bright," said the host, "I have a proposition to make:--that you
and Mrs. Clayton accompany Mr. Hastings and me to Clifton to-morrow.
Fortunately, to-morrow will be Friday. We can start soon after school
is dismissed, and return Saturday, riding in the cool of the day."

"Delightful!" she exclaimed, with evident pleasure, "How far is it?"

"About twenty miles, I think," he answered.

"Twenty miles? On horseback? I'm afraid I can't endure the fatigue of
so long a ride. I am already so tired!"

"Really!" said Kenneth, in a mocking tone. "You at last acknowledge
that you are tired! I am astonished."

But she was unresponsive.

As the plans were discussed for the long ride, Esther gradually
roused, and entered into the occasion with spirit. It was decided that
the four should go in the surrey. Carla and Edith were to remain at
home; and as Jack Harding was still in camp, he was to be general
protector of the girls until the return of the party.

As the sun began to lower, Friday afternoon, the party drove away from
camp, first north, then east, toward Clifton. They crossed and
recrossed the Gila River for some distance, passing many of the
abandoned cliff dwellings along the canyon. Everywhere, the desert
foothills, and the crevices of jagged, cliffs were ablaze with cactus
blossoms. As the cool came on, the air grew delightful, and Esther
seemed to awaken once more to the pure joy of living.

Could they tell her anything of the cliff dwellers? They certainly
could. And John Clayton told her of the Hopi Indians, and their
customs. People of peace they were; keepers of sheep, lovers of the
heavens, and knew the mystery of the stars as no one else did. Their
men honored their women, he said. And then he laughingly told her that
the Hopi Indians were women suffragists. The Hopi women, he said, were
given more rights than were the women of civilization.

"What rights?" she asked.

Then he described his visit to Hopi land, telling her of the superior
place the Hopi woman occupies in the life of the Hopi people.

The talk drifted to Indians in general, Esther Bright asking many
questions, indicating on her part a deep and growing interest in these
native lords of the valleys and mesas.

Just as they were crossing a bridge over the river, they met Lord
Kelwin on horseback. It was the first time they had met him since the
race. John Harding had not seen fit to tell Kenneth or the Claytons of
his experiences with the Irishman, as long as he himself was in camp
to protect Esther Bright.

John Clayton reined in his horses to greet Lord Kelwin. The Irishman
spoke to them, but looked at Esther. After learning their destination
and the probable time of their return, he lifted his cap and rode on.

Esther Bright was annoyed. She could hardly have told why.

"Lord Kelwin is a genial fellow," John Clayton remarked, turning to
speak to Esther; but, observing the expression of her face, he asked
in a surprised tone:

"Don't you like Lord Kelwin, Miss Bright?"

"No," she answered, quietly.

Kenneth laughed. Then, turning around, he said in a bantering tone:

"But he told me you had gone horseback riding with him, daily, while I
was away."

"He's mistaken, Kenneth," responded John Clayton. "Miss Bright went
riding with him about three times."

"Three times too many," said Kenneth, apparently teasing, but with an
undertone of seriousness. Mrs. Clayton adroitly turned the
conversation.

"John, tell Miss Bright about your meeting General C."

Then he told how the general came to Arizona, and of his wise dealings
with the red men. He explained the reason for the great unrest of the
Indians after the general withdrew. He told how he was summoned from
the Department of the Platte in 1882, and of the capture of Geronimo
and his band.

"And Geronimo is supposed to be the father of our little Wathemah!"
Esther exclaimed.

"Some think so," he said. "I have my doubts. He looks as though he
might be a mixture of Apache, Mexican and Spanish."

"Whatever he is, he is an attractive child," she said. "How did you
come to meet General C.?"

"He and his troops marched through Gila. I entertained the officers at
the ranch over night."

As he spoke, they came upon a pappoose, tied to a tree, and blinking
in the afternoon sunshine. Just beyond, they found a group of Apaches.
The women were cooking fish over live coals of fire. The men seemed to
recognize John Clayton. He greeted them in the tongue of the Mexicans,
as he drove by, while the Indians jabbered and gesticulated violently.

At the bridge just beyond, they crossed the Gila for the last time
before turning northward. There, they saw a young Apache catching
fish. He glanced up, and Esther recognized in him the visitor who had
found her at the schoolhouse. It was evident he knew her, for he
started towards the surrey.

"He is one of the friendly Apaches," explained John Clayton. "He's
often on the range, and has adopted some of the cowboy regimentals,
you see."

The driver stopped his horses.

The Indian came forward, offering John Clayton a number of fish strung
on a withe. As he did so, he turned towards Esther, and said:

"N[=e]-sh[=e]-äd-nl[)e]h´."

"What does he mean?" asked Esther.

"I think he wants to buy you from me with these fish," answered John
Clayton, turning to her with an amused smile.

Putting his hand into a tin box, he took from it a handful of cookies,
gave them to the young Indian, and drove on. As they looked back, the
last cake was about to disappear down the Indian's throat.

"Poor things," said Esther, "they have had no chance."

Then Kenneth rallied her on becoming a missionary to the Indians.

"I'd be glad to help them as the early Jesuit priests did," she
answered. "I cannot but feel that the Indian policy has been very
faulty, and that the Indians have been the victims of grafters, some
unprincipled Indian agents, and the scum of the white race. You tell
me, Mr. Clayton, that the Mexican government offered a bounty of $100
for every Apache man's scalp, $50 for every Apache woman's scalp, and
$25 for every Apache child's scalp? I'd fight, too," she continued,
indignantly. "I know I'd fight. Poor things!"

The company laughed at her championship, and told her how vicious the
Apaches were, and many more matters of Indian history.

The company were approaching a narrow canyon, through which they must
pass for some distance. The waters dashed and boiled in eddies, where
huge bowlders obstructed the way, making a pleasant murmur to the ear,
soft and musical and low.

And Esther Bright listened. Her heart, stirred to sudden anger by the
stories of injustice and cruel wrong, was soothed into quiet by this
slumber song of the ages. Oh, the music of the waters of the canyon!
How, once heard, it echoes in the heart forever! In the midst of the
unrest and discord of the world, how the memory of it keeps one close
to the very heart of things! How it lingers! How it sings!

They drove under, then around, an overhanging rock, beyond which, like
ruins of ancient castles, storm-scarred, majestic, towered cliffs to a
height of a thousand feet or more. The shadows had deepened in the
canyon, adding to the solemn grandeur of it all. From every cleft of
rock, apparently, a cactus had sprung into life, and had blossomed
into flowers of exquisite beauty. All the journey was like a triumphal
way, garlanded with flowers.

At last they reached an open place in the canyon, and followed a
track leading upward to a level plain. A short drive up a rocky way
brought them to a vast mesa. Here they halted for the night.

Some distance to the west, Esther spied a covered wagon with horses
tethered near. There was a man busying himself about the wagon, and
about the bonfire. John Clayton explained to Esther that this was the
cook for the squads of cowboys, and that near where the man was
working, the men would camp for the night. She watched the movements
of the cook with some curiosity.

The Clayton party had now stepped from the surrey, and removed from it
the seats, blankets, and provisions. The two men returned to the
canyon to gather dry driftwood for their fire for the night.

During the ride of the afternoon, as the company had wound around the
foothills, they had seen great herds of cattle, thousands of cattle,
on the hills and mesas. But now, Esther was to see with her own eyes,
the great event of life on the range. This vast out-of-doors was all
so novel to her, so intensely interesting! She stood and drew in great
breaths of air. Her eyes darkened. The pupils of her eyes had a way of
dilating whenever she felt deeply.

Although the cowboys and cowlasses had told Esther much about the
round-ups, she felt quite ignorant of the whole matter. They had
explained to her about the free range, how it was divided into
imaginary sections, and how the "boss" cattleman would send groups of
cow-punchers to each of these various sections to look after the
cattle.

John Clayton and Kenneth Hastings returned from the canyon, bringing a
can of water, and dry driftwood. They at once began to build their
bonfire, and to prepare their evening meal. As they worked, they
talked.

"If you watch from here," suggested Kenneth, "you'll see the close of
the round-up, comfortably."

"What do they mean by 'cutting out' the cattle?" asked Esther.

"Don't you know that yet?" laughed John Clayton. "That is cowboy
slang. As the cow-punchers approach (cow-punchers are cowboys, you
know--)"

"Yes, I know that much."

"Well, as they approach you will see them weaving in and out among the
cattle, lashing some with their quirts, and driving them out from the
mass of cattle. This is called 'cutting out.' The cattle of different
owners all run together on the range until time for the round-ups."

"How often do they have these?" she asked.

"There are two general round-ups, spring and fall; and others, when
necessary for extra shipments of cattle."

"How can they tell which belongs to which?"

"By the brand," explained Kenneth. "Each cattle owner brands every one
of his cattle with a certain mark, which determines whose property the
animal is."

The two women now placed cushions on the carriage seats, and sat down
to watch the close of the round-up.

The sunset was one of unusual splendor, the glory of color falling
over the mesa, and the mountain peaks that loomed up far away. As they
watched the sky, they spied a cloud of dust in the distance.

"At last the cattle are coming!" exclaimed Mrs. Clayton.

The dust cloud grew, coming nearer and nearer. It had a fascination
for Esther. While they were speculating as to the probable number of
cattle, and the cowboys and cowlasses who might be with them, Kenneth
Hastings and John Clayton sauntered over to the mess wagon to await
the closing scene. From that point, the men watched; and from their
location, the women watched the on-coming herds. The dust cloud grew
larger. The great mass of struggling cattle came steadily on. After a
while, cowboys could be seen, and whirling of ropes. Nearer and nearer
they came, the cowboys dealing stinging blows with their quirts. The
bellowing of cattle, the cursing of men, and the choking fog of dust,
all mingled together, came to the two women, who watched from a safe
distance. In their intense interest, they forgot that the supper hour
was long past, and watched. They saw cow-punchers, weaving in and out
among the cattle, whirling ropes, and yelling, and cursing by turns,
until each cowboy had separated the cattle in his charge from the
others. It was an enormous task. The men were still cursing and
lashing, when the last soft color of the afterglow faded from the sky.

When the work of the round-up was finally over, and the men were free
for the night, Esther heard the cook call out to them:

"Grub's ready! Cut out y'r talkin'!" adding profanity, as if to whet
the appetites of the hungry men. Then the cowboys, dirt begrimed, fell
to, and were soon eating with a relish that would have made dyspeptics
green with envy.

Slowly, John Clayton and Kenneth Hastings sauntered back, finding
their own repast ready for them. They, too, had found a keen edge to
their appetite. Esther even went so far as to suggest that they might
have done well to have accepted the Apache's fish.

"Whom do you suppose we found over there?" asked Mr. Clayton.

"Our boys," suggested Esther.

"Yes, several who have been at the club and at the meetings. They know
you are here, Miss Bright. Let's see what they'll do."

Before the meal was over, the stars began to appear in the heavens.
John Clayton threw great quantities of driftwood on the bonfire, and
in a few moments, the flames were licking the logs.

The voices of the cow-punchers came to them now and then, but the
profanity had ceased. Suddenly, singing was heard. They listened. The
cowboys were singing, "There were ninety and nine."

From the singing, it was evident that the men were approaching the
Clayton camp. In a moment more, they were there.

Would they be seated? John Clayton had asked. So, around the camp fire
they grouped, their faces and forms indistinct in the flickering
light. They made a weird and picturesque group against the darkness of
the night.

"An' phwat do yez think now of a round-up?" asked Mike Maloney, of
night school celebrity. Mike had been the star pupil in arithmetic.

"Splendid!" said Esther, with contagious enthusiasm. "To see that host
of cattle approach, the ropes swinging, the horses rearing and plunging,
and the magnificent setting of the mountains at sunset,--why, it was
glorious!"

The men grinned their delight.

Bill Weeks then grew eloquent about cattle.

"We come across a herd o' antelopes to-day," interrupted another.

Bill Weeks returned again to his favorite theme. Cattle were his life.
In the midst of a dissertation on their good points, he was again
interrupted with:

"Oh, cut that out! Ye kin talk cattle any old day. We wants ter hear
Miss Bright sing."

"Yes, sing," all clamored. "_Do_ sing!"

"What shall I sing?"

"'Oft in the Stilly Night,'" one suggested.

But they were not satisfied with one song, and called loudly for
another. Then she sang, "Flee as a bird to Your Mountain."

Esther Bright, as she stood and sang that night, was a picture one
could never forget.

Then around the crackling fire, story after story was told. The fire
burned low. The dome above sparkled with myriads of stars. At last the
cowboys rose, and returned to their camp.

"Now we'll heap up the fire for the night, Kenneth," said John
Clayton, "and arrange our shakedowns."

"'Shakedowns,' John?" said his wife. "You don't call a blanket and
cushion on a mesa a shakedown, do you?"

"Why not?"

Then the two men withdrew to the farther side of the fire. The women
crawled into their blankets, and soon felt the warmth of the still
heated earth upon which they lay.

"Good night!" called the men's voices, and "Good night!" returned the
women. Then silence brooded over the camp.

For the first time in her life, Esther was bedded on the ground. Her
face was turned upward, her eyes, fixed upon the starry deeps. Hour
after hour went by. The regular breathing of her fellow-travelers
assured her that all were asleep. She could not sleep.

The marvelous scene above her grew upon her. She lay still, looking,
looking into the infinite, that infinite around her, above her, beyond
and beyond forever, who knows whither?

The air, at first dark about her, grew into a weird, wonderful light.
The dome grew vaster and vaster; and, with the marvelous expansion,
she began to realize stars. They seemed to move from their solid ebon
background, and to float in space.

Stars! What do stars mean to the ordinary human? Just stars that come
and go as a matter of course; just as men eat and drink, buy and sell,
live and die. I say Esther Bright began to _realize_ stars. I do not
mean by that that she was unfamiliar with certain astronomical facts
all intelligent people are supposed to know. Far from it. She knew
much of mathematical astronomy. It had a fascination for her. But she
had not _realized_ stars, _felt_ stars, as she was to realize them
this night. All the world was shut out from her vision, save that
marvelous dome of sky, alight with myriads and myriads of stars, from
zenith to horizon. She recalled Milton's description of the floor of
heaven, and reveled in the thought. She gazed on one tremulous star,
till it seemed a soul in space, beckoning to her to join it, in the
company of the glorified. Her vision intensified. Into the Milky Way
she gazed, till it seemed to her the pathway up to God. God! What was
God?

Then the stillness grew till it seemed the Infinite Presence. The
stars, she was sure, made a shining pathway straight to her. Across
the pathway, flashed shooting stars. She saw it all so clearly. Then
the vast space, up to the shadowy shores of the Infinite Sea, filled
with a strange, unearthly light. God! Was this _God_? Then she must be
on holy ground! She felt herself lifted into the Everlasting Arms. The
wind rose and whispered softly. And Esther Bright slept. Who shall say
she did not sleep close to the very heart of God?



CHAPTER XIX

INASMUCH


While the Clayton party were journeying from Clifton, John Harding was
on guard, vigilant, watchful. In the Post Office that morning, he
chanced to hear some one repeat a boast Lord Kelwin had made in regard
to Carla Earle, whom he had heretofore treated with patronizing
condescension.

John Harding returned to Clayton Ranch, and invented excuses to be
about the house, saying, as he went off to do some chores, that if
they needed him, just to call him, adding that he'd be within hearing.

Carla and Edith joked a little about his solicitude, and went about
their daily tasks, planning surprises for the hungry company, on their
return that night. Carla seemed happier this day than usual, and began
to make a soft music in her throat like the warbling of a bird. She
had been alone in the room for some time, when she heard a step. She
stopped warbling when she recognized the voice of Lord Kelwin, whom
she instinctively feared.

He had entered the house unannounced, and now walked into the dining
room.

"Aha, my beauty!" he said, stepping toward her. "Aha, my bird! Caught
at last!"

She saw that he was intoxicated.

"So you are alone at last, bird."

He flung himself between her and the door. Something in his face
filled her with disgust and alarm. He kept coming towards her,
uttering words of insolent familiarity, and she kept backing away.
Finally he lunged forward, grasped her by the arm, and tried to hold
her. Evidently, he had not counted on opposition from her; and when he
found his will thwarted, all the beast in him seemed roused. He struck
her in the mouth, calling her vile names as he did so. In an instant,
her shrieks of terror went ringing through the house. They brought
Edith, in sudden alarm, and John Harding. The latter, recognizing the
situation at a glance, sprang forward, and clutched the Irishman by
the throat.

"Let her go," he said, "you blankety blanked coward. Let her go, I
say!" As he spoke, he gripped Kelwin's throat tightly, shaking him as
if he were a rat. Then he grew dangerously white.

The visitor, enraged at this unexpected interference, grew violent. He
turned upon Jack Harding, and drew his gun; but Jack, sober and alert,
knocked the gun from his hand; and, closing with him, dealt terrific
blows in his face. All the brute in the drunken man roused. The sober
man had the advantage. The struggle lasted but a few moments, though
it seemed an eternity to the frightened girls. Finally, Jack Harding
placed his knees on Kelwin's chest and arms, his hand on his throat,
choking him until he gasped for mercy. Then the cowboy let him rise.
As soon as he was free, he began to curse Carla Earle. Jack Harding
promptly knocked him down. Partly sobered, the man rose, and staggered
from the room.

Carla stood trembling, her face white with fear.

Harding saw her distress, and said with unusual gentleness:

"Don't ye care, Miss Carla. 'Tain't so, anyway. He lied. He'll pay for
it."

"Oh, don't meddle with him, I beg you," she said with sudden alarm.
"He might shoot you."

"Shoot? Let him. But he can't insult any decent woman, while I'm near
to protect her. Mark that."

Carla turned to resume her duties, but fell in a limp heap on the
floor. Then Edith and Jack Harding worked to bring her to. At last her
eyes opened. She looked around, dazed, bewildered. When she realized
what had happened, she asked:

"Has that dreadful man gone?"

On being assured that he was at a safe distance, she tried to rise,
but her knees gave way, and she sank to the floor again.

So Jack and Edith prepared the evening meal, and waited. At last they
heard the sound of the returning carriage, and, a few moments later,
welcomed the party at the gate.

When John Clayton heard what had happened, he seemed dumfounded.

"How dared he? How dared he?" he repeated, indignantly.

But Kenneth's mouth set hard, and it did not augur well for Lord
Kelwin.

For one thing, all were thankful during the ensuing weeks,--the Irish
nobleman no longer came to Clayton Ranch, socially, or otherwise. He
managed to keep himself in the background, and was seldom heard of
save as he figured in some drunken brawl. But Jack Harding, who
understood him best of all, and who knew the venom of his tongue,
hounded him day by day. And there grew up in Lord Kelwin's mind a
deepening fear and hate of Jack Harding.



CHAPTER XX

A WOMAN'S NO


Miles and miles of desert country, sometimes a dull red, sometimes
almost yellow of hue; over that a dome of bluest blue; between the
two, air, crystalline, and full of light; and everywhere, scattered
with reckless profusion, from Nature's lavish hand, the splendor of
cactus blossoms. That is Arizona in June. And in this glory of color,
one June day, walked Mrs. Clayton and Esther Bright, returning from a
round of neighborhood calls.

As they approached Clayton Ranch, they paused to admire the cactus
blossoms. The giant cactus, towering above the house, was now covered
with a profusion of exquisite blossoms of deepest pink. Red blossoms,
pink blossoms, white blossoms, yellow blossoms everywhere, but guarded
by thousands of thorns and spines. Esther stopped and picked some
yellow blossoms from the prickly pear, only to find her fingers
stinging from its minute spines.

"It serves me right," she said, making a wry face. "I knew better, but
I love the blossoms."

"Good evening," called a cheery voice from the veranda. It was Mr.
Clayton.

"Kenneth called to see you, Miss Bright," he continued. "He would like
you to go for a drive with him this evening."

"Far?" she asked.

"He didn't say."

The two women entered the house, and soon returned refreshed. On the
spacious veranda, the family gathered in the cool of the day, to feast
their eyes on the gorgeous sunsets.

"Do you know," said Esther, "it refreshes me whenever I _look_ at
snow-capped Mt. Graham?"

She looked far away to the south. "I shall miss it all," she said,
pensively, "all the grandeur of scene, miss all of you here, miss my
dear children, when I go home."

"Oh, I hate to think of your going," said Edith, lifting the teacher's
hand to her cheek. "I'm afraid you won't come back."

"What's that I hear about not coming back?" asked Kenneth Hastings,
who, at that moment, joined them.

"I said I was afraid Miss Bright wouldn't come back," explained Edith.

"I hope you are not thinking of going East soon," said Kenneth
quietly.

When she announced that she should, he protested vigorously.

That evening, Esther rode with him through beautiful mountain scenes.
The heavens were still colored with the soft afterglow, as they sped
along the upland road. Later, the moon rose, flooding the earth with
its weird, transfiguring light.

Once more, Kenneth told Esther his past. He wanted her to know all
there was to know, he said simply.

Then he poured into her ears the old, old story, sweetest story ever
told, when love speaks and love listens. But Esther's eyes were
haunted by a sudden fear.

Kenneth paused, and waited for her to speak.

Then, with a tightening of the lips, he listened to her answer.

She had not thought of love and marriage. She had naturally grown into
thinking that she would devote herself to philanthropic work, as her
grandfather, before her, had done.

"Yes," Kenneth said; "but your grandfather married; and his children
married, and you, I take it, are the joy of his life. Suppose he had
not married. Would his philanthropic work have been greater?"

Then there was more talk, that seemed to give pain to both, for Esther
said:

"I will go soon, and not return; for my presence here would only make
you unhappy."

"No," he urged, "return to Gila.

"You say you regard marriage as very solemn. So do I. You say you
would feel it wrong to marry one you did not love. So should I."

"I have been candid with you," she said in evident distress. To which
he responded bitterly:

"You think me a godless wretch. Well, I guess I am. But I had begun to
grope after God, and stumbled in my darkness. I have been beset with
tormenting doubts. The idea of God is so vast I cannot grasp even a
fraction of it. You are right. I am godless."

"No, no, not godless," she said. "Jesus of Nazareth, what of Him?"

"I am coming to look upon him as a brother. I could have loved him
profoundly, had I known him when he was on earth. But it all seems so
far away in the past. To tell the truth, I have read the Bible very
little."

"Read it," she urged.

"I should feel all the time that religion had placed a great gulf
between you and me, and hate it in consequence. Ought religion to
place a gulf between human souls?"

"The lack of religion might." Silence followed. Then she continued,
"If I loved you, loved you deeply enough, that would sweep away all
obstacles."

"And perhaps," he added, "if I had always lived up to the highest
ideals of life, I might now be worthy of you. I _am_ unworthy, I
confess it."

"Oh, don't put it that way," she said in distress. "Let it be that I
am not worthy of the love you offer me, not capable of loving enough
to--to--marry."

"Miss Bright, you are capable of loving, as few women are. It is my
misfortune that I have not won your love. I need you to help me live
my highest and best. All these months, because of your unconscious
influence, I have been learning to see myself as I am, and as I might
be. For the first time in my life, I have come in contact with a
deeply religious soul, and have felt myself struggling towards the
light. I have wrestled with doubt, again and again, bewildered. You
teach us that the founder of the Christian religion had compassion on
sinful men."

"Yes."

"But _you_ have no compassion on _me_."

"You misunderstand," she said. "You see it sometimes happens that
there is little real happiness, real union, where the wife is a
believer in God, and the husband seeks--"

"The devil," supplemented Kenneth. "I confess I have followed the
devil to some extent."

"Don't," she said. "It hurts me to the heart to hear you speak so. I
meant to say if he had no sympathy with her spiritual life."

"If I were a professing Christian, do you think you would care more
for me?"

"I might."

"Suppose I pretended to be a Christian. Many make that pretense, and
are accounted the real thing."

"Dear Mr. Hastings, let me be a sincere and loyal friend to you, no
more. Some day, I hope, you will win, in marriage, some rare woman who
will make you happy."

"Some rare woman? You are that one, Miss Bright. I want no other."

"But you mustn't think of me, Mr. Hastings."

"Do you know what you are, Miss Bright? You are an iceberg."

She laughed.

"That's fortunate. You will not long care for an iceberg. I will go
soon, and you will forget me."

He turned upon her.

"Forget you? Do you really wish me to forget you?" Did she? She
wondered.

"No," she answered. Then over her face, lifted in the moonlight, he
saw the color come.

Their talk drifted to many subjects touching the life in Gila, and the
larger world outside, to which she was soon to return.

"Will you write to me?" he asked.

"That would make it harder for you to forget," she said, naïvely.

"I do not wish to forget," he said gloomily. "Why should I forget the
happiest hours I have ever spent?" Why should he?

Back at Clayton Ranch, an older pair of lovers, married lovers, walked
up and down the veranda in the moonlight.

"John," a soft voice was saying, "I just hope Kenneth will propose to
Miss Bright to-night."

He laughed.

"You women! Always interested in a love story! How do you know Kenneth
hasn't proposed to her already?"

"I don't believe he has."

Another silence.

"John?"

"Yes, Mary."

"Does Miss Bright know what a vast fortune Kenneth has inherited?"

"No. Not unless you have told her. He does not wish her to know."

"But, John, that might influence Miss Bright's decision. You know
these Americans care a great deal for money."

"For shame, Mary, to think such a thing of her! Perhaps you do not
know that her grandfather is a man of affluence. But he believes in
the simple life, and lives it. She belongs to a fine old family,
people of distinction, and wealth."

"Is that true, John? She never told me. How can she work like a galley
slave here?"

"Because she is a great woman." Silence again.

"With her mind, and heart, and passion for service, and Kenneth's
intellect, and force of character, and vast wealth, they might be a
tremendous force for the progress of the human race."

"Can't you help matters on, John? I'm so afraid Miss Bright will
reject Kenneth, and leave us."

"Well, if she does, I shall be sorry. But we must keep hands off."

On the following day, John Clayton was astounded to hear from Esther
that she would not return as she had half promised to do in the fall.

But Esther offered no explanations; and Kenneth's calls, from that
day, grew less frequent.

So the days passed, and two lives drifted apart.



CHAPTER XXI

THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW


At the close of the religious service, the following day, Esther
learned of many cases of sickness, in and about Gila, and especially
along the water courses. A sort of a fever, the people told her. She
resolved to make neighborhood calls the following day, and to take
with her a case of medicine. She found many people sick with what
seemed to be the same malady; and, thereupon, began a thorough
investigation. The result was that she persuaded the people to let her
call a physician.

On the following day, Dr. Mishell drove into camp, and Esther made the
rounds with him. As she suspected, the malady proved to be typhoid
fever.

"These people must have intelligent care," the physician said gruffly
to her. "Do you know anything about nursing?"

She told him she had nursed two patients through typhoid fever.

"You know how to take respiration and temperature, then?" he said
brusquely.

She assured him she did.

Then he wrote out directions for each patient, especially noting what
to do, if certain conditions should arise.

"You know the importance of sponging patients?" he asked shortly.

"Yes."

"Any alcohol?"

"I can get it."

And so Esther Bright was installed head nurse in Gila. Helpers rallied
to her aid.

School was dismissed at an early hour each day, so that Esther could
make the rounds daily.

The heat grew almost intolerable, but the delicate girl went on her
way as if made of iron. Dr. Mishell looked her over with a nod of
approval.

"A woman of sense," he said, in speaking of her to Kenneth Hastings.

The physician came again in three days, only to find many new cases.
Esther Bright's task was becoming enormous.

"Can you do it?" the physician had asked. And quietly she had
answered:

"I can do it as long as anyone needs my care."

Again the physician nodded approvingly, and muttered:

"Some women do have some sense."

When this second visit drew to a close, he looked sharply at Esther,
and said in a crusty tone:

"You are working too hard."

She protested.

"I say you _are_!" he reiterated. "I'm going to find someone to come
help you. Mr. Clayton wishes it. Are you a Catholic?"

"No, a Quaker."

"Quaker! Quaker!" he repeated. "No objections to a Catholic, I
suppose?"

"No objections to any human being who serves humanity."

The old man left her abruptly. As he untied his horse, preparatory to
leaving, he muttered to himself:

"A very unusual woman. A _very_ unusual woman!"

Late on the following day, when Esther returned from her rounds, she
found the Mexican, who had come to the Christmas entertainment,
awaiting her. After learning that his Indian wife was sick, she
gathered up her medical outfit, and started with him up the canyon. It
was a long and fatiguing tramp.

The Indian woman proved to be another fever patient. She refused the
medicine, but drank the beef juice the nurse offered her. After trying
to make the Mexican understand what to do till she came again, Esther
started down the canyon alone.

It was nearly dark. After walking some distance, she heard the cry of
wolves. The cries came nearer. She quickened her pace to a run, when,
catching her foot, she was thrown violently forward into the stream
below.

She struggled to regain her footing, to climb to the bowlder from
which she had fallen; but suddenly discovered that she had in some way
twisted her ankle, and that she could not bear her weight on that
foot. What was she to do? She was still over a mile from Clayton
Ranch. If she called, no one could hear her. Oh, those wolves! Their
cries sent a chill of terror through her. Again she struggled to climb
up on the bank, but the bowlder above her was slippery, and there was
nothing to cling to. At last she sent a loud cry for help echoing down
the canyon. Then she listened. Suddenly she heard a step above her. It
was the young Apache who had visited the school. His coming was about
as welcome to her as the wolves would be.

"N[=e]-sh[=e]-äd-nl[)e]h´," he said, beckoning her to join him. She
shook her head, pointed to her ankle, and again tried to climb. Her
efforts were futile. Then the Indian lifted her, carried her to a
level place, and set her down. She was unable to bear her weight on
the injured foot, and fell. She pointed to her ankle, then down
towards Gila, hoping the Indian might make her plight known to the
people in camp.

As if in answer to her pantomimic request, he lifted her easily in his
arms, and strode swiftly down the canyon. Could it be that he had
rescued her in order to return her to her friends? It seemed so.

At last it occurred to her to sing her call for help, to attract the
attention of any miner, or charcoal tender who might chance to be
going up or down the canyon. So with all the volume she could muster,
she sang words, telling her plight.

Every little while the Apache would repeat the words:

"N[=e]-sh[=e]-äd-nl[)e]h´."

What could he mean?

About the time Esther was caring for the sick squaw, Kenneth Hastings
learned from Wathemah that the teacher had gone to the Mexican's shack
up the canyon. He was filled with alarm.

"What's that ye are sayin', Wathemah?" asked Pete Tompkins, who,
passing along, had overheard the conversation.

"Me teacher up canyon. Mexican. Sick squaw," replied the child
laconically.

"Are you sure, Wathemah?" questioned Kenneth.

The child nodded his head, and pointed toward the canyon.

"Them devilish Apaches has been about camp all day," said Pete
Tompkins, stopping to speak to Kenneth. "I seen some of 'em goin' up
canyon jest 'fore dark."

"We must go to Miss Bright's rescue at once!" said Kenneth excitedly.

"I'm with ye," said Pete Tompkins. "If a blanked savage harms that air
schoolma'am I'll smash his skull with the butt o' my gun. I'll jine
y'r party. Let's take all the hounds. We're likely ter run across
more'n one Apache. Hello, kids!" he called out. "Jine a rescue party.
The schoolma'am's went up canyon ter tend sick squaw,--the Mexican's
woman. Them devilish Apaches is up through the canyon, an' we're
afeared they'll capture schoolma'am."

Ten well-armed men, some mounted, some unmounted, started up the
canyon. On their way, they met John Clayton, who joined them. His
horse was neck and neck with Kenneth's.

"Good God!" said the former to his companion. "What may have happened
to Miss Bright? What may yet happen to her?"

Kenneth made no reply, but his face was tense.

These two men were in advance, closely followed by Jack Harding and
Pete Tompkins, on their Mexican ponies.

Suddenly, the party heard the distant cry of wolves, and--was it a
human voice?--they strained their ears to hear. It was a human voice,
a woman's voice. They dug their spurs into their horses' sides, and
fairly flew.

As they were journeying up the canyon, the savage, with his captive in
his arms, was speeding down the canyon. Suddenly he turned, and took
the trail leading towards the Apache reservation.

Esther's song for help died on her lips. Every moment seemed eternity;
every step, miles away from hope of rescue. Then with the energy born
of despair, she sang again so that her song reached the ears of her
rescuers:

         "Abide with me!
         Fast falls the eventide.
         The darkness deepens--
         Lord, with me abide!
     When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
     Help of the helpless, O, abide with me!"

Then she listened. Could it be the baying of hounds she heard? Her
heart beat faster. She was not mistaken; she had heard the hounds. And
now she heard the shouts of men. She began to sing again, but the
Indian pressed his hand over her mouth, and tightening his hold with
his other arm, started to run with her. She struggled desperately. He
held her like a vise. She screamed for help, as she continued to
struggle.

"Courage!" came ringing back in response to her cry. She knew the
voice. It was the voice of Kenneth Hastings.

Again the Apache muttered in her ear:

"N[=e]-sh[=e]-äd-nl[)e]h´."

She realized that the men were gaining rapidly upon them, and
struggled more violently to free herself.

As the Apache ran, his breath came harder. It was no easy task to
carry his struggling captive, and escape his pursuers. Still he kept
up a remarkable speed.

A moment more, the hounds came upon him. He kicked desperately, but
could not free himself from them. Then, winding his fingers around
Esther's throat, he choked her, and threw her to the ground. He lifted
his gun, faced his pursuers, and fired. The ball entered the chest of
Kenneth Hastings, who was in hot pursuit, and nearing the Indian.
Kenneth fell from his horse, and the savage escaped.

"My God!" exclaimed John Clayton, as he came up. He sprang from his
saddle, and knelt by Kenneth's side. A little farther on lay Esther,
unconscious. Her face was ghastly in the dim light, her clothing wet.

"Brandy!" he called. "Any one got brandy?"

"Here," said Pete Tompkins, stepping forward; "here's a flask."

"With shaking hand, John Clayton tried to staunch the wound in
Kenneth's shoulder. Then he put brandy between his lips, then between
Esther's. She was like ice.

"The brute!" he exclaimed. "I fear he has killed her!"

Then he pulled off his coat and wrapped it about the girl, saying as
he did so:

"If she is not dead, the warmth may do her good. Some one ride ahead
and prepare Mrs. Clayton."

"I'll go, sir," said a Scotch miner, mounting one of the ponies.

"Thank you. Tell Mrs. Clayton that Miss Bright and Mr. Hastings have
met with an accident, and both are unconscious. Tell her to have hot
water and blankets ready."

"Come, John," he said, turning to Jack Harding. "Just help me lift
Miss Bright to my saddle." Mechanically the cowboy obeyed.

"Can one of you fellows carry Hastings on his horse?"

Jack Harding volunteered.

Few words were spoken by any of the men, as they made their way back
to camp.

Pete Tompkins had noisily boasted that he would kill the Indian; but,
hearing no reply from any one, he subsided. In spite of his coarseness
and vulgarity, he was touched by the tragic ending of the young
teacher's life, and by the evident sorrow of his companions. He looked
at the still, white face, and something tugged at his heart.

As they passed Keith's house, Mrs. Keith ran out.

"'Ere!" she said. "Wrap 'er in this 'ere warm shawl."

Wathemah ran after them, asking anxiously:

"Me teacher sick?"

"Yes, very sick, Wathemah," answered Clayton.

Just as they reached the Clayton home, Esther roused, and said in a
dazed way:

"Where am I?"

"You are at home," answered her host, as he carried her into the
house. "Do you feel better?" he asked, as he laid her on the couch.

"What has happened?" she asked, showing no sign of recognition.

"We don't know," said Mrs. Clayton, bending over her.

She moaned.

"Don't you remember the Indian who came to the schoolhouse?"
questioned Mr. Clayton anxiously.

"Indian? Schoolhouse?" she repeated in a perplexed way. "Where am I?"

"Here with Mrs. Clayton," said her hostess.

"Mrs. Clayton? Who is _she_?" asked Esther, vacantly.

The group about her exchanged troubled glances.

John Harding was already on his way to the railway station to
telegraph for Dr. Mishell.

Kenneth Hastings, now conscious, was lying on a bed in the Clayton
home. John Clayton bent over him, staunching the blood the best he
could. In the midst of this, they heard a sharp cry from Esther.

"What is it?" questioned Kenneth.

"Miss Bright!" exclaimed John Clayton, starting towards the room where
the teacher and his wife were. Returning, he explained that Esther had
apparently sprained her ankle, for it was badly swollen, and probably
very painful, when Mrs. Clayton attempted to remove her shoe.

Kenneth made no response, but, for a while, lay with eyes closed. He
started when John Clayton told him that, as yet, Esther had not
recognized any of the family.

It was a long and anxious night for the ones who watched. In the
morning, when Esther wakened, she called her companion by name.

"Carla," she said, "I dreamed something dreadful had happened."

As she spoke, she attempted to rise. A twinge of pain in her foot
stopped her.

"What has happened?" she asked.

"You sprained your ankle yesterday," Carla explained.

"Yesterday?" she repeated, in a puzzled way, as if trying to think of
something. "Strange, but I can't recall yesterday."

"Dr. Mishell is coming to look at your ankle soon."

"Dr. Mishell! Dr. Mishell!" Esther said, slowly. Then a light came
into her face. "Oh, yes! Now I remember. He came to Gila to see our
sick people once, didn't he? I must dress so as to make the rounds
with him."

So saying, she started again to rise, but sank back with a pale face.

"My foot, and head, and throat are so painful. It's so queer. I feel
ill, too. What has happened?" she asked again.

"You were injured, somehow," explained Carla, "and were unconscious,
when found. Mr. Hastings was unconscious, too."

"Mr. Hastings? Is he here?"

"Yes."

"And sick?"

"Very. Dr. Mishell and Sister Mercy, the Catholic sister, are with him
now."

"I must help take care of Mr. Hastings, Carla."

"By and by, perhaps," said the girl, soothingly. "You must get well
yourself first."

Kenneth Hastings' condition proved to be more serious than they
thought, and Dr. Mishell looked grave. He had removed the bullet, and
Sister Mercy had assisted him. When at last the wound was dressed, Dr.
Mishell visited the other patient. He examined her ankle, and
pronounced it a bad sprain. He examined her head, and looking towards
Mrs. Clayton, said:

"It is as you surmised, concussion. Probably due to a fall."

He gave a few directions to Sister Mercy, and after a few gruff, but
kindly, words, departed, to look after his other patients in Gila.

Now, Carla Earle began her career as a nurse, and soon her
ministrations were known in every house, and shack, where fever had
entered.

After Esther learned the details of her rescue, and of how Kenneth
Hastings had again risked his life for hers, she grew abstracted,
talked little, and ate less. And after she had learned that he was
critically ill, delirious, as a result of the wound received in
rescuing her, her sorrow became patent to all. Could she not see him?
But Sister Mercy guarded her patient, and watched, and prayed the
prayers of her church. Physician and nurse both knew that Kenneth's
life hung by a thread. The sick man talked in his delirium; and his
heart story lodged in the heart of the nurse, who watched by him, and
who nursed him back to life.

When Esther was able to go about on crutches, she visited her patients
who were nearest to Clayton Ranch. One day Patrick Murphy called on
her.

"How are Brigham and Kathleen?" she asked, as she greeted him. "I hope
they are better."

"No betther, Miss," he said, struggling for composure. "The docther
has been lavin' av his midicine, an' Carla (I mean Miss Earle) has
came each day (the saints bliss her!) but still the faver is bad. An'
Brigham--"

He could say no more. After a while, he continued:

"An' Brigham begs me ter bring yez to him. He insists upon callin' yez
his Christ teacher, ma'am. He asks ivery day has yez come, an' cries
wid disappointmint, whin he foinds yez are not there. I told him I
would bring yez back wid me if yez could come."

"I'll go with you," she promised, "as soon as I speak to Mrs.
Clayton."

When Esther entered the sick room at the Murphy home, she found two
critical cases of typhoid fever. Their temperature was so high she was
filled with alarm. She questioned the mother closely, as to what had
thus far been done for the children.

"Did you follow the doctor's directions?" she asked.

"No, Miss, I didn't think it worth while. Back East where I wuz riz,
they didn't think it necessary ter wash sick folks with sody an' water
every day, an' alkyhol besides. They jest let sick folks be in peace,
an' give 'em a good washin' after they was corpses."

"But you see, Mrs. Murphy, we must sponge typhoid patients with water
and with alcohol, to lower their temperature. Brigham's fever is very
high."

"I done all I could fur him," sniffled the mother.

"Yes, I know," said Esther, kindly. "What has he eaten? Did you give
him the beef juice?"

"No, mum. That wuz no eatin' at all. I give him meat an' potatoes an'
cabbage, jest the way he liked 'em cooked," she said, wiping her eyes
on her apron. "He ain't eat none sence. He jest cries an' cries fur
ye, Miss."

"Brigham is very sick," the teacher said, gently. "He may not recover.
Shall I take care of him?"

"Yes, Miss, I wisht yer would."

Esther called for water and clean linen. She sponged the children,
made the necessary changes, ventilated the room, and closed the door
into the living room; and for the first time since their illness
began, the children had quiet. The angel of Death hovered near, and
the Murphy family were filled with an indefinable fear.

Esther watched over the two children throughout the night. Brigham was
delirious. Once he seemed terrified, and called out:

"Mamma, don't hurt my teacher! Wathemah, what did my teacher tell yer
about Jesus? Has my teacher come?"

At daybreak, when Esther gave him his medicine, he knew her and
smiled. As she bent over him, he said:

"I knowed ye'd come. Is Jesus near?"

"Yes, very near, dear," she answered, softly.

"An' He loves little childern?"

"Yes, dear, loves them dearly."

"I am so glad." He closed his eyes and seemed smiling in his sleep.
Rousing again, he said in a weak voice:

"I am so tired. Will yer carry me ter Jesus?"

"Yes, dear."

Then tenderly the teacher's arms went around the little form. She
said, aloud:

"Dear Jesus, I have brought you little Brigham, because you love
little children. He is too tired to go any farther alone, so I have
brought him to you. Please carry him the rest of the way home."

Gently, she drew her arm away. The child smiled as if satisfied, and
dozed off again.

It was late in the morning, when Dr. Mishell reached Murphy Ranch. He
looked grave as he watched Brigham.

"Better remain here if you can, Miss Bright. Good nursing will save
the girl, and may save the boy; but it is doubtful. You realize he is
in a critical condition."

"Yes. I will remain, Doctor; but Miss Earle will need help with the
other patients."

"Oh, Miss Earle is doing finely," he assured her. "And with one
exception, none of the cases are as serious as these two."

"Who is the exception?"

"I believe his name is Clifton. A cowboy by the name of Harding has
gone to his shack, to-day, to nurse him."

"Just like him," she thought.

She made no reply. As the day wore on, Kathleen's fever decreased, but
Brigham's increased. The boy again grew delirious. He repeatedly
called Wathemah and his teacher. As night drew near, he grew worse.
The parents stood near the bed, weeping. Suddenly the child cried out:

"Papa, won't yer bring my teacher? She knows the way ter heaven."

"She's here, lad," he said, taking one of Brigham's hands in his. Then
the father repeated the prayers of his church.

At dawn, Brigham lifted his arms, and smiled. He had found the Open
Door.

When the Murphy children knew their brother was dead, they were filled
with awe, and huddled in one corner of the living room. The mother
sobbed aloud, but refused to come near or touch the still little
figure.

The teacher, with tears rolling down her cheeks, prepared her little
friend's body for burial. Then she spoke again to the father,
reminding him of further preparations. He rose, and, going into the
room, where the family were gathered, said:

"We must have a wake. Poor Brigham."

"No, yer won't have no Cath'lic doin's with Brigham," responded his
wife.

"Suppose," interposed the teacher, "we have a funeral service for
Brigham in the schoolhouse, among the children he loved."

"Shure!" responded the father, wiping his eyes, "that'd be jist the
thing."

"Do you approve, Mrs. Murphy?" asked the teacher.

"Yes, Miss. That'd please Brigham, I know." And again she sobbed.

So Brigham was carried to the schoolhouse. The teacher placed a
crucifix at the head of the coffin, and lighted several candles. It
was the first time religious services for the dead had ever been held
in Gila. Heretofore, the dead had simply been buried.

The schoolroom was filled to its uttermost. The girl preacher rose and
told them of Brigham's lovely life ever since she had known him, of
his interest in Jesus, and of his desire to know the way to heaven.
She told of his last words, and how he asked her to carry him to
Jesus. As she spoke, tears rolled quietly down the bronzed cheeks of
many a man and woman whose life had been one long record of sin.

Near the coffin, stood Wathemah, his eyes riveted upon the face of his
little comrade. The teacher saw the child take off his string of beads
and lay it in the coffin.

They buried Brigham on the foothills, and left him alone;--no, not
alone, for Wathemah remained standing like a sentinel beside the grave
of his little friend.

Wathemah did not return to Mrs. Keith's as usual for supper. Neither
was he in his little bunk that night. No Wathemah appeared for
breakfast. Inquiries began to be circulated. Where was Wathemah?
Esther grew very uneasy, and started out to search for him herself.
She returned disappointed. An hour later, Jack Harding returned with
the child. He had found him keeping watch by Brigham's grave. So deep
is the Apache's affection, so real his grief.

Esther gathered Wathemah in her arms, and talked to him long of
Brigham. Henceforth, to that little child, as to many of his race, the
heavens would be full of the Great Spirit.

"Can Brigham see me from the sky?" asked Wathemah.

"I think so, dear. You'll want to be a good boy, won't you?"

For answer, he burst into tears, and she mingled her own with his.

From that time on, Wathemah loved the stars at night, and would stand
watching them with deepening wonder and awe. Then began his
questioning of things eternal, that upreach of the soul, that links it
to the Divine.

The day after Esther's return to Clayton Ranch, Dr. Mishell asked her
to go with him to the shack of Mark Clifton.

"He cannot recover," he said. "He realizes that. He has repeatedly
asked to see you."

As they approached the shack, they heard a voice. Jack Harding was
reading aloud from the Bible.

On the walls of the shack, were guns, hides, and coarse pictures; in
one corner, were a case of whiskey bottles, and a pack of cards. The
sick man seemed to be a man of about thirty. He greeted his visitors
courteously, and at once turned to Esther.

"I have asked to see you," he said. "I think I cannot recover. I am
not prepared to die. I have attended your meetings since you have held
them in the timber. I believe there is something in your religion; I
believe in God."

His voice was faint.

"Is there any hope for me?" he asked, searching her face with his keen
black eyes.

She shrank from his bold gaze, then answered gently:

"There is hope for every one who repents of his sins and turns to
Christ."

"But," he said, impatiently, "I haven't done so very much to repent
of. I haven't committed any crime, don't you know? The world doesn't
hold such high ideals of what a fellow ought to be as you do. I am no
better nor worse than the rest of men. I came to that conclusion long
ago."

"Indeed!" She spoke coldly. "Is that all? Then you do not need me."
She rose to go.

"No, it is not all!" interrupted Jack Harding. "Miss Bright, show him
his sin; show him the way of repentance, as you did me."

Suddenly the cowboy knelt by the bunk, and poured forth such a
heartfelt prayer for the man before him, all were touched. Clifton lay
with eyes closed. Esther spoke again.

"Mr. Clifton, have you done nothing to repent of? Think. You lured to
this country the sixteen-year-old orphan daughter of a clergyman. You
promised to marry her, if she would join you here. You placed her to
board in a saloon. You refused to marry her! Thank God, the child is
safe at last!"

There was no mistaking her tone.

"Marry _her_?" he repeated, contemptuously. "Marry _her_? I'd as soon
marry a cat. I think too much of my family. I wouldn't disgrace them
by marrying her, the daughter of a poverty-stricken curate."

Then they saw Esther Bright's eyes flash. Her face grew as stern as
the granite hills of her native state. She spoke slowly, and each
word--as Dr. Mishell afterwards said--seemed to weigh a ton apiece.

"Your family?" she said. "Your family?" she repeated with scorn. "Your
_family_? This girl is a child of God!"

And turning, she left the shack.

Jack Harding remained all through the night, talking and praying, at
intervals, with Clifton.

At dawn, the sick man cried out again and again:

"God be merciful to me a sinner!"

Then, at last, he said:

"Jack, I want to atone for my wrong to Miss Earle as much as I can. I
see it all now. Send for a clergyman. I can't live, I know. If Miss
Earle becomes my wife, it will remove the stigma, and she will inherit
a fortune willed to me. Send for her. Perhaps she will forgive me,
before I die."

At the sunset hour, word passed throughout the village that Mark
Clifton had just died, and that before his death he had been married
to Carla Earle. The clergyman who attended the dying man wrote to his
parents, telling them of their son's marriage and death, and of his
farewell messages to them. He added:

"Your son died a repentant man."



CHAPTER XXII

THE GREATEST OF THESE IS LOVE


On her return from Murphy Ranch, Esther began to assist in the care of
Kenneth Hastings. As yet, he had not recognized her. Sometimes, as she
sat by him, tears would gather and roll down her cheeks. One day,
Kenneth opened his eyes and asked:

"Who are you? What are you doing here?"

"I am Esther," she answered, "taking care of you."

"No, you're not," he said, wildly. "Get out of here!"

She stepped back where he could not see her. He rambled on.

"Some one shot!" He tried to rise. But Sister Mercy, entering, quieted
him, and he lay back, muttering. Occasionally, Esther caught the words
"Esther," "gulf," "doubt." About an hour later, he awakened, quiet.
She sat where she could watch his face, and learn her great lesson.

"Are you an angel?" he asked, with unrecognizing eyes.

She took one of his hands in hers, and rested her cheek against it.
His hand grew wet with her tears.

"Are you a soul in bliss?" he asked, softly. "I knew an angel when I
was on earth. But a gulf yawned between us, a gulf, a gulf!"

Then he seemed oblivious of the presence of anyone, and muttered:

"I have lost my way--lost my way,--lost."

At last he slept again. And Esther Bright, kneeling by his bedside,
with one of his hands clasped in hers, prayed. Still he slept on. When
he awakened, John Clayton stood looking down upon him. Kenneth looked
around, puzzled.

"Well, John! Where am I?"

"Here in my home. Are you feeling better, Kenneth?"

"Better? What do you mean?"

"You've been very sick, and delirious. But now you'll recover."

"What was the matter?"

"An Indian blackguard shot you through the shoulder. Septic conditions
set in, and you had a high fever. Keep still there," he said, as he
prevented his friend from moving.

"Queer, John," said Kenneth, after a moment's pause. "I can't recall
anything that has happened recently but a drive with Miss Bright just
before she went away. But I can't speak of that--"

And Esther Bright, resting on the couch in the living room, heard
every word. A long silence followed.

"John," said Kenneth in a low voice, "tell her sometime for me, that I
have lived a clean, honorable life. You know I have gone to the
saloons here sometimes, largely because other human beings were there.
You know I gambled a little to kill time. So deucedly lonely! Tell her
I wasn't bad at heart."

He started to say more, but suddenly stopped. And Esther, hearing in
spite of herself, searched her own heart.

Dr. Mishell came the next day, and finding his patient delirious
again, announced that he would stay with him till danger was past. So
the physician and nurse again watched together.

It was the day Esther was to have left for Massachusetts. When
questioned as to the time of her departure, she now assured everyone
she would stay till her sick people were well.

While Dr. Mishell sat by Kenneth, Mr. Clayton found Esther on the
veranda, in tears. He pretended not to see.

"Does Dr. Mishell give any hope of Mr. Hastings' recovery?" she asked.

"Yes. There has been a decided change for the better this past hour."

He slipped his hand under her arm, and, together, they walked up and
down the path to the road.

"My dear friend," he said to her, "Kenneth _may_ die, but I know a
powerful restorative, that might help to save his life, if we could
only bring it to him." He knew her heart better than Kenneth did.

"Oh, let _me_ take it to him," she said eagerly. "I'd be so thankful
to have a chance to help save his life. He's done so much for me, and
he is such a loyal--friend."

"You shall be the one to bring him the medicine if you will," he said
smiling.

"What is it? Where can I get it?" she asked, eager to go on her errand
of mercy.

"Where can you get it?" he repeated. "You can find it in your own
heart. It is love that will save Kenneth, dear Miss Bright."

Her tears fell fast.

"I fear I have made him very unhappy," she said.

"I suspect you have," he responded.

"Did he tell you so?"

"No. You know he has been delirious from the first. In his delirium,
he has talked of you constantly."

At last danger was past, and nurse and physician assured the Clayton
household that Kenneth Hastings would recover.

He awakened from sleep, alone. As he opened his eyes, they fell upon a
copy of Tennyson's works. It was open at "The Princess." Someone had
been reading, and marking passages. He at once turned to the title
page, and at the top, read a name he half expected to see. Could it be
possible that she was still there? He looked around the room. By his
bedside, stood a small round table, on which stood a low glass dish,
filled with pink cactus blossoms. Near by, was an open Bible. Here,
too, was a marked passage,--"faith, hope, love, these three; but the
greatest of these is love," He knew the Bible was Esther's. He laid it
down, as though he had trespassed upon her innermost heart. He closed
his eyes, and lay in a half-dream of possible joy. Over and over, the
words seemed to repeat themselves,--"the greatest of these is love."
There was a quiet step, and Esther entered, looking fresh and cool in
a white dimity gown. In her hands, was a bunch of cactus flowers. She
laid them down, and with a joyous cry went to him, clasping his hand
in hers.

"You know me at last?" she asked. "I am so glad!"

Kenneth did not speak. She continued, "I feared you would never know
me again." She seemed to hesitate a moment, but went on. "I feared I
could never tell you what I now _know_, what I want to tell you."

"What do you know?" he asked. "What do you wish to tell me?"

"That I love you," she answered, and stooping down, she put her cheek
against his.

"Look out, Kenneth!" she said, warningly, with a happy little laugh.
"You mustn't forget about the wound in your shoulder."

But he held her captive.

"What do I care for the wound in my shoulder, when the wound in my
heart is healed?" he asked of her.

"I came to heal the wound I made in your heart," she said, while a
pink wave swept over her face.

Still he held her, drawing her closer to him.

"The lips," he said, "on the lips, as a penance."

"My penance is easy," she said with a happy ring in her voice.

Then drawing a chair close to the side of his bed, she let him gather
her hands in his.

"Strange!" he said. "During my illness I dreamed it would be this way.
I must have dreamed a long time. You were always with me, I thought.
You were always in white, and often brought me flowers. Once, I found
myself in heaven. You met me, and smiled and said, 'Come.' You brought
me the most heavenly being I ever beheld, and placing my hand in his,
said significantly, 'He loved much!' Then you vanished. And the
heavenly being smiled upon me. And my heart grew glad. I began to
understand the mysteries of life. Then I thought how you had led me to
the very fountain of love, that I might know how to love you purely. I
began to feel I could renounce all my hopes of your love, because
there was something in that other presence that taught me that great
Love asks no return. It just loves on, and on. Then I thought this
heavenly being called me brother. And thousands of voices began to
sing, 'Glory to God in the highest!'"

"Beautiful!" she said.

"Then I seemed to float in space, and I knew that you were near me.
Your arms were full of flowers, and you offered up silent prayers for
me that bridged the gulf between us."

She kissed him again, saying softly:

"Beloved, I did bridge the gulf with prayers. How stupid I was not to
know sooner!"

"Not to know what?"

"Not to know love when it came."

"But you know it now, Beloved?" he said, drawing the hands he clasped
nearer to himself. "I thank God for that."

He closed his eyes, and lay very still, still clasping her hands. She
watched by him. At last, his hands relaxed their hold, and she knew by
his regular breathing that he was asleep.

John Clayton came to the door, saw how it was, and went away. So did
the others who came to inquire. And Kenneth slept on, a restful,
restoring sleep. And as Esther watched, she repeated to herself:

"The Greatest of These is Love."



CHAPTER XXIII

AT SUNSET


It was Dr. Mishell speaking.

"My dear young lady, if Mr. Hastings must go to England, as he says he
must, he should not go alone. He needs care. I have recommended you as
a competent nurse." His eyes twinkled.

"Is it _safe_ for him to travel now?" asked Esther.

"If he makes the journey by slow stages."

The physician spoke with some hesitation.

"At any rate he should get out of this intense heat as soon as
possible."

"But the ocean voyage," she suggested.

"Probably do him good."

The physician had already extended his congratulations to them. Before
leaving, he gripped Kenneth's hand, and said heartily:

"My nurse will be a helpmate to you. She is a woman of sense."

While he still gripped Kenneth's hand, he turned to Esther, and
extended his other hand to her. He placed her hand in Kenneth's, and
said impressively:

"'What _God_ hath joined together, let not man put asunder.' Miss
Bright, you are to marry a true man. Always _trust_ him."

His eyes filled. He turned abruptly and was gone.

Poor Dr. Mishell!

The wilting heat of August was upon them.

At evening, Esther, wearied with packing trunks, joined Kenneth on
the veranda. As she sat there, Wathemah ran to her, and flung a bunch
of flowers in her lap.

"Why do you leave me?" he asked.

She put her arm about him, and told him she was going home, a long,
long way from there, and that Mr. Hastings was going with her.

"Wathemah go, too?" he asked.

Both laughed.

"No, little chap," she said, drawing him closer to her, "not this
time."

"Wathemah go, too," he said, reproachfully, looking at Kenneth with
marked disapproval.

"Do you love your teacher?" asked Kenneth. He, too, liked the child.

Wathemah nodded.

"Would you like to be her boy, and live with her always?"

Wathemah placed one arm about his teacher's neck, and said softly:

"Wathemah's mother!"

Kenneth laughed again, and declared he was jealous.

Then Esther told the little fellow she would come back to Gila and get
him, and he should then go to live with her always.

"Take me now," he urged.

"No, dear," she said.

With that, he sprang from her, and walked proudly out of the yard, on
toward the canyon, without turning, or looking back.

"A nugget of gold from the Rockies," said Kenneth, looking after him.

"An Arizona cactus," she replied, "lovely, but hard to handle."

Wathemah trudged up the canyon, to his favorite bowlder, where he
went, often, to listen to the waters. There, he threw himself down,
and cried himself to sleep. He had slept a half-hour, perhaps, when he
was awakened by voices.

"Why, here's Wathemah," called out Jack Harding.

Another spoke, "He's a queer un. He never will be civilized."

The group of cowboys gathered about the child.

"What's the matter, sonny?" asked his friend, Jack Harding.

Then he told them of his teacher's refusal to take him with her.

"Don't cry, little kid!" said Jack. "Here, boys, let's give him money
ter go home with Miss Bright. I'll jest ask her ter take him along
with her, an' I'll pay fur his keep. Don't cry, sonny. It's all right.
Down in y'r pockets, pards, an' fork out some money fur Wathemah. We
saved him, an' raised him, yer know."

His own hand went down into his pockets, and into his hat went a roll
of bills. He passed his hat, and soon it was full of bills and silver
dollars.

That evening, it began to be whispered about that Wathemah was to go
with Miss Bright. But of this rumor she knew nothing.

Two days later, the hands of young men and maidens were busy
decorating the Clayton home for the wedding of Esther Bright and
Kenneth Hastings. Cactus blossoms of exquisite form and color were
used. Not only the interior of the house, but the veranda and yard as
well, were one glorious mass of color.

Jack Harding worked faithfully, stopping now and then to talk with
Kenneth, who lay on a couch on the veranda.

Carla, too, was busy, putting artistic touches here and there. She,
too, came often to the sick man's side.

But Esther was forbidden to work, and when she persisted, Mr. Clayton
captured her and took her off for a ride. She was to be married at
sunset.

While they were out driving, one of John Clayton's cowboys drove up
from the station, bringing David Bright and an English clergyman, a
friend of Kenneth's, with him.

When Esther returned, and found her grandfather, her joy knew no
bounds.

"I wish now, Kenneth, that we were to marry ourselves, as Friends do,"
she said, "but grandfather can give me away."

The guests who had been bidden, gathered in the yard, just as the
glory of the sunset began. There was Bobbie, with the Carmichaels;
there were some of the cowboys and cowlasses, miners and ranchers who
had attended the meetings; all the Clayton household; Dr. Mishell and
Sister Mercy, Miss Gale, and Wathemah were there. Jack Harding kept a
close watch on Wathemah, not knowing just what he might do.

As the sun neared the horizon, the clergyman took his place in the
yard, Kenneth stepped forward, and waited. Esther Bright, in a sheer
white gown, freshly laundered,--a gown she had worn many times as she
had ministered to the sick, came forward on the arm of her stately old
grandfather, who gave her away. His benign face seemed to hallow the
hour.

The colors in the sky seemed to vie with the cactus blossoms. Yellows,
and violets, and deep crimson, faint clouds with golden edges, violet,
then rose-colored, all melting into the dome of the sky.

The man and the woman were repeating the marriage ritual of the
Church of England, while this miracle of beauty flashed through the
heavens.

The plaintive cry of the mourning dove rang out, followed by the
cheerful piping of a cardinal.

The human voices went on with the solemnest vows man and woman may
speak.

The exquisite notes of the cardinal, then of a thrush, accompanied
their voices. The beauty of the dying day played over Esther Bright
and Kenneth Hastings, as they stood in the glory of their youth, and
of their love.

Just as the clergyman pronounced the closing words of the marriage
service, the heavens leaped into a splendor of color; a mocking bird
caught up all the songs that had furnished an obligato to the marriage
service; and, as if to outdo all the other feathered songsters, burst
into a perfect ecstasy of song.

In the midst of the congratulations and feasting, Wathemah kept close
to Esther's side.

The following day, Kenneth, Esther and David Bright were to begin
their long journey eastward. The day dawned. All Gila gathered at the
distant station to bid them God speed.

"Where is Wathemah?" Esther asked.

"I don't know," answered a miner. "I found him cryin' 'cause yer
wouldn't take him with yer."

"Poor little chap! But where's Jack?" she questioned.

"There they be," said a ranchman, pointing to Jack and Wathemah,
standing apart from the crowd. She stepped toward them.

"I have come to say good-by," she said. "You won't forget, Jack, to
follow the Christ; you won't forget to pray?"

She laid her hand on his arm. He stood battling with himself. Her
tender voice, her eyes filled with tears, almost unmanned him.

"Is it not much, do yer think, ter let yer go, as have brought me ter
know God, as have learned me ter live right, an' have been like God's
angel ter me? God help me!" The strong man's face worked, and he
turned from her. After a moment, he put his hand in his pocket, and
drew forth the Bible she had given him.

"I wisht I'd a knowed about this when I was a lad. My life'd ben
differnt. I thank yer fur all yer've done fur me, and all yer've
learned me. But it seems I can't let yer go. God help me!"

He stood with head bent and hands clinched.

At last, Esther spoke again:

"Good-by, John. You have fought a good fight, and conquered. Now, help
the others with all your might." Ah, how much she had helped him in
his battle!

He grasped her hand and held it. So they stood. Then he said:

"Take the little kid with yer. Give him a chance. I'll send him money
as long as I live. I ain't got nobody else ter care fur."

She would help the strong man, now, if she could; but how could she?
He had this battle to fight alone.

"You wish _me_ to take Wathemah, John?"

"Yes. Give him a chance,--differnt surroundings."

He lifted a bag of money.

"This 'ere holds nearly one hunderd dollars. The boys give it to
Wathemah ter go home with yer."

"Did they? How generous!"

The child ran to her, fearful he should be left behind. She hesitated.
How could she care for her convalescent husband, and this impetuous,
high-strung child? She turned to Kenneth and spoke with him.

Jack lifted Wathemah in his arms and kissed him, saying:

"Good-by, little pard. Mind now, no more cussin'."

David Bright, who had overheard the conversation, now stepped forward,
and said, "Let the child go with us, Esther, if those who have reared
him consent."

Both Mr. and Mrs. Keith, who stood near him, signified their
willingness. The party then entered the Pullman, and a few minutes
later, the train drew out from the station.

Esther and Wathemah went to the rear platform, and watched till a turn
in the road hid their friends from their sight. After a time Kenneth
joined them.

"Tears, Esther?" he said, lifting her face.

"But not of sorrow," she returned.

He put an arm around each, and they stood looking down upon the
majesty of the scene through which they were passing.

One looking back to that moment, would say it had been prophetic of
the future. The man of power, destined to become a determining factor
in the development of the great Southwest; the woman at his side,
great of heart and brain and soul; and this little prince of the
Rockies, with his splendid heritage of courage, destined to be the
educational leader of his race. And it was this woman of vision, who,
during the years that were to come, saw clearly the great work her
husband and foster son might do, and nerved them for it by her faith
in the work, and their power to do it.



CHAPTER XXIV

AFTERMATH


It was a substantial stone house, built against the mountainside,
overlooking a picturesque canyon. A woman sat on the broad veranda.
Occasionally, she turned her head, and looked down the mountain road,
listening as though expecting some one. Then she walked down the path,
and stood watching. A little five-year-old girl joined her, flitting
about like a sprite.

"Will father come soon, mother?" she asked.

"I hope so, Edith. He said he would come to-day." There was a far away
look in the mother's eyes.

"Why _doesn't_ father come?" the child continued.

"Oh, he has been a long way, and has traveled many days, dear.
Something may have happened to detain him."

"What could have happened, mother?" the little one asked.

"Oh, business, or the rails might have spread, or there might have
been a washout, or a landslide."

The mother again looked down the road. Then she walked slowly back to
the veranda and took up her sewing. The child leaned against her knee.

"Mother, when you were a little girl, did you have any little girls to
play with?"

"No. I had just my dear grandfather."

"Then you know how lonely I am, mother. It's pretty hard to be a
little girl and all alone."

"Do you think you are alone, little daughter, when you have father,
and aunt Carla, and mother?"

"But you are big, mother, don't you see? When a little girl hasn't any
other little boys and girls to play with, the world's a pretty
lonesome place."

The mother sighed.

The child rested her chin in her dainty hands, and looked up through
her long lashes into her mother's eyes.

"I have been thinking, mother."

The child was given to confidences, especially with her mother.

"What did you think, Edith?" The mother smiled encouragingly.

"I thought I'd pray for a brother."

A tear trembled on the mother's cheek.

"A little brother?" The mother looked far away.

"Oh, a _b-i-g_ brother!" said the child, stretching her arms by way of
illustration.

"What would you say, sweetheart, if a big brother should come to-day?"

The little one clapped her hands.

"A really, _truly_, big brother?" she asked, dancing about in glee.

"A really, truly, big brother,--Wathemah. You have never seen him, and
he has never seen you, since you were a baby. But he is coming home
soon, you know."

"Will he play with me?" she asked. "You and Aunt Carla just 'nopolize
father and the big ladies and gentlemen when they come. But
_sometimes_ father plays with me, doesn't he, mother?"

"Yes, sometimes. He loves his little daughter."

"I don't know." She shook her head doubtfully.

"I heard father say he loved you bestest of ev'rybody in a world."

She threw up her arms and gave a little jump.

"Oh, I wish I had some one to play with!"

"Let's go watch for father again," said the mother, rising.

This time they were not disappointed. They heard the sound of wheels;
then they saw the father. The little daughter ran like the wind down
the road. The father stopped the horses, gave the reins to the driver,
and stepped to the ground. In an instant the little sprite was in his
arms, hugging him about the neck, while her ripples of laughter filled
the air. The wife approached, and was folded in the man's embrace.

"Father," said the child, "I am to have a big brother, mother says."

"You are?" Great astonishment.

The parents smiled.

"An', father,"--here she coquetted with him--"you and mother are not
to 'nopolize him when he comes. He's going to play with me, isn't he,
mother?"

"I think so." A grave smile.

The child was given to saying her father "un'erstood."

"When did you hear from Wathemah, Esther?" the father asked.

"About ten days ago. I'll read you his letter. I shall not be
surprised to see him any day, now."

"Wathemah is my big brother, Father. Mother said so. She says he's
always been my big brother, only _I_ didn't re'lize it, you know."

The parents looked amused.

"Yes, Edith, he is your brother, and a dear brother, too," said the
father.

When they were seated on the veranda, and the child was perched on
her father's knee, Esther brought Wathemah's last letter, and read it
aloud to her husband.

"_Dear Mother Esther:_

"This is probably the last letter I shall write you from Harvard for
some time. As soon as Commencement is over, I shall go to Carlisle
again for a brief visit, and then start for Arizona, to Father Kenneth
and you, my dear Mother Esther, and my little sister and Carla and
Jack. Now that the time approaches for me to return to you, I can
hardly wait.

"I may have expressed my gratitude to you and Father Kenneth in
different ways before, but I wish to do so again now.

"I am deeply indebted to him for his generosity, and for his fatherly
interest and counsel. But it is to you, my beloved teacher, I owe most
of all. All that I am or ever may be, I owe entirely to you. You found
me a little savage, you loved me and believed in me, and made it
possible for me to become a useful man. As I have grown older, I have
often wondered at your patience with me, and your devotion to the
interests of the Indian. You have done great things already for him,
and I am confident that you will do much more to bring about a true
appreciation of him, his character and his needs. The Indian in
transition is a problem. You know more about that problem than almost
anyone else.

"I never told you about my birthday, did I? Do you know the day I
count my years by? My first day, and your first day at the Gila
school. Then my real birth took place, for I began to be a living
soul.

"So, in a spiritual sense, you are my real mother. I have often
wondered if the poor creature who bore me is still living, and living
in savagery. All a son's affection I have given to you, my beloved
foster mother. It is now nearly sixteen years since you found me a
little savage. I must have been about six years of age, then; so, on
the next anniversary of your first day in the Gila school, I shall be
twenty-two years old. From that day till now, you have been the
dearest object in the world to me. I am sure no mother could be more
devotedly loved by her son than you are loved by me. I strive to find
words to express the affection in my heart.

"And Grandfather Bright! How tender and gentle he always was to me,
from the time we had our beautiful wedding journey until his death! He
came to Carlisle to see me as he might have gone to see a beloved son.
He always seemed to me like God, when I was a little fellow. And as I
grew older, he became to me the highest ideal of Christian manhood. I
went over to Concord Cemetery not long ago, and stood with uncovered
head by his grave.

"And our dear little David Bright! That was a sore loss for you and
Father Kenneth.

"You don't know how often I wish to see little Edith. I was greatly
disappointed that you and Father Kenneth did not bring her with you
the last time you came to see me. You didn't realize such a lean,
lanky, brawny fellow as I cared so much to see a little girl, did you?
I had always wished I might have a little sister. I have shown her
pictures to some of the fellows who come to my room, telling them she
is my baby sister. They chaff me and say I do not look much like her.

"The fellows have been very courteous to me.

"Now that the time has come to leave Harvard and Cambridge and Boston,
I am sorry to go. I have met such fine people.

"Dr. ---- urges me to return in the fall, to continue my work for my
Master's degree; but I have thought it all over, and believe it wiser,
for the present, to work among my people, and get the knowledge I seek
at first hand. After that, I'll return to Harvard.

"Long ago, your words gave me my purpose in life,--to prepare myself
to the uttermost for the uplift of my race.

"Daily, I thank you in my heart, for the years I had at Carlisle. But
most of all, I thank you for yourself and what you have been to me.

"I must not close without telling you of a conversation I had with
Col. H---- of Boston. He heard your address on 'The Indian in
Transition' at the Mohonk Conference. He told me it was a masterly
address, and that you presented the Indian question with a clearness
and force few have done. He told me that what you said would give a
new impulse to Indian legislation. He seemed to know of your
conferences at Washington, too.

"I hear great things of Father Kenneth, too; his increasing wealth,
his power for leadership, and his upright dealings with men.

"Do you remember how jealous I used to be of him when I was a little
chap? Well, I am jealous no longer. He is the finest man I know.

"But I must stop writing. This letter has run on into an old-fashioned
visit.

"I am coaching one of the fellows in mathematics. Strange work for a
savage!

"With love for all of you, including my dear Carla,

     "Your loving boy,

     "WATHEMAH."

"He's a fine fellow, is Wathemah," said Kenneth, as he cuddled his
little girl up in his arms.

"Yes, he's developed wonderfully," responded Esther.

"How's Carla?" the husband asked.

"Carla's well, and just now deeply interested in the Y.M. and Y.W.C.A.
work."

Here Carla herself appeared, and joined in the welcome home. She was
the picture of wholesome content.

While they were talking, there was a sound of wheels again. The wagon
stopped, a young man jerked out a trunk, paid the driver, and ran
towards the veranda. How happy he seemed!

"It's Wathemah," all cried, hastening to meet him. The sprite was in
advance, with arms outstretched.

"I guess you don't reco'nize me," she said. "I'm your little sister."

He laughed, stooped and lifted her in his arms, and kissed her several
times.

Then came Esther's turn. At the same time, Kenneth enfolded Wathemah.
Then came Carla, whom Wathemah kissed as he used to do in childhood
days, and laughingly repeated a question he was accustomed to ask her
then--"Is my face clean, Carla?"

And all laughed and talked of the days when they had found one
another, of the Claytons and Jack Harding, and Patrick Murphy and his
family, and the Rosses and Carmichaels, and the changes that had taken
place in Gila since they left there.

"I was so sorry to hear of Mr. Clayton's death," said Wathemah. "What
a great-hearted man he was! Such a generous friend! Do you suppose
Mrs. Clayton and Edith will ever come back to America?"

"No," answered Kenneth, "I fear not. Mrs. Clayton's kindred are in
England, you know. She never liked America. It was a lonely life for
her here, and doubly so after her husband's death."

"And how's Jack? Dear old Jack! I must see him soon," said Wathemah.

"I'll call him up," said Kenneth, going to the phone.

"Give me 148, please."

"No,--1-4-8."

"Hello! Is Mr. Harding within reach?"

"Gone to the store, you say? Send some one for him at once, please,
and tell him Mr. Hastings wishes to talk with him. Important."

He hung up the receiver and returned to his place.

"Do you know, Father Kenneth, I have received a letter from Jack every
week since I left Gila, except the time he was sick? He insisted upon
sending me money, saying that it was he who found me, and wanted me to
live."

"Yes, Jack is a generous fellow," assented Kenneth.

"I tried to make him understand that I was strong and able to earn my
own way; but it made no difference."

"Just like him! Bless him!" said Esther.

"So I have invested his money for him, in his name, and it will make
him very comfortable some day."

Kenneth smiled.

"Jack is becoming a rich man by his own work, and his own wise
investments."

Just then the telephone rang.

"Hello! Hello! Is that you, Jack?" asked Kenneth.

"That's good.

"Yes, yes.

"Something interesting is up. Whom would you like to see at this
moment?

"Mother Esther? That's good. Who next?

"Wathemah? Hold the phone a minute."

He turned to Wathemah.

"Jack says he'd like to see you. He doesn't know you're here. Here!
Talk to him yourself."

So Wathemah stepped to the phone.

"Hello, old Jack!"

There was a happy laugh.

"You'll be over to-morrow?"

"What's that you say? _Your_ boy? Well, I guess!"

"How happy Jack will be!" said Kenneth.

"Your little pard?" There was a chuckle from the lithe, muscular young
Indian.

"To be sure, I'm still your 'pard,' only I'm far from little now. I'm
a strapping fellow."

"What's that? You feel the education has come between us? No more o'
that, old fellow! You're one of the biggest-hearted friends man ever
had!"

"Tell him to come over as soon as he can," interrupted Kenneth.

"Father Kenneth says 'Come over as soon as you can.'"

"You will? Good! What a reunion we'll have! Good-by."

He hung up the receiver, and the conversation drifted on.

"Has Jack made a successful overseer?" questioned Wathemah.

"Very. He's a fine fellow. He is still very religious, you know, and
the men respect him. He has become an indefatigable reader and student
of labor questions. Recently I heard him give a speech that surprised
me. He grasps his subject, and has a direct way of putting things."

"I should expect Jack to be a forceful speaker," commented Wathemah,
"if he ever overcame his diffidence so as to speak at all. But tell
me about the school at Gila. That little spot is dear to me."

"You should see the building there now," said Esther. "Do you know
that the people who were most lawless when we were there, are now
law-abiding citizens? Gila is said to be one of the best towns in
Arizona."

"That seems like a miracle,--your miracle, Mother Esther." He rose
from his chair and stood for a moment behind her, and said in a low
voice, as in childhood, "_Me_ mother, _me_ teacher." There was a
suspicious choke in his voice, and, turning, he lifted Edith, tossed
her to his shoulder, and ran with her down toward the road. Kenneth
overtook him, and as they strolled along, they talked of many things,
but chiefly of Esther, and her great work for the Indian.

"How did it all come about?" asked Wathemah.

"Oh, in a roundabout way. Her magazine articles on the Indian first
drew attention to her. Then her address at the Mohonk Conference
brought her into further prominence. She was asked to speak before the
Indian Commission. Later, she was sent by the Government to visit
Indian schools, and report their condition. She certainly has shown
marked ability. The more she is asked to do, the more she seems
capable of doing."

"A wonderful woman, isn't she?"

"Yes. Vital. What she has done for the Indian, she has also done for
the cause of general education in Arizona."

"I fear she will break down under all this, Father Kenneth."

"Never fear. Work is play to her. She thinks rapidly, speaks simply,
and finds people who need her absorbingly interesting."

"Yes, but she gives herself too much to others," protested the Indian
youth.

"Well, we must let her. She is happier so," responded Kenneth.

"What about your own work, Father Kenneth? I have heard in
Massachusetts that you are a great force for public good throughout
this region. But tell me of the mines."

"I invested much of my fortune _here_," said Kenneth, giving a broad
outward sweep of his arm. "Some of the mines are paying large
dividends. My fortune has more than doubled. But Arizona has been
unfortunate in being infested with dishonest promoters. I am trying to
bring about legislation that will protect people from this wholesale
robbery."

"I suspect you enjoy the fight," laughed the youth.

"It has created bitter enemies," said Kenneth, gravely.

So talking, they again sought the house, and found Esther and Carla on
the veranda. The latter sat where Wathemah could see her delicate
profile as she bent over some sewing. Quiet happiness and content had
transformed her into a lovely woman.

"How beautiful you are, Carla!" said Wathemah, admiringly.

He enjoyed her confusion.

"Do you remember the day I played truant, Carla, and you found me in
the canyon, and made me ashamed of myself?"

Did she?

He did not notice the shadow over the winsome face.

"Do you know, Wathemah," said Esther, "Carla would not remain at
college, because she felt I needed her. But she has become an
indefatigable student."

Later, Wathemah discovered for himself that she really had become a
fine student. One day he asked her how she came to study Greek.

"Oh," she said, hesitatingly, "I loved Grecian literature, and
history, and art. And I had often heard that my father was a fine
Greek scholar. So I began by myself. Then I had Sister Esther help me.
And after that, it became to me a great delight."

They were a merry party that day. All were in fine spirits. In the
midst of their talk and laughter, the telephone rang.

"Some one for you, Esther," said Kenneth, returning to the veranda.

On her return, he looked up questioningly.

"The superintendent of education wishes me to give an address before
the teachers at Tucson next month," she said, quietly.

"And will you do it?" asked Wathemah.

"Do it?" echoed Kenneth. "Of course she'll do it! She doesn't know how
to say 'no.'"

Esther smiled indulgently.

"You see, Wathemah, the needs of the new country are great. They would
not invite me to lecture so frequently, if they had enough workers. To
me, the opportunity to help means obligation to help."

"Our Mother Esther has just returned from a conference at Washington,
and another in Montana," said Kenneth, "and here she is going off
again. The truth is she has become an educational and moral force in
the Southwest."

"We are glad to share her with all who need her," said Carla, simply.

"Yes, lad," added Kenneth, rising, "we are glad she has the power to
help."

The next morning, they were awakened early by John Harding, calling
Wathemah to let him in. Such a meeting as that was! Jack did not seem
to know how to behave. The little unkempt lad, untutored, and
undisciplined, whom he had known and loved, was gone; and in his
place, stood a lithe, graceful, really elegant young man. Jack stood
back abashed. _His_ Wathemah, his little Wathemah, was gone. Something
got in his throat. He turned aside, and brushed his hand across his
cheek. But Wathemah slipped his arm around his neck, and together they
tramped off up the mountain for a visit. Then Jack knew that his boy
had really come back to him, but developed and disciplined into a man
of character and force.

That was a gala day for Jack Harding and the Hastings household. No
one had ever seen Jack so happy before.

Late that afternoon all stood on the veranda.

"My little kid," said Jack, laying his hand on Wathemah's shoulder,
"I've worked fur ye, prayed fur ye, all the years. And now you've
come, now you've come," he kept saying, over and over.

"Say, Jack," said Wathemah, "do you remember the time you found me
asleep up the canyon, and took up a collection to send me East with
Mother Esther?"

Jack nodded.

"Well, that money, with all that you have since sent me, has been
invested for you. And now, Jack, my dear old pard, that money has made
you a little fortune. You need work no more."

Jack choked. He tried to speak, but turned his face away. Esther
slipped her arm through his, and told him she wanted to visit with
him. So the two walked up and down the road in front of the house,
talking.

"We are all so happy over Wathemah," she said. "I know you must be,
too. He is really your boy, for you saved him, Jack."

Then Jack Harding poured his heart out to her. She understood him, all
his struggles, all his great unselfish love for the boy. She knew the
pain of his awakening, when he found that the child whom he had loved,
whom he had toiled for all these years, needed him no more. It was
pathetic to her.

"But, Jack dear," she was saying, "I am sure Wathemah will always be a
joy to you. Only wait. My heart tells me he has some great purpose. He
will tell us in time. When he does, you will want to help him carry
out his plans, won't you?"

Up and down the veranda, walked Kenneth and Wathemah. Kenneth's hand
and arm rested on the youth's shoulder.

"Yes, Wathemah," he was saying, "little David's death was a great
sorrow to us. He was shot by an unfriendly Indian, you know."

For a moment his face darkened. The two walked on in silence.

"And Mother Esther?" Wathemah said in a husky tone; "how can she still
give her life for the uplift of my people?"

"Oh, you know as well as I. She serves a great Master."

They talked from heart to heart, as father and son.

At last all the household gathered on the veranda to watch the
afterglow in the sky. Esther slipped her arm through Wathemah's, and
they stood facing the west.

"And so my boy is to enter the Indian service," she said.

"Yes," he answered. "You know I majored in anthropology and
education. My summers among various Indian tribes were to help me know
the Indian. My thesis for my doctorate is to be on 'The Education of
the Indian in the United States.' When I have my material ready, I'll
return to Harvard and remain until I complete my work for my
doctorate."

"What next, Wathemah?" There was a thrill in Esther's voice.

The Indian youth squared his shoulders, lifted his head, and said, as
though making a solemn covenant:

"The uplift of my race!"

And Esther's face was shining.



Transcriber's Notes

Omission of punctuation and misspellings that appeared to be
typesetter errors have been corrected.

Slang and colloquialisms in dialogue has been left as it appeared in
the original.

In this Latin-1 text version, the following substitution system has
been used for non-Latin-1 diacritical marks:-

     [=e] e with Macron
     [=u] u with Macron
     [)e] e with Breve

There is a Unicode version of the text file which has all diacritical
marks as per the original book.

In Chapter XV, the Apache makes the statement "N[=e]-sh[=e]-äd-nl[)e]h´"
"You be my squaw." This is repeated several times in Chapter XXI. In the
original the diacritical marks are typeset differently in the subsequent
entries. On the assumption that the first entry is more accurate, all
repetitions are changed to agree with the original.

In the original there is some dialogue of one sentence that has been
typeset across two paragraphs. These have been closed up into the same
paragraph to aid reading flow and to maintain consistency.

In Chapter XXI (page 250 in the original) there is a line that appears
to be out of order.

The original reads:-
     His coming was
     about as welcome to her as the wolves would be.
     him. She shook her head, pointed to her ankle, and

     "N[=e]-sh[=e]-äd-nl[)e]h´," he said, beckoning her to join
     again tried to climb. Her efforts were futile. Then

This has been rearranged as:-
     His coming was
     about as welcome to her as the wolves would be.

     "N[=e]-sh[=e]-äd-nl[)e]h´," he said, beckoning her to join
     him. She shook her head, pointed to her ankle, and
     again tried to climb. Her efforts were futile. Then

In Chapter XXIV the sentence "The child was given to confidences,
especially with her father" has been changed to "especially with
her mother" as the reference to father made no contextual sense.





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