Dennison Grant, A Novel of To-day
by Robert Stead
CHAPTER ICHAPTER I
"Chuck at the Y.D. to-night, and a bed under the shingles," shouted
Transley, waving to the procession to be off.
Linder, foreman and head teamster, straightened up from the half
load of new hay in which he had been awaiting the final word,
tightened the lines, made an unique sound in his throat, and the
horses pressed their shoulders into the collars. Linder glanced back
to see each wagon or implement take up the slack with a jerk like the
cars of a freight train; the cushioned rumble of wagon wheels on the
soft earth, and the noisy chatter of the steel teeth of the hay-rakes
came up from the rear. Transley's "outfit" was under way.
Transley was a contractor; a master of men and of circumstances.
Six weeks before, the suspension of a grading order had left him high
and dry, with a dozen men and as many teams on his hands and hired for
the season. Transley galloped all that night into the foothills; when
he returned next evening he had a contract with the Y.D. to cut all
the hay from the ranch buildings to The Forks. By some deft touch of
those financial strings on which he was one day to become so skilled a
player Transley converted his dump scrapers into mowing machines, and
three days later his outfit was at work in the upper reaches of the
The contract had been decidedly profitable. Not an hour of broken
weather had interrupted the operations, and to-day, with two thousand
tons of hay in stack, Transley was moving down to the headquarters of
the Y.D. The trail lay along a broad valley, warded on either side by
ranges of foothills; hills which in any other country would have been
dignified by the name of mountains. From their summits the grey-green
up-tilted limestone protruded, whipped clean of soil by the chinooks
of centuries. Here and there on their northern slopes hung a beard of
scrub timber; sharp gulleys cut into their fastnesses to bring down
the turbulent waters of their snows.
Some miles to the left of the trail lay the bed of the Y.D.,
fringed with poplar and cottonwood and occasional dark green splashes
of spruce. Beyond the bed of the Y.D., beyond the foothills that
looked down upon it, hung the mountains themselves, their giant crests
pitched like mighty tents drowsing placidly between earth and heaven.
Now their four o'clock veil of blue- purple mist lay filmed about
their shoulders, but later they would stand out in bold silhouette
cutting into the twilight sky. Everywhere was the soft smell of
new-mown hay; everywhere the silences of the eternal, broken only by
the muffled noises of Transley's outfit trailing down to the Y.D.
Linder, foreman and head teamster, cushioned his shoulders against
his half load of hay and contemplated the scene with amiable
satisfaction. The hay fields of the foothills had been a pleasant
change from the railway grades of the plains below. Men and horses
had fattened and grown content, and the foreman had reason to know
that Transley's bank account had profited by the sudden shift in his
operations. Linder felt in his pocket for pipe and matches; then,
with a frown, withdrew his fingers. He himself had laid down the law
that there must be no smoking in the hay fields. A carelessly dropped
match might in an hour nullify all their labor.
Linder's frown had scarce vanished when hoof-beats pounded by the
side of his wagon, and a rider, throwing himself lightly from his
horse, dropped beside him in the hay.
"Thought I'd ride with you a spell, Lin. That Pete-horse acts like
he was goin' sore on the off front foot. Chuck at the Y.D. to-night?"
"That's what Transley says, George, and he knows."
"Ever et at the Y.D?"
"Know old Y.D?"
"Only to know his name is good on a cheque, and they say he still
throws a good rope."
George wriggled to a more comfortable position in the hay. He had
a feeling that he was approaching a delicate subject with consummate
skill. After a considerable silence he continued--
"They say that's quite a girl old Y.D.'s got."
"Oh," said Linder, slowly. The occasion of the soreness in that
Pete-horse's off front foot was becoming apparent.
"You better stick to Pete," Linder continued. "Women is most
"Don't I know it?" chuckled George, poking the foreman's ribs
companionably with his elbow. "Don't I know it?" he repeated, as his
mind apparently ran back over some reminiscence that verified Linder's
remark. It was evident from the pleasant grimaces of George's face
that whatever he had suffered from the uncertain sex was forgiven.
"Say, Lin," he resumed after another pause, and this time in a more
confidential tone, "do you s'pose Transley's got a notion that way?"
"Shouldn't wonder. Transley always knows what he's doing, and why.
Y.D. must be worth a million or so, and the girl is all he's got to
leave it to. Besides all that, no doubt she's well worth having on
her own account."
"Well, I'm sorry for the boss," George replied, with great
soberness. "I alus hate to disappoint the boss."
"Huh!" said Linder. He knew George Drazk too well for further
comment. After his unlimited pride in and devotion to his horse,
George gave his heart unreservedly to womankind. He suffered from no
cramping niceness in his devotions; that would have limited the play
of his passion; to him all women were alike--or nearly so. And no
number of rebuffs could convince George that he was unpopular with the
objects of his democratic affections. Such a conclusion was, to him,
too absurd to be entertained, no matter how many experiences might
support it. If opportunity offered he doubtless would propose to
Y.D.'s daughter that very night--and get a boxed ear for his pains.
The Y.D. creek had crossed its valley, shouldering close against
the base of the foothills to the right. Here the current had created
a precipitous cutbank, and to avoid it and the stream the trail wound
over the side of the hill. As they crested a corner the silver ribbon
of the Y.D. was unravelled before them, and half a dozen miles down
its course the ranch buildings lay clustered in a grove of cottonwoods
and evergreens. All the great valley lay warm and pulsating in a
flood of yellow sunshine; the very earth seemed amorous and content in
the embrace of sun and sky. The majesty of the view seized even the
unpoetic souls of Linder and Drazk, and because they had no other
means of expression they swore vaguely and relapsed into silence.
Hoof-beats again sounded by the wagon side. It was Transley.
"Oh, here you are, Drazk. How long do you reckon it would take you
to ride down to the Y.D. on that Pete-horse?" Transley was a leader
Drazk's eyes sparkled at the subtle compliment to his horse.
"I tell you, Boss," he said, "if there's any jackrabbits in the
road they'll get tramped on."
"I bet they will," said Transley, genially. "Well, you just slide
down and tell Y.D. we're coming in. She's going to be later than I
figured, but I can't hurry the work horses. You know that, Drazk."
"Sure I do, Boss," said Drazk, springing into his saddle. "Just
watch me lose myself in the dust." Then, to himself, "Here's where I
beat the boss to it."
The sun had fallen behind the mountains, the valley was filled with
shadow, the afterglow, mauve and purple and copper, was playing far
up the sky when Transley's outfit reached the Y.D. corrals. George
Drazk had opened the gate and waited beside it.
"Y.D. wants you an' Linder to eat with him at the house," he said
as Transley halted beside him. "The rest of us eat in the bunk-
house." There was something strangely modest in Drazk's manner.
"Had yours handed to you already?" Linder managed to banter in a
low voice as they swung through the gate.
"Hell!" protested Mr. Drazk. "A fellow that ain't a boss or a
foreman don't get a look-in. Never even seen her. . . . Come, you
Pete-horse!" It was evident George had gone back to his first love.
The wagons drew up in the yard, and there was a fine jingle of
harness as the teamsters quickly unhitched. Y.D. himself approached
through the dusk; his large frame and confident bearing were
unmistakable even in that group of confident, vigorous men.
"Glad to see you, Transley," he said cordially. "You done well out
there. 'So, Linder! You made a good job of it. Come up to the
house--I reckon the Missus has supper waitin'. We'll find a room for
you up there, too; it's different from bein' under canvas."
So saying, and turning the welfare of the men and the horses over
to his foreman, the rancher led Transley and Linder along a path
through a grove of cottonwoods, across a footbridge where from
underneath came the babble of water, to "the house," marked by a
yellow light which poured through the windows and lost itself in the
shadow of the trees.
The nucleus of the house was the log cabin where Y.D. and his wife
had lived in their first married years. With the passage of time
additions had been built to every side which offered a point of
contact, but the log cabin still remained the family centre, and into
it Transley and Linder were immediately admitted. The poplar floor
had long since worn thin, save at the knots, and had been covered with
edge-grained fir, but otherwise the cabin stood as it had for twenty
years, the white-washed logs glowing in the light of two bracket lamps
and the reflections from a wood fire which burned merrily in the
stove. The skins of a grizzly bear and a timber wolf lay on the
floor, and two moose heads looked down from opposite ends of the room.
On the walls hung other trophies won by Y.D.'s rifle, along with
hand-made bits of harness, lariats, and other insignia of the
The rancher took his guests' hats, and motioned each to a seat.
"Mother," he said, directing his voice into an adjoining room,
"here's the boys."
In a moment "Mother" appeared drying her hands. In her appearance
were courage, resourcefulness, energy,--fit mate for the man who had
made the Y.D. known in every big cattle market of the country. As
Linder's eye caught her and her husband in the same glance his mind
involuntarily leapt to the suggestion of what the offspring of such a
pair must be. The men of the cattle country have a proper
appreciation of heredity. . . .
"My wife--Mr. Transley, Mr. Linder," said the rancher, with a
courtliness which sat strangely on his otherwise rough-and-ready
speech. "I been tellin' her the fine job you boys has made in the
hay fields, an' I reckon she's got a bite of supper waitin' you."
"Y.D. has been full of your praises," said the woman. There was a
touch of culture in her manner as she received them, which Y.D.'s
hospitality did not disclose.
She led them into another room, where a table was set for five.
Linder experienced a tang of happy excitement as he noted the number.
Linder allowed himself no foolishness about women, but, as he
sometimes sagely remarked to George Drazk, you never can tell what
might happen. He shot a quick glance at Transley, but the
contractor's face gave no sign. Even as he looked Linder thought
what an able face it was. Transley was not more than twenty-six, but
forcefulness, assertion, ability, stood in every line of his clean-cut
features. He was such a man as to capture at a blow the heart of old
Y.D., perhaps of Y.D.'s daughter.
"Where's Zen?" demanded the rancher.
"She'll be here presently," his wife replied. "We don't have Mr.
Transley and Mr. Linder every night, you know," she added, with a
"Dolling up," thought Linder. "Trust a woman never to miss a bet."
But at that moment a door opened, and the girl appeared. She did
not burst upon them, as Linder had half expected; she slipped quietly
and gracefully into their presence. She was dressed in black, in a
costume which did not too much conceal the charm of her figure, and
the nut-brown lustre of her face and hair played against the sober
background of her dress with an effect that was almost dazzling.
"My daughter, Zen," said Y.D. "Mr. Transley, Mr. Linder."
She shook hands frankly, first with Transley, then with Linder, as
had been the order of the introduction. In her manner was neither
the shyness which sometimes marks the women of remote settlements,
nor the boldness so readily bred of outdoor life. She gave the
impression of one who has herself, and the situation, in hand.
"We're always glad to have guests at the Y.D." she was saying. "We
live so far from everywhere."
Linder thought that a strange peg on which to hang their welcome.
But she was continuing--
"And you have been so successful, haven't you? You have made quite
a hit with Dad."
"How about Dad's daughter?" asked Transley. Transley had a manner
of direct and forceful action. These were his first words to her.
Linder would not have dared be so precipitate.
"Perhaps," thought Linder to himself, as he turned the incident
over in his mind, "perhaps that is why Transley is boss, and I'm just
foreman." The young woman's behavior seemed to support that
conclusion. She did not answer Transley's question, but she gave no
evidence of displeasure.
"You boys must be hungry," Y.D. was saying. "Pile in."
The rancher and his wife sat at the ends of the table; Transley on
the side at Y.D.'s right; Linder at Transley's right. In the better
light Linder noted Y.D.'s face. It was the face of a man of fifty,
possibly sixty. Life in the open plays strange tricks with the
appearance. Some men it ages before their time; others seem to tap a
spring of perpetual youth. Save for the grey moustache and the
puckerings about the eyes Y.D.'s was still a young man's face. Then,
as the rancher turned his head, Linder noted a long scar, as of a
burn, almost grown over in the right cheek. . . . Across the table
from them sat the girl, impartially dividing her position between the
A Chinese boy served soup, and the rancher set the example by
"piling in" without formality. Eight hours in the open air between
meals is a powerful deterrent of table small-talk. Then followed a
huge joint of beef, from which Y.D. cut generous slices with swift
and dexterous strokes of a great knife, and the Chinese boy added the
vegetables from a side table. As the meat disappeared the call of
appetite became less insistent.
"She's been a great summer, ain't she?" said the rancher, laying
down his knife and fork and lifting the carver. "Transley, some more
meat? Pshaw, you ain't et enough for a chicken. Linder? That's
right, pass up your plate. Powerful dry, though. That's only a small
bit; here's a better slice here. Dry summers gen'rally mean open
winters, but you can't never tell. Zen, how 'bout you? Old Y.D.'s
been too long on the job to take chances. Mother? How much did you
say, Transley? About two thousand tons? Not enough. Don't care if I
do,"--helping himself to another piece of beef.
"I think you'll find two thousand tons, good hay and good
measurement," said Transley.
"I'm sure of it," rejoined his host, generously. "I'm carryin'
more steers than usual, and'll maybe run in a bunch of doggies from
Manitoba to boot. I got to have more hay."
So the meal progressed, the rancher furnishing both the hospitality
and the conversation. Transley occasionally broke in to give assent
to some remark, but his interruption was quite unnecessary. It was
Y.D.'s practice to take assent for granted. Once or twice the women
interjected a lead to a different subject of conversation in which
their words would have carried greater authority, but Y.D. instantly
swung it back to the all-absorbing topic of hay.
The Chinese boy served a pudding of some sort, and presently the
meal was ended.
"She's been a dry summer--powerful dry," said the rancher, with a
wink at his guests. "Zen, I think there's a bit of gopher poison in
there yet, ain't there?"
The girl left the room without remark, returning shortly with a jug
and glasses, which she placed before her father.
"I suppose you wear a man's size, Transley," he said, pouring out a
big drink of brown liquor, despite Transley's deprecating hand.
"Linder, how many fingers? Two? Well, we'll throw in the thumb.
Y.D? If you please, just a little snifter. All set?"
The rancher rose to his feet, and the company followed his example.
"Here's ho!--and more hay," he said, genially.
"Ho!" said Linder.
"The daughter of the Y.D!" said Transley, looking across the table
at the girl. She met his eyes full; then, with a gleam of white
teeth, she raised an empty glass and clinked it against his.
The men drained their glasses and re-seated themselves, but the
women remained standing.
"Perhaps you will excuse us now," said the rancher's wife. "You
will wish to talk over business. Y.D. will show you upstairs, and we
will expect you to be with us for breakfast."
With a bow she left the room, followed by her daughter. Linder had
a sense of being unsatisfied; it was as though a ravishing meal has
been placed before a hungry man, and only its aroma had reached his
senses when it had been taken away. Well, it provoked the appetite--
The rancher re-filled the glasses, but Transley left his untouched,
and Linder did the same. There were business matters to discuss, and
it was no fair contest to discuss business in the course of a drinking
bout with an old stager like Y.D.
"I got to have another thousand tons," the rancher was saying.
"Can't take chances on any less, and I want you boys to put it up for
"Suits me," said Transley, "if you'll show me where to get the
"You know the South Y.D?"
"Never been on it."
"Well, it's a branch of the Y.D. which runs south-east from The
Forks. Guess it got its name from me, because I built my first cabin
at The Forks. That was about the time you was on a milk diet,
Transley, and us old-timers had all outdoors to play with. You see,
the Y.D. is a cantank'rous stream, like its godfather. At The Forks
you'd nat'rally suppose is where two branches joined, an' jogged on
henceforth in double harness. Well, that ain't it at all. This crick
has modern ideas, an' at The Forks it divides itself into two, an' she
hikes for the Gulf o' Mexico an' him for Hudson's Bay. As I was
sayin', I built my first cabin at The Forks--a sort o' peek-a-boo
cabin it was, where the wolves usta come an' look in at nights. Well,
I usta look out through the same holes. I had the advantage o' usin'
language, an' I reckon we was about equal scared. There was no wife
or kid in those days."
The rancher paused, took a long draw on his pipe, and his eyes
glowed with the light of old recollections.
"Well, as I was sayin'," he continued presently, "folks got to
callin' the stream the Y.D., after me. That's what you get for bein'
first on the ground--a monument for ever an ever. This bein' the main
stream got the name proper, an' the other branch bein' smallest an'
running kind o' south nat'rally got called the South Y.D. I run stock
in both valleys when I was at The Forks, but not much since I came
down here. Well, there's maybe a thousand tons o' hay over in the
South Y.D., an' you boys better trail over there to-morrow an' pitch
into it--that is, if you're satisfied with the price I'm payin' you."
"The price is all right," said Transley, "and we'll hit the trail
at sun-up. There'll be no trouble--no confliction of interests, I
"Whose interests?" demanded the rancher, beligerently. "Ain't I
the father of the Y.D? Ain't the whole valley named for me? When it
comes to interests--"
"Of course," Transley agreed, "but I just wanted to know how things
stood in case we ran up against something. It's not like the old
days, when a rancher would rather lose twenty-five per cent. of his
stock over winter than bother putting up hay. Hay land is getting to
be worth money, and I just want to know where we stand."
"Quite proper," said Y.D., "quite proper. An' now the matter's
under discussion, I'll jus' show you my hand. There's a fellow named
Landson down the valley of the South Y.D. that's been flirtin' with
that hay meadow for years, but he ain't got no claim to it. I was
first on the ground an' I cut it whenever I feel like it an' I'm goin'
to go on cuttin' it. If anybody comes out raisin' trouble, you just
shoo 'em off, an' go on cuttin' that hay, spite o' hell an' high
water. Y.D.'ll stand behind you."
"Thanks," said Transley. "That's what I wanted to know."
The rancher had ridden into the Canadian plains country from below
"the line" long before barbed wire had become a menace in cattle-
land. From Pincher Creek to Maple Creek, and far beyond, the plains
lay unbroken save by the deep canyons where, through the process of
ages, mountain streams had worn their beds down to gravel bottoms, and
by the occasional trail which wandered through the wilderness like
some thousand-mile lariat carelessly dropped from the hand of the
Master Plainsman. Here and there, where the cutbanks of the river
Canyons widened out into sloping valleys, affording possible access to
the deep-lying streams, some ranchman had established his
headquarters, and his red-roofed, whitewashed buildings flashed back
the hot rays which fell from an opalescent heaven. At some of the
more important fords trading posts had come into being, whither the
ranchmen journeyed twice a year for groceries, clothing, kerosene, and
other liquids handled as surreptitiously as the vigilance of the
Mounted Police might suggest. The virgin prairie, with her strange,
subtle facility for entangling the hearts of men, lay undefiled by the
mercenary plowshare; unprostituted by the commercialism of the days
that were to be.
Into such a country Y.D. had ridden from the South, trailing his
little bunch of scrub heifers, in search of grass and water and, it
may be, of a new environment. Up through the Milk River country;
across the Belly and the Old Man; up and down the valley of the
Little Bow, and across the plains as far as the Big Bow he rode in
search of the essentials of a ranch headquarters. The first of these
is water, the second grass, the third fuel, the fourth shelter. Grass
there was everywhere; a fine, short, hairy crop which has the peculiar
quality of self-curing in the autumn sunshine and so furnishing a
natural, uncut hay for the herds in the winter months. Water there
was only where the mountain streams plowed their canyons through the
deep subsoil, or at little lakes of surface drainage, or, at rare
intervals, at points where pure springs broke forth from the
hillsides. Along the river banks dark, crumbling seams exposed coal
resources which solved all questions of fuel, and fringes of
cottonwood and poplar afforded rough but satisfactory building
material. As the rancher sat on his horse on a little knoll which
overlooked a landscape leading down on one side to a sheltering bluff
by the river, and on the other losing itself on the rim of the
heavens, no fairer prospect surely could have met his eye.
And yet he was not entirely satisfied. He was looking for no
temporary location, but for a spot where he might drive his claim-
stakes deep. That prairie, which stretched under the hot sunshine
unbroken to the rim of heaven; that brown grass glowing with an
almost phosphorescent light as it curled close to the mother sod;-- a
careless match, a cigar stub, a bit of gun-wadding, and in an
afternoon a million acres of pasture land would carry not enough
foliage to feed a gopher.
Y.D. turned in his saddle. Along the far western sky hung the
purple draperies of the Rockies. For fifty miles eastward from the
mighty range lay the country of the foothills, its great valleys lost
to the vision which leapt only from summit to summit. In the clear
air the peaks themselves seemed not a dozen miles away, but Y.D. had
not ridden cactus, sagebrush and prairie from the Rio Grande to the
St. Mary's for twenty years to be deceived by a so transparent
illusion. Far over the plains his eye could trace the dark outline of
a trail leading mountainward.
The heifers drowsed lazily in the brown grass. Y.D., shading his
eyes the better with his hand, gazed long and thoughtfully at the
purple range. Then he spat decisively over his horse's shoulder and
made a strange "cluck" in his throat. The knowing animal at once set
out on a trot to stir the lazy heifers into movement, and presently
they were trailing slowly up into the foothill country.
Far up, where the trail ahead apparently dropped over the end of
the world, a horse and rider hove in view. They came on leisurely,
and half an hour elapsed before they met the rancher trailing west.
The stranger was a rancher of fifty, wind-whipped and weather-
beaten of countenance. The iron grey of his hair and moustache
suggested the iron of the man himself; iron of figure, of muscle, of
"'Day," he said, affably, coming to a halt a few feet from Y.D.
"Trailing into the foothills?"
Y.D. lolled in his saddle. His attitude did not invite
conversation, and, on the other hand, intimated no desire to avoid it.
"Maybe," he said, noncommittally. Then, relaxing somewhat,--"Any
water farther up?"
"About eight miles. Sundown should see you there, and there's a
decent spot to camp. You're a stranger here?" The older man was
evidently puzzling over the big "Y.D." branded on the ribs of the
"It's a big country," Y.D. answered. "It's a plumb big country,
for sure, an' I guess a man can be a stranger in some corners of it,
Y.D. began to resent the other man's close scrutiny of his brand.
"Well, what's wrong with it?" he demanded.
"Oh, nothing. No offense. I just wondered what 'Y.D.' might stand
"Might stand for Yankee devil," said Y.D., with a none-of-your-
business curl of his lip. But he had carried his curtness too far,
and was not prepared for the quick retort.
"Might also stand for yellow dog, and be damned to you!" The
stranger's strong figure sat up stern and knit in his saddle.
Y.D.'s hand went to his hip, but the other man was unarmed. You
can't draw on a man who isn't armed.
"Listen!" the older man continued, in sharp, clear-cut notes. "You
are a stranger not only to our trails, but our customs. You are a
young man. Let me give you some advice. First--get rid of that
artillery. It will do you more harm than good. And second, when a
stranger speaks to you civilly, answer him the same. My name is
Wilson--Frank Wilson, and if you settle in the foothills you'll find
me a decent neighbor, as soon as you are able to appreciate decency."
To his own great surprise, Y.D. took his dressing down in silence.
There was a poise in Wilson's manner that enforced respect. He
recognized in him the English rancher of good family; usually a man
of fine courtesy within reasonable bounds; always a hard hitter when
those bounds are exceeded. Y.D. knew that he had made at least a
tactical blunder; his sensitiveness about his brand would arouse,
rather than allay, suspicion. His cheeks burned with a heat not of
the afternoon sun as he submitted to this unaccustomed discipline, but
he could not bring himself to express regret for his rudeness.
"Well, now that the shower is over, we'll move on," he said,
turning his back on Wilson and "clucking" to his horse.
Y.D. followed the stream which afterwards bore his name as far as
the Upper Forks. As he entered the foothills he found all the
advantages of the plains below, with others peculiar to the foothill
country. The richer herbage, induced by a heavier precipitation; the
occasional belts of woodland; the rugged ravines and limestone ridges
affording good natural protection against fire; abundant fuel and
water everywhere--these seemed to constitute the ideal ranch
conditions. At the Upper Forks, through some freak of formation, the
stream divided into two. From this point was easy access into the
valleys of the Y.D. and the South Y.D., as they were subsequently
called. The stream rippled over beds of grey gravel, and mountain
trout darted from the rancher's shadow as it fell across the water.
Up the valley, now ruddy gold with the changing colors of autumn,
white-capped mountains looked down from amid the infinite silences;
and below, broad vistas of brown prairie and silver ribbons of running
water. Y.D. turned his swarthy face to the sunlight and took in the
scene slowly, deliberately, but with a commercialized eye; blue and
white and ruddy gold were nothing to him; his heart was set on grass
and water and shelter. He had roved enough, and he had a reason for
seeking some secluded spot like this, where he could settle down
while his herds grew up, and, perhaps, forget some things that were
With sudden decision the cattle man threw himself from his horse,
unstrapped the little kit of supplies which he carried by the saddle;
drew off saddle and bridle and turned the animal free. The die was
cast; this was the spot. Within ten minutes his ax was ringing in the
grove of spruce trees close by, and the following night he fried
mountain trout under the shelter of his own temporary roof.
It was the next summer when Y.D. had another encounter with Wilson.
The Upper Forks turned out to be less secluded than he had supposed;
it was on the trail of trappers and prospectors working into the
mountains. Traders, too, in mysterious commodities, moved
mysteriously back and forth, and the log cabin at The Forks became
something of a centre of interest. Strange companies forgathered
within its rude walls.
It was at such a gathering, in which Y.D. and three companions sat
about the little square table, that one of the visitors facetiously
inquired of the rancher how his herd was progressing.
"Not so bad, not so bad," said Y.D., casually. "Some winter
losses, of course; snow's too deep this far up. Why?"
"Oh, some of your neighbors down the valley say your cows are
"They do?" said Y.D., laying down his cards. "Who says that?"
"Well, Wilson, for instance--"
Y.D. sprang to his feet. "I've had one run-in with that ----," he
shouted, "an' I let him talk to me like a Sunday School
super'ntendent. Here's where I talk to him!"
"Well, finish the game first," the others protested. "The night's
Y.D. was sufficiently drunk to be supersensitive about his honor,
and the inference from Wilson's remark was that he was too handy with
"No, boys, no!" he protested. "I'll make that Englishman eat his
words or choke on them."
"That's right," the company agreed. "The only thing to do. We'll
all go down with you."
"An' you won't do that, neither," Y.D. answered. "Think I need a
body-guard for a little chore like that? Huh!" There was
immeasurable contempt in that monosyllable.
But a fresh bottle was produced, and Y.D. was persuaded that his
honor would suffer no serious damage until the morning. Before that
time his company, with many demonstrations of affection and
admonitions to "make a good job of it," left for the mountains.
Y.D. saddled his horse early, buckled his gun on his hip, hung a
lariat from his saddle, and took the trail for the Wilson ranch.
During the drinking and gambling of the night he had been able to
keep the insult in the background, but, alone under the morning sun,
it swept over him and stung him to fury. There was just enough truth
in the report to demand its instant suppression.
Wilson was branding calves in his corral as Y.D. came up. He was
alone save for a girl of eighteen who tended the fire.
Wilson looked up with a hot iron in his hand, nodded, then turned
to apply the iron before it cooled. As he leaned over the calf Y.D.
swung his lariat. It fell true over the Englishman, catching him
about the arms and the middle of the body. Y.D. took a half- hitch of
the lariat about his saddle horn, and the well-trained horse dragged
his victim in the most matter-of-fact manner out of the gate of the
corral and into the open.
Y.D. shortened the line. After the first moment of confused
surprise Wilson tried to climb to his feet, but a quick jerk of the
lariat sent him prostrate again. In a moment Y.D. had taken up all
the line, and sat in his saddle looking down contemptuously upon him.
"Well," he said, "who's too handy with his branding-iron now?"
"You are!" cried Wilson. "Give me a man's chance and I'll thrash
you here and now to prove it."
For answer Y.D. clucked to his horse and dragged his enemy a few
yards farther. "How's the goin', Frank?" he said, in mock
cordiality. "Think you can stand it as far as the crick?"
But at that instant an unexpected scene flashed before Y.D. He
caught just a glimpse of it--just enough to indicate what might
happen. The girl who had been tending the fire was rushing upon him
with a red-hot iron extended before her. Quicker than he could throw
himself from the saddle she had struck him in the face with it.
"You brand our calves!" she cried in a fury of recklessness. "I'll
brand YOU--damn you!"
Y.D. threw himself from the saddle, but in the suddenness of her
onslaught he failed to clear it properly, and stumbled to the ground.
In a moment she was on him and had whipped his gun from his belt.
"Get up!" she said. And he got up.
"Walk to that post, put your arms around it with your back to me,
and stand there." He did so.
The girl kept him covered with the revolver while she released the
lariat that bound her father.
"Are you hurt, Dad?" she inquired solicitously.
"No, just shaken up," he answered, scrambling to his feet.
"All right. Now we'll fix him!"
The girl walked to the next post from Y.D.'s, climbed it leisurely
and seated herself on the top.
"Now, Mr. Y.D.," she said, "you are going to fight like a white
man, with your fists. I'll sit up here and see that there's no dirty
work. First, advance and shake hands."
"I'm damned if I will," said Y.D.
The revolver spoke, and the bullet cut dangerously close to him.
"Don't talk back to me again," she cried, "or you won't be able to
fight. Now shake hands."
He extended his hand and Wilson took it for a moment.
"Now when I count three," said the girl, "pile in. There's no time
limit. Fight 'til somebody's satisfied. One--two--three--"
At the sound of the last word Wilson caught his opponent a punch on
the chin which stretched him. He got up slowly, gathering his wits
about him. He was twenty years younger than Wilson, but a rancher of
fifty is occasionally a better man than he was at thirty. Any
disadvantages Wilson suffered from being shaken up in the lariat were
counterbalanced by Y.D.'s branding. His face was burning painfully,
and his vision was not the best. But he had not followed the herds
since childhood without learning to use his fists. He steadied
himself on his knee to bring his mind into tune with this unusual
warfare. Then he rushed upon Wilson.
He received another straight knock-out on the chin. It jarred the
joints of his neck and left him dazed. It was half a minute before
he could steady himself. He realized now that he had a fight on his
hands. He was too cool a head to get into a panic, but he found he
must take his time and do some brain work. Another chin smash would
put him out for good.
He advanced carefully. Wilson stood awaiting him, a picture of
poise and self-confidence. Y.D. led a quick left to Wilson's ribs,
but failed to land. Wilson parried skilfully and immediately
answered with a left swing to the chin. But Y.D. was learning, and
this time he was on guard. He dodged the blow, broke in and seized
Wilson about the body. The two men stood for a moment like bulls
with locked horns. Y.D. brought his weight to bear on his antagonist
to force him to the ground, but in some way the Englishman got elbow
room and began raining short jabs on his face, already raw from the
branding-iron. Y.D. jerked back from this assault. Then came the
third smash on the chin.
Y.D. gathered himself up very slowly. The world was swimming
around in circles. On a post sat a girl, covering him with a
revolver and laughing at him. Somewhere on the horizon Wilson's
figure whipped forward and back. Then his horse came into the
circle. Y.D. rose to his feet, strode with quick, uncertain steps to
his horse, threw himself into the saddle and without a word started up
the trail to The Forks.
"Seems to have gone with as little ceremony as he came," Wilson
remarked to his daughter. "Now, let us get along with the calves." .
Y.D. rode the trail to The Forks in bitterness of spirit. He had
sallied forth that morning strong and daring to administer summary
punishment; he was retracing his steps thrashed, humiliated, branded
for life by a red iron thrust in his face by a slip of a girl. He
exhausted his by no means limited vocabulary of epithets, but even his
torrents of abuse brought no solace to him. The hot sun beat down on
his wounded face and hurt terribly, but he almost forgot that pain in
the agony of his humiliation. He had been thrashed by an old man,
with a wisp of a girl sitting on a post and acting as referee. He
turned in his saddle and through the empty valley shouted an insulting
name at her.
Then Y.D. slowly began to feel his face burn with a fire not of the
branding-iron nor of the afternoon sun. He knew that his word was a
lie. He knew that he would not have dared use it in her father's
hearing. He knew that he was a coward. No man had ever called Y.D.
a coward; no man had ever known him for a coward; he had never known
himself as such--until to-day. With all his roughness Y.D. had a
sense of honor as keen as any razor blade. If he allowed himself wide
latitude in some matters it was because he had lived his life in an
atmosphere where the wide latitude was the thing. The prairie had been
his bed, the sky his roof, himself his own policeman, judge, and
executioner since boyhood. When responsibility is so centralized wide
latitudes must be allowed. But the uttermost borders of that latitude
were fixed with iron rigidity, and when he had thrown a vile epithet
at a decent woman he knew he had broken the law of honor. He was a
cur--a cur who should be shot in his tracks for the cur he was.
Y.D. did hard thinking all the way to The Forks. Again and again
the figure of the girl flashed before him; he would close his eyes
and jerk his head back to avoid the burning iron. Then he saw her on
the post, sitting, with apparent impartiality, on guard over the
fight. Yes, she had been impartial, in a way. Y.D. was willing to
admit that much, although he surmised that she knew more about her
father's prowess with his fists than he had known. She had had no
doubt about the outcome.
"Well, she's good backing for her old man, anyway," he admitted,
with returning generosity. He had reached his cabin, and was
dressing his face with salve and soda. "She sure played the game
into the old man's hand."
Y.D. could not sleep that night. He was busy sorting up his ideas
of life and revising them in the light of the day's experience. The
more he thought of his behavior the less defensible it appeared. By
midnight he was admitting that he had got just what was coming to him.
Presently he began to feel lonely. It was a strange sensation to
Y.D., whose life had been loneliness from the first, so that he had
never known it. Of course, there was the hunger for companionship;
he had often known that. A drinking bout, a night at cards, a whirl
into excess, and that would pass away. But this loneliness was
different. The moan of the wind in the spruce trees communicated
itself to him with an eerie oppressiveness. He sat up and lit a
lamp. The light fell on the bare logs of his hut; he had never known
before how bare they were. He got up and shuffled about; took a lid
off the stove and put it back on again; moved aimlessly about the
room, and at last sat down on the bed.
"Y.D.," he said with a laugh, "I believe you've got nerves. You're
behavin' like a woman."
But he could not laugh it off. The mention of a woman brought
Wilson's daughter back vividly before him. "She's a man's girl," he
found himself, saying.
He sat up with a shock at his own words. Then he rested his chin
on his hands and gazed long at the blank wall before him. That was
life--his life. That blank wall was his life. . . . If only it had
a window in it; a bright space through which the vision could catch a
glimpse of something broader and better. . . . Well, he could put a
window in it. He could put a window in his life.
The next noon Frank Wilson looked up with surprise to see Y.D.
riding into his yard. Wilson stiffened instantly, as though setting
himself against the shock of an attack, but there was nothing
belligerent in Y.D.'s greeting.
"Wilson," he said, "I pulled a dirty trick on you yesterday, an' I
got more than I reckoned on. The old Y.D. would have come back with
a gun for vengeance. Well, I ain't after vengeance. I reckon you an'
me has got to live in this valley, an' we might as well live peaceful.
Does that go with you?"
"Full weight and no shrinkage," said Wilson, heartily, extending
his hand. "Come up to the house for dinner."
Y.D. was nothing loth to accept the invitation, even though he had
his misgivings as to how he should meet the women folks. It turned
out that Mrs. Wilson had been at a neighboring ranch for some days,
and the girl was in charge of the home. The flash in her eyes did
not conceal a glint of triumph--or was it humor?
"Jessie," her father said, with conspicuous matter-of-factness,
"Y.D. has just dropped in for dinner."
Y.D. stood with his hat in his hand. This was harder than meeting
Wilson. He felt that he could manage better if Wilson would get out.
"Miss Wilson," he managed to say at length, "I just thought I'd run
in an' thank you for what you did yesterday."
"You're very welcome," she answered, and he could not tell whether
the note in her voice was of fun or sarcasm. "Any time I can be of
"That's what I wanted to talk about," he broke in. There was
something bewitching about the girl. She more than realized his
fantastic visions of the night. She had mastered him. Perhaps it
was a subtle masculine desire to turn her mastery into ultimate
surrender that led him on.
"That's just what I want to talk about. You started breakin' in an
outlaw yesterday, so to speak. How'd you like to finish the job?"
Y.D. was very red when this speech was finished. He had not known
that a wisp of a girl could so discomfit a man.
"Is that a proposal?" she asked, and this time he was sure the note
in her voice was one of banter. "I never had one, so I don't know."
"Well, yes, we'll call it that," he said, with returning courage.
"Well we won't, either," she flared back. "Just because I sat on a
post and superintended the--the ceremonies, is no reason that you
should want to marry me,--or I, you. You'll find water and a basin
on the bench at the end of the house, and dinner will be ready in
Y.D. had a feeling of a little boy being sent to wash himself.
But the next spring he built a larger cabin down the valley from
The Forks, and to that cabin one day in June came Jessie Wilson to
"finish the job."
Transley and Linder were so early about on the morning after their
conversation with Y.D. that there was no opportunity of another
meeting with the rancher's wife or daughter. They were slipping
quietly out of the house to take breakfast with the men when Y.D.
"Breakfast is waitin', boys," he said, and led them back into the
room where they had had supper the previous evening. Y.D. ate with
them, but the meal was served by the Chinese boy.
In the yard all was jingling excitement. The men of the Y.D. were
fraternally assisting Transley's gang in hitching up and getting
away, and there was much bustling activity to an accompaniment of
friendly profanity. It was not yet six o'clock, but the sun was well
up over the eastern ridges that fringed the valley, and to the west
the snow-capped summits of the mountains shone like polished ivory.
The exhilaration in the air was almost intoxicating.
Linder quickly converted the apparent chaos of horses, wagons and
implements into order; Transley had a last word with Y.D., and the
rancher, shouting "Good luck, boys! Make it a thousand tons or
more," waved them away.
Linder glanced back at the house. The bright sunshine had not
awakened it; it lay dreaming in its grove of cool, green trees.
The trail lay, not up the valley, but across the wedge of foothills
which divided the South Y.D. from the parent stream. The assent was
therefore much more rapid than the trails which followed the general
course of the stream. Huge hills, shouldering together, left at times
only wagon-track room between; at other places they skirted dangerous
cutbanks worn by spring freshets, and again trekked for long distances
over gently curving uplands. In an hour the horses were showing the
strain of it, and Linder halted them for a momentary rest.
It was at that moment that Drazk rode up, his face a study in
"Danged if I ain't left that Pete-horse's blanket down at the
Y.D.," he exclaimed.
"Oh, well, you can easily ride back for it and catch up on us this
afternoon," said Linder, who was not in the least deceived.
"Thanks, Lin," said Drazk. "I'll beat it down an' catch up on you
this afternoon, sure," and he was off down the trail as fast as "that
Pete-horse" could carry him.
At the Y.D. George conducted the search for his horse blanket in
the strangest places. It took him mainly about the yard of the
house, and even to the kitchen door, where he interviewed the Chinese
"You catchee horse blanket around here?" he inquired, with
"You losee hoss blanket?"
"What kind hoss blanket?"
"Jus' a brown blanket for that Pete-horse."
"Where you catchee?"
"You no catchee horse blanket, hey?"
"No!" said the Chinaman, whose manner instantly changed. In this
brief conversation he had classified Drazk, and classified him
correctly. "You catchee him, though--some hell, too--you stickee
lound here. Beat it," and Drazk found the kitchen door closed in his
Drazk wandered slowly around the side of the house, and was not
above a surreptitious glance through the windows. They revealed
nothing. He followed a path out by a little gate. His ruse had
proven a blind trail, and there was nothing to do but go down to the
stables, take the horse blanket from the peg where he had hung it, and
set out again for the South Y.D.
As he turned a corner of the fence the sight of a young woman burst
upon him. She was hatless and facing the sun. Drazk, for all his
admiration of the sex, had little eye for detail. "A sort of
chestnut, about sixteen hands high, and with the look of a
thoroughbred," he afterwards described her to Linder.
She turned at the sound of his footsteps, and Drazk instantly
summoned a smirk which set his homely face beaming with good humor.
"Pardon me, ma'am," he said, with an elaborate bow. "I am Mr.
Drazk--Mr. George Drazk--Mr. Transley's assistant. No doubt he spoke
She was inside the enclosure formed by the fence, and he outside.
She turned on him eyes which set Drazk's pulses strangely a-tingle,
and subjected him to a deliberate but not unfriendly inspection.
"No, I don't believe he did," she said at length. Drazk cautiously
approached, as though wondering how near he could come without
frightening her away. He reached the fence and leaned his elbows on
it. She showed no disposition to move. He cautiously raised one foot
and rested it on the lower rail.
"It's a fine morning, ma'am," he ventured.
"Rather," she replied. "Why aren't you with Mr. Transley's gang?"
The question gave George an opening. "Well, you see," he said,
"it's all on account of that Pete-horse. That's him down there. I
rode away this morning and plumb forgot his blanket. So when Mr.
Transley seen it he says, 'Drazk, take the day off an' go back for
your blanket,' he says. 'There's no hurry,' he says. 'Linder an'
me'll manage,' he says."
"So here I am." He glanced at her again. She was showing no
disposition to run away. She was about two yards from him, along the
fence. Drazk wondered how long it would take him to bridge that
distance. Even as he looked she leaned her elbows on the fence and
rested one of her feet on the lower rail. Drazk fancied he saw the
muscles about her mouth pulling her face into little, laughing curves,
but she was gazing soberly into the distance.
"He's some horse, that Pete-horse," he said, taking up the subject
which lay most ready to his tongue. "He's sure some horse."
"I have no doubt."
"Yep," Drazk continued. "Him an' me has seen some times. Whew!
Things I couldn't tell you about, at all."
"Well, aren't you going to?"
Drazk glanced at her curiously. This girl showed signs of leading
him out of his depth. But it was a very delightful sensation to feel
one's self being led out of his depth by such a girl. Her face was
motionless; her eyes fixed dreamily upon the brown prairies that swept
up the flanks of the foothills to the south. Far and away on their
curving crests the dark snake-line of Transley's outfit could be seen
apparently motionless on the rim of the horizon.
Drazk changed his foot on the rail and the motion brought him six
inches nearer her.
"Well, f'r instance," he said, spurring his imagination into
action, "there was the fellow I run down an' shot in the Cypress
"Shot!" she exclaimed, and the note of admiration in her voice
stirred him to further flights.
"Yep," he continued, proudly. "Shot an' buried him there, right by
the road where he fell. Only me an' that Pete-horse knows the spot."
George sighed sentimentally. "It's awful sad, havin' to kill a
man," he went on, "an' it makes you feel strange an' creepy,
'specially at nights. That is, the first one affects you that way,
but you soon get used to it. You see, he insulted--"
"The first one? Have you killed more than one?"
"Oh yes, lots of them. A man like me, what knocks around all over
with all sorts of people, has to do it.
"Then there's the police. After you kill a few men nat'rally the
police begins to worry you. I always hate to kill a policeman."
"It must be an interesting life."
"It is, but it's a hard one," he said, after a pause during which
he had changed feet again and taken up another six inches of the
distance which separated them. He was almost afraid to continue the
conversation. He was finding progress so much easier than he had
expected. It was evident that he had made a tremendous hit with
Y.D.'s daughter. What a story to tell Linder! What would Transley
say? He was shaking with excitement.
"It's an awful hard life," he went on, "an' there comes a time,
Miss, when a man wants to quit it. There comes a time when every
decent man wants to settle down. I been thinkin' about that a lot
lately. . . . What do YOU think about it?" Drazk had gone white. He
felt that he actually had proposed to her.
"Might be a good idea," she replied, demurely. He changed feet
again. He had gone too far to stop. He must strike the iron when it
was hot. Of course he had no desire to stop, but it was all so
wonderful. He could speak to her now in a whisper.
"How about you, Miss? How about you an' me jus' settlin' down?"
She did not answer for a moment. Then, in a low voice,
"It wouldn't be fair to accept you like this, Mr. Drazk. You don't
know anything about me."
"An' I don't want to--I mean, I don't care what about you."
"But it wouldn't be fair until you know," she continued. "There
are things I'd have to tell you, and I don't like to."
She was looking downwards now, and he fancied he could see the
color rising about her cheeks and her frame trembling. He turned
toward her and extended his arms. "Tell me--tell your own George,"
"No," she said, with sudden rigidity. "I can't confess."
"Come on," he pleaded. "Tell me. I've been a bad man, too."
She seemed to be weighing the matter. "If I tell you, you will
never, never mention it to anyone?"
"Never. I swear it to you," dramatically raising his hand.
"Well," she said, looking down bashfully and making little marks
with her finger-nail in the pole on which they were leaning, "I never
told anyone before, and nobody in the world knows it except he and I,
and he doesn't know it now either, because I killed him. . . . I had
to do it."
"Of course you did, dear," he murmured. It was wonderful to
receive a woman's confidence like this.
"Yes, I had to kill him," she repeated. "You see, he--he proposed
to me without being introduced!"
It was some seconds before Drazk felt the blow. It came to him
gradually, like returning consciousness to a man who has been
stunned. Then anger swept him.
"You're playin' with me," he cried. "You're makin' a fool of me!"
"Oh, George dear, how could I?" she protested. "Now perhaps you
better run along to that Pete-horse. He looks lonely."
"All right," he said, striding away angrily. As he walked his rage
deepened, and he turned and shook his fist at her, shouting, "All
right, but I'll get you yet, see? You think you're smart, and
Transley thinks he's smart, but George Drazk is smarter than both of
you, and he'll get you yet."
She waved her hand complacently, but her composure had already
maddened him. He jerked his horse up roughly, threw himself into the
saddle, and set out at a hard gallop along the trail to the South Y.D.
It was mid-afternoon when he overtook Transley's outfit, now
winding down the southern slope of the tongue of foothills which
divided the two valleys of the Y.D. Pete, wet over the flanks,
pulled up of his own accord beside Linder's wagon.
"'Lo, George," said Linder. "What's your hurry?" Then, glancing
at his saddle, "Where's your blanket?"
Drazk's jaw dropped, but he had a quick wit, although an unbalanced
"Well, Lin, I clean forgot all about it," he admitted, with a
laugh, "but when a fellow spends the morning chatting with old Y.D.'s
daughter I guess he's allowed to forget a few things."
"Reckon you don't believe it, eh, Lin? Reckon you don't believe I
stood an' talked with her over the fence for so long I just had to
pull myself away?"
"You reckon right."
George was thinking fast. Here was an opportunity to present the
incident in a light which had not before occurred to him.
"Guess you wouldn't believe she told me her secret--told me
somethin' she had never told anybody else, an' made me swear not to
mention. Guess you don't believe that, neither?"
"You guess right again." Linder was quite unperturbed. He knew
something of Drazk's gift for romancing.
Drazk leaned over in the saddle until he could reach Linder's ear
with a loud whisper. "And she called me 'dear'; 'George dear,' she
said, when I came away."
"The hell she did!" said Linder, at last prodded into interest. He
considered the "George dear" idea a daring flight, even for Drazk.
"Better not let old Y.D. hear you spinning anything like that,
George, or he'll be likely to spoil your youthful beauty."
"Oh, Y.D.'s all right," said George, knowingly. "Y.D.'s all right.
Well, I guess I'll let Pete feed a bit here, and then we'll go back
for his blanket. You'll have to excuse me a bit these days, Lin; you
know how it is when a fellow's in love."
"Huh!" said Linder.
George dropped behind, and an amused smile played on the foreman's
face. He had known Drazk too long to be much surprised at anything
he might do. It was Drazk's idea of gallantry to make love to every
girl on sight. Possibly Drazk had managed to exchange a word with
Zen, and his imagination would readily expand that into a love scene.
Zen! Even the placid, balanced Linder felt a slight leap in the
blood at the unusual name, which to him suggested the bright girl who
had come into his life the night before. Not exactly into his life;
it would be fairer to say she had touched the rim of his life.
Perhaps she would never penetrate it further; Linder rather expected
that would be the case. As for Drazk--she was in no danger from him.
Drazk's methods were so precipitous that they could be counted upon
to defeat themselves.
Below stretched the valley of the South Y.D., almost a duplicate of
its northern neighbor. The stream hugged the feet of the hills on
the north side of the valley; its ribbon of green and gold was like a
fringe gathered about the hem of their skirts. Beyond the stream lay
the level plains of the valley, and miles to the south rose the next
ridge of foothills. It was from these interlying plains that Y.D.
expected his thousand tons of hay. There is no sleugh hay in the
foothill country; the hay is cut on the uplands, a short, fine grass
of great nutritive value. This grass, if uncut, cures in its natural
state, and affords sustenance to the herds which graze over it all
winter long. But it occasionally happens that after a snow- fall the
Chinook wind will partially melt the snow, and then a sudden drop in
the temperature leaves the prairies and foothills covered with a thin
coating of ice. It is this ice covering, rather than heavy snow-fall
or severe weather, which is the principal menace to winter grazing,
and the foresighted rancher aims to protect himself and his stock from
such a contingency by having a good reserve of hay in stack.
Here, then, was the valley in which Y.D. hoped to supplement the
crop of his own hay lands. Linder's appreciative eye took in the
scene: a scene of stupendous sizes and magnificent distances. As he
slowly turned his vision down the valley a speck in the distance
caught his sight and brought him to his feet. Shading his eyes from
the bright afternoon sun he surveyed it long and carefully. There was
no doubt about it: a haying outfit was already at work down the
Leaving his team to manage themselves Linder dropped from his wagon
and joined Transley. "Some one has beat us to it," he remarked.
"So I observed," said Transley. "Well, it's a big valley, and if
they're satisfied to stay where they are there should be enough for
both. If they're not--"
"If they're not, what?" demanded Linder.
"You heard what Y.D. said. He said, 'Cut it, spite o' hell an'
high water,' and I always obey orders."
They wound down the hillside until they came to the stream, the
horses quickening their pace with the smell of water in their eager
nostrils. It was a good ford, broad and shallow, with the typical
boulder bottom of the mountain stream. The horses crowded into it,
drinking greedily with a sort of droning noise caused by the bits in
their mouths. When they had satisfied their thirst they raised their
heads, stretched their noses far out and champed wide-mouthed upon
After a pause in the stream they drew out on the farther bank,
where were open spaces among cottonwood trees, and Transley indicated
that this would be their camping ground. Already smoke was issuing
from the chuck wagon, and in a few minutes the men's sleeping tent and
the two stable tents were flashing back the afternoon sun. They
carried no eating tent; instead of that an eating wagon was backed up
against the chuck wagon, and the men were served in it. They had not
paused for a midday meal; the cook had provided sandwiches of bread
and roast beef to dull the edge of their appetite, and now all were
keen to fall to as soon as the welcome clanging of the plow-colter
which hung from the end of the chuck wagon should give the signal.
Presently this clanging filled the evening air with sweet music,
and the men filed with long, slouchy tread into the eating wagon. The
table ran down the centre, with bench seats at either side. The cook,
properly gauging the men's appetites, had not taken time to prepare
meat and potatoes, but on the table were ample basins of graniteware
filled with beans and bread and stewed prunes and canned tomatoes,
pitchers of syrup and condensed milk, tins with marmalade and jam, and
plates with butter sadly suffering from the summer heat. The cook
filled their granite cups with hot tea from a granite pitcher, and
when the cups were empty filled them again and again. And when the
tables were partly cleared he brought out deep pies filled with
raisins and with evaporated apples and a thick cake from which the men
cut hunks as generous as their appetite suggested. Transley had
learned, what women are said to have learned long ago, that the way to
a man's heart is through his stomach, and the cook had carte blanche.
Not a man who ate at Transley's table but would have spilt his blood
for the boss or for the honor of the gang.
The meal was nearing its end when through a window Linder's eye
caught sight of a man on horseback rapidly approaching. "Visitors,
Transley," he was able to say before the rider pulled up at the open
door of the covered wagon.
He was such a rider as may still be seen in those last depths of
the ranching country where wheels have not entirely crowded Romance
off of horseback. Spare and well-knit, his figure had a suggestion
of slightness which the scales would have belied. His face, keen and
clean-shaven, was brown as the August hills, and above it his broad
hat sat in the careless dignity affected by the gentlemen of the
plains. His leather coat afforded protection from the heat of day and
from the cold of night.
"Good evening, men," he said, courteously. "Don't let me disturb
your meal. Afterwards perhaps I can have a word with the boss."
"That's me," said Transley, rising.
"No, don't get up," the stranger protested, but Transley insisted
that he had finished, and, getting down from the wagon, led the way a
little distance from the eager ears of its occupants.
"My name is Grant," said the stranger; "Dennison Grant. I am
employed by Mr. Landson, who has a ranch down the valley. If I am
not mistaken you are Mr. Transley."
"You are not mistaken," Transley replied.
"And I am perhaps further correct," continued Grant, "in surmising
that you are here on behalf of the Y.D., and propose cutting hay in
"Your grasp of the situation does you credit." Transley's manner
was that of a man prepared to meet trouble somewhat more than half
"And I may further surmise," continued Grant, quite unruffled,
"that Y.D. neglected to give you one or two points of information
bearing upon the ownership of this land, which would doubtless have
been of interest to you?"
"Suppose you dismount," said Transley. "I like to look a man in
the face when I talk business to him."
"That's fair," returned Grant, swinging lightly from his horse. "I
have a preference that way myself." He advanced to within arm's
length of Transley and for a few moments the two men stood measuring
each other. It was steel boring steel; there was not a flicker of an
"We may as well get to business, Grant," said Transley at length.
"I also can do some surmising. I surmise that you were sent here by
Landson to forbid me to cut hay in this valley. On what authority he
acts I neither know nor care. I take my orders from Y.D. Y.D. said
cut the hay. I am going to cut it."
"YOU ARE NOT!"
Transley's muscles could be seen to go tense beneath his shirt.
"Who will stop me?" he demanded.
"You will be stopped."
"The Mounted Police?" There was contempt in his voice, but the
contempt was not for the Force. It was for the rancher who would
appeal to the police to settle a "friendly" dispute.
"No, I don't think it will be necessary to call in the police,"
returned Grant, dropping back to his pleasant, casual manner. "You
know Y.D., and doubtless you feel quite safe under his wing. But you
don't know Landson. Neither do you know the facts of the case-- the
right and wrong of it. Under these handicaps you cannot reach a
decision which is fair to yourself and to your men."
"Further argument is simply waste of time," Transley interrupted.
"I have told you my instructions, and I have told you that I am going
to carry them out. Have you had your supper?"
"Yes, thanks. All right, we won't argue any more. I'm not arguing
now--I'm telling you, Y.D. has cut hay in this valley so long he
thinks he owns it, and the other ranchers began to think he owned it.
But Landson has been making a few inquiries. He finds that these are
not Crown lands, but are privately owned by speculators in New York.
He has contracted with the owners for the hay rights of these lands
for five years, beginning with the present season. He is already
cutting farther down the valley, and will be cutting here within a day
"The trout ought to bite on a fine evening like this," said
Transley. "I have an extra rod and some flies. Will you try a throw
or two with me?"
"I would be glad to, but I must get back to camp. I hope you land
a good string," and so saying Grant remounted, nodded to Transley and
again to the men now scattered about the camp, and started his horse
on an easy lope down the valley.
"Well, what is it to be?" said Linder, coming up with the rest of
the boys. "War?"
"War if they fight," Transley replied, unconcernedly. "Y.D. said
cut the hay; 'spite o' hell an' high water,' he said. That goes."
Slowly the great orb of the sun sank until the crest of the
mountains pierced its molten glory and sent it burnishing their
rugged heights. In the east the plains were already wrapped in
shadow. Up the valley crept the veil of night, hushing even the
limitless quiet of the day. The stream babbled louder in the
lowering gloom; the stamp and champing of horses grew less insistent;
the cloudlets overhead faded from crimson to mauve to blue to grey.
Transley tapped the ashes from his pipe and went to bed.
"How about a ride over to the South Fork this afternoon, Zen?" said
Y.D. to his daughter the following morning. "I just want to make
sure them boys is hittin' the high spots. The grass is gettin'
powerful dry an' you can never tell what may happen."
"You're on," the girl replied across the breakfast table. Her
mother looked up sharply. She wondered if the prospect of another
meeting with Transley had anything to do with Zen's alacrity.
"I had hoped you would outgrow your slang, Zen," she remonstrated
gently. "Men like Mr. Transley are likely to judge your training by
"I should worry. Slang is to language what feathers are to a hat--
they give it distinction, class. They lift it out of the drab
"Still, I would not care to be dressed entirely in feathers," her
mother thrust quietly.
"Good for you, Mother!" the girl exclaimed, throwing an arm about
her neck and planking a firm kiss on her forehead. "That was a solar
plexus. Now I'll try to be good and wear a feather only here and
there. But Mr. Transley has nothing to do with it."
"Of course not," said Y.D. "Still, Transley is a man with snap in
him. That's why he's boss. So many of these ornery good-for-
nothin's is always wishin' they was boss, but they ain't willin' to
pay the price. It costs somethin' to get to the head of the herd--
an' stay there."
"He seems firm on all fours," the girl agreed. "How do we travel,
"Better take a democrat, I guess," her father said. "We can throw
in a tent and some bedding for you, as we'll maybe stay over a couple
"The blue sky is tent enough for me," Zen protested, "and I can
surely rustle a blanket or two around the camp. Besides, I'll want a
riding horse to get around with there."
"You can run him beside the democrat," said her father. "You're
gettin' too big to go campin' promisc'us like when you was a kid."
"That's the penalty for growing up," Zen sighed. "All right, Dad.
Say two o'clock?"
The girl spent the morning helping her mother about the house, and
casting over in her mind the probable developments of the near
future. She would not have confessed outwardly to even a casual
interest in Transley, but inwardly she admitted that the promise of
another meeting with him gave zest to the prospect. Transley was
interesting. At least he was out of the commonplace. His bold
directness had rather fascinated her. He had a will. Her father had
always admired men with a will, and Zen shared his admiration. Then
there was Linder. The fierce light of Transley's charms did not blind
her to the glow of quiet capability which she saw in Linder. If one
were looking for a husband, Linder had much to recommend him. He was
probably less capable than Transley, but he would be easier to manage.
. . . But who was looking for a husband? Not Zen. No, no, certainly
Then there was George Drazk, whose devotions fluctuated between
"that Pete-horse" and the latest female to cross his orbit. At the
thought of George Drazk Zen laughed outright. She had played with
him. She had made a monkey of him, and he deserved all he had got.
It was not the first occasion upon which Zen had let herself drift
with the tide, always sure of justifying herself and discomfiting
someone by the swift, strong strokes with which, at the right moment,
she reached the shore. Zen liked to think of herself as careering
through life in the same way as she rode the half-broken horses of her
father's range. How many such a horse had thought that the lithe body
on his back was something to race with, toy with, and, when tired of
that, fling precipitately to earth! And not one of those horses but
had found that while he might race and toy with his rider within
limitations, at the last that light body was master, and not he. . . .
Yet Zen loved best the horse that raced wildest and was hardest to
bring into subjection.
That was her philosophy of life so far as a girl of twenty may have
a philosophy of life. It was to go on and see what would happen,
supported always by a quiet confidence that in any pinch she could
take care of herself. She had learned to ride and shoot, to sleep
out and cook in the open, to ride the ranges after dark by instinct
and the stars--she had learned these things while other girls of her
age learned the rudiments of fancy-work and the scales of the piano.
Her father and mother knew her disposition, loved it, and feared
for it. They knew that there was never a rider so brave, so skilful,
so strong, but some outlaw would throw him at last. So at fourteen
they sent her east to a boarding-school. In two months she was back
with a letter of expulsion, and the boast of having blacked the eyes
of the principal's daughter.
"They couldn't teach me any more, Mother," she said. "They
admitted it. So here I am."
Y.D. was plainly perplexed. "It's about time you was halter-
broke," he commented, "but who's goin' to do it?"
"If a girl has learned to read and think, what more can the schools
do for her?" she demanded.
And Y.D., never having been to school, could not answer.
The sun was capping the Rockies with molten gold when the rancher
and his daughter swung down the foothill slopes to the camp on the
South Y.D. Strings of men and horses returning from the upland
meadows could be seen from the hillside as they descended.
Y.D.'s sharp eyes measured the scale of operations.
"They're hittin' the high spots," he said, approvingly. "That boy
Transley is a hum-dinger."
Zen made no reply.
"I say he's a hum-dinger," her father repeated.
The girl looked up with a quick flush of surprise. Y.D. was no
puzzle to her, and if he went out of his way to commend Transley he
had a purpose.
"Mr. Transley seems to have made a hit with you, Dad," she
"Well, I do like to see a man who's got the goods in him. I like a
man that can get there, just as I like a horse that can get there.
I've often wondered, Zen, what kind you'd take up with, when it came
to that, an' hoped he'd be a live crittur. After I'm dead an' buried
I don't want no other dead one spendin' my simoleons."
"How about Mr. Linder?" said Zen, naively.
Her father looked up sharply. "Zen," he said, "you're not
Zen laughed. "I don't figure you're exactly serious, Dad, in your
talk about Transley. You're just feeling out. Well--let me do a
little feeling out. How about Linder?"
"Linder's all right," Y.D. replied. "Better than the average, I
admit. But he's not the man Transley is. If he was, he wouldn't be
workin' for Transley. You can't keep a man down, Zen, if he's got the
goods in him. Linder comes up over the average, so's you can notice
it, but not like Transley does."
Zen did not pursue the subject. She understood her father's
philosophy very well indeed, and, to a large degree, she accepted it
as her own. It was natural that a man of Y.D.'s experience, who had
begun life with no favors and had asked none since, and had made of
himself a big success--it was natural that such a man should judge all
others by their material achievements. The only quality Y.D. took off
his hat to was the ability to do things. And Y.D.'s idea of things
was very concrete; it had to do with steers and land, with hay and
money and men. It was by such things he measured success. And Zen
was disposed to agree with him. Why not? It was the only success she
Transley was greeting them as they drew into camp.
"Glad to see you, Y.D.; honored to have a visit from you, Ma'am,"
he said, as he helped them from the democrat, and gave instructions
for the care of their horses. "Supper is waiting, and the men won't
be ready for some time."
Y.D. shook hands with Transley cordially. "Zen an' me just thought
we'd run over and see how the wind blew," he said. "You got a good
spot here for a camp, Transley. But we won't go in to supper just
now. Let the men eat first; I always say the work horses should be
first at the barn. Well, how's she goin'?"
"Fine," said Transley, "fine," but it was evident his mind was
divided. He was glancing at Zen, who stood by during the
"I must try and make your daughter at home," he continued. "I
allow myself the luxury of a private tent, and as you will be staying
over night I will ask you to accept it for her."
"But I have my own tent with me, in the democrat," said Zen. "If
you will let the men pitch it under the trees where I can hear the
water murmuring in the night--"
"Who'd have thought it, from the daughter of the practical Y.D!"
Transley bantered. "All right, Ma'am, but in the meantime take my
tent. I'll get water, and there's a basin." He already was leading
the way. "Make yourself at home--Zen. May I call you Zen?" he added,
in a lower voice, as they left Y.D. at a distance.
"Everybody calls me Zen."
They were standing at the door of the tent, he holding back the
flap that she might enter. The valley was already in shadow, and
there was no sunlight to play on her hair, but her face and figure in
the mellow dusk seemed entirely winsome and adorable. There was no
taint of Y.D.'s millions in the admiration that Transley bent upon
her. . . . Of course, as an adjunct, the millions were not to be
When the men had finished supper Transley summoned her. On the way
to the chuck-wagon she passed close to George Drazk. It was evident
that he had chosen a station with that result in view. She had passed
by when she turned, whimsically.
"Well, George, how's that Pete-horse?" she said.
"Up an comin' all the time, Zen," he answered.
She bit her lip over his familiarity, but she had no come-back.
She had given him the opening, by calling him "George."
"You see, I got quite well acquainted with Mr. Drazk when he came
back to hunt for a horse blanket which had mysteriously disappeared,"
she explained to Transley.
They ascended the steps which led from the ground into the wagon.
The table had been reset for four, and as the shadows were now heavy
in the valley, candles had been lighted. Y.D. and his daughter sat on
one side, Transley on the other. In a moment Linder entered. He had
already had a talk with Y.D., but had not met Zen since their supper
together in the rancher's house.
"Glad to see you again, Mr. Linder," said the girl, rising and
extending her hand across the table. "You see we lost no time in
returning your call."
Linder took her hand in a frank grasp, but could think of nothing
in particular to say. "We're glad to have you," was all he could
Zen was rather sorry that Linder had not made more of the
situation. She wondered what quick repartee, shot, no doubt, with
double meaning, Transley would have returned. It was evident that, as
her father had said, Linder was second best. And yet there was
something about his shyness that appealed to her even more than did
Transley's superb self-confidence.
The meal was spent in small talk about horses and steers and the
merits of the different makes of mowing machines. When it was
finished Transley apologized for not offering his guests any liquor.
"I never keep it about the camp," he said.
"Quite right," Y.D. agreed, "quite right. Booze is like fire; a
valuable thing in careful hands, but mighty dangerous when everybody
gets playin' with it. I reckon the grass is gettin' pretty dry,
"Mighty dry, all right, but we're taking every precaution."
"I'm sure you are, but you can't take precautions for other people.
Has anybody been puttin' you up to any trouble here?"
"Well, no, I can't exactly say trouble," said Transley, "but we've
got notice it's coming. A chap named Grant, foreman, I think, for
Landson, down the valley, rode over last night, and invited us not to
cut any hay hereabouts. He was very courteous, and all that, but he
had the manner of a man who'd go quite a distance in a pinch."
"What did you tell him?"
"Told him I was working for Y.D., and then asked him to stay for
"Did he stay?" Zen asked.
"He did not. He cantered off back, courteous as he came. And this
morning we went out on the job, and have cut all day, and nothing has
"I guess he found you were not to be bluffed," said Zen, and
Transley could not prevent a flush of pleasure at her compliment. "Of
course Landson has no real claim to the hay, has he, Dad?"
"Of course not. I reckon them'll be his stacks we saw down the
valley. Well, I'm not wantin' to rob him of the fruit of his labor,
an' if he keeps calm perhaps we'll let him have what he has cut, but
if he don't--" Y.D.'s face hardened with the set of a man accustomed
to fight, and win, his own battles. "I think we'll just stick around
a day or two in case he tries to start anythin'," he continued.
"Well, five o'clock comes early," said Transley, "and you folks
must be tired with your long drive. We've had your tent pitched down
by the water, Zen, so that its murmurs may sing you to sleep. You see,
I have some of the poetic in me, too. Mr. Linder will show you down,
and I will see that your father is made comfortable. And
remember--five o'clock does not apply to visitors."
The camp now lay in complete darkness, save where a lantern threw
its light from a tent by the river. Zen walked by Linder's side.
Presently she reached out and took his arm.
"I beg your pardon," said Linder. "I should have offered--"
"Of course you should. Mr. Transley would not have waited to be
told. Dad thinks that anything that's worth having in this world is
worth going after, and going after hard. I guess I'm Dad's daughter
in more ways than one."
"I suppose he's right," Linder confessed, "but I've always been
shy. I get along all right with men."
"The truth is, Mr Linder, you're not shy--you're frightened. Now I
can well believe that no man could frighten you. Consequently you
get along all right with men. Do I need to tell you the rest?"
"I never thought of myself as being afraid of women," he replied.
"It has always seemed that they were, well, just out of my line."
They had reached the tent but the girl made no sign of going in.
In the silence the sibilant lisp of the stream rose loud about them.
"Mr. Linder," she said at length, "do you know why Mr. Transley
sent you down here with me?"
"I'm sure I don't, except to show you to your tent."
"That was the least of his purposes. He wanted to show you that he
wasn't afraid of you; and he wanted to show me that he wasn't afraid
of you. Mr. Transley is a very self-confident individual. There is
such a thing as being too self-confident, Mr. Linder, just as there is
such a thing as being too shy. Do you get me? Good night!" And with
a little rush she was in her tent.
Linder walked slowly down to the water's edge, and stood there,
thinking, until her light went out. His brain was in a whirl with a
sensation entirely strange to it. A light wind, laden with snow-
smell from the mountains, pressed gently against his features, and
presently Linder took deeper breaths than he had ever known before.
"By Jove!" he said. "Who'd have thought it possible?"
When Zen awoke next morning the mowing machines of Transley's
outfit were already singing their symphony in the meadows; she could
hear the metallic rhythm as it came borne on the early breeze. She
lay awake on her camp cot for a few minutes, stretching her fingers to
the canvas ceiling and feeling that it was good to be alive. And it
was. The ripple of water came from almost underneath the walls of her
tent; the smell of spruce trees and balm-o'-Gilead and new-mown hay
was in the air. She could feel the warmth of the sunshine already
pouring upon her white roof; she could trace the gentle sway of the
trees by the leafy patterns gliding forward and back. A cheeky
gopher, exploring about the door of her tent, ventured in, and,
sitting bolt upright, sent his shrill whistle boldly forth. She
watched his fine bravery for a minute, then clapped her hands
together, and laughed as he fled.
"Therein we have the figures of both Transley and Linder," she
mused to herself. "Upright, Transley; horizontal, Linder. I doubt
if the poor fellow slept last night after the fright I gave him."
Slowly and calmly she turned the incident over in her mind. She
wondered a little if she had been quite fair with Linder. Her words
and conduct were capable of very broad interpretations. She was not
at all in love with Linder; of that Zen was very sure. She was
equally sure that she was not at all in love with Transley. She
admitted that she admired Transley for his calm assumptions, but they
nettled her a little nevertheless. If this should develop into a love
affair--IF it should--she had no intention that it was to be a
pleasant afternoon's canter. It was to be a race--a race, mind
you--and may the best man win! She had a feeling, amounting almost to
a conviction, that Transley underrated his foreman's possibilities in
such a contest. She had seen many a dark horse, less promising than
Linder, gallop home with the stakes.
Then Zen smiled her own quiet, self-confident smile, the smile
which had come down to her from Y.D. and from the Wilsons--the only
family that had ever mastered him. The idea of either Transley or
Linder thinking he could gallop home with HER! For the moment she
forgot to do Linder the justice of remembering that nothing was
further from his thoughts. She would show them. She would make a
race of it--ALMOST to the wire. In the home stretch she would make
the leap, out and over the fence. She was in it for the race, not
for the finish.
Zen contemplated for some minutes the possibilities of that race;
then, as the imagination threatened to become involved, she sprang
from her cot and thrust a cautious head through the door of her tent.
The gang had long since gone to the fields, and friendly bushes
sheltered her from view from the cook-car. She drew on her boots,
shook out her hair, threw a towel across her shoulders, and, soap in
hand, walked boldly the few steps to the stream rippling over its
shiny gravel bed. She stopped and tested the water with her fingers;
then brought it in fresh, cool handfuls about her face and neck.
"Mornin', Zen!" said a familiar voice. "'Scuse me for happenin' to
be here. I was jus' waterin' that Pete-horse after a hard ride."
"Now look here, Mr. Drazk!" said the girl, whipping her scanty
clothing about her, "if I had a gun that Pete-horse would be
scheduled for his fastest travel in the next twenty seconds, and he'd
end it without a rider, too. I won't have you spying about!"
"Aw, don' be cross," Drazk protested. He was sitting on his horse
in the ford a dozen yards away. "I jus' happened along. I guess the
outside belongs to all of us. Say, Zen, if I was to get properly
interduced, what's the chances?"
"Not one in a million, and if that isn't odds enough I'll double
"You're not goin' to hitch up with Linder, are you?"
"Linder? Who said anything about Linder?"
"Gee, but ain't she innercent?" Drazk stepped his horse up a few
feet to facilitate conversation. "I alus take an interest in
innercent gals away from home, so I kinda kep' my angel eye on you
las' night. An' I see Linder stalkin' aroun' here an' sighin' out
over the water when he should 'ave been in bed. But, of course, he's
"George Drazk, if you speak to me again I'll horse-whip you out of
the camp at noon before all the men. Now, beat it!"
"Jus' as you say, Ma'am," he returned, with mock courtesy. "But I
could tell a strange story if I would. But you don't need to be
scared. That's one thing I never do--I never squeal on a friend."
She was burning with his insults, and if she had had a gun at hand
she undoubtedly would have made good her threat. But she had none.
Drazk very deliberately turned his horse and rode away toward the
"Oh, won't I fix him!" she said, as she continued her toilet in a
fury. She had not the faintest idea what revenge she would take, but
she promised herself that it would leave nothing to be desired. Then,
because she was young and healthy and an optimist, and did not know
what it meant to be afraid, she dismissed the incident from her mind
to consider the more urgent matter of breakfast.
Tompkins, the cook, had not needed Transley's suggestion to put his
best foot forward when catering to Y.D. and his daughter. Tompkins'
soul yearned for a cooking berth that could be occupied the year
round. Work in the railway camps had always left him high and dry at
the freeze-up--dry, particularly, and a few nights in Calgary or
Edmonton saw the end of his season's earnings. Then came a
precarious existence for Tompkins until the scrapers were back on the
dump the following spring. A steady job, cooking on a ranch like the
Y.D.; if Tompkins had written the Apocalypse that would have been his
picture of heaven. So he had left nothing undone, even to despatching
a courier over night to a railway station thirty miles away for fresh
fruit and other delicacies. Another of the gang had been impressed
into a trip up the river to a squatter who was suspected of keeping
one or two milch cows and sundry hens.
"This way, Ma'am," Tompkins was waving as Zen emerged from the
grove. "Another of our usual mornings. Hope you slep' well, Ma'am."
He stood deferentially aside while she ascended the three steps that
led into the covered wagon.
Zen gave a little shriek of delight, and Tompkins felt that all his
efforts had been well repaid. One end of the table--it was with a
sore heart Tompkins had realized that he could not cut down the big
table--one end of the table was set with a clean linen cloth and
granite dishware scoured until it shone. Beside Zen's plate were
grape fruit and sliced oranges and real cream.
"However did you manage it?" she gasped.
"Nothing's too good for Y.D.'s daughter," was the only explanation
Tompkins would offer, but, as Zen afterwards said, the smile on his
face was as good as another breakfast. After the fruit came
porridge, and more cream; then fresh boiled eggs with toast; then
fresh ripe strawberries with more cream.
"Tompkins, Ma'am; Cyrus Tompkins," he supplied.
"Well, Mr. Tompkins, you're a wonder, and when there's a new cook
to be engaged for the Y.D. I shall think of you."
"Indeed I wish you would, Ma'am," he said, earnestly. "This road
work's all right, and nobody ever cooked for a better boss than Mr.
Transley--savin' it would be your father, Ma'am--but I'm a man of
family, an' it's pretty hard--"
"Family, did you say, Mr. Tompkins? How many of a family have
"Well, it's seven years since I heard from them--I haven't
corresponded very reg'lar of late, but they WAS six--"
The story of Tompkins' family was cut short by the arrival of a
team and mowing machine.
"What's up, Fred?" called Tompkins through a window of his dining
car to the driver. "Breakfust is just over, an' dinner ain't begun."
For answer the man addressed as Fred slowly produced an iron stake
about eighteen inches long and somewhat less than an inch in
"What kind of shrubbery do you call that, Tompkins?" he demanded.
"Well, it ain't buffalo grass, an' it ain't brome grass, an' I
don't figger it's alfalfa," said Tompkins, meditatively.
"No, and it ain't a grub-stake," Fred replied, with some sarcasm.
"It's a iron stake, growin' right in a nice little clump of grass,
and I run on to it and bust my cuttin'-bar all to--that is, all to
pieces," he completed rather lamely, taking Zen into his glance.
"I think I follow you," she said, with a smile. "Can you fix it
"Nope. Have to go to town for a new one. Two days' lost time,
when every hour counts. Hello! Here comes someone else."
Another of the teamsters was drawing into camp. "Hello, Fred!" he
said, upon coming up with his fellow workman, "you in too? I had a
bit of bad luck. I run smash on to an iron stake right there in the
ground and crumpled my knife like so much soap."
"I did worse," said Fred, with a grin. "I bust my cuttin'-bar."
The two men exchanged a steady glance for half a minute. Then the
new-comer gave vent to a long, low whistle.
"So that's the way of it," he said. "That's the kind of war Mr.
Landson makes. Well, we can fight back with the same weapons, but
that won't cut the hay, will it?"
By this time Y.D. and Transley, with four other teamsters, were
observed coming in. Each driver had had the same experience. An
iron stake, carefully hidden in a clump of grass, had been driven
down into the ground until it was just high enough to intercept the
cutting-bar. The fine, sharp knives were crumpled against it; in
some cases the heavy cutting-bar, in which the knives operate, was
Y.D.'s face was black with fury.
"That's the lowest, mangyest, cowardliest trick I ever had pulled
on me," he was saying. "I'm plumb equal to ridin' down to Landson's
an' drivin' one of them stakes through under his short ribs."
"But can you prove that Landson did it?" said Zen, who had an
element of caution in her when her father was concerned. She had a
vision of a fight, with Landson pleading entire ignorance of the
whole cause of offence, and her father probably summoned by the
police for unprovoked assault.
"No, I can't prove that Landson did it, an' I can't prove that the
grass my steers eat turns to hair on their backs," he retorted, "but
I reach my own conclusions. Is there any shootin' irons in the
"Now, Dad, that's enough," said the girl, firmly. "There'll be no
shooting between you and Landson. If there is to be anything of that
kind I'll ride down ahead and warn him of what's coming."
"Darter," said Y.D.--it was only on momentous occasions that he
addressed her as daughter--"I brought you over here as a guest, not
as manager o' my affairs. I've taken care of those affairs for some
considerable years, an' I reckon I still have the qualifications. If
you're a-goin' to act up obstrep'rous I'll get Mr. Transley to lend me
a man to escort you home."
"At your service, Y.D.," said George Drazk, who was in the crowd
which had gathered about the rancher, his daughter, and Transley.
"That Pete-horse an' me would jus' see her over the hills a-
"I don't think it would be wise to take any extreme measures, at
least, not just yet," said Transley. "It's out of the question to
suppose that Landson has picketed the whole valley with those stakes.
It is now quite clear why we were left in peace yesterday. He wanted
us to get started, and get a few swaths cut, so that he would know
where to drive the stakes to catch us the next morning. Some of these
machines can be repaired at once, and the others within a day or two.
We will just move over a little and start on new fields. There's
pretty good moonlight these nights and we'll leave a few men out on
guard, and perhaps we can catch the enemy at his little game. Let us
get one of Landson's men with the goods on him."
Y.D. was somewhat pacified by this suggestion. "You're a practical
devil, Transley," he said, with considerable admiration. "Now, in a
case of this kind I jus' get plumb fightin' mad. I want to bore
somebody. I guess it's the only kind o' procedure that comes easy to
my hand. I guess you're right, but I hate to let anybody have the
laugh on me." Y.D. looked down the valley, shading his eyes with his
hand. "That son-of-a-gun has got a dozen or more stacks down there.
I don't wish nobody any hard luck, but if some tenderfoot was to drop
"In that case I suppose you'd pray for a west wind, Dad," Zen
suggested, "but the winds in these valleys, even with your prayers to
direct them, are none too reliable."
"Everybody to work on fixing up these machines," Transley ordered.
"Linder, make a list of what repairs are needed and Drazk will ride
to town with it at once. Some of them may have to come out from the
city by express. Drazk can get the orders in and a team will follow
to bring out the repairs."
In a moment Transley's men were busy with wrenches and hammers,
replacing knives and appraising damages. Even in his anger Y.D. took
approving note of the promptness of Transley's decisions and the zest
with which his men carried them into effect.
"A he-man, that fellow, Zen," he confided to his daughter, "If he'd
blowed into this country thirty years ago, like I did, he'd own it by
this time plumb to the sky-line."
When the list of repairs was completed Linder handed it to Drazk.
"Beat it to town on that Pete-horse of yours, George," he said.
"Burn the grass on the road."
"I bet I'll be ten miles on the road back when I meet my shadow
goin'," said Drazk, making a spectacular leap into his saddle. "Bye,
Y.D!; bye, Zen!" he shouted while he whirled his horse's head eastward
and waved his hand to where they stood. In spite of her annoyance at
him she had to smile and return his salute.
"Mr. Drazk is irrepressible," she remarked to Transley.
"And irresponsible," the contractor returned. "I sometimes wonder
why I keep him. In fact, I don't really keep him; he just stays.
Every spring he hunts me up and fastens on. Still, I get a lot of
good service out of him. Praise 'that Pete-horse,' and George would
ride his head off for you. He has a weakness for wanting to marry
every woman he sees, but his infatuations seem harmless enough."
"I know something of his weakness," Zen replied. "I have already
been honored with a proposal."
Transley looked in her face. It was slightly flushed, whether with
the summer sun or with her confession, but it was a wonderfully good
face to look in.
"Zen," he said, in a low voice that Y.D. and the others might not
hear, "how would you take a serious proposal, made seriously by one
who loves you, and who knows that you are, and always will be, a
queen among women?"
"If you had been a cow puncher instead of a contractor," she told
him, "I'm sure you would long ago have ended your life in some dash
over a cutbank."
Meanwhile Drazk pursued his way to town. The trail, after crossing
the ford, turned abruptly to the right from that which led across
country to the North Y.D. For a mile or more it skirted the stream
in a park-like drive through groves of spruce and cottonwood.
Sunshine and the babble of water everywhere filled the air. Sunshine,
too, filled George Drazk's heart. The importance of his mission was
pleasantly heavy upon him. He pictured the impression he would make
in town, galloping in with his horse wet over the back, and rushing to
the implement agency with all the importance of a courier from Y.D.
He would let two of the boys take Pete to the stable, and then,
seated on a mower seat in the shade, he would tell the story. It
would lose nothing in the telling. He would even add how Zen had
thrown a kiss at him in parting. Perhaps he would have Zen kiss him
on the cheek before the whole camp. He turned that possibility over
in his mind, weighing nicely the credulity of his imaginary audience.
. . . At any rate, whether he decided to put that in the story or
not, it was very pleasant to think about.
Presently the trail turned abruptly up a gully leading into the
hills. A huge cutbank, jutting into the river, barred the way in
front, and its precipitous side, a hundred feet or more in height,
kept continually crumbling and falling into the stream. These
cutbanks are a terror to inexperienced riders. The valleys are
swallowed up in the tawny sameness of the ranges; the vision catches
only the higher levels, and one may gallop to the verge of a precipice
before becoming aware of its existence. It was to this that Zen had
referred in speaking of Transley's precipitateness.
Drazk followed the gully up into the hills, letting his horse drop
back to a walk in the hard going along the dry bed of a stream which
flowed only in the spring freshets. Pete had to pick his way over
boulders and across stretches of sand and boggy patches of black mud
formed by little springs leaking out under clumps of willows. Here
and there the white ribs of a steer's skeleton peered through the
brush; once or twice an overpowering stench gave notice of a carcass
not wholly decomposed.
It was not a pleasant environment, but in an hour Drazk was out
again on the brow of the brown hills, where the sunshine flooded
about and a fresh breeze beat up against his face. After all his
winding about in the gully he was not more than a mile from the
"I reckon I could get a great view from that cutbank of what
Landson is doin'," he suddenly remarked to himself. He took off his
hat and scratched his tousled head in reflection. "Linder said to
beat it," he ruminated, "but I can't get back to-night anyway, an' it
might be worth while to do a little scoutin'. Here goes!"
He struck a smart gallop to the southward, and brought his horse
up, spectacularly, a yard from the edge of the precipice. The view
which his position commanded was superb. Up the valley lay the white
tents of Transley's outfit, almost hidden in green foliage; the ford
across the river was distinctly visible, and stretching south from it
lay, like a great curving snake, the trail which wound across the
valley and lost itself in the foothills far to the south; across the
western horizon hung the purple curtain of the mountains, soft and
vague in their noonday mists, but touched with settings of ivory where
the snow fields beat back the blazing sunshine; far down the valley
was the gleam of Landson's whitewashed buildings, and nearer at hand
the greenish-brown of the upland meadows which his haymakers had
already cleared of their crop of prairie wool. This was now arising
in enormous stacks; it must have been three miles to where they lay,
but Drazk's keen eyes could distinguish ten completed stacks and two
others in course of building. He could even see the sweeps hauling
the new hay, after only a few hours of sun-drying, and sliding it up
the inclined platforms which dumped it into the form of stacks. The
foothill rancher makes hay by horse power, and almost without the aid
of a pitch-fork. Even as Drazk watched he saw a load skidded up; saw
its apparent momentary poise in air; saw the well-trained horses stop
and turn and start back to the meadow with their sweep. And up the
valley Transley's outfit was at a standstill.
Drazk employed his limited but expressive vocabulary. It was
against all human nature to look on such a scene unmoved. He
recalled Y.D.'s half-spoken wish about a random cigar. Then suddenly
George Drazk's mouth dropped open and his eyes rounded with a great
Of course, it was against all the rules of the range--it was outlaw
business--but what about driving iron stakes in a hay meadow? Drazk's
philosophy was that the end justifies the means. And if the end would
win the approval of Y.D.--and of Y.D.'s daughter-- then any means was
justified. Had not Linder said, "Burn the grass on the road?" Drazk
knew well enough that Linder's remark was a figure of speech, but his
eccentric mind found no trouble in converting it into literal
Drazk sniffed the air and looked at the sun. A soft breeze was
moving slowly up the valley; the sun was just past noon. There was
every reason to expect that as the lowland prairies grew hot with the
afternoon sunshine a breeze would come down out of the mountains to
occupy the area of great atmospheric expansion. Drazk knew nothing
about the theory of the thing; all that concerned him was the fact
that by mid-afternoon the wind would probably change to the west.
Two miles down the valley he found a gully which gave access to the
water's edge. He descended, located a ford, and crossed. There were
cattle-trails through the cottonwoods; he might have followed them,
but he feared the telltale shoe-prints. He elected the more difficult
route down the stream itself. The South Y.D. ran mostly on a wide
gravel bottom; it was possible to pick out a course which kept Pete in
water seldom higher than his knees. An hour of this, and Drazk,
peering through the trees, could see the nearest of Landson's stacks
not half a mile away. The Landson gang were working farther down the
valley, and the stack itself covered approach from the river.
Drazk slipped from the saddle, and stole quietly into the open.
The breeze was now coming down the valley.
Transley's men had repaired such machines as they could and
returned to work. The clatter of mowing machines filled the valley;
the horses were speeded up to recover lost time. Transley and Y.D.
rode about, carefully scrutinizing the short grass for iron stakes,
and keeping a general eye on operations.
Suddenly Transley sat bolt-still on his horse. Then, in a low
"Y.D!" he said.
The rancher turned and followed the line of Transley's vision. The
nearest of Landson's stacks was ablaze, and a great pillar of smoke
was rolling skyward. Even as they watched, the base of the fire
seemed to spread; then, in a moment, tongues of flame were seen
leaping from a stack farther on.
"Looks like your prayers were answered, Y.D.," said Transley. "I
bet they haven't a plow nearer than the ranch."
Y.D. seemed fascinated by the sight. He could not take his eyes
off it. He drew a cigar from his pocket and thrust it far into his
mouth, chewing it savagely and rolling it in his lips, but, according
to the law of the hayfield, refraining from lighting it. At first
there was a gleam of vengeance in his eyes, but presently that gave
way to a sort of horror. Every honorable tradition of the range
demanded that he enlist his force against the common enemy.
"Hell, Transley!" he ejaculated, "we can't sit and look at that!
Order the men out! What have we got to fight with?"
For answer Transley swung round in his saddle and struck his palm
"Good boy, Y.D!" he said. "I did you an injustice--I mean, about
your prayers being answered. We haven't as much as a plow, either,
but we can gallop down with some barrels in a wagon and put a sack
brigade to work. I'm afraid it won't save Landson's hay, but it will
show where our hearts are."
Transley and Y.D. galloped off to round up the men, some of whom
had already noticed the fire. Transley despatched four men and two
teams to take barrels, sacks, and horse blankets to the Landson
meadows. The others he sent off at once on horseback to give what
help they could.
Zen rode up just as they left, and already her fine horse seemed to
realize the tension in the air. His keen, hard-strung muscles
quivered as she brought his gallop to a stop.
"How did it start, Dad?" she demanded.
"How do I know?" he returned, shortly. "D'ye think I fired it?"
"No, but I just asked the question that Landson will ask, so you
better have your answer handy. I'm going to gallop down to their
ranch; perhaps I can help Mrs. Landson."
"The ranch buildings are safe enough, I think," said Transley.
"The grass there is close cropped, and there is some plowing."
For a moment the three sat, watching the spread of the flames. By
this time the whole lower valley was blanketed in smoke. Clouds of
blue and mauve and creamy yellow rolled from the meadows and stacks.
The fire was whipping the light breeze of the afternoon to a gale,
and was already running wildly over the flanks of the foothills.
"Well, I'm off," said Zen. "Good-bye!"
"Be careful, Zen!" her father shouted. "Fire is fire." But
already her horse was stretching low and straight in a hard gallop
down the valley.
"I'll ride in to camp and tell Tompkins to make up a double supply
of sandwiches and coffee," said Transley. "I guess there'll be no
cooking in Landson's outfit this afternoon. After that we can both
run down and lend a hand, if that suits you."
As they rode to camp together Y.D. drew up close to the contractor.
"Transley," he said, "how do you reckon that fire started?"
"I don't know," said Transley, "any more than you do."
"I didn't ask you what you KNEW. I asked you what you reckoned."
Transley rode for some minutes in silence. Then at last he spoke:
"A man isn't supposed to reckon in things of this kind. He should
know, or keep his mouth shut. But I allow myself just one guess.
"Why Drazk?" Y.D. demanded. "He has nothin' to gain, and this
prank may put him in the cooler."
"Drazk would do anything to be spectacular," Transley explained.
"He probably will boast openly about it. You know, he's trying to
make an impression on Zen."
"Of course it's nonsense, but Drazk doesn't see it that way."
"I'd string him to the nearest cottonwood if I thought he--"
"Now don't do him an injustice, Y.D. Drazk doesn't realize that
he is no mate for Zen. He doesn't know of any reason why Zen
shouldn't look on him with favor; indeed, with pride. It's
ridiculous, I know, but Drazk is built that way."
"Then I'll change his style of architecture the first time I run
into him," said Y.D. savagely. "Zen is too young to think of such a
"She will always be too young to think of such a thing, so far as
Drazk or his type is concerned," Transley returned. "But suppose--
Y.D., to be quite frank, suppose _I_ suggested--"
"Transley, you work quick," said Y.D. "I admit I like a quick
worker. But just now we have a fire on our hands."
By this time they had reached the camp. Transley gave his
instructions in a few words, and then turned to ride down to
Landson's. They had gone only a few hundred yards when Y.D. pulled
his horse to a stop.
"Transley!" he exclaimed, and his voice was shaking. "What do you
The contractor drew up and sniffed the air. When he turned to Y.D.
his face was white.
"Smoke, Y.D!" he gasped. "The wind has changed!"
It was true. Already low clouds of smoke were drifting overhead
like a broken veil. The erratic foothill wind, which a few minutes
before had been coming down the valley, was now blowing back up
again. Even while they took in the situation they could feel the hot
breath of the distant fire borne against their faces.
"Well, it's up to us," said Transley tersely. "We'll make a fight
of it. Got any speed in that nag of yours?" Without waiting for an
answer he put spurs to his horse and set forward on a wild gallop into
A mile down the line he found that Linder had already gathered his
forces and laid out a plan of defence. The valley, from the South
Y.D. to the hills, was about four miles wide, and up the full breadth
of it was now coming the fire from Landson's fields. There was no
natural fighting line; Linder had not so much as a buffalo path to
work against. But he was already starting back-fires at intervals of
fifty yards, allotting three men to each fire. A back-fire is a fire
started for the purpose of stopping another. Usually a road, or a
plowed strip, or even a cattle path, is used for a base. On the
windward side of this base the back-fire is started and allowed to eat
its way back against the wind until it meets the main fire which is
rushing forward with the wind, and chokes it out for lack of fuel. A
few men, stationed along a furrow or a trail, can keep the small
back-fire from jumping it, although they would be powerless to check
the momentum of the main fire.
This was Linder's position, except that he had no furrow to work
against. All he could do was tell off men with sacks and horse
blankets soaked in the barrels of water to hold the back-fire in
check as best they could. So far they were succeeding. As soon as
the fire had burned a few feet the forward side of it was pounded out
with wet sacks. It didn't matter about the other side. It could be
allowed to eat back as far as it liked; the farther the better.
"Good boy, Lin!" Transley shouted, as he drew up and surveyed
operations. "She played us a dirty trick, didn't she?"
Linder looked up, red-eyed and coughing. "We can hold it here," he
said, "but we can never cross the valley. The fire will be on us
before we have burned a mile. It will beat around our south flank
and lick up everything!"
Transley jumped from his horse. He seized Linder in his arms and
literally threw him into the saddle. "You're played, boy!" he
shouted in his foreman's ear. "Ride down to the river and get into
the water, and stay there until you know we can win!"
Then Transley threw himself into the fight. As the men said
afterwards, Linder fought like a wildcat, but Transley fought like a
den of lions. When the wagon galloped up from the river with barrels
of water Transley seized a barrel at the end and set it bodily on the
ground. He sprang into the wagon, shouting commands to horses and
men. A hundred yards they galloped along the fighting front; then
Transley sprang out and set another barrel on the ground. In this
way, instead of having the men all coming to the wagon to wet their
sacks, he distributed water along the line. Then they turned back,
picked up the empty barrels, and galloped to the river for a fresh
Soon they had the first mile secure. The backfires had all met;
the forward line of flames had all been pounded out; the rear line
had burned back until there was no danger of it jumping the burned
space. Then Transley picked up his kit and rushed it on to a new
front farther south. At intervals of a hundred yards he started
fires, holding them in check and beating out the western edge as
But his difficulties were increasing. He was farther from the
river. It took longer to get water. One of the barrels fell off and
collapsed. Some of the men were playing out. The horses were wild
with excitement and terror. The smoke was growing denser and hotter.
Men were coughing and gasping through dry, seared lips.
"You can't hold it, Transley; you can't hold it!" said one of the
Transley hit him from the shoulder. He crumpled up and collapsed.
A mile and a half had been made safe, but the smoke was
suffocatingly thick and the roar of the oncoming fire rose above the
shouts of the fighters. Up galloped the water wagon; made a sharp
lurch and turn, and a front wheel collapsed with the shock. The wagon
went down at one corner and the barrels were dumped on the ground.
The men looked at Transley. For one moment he surveyed the
"Is there a chain?" he demanded. There was.
"Hitch on to the tire of this broken wheel. Some of you men yank
the hub out of it. Others pull grass. Pull, like hell was after
They pulled. In a minute or two Transley had the rim of the wheel
flat on the ground, with a team hitched to it and a little pile of
dry grass inside. Then he set fire to the little pile of grass and
started the team slowly along the battle front. As they moved the
burning grass in the rim set fire to the grass on the prairie
underneath; the rim partly rubbed it out again as it came over, and
the men were able to keep what remained in check, but as he
lengthened his line Transley had to leave more and more men to beat
out the fire, and had fewer to pull grass. The sacks were too wet to
burn; he had to have grass to feed his moving fire-spreader.
At length he had only a teamster and himself, and his fire was
going out. Transley whipped off his shirt, rolled it into a little
heap, set fire to it, and ran along beside the rim, firing the little
moving circle of grass inside.
It was the teamster, looking back, who saw Transley fall. He had
to drop the lines to run to his assistance, and the horses, terrified
by smoke and fire and the excitement of the fight, immediately bolted.
The teamster took Transley in his arms and half carried, half dragged
him into the safe area behind the backfires. And a few minutes later
the main fire, checked on its front, swept by on the flank and raced
on up through the valley.
In riding down to the assistance of Mrs. Landson Zen found herself
suddenly caught in an eddy of smoke. She did not realize at the
moment that the wind had turned; she thought she must have ridden
into the fire area. To avoid the possibility of being cut off by the
fire, and also for better air, she turned her horse to the river. All
through the valley were billows of smoke, with here and there a
reddish-yellow glare marking the more vicious sections of flame.
Vaguely, at times, she thought she caught the shouting of men, but
all the heavens seemed full of roaring.
When Zen reached the water the smoke was hanging low on it, and she
drove her horse well in. Then she swung down the stream, believing
that by making a detour in this way she could pass the wedge of fire
that had interrupted her and get back on to the trail leading to
Landson's. She was coughing with the smoke, but rode on in the
confidence that presently it would lift.
It did. A whip of wind raised it like a strong arm throwing off a
blanket. She sat up and breathed freely. The hot sun shone through
rifts in the canopy of smoke; the blue sky looked down serene and
unmoved by this outburst of the elements. Then as Zen brought her
eyes back to the water she saw a man on horseback not forty yards
ahead. Her first thought was that it must be one of the fire
fighters, driven like herself to safety, but a second glance revealed
George Drazk. For a moment she had an impulse to wheel and ride out,
but even as she smothered that impulse a tinge of color rose in her
cheeks that she should for a moment have entertained it. To let
George Drazk think she was afraid of him would be utmost humiliation.
She continued straight down the stream, but he had already seen her
and was headed her way. In the excitement of what he had just done
Drazk was less responsible than usual.
"Hello, Zen!" he said. "Mighty decent of you to ride down an' meet
me like this. Mighty decent, Zen!"
"I didn't ride down to meet you, Drazk, and you know it. Keep out
of the way or I'll use a whip on you!"
"Oh, how haughty! Y.D. all over! Never mind, dear, I like you all
the better for that. Who wants a tame horse? An' as for comin' down
to meet me, what's the odds, so long as we've met?"
He had turned his horse and blocked the way in front of her. When
Zen's horse came within reach Drazk caught him by the bridle.
"Will you let go?" the girl said, speaking as calmly as she could,
but in a white passion. "Will you let go of that bridle, or shall I
He looked her full in the face. "Gad, but you're a stunner!" he
exclaimed. "I'm glad we met--here."
She brought her whip with a biting cut around the wrist that held
her bridle. Drazk winced, but did not let go.
"Jus' for that, young Y.D.," he hissed, "jus' for that we drop all
formalities, so to speak."
With a dexterous spurring he brought his horse alongside and threw
an arm about Zen before she could beat him off. She used her whip at
short range on his face, but had not arm-room in which to land a blow.
They were stirrup-deep in water, and as they struggled the horses
edged in deeper still. Finding that she could not beat Drazk off Zen
clutched her saddle and drove the spurs into her horse. At this
unaccustomed treatment he plunged wildly forward, but Drazk's grip on
her was too strong to be broken. The manoeuvre had, however, the
effect of unhorsing Drazk. He fell in the water, but kept his grip on
Zen. With his free hand he still had the reins of his own horse, and
he managed also to get hold of hers. Although her horse was plunging
and jumping, Drazk's strong grip on his rein kept him from breaking
"You fight well, Zen, damn you--you fight well," he cried. "So you
might. You played with me--you made a fool of me. We'll see who's
the fool in the end." With a mighty wrench he tore her from her
saddle and she found herself struggling with him in the water.
"If I put you under for a minute I guess you'll be good," he
threatened. "I'll half drown you, Zen, if I have to."
"Go ahead," she challenged. "I'll drown myself, if I have to."
"Not just yet, Zen; not just yet. Afterwards you can do as you
In their struggles they had been getting gradually into deeper
water. At this moment they found their feet carried free, and the
horses began to swim for the shore. Drazk held to both reins with
one hand, still clutching his victim with the other. More than once
they went under water together and came up half choking.
Zen was not a good swimmer, but she would gladly have broken away
and taken chances with the current. Once on land she would be at his
mercy. She was using her head frantically, but could think of no
device to foil him. It was not her practice to carry weapons; her
whip had already gone down the stream. Presently she saw a long
leather thong floating out from the saddle of Drazk's horse. It was no
larger than a whiplash; apparently it was a spare lace which Drazk
carried, and which had worked loose in the struggle. It was floating
close to Drazk.
"Don't let me sink, George!" she cried frantically, in sudden
fright. "Save me! I won't fight any more."
"That's better," he said, drawing her up to him. "I knew you'd
come to your senses."
Her hand reached the lash. With a quick motion of the arm, such as
is given in throwing a rope, she had looped it once around his neck.
Then, pulling the lash violently, she fought herself out of his grip.
He clutched at her wildly, but could reach only some stray locks of
her brown hair which had broken loose and were floating on the water.
She saw his eyes grow round and big and horrified; saw his mouth
open and refuse to close; heard strange little gurgles and chokings.
But she did not let go.
"When you insulted me this morning I promised to settle with you; I
did not expect to have the chance so soon."
His head had gone under water. . . . Suddenly she realized that he
was drowning. She let go of the thong, clutched her horse's tail,
and was pulled quickly ashore.
Sitting on the gravel, she tried to think. Drazk had disappeared;
his horse had landed somewhat farther down. . . . Doubtless Drazk
had drowned. Yes, that would be the explanation. Why change it?
Zen turned it over in her mind. Why make any explanations? It
would be a good thing to forget. She could not have done otherwise
under the circumstances; no jury would expect her to do otherwise.
But why trouble a jury about it?
"He got what was coming to him," she said to herself presently.
She admitted no regret. On the contrary, her inborn self-confidence,
her assurance that she could take care of herself under any
circumstances, seemed to be strengthened by the experience.
She got up, drew her hair into some kind of shape, and scrambled a
little way up the steep bank. Clouds of smoke were rolling up the
valley. She did not grasp the significance of the fact at the first
glance, but in a moment it impacted home to her. The wind had
changed! Her help now would be needed, not by Mrs. Landson, but
probably at their own camp. She sprang on her horse, re- crossed the
stream, and set out on a gallop for the camp. On the way she had to
ride through one thin line of fire, which she accomplished
successfully. Through the smoke she could dimly see Transley's gang
fighting the back-fires. She knew that was in good hands, and
hastened on to the camp. Zen had had prairie experience enough to
know that in hours like this there is almost sure to be something or
somebody, in vital need, overlooked.
She galloped into the camp and found only Tompkins there. He had
already run a little back-fire to protect the tents and the chuck-
"How goes it, Tompkins?" she cried, bursting upon him like a
courier from battle.
"All set here, Ma'am," he answered. "All set an' safe. But
they'll never hold the main fire; it'll go up the valley hell-
scootin',--beggin' your pardon, Ma'am."
"Anyone live up the valley?"
"There is. There's the Lints--squatters about six miles up--it was
from them I got the cream an' fresh eggs you was good enough to
notice, Ma'am. An' there's no men folks about; jus' Mrs. Lint an' a
young herd of little Lints; least, that's all was there las' night."
"I must go up," said Zen, with instant decision. "I can get there
before the fire, and as the Lints are evidently farmers there will be
some plowed land, or at least a plow with which to run a furrow so
that we can start a back-fire. Direct me."
Tompkins directed her as to the way, and, leaving a word of
explanation to be passed on to her father, she was off. A half
hour's hard riding brought her to Lint's, but she found that this
careful settler had made full provision against such a contingency as
was now come about. The farm buildings, implements, stables,
everything was surrounded, not by a fire-guard, but by a broad plowed
field. Mrs. Lint, however, was little less thankful for Zen's
interest than she would have been had their little steading been in
danger. She pressed Zen to wait and have at least a cup of tea, and
the girl, knowing that she could be of little or no service down the
valley, allowed herself to be persuaded. In this little harbor of
quiet her mind began to arrange the day's events. The tragic happening
at the river was as yet too recent to appear real; had it not been for
the touch of her wet clothing Zen could have thought that all an
unhappy dream of days ago. She reflected that neither Tompkins nor
Mrs. Lint had commented upon her appearance. The hot sun had soon
dried her outer apparel, and her general dishevelled condition was not
remarkable on such a day as this.
The wind had gone down as the afternoon waned, and the fire was
working up the valley leisurely when Zen set out on her return trip.
A couple of miles from the Lint homestead she met its advance guard.
It was evening now; the sun shone dull red through the banked clouds
of smoke resting against the mountains to the west; the flames danced
and flickered, advanced and receded, sprang up and died down again,
along mile after mile of front. It was a beautiful thing to behold,
and Zen drew her horse to a stop on a hill-top to take in the grandeur
of the scene. Near at hand frolicking flames were working about the
base of the hill, and far down the valley and over the foothills the
flanks of the fire stretched like lines of impish infantry in single
Suddenly she heard the sound of hoofs, and a rider drew up at her
side. She supposed him one of Transley's men, but could not recall
having seen him in the camp. He sat his horse with an ease and grace
that her eye was quick to appraise; he removed his broad felt hat
before he spoke; and he did not call her "ma'am."
"Pardon me--I believe I am speaking to Y.D.'s daughter?" he asked,
and before waiting for a reply hastened to introduce himself. "My
name is Dennison Grant, foreman on the Landson ranch."
"Oh!" she exclaimed. "I thought--I thought you were one of Mr.
Transley's men." Then, with a quick sense of the barrier between
them, she added, "I hope you don't think that I--that we--had
anything to do with this?" She indicated the ruined valley with her
"No more than I had to do with those coward's stakes," he answered.
"Neither of us understand just now, but can we take that much for
There was something about him that rather appealed to her. "I
think we can," she said, simply.
For a moment they watched the kaleidoscopic scene below them. "It
may help you to understand," she continued, "if I say that I was
riding down to see if I could be of some use to Mrs. Landson when the
wind changed, and I saw I would be more likely to be needed here."
"And it may help you to understand," he said, "if I say that as
soon as immediate danger to the Landson ranch was over I rode up to
Transley's camp. Only the cook was there, and he told me of your
having set out to help Mrs. Lint, so I followed up. Fortunately the
fire has lost its punch; it will probably go out through the night."
There was a short silence, in which she began to realize her
peculiar position. This man was the rival of Transley and Linder in
the business of hay-cutting in the valley. He was the foreman of the
Landson crowd--Landson, against whom her father had been voicing
something very near to murder threats not many hours ago. Had she met
him before the fire she would have spurned and despised him, but
nothing unites the factions of man like a fight against a common
elemental enemy. Besides, there was the question, How DID the fire
start? That was a question which every Landson man would be asking.
Grant had been generous about it; he had asked her to be equally
generous about the episode of the stakes. . . . And there was
something about the man that appealed to her. She had never felt that
way about Transley or Linder. She had been interested in them;
amused, perhaps; out for an adventure, perhaps; but this man--
Nonsense! It was the environment--the romantic setting. As for
Drazk-- A quick sense of horror caught her as the memory of his
choking face protruded into her consciousness. . . .
"Well, suppose we ride home," he suggested. "By Jove! The fire
has worked around us."
It was true. The hill on which they stood was now entirely
surrounded by a ring of fire, eating slowly up the side. The warmth
of its breath already pressed against their faces; the funnel effect
created by the circle of fire was whipping up a stronger draught. The
smoke seemed to be gathering to a centre above them.
He swung up close to her. "Will your horse face it?" he asked.
"If not, we'd better blindfold him."
"I'll try him," she said. "He was all right this afternoon, but he
was reckless then with a hard gallop."
Zen's horse trotted forward at her urging to within a dozen yards
of the circle of fire. Then he stopped, snorting and shivering. She
rode back up the hill.
"Better blindfold him," Grant advised, pulling off his leather
coat. "A sleeve of my shirt should be about right. Will you cut it
"There's no time to lose," he reminded her, as he placed his knife
in her hand. "My horse will go through it all right."
So urged she deftly cut off his sleeve above the elbow and drew it
through the bridle of her horse across his eyes.
"Now keep your head down close to his neck. You'll go through all
right. Give him the spurs, and good luck!" he shouted.
She was already careering down the hillside. A few paces from the
fire the horse plunged into a badger hole and fell headlong. She
went over his head, down, with a terrific shock, almost in the very
teeth of the fire.
When Zen came to herself it was with a sense of a strange swimming
in her head. Gradually it resolved itself into a sound of water
about her head; a splashing, fighting water; two heads in the water;
two heads in the water; a lash floating in the water--
"Oh!" She was sure she felt water on her face. . . .
"Where am I?"
"You're all right--you'll be all right in a little while."
"But where am I? What has happened?" She tried to sit up. All
was dark. "Where am I?" she demanded.
"Don't be alarmed, Zen--I think your name is Zen," she heard a
man's voice saying. "You've been hurt, but you'll be all right
Then the curtain lifted. "You are Dennison Grant," she said. "I
remember you now. But what has happened? Why am I here--with you?"
"Well, so far, you've been enjoying about three hours'
unconsciousness," he told her. "At a distance which seems about a
mile from here--although it may be less--is a little pond. I've
carried water in the sleeve of my coat--fortunately it is leather--
and poured it somewhat generously upon your brow. And at last I've
been rewarded by a conscious word."
She tried to sit up, but desisted when a sudden twitch of pain held
"Let me help you," he said, gently. "We have camped, as you may
notice, on a big, flat rock. I found it not far from the scene of
the accident, so I carried you over to it. It is drier than the
earth, and, for the forepart of the night at least, will be warmer."
With a strong arm about her shoulders he drew her into a sitting
Her eyes were becoming accustomed to the darkness. "What's wrong
with my foot?" she demanded. "My boot's off."
"I'm afraid you turned your ankle getting free from your stirrup,"
he explained. "I had to do a little surgery. I could find nothing
broken. It will be painful, but I fear there is nothing to do but
She reached down and felt her foot. It was neatly bandaged with
cloth very much like that which she had used to blindfold Quiver. It
was easy to surmise where it came from. Evidently her protector had
stopped at nothing.
"Well, are we to stay here permanently?" she asked, presently.
"Only for the night," he told her. "If we're lucky, not that long.
Search parties will be hunting for you, and they will doubtless ride
this way. Both of our horses bolted in the fire--"
"Oh yes, the fire! Tell me what happened."
"I remember riding into the fire," she continued, "and then next
thing I was on this rock. How did it all happen?"
"Your horse fell," he explained, "just as you reached the fire, and
threw you, pretty heavily, to the ground. I was behind, so I
dismounted and dragged you through."
"Oh!" She felt her face. "But I am not even singed!" she
It was plain that he was holding something back. She turned and
laid her fingers on his arm. "Tell me how you did it," she pressed.
The darkness hid his modest confusion. "It was really nothing," he
stammered. "You see, I had a leather coat, and I just threw it over
your head--and mine--and dragged you out."
She was silent for a moment while the meaning of his words came
home to her. Then she placed her hand frankly in his.
"Thank you," she said, and even in the darkness she knew that their
eyes had met.
"You are very resourceful," she continued presently. "Must we sit
here all night?"
"I can think of no alternative," he confessed. "If we had fire-
arms we could shoot a signal, or if there were grass about we could
start a fire, although it probably would not be noticed with so many
glows on the horizon to-night." He stopped to look about. Dull
splashes of red in the sky pointed out remnants of the day's
conflagration still eating their way through the foothills. The air
was full of the pungent but not unpleasant smell of burnt grass.
"A pretty hard night to send a signal," he said, "but they're
almost sure to ride this way."
She wondered why he did not offer to walk to the camp for help; it
could not be more than four or five miles. Suddenly she thought she
"I am not afraid to stay here alone," she said, with a little
laugh. It was the first time Grant had heard her laugh, and he
thought it very musical indeed. "I've slept out many a night, and
you would be back within a couple of hours."
"I'm quite sure you're not afraid," he agreed, "but, you see, I am.
You got quite a tap on the head, and for some time before you came to
you were talking--rather foolishly. Now if I should leave you it is
not only possible, but quite probable, that you would lapse again into
unconsciousness. . . . I really think you'll have to put up with me
"Oh, I wasn't thinking of that! . . . Did I--did I
"Rather. Seemed to think you were swimming--or fighting--I
couldn't be sure which. Sometimes you seemed to be doing both."
"Oh!" With a cold chill the events of the day came back upon her.
That struggle in the water; it came to her now like a bad dream out
of the long, long past. How much had she said? How much would she
have given to know what she said? She felt herself recounting
events. . . .
Presently she pulled herself up with a start. She must not let him
think her moody.
"Well, if we MUST enjoy each other's company, we may as well do so
companionably," she said, with an effort at gaiety. "Let us talk.
Tell me about yourself."
"First things first," he parried.
"Oh, I've nothing to tell. My life has been very unromantic. A
few years at school, and the rest of it on the range. A very
every-day kind of existence."
"I think it's the 'every-day kind of existence' that IS romantic,"
he returned. "It is a great mistake to think of romance as belonging
to other times and other places. Even the most commonplace person has
experienced romance enough for a dozen books. Quite possibly he has
not recognized the romance, but it was there. The trouble is that
with our limited sense of humor, what we think of as romance in other
people's lives becomes tragedy in our own."
How much DID he know? . . . "Yes," she said, "I suppose that is
"I know it is so," he went on. "If we could read the thoughts--
know the experiences--of those nearest to us, we would never need to
look out of our own circles for either romance or tragedy. But it is
as well that we can't. Take the experience of to-day, for example. I
admit it has not been a commonplace day, and yet it has not been
altogether extraordinary. Think of the experiences we have been
through just this day, and how, if they were presented in fiction they
would be romantic, almost unbelievable. And here we are at the close,
sitting on a rock, matter-of-fact people in a matter-of-fact world,
accepting everything as commonplace and unexceptional."
"Not quite that," she said daringly. "I see that you are neither
commonplace nor unexceptional." She spoke with sudden impulse out of
the depth of her sincerity. She had not met a man like this before.
In her mind she fixed him in contrast with Transley, the
self-confident and aggressive, and Linder, the shy and unassertive.
None of those adjectives seemed to fit this new acquaintance.
Nevertheless, he suffered nothing by the contrast.
"If I had been bright enough I would have said that first," he
apologized, "but I got rather carried away in one of my pet theories
about romance. Now my life, I suppose, to many people would seem
quite tame and unromantic, but to me it has been a delightful
succession of somewhat placid adventures. It began in a very orthodox
way, in a very orthodox family. My father, under the guidance, no
doubt, of whatever star governs such lucky affairs, became possessed
of a piece of land. In doing so he contributed to society no service
whatever, so far as I have been able to ascertain. But it so fell
about that society, in considerable numbers, wanted his land to live
on, so society made of my father a wealthy man, and gave him power
over many people. Could anything be more romantic than that? Could
the fairy tales of your childhood surpass it for benevolent
"My father has also become wealthy," she said, "although I never
thought of it in that way."
"Yes, but in exchange for his wealth your father has given service
to society; supplied many thousands of steers for hungry people to
eat. That's a different story, but not less romantic.
"Well, to proceed. I was brought up to fit my station in life,
whatever that means. There were just two boys of us, and I was the
elder. My father had become a broker. I believe he had become quite
a successful broker, using the word in its ordinary sense, which
denotes the making of money. You see, he already had too much money,
so it was very easy for him to make more. He wanted me to go into the
office with him, but some way I didn't fit in. I've no doubt there
was lots of romance there, too, but I was of the wrong nature; I
simply couldn't get enthusiastic over it. As we already had more
money than we could possibly spend on things that were good for us, I
failed to see the point in sitting up nights to increase it. Being of
a frank disposition I confided in my father that I felt I was wasting
my time in a broker's office. He, being of an equally frank
disposition, confided in me that he entertained the same opinion.
"Then I delivered myself of some of my pet theories about wealth.
I told him that I didn't believe that any man had a right to money
unless he earned it in return for service given to society, and I
said that as society had to supply the money, society should
determine the amount. I confessed that I was a little hazy about how
that was to be carried out, but I insisted that the principle was
right, and, that being so, the working of it out was only a matter of
detail. I realize now that this was all fanatical heresy to my
father; I remember the pained look that came into his eyes. I thought
at the time that it was anger, but I know now that it was grief--grief
and humiliation that a son of his should entertain such wild and
"Well, there was more talk, and the upshot of it was that I got
out, accompanied by an assurance from my father that I would never be
burdened with any of the family ducats. Roy--my younger
brother--succeeded to the worries of wealth, and I came to the ranges
where, no doubt to the deep chagrin of my father, I have been able to
make a living, and have, incidentally, been profoundly happy. I'll
take a wager that to-day I look ten years younger than Roy, that I can
lick him with one hand, that I have more real friends than he has, and
that I'm getting more out of life than he is. I'm a man of whims.
When they beckon I follow."
Grant had been talking intensely. He paused now, feeling that his
enthusiasm had carried him into rather fuller confidences than he had
"I'm sorry I bored you with that harangue," he said contritely.
"You couldn't possibly be interested in it."
"On the contrary, I am very much interested in it," she protested.
"It seems so much finer for a man to make his own way, rather than be
lifted up by someone else. I am sure you are already doing well in
the West. Some day you will go back to your father with more money
than he has."
Grant uttered an amused little laugh.
"I was afraid you would say that," he answered. "You see, you
don't understand me, either. I don't want to make money. Can you
"Don't want to make money? Why not?"
"Why should I?"
"Well, everybody does. Money is power--it is a mark of success.
It would open up a wider life for you. It would bring you into new
circles. Some day you will want to marry and settle down, and money
would enable you to meet the kind of women--"
She stopped, confused. She had plunged farther than she had
"You're all wrong," he said amusedly. It did not even occur to Zen
that he was contradicting her. She had not been accustomed to being
contradicted, but then, neither had she been accustomed to men like
Dennison Grant, nor to conversations such as had developed. She was
too interested to be annoyed.
"You're all wrong, Miss--?"
"I don't wonder that you can't fill in my name," she said. "Nobody
knows Dad except as Y.D. But I heard you call me Zen--"
"That was when you were coming out of your unconsciousness. I
apologize for the liberty taken. I thought it might recall you--"
"Well, I'm still coming out," she interrupted. "I am beginning to
feel that I have been unconscious for a very long time indeed. Let
me hear why you don't want money."
Grant was aware of a pleasant glow excited by her frank interest.
She was altogether a desirable girl.
"I have observed," he said, "that poor people worry over what they
haven't got, and rich people worry over what they have. It is my
disposition not to worry over anything. You said that money is
power. That is one of its deceits. It offers a man power, but in
reality it makes him its slave. It enchains him for life; I have
seen it in too many cases--I am not mistaken. As for opening up a
wider life, what wider life could there be than this which I--which
you and I--are living?"
She wondered why he had said "you and I." Evidently he was
wondering too, for he fell into reflection. She changed her position
to ease the dull pain in her ankle, which his talk had almost driven
from her mind. The rock had a perpendicular edge, so she let her feet
hang over, resting the injured one upon the other. He was sitting in
a similar position. The silence of the night had gathered about
them, broken occasionally by the yapping of coyotes far down the
valley. Segments of dull light fringed the horizon; the breeze was
again blowing from the west, mild and balmy. Presently one of the
segments of light grew and grew. It was as though it were rushing up
the valley. They watched it, fascinated; then burst into laughter as
the orb of the moon became recognizable. . . . There was something
very companionable about watching the moon rise, as they did.
"The greatest wealth in the world," he said at length, as though
his thoughts had been far afield, searching, perchance, the mazy
corridors of Truth for this atom of wisdom; "the greatest wealth in
the world is to be able to do something useful. That is the only
wealth which will not be disturbed in the coming reorganization of
Zen did not reply. For the first time in her life she stood
convicted, before her own mind, of a very profound ignorance.
Dennison Grant had been drawing back the curtain of a world of the
existence of which she had never known. He had talked to her about
"the coming reorganization of society"? What did it mean? She was
at home in discussions of herds or horses; she was at home with the
duties of kitchen or reception-room; she was at home with her father
or Transley or Linder or Drazk or Tompkins the cook, but Dennison
Grant in an hour had carried her into a far country, where she would
be hopelessly lost but for his guidance. . . . Yet it seemed a good
and interesting country. She wanted to enter in--to know it better.
"Tell me about the coming reorganization of society," she said.
"That is an all-night order," he returned. "Besides, I can't tell
you all, because I don't know all. I know only very, very little. I
see my little gleam of light and keep my eye close upon it. But you
must know that society is always in a state of reorganization. Nothing
continues as it was. Those who dismiss a problem glibly by saying it
has always been so and always will be so don't read history and don't
understand human nature."
He turned toward her as interest in his theme developed. The
moonlight was now pouring upon them; her face was beautiful and fine
as marble in its soft rays. For a moment he hesitated, overwhelmed by
a sudden realization of her attractiveness. He had just been saying
that the law of nature was the law of change, and nature itself stood
up to refute him.
He brought himself back to earth. "I was saying that everything
changes," he continued. "Look at our economic system, for instance.
Not so many centuries ago the man who got the most wealth was the man
with the biggest muscle and the toughest skin. He wielded a stout
club, and what he wanted, he took. His system of operation was simple
and direct. You have money, you have cattle, you have a wife--I'm
speaking of the times that were. I am stronger than you. I take
them. Simplicity itself!"
"But very unjust," she protested.
"Our sense of justice is due to our education," he continued. "If
we are taught to believe that a certain thing is just, we believe it
is just. I am convinced that there is no sense of justice inherent in
humanity; whatever sense we have is the result of education, and the
kind of justice we believe in is the kind of justice to which we are
educated. For example, the justice of the plains is not the justice
of the cities; the justice of the vigilance committee is not the
justice of judge and jury. Now to get back to our subject. When
Baron Battle Ax, back in the fifth or sixth century, knocked all his
rivals on the head and took their wealth away from them, I suppose
there was here and there an advanced thinker who said the thing was
unjust, but I am quite sure the great majority of people said things
had always been that way and always would be that way. But the little
minority of thinkers gradually grew in strength. The Truth was with
them. It is worthy of notice that the advance guard of Truth always
travels with minorities. And the day came that society organized
itself to say that the man who uses physical force to take wealth from
another is an enemy of society and must not be allowed at large.
"But we have passed largely out of the era of physical force. To-
day, an engineer presses a button and releases more physical force
than could be commanded by all the armies of Rome. Brain power is
to-day the dominant power. And just as physical force was once used
to take wealth without earning it, so is brain force now used to take
wealth without earning it. And just as the masses in the days of
Battle Ax said things had always been that way and always would be
that way, just so do the masses in these days of brain supremacy say
things have always been that way and always will be that way. But
just as there was a minority with an advanced vision of Truth in those
days, so is there a minority with an advanced vision of Truth in these
days. You may be absolutely sure that, just as society found a way to
deal with muscle brigands, so also it will find a way to deal with
brain brigands. I confess I don't see how the details are to be
worked out, but there must be a plan under which the value of the
services rendered to society by every man and every woman will be
determined, and they will be rewarded according to the services
"Is that Socialism?" she ventured.
"I don't know. I don't think so. Certainly it does not
contemplate an equal distribution of the world's wealth. Some men are
a menace to themselves and society when they have a hundred dollars.
Others can be trusted with a hundred million. All men have not been
equally gifted by nature--we know that. We can't make them equal.
But surely we can prevent the gifted ones from preying upon those who
are not gifted. That is what the coming reorganization of society
will aim to do."
"It is very interesting," she said. "And very deep. I have never
heard it discussed before. Why don't people think about these things
"I don't know," he answered, "but I suppose it is because they are
too busy in the fight. When a self was dodging Battle Ax he hadn't
much time to think about evolving a Magna Charta. But most of all I
suppose it is just natural laziness. People refuse to think. It
calls for effort. Most people would find it easier to pitch a load
of hay than to think of a new thought."
The moon was now well up; the smoke clouds had been scattered by
the breeze; the sky was studded with diamonds. Zen had a feeling of
being very happy. True, a certain haunting spectre at times would
break into her consciousness, but in the companionship of such a man
as Grant she could easily beat it off. She studied the face in the
moon, and invited her soul. She was living through a new
experience--an experience she could not understand. In spite of the
discomfort of her injuries, in spite of the events of the day, she was
very, very happy. . . .
If only that horrid memory of Drazk would not keep tormenting her!
She began to have some glimpse of what remorse must mean. She did
not blame herself; she could not have done otherwise; and yet--it was
horrible to think about, and it would not stay away. She felt a
tremendous desire to tell Grant all about it. . . . She wondered how
much he knew. He must have discovered that her clothing had been wet.
She shivered slightly.
"You're cold," he said, as he placed his arm about her, and there
was something very far removed from political economy in the timbre
of his voice.
"I'm a little chilly," she admitted. "I had to swim my horse
across the river to-day--he got into a deep spot--and I got wet." She
congratulated herself that she had made a very clever explanation.
He put his coat about her shoulders and drew it tight. Then he sat
beside her in silence. There were many things he could have said,
but this seemed to be neither the time nor the place. Grant was not
Transley. He had for this girl a delicate consideration which
Transley's nature could never know. Grant was a thinker--Transley a
doer. Grant knew that the charm which enveloped him in this girl's
presence was the perfectly natural product of a set of conditions. He
was worldly-wise enough to suspect that Zen also felt that charm. It
was as natural as the bursting of a seed in moist soil; as natural as
the unfolding of a rose in warm air. . . .
Presently he felt her head rest against his shoulder. He looked
down upon her in awed delight. Her eyes had closed; her lips were
smiling faintly; her figure had relaxed. He could feel her warm
breath upon his face. He could have touched her lips with his.
Slowly the moon traced its long arc in the heavens.
Just as the first flush of dawn mellowed the East Grant heard the
pounding of horses' feet and the sound of voices borne across the
valley. They rapidly approached; he could tell by the hard pounding
of the hoofs that they were on a trail which he took to be the one he
had followed before he met Zen. It passed possibly a hundred yards to
the left. He must in some way make his presence known.
The girl had slept soundly, almost without stirring. Now he must
wake her. He shook her gently, and called her name; her eyes opened;
he could see them, strange and wondering, in the thin grey light.
Then, with a sudden start, she was quite awake.
"I have been sleeping!" she exclaimed, reproachfully. "You let me
"No use of two watching the moon," he returned, lightly.
"But you shouldn't have let me sleep," she reprimanded. "Besides,
you had to stay awake. You have had no sleep at all!"
There was a sympathy in her voice very pleasant to the ear. But
Grant could not continue so delightful an indulgence.
"I had to wake you," he explained. "There are several people
riding up the valley; undoubtedly a search party. I must attract
They listened, and could now hear the hoof-beats close at hand.
Grant called; not a loud shout; it seemed little more than his
speaking voice, but instantly there was silence, save for the echo of
the sound rolling down the valley. Then a voice answered, and Grant
gave a word or two of directions. In a minute or two several horsemen
loomed up through the vague light.
"Here we are," said Zen, as she distinguished her father. "Gone
lame on the off foot and held up for repairs."
Y.D. swung down from his saddle. "Are you all right, Zen?" he
cried, as he advanced with outstretched arms. There was an eagerness
and a relief in his voice which would have surprised many who knew
Y.D. only as a shrewd cattleman.
Zen accepted and returned his embrace, with a word of assurance
that she was really nothing the worse. Then she introduced her
"This is Mr. Dennison Grant, foreman of the Landson ranch, Dad."
Grant extended his hand, but Y.D. hesitated. The truce occasioned
by the fire did not by any means imply permanent peace. Far from it,
with the valley in ruins--
Y.D. was stiffening, but his daughter averted what would in another
moment have been an embarrassing situation with a quick remark.
"This is no time, even for explanations," she said, "except that
Mr. Grant saved my life last evening at the risk of his own, and has
lost a night's sleep for his pains."
"That was a man's work," said Y.D. It would not have been possible
for his lips to have framed a greater compliment. "I'm obliged to
you, Grant. You know how it is with us cattlemen; we run mostly to
horns and hoofs, but I suppose we have some heart, too, if you can
They shook hands with as much cordiality as the situation
permitted, and then Zen introduced Transley and Linder, who were in
the party. There were two or three others whom she did not know, but
they all shook hands.
"What happened, Zen?" said Transley, with his usual directness.
"Give us the whole story."
Then she told them what she knew, from the point where she had met
Grant on the fire-encircled hill.
"Two lucky people--two lucky people," was all Transley's comment.
Words could not have expressed the jealousy he felt. But Linder was
not too shy to place his hand with a friendly pressure upon Grant's
"Good work," he said, and with two words sealed a friendship.
Two of the unnamed members of the party volunteered their horses to
Zen and Grant, and all hands started back to camp. Y.D. talked
almost garrulously; not even himself had known how heavily the hand
of Fate had lain on him through the night.
"The haymakin' is all off, Darter," he said. "We will trek back to
the Y.D. as soon as you feel fit. The steers will have to take
chances next winter."
The girl professed her fitness to make the trip at once, and indeed
they did make it that very day. Y.D. pressed Grant to remain for
breakfast, and Tompkins, notwithstanding the demoralization of
equipment and supplies effected by the fire, again excelled himself.
After breakfast the old rancher found occasion for a word with Grant.
"You know how it is, Grant," he said. "There's a couple of things
that ain't explained, an' perhaps it's as well all round not to press
for opinions. I don't know how the iron stakes got in my meadow, an'
you don't know how the fire got in yours. But I give you Y.D.'s
word--which goes at par except in a cattle trade--" and Y.D. laughed
cordially at his own limitations--"I give you my word that I don't
know any more about the fire than you do."
"And I don't know anything more about the stakes than you do,"
"Well, then, let it stand at that. But mind," he added, with
returning heat, "I'm not committin' myself to anythin' in advance.
This grass'll grow again next year, an' by heavens if I want it I'll
cut it! No son of a sheep herder can bluff Y.D!"
Grant did not reply. He had heard enough of Y.D.'s boisterous
nature to make some allowances.
"An' mind I mean it," continued Y.D., whose chagrin over being
baffled out of a thousand tons of hay overrode, temporarily at least,
his appreciation of Grant's services. "Mind, I mean it. No
monkey-doodles next season, young man."
Obviously Y.D. was becoming worked up, and it seemed to Grant that
the time had come to speak.
"There will be none," he said, quietly. "If you come over the
hills to cut the South Y.D. next summer I will personally escort you
Y.D. stood open-mouthed. It was preposterous that this young
upstart foreman on a second-rate ranch like Landson's should
deliberately defy him.
"You see, Y.D.," continued Grant, with provoking calmness, "I've
seen the papers. You've run a big bluff in this country. You've
occupied rather more territory than was coming to you. In a word,
you've been a good bit of a bully. Now--let me break it to you
gently--those good old days are over. In future you're going to stay
on your own side of the line. If you crowd over you'll be pushed
back. You have no more right to the hay in this valley than you have
to the hide on Landson's steers, and you're not going to cut it any
more, at all."
Y.D. exploded in somewhat ineffective profanity. He had a wide
vocabulary of invective, but most of it was of the stand-and-fight
variety. There is some language which is not to be used, unless you
are willing to have it out on the ground, there and then. Y.D. had no
such desire. Possibly a curious sense of honor entered into the case.
It was not fair to call a young man names, and although there was
considerable truth in Grant's remark that Y.D. was a bully, his
bullying did not take that form. Possibly, also, he recalled at that
moment the obligation under which Zen's accident had placed him. At
any rate he wound up rather lamely.
"Grant," he said, "if I want that hay next year I'll cut it, spite
o' hell an' high water."
"All right, Y.D.," said Grant, cheerfully. "We'll see. Now, if
you can spare me a horse to ride home, I'll have him sent back
Y.D. went to find Transley and arrange for a horse, and in a moment
Zen appeared from somewhere.
"You've been quarreling with Dad," she said, half reproachfully,
and yet in a tone which suggested that she could understand.
"Not exactly that," he parried. "We were just having a frank talk
with each other."
"I know something of Dad's frank talks. . . I'm sorry. . . I would
have liked to ask you to come and see me--to see us--my mother would
be glad to see you. I can hardly ask you to come if you are going to
be bad friends with Dad."
"No, I suppose not," he admitted.
"You were very good to me; very--decent," she continued.
At that moment Transley, Linder, and Y.D. appeared, with two
"Linder will ride over with you and bring back the spare beast,"
Grant shook hands, rather formally, with Y.D. and Transley, and
then with Zen. She murmured some words of thanks, and just as he
would have withdrawn his hand he felt her fingers tighten very firmly
about his. He answered the pressure, and turned quickly away.
Transley immediately struck camp, and Y.D. and his daughter drove
homeward, somewhat painfully, over the blackened hills.
Transley lost no time in finding other employment. It was late in
the season to look for railway contracts, and continued dry weather
had made grading, at best, a somewhat difficult business. Influx of
ready money and of those who follow it had created considerable
activity in a neighboring centre which for twenty years had been the
principal cow-town of the foothill country. In defiance of all
tradition, and, most of all, in defiance of the predictions of the
ranchers who had known it so long for a cow-town and nothing more,
the place began to grow. No one troubled to inquire exactly why it
should grow, or how. As for Transley, it was enough for him that
team labor was in demand. He took a contract, and three days after
the fire in the foothills he was excavating for business blocks about
to be built in the new metropolis.
It was no part of Transley's plan, however, to quite lose touch
with the people on the Y.D. They were, in fact, the centre about
which he had been doing some very serious thinking. His
outspokenness with Zen and her father had had in it a good deal of
bravado--the bravado of a man who could afford to lose the stake, and
smile over it. In short, he had not cared whether he offended them or
not. Transley was a very self-reliant contractor; he gave, even to
the millionaire rancher, no more homage than he demanded in return. .
. . Still, Zen was a very desirable girl. As he turned the matter
over in his mind Transley became convinced that he wanted Zen. With
Transley, to want a thing meant to get it. He always found a way.
And he was now quite sure that he wanted Zen. He had not known that
positively until the morning when he found her in the grey light of
dawn with Dennison Grant. There was a suggestion of companionship
there between the two which had cut him to the quick. Like most
ambitious men, Transley was intensely jealous.
Up to this time Transley had not thought seriously of matrimony. A
wife and children he regarded as desirable appendages for declining
years--for the quiet and shade of that evening toward which every
active man looks with such irrational confidence. But for the heat
of the day--for the climb up the hill--they would be unnecessary
encumbrances. Transley always took a practical view of these
matters. It need hardly be stated that he had never been in love; in
fact Transley would have scouted the idea of any passion which would
throw the practical to the winds. That was a thing for weaklings,
and, possibly, for women.
But his attachment for Zen was a very practical matter. Zen was
the only heir to the Y.D. wealth. She would bring to her husband
capital and credit which Transley could use to good advantage in his
business. She would also bring personality--a delightful
individuality--of which any man might be proud. She had that fine
combination of attractions which is expressed in the word charm. She
had health, constitution, beauty. She had courage and sympathy. She
had qualities of leadership. She would bring to him not only the
material means to build a house, but the spiritual qualities which
make a home. She would make him the envy of all his acquaintances.
And a jealous man loves to be envied.
So after the work on the excavations had been properly started
Transley turned over the detail to the always dependable Linder, and,
remarking that he had not had a final settlement with Y.D., set out
for the ranch in the foothills. While spending the long autumn day
alone in the buggy he was able to turn over and develop plans on an
even more ambitious scale than had occurred to him amid the hustle of
his men and horses.
The valley was lying very warm and beautiful in yellow light, and
the setting sun was just capping the mountains with gold and painting
great splashes of copper and bronze on the few clouds becalmed in the
heavens, when Transley's tired team jogged in among the cluster of
buildings known as the Y.D. The rancher met him at the bunk-house.
He greeted Transley with a firm grip of his great palm, and with jaws
open in suggestion of a sort of carnivorous hospitality.
"Come up to the house, Transley," he said, turning the horses over
to the attention of a ranch hand. "Supper is just ready, an' the
women will be glad to see you."
Zen, walking with a limp, met them at the gate. Transley's eyes
reassured him that he had not been led astray by any process of
idealization; Zen was all his mind had been picturing her. She was
worth the effort. Indeed, a strange sensation of tenderness suffused
him as he walked by her side to the door, supporting her a little with
his hand. There they were ushered in by the rancher's wife, and Zen
herself showed Transley to a cool room where were white towels and
soft water from the river and quiet and restful furnishings. Transley
congratulated himself that he could hardly hope to be better received.
After supper he had a social drink with Y.D., and then the two sat
on the veranda and smoked and discussed business. Transley found
Y.D. more liberal in the adjustment than he had expected. He had not
yet realized to what an extent he had won the old rancher's
confidence, and Y.D. was a man who, when his confidence had been won,
never haggled over details. He was willing to compromise the loss on
the operations on the South Y.D. on a scale that was not merely just,
This settled, Transley proceeded to interest Y.D. in the work in
which he was now engaged. He drew a picture of activities in the
little metropolis such as stirred the rancher's incredulity.
"Well, well," Y.D. would say. "Transley, I've known that little
hole for about thirty years, an' never seen it was any good excep' to
get drunk in. . . . I've seen more things there than is down in the
"You wouldn't know the change that has come about in a few months,"
said Transley, with enthusiasm. "Double shifts working by electric
light, Y.D! What do you think of that? Men with rolls of money that
would choke a cow sleeping out in tents because they can't get a roof
over them. Why, man, I didn't have to hunt a job there; the job
hunted me. I could have had a dozen jobs at my own price if I could
have handled them. It's just as if prosperity was a river which had
been trickling through that town for thirty years, and all of a sudden
the dam up in the foothills gives away and down she comes with a rush.
Lots which sold a year ago for a hundred dollars are selling now for
five hundred--sometimes more. Old ranchers living on the bald-headed
a few years ago find themselves today the owners of city property
worth millions, and are dressing uncomfortably, in keeping with their
wealth, or vainly trying to drink up the surplus. So far sense and
brains has had nothing to do with it, Y.D., absolutely nothing. It
has been fool luck. But the brains are coming in now, and the brains
will get the money, in the long run."
Transley paused and lit another cigar. Y.D. rolled his in his
"I mind some doin's in that burg," he said, as though the memory of
them was of greater importance than all that might be happening now.
Transley switched back to business. "We ought to be in on it,
Y.D.," he said. "Not on the fly-by-night stuff; I don't mean that.
But I could take twice the contracts if I had twice the outfit."
Y.D. brought his chair down on to all four legs and removed his
"You mean we should hit her together?" he demanded.
"It would be a great compliment to me, if you had that confidence
in me, and I'm sure it would make some good money for you."
"How'd you work it?"
"You have a bunch of horses running here on the ranch, eating their
heads off. Many of them are broke, and the others would soon tame
down with a scraper behind them. Give them to me and let me put them
to work. I'd have to have equipment, too. Your name on the back of
my note would get it, and you wouldn't actually have to put up a
dollar. Then we'd make an inventory of what you put into the firm and
what I put into it, and we'd divide the earnings in proportion."
"After payin' you a salary as manager, of course," suggested Y.D.
"That's immaterial. With a bigger outfit and more capital I can
make so much more money out of the earnings that I don't care whether
I get a salary or not. But I wouldn't figure on going on contracting
all the time for other people. We might as well have the cream as the
skimmed milk. This is the way it's done. We go to the owner of a
block of lots somewhere where there's no building going on. He's
anxious to start something, because as soon as building starts in that
district the lots will sell for two or three times what they do now.
We say to him, 'Give us every second lot in your block and we'll put
a house on it.' In this way we get the lots for a trifle; perhaps for
nothing. Then we build a lot of houses, more or less to the same
plan. We put 'em up quick and cheap. We build 'em to sell, not to
live in. Then we mortgage 'em for the last cent we can get. Then we
put the price up to twice what the mortgage is and sell them as fast
as we can build them, getting our equity out and leaving the
purchasers to settle with the mortgage company. It's good for from
thirty to forty per cent, profit, not per annum, but per transaction."
"It sounds interesting," said Y.D., "an' I suppose I might as well
put my spare horses an' credit to work. I don't mind drivin' down
with you to-morrow an' looking her over first hand."
This was all Transley had hoped for, and the talk turned to less
material matters. After a while Zen joined them, and a little later
Y.D. left to attend to some business at the bunk-house.
"Your father and I may go into partnership, Zen," Transley said to
her, when they were alone together. He explained in a general way
the venture that was afoot.
"That will be very interesting," she agreed.
"Will you be interested?"
"Of course. I am interested in everything that Dad undertakes."
"And are you not--will you not be--just a little interested in the
things that I undertake?"
She paused a moment before replying. The dusk had settled about
them, and he could not see the contour of her face, but he knew that
she had realized the significance of his question.
"Why yes," she said at length, "I will be interested in what you
undertake. You will be Dad's partner."
Her evasion nettled him.
"Zen," he said, "why shouldn't we understand each other?"
"Don't we?" She had turned slightly toward him, and he could feel
the laughing mockery in her eyes.
"I rather think we do," he answered, "only we--at least, you--won't
"Seriously, Zen, do you imagine I came over here to-day simply to
make a deal with your father?"
"Wasn't that worth while?"
"Of course it was. But it wasn't the whole purpose--it wasn't half
the purpose. I wanted to see Y.D., it is true, but more, very much
more, I wanted to see you."
She did not answer, and he could only guess what was the trend of
her thoughts. After a silence he continued.
"You may think I am precipitate. You intimated as much to me once.
I am. I know of no reason why an honest man should go beating about
the bush. When I want something I want it, and I make a bee- line for
it. If it is a contract--if it is a business matter--I go right after
it, with all the energy that's in me. When I'm looking for a contract
I don't start by talking about the weather. Well-- this is my first
experience in love, and perhaps my methods are all wrong, but it seems
to me they should apply. At any rate a girl of your intelligence will
"Applying your business principles," she interrupted, "I suppose if
you wanted a wife and there was none in sight you would advertise for
He defended his position. "I don't see why not," he declared. "I
can't understand the general attitude of levity toward matrimonial
advertisements. Apparently they are too open and above-board.
Matrimony should not be committed in a round-about, indirect, hit-
or-miss manner. A young man sees a girl whom he thinks he would like
to marry. Does he go to her house and say, 'Miss So-and-So, I think I
would like to marry you. Will you allow me to call on you so that we
may get better acquainted, with that object in view?' He does not.
Such honesty would be considered almost brutal. He calls on her and
pretends he would like to take her to the theatre, if it is in town,
or for a ride, if it is in the country. She pretends she would like
to go. Both of them know what the real purpose is, and both of them
pretend they don't. They start the farce by pretending a deceit which
deceives nobody. They wait for nature to set up an attraction which
shall overrule their judgment, rather than act by judgment first and
leave it to nature to take care of herself. How much better it would
be to be perfectly frank--to boldly announce the purpose--to come as I
now come to you and say, 'Zen, I want to marry you. My reason, my
judgment, tells me that you would be an ideal mate. I shall be proud
of you, and I will try to make you proud of me. I will gratify your
desires in every way that my means will permit. I pledge you my
fidelity in return for yours. I--I--' Zen, will you say yes? Can
you believe that there is in my simple words more sincerity than there
could be in any mad ravings about love? You are young, Zen, younger
than I, but you must have observed some things. One of them is that
marriage, founded on mutual respect, which increases with the years,
is a much safer and wiser business than marriage founded on a passion
which quickly burns itself out and leaves the victims cold,
unresponsive, with nothing in common. You may not feel that you know
me well enough for a decision. I will give you every opportunity to
know me better--I will do nothing to deceive you--I will put on no
veneer--I will let you know me as I really am. Will you say yes?"
He had left his seat and approached her; he was leaning close over
her chair. While his words had suggested marriage on a purely
intellectual basis he did not hesitate to bring his physical presence
into the scale. He was accustomed to having his way--he had always
had it--never did he want it more than he did now. . . . And although
he had made his plea from the intellectual angle he was sure, he was
very, very sure there was more than that. This girl; whose very
presence delighted him--intoxicated him--would have made him mad--
"Will you say yes?" he repeated, and his hands found hers and drew
her with his great strength up from her chair. She did not resist,
but when she was on her feet she avoided his embrace.
"You must not hurry me," she whispered. "I must have time to
think. I did not realize what you were saying until--"
"Say yes now," he urged. Transley was a man very hard to resist.
She felt as though she were in the grip of a powerful machine; it was
as though she were being swept along by a stream against which her
feeble strength was as nothing. Zen was as nearly frightened as she
had ever been in her vigorous young life. And yet there was something
delightful. It would have been so easy to surrender--it was so hard
"Say yes now," he repeated, drawing her close at last and breathing
the question into her ear. "You shall have time to think--you shall
ask your own heart, and if it does not confirm your words you will be
released from your promise."
They heard the footsteps of her father approaching, and Transley
waited no longer for an answer. He turned her face to his; he
pressed his lips against hers.
Zen thought over the events of that evening until they became a
blur in her memory. Her principal recollection was that she had been
quite swept off her feet. Transley had interpreted her submission as
assent, and she had not corrected him in the vital moment when they
stood before her father that night in the deep shadow of the veranda.
"Y.D.," Transley had said, "your consent and your blessing! Zen
and I are to be married as soon as she can be ready."
That was the moment at which she should have spoken, but she did
not. She, who had prided herself that she would make a race of it--
she, who had always been able to slip out of a predicament in the
nick of time--stood mutely by and let Transley and her father
interpret her silence as consent. She was not sure that she was
sorry; she was not sure but she would have consented anyway; but
Transley had taken the matter quite out of her hands. And yet she
could not bring herself to feel resentment toward him; that was the
strangest part of it. It seemed that she had come under his
domination; that she even had to think as he would have her think.
In the darkness she could not see her father's face, for which she
was sorry; and he could not see hers, for which she was glad. There
was a long moment of tense silence before she heard him say,
"Well, well! I had a hunch it might come to that, but I didn't
reckon you youngsters would work so fast."
"This was a stake worth working fast for," Transley was saying, as
he shook Y.D.'s hand. "I wouldn't trade places with any man alive."
And Zen was sure he meant exactly what he said.
"She's a good girl, Transley," her father commented; "a good girl,
even if a bit obstrep'rous at times. She's got spirit, Transley, an'
you'll have to handle her with sense. She's a--a thoroughbred!"
Y.D. had reached his arms toward his daughter, and at these words
he closed them about her. Zen had never known her father to be
emotional; she had known him to face matters of life and death
without the quiver of an eyelid, but as he held her there in his arms
that night she felt his big frame tremble. Suddenly she had a
powerful desire to cry. She broke from his embrace and ran upstairs
to her room.
When she came down her father and mother and Transley were sitting
about the table in the living-room; the room hung with trophies of
the chase and of competition; the room which had been the nucleus of
the Y.D. estate. There was a colored cover on the table, and the
shaded oil lamp in the centre sent a comfortable glow of light
downward and about. The mammoth shadows of the three people fell on
the log walls, darting silently from position to position with their
Her mother arose as Zen entered the room and took her hands in a
warm, tender grip.
"You're early leaving us," she said. "I'm not saying I object. I
think Mr. Transley will make you a good husband. He is a man of
energy, like your father. He will do well. You will not know the
hardships that we knew in our early married life." Their eyes met,
and there was a moment's pause.
"You will not understand for many years what this means to me,
Zenith," her mother said, and turned quickly to her place at the
She could not remember what they had talked about after that. She
had been conscious of Transley's eyes often on her, and of a certain
spiritual exaltation within her. She could not remember what she had
said, but she knew she had talked with unusual vivacity and charm. It
was as though certain storehouses of brilliance in her being, of which
she had been unaware, had been suddenly opened to her. It was as
though she had been intoxicated by a very subtle wine which did not
deaden, but rather quickened, all her faculties.
Afterwards, she had spent long hours among the foothills, thinking
and thinking. There were times when the flame of that strange
exaltation burned low indeed; times when it seemed almost to expire.
There were moments--hours--of misgivings. She could not understand
the strange docility which had come over her; the unprecedented
willingness to have her course shaped by another. That strange
willingness came as near to frightening Zen as anything had ever done.
She felt that she was being carried along in a stream; that she was
making no resistance; that she had no desire to resist. She had a
strange fear that some day she would need to resist; some day she
would mightily need qualities of self- direction, and those qualities
would refuse to arise at her command.
She did not fear Transley. She believed in him. She believed in
his ability to grapple with anything that stood in his way; to thrust
it aside, and press on. She respected the judgment of her father and
her mother, and both of them believed in Transley. He would succeed;
he would seize the opportunities this young country afforded and rise
to power and influence upon them. He would be kind, he would be
generous. He would make her proud of him. What more could she want?
That was just it. There were dark moments when she felt that
surely there must be something more than all this. She did not know
what it was--she could not analyze her thoughts or give them definite
form--but in these dark moments she feared that she was being tricked,
that the whole thing was a sham which she would discover when it was
too late. She did not suspect her mother, or her father, or Transley,
one or all, of being parties to this trick; she believed that they did
not know it existed. She herself did not know it existed. But the
fear was there.
After a week she admitted, much against her will, that possibly
Dennison Grant had something to do with it. She had not seen him
since she had pressed his fingers and he had ridden away through the
smoke-haze of the South Y.D. She had dutifully tried to force him
from her mind. But he would not stay out of it. It was about that
fact that her misgivings seemed most to centre. When she would be
thinking of Transley, and wondering about the future, suddenly she
would discover that she was not thinking of Transley, but of Dennison
Grant. These discoveries shocked and humiliated her. It was an
impossible position. She would throw Grant forcibly out of her mind
and turn to Transley. And then, in an unguarded moment, Transley
would fade from her consciousness, and she would know again that she
was thinking of Grant.
At length she allowed herself the luxury of thinking frankly about
Dennison Grant. It WAS a luxury. It brought her a secret happiness
which she was wholly at a loss to understand, but which was very
delightful, nevertheless. She amused herself with comparing Grant
with Transley. They had two points in common: their physical
perfection and their fearless, self-confident manner. With these
exceptions they seemed to be complete contradictions. The ambitious
Transley worshipped success; the philosophical Grant despised it.
That difference in attitude toward the world and its affairs was a
ridge which separated the whole current of their lives. It even, in a
way, shut one from the view of the other; at least it shut Grant from
the view of Transley. Transley would never understand Grant, but Grant
might, and probably did, understand Transley. That was why Grant was
the greater of the two. . . .
She reproached herself for such a thought; it was disloyal to admit
that this stranger on the Landson ranch was a greater man than her
husband-to-be. And yet honesty--or, perhaps, something deeper than
honesty--compelled her to make that admission. . . . She ran back
over the remembered incidents of the night they had spent together,
marooned like shipwrecked sailors on a rock in the foothills. His
attentiveness, his courtesy, his freedom from any conventional
restraint, his manly respect which was so much greater than
conventional restraint--all these came back to her with a poignant
tenderness. She pictured Transley in his place. Transley would
probably have proposed even before he bandaged her ankle. Grant had
not said a word of love, or even of affection. He had talked freely
of himself--at her request--but there had been nothing that might not
have been said before the world. She had been safe with Grant. . . .
After she had thought on this theme for a while Zen would
acknowledge to herself that the situation was absurd and impossible.
Grant had given no evidence of thinking more of her than of any other
girl whom he might have met. He had been chivalrous only. She had
sat up with a start at the thought that there might be another girl. .
. . Or there might be no girl. Grant was an unusual character. . . .
At any rate, the thing for her to do was to forget about him. She
should have no place in her mind for any man but Transley. It was
true he had stampeded her, but she had accepted the situation in
which she found herself. Transley was worthy of her--she had nothing
to take back--she would go through with it.
On the principle that the way to drive an unwelcome thought out of
the mind is to think vigorously about something else, Zen occupied
herself with plans and day-dreams centering about the new home that
was to be built in town. Neither her father nor Transley had as yet
returned from the trip on which they had gone with a view to forming a
partnership, so there had been no opportunity to discuss the plans for
the future, but Zen took it for granted that Transley would build in
town. He was so enthusiastic over the possibilities of that young and
bustling centre of population that there was no doubt he would want to
throw in his lot with it. This prospect was quite pleasing to the
girl; it would leave her within easy distance of her old home; it
would introduce her to a type of society with which she was well
acquainted, and where she could do herself justice, and it would not
break up the associations of her young life. She would still be able,
now and again, to take long rides through the tawny foothills; to
mingle with her old friends; possibly to maintain a somewhat sisterly
acquaintance with Dennison Grant. . . .
After ten days Y.D. returned--alone. He had scarcely been able to
believe the developments which he had seen. It was as though the
sleepy, lazy cow-town had become electrified. Y.D. had looked on for
three days, wondering if he were not in some kind of a dream from
which he would awaken presently among his herds in the foothills.
After three days he bought a property. Before he left he sold it at
a profit greater than the earnings of his first five years on the
ranch. It would be indeed a stubborn confidence which could not be
won by such an experience, and before leaving for the ranch Y.D. had
arranged for Transley practically an open credit with his bankers, and
had undertaken to send down all the horses and equipment that could be
Transley had planned to return to the foothills with Y.D., but at
the last moment business matters developed which required his
attention. He placed a tiny package in Y.D.'s capacious palm.
"For the girl," he said. "I should deliver it myself, but you'll
Y.D. fumbled the tiny package into a vest pocket. "Sure, I'll
attend to that," he promised. "Wasn't much of these fancy trimmin's
when I settled into double harness, but lots of things has changed
since then. You'll be out soon?"
"Just as soon as business will stand for it. Not a minute longer."
On his return home Y.D., after maintaining an exasperating silence
until supper was finished, casually handed the package to his
"Some trinket Transley sent out," he explained. "He'll be here
himself as soon as business permits."
She took the package with a glow of expectancy, started to open it,
then folded the paper again and ran up to her room. Here she tempted
herself for minutes before she would finally open it, whetting the
appetite of anticipation to the full. . . . The gem justified her
little play. It was magnificent; more beautiful and more expensive
than anything her father ever bought her.
She hesitated strangely about putting it on. To Zen it seemed that
the putting on of Transley's ring would be a voluntary act
symbolizing her acceptance of him. If she had been carried off her
feet--swept into the position in which she found herself--that
explanation would not apply to the deliberate placing of his ring
upon her finger. There would be no excuse; she could never again
plead that she had been the victim of Transley's precipitateness.
This would be deliberate, and she must do it herself.
She rather blamed Transley for not having left his old business and
come to perform this rite himself, as he should have done. What was
one day of business, more or less? Yet Zen gathered no hint from that
incident that always, with Transley, business would come first. It
was symbolic--prophetic--but she did not see the sign nor understand
She held the ring between her fingers; slipped it off and on her
little fingers; held it so the rays of the sun fell through the
window upon it and danced before her eyes in all their primal colors.
"I have to put this on," she said, pursing her lips firmly, "and--
and forget about Dennison Grant!"
For a long time she thought of that and all it meant. Then she
raised the jewel to her lips.
"Help me--help me--" she murmured. With a quick little impetuous
motion she drew it on to the finger where it belonged. There she
gazed upon it for a moment, as though fascinated by it. Then she
fell upon her bed and lay motionless until long after the valley was
wrapped in shadow.
The events of these days had almost driven from Zen's mind the
tragedy of George Drazk. When she thought of it at all it presented
such a grotesque unreality--it was such an unreasonable thing--that it
assumed the vague qualities of a dream. It was something unreal and
very much better forgotten, and it was only by an unwilling effort at
such times that she could bring herself to know that it was not
unreal. It was a matter that concerned her tremendously. Sooner or
later Drazk's disappearance must be noted,--perhaps his body would be
found--and while she had little fear that anyone would associate her
with the tragedy it was a most unpleasant thing to think about.
Sometimes she wondered if she should not tell her father or Transley
just what had happened, but she shrank from doing so as from the
confession of a crime. Mostly she was able to think of other matters.
Her father brought it up in a startling way at breakfast.
Absolutely out of a blue sky he said, "Did you know, Zen, that Drazk
has disappeared? Transley tells me you were int'rested a bit in him,
or perhaps I should say he was int'rested in you."
Zen was so overcome by this startling change in the conversation
that she was unable to answer. The color went from her face and she
leaned low over her plate to conceal her agitation.
"Yep," continued Y.D., with no more concern than if a steer had
been lost from the herd. "Transley said to tell you Drazk had
disappeared an' he reckoned you wouldn't be bothered any more with
"Drazk was nothing to me," she managed to say. "How can you think
"Now who said he was?" her father retorted. "For a young woman
with the price of a herd of steers on her third finger you're sort o'
short this mornin'. Now I'm jus' wonderin' how far you can see
through a board fence, Zen. Are you surprised that Drazk has
She was entirely at a loss to understand the drift of her father's
talk. He could not connect her with Drazk's disappearance, or he
would not approach the matter with such unconcern. That was
unthinkable. Neither could Transley, or he would not have sent so
brutal a message. And yet it was clear that they thought she should
Her father's question demanded an answer.
"What should I care?" she ventured at length.
"I didn't ask you whether you cared. I asked you whether you was
"Drazk's movements were--are nothing to me. I don't know that I
have any occasion to be surprised about anything he may do."
"Well, I'm rather glad you're not, because if you don't jump to
conclusions, perhaps other people won't. Not that it makes any
"Dad," she cried in desperation, "whatever do you mean?"
"It was all plain enough to me, an' plain enough to Transley," her
father continued with remarkable calmness. "We seen it right from
"You're talking in riddles, Y.D.," his wife remonstrated. "You're
getting Zen all worked up."
"Jewelry seems to be mighty upsettin'," Y.D. commented. "There was
nothin' like that in our engagement, eh, Jessie? Well, to come to
the point. There was a fire which burned up the valley of the South
Y.D. Fires don't start themselves--usually. This one started among
the Landson stacks, so it was natural enough to suspec' Y.D. or some
of his sympathizers. Well it wasn't Y.D., an' I reckon it wasn't Zen,
an' it wasn't Transley nor Linder an' every one of the gang's
accounted for excep' Drazk. Drazk thought he was doin' a great piece
of business when he fired the Landson hay, but when the wind turned
an' burned up the whole valley Drazk sees where he can't play no hero
part around here so he loses himself for good. I gathered from
Transley that Drazk had been botherin' you a little, Zen, which is why
I told you."
The girl's heart was pounding violently at this explanation. It
was logical, and would be accepted readily by those who knew Drazk.
She would not trust herself in further conversation, so she slipped
away as soon as she could and spent the day riding down by the river.
The afternoon wore on, and as the day was warm she dismounted by a
ford and sat down upon a flat rock close to the water. The rock
reminded her of the one on which she and Grant had sat that night
while the thin red lines of fire played far up and down the valley.
Her ankle was paining a little so she removed her boot and stocking
and soothed it in the cool water.
As she sat watching her reflection in the clear stream and toying
with the ripple about her foot a horseman rode quickly down through
the cottonwoods on the other side and plunged into the ford. It
happened so quickly that neither saw the other until he was well into
the river. Although she had had no dream of seeing him here, in some
way she felt no surprise. Her heart was behaving boisterously, but
she sat outwardly demure, and when he was close enough she sent a
frank smile up to him. The look on his sunburned face as he returned
her greeting convinced her that the meeting, on his part, was no less
unexpected and welcome than it was to her.
When his horse was out of the water he dismounted and walked to her
with extended hand.
"This is an unexpected pleasure," he said. "How is the ankle
"Well enough," she returned, "but it gets tired as the day wears
on. I am just resting a bit."
There was a moment of somewhat embarrassed silence.
"That is a good-sized rock," he suggested, at length.
"Yes, isn't it? And here in the shade, at that."
She did not invite him with words, but she gave her body a slight
hitch, as though to make room, although there was enough already. He
sat down without comment.
"Not unlike a rock I remember up in the foothills," he remarked,
after a silence.
"Oh, you remember that? It WAS like this, wasn't it?"
"Same two people sitting on it."
". . . . Yes."
"Not like this, though."
"No. . . . You're mean. You know I didn't intend to fall asleep."
"Of course not. Still. . . ."
His voice lingered on it as though it were a delightful
She found herself holding one of her hands in the other. She could
feel the pressure of Transley's ring on her palm, and she held it
"Riding anywhere in particular?" he inquired.
"No. Just mooning." She looked up at him again, this time at
close quarters. It was a quick, bright flash on his face--a moment
She did not answer. Looking down in the water he met her gaze
"You're troubled!" he exclaimed.
"Oh, no! My--my ankle hurts a little."
He looked at her sympathetically. "But not that much," he said.
She gave a forced little laugh. "What a mind reader you are! Can
you tell my fortune?"
"I should have to read it in your hand."
She would have extended her hand, but for Transley's ring.
"No. . . . No. You'll have to read it in--in the stars."
"Then look at me." She did so, innocently.
"I cannot read it there," he said, after his long gaze had begun to
whip the color to her cheeks. "There is no answer."
She turned again to the water, and after a long while she heard his
voice, very low and earnest.
"Zen, I could read a fortune for you, if you would not be offended.
We are only chance acquaintances--not very well acquainted, yet--"
She knew what he meant, but she pretended she did not. Even in
that moment something came to her of Transley's speech about love
being a game of pretence. Very well, she would play the game--this
"I don't see how I could be offended at your reading my fortune,"
"Then this is the fortune I would read for you," he said boldly.
"I see a young man, a rather foolish young man, perhaps, by ordinary
standards, and yet one who has found a great deal of happiness in his
simple, unconventional life. Until a short time ago he felt that life
could give him all the happiness that was worth having. He had
health, strength, hours of work and hours of pleasure, the fields, the
hills, the mountains, the sky--all God's open places to live in and
enjoy. He thought there was nothing more.
"Well, then he found, all of a sudden, that there was something
more--everything more. He made that discovery on a calm autumn
night, when fire had blackened all the foothills and still ran in
dancing red ribbons over their distant crests. That night a great
thing--two great things--came into his life. First was something he
gave. Not very much, indeed, but typical of all it might be. It was
service. And next was something he received, something so wonderful
he did not understand it then, and does not understand it yet. It was
trust. These were things he had been leaving largely out of his life,
and suddenly he discovered how empty it was. I think there is one
word for both these things, and, it may be, for even more. You know?"
"I know," she said, and her voice was scarcely audible.
"But it is YOUR fortune I am to read," he corrected himself. "It
has been your fortune to open that new world to me. That can never
be undone--those gates can never be closed--no matter where the paths
may lead. Those two paths go down to the future--as all paths
must--even as this road leads away through the valley to the sunset.
Zen--if only, like this road, they could run side by side to the
sunset--Oh! Zen, if they could?"
"I know," she said, and as she raised her face he saw that her eyes
were wet. "I know--if only they could!"
There was a little sob in her voice, and in her beauty and distress
she was altogether irresistible. He reached out his arms and would
have taken her in them, but she thrust her hands in his and held
herself back. She turned the diamond deliberately to his eyes. She
could feel his grip relax and apparently grow suddenly cold. He stood
speechless, like one dazed--benumbed.
"You see, I should not have let you talk--it is my fault," she
said, speaking hurriedly. "I should not have let you talk. Please
do not think I am shallow; that I let you suffer to gratify my
vanity." Her eyes found his again. "If I had not believed every
word you said--if I had not liked every word you said--if I had
not--HOPED--every word you said, I would not have listened. . . . But
you see how it is."
He was silent for so long that she thought he was not going to
answer her at all. When he spoke it was in a dry, parched voice.
"I beg your pardon," he said. "I should not have presumed--"
"I know, I know. If only--"
Then he looked straight at her and talked out.
"You liked me enough to let me speak as I did. I opened my heart
to you. I ask no such concession in return. I hope you will not
think me presumptuous, but I do not plead now for my happiness, but
for yours. Is this irrevocable? Are--you--sure?"
He said the last words so slowly and deliberately that she felt
that each of them was cutting the very rock from underneath her. She
knew she was at a junction point in her life, and her mind strove to
quickly appraise the situation. On one side was this man who had for
her so strange and so powerful an appeal. It was only by sheer force
of will that she could hold herself aloof from him. But he was a man
who had broken with his family and quarrelled with her father--a man
whom her father would certainly not for a moment consider as a
son-in-law. He was a foreman; practically a ranch hand. Neither Zen
nor her father were snobs, and if Grant worked for a living, so did
Transley. That was not to be counted against him. The point was,
what kind of living did he earn? What Transley had to offer was
perhaps on a lower plane, but it was more substantial. It had been
approved by her father, and her mother, and herself. It wasn't as
though one man were good and the other bad; it wasn't as though one
thing were right and the other wrong. It would have been easy then. .
"I have promised," she said at last.
She released her hands from his, and, sitting down, silently put on
her stocking and boot. She was aware that he was still standing
near, as though waiting to be formally dismissed. She walked by him
to her horse and put her foot in the stirrup. Then she looked at him
and gave her hand a little farewell wave.
Then a great pang, irresistible in its yearning, swept over her.
She drew her foot from the stirrup, and, rushing down, threw her arms
about his neck. . . .
"I must go," she said. "I must go. We must both go and forget."
And Dennison Grant continued his way down the valley while Zen rode
back to the Y.D., wondering if she could ever forget.
Linder scratched his tousled brown hair reflectively as he gazed
after the retreating form of Transley. His hat was off, and the
perspiration stood on his sunburned face--a face which, in point of
handsomeness, needed make no apology to Transley.
"Well, by thunder!" said Linder; "by thunder, think of that!"
Linder stood for some time, thinking "of that" as deeply as his
somewhat disorganized mental state would permit. For Transley had
announced, with his usual directness, that he wanted so many men and
teams for a house excavation in the most exclusive part of the city.
So far they had been building in the cheaper districts a cheap type
of house for those who, having little capital, are the easier deprived
of what they have. The shift in operations caused Linder to lift his
Transley laughed boyishly and clapped a palm on his shoulder.
"I may as well make you wise, Linder," he said. "We're going to
build a house for Mr. and Mrs. Transley."
"MISSUS?" Linder echoed, incredulously.
"That's the good word," Transley confirmed. "Never expected it to
happen to me, but it did, all of a sudden. You want to look out;
maybe it's catching."
Transley was evidently in prime humor. Linder had, indeed, noted
this good humor for some time, but had attributed it to the very
successful operations in which his employer had been engaged. He
pulled himself together enough to offer a somewhat confused
"And may I ask who is to be the fortunate young lady?" he ventured.
"You may," said Transley, "but if you could see the length of your
nose it wouldn't be necessary. Linder, you're the best foreman I
ever had, just because you don't ever think of anything else. When
you pass on there'll be no heaven for you unless they give you charge
of a bunch of men and teams where you can raise a sweat and make money
for the boss. If you weren't like that you would have anticipated
what I've told you--or perhaps made a play for Zen yourself."
"Zen? You don't mean Y.D.'s daughter?"
"If I don't mean Y.D.'s daughter I don't mean anybody, and you can
take that from me. You bet it's Zen. Say, Linder, I didn't think I
could go silly over a girl, but I'm plumb locoed. I bought the
biggest old sparkler in this town and sent it out with Y.D., if he
didn't lose it through the lining of his vest--he handled it like it
might have been a box of pills--bad pills, Linder--and I've got an
architect figuring how much expense he can put on a house--he gets a
commission on the cost, you see--and one of these nights I'm going to
buy you a dinner that'll keep you fed till Christmas. I never knew
before that silliness and happiness go together, but they do. I'm
glad I've got a sober old foreman--that's all that keeps the business
And after Transley had turned away Linder had scratched his head
and said "By thunder. . . . Linder, when you wake up you'll be dead.
. . . After her practically saying 'The water's fine.' . . . Well,
that's why I'm a foreman, and always will be."
But after a little reflection Linder came to the conclusion that
perhaps it was all for the best. He could not have bought Y.D.'s
daughter a big sparkler or have built her a fine home--because he was
a foreman. It was a round circle. . . . He threw himself into the
building of Transley's house with as much fidelity as if it had been
his own. He gave his undivided attention to Transley's interests,
making dollars for him while earning cents for himself. This attention
was more needed than it ever had been, as Transley found it necessary
to make weekly trips to the ranch in the foothills to consult with
Y.D. upon business matters.
Zen found her interest in Transley growing as his attentions
continued. He spent money upon her lavishly, to the point at which
she protested, for although Y.D. was rated as a millionaire the
family life was one of almost stark simplicity. Transley assured her
that he was making money faster than he possibly could spend it, and
even if not, money had no nobler mission than to bring her happiness.
He explained the blue-prints of the house, and discussed with her
details of the appointments. As the building progressed he brought
her weekly photographs of it. He urged her to set the date about
Christmas; during the winter contracting would be at a standstill, so
they would spend three months in California and return in time for the
Day by day the girl turned the situation over in her mind. Her
life had been swept into strange and unexpected channels, and the
experience puzzled her. Since the episode with Drazk she had lost
some of her native recklessness; she was more disposed to weigh the
result of her actions, and she approached the future not without some
misgivings. She assured herself that she looked forward to her
marriage with Transley with the proper delight of a bride-to- be, and
indeed it was a prospect that could well be contemplated with
pleasure. . . . Transley had won the complete confidence of her
father and when doubts assailed her Zen found in that fact a very
considerable comfort. Y.D. was a shrewd man; a man who seldom guessed
wrong. Zen did not admit that she was allowing her father to choose a
husband for her, but the fact that her father concurred in the choice
strengthened her in it. Transley had in him qualities which would win
not only wealth, but distinction, and she would share in the laurels.
She told herself that it was a delightful outlook; that she was a
very happy girl indeed--and wondered why she was not happier!
Particularly she laid it upon herself that she must now, finally,
dismiss Dennison Grant from her mind. It was absurd to suppose that
she cared more for Grant than she did for Transley. The two men were
so different; it was impossible to make comparisons. They occupied
quite different spheres in her regard. To be sure, Grant was a very
likeable man, but he was not eligible as a husband, and she could not
marry two, in any case. Zen entertained no girlish delusions about
there being only one man in the world. On the contrary, she was
convinced that there were very many men in the world, and, among the
better types, there was, perhaps, not so much to choose between them.
Grant would undoubtedly be a good husband within his means; so would
Transley, and his means were greater. The blue-prints of the new house
in town had not been without their effect. It was a different
prospect from being a foreman's wife on a ranch. Her father would
never hear of it. . . .
So she busied herself with preparations for the great event, and
what preparations they were! "Zen," her father had said, "for once
the lid is off. Go the limit!" She took him at his word. There
were many trips to town, and activities about the old ranch buildings
such as they had never known since Jessie Wilson came to finish Y.D.'s
up-bringing, nor even then. The good word spread throughout the
foothill country and down over the prairies, and many a lazy cloud of
dust lay along the November hillsides as the women folk of neighboring
ranches came to pay their respects and gratify their curiosity. Zen
had treasures to show which sent them home with new standards of
Y.D. had not thought he could become so worked up over a simple
matter like a wedding. Time had dulled the edge of memory, but even
after making allowances he could not recall that his marriage to
Jessie Wilson had been such an event in his life as this. It did not
at least reflect so much glory upon him personally. He basked in the
reflected glow of his daughter's beauty and popularity, as happily as
the big cat lying on the sunny side of the bunk-house. He found all
sorts of excuses for invading where his presence was little wanted
while Zen's finery was being displayed for admiration. Y.D. always
pretended that such invasions were quite accidental, and affected a
fine indifference to all this "women's fuss an' feathers," but his
affectations deceived at least none of the older visitors.
As the great day approached Y.D.'s wife shot a bomb-shell at him.
"What do you propose to wear for Zen's wedding?" she demanded.
"What's the matter with the suit I go to town in?"
"Y.D.," said his wife, kindly, "there are certain little touches
which you overlook. Your town suit is all right for selling steers,
although I won't say that it hasn't outlived its prime even for that.
To attend Zen's wedding it is--hardly the thing."
"It's been a good suit," he protested. "It is--"
"It HAS. It is also a venerable suit. But really, Y.D., it will
not do for this occasion. You must get yourself a new suit, and a
"What do I want with a white shirt--"
"It has to be," his wife insisted. "You'll have to deck yourself
out in a new suit and a while shirt and collar."
Y.D. stamped around the room, and in a moment slipped out. "All
fool nonsense," he confided to himself, on his way to the bunk-
house. "It's all right for Zen to have good clothes--didn't I tell
her to go the limit?--but as for me, 'tain't me that's gettin'
married, is it? Standin' up before all them cow punchers in a white
shirt!" The bitterness of such disgrace cut the old rancher no less
keenly than the physical discomfort which he forecast for himself, yet
he put his own desires sufficiently to one side to buy a suit of
clothes, and a white shirt and collar, when he was next in town.
It must not be supposed that Y.D. admitted to the salesman that he
personally was descending to any such garb.
"A suit for a fellow about my size," he explained. "He's visitin'
out at the ranch, an' he hefts about the same as me. Put in one of
them Hereford shirts an' a collar."
Y.D. tucked the package surreptitiously in his room and awaited the
day of Zen's marriage with mingled emotions.
Zen, yielding to Transley's importunities, had at last said that it
should be Christmas Day. The wedding would be in the house, with the
leading ranchers and farmers of the district as invited guests, and
the general understanding was to be given out that the countryside as
a whole would be welcome. All could not be taken care of in the
house, so Y.D. gave orders that the hay was to be cleared out of one
of the barns and the floor put in shape for dancing. Open house would
be held in the barn and in the bunk- house, where substantial
refreshments would be served to all and sundry.
Christmas Day dawned with a seasonable nip to the air, but the sun
rose warm and bright. There was no snow, and by early afternoon
clouds of dust were rising on every trail leading to the Y.D. The
old ranchers and their wives drove in buckboards, and one or two in
automobiles; the younger generation, of both sexes, came on
horseback, with many an exciting impromptu race by the way. Y.D.
received them all in the yard, commenting on the horses and the
weather, and how the steers were wintering, and revealing, at the
proper moments, the location of a well-filled stone jug. The
faithful Linder was on hand to assist in caring for the horses and
maintaining organization about the yard. The women were ushered into
the house, but the men sat about the bunk-house or leaned against the
sunny side of the barn, sharpening their wits in conversational
sallies which occasionally brought loud guffaws of merriment.
In the house every arrangement had been completed. Zen was to come
down the stairs leaning on her father's arm, and the ceremony would
take place in the big central room, lavishly decorated with flowers
which Transley had sent from town in a heated automobile. After the
ceremony the principals and the older people would eat the wedding
dinner in the house, and all others would be served in the bunk-house.
One of the downstairs rooms was already filled with presents.
As the hour approached Zen found herself possessed of a calmness
which she deemed worthy of Y.D.'s daughter. She had elected to be
unattended as she had no very special girl friend, and that seemed
the simplest way out of the problem of selecting someone for this
honor. She was, however, amply assisted with her dressing, and the
color of her fine cheeks burned deeper with the compliments to which
she listened with modest appreciation.
At a quarter to the hour it was discovered that Y.D. had not yet
dressed for the occasion. He was, in fact, engaged with Landson in
making a tentative arrangement for the distribution of next year's
hay. Zen had been so insistent upon an invitation being sent to Mr.
and Mrs. Landson, that Y.D., although fearing a snub for his pains, at
last conceded the point. He had done his neighbor rather less than
justice, and now he and Landson, with the assistance of the jug
already referred to, were burying the hatchet in a corner of the
"Dang this dressin'," Y.D. remonstrated when a message demanding
instant action reached him. "Landson, hear me now! I wouldn't take
a million dollars for that girl, y' understand--and I wouldn't trade a
mangy cayuse for another!"
So, grumbling, he found his way to his room and began a wrestle
with his "store" clothes. Before the fight was over he was being
reminded through the door that he wasn't roping a steer, and
everybody was waiting. At the last moment he discovered that he had
neglected to buy shoes. There was nothing for it but his long ranch
boots, so on they went.
He sought Zen in her room. "Will I do in this?" he asked, feeling
Zen could have laughed, or she could have cried, but she did
neither. She sensed in some way the fact that to her father this
experience was a positive ordeal. So she just slipped her arm
through his and whispered, "Of course you'll do, you silly old
duffer," and tripped down the stairs by the side of his ponderous
After the ceremony the elder people sat down to dinner in the
house, and the others in the bunk-house. Zen was radiant and calm;
Transley handsome, delighted, self-possessed. His good luck was the
subject of many a comment, both inside and out of the old house. He
accepted it at its full value, and yet as one who has a right to
expect that luck will play him some favors.
Suddenly there was a rush from outside, and Zen found herself being
carried bodily away. The young people had decided that the dancing
could wait no longer, so a half dozen hustlers had been deputed to
kidnap the bride and carry her to the barn, where the fiddles were
already strumming. Zen insisted that the first dance must belong to
Transley, but after that she danced with the young ranchers and
cowboys with strict impartiality. And even as she danced she found
herself wondering if, among all this representation of the
countryside, that one upon whom her thoughts had turned so much
should be missing. She found herself watching the door. Surely it
would have been only a decent respect to her--surely he might have
helped to whirl her joyously away into the new life in which the past
had to be forgotten. . . . How much better that they should part that
way, than with the memories they had!
But Dennison Grant did not appear. Evidently he preferred to keep
his memories. . . .
When at last the night had worn thin and it was time for the bridal
couple to leave if they were to catch the morning train in town, and
they had ridden down the foothill trails to the thunder of many
accompanying hoof-beats, the old ranch became suddenly a place very
quiet and still and alone. Y.D. sat down in the corner of the big
room by the fire, and saw strange pictures in its dying embers. Zen.
. . . Zen! . . . Transley was a good fellow, but how much a man will
take with scarce a thank-you! . . . Presently Y.D. became aware of a
hand resting upon his shoulder, and tingling from its fingertips came
something akin to the almost forgotten rapture of a day long gone. He
raised his great palm and took that slowly ageing hand, once round and
fresh like Zen's, in his. Together they watched the fire die out in
the silence of their empty house. . . .
Grant read the account of her wedding in the city papers a day or
two later. It was given the place of prominence among the Christmas
Day nuptials. He read it through twice and then tossed the paper to
the end of his little office. Grant was housed in a building by
himself; a shack twelve by sixteen feet, double boarded and
tar-papered. A single square window in the eastern wall commanded a
view of the Landson corrals. On the opposite side of the room was his
bed; in the centre a huge wood-burning stove; near the window stood a
table littered with daily papers and agricultural journals. The floor
was of bare boards; a leather trunk, with D. G. in aggressive letters,
sat by the head of his bed, and in the corner near the foot was a
washstand with basin and pitcher of graniteware. In another corner was
a short shelf of well-selected books; clothing hung from nails driven
into the two-by-fours which formed the framework of the little
building; a rifle was suspended over the door, and lariat and saddle
hung from spikes in the wall. Grant sat in an arm chair by the stove,
where the bracket lamp on the wall could shed its yellow glare upon
After throwing the sheet across the room he half turned in his
chair, so that the yellow light fell across his face. Fidget, the
pup, always alert for action, was on her feet in a moment, eager to
lead the way to the door and whatever adventure might lie outside.
But Grant did not leave his chair, and, finding all her tail-waving
of no avail, she presently settled down again by the stove, her chin
on her outstretched paws, her drooping eyes half closed, but a wakeful
ear flopping occasionally forward and back. Grant snuggled his foot
against her friendly side and fell into reverie. . . .
There was nothing else for it; he must absolutely dismiss Zen--Zen
Transley--from his mind. That was not only the course of honor; it
was the course of common sense. After all, he had not sought her for
his bride. He had not pressed his suit. He had given her to
Transley. The thought was rather a pleasant one. It implied some
sort of voluntary action upon Grant's part. He had been magnanimous.
Nevertheless, he was cave man enough to know pangs of jealousy which
his magnanimity could not suppress.
"If things had been different," he remarked to himself; "if I had
been in a position to offer her decent conditions, I would have
followed up the lead. And I would have won." He turned the incident
on the river bank over in his mind, and a faint smile played along his
lips. "I would have won. But I couldn't bring her here. . . . It's
the first time I ever felt that money could really contribute to
happiness. Well--I was happy before I met her; I can be happy still.
This little episode. . . ."
He crossed the room and picked up the newspaper he had thrown away;
he crumpled it in his hand as he approached the stove. It said the
bride was beautiful--the happy couple--the groom, prosperous young
contractor--California--three months. . . . He turned to the table,
smoothed out the paper, and studied it again. Of course he had heard
the whole thing from the Landsons; they had done Y.D. and his daughter
justice. He clipped the article carefully from the sheet and folded
it away in a little book on the shelf.
Then he told himself that Zen had been swept from his mind; that
if ever they should meet--and he dallied a moment with that
possibility--they would shake hands and say some decent, insipid
things and part as people who had never met before. Only they would
know. . . .
Grant occupied himself with the work of the ranch that winter,
spring, and summer. Occasional news of Mrs. Transley filtered
through; she was too prominent a character in that countryside to be
lost track of in a season. But anything which reached Grant came
through accidental channels; he sought no information of her, and
turned a deaf ear, almost, to what he heard. Then in the fall came an
incident which immediately changed the course of his career.
It came in the form of an important-looking letter with an eastern
postmark. It had been delivered with other mail at the house, and
Landson himself brought it down. Grant read it and at first stared
at it somewhat blankly, as one not taking in its full portent.
"Not bad news, I hope?" said his employer, cloaking his curiosity
"Rather," Grant admitted, and handed him the letter. Landson read:
"It is our duty to place before you information which must be of a
very distressing nature, and which at the same time will have the
effect of greatly increasing your responsibilities and opportunities.
Unless you have happened to see the brief despatches which have
appeared in the Press this letter will doubtless be the first
intimation to you that your father and younger brother Roy were the
victims of a most regrettable accident while motoring on a brief
holiday in the South. The automobile in which they were travelling
was struck by a fast train, and both of them received injuries from
which they succumbed almost immediately.
"Your father, by his will, left all his property, aside from
certain behests to charity, to his son Roy, but Roy had no will, and
as he was unmarried, and as there are no other surviving members of
the family except yourself, the entire estate, less the behests
already referred to, descends to you. We have not yet attempted an
appraisal, but you will know that the amount is very considerable
indeed. In recent years your father's business undertakings were
remarkably successful, and we think we may conservatively suggest that
the amount of the estate will be very much greater than even you may
"The brokerage firm which your father founded is, temporarily,
without a head. You have had some experience in your father's
office, and as his solicitors for many years, we take the liberty of
suggesting that you should immediately assume control of the business.
A faithful staff are at present continuing it to the best of their
ability, but you will understand that a permanent organization must be
effected at as early a date as may be possible.
"Inability to locate you until after somewhat exhaustive inquiries
had been made explains the failure to notify you by wire in time to
permit of your attending the funeral of your father and brother,
which took place in this city on the eighth instant, and was marked
by many evidences of respect.
"We beg to tender our very sincere sympathy, and to urge upon you
that you so arrange your affairs as to enable you to assume the
responsibilities which have, in a sense, been forced upon you, at a
very early date. In the meantime we assure you of our earnest
attention to your interests.
"BARRETT, JONES, BARRETT, DEACON BARRETT."
"Well, I guess it means you've struck oil, and I've lost a good
foreman," said Landson, as he returned the letter. "I'm sorry about
your loss, Grant, and glad to hear of your good luck, if I may put it
"No particular good luck that I can see," Grant protested. "I came
west to get away from all that bothering nuisance, and now I've got
to go back and take it all up again. I feel badly about Dad and the
kid; they were decent, only they didn't understand me. . . . I
suppose I didn't understand them, either. At any rate they didn't
wish this on me. They had quite other plans."
"What do you reckon she's worth?" Landson asked, after waiting as
long as his patience would permit.
"Oh, I don't know. Possibly six or eight millions by this time."
"Six or eight millions! Jehoshaphat! What will you do with it?"
"Look after it. Mr. Landson, you know that I have never worried
about money; if I had I wouldn't be here. I figure that the more
money a man has the greater are his responsibilities and his
troubles; worse than that, his wealth excites the jealousy of the
public and even the envy of his friends. It builds a barrier around
him, shutting out all those things which are really most worth while.
It makes him the legitimate prey of the unprincipled. I know all
these things, and it is because I know them that I sought happiness
out here on the ranges, where perhaps some people are rich and some
are poor, but they all think alike and live alike and are part of one
community and stand together in a pinch--and out here I have found
happiness. Now I'm going back to the other job. I don't care for the
money, but any son-of-a-gun who takes it from me is a better man than
I am, and I'll sit up nights at both ends of the day to beat him at
his own game. Now, just as soon as you can line up someone to take
charge I'll have to beat it."
The news of Grant's fortune spread rapidly, and many were the
congratulations from his old cow puncher friends; congratulations,
for the most part, without a suggestion of envy in them. Grant put
his affairs in order as quickly as possible, and started for the East
with a trunkful of clothes. But even before he started one thought
had risen up to haunt him. He crushed it down, but it would insist.
If only this had happened a year ago. . . .
Dennison Grant's mother had died in his infancy, and as soon as Roy
was old enough to go to boarding-school his father had given up
housekeeping. The club had been his home ever since. Grant
reflected on this situation with some satisfaction. He would at
least be spared the unpleasantness of discharging a houseful of
servants and disposing of the family furniture. As for the club-- he
had no notion for that. A couple of rooms in some quiet apartment
house, where he could cook a meal to his own liking as the fancy took
him; that was his picture of something as near domestic happiness as
was possible for a single man rather sadly out of his proper
Grant reached his old home city late at night, and after a quiet
cigar and a stroll through some of the half-forgotten streets he put
up at one of the best hotels. He was deferentially shown to a room
about as large as the whole Landson house; soft lights were burning
under pink shades; his feet fell noiselessly on the thick carpets. He
placed a chair by a window, where he could watch the myriad lights of
the city, and tried to appraise the new sphere in which he found
himself. It would be a very different game from riding the ranges or
roping steers, but it would be a game, nevertheless; a game in which
he would have to stand on his own resources even more than in those
brave days in the foothills. He relished the notion of the game even
while he was indifferent to the prize. He had no clear idea what he
eventually should do with his wealth; that was something to think
about very carefully in the days and years to come. In the meantime
his job was to handle a big business in the way it should be handled.
He must first prove his ability to make money before he showed the
world how little he valued it.
He turned the water into his bath; there was a smell about the
towels, the linen, the soap, that was very grateful to his nostrils.
. . .
In the morning he passed by the office of Grant Son. He did not
turn in, but pursued his way to a door where a great brass plate
announced the law firm of Barrett, Jones, Barrett, Deacon Barrett.
He smiled at this elaboration of names; it represented three
generations of the Barrett family and two sons-in-law. Grant found
himself speculating over a name for the Landson ranch; it might have
been Landson, Grant, Landson, Murphy, Skinny Pete. . . .
He entered and inquired for Mr. Barrett, senior.
"Mr. David Barrett, senior, sir; he's out of the city, sir; he has
not yet come in from his summer home in the mountains."
"Then the next Mr. Barrett?"
"Mr. David Barrett, junior, sir; he also is out of the city."
"Have you any more Barretts?"
"There's young Mr. Barrett, but he seldom comes down in the
Grant suppressed a grin. "The Barretts are a somewhat leisurely
family, I take it," he remarked.
"They have been very successful," said the clerk, with a touch of
"Apparently; but who does the work?"
"Mr. Jones is in his office. Would you care to send in your card?"
"No, I think I'll just take it in." He pressed through a counter-
gate and opened a door upon which was emblazoned the name of Mr.
Mr. Jones proved to be a man with thin, iron-grey hair and a
stubby, pugnacious moustache. He sat at a desk at the end of a long,
narrow room, down both sides of which were rows of cases filled with
impressive-looking books. He did not raise his eyes when Grant
entered, but continued poring over a file of correspondence.
"What an existence!" Grant commented to himself. "And yet I
suppose this man thinks he's alive."
Grant remained standing for a moment, but as the lawyer showed no
disposition to divide his attention he presently advanced to the
desk. Mr. Jones looked up.
"You are Mr. Jones, I believe?"
"I am, but you have the better of me--"
"Only for the moment. You are a lawyer. You will take care of
that. I understand the firm of Barrett, Jones, Barrett, Deacon
Barrett have somewhat leisurely methods?"
"Is the firm on trial?" inquired Mr. Jones, sharply.
"In a sense, yes. I also understand that although all the
Barretts, and also Mr. Deacon, share in the name plate, Mr. Jones
does the work?"
The lawyer laid down his papers. "Who the dickens are you, anyway,
and what do you want?"
"That's better. With undivided attention we shall get there much
quicker. I have a certain amount of legal business which requires
attention, and in connection with which I am willing to pay what the
service is worth. But I'm not going to pay two generations of
Barretts which are out of the city, and a third which doesn't come
down in the forenoon. If I have to buy name plates, I'll buy name
plates of my own, and that is what I've decided to do. Do you mind
saying how much this job here is worth?"
"Of course I do, sir. I don't understand you at all--"
"Then I'll make myself understood. I am Dennison Grant. By force
of circumstances I find myself--"
The lawyer had risen from his chair. "Oh, Mr. Dennison Grant! I'm
Grant ignored the outstretched hand. "I'm exactly the same man who
came into your office five minutes ago, and you were too busy to
raise your eyes from your papers. It is not me to whom you are now
offering courtesy; it's to my money."
"I am sure I beg your pardon. I didn't know--"
"Then you will know in future. If you've got a hand on you, stick
it out, whether your visitor has any money or not."
Grant was glaring at the lawyer across the desk, and the
pugnacious-looking moustache was beginning to bristle back.
"Did you come in here to read me a lecture, or to get legal
advice?" the lawyer returned with some spirit.
"I came in here on business. In the course of that business I find
it necessary to tell you where you get off at, and to ask you what
you're going to do about it."
The lawyer came around from behind his desk. "And I'll show you,"
he said, very curtly. "You've been drinking, or you're out of your
head. In either case I'm going to put you out of this room until you
are in a different frame of mind."
"Hop to it!" said Grant, bracing himself. Jones was an oldish man,
and he had no intention of hurting him. In a moment they clenched,
and before Grant could realize what was happening he was on his back.
He arose quickly, laughing, and sat down in a chair. "Mr. Jones,
will you sit down? I want to talk to you."
"If you will talk business. You were rude to me."
"Perhaps. For my rudeness I apologize. But I was not untruthful.
And I wanted to find something out. I found it."
"Whether you had any sand in you. You have, and considerable
muscle, or knack, as well. I'm not saying you could do it again--"
"Well, what is this all about?"
"Simply this. If I am to manage the business of Grant Son I shall
need legal advice of the highest order, and I want it from a man with
red blood in him--I should be afraid of any other advice. What is your
price? You understand, you leave this firm and think of nothing,
professionally, but what I pay you for."
Mr. Jones had seated himself, and the pugnacious moustache was
settling back into a less hostile attitude.
"You are quite serious?"
"Quite. You see, I know nothing about business. It is true I
spent some time in my father's office, but I never had much heart for
it. I went west to get away from it. Fate has forced it back upon my
hands. Well--I'm not a piker, and I mean to show Fate that I can
handle the job. To do so I must have the advice of a man who knows
the game. I want a man who can look over a bond issue, or whatever it
is, and tell me at a glance whether it's spavined or wind-broken. I
want a man who can sense out the legal badger- holes, and who won't
let me gallop over a cutbank. I want a man who has not only brains to
back up his muscle, but who also has muscle to back up his brains. To
be quite frank, I didn't think you were the man. I had no doubt you
had the legal ability, or you wouldn't be guiding the affairs of this
five-cylinder firm, but I was afraid you didn't have the fight in you.
I picked a quarrel with you to find out, and you showed me, for which
I am much obliged. By the way, how do you do it?"
Before answering Mr. Jones got up, walked around behind his desk,
unlocked a drawer and produced a box of cigars.
"That's a mistake you Westerners make," he remarked, when they had
lighted up. "You think the muscle is all out there, just as some
Easterners will admit that the brains are all down here. Both are
wrong. Life at a desk calls for an antidote, and two nights a week
keep me in form. I wrestled a bit when I was a boy, but I haven't
had a chance to try out my skill in a long while. I rather welcomed
"I noticed that. Well--what's she worth?"
Mr. Jones ruminated. "I wouldn't care to break with the firm," he
said at length. "There are family ties as well as those of business.
A year's leave of absence might be arranged. By that time you would
be safe in your saddle. By the way, do you propose to hire all your
staff by the same test?"
Grant smiled. "I don't expect to hire any more staff. I presume
there is already a complete organization, doubtless making money for
me at this very moment. I will not interfere except when necessary,
but I want a man like you to tell me when it is necessary."
Terms were agreed upon, and Mr. Jones asked only the remainder of
the week to clean up important matters on hand. Telegrams were
despatched to Mr. David Barrett, senior, and Mr. David Barrett,
junior, and Jones in some way managed to convey the delicate
information to young Mr. Barrett that a morning appearance on his
part would henceforth be essential. Grant decided to fill in the
interval with a little fishing expedition. He was determined that he
would not so much as call at the office of Grant Son until Jones could
accompany him. "A tenderfoot like me would stampede that bunch in no
time," he warned himself.
When he finally did appear at the office he was received with a
deference amounting almost to obeisance. Murdoch, the chief clerk,
and manager of the business in all but title, who had known him in
the old days when he had been "Mr. Denny," bore him into the private
office which had for so many years been the sacred recess of the
senior Grant. Only big men or trusted employees were in the habit of
passing those silent green doors.
"Well Murdy, old boy, how goes it?" Grant had said when they met,
taking his hand in a husky grip.
"Not so bad, sir; not so bad, considering the shock of the
accident, sir. And we are all so glad to see you--we who knew you
"Listen, Murdy," said Grant. "What's the idea of all the sirs?"
"Why," said the somewhat abashed official, "you know you are now
the head of the firm, sir."
"Quite so. Because a chauffeur neglected to look over his shoulder
I am converted from a cow puncher to a sir. Well, go easy on it. If
a man has native dignity in him he doesn't need it piled on from
"Very true, sir. I hope you will be comfortable here. Some
memorable matters have been transacted within these walls, sir. Let
me take your hat and cane."
"Cane? What cane?"
"Your stick, sir; didn't you have a stick?"
"What for? Have you rattlers here? Oh, I see--more dignity. No,
I don't carry a stick. Perhaps when I'm old--"
"You'll have to try and accommodate yourself to our manners," said
Jones, when Murdoch had left the room. "They may seem unnecessary,
or even absurd, but they are sanctioned by custom, and, you know,
civilization is built on custom. The poet speaks of a freedom which
'slowly broadens down from precedent to precedent.' Precedent is
custom. Never defy custom, or you will find her your master. Humor
her, and she will be your slave. Now I think I shall leave, while you
try and tune yourself to the atmosphere of these surroundings. I need
hardly warn you that the furniture is-- quite valuable."
Grant saw him out with a friendly grip on his arm. "You will need
another course of wrestling lessons presently," he warned him.
So this was the room which had been the inner shrine of the firm of
Grant Son. The quarters were new since he had left the East; the
furnishings revealed that large simplicity which is elegance and
wealth. A painting of the elder Grant hung from the wall; Dennison
stood before it, looking into the sad, capable, grey eyes. What had
life brought to his father that was worth the price those eyes
reflected? Dennison found his own eyes moistening with memories now
strangely poignant. . . .
"Environment," the young man murmured, as he turned from the
portrait, "environment, master of everything! And yet--"
A photograph of Roy stood on the mantelpiece, and beside it, in a
little silver frame, was one of his mother. . . . Grant pulled
himself together and fell to an examination of the papers in his
Grant's first concern was to get a grasp of the business affairs
which had so unexpectedly come under his direction. To accomplish
this he continued the practice of the Landson ranch; he was up every
morning at five, and had done a day's work before the members of his
staff began to assemble. For advice he turned to Jones and Murdoch,
and the management of routine affairs he left entirely in the hands of
the latter. He had soon convinced himself that the camaraderie of the
ranch would not work in a staff of this kind, so while he was
formulating plans of his own he left the administration to Murdoch.
He found this absence of companionship the most unpleasant feature of
his position; it seemed that his wealth had elevated him out of the
human family. He wavered between amusement and annoyance over the
deference that was paid him. Some of the staff were openly terrified
at his approach.
Not so Miss Bruce. Miss Bruce had tapped on the door and entered
with the words, "I was your father's stenographer. He left
practically all his personal correspondence to me. I worked at this
desk in the corner, and had a private office through the door there
into which I slipped when my absence was preferred."
She had crossed the room, and, instead of standing respectfully
before Grant's desk, had come around the end of it. Grant looked up
with some surprise, and noted that her features were not without
commending qualities. The mouth, a little large, perhaps--
"How do you think you're going to like your job?" she asked.
Grant swung around quickly in his chair. No one in the staff had
spoken to him like that; Murdoch himself would not have dared address
him in so familiar a manner. He decided to take a firm position.
"Were you in the habit of speaking to my father like that?"
"Your father was a man well on in years, Mr. Grant. Every man
according to his age."
"I am the head of the firm."
"That is so," she assented. "But if it were not for me and the
others on your pay roll there would be no firm to require a head, and
you'd be out of a job. You see, we are quite as essential to you as
you are to us."
Grant looked at her keenly. Whatever her words, he had to admit
that her tone was not impertinent. She had a manner of stating a
fact, rather than engaging in an argument. There was nothing hostile
about her. She had voiced these sentiments in as matter- of-fact a
way as if she were saying, "It's raining out; you had better take your
"You appear to be a very advanced young woman," he remarked. "I am
a little surprised--I had hardly thought my father would select young
women of your type as his confidential secretaries."
"Private stenographer," she corrected. "A little extra side on a
title is neither here nor there. Well, I will admit that I rather
took your father's breath at times; he discharged me so often it
became a habit, but we grew to have a sort of tacit understanding
that that was just his way of blowing off steam. You see, I did his
work, and I did it right. I never lost my head when he got into a
temper; I could always read my notes even after he had spent most of
the day in death grips with some business rival. You see, I wasn't
afraid of him, not the least bit. And I'm not afraid of you."
"I don't believe you are," Grant admitted. "You are a remarkable
woman. I think we shall get along all right if you are able to
distinguish between independence and bravado." He turned to his
desk, then suddenly looked up again. He was homesick for someone he
could talk to frankly.
"I don't mind telling you," he said abruptly, "that the deference
which is being showered upon me around this institution gives me a
good deal of a pain. I've been accustomed to working with men on the
same level. They took their orders from me, and they carried them
out, but the older hands called me by my first name, and any of them
swore back when he thought he had occasion. I can't fit in to this
'Yes sir,' 'No sir,' 'Very good, sir,' way of doing business. It
doesn't ring true."
"I know what you mean," she said. "There's too much servility in
it. And yet one may pay these courtesies and not be servile. I
always 'sir'd' your father, and he knew I did it because I wanted to,
not because I had to. And I shall do the same with you once we
understand each other. The position I want to make clear is this: I
don't admit that because I work for you I belong to a lower order of
the human family than you do, and I don't admit that, aside from the
giving of faithful service, I am under any obligation to you. I give
you my labor, worth so much; you pay me; we're square. If we can
accept that as an understanding I'm ready to begin work now; if not,
I'm going out to look for another job."
"I think we can accept that as a working basis," he agreed.
She produced notebook and pencil. "Very well, SIR. Do you wish to
The selection of a place to call home was a matter demanding
Grant's early attention. He discussed it with Mr. Jones.
"Of course you will take memberships in some of the better clubs,"
the lawyer had suggested. "It's the best home life there is. That
is why it is not to be recommended to married men; it has a tendency
to break up the domestic circle."
"But it will cost more than I can afford."
"Nonsense! You could buy out one of their clubs, holus-bolus, if
you wanted to."
"You don't quite get me," said Grant. "If I used the money which
was left by my father, or the income from the business, no doubt I
could do as you say. But I feel that that money isn't really mine.
You see, I never earned it, and I don't see how a person can,
morally, spend money that he did not earn."
"Then there are a great many immoral people in the world," the
lawyer observed, dryly.
"I am disposed to agree with you," said Grant, somewhat pointedly.
"But I don't intend that they shall set my standards."
"You have your salary. That comes under the head of earnings, if
you are finnicky about the profits. What do you propose to pay
"I have been thinking about that. On the ranch I got a hundred
dollars a month, and board."
"Well, your father got twenty thousand a year, and Roy half that,
and if they wanted more they charged it up as expenses."
"Considering the cost of board here, I think I would be justified
in taking two hundred dollars a month," Grant continued.
Jones got up and took the young man by the shoulders. "Look here,
Grant, you're not taking yourself seriously. I don't want to assail
your pet theories--you'll grow out of them in time--but you hired me
to give you advice, and right here I advise you not to make a fool of
yourself. You are now in a big position; you're a big man, and you've
got to live in a big way. If for nothing else than to hold the
confidence of the public you must do it. Do you think they're going
to intrust their investments to a firm headed by a
"But I AM a two-hundred-dollar-a-month man. In fact, I'm not sure
I'm worth quite that much. I've got no more muscle, and no more
sense, and very little more experience than I had a month ago, when
in the open market my services commanded a hundred and board."
"When a man is big enough--or his job is big enough--" Jones
argued, "he arises above the ordinary law of supply and demand. In
fact, in a sense, he controls supply and demand. He puts himself in
the job and dictates the salary. You have a perfect right to pay
yourself what other men in similar positions are getting. Besides, as
I said, you'll have to do so for the credit of the firm. Do you call
a doctor who lives in a tumble-down tenement? You do not. You call
one from a fine home; you select him for his appearance of prosperity,
regardless of the fact that he may have mortgaged his future to create
that appearance, and of the further fact that he will charge you a fee
calculated to help pay off the mortgage. When you want a lawyer, do
you seek some garret practitioner? You do not. You go to a big
building, with a big name plate"--the pugnacious moustache gave hint
of a smile gathering beneath--"and you pay a big price for a man with
an office full of imposing-looking books, not a tenth part of which he
has ever read, or intends ever to read. I admit there's a good deal
of bunco in the game, but if you sit in you've got to play it that
way, or the dear public will throw you into the discard. Many a man
who votes himself a salary in five figures--or gets a friendly board
of directors to do it for him--if thrown unfriended between the
millstones of supply and demand probably couldn't qualify for your
modest hundred dollars a month and board. But he has risen into a
different world; instead of being dictated to, he dictates. That is
your position, Grant. Look at it sensibly."
"Nevertheless, I shall get along on two hundred a month. If I find
it necessary in order to protect the interests of the business to
take a membership in an expensive club, or commit any other
extravagance, I shall do so, and charge it up as a business expense.
Besides, I think I can be happier that way."
"And in the meantime your business is piling up profits. What are
you going to do with them? Give them away?"
"No. That, too, is immoral--whether it be a quarter to a beggar or
a library to a city. It feeds the desire to get money without
earning it, which is the most immoral of all our desires. I have not
yet decided what I shall do with it. I have hired an expert, in you,
to show me how to make money. I shall probably find it necessary to
hire another to show me how to dispose of it. But not a dollar will
be given away."
"And so you would let the beggar starve? That's a new kind of
"No. I would correct the conditions that made him a beggar.
That's the only kind of altruism that will make him something better
than a beggar."
"Some people would beg in any case, Grant. They are incapable of
"Then they are defectives, and should be cared for by the State."
"Then the State may practise charity--"
"It is not charity; it is the discharge of an obligation. A father
may support his children, but he must not let anyone else do it."
"Well, I give up," said Jones. "You're beyond me."
Grant laughed and extended a cigar box. "Don't hesitate," he said,
"this doesn't come out of the two hundred. This is entertainment
expense. And you must come and see me when I get settled."
"When you get settled--yes. You won't be settled until you're
married, and you might as well do some thinking about that. A man in
your position gets a pretty good range of choice; you'd be surprised
if you knew the wire-pulling I have already encountered; ambitious old
dames fishing for introductions for their daughters. You may be an
expert with rope or branding-iron, but you're outclassed in this
matrimonial game, and some one of them will land you one of these
times before you know it. You should be very proud," and Mr. Jones
struck something of an attitude. "The youth and beauty of the city
are raving about you."
"About my money," Grant retorted. "If my father had had time to
change his will they would every one of them have passed me by with
their noses in the air. As for marrying--that's all off."
The lawyer was about to aim a humorous sally, but something in
Grant's appearance closed his lips. "Very well, I'll come and see
you if you say when," he agreed.
Grant found what he wanted in a little apartment house on a side
street, overlooking the lake. Here was a place where the vision
could leap out without being beaten back by barricades of stone and
brick. He rested his eyes on the distance, and assured the
inveigling landlady that the rooms would do, and he would arrange for
decorating at his own expense. There was a living-room, about the
size of his shack on the Landson ranch; a bathroom, and a kitchenette,
and the rent was twenty-two dollars a month. A decorator was called
in to repaper the bathroom and kitchenette, but for the living-room
Grant engaged a carpenter. He ordered that the inside of the room
should be boarded up with rough boards, with exposed scantlings on the
walls and ceiling. No doubt the tradesman thought his patron mad, or
nearly so, but his business was to obey orders, and when the job was
completed it presented a very passable duplicate of Grant's old
quarters on the ranch. He had spared the fireplace, as a concession
to comfort. When he had gotten his personal effects out of storage,
when he had hung rifle, saddle and lariat from spikes in the wall; had
built a little book-shelf and set his old favorites upon it; had
installed his bed and the trunk with the big D. G.; sitting in his arm
chair before the fire, with Fidget's nose snuggled companionably
against his foot, he would not have traded his quarters for the finest
suite in the most expensive club in the city. Here was something at
least akin to home.
As he was arranging the books on his shelf the clipping with the
account of Zen's wedding fell to the floor. He sat down in his chair
and read it slowly through. Later he went out for a walk.
It was in his long walks that Grant found the only real comfort of
his new life. To be sure, it was not like roaming the foothills;
there was not the soft breath of the Chinook, nor the deep silence of
the mighty valleys. But there was movement and freedom and a chance
to think. The city offered artificial attractions in which the
foothills had not competed; faultlessly kept parks and lawns; splashes
of perfume and color; spraying fountains and vagrant strains of music.
He reflected that some merciful principle of compensation has made no
place quite perfect and no place entirely undesirable. He remembered
also the toll of his life in the saddle; the physical hardship, the
strain of long hours and broken weather. And here, too, in a
different way, he was in the saddle, and he did not know which strain
was the greater. He was beginning to have a higher regard for the men
in the saddle of business. The world saw only their success, or, it
may be, their pretence of success. But there was a different story
from all that, which each one of them could have told for himself.
On this evening when his mind had been suddenly turned into old
channels by the finding of the newspaper clipping dealing with the
wedding of Y.D.'s daughter, Grant walked far into the outskirts of
the city, paying little attention to his course. It was late
October; the leaves lay thick on the sidewalks and through the parks;
there was in all the air that strange, sad, sweet dreariness of the
dying summer. . . . Grant had tried heroically to keep his thoughts
away from Transley's wife. The past had come back on him, had rather
engulfed him, in that little newspaper clipping. He let himself
wonder where she was, and whether nearly a year of married life had
shown her the folly of her decision. He took it for granted that her
decision had been folly, and he arrived at that position without any
reflection upon Transley. Only--Zen had been in love with him, with
him, Dennison Grant! Sooner or later she must discover the tragedy of
that fact, and yet he told himself he was big enough to hope she might
never discover it. It would be best that she should forget him, as he
had--almost--forgotten her. There was no doubt that would be best.
And yet there was a delightful sadness in thinking of her still, and
hoping that some day-- He was never able to complete the thought.
He had been walking down a street of modest homes; the bare trees
groped into a sky clear and blue with the first chill presage of
winter. A quick step fell unheeded by his side; the girl passed,
hesitated, then turned and spoke.
"You are preoccupied, Mr. Grant."
"Oh, Miss Bruce, I beg your pardon. I am glad to see you." Even
at that moment he had been thinking of Zen, and perhaps he put more
cordiality into his words than he intended. But he had grown to have
considerable regard, on her own account, for this unusual girl who was
not afraid of him. He had found that she was what he called "a good
head." She could take a detached view; she was absolutely fair; she
was not easily flustered.
Her step had fallen into swing with his.
"You do not often visit our part of the city," she essayed.
"You live here?"
"Near by. Will you come and see?"
He turned with her at a corner, and they went up a narrow street
lying deep in dead leaves. Friendly domestic glimpses could be
caught through unblinded windows.
"This is our home," she said, stopping before a little gate.
Grant's eye followed the pathway to a cottage set back among the
trees. "I live here with my sister and brother and mother. Father
is dead," she went on hurriedly, as though wishing to place before
him a quick digest of the family affairs, "and we keep up the home by
living on with mother as boarders; that is, Grace and I do. Hubert is
still in high school. Won't you come in?"
He followed her up the path and into a little hall, lighted only by
chance rays falling through a half-opened door. She did not switch
on the current, and Grant was aware of a comfortable sense of her
nearness, quite distinct from any office experience, as she took his
hat. In the living-room her mother received him with visible
surprise. She was not old, but widowhood and the cares of a young
family had whitened her hair before its time.
"We are glad to see you, Mr. Grant," she said. "It is an
unexpected pleasure. Big business men do not often--"
"Mr. Grant is different," her daughter interrupted, lightly. "I
found him wandering the streets and I just--retrieved him."
"I think I AM different," he admitted, as his eye took in the
surroundings, which he appraised quickly as modest comfort, attained
through many little economies and makeshifts. "You are very happy
here," he went on, frankly. "Much more so, I should say, than in many
of the more pretentious homes. I have always contended that, beyond
the margin necessary for decent living, the possession of money is a
burden and a handicap, and I see no reason to change my opinion."
"Phyllis is a great help to me--and Grace," the mother observed.
"I hope she is a good girl in the office."
Grant was hurrying an assent but the girl interrupted, perhaps
wishing to relieve him of the necessity of an answer.
"'Decent living' is a very elastic term," she remarked. "There are
so many standards. Some women think they must have maids and social
status--whatever that is--and so on. It can't be done on mother's
"That quality is not confined to women," Grant said. "I know I am
regarded as something of a freak because I prefer to live simply.
They can't understand my preference for a plain room to read and
sleep in, for quiet walks by myself when I might be buzzing around in
big motor cars or revelling with a bunch at the club. I suppose it's
a puzzle to them."
Miss Bruce had seated herself near him. "They are beginning to
offer explanations," she said. "I hear them--such things always
filter down. They say you are mean and niggardly--that you're afraid
to spend a dollar. The fact that you have raised the wages of your
staff doesn't seem to answer them; they rather hold that against you,
because it has a tendency to make them do the same. Other office
staffs are going to their heads and saying, 'Grant is paying his help
so much.' That doesn't popularize you. To be a good fellow you
should hold your staff down to the lowest wages at which you can get
service, and the money you save in this way should be spent with gusto
and abandon at expensive hotels and other places designed to keep rich
people from getting too rich."
"I am afraid you are satirizing them a little, but there is a good
deal in what you say. They think I'm mean because they don't
understand me, and they can't understand my point of view. I believe
that money was created as a medium for the exchange of value. I think
they will all agree with me there. If that is so, then I have no
right to money unless I have given value for it, and that is where
they part company with me; but surely we can't accept the one fact
without the other."
Grant found himself thumbing his pockets. "You may smoke, if you
have tobacco," said Mrs. Bruce. "My husband smoked, and although I
did not approve of it then, I think I must have grown to like it."
He lighted a cigarette, and continued. "Not all the moral law was
given on Mount Sinai. It seems to me that the supernaturalism which
has been introduced into the story of the Ten Commandments is most
unfortunate. It seems to remove them out of the field of natural law,
whereas they are, really, natural law itself. No social state can
exist where they are habitually ignored. But of course these natural
laws existed long before Moses. He did not make the law; he
discovered it, just as Newton discovered the law of gravitation.
Well--there must be many other natural laws, still undiscovered, or
at least unaccepted. The thing is to discover them, to obey them,
and, eventually, to compel others to obey them. I am no Moses, but I
think I have the germ of the law which would cure our economic
ills--that no person should be allowed to receive value without
earning it. Because I believed in that I gave up a fortune and went
to work as a laborer on a ranch, but Fate has forced wealth upon me,
doubtless in order that I may prove out my own theories. Well, that
is what I am doing."
"It shouldn't be hard to get rid of money if you don't want it,"
Mrs. Bruce ventured.
"But it is. It is the hardest kind of thing. You see, I am
limited by my principles. I believe it is morally wrong to receive
money without earning it; consequently I cannot give it away, as by
doing so I would place the recipient in that position. I believe it
is morally wrong to spend on myself money which I have not earned;
consequently I can spend only what I conceive to be a reasonable
return for my services. Meanwhile, my wealth keeps rolling up."
"It's a knotty problem," said Phyllis. "I think there is only one
"And that is?--"
"Marry a woman who is a good spender."
At this moment Grace and Hubert came in from the picture-show
together, and the conversation turned to lighter topics. Mrs. Bruce
insisted on serving tea and cake, and when Grant found that he must go
Phyllis accompanied him to the gate.
"This all seems so funny," she was saying. "You are a very
"I think I once passed a similar opinion about you."
She extended her hand, and he held it for a moment. "I have not
changed my first opinion," he said, as he released her fingers and
turned quickly down the pavement.
Grant's first visit to the home of his private stenographer was not
his last, and the news leaked out, as it is sure to do in such cases.
The social set confessed to being on the point of being shocked. Two
schools of criticism developed over the five o'clock tea tables; one
held that Grant was a gay dog who would settle down and marry in his
class when he had had his fling, and the other that Phyllis Bruce was
an artful hussy who was quite ready to sell herself for the Grant
millions. And there were so many eligible young women on the market,
although none of them were described as artful hussies!
Grant's behavior, however, placed him under no cloud in so far as
social opportunities were concerned; on the contrary, he found
himself being showered with invitations, most of which he managed to
decline on the grounds of pressure of business. When such an excuse
would have been too transparent he accepted and made the best of it,
and he found no lack of encouragement in the one or two incipient
amorous flurries which resulted. From such positions he always
succeeded in extricating himself, with a quiet smile at the vagaries
of life. He had to admit that some of the young women whom he had met
had charms of more than passing moment; he might easily enough find
himself chasing the rainbow. . . .
Mrs. LeCord carried the warfare into his own office. The late Mr.
LeCord had left her to face the world with a comfortable fortune and
three daughters, of whom the youngest was now married and the oldest
was a forlorn hope. To place the second was now her purpose, and the
best bargain on the market was young Grant. Caroline, she was sure,
would make a very acceptable wife, and the young lady herself
confessed a belief that she could love even a bold Westerner whose
bank balance was expressed in seven figures.
The fact that Grant avoided social functions only added zest to the
determination with which Mrs. LeCord carried the war into his own
office. She chose to consult him for advice on financial matters and
she came accompanied by Caroline, a young woman rather prepossessing
in her own right. The two were readily admitted into Grant's private
office, where they had opportunity not only to meet the young man in
person, but to satisfy their curiosity concerning the Bruce girl.
"I am Mrs. LeCord, Mr. Grant," the lady introduced herself. "This
is my daughter Caroline. We wish to consult you on certain financial
matters, privately, if you please."
Grant received them cordially. "I shall be glad to advise you, if
I can," he said.
Mrs. LeCord cast a significant glance at Phyllis Bruce.
"Miss Bruce is my private stenographer. You may speak with perfect
Mrs. LeCord took up her subject after a moment's silence. "Mr.
LeCord left me not entirely unprovided for," she explained. "Almost a
million dollars in bonds and real estate made a comfortable protection
for me and my three daughters against the buffetings of a world which,
as you may have found, Mr. Grant, is not over-considerate."
"The buffetings of the world are an excellent training for the
"Maybe so, maybe so," his visitor conceded. "However, there are
other trainings--trainings of finer quality, Mr. Grant--than those
which have to do with subsistence. I have been able to give my
daughters the best education that money could command, and, if I do
say it, I permit myself some gratification over the result. Gretta
is comfortably and happily married,--a young man of some distinction
in the financial world--a Mr. Powers, Mr. Newton Powers--you may
happen to know him; Madge, I think, is always going to be her
mother's girl; Caroline is still heart-free, although one can never
"Oh, mother!" the girl protested, blushing daintily.
"I said you could never tell, Mr. Grant,--while handsome young men
like yourself are at large. Mrs. LeCord laughed heartily, as much as
to say that her remark must be regarded only as a little pleasantry.
"But you will think I am a gossipy old body," she continued briskly.
"I really came to discuss certain financial matters. Since Mr.
LeCord's death I have taken charge of all the family business affairs
with, if I may confess it, some success. We have lived, and my girls
have been educated, and our little reserve against a rainy day has
been almost doubled, in addition to giving Gretta a hundred thousand
in her own right on the occasion of her marriage. Caroline is to have
the same, and when I am done with it there will be a third of the
estate for each. In the meantime I am directing my investments as
wisely as I can. I want my daughters to be provided for, quite apart
from any income marriage may bring them. I should be greatly
humiliated to think that any daughter of mine would be dependent upon
her husband for support. On the contrary, I mean that they shall
bring to their husbands a sum which will be an appreciable
contribution toward the family fortune."
"If I can help you in any way in your financial matters--" Grant
"Oh, yes, we must get back to that. How I wander! I'm afraid, Mr.
Grant, I must be growing old."
Grant protested gallantly against such conclusion, and Mrs. LeCord,
after asking his opinion on certain issues shortly to be floated,
arose to leave.
"You must find life in this city somewhat lonely, Mr. Grant," she
murmured as she drew on her gloves. "If ever you find a longing for
a quiet hour away from business stress--a little domesticity, if I may
say it--our house--"
"You are very kind. Business allows me very few intermissions.
She extended her hand with her sweetest smile. Caroline shook
hands, too, and Grant bowed them out.
On other occasions Mrs. LeCord and her daughter were fortunate
enough to find Grant alone, and at such times the mother's
conversation became even more pointed than in their first interview.
Grant hesitated to offend her, mainly on account of Caroline, for
whom he admitted to himself it would not be at all difficult to muster
up an attachment. There were, however, three barriers to such a
development. One was the obvious purpose of Mrs. LeCord to arrange a
match; a purpose which, as a mere matter of the game, he could not
allow her to accomplish. One was Zen Transley. There was no doubt
about it. Zen Transley stood between him and marriage to any girl.
Not that he ever expected to take her into his life, or be admitted
into hers, but in some way she hedged him about. He felt that
everything was not yet settled; he found himself entertaining a
foolish sense that everything was not quite irrevocable. . . . And
then there was--perhaps--Phyllis Bruce.
When at length, for some reason, Mrs. LeCord visited him alone he
decided to be frank with her.
"You have thought me clever enough to advise you on financial
matters?" he queried, when his visitor had discussed at some length
the new loan in which she was investing.
"Why, yes," she returned, detecting the personal note in his voice.
"I sometimes think, Mr. Grant, you hardly do yourself justice. Even
the hardest old heads on the Exchange are taking notice of you. I
have heard your name mentioned--"
"Then it may be presumed," he interrupted, "that I am clever enough
to know the real purpose of your visits to this office?"
She turned a little in her chair, facing him squarely. "I hardly
understand you, Mr. Grant."
"Then I possess an advantage, because I quite clearly understand
you. I have hesitated, out of consideration for your daughter, to
show any resentment of your behavior. But I must now tell you that
when I marry, if ever I do, I shall choose my wife without the
assistance of her mother, and without regard to her dowry or the size
of the family bank account."
"Oh, I protest!" exclaimed Mrs. LeCord, who had grown very red. "I
protest against any such conclusion. I have seen fit to intrust my
financial affairs to your firm; I have visited you on business--
accompanied at times by my daughter, it is true--but only on
business; recognizing in you a social equal I have invited you to my
house, a courtesy which, so far, you have not found yourself able to
accept; but in all this I have shown toward you surely nothing but
friendliness and a respect amounting, if I may say it, to esteem. But
now that you are frank, Mr. Grant, I too will be frank. You cannot be
unaware of the rumors which have been associated with your name?"
"You mean about Miss Bruce?"
"Ah, then you know of them. You are a young man, and we older
people are disposed to make allowance for the--for that. But you
must realize the great mistake you would be making should you allow
this matter to become more than--a rumor."
"I do not admit your right to question me on such a subject, Mrs.
LeCord, but I shall not avoid a discussion of it. Suppose, for the
sake of argument, that I were to contemplate marriage with Miss
Bruce; if she and her relatives were agreeable, what right would
anyone have to object?"
"It would be a great mistake," Mrs. LeCord insisted, avoiding his
question. "She is not in your class--"
"What do you mean by 'class'?"
"Why, I mean socially, of course. She lives in a different world.
She has no standing, in a social way. She works in an office for a
"So do I," he interrupted, "and your daughters do not. It would
therefore appear that I am more in Miss Bruce's 'class' than in
"Ah, but you are an employer. You direct things. You work because
you want to, not because you have to. That makes a difference."
"Apparently it does. Well, if I had my way, everybody would work,
whether he wanted to or not. I would not allow any healthy man to
spend money which he had not earned by the sweat of his own brow. I
am convinced that that is the only economic system which is sound at
the bottom, but it would destroy 'class,' as at present organized, so
'class' must fight it."
"I am afraid you are rather radical, Mr. Grant. You may be sure
that a system which has served so long and so well is a good system."
"That introduces the clash between East and West. The East says
because things are so, and have always been so, they must be right.
The West says because things are so, and have always been so, they
are in all probability wrong. I guess I am a Westerner."
"You should not allow your theories of economics to stand in the
way of your success," Mrs. LeCord pursued. "Suppose I admit that
Caroline would not be altogether deaf to your advances. Suppose I
admit that much. Allowing for a mother's prejudice, will you not
agree with me that Caroline has her attractions? She is well bred,
well educated, and not without appearance. She belongs to the
smartest set in town. Her circle would bring you not only social
distinction, but valuable business connections. She would introduce
that touch of refinement--"
But Grant, now thoroughly angry, had risen from his chair. "You
speak of refinement," he exclaimed, in the quick, sharp tones which
alone revealed the fighting Grant;--"you, who have been guilty of-- I
could use a very ugly word which I will give you the credit of not
understanding. When I decide to buy myself a wife I will send to you
for a catalogue of your daughter's charms."
Grant dismissed Mrs. LeCord from his office with the confident
expectation that he soon would have occasion to know something of the
meaning of the proverb about hell's furies and a woman scorned. She
would strike at him, of course, through Phyllis Bruce. Well--
But his attention was at once to be turned to very different
matters. A stock market, erratic for some days, went suddenly into a
paroxysm. Grant escaped with as little loss as possible for himself
and his clients, and after three sleepless nights called his staff
together. They crowded into the board-room, curious, apprehensive,
almost frightened, and he looked over them with an emotion that was
quite new to his experience. Even in the aloofness which their
standards had made it necessary for him to adopt there had grown up in
his heart, quite unnoticed, a tender, sweet foliage of love for these
men and women who were a part of his machine. Now, as he looked in
their faces he realized how, like little children, they leaned on
him--how, like little children, they feared his power and his
displeasure--how, perhaps, like little children, they had learned to
love him, too. He realized, as he had never done before, that they
WERE children; that here and there in the mass of humanity is one who
was born to lead, but the great mass itself must be children always,
doing as they are bid.
"My friends," he managed to say, "we suddenly find ourselves in
tremendous times. Some of you know my attitude toward this business
in which we are engaged. I did not seek it; I did not approve of it;
I tried to avoid it; yet, when the responsibility was forced upon me I
accepted that responsibility. I gave up the life I enjoyed, the
environment in which I found delight, the friends I loved. Well--our
nation is now in a somewhat similar position. It has to go into a
business which it did not seek, of which it does not approve, but
which fate has thrust upon it. It has to break off the current of its
life and turn it into undreamed-of channels, and we, as individuals
who make up the nation, must do the same. I have already enlisted,
and expect that within a few hours I shall be in uniform. Some of you
are single men of military age; you will, I am sure, take similar
steps. For the rest--the business will be wound up as soon as
possible, so that you may be released for some form of national
service. You will all receive three months' salary in lieu of notice.
Mr. Murdoch will look after the details. When that has been done my
wealth, or such part of it as remains, will be placed at the disposal
of the Government. If we win it will be well invested in a good
cause; if we lose, it would have been lost anyway."
"We are not going to lose!" It was one of the younger clerks who
interrupted; he stood up and for a moment looked straight at his
chief. In that instant's play of vision there was surely something
more than can be told in words, for the next moment he rushed forward
and seized one of Grant's hands in both his own. There was a moment's
handclasp, and the boy had become a man.
"I'm going, Grant," he said. "I'm going--NOW!"
He turned and made his way out of the room, leaving his chief
breathless in a rapture of joy and pride. Others crowded up. They
too were going--NOW. Even old Murdoch tried to protest that he was
as good a man as ever. It seemed to Grant that the drab everyday
costumings of his staff had fallen away, and now they were heroes,
they were gods!
No one knew just how the meeting broke up, but Grant had a confused
remembrance of many handclasps and some tears. He was not sure that
he had not, perhaps, added one or two to the flow, but they were all
tears of friendship and of an emotion born of high resolve. . . . The
most wonderful thing was that the youngster had called him Grant!
As he stood in his own office again, trying to get the events of
these last few days into some sort of perspective, Phyllis Bruce
entered. He motioned dumbly to a chair, but she came and stood by
his desk. Her face was very white and her lips trembled with the
words she tried to utter.
"I can't go," she managed to say at length.
"Can't go? I don't understand?"
"Hubert has joined," she said.
"Hubert, the boy! Why, he is only in school--"
"He is sixteen, and large for his age. He came home confessing,
and saying it was his first lie, and the first important thing he
ever did without consulting mother. He said he knew he wouldn't be
able to stand it if he told her first."
"Foolish, but heroic," Grant commented. "Be proud of him. It
takes more than wisdom to be heroic."
"And Grace is going to England. She was taking nursing, you know,
and so gets a preference. We can't ALL leave mother."
He found it difficult to speak. "You wanted to go to the Front?"
"Of course; where else?"
Her hand was on the desk; his own slipped over until it closed on
"You are a little heroine," he murmured.
"No, I'm not. I'm a little fool to tell you this, but how can I
stay--why should I stay--when you are gone?"
She was looking down, but after her confession she raised her eyes
to his, and he wondered that he had never known how beautiful she
was. He could have taken her in his arms, but something, with the
power of invisible chains, held him back. In that supreme moment a
vision swam before him; a vision of a mountain stream backed by tawny
foothills, and a girl as beautiful as even this Phyllis who had
wrapped him in her arms . . . and said, "We must go and forget." And
he had not forgotten. . . .
When he did not respond she drew herself slowly away. "You will
hate me," she said.
"That is impossible," he corrected, quickly. "I am very sorry if I
have let you think more than I intended. I care for you very, very
much indeed. I care for you so much that I will not let you think I
care for you more. Can you understand that?"
"Yes. You like me, but you love someone else."
He was disconcerted by her intuition and the terse frankness with
which she stated the case.
"I will take you into my confidence, Phyllis, if I may," he said at
length. "I DO like you; I DID love someone else. And that old
attachment is still so strong that it would be hardly fair--it would
be hardly fair--"
"Why didn't you marry her?" she demanded.
"Because some one else did."
Her hands found his this time. "I'm sorry," she said. "Sorry I
brought this up--sorry I raised these memories. But now you--who
have known--will know--"
"I know--I know," he murmured, raising her fingers to his lips. . .
"Time, they say, is a healer of all wounds. Perhaps--"
"No. It is better that you should forget. Only, I shall see you
off; I shall wave my handkerchief to YOU; I shall smile on YOU in the
crowd. Then--you will forget." . . .
Four years of war add only four years to the life of a man
according to the record in the family Bible, if he happen to spring
from stock in which that sacred document is preserved. But four
years of war add twenty years to the grey matter behind the eyes--
eyes which learn to dream and ponder strangely, and sometimes to
shine with a hardness that has no part with youth. When Captain
Grant and Sergeant Linder stepped off the train at Grant's old city
there was, however, little to suggest the ageing process that
commonly went on among the soldiers in the Great War. Grant had
twice stopped an enemy bullet, but his fine figure and sunburned
health now gave no evidence of those experiences. Linder counted
himself lucky to carry only an empty sleeve.
They had fallen in with each other in France, and the friendship
planted in the foothills of the range country had grown, through the
strange prunings and graftings of war, into a tree of very solid
timber. Linder might have told you of the time his captain found him
with his arm crushed under a wrecked piece of artillery, and Grant
could have recounted a story of being dragged unconscious out of No
Man's Land, but for either to dwell upon these matters only aroused
the resentment of the other, and frequently led to exchanges between
captain and sergeant totally incompatible with military discipline.
They were content to pay tribute to each other, but each to leave his
own honors unheralded.
"First thing is a place to eat," Grant remarked, when they had been
dismissed. Words to similar effect had, indeed, been his first
remark upon every suitable opportunity for three months. An appetite
which has been four years in the making is not to be satisfied
overnight, and Grant, being better fortified financially against the
stress of a good meal, sought to be always first to suggest it.
Linder accepted the situation with the complacence of a man who has
been four years on army pay.
When they had eaten they took a walk through the old town--Grant's
old town. It looked as though he had stepped out of it yesterday; it
was hard to realize that ages lay between. There are experiences
which soak in slowly, like water into a log. The new element
surrounds the body, but it may be months before it penetrates to the
heart. Grant had some sense of that fact as he walked the old
familiar streets, apparently unchanged by all these cataclysmic days.
. . . In time he would come to understand. There was the name plate
of Barrett, Jones, Barrett, Deacon Barrett. There had not even been
an addition to the firm. Here was the old Grant office, now used for
some administration purpose. That, at least, was a move in the right
They wandered along aimlessly while the sunset of an early summer
evening marshalled its glories overhead. On a side street children
played in the roadway; on a vacant spot a game of ball was in
progress. Women sat on their verandas and shot casual glances after
them as they passed. Handsome pleasure cars glided about; there was a
smell of new flowers in all the air.
"What do you make of it, mate?" said Grant at last.
Linder pulled slowly on his cigarette. Even his training as a
sergeant had not made him ready of speech, but when he spoke it was,
as ever, to the point.
"It's all so unnecessary," he commented at length.
"That's the way it gets me, too. So unnecessary. You see, when
you get down to fundamentals there are only two things necessary--
food and shelter. Everything else may be described as trimmings.
We've been dealing with fundamentals so long---mighty bare
fundamentals at that--that all these trimmings seem just a little
irritating, don't you think?"
"I follow you. I simply can't imagine myself worrying over a stray
"And I can't imagine myself sitting in an office and dealing with
such unessential things as stocks and bonds. . . . And I'm not going
"Got any notion what you will do?" said Linder, when he had reached
the middle of another cigarette.
"Not the slightest. I don't even know whether I'm rich or broke.
I suppose if Jones and Murdoch are still alive they will be looking
after those details. Doing their best, doubtless, to embarrass me
with additional wealth. What are YOU going to do?"
"Don't know. Maybe go back and work for Transley."
The mention of Transley threw Grant's mind back into old channels.
He had almost forgotten Transley. He told himself he had quite
forgotten Zen Transley, but once he knew he lied. That was when they
potted him in No Man's Land. As he lay there, waiting . . . . he knew
he had not forgotten. And he had thought many times of Phyllis Bruce.
At first he had written to her, but she had not answered his letters.
Evidently she meant him to forget. Nor had she come to the station
to welcome him home. Perhaps she did not know. Perhaps-- Many
things can happen in four years.
Suddenly it occurred to Grant that it might be a good idea to call
on Phyllis. He would take Linder along. That would make it less
personal. He knew his man well enough to keep his own counsel, and
eventually they reached the gate of the Bruce cottage, as though by
"Let's turn in here. I used to know these people. Mother and
daughter; very fine folk."
Linder looked for an avenue of retreat, but Grant barred his way,
and together they went up the path. A strange woman, with a baby on
her arm, met them at the door. Grant inquired for Mrs. Bruce and her
"Oh, you haven't heard?" said the woman. "I suppose you are just
back. Well, it was a sad thing, but these have been sad times. It
was when Hubert was killed I came here first. Poor dear, she took
that to heart awful, and couldn't be left alone, and Phyllis was
working in an office, so I came here part time to help out. Then she
was just beginning to brace up again when we got the word about Grace.
Grace, you know, was lost on a hospital ship. That was too much for
Grant received this information with a strange catching about the
heart. There had been changes, after all.
"What became of Phyllis?" He tried to ask the question in an even
"I moved into the house after Mrs. Bruce died," the woman
continued, "as my man came back discharged about that time. Phyllis
tried to get on as a nurse, but couldn't manage it. Then her office
was moved to another part of the city and she took rooms somewhere.
At first she came to see us often, but not lately. I suppose she's
trying to forget."
"Trying to forget," Grant muttered to himself. "How much of life
is made up of trying to forget!"
Further questions brought no further information. The woman didn't
know the firm for which Phyllis worked; she thought it had to do with
munitions. Suddenly Grant found himself impelled by a tremendous
desire to locate this girl. He would set about it at once; possibly
Jones or Murdoch could give him information. Strangely enough, he now
felt that he would prefer to be rid of Linder's company. This was a
matter for himself alone. He took Linder to an hotel, where they
arranged for lodgings, and then started on his search.
He located Murdoch without difficulty. It was now late, and the
old clerk came down the stairs with inoffensive imprecations upon the
head of his untimely caller, but his mutterings soon gave way to a cry
"My dear boy!" he exclaimed, embracing him. "My dear boy--excuse
me, sir, I'm a blithering old man, but oh! sir--my boy, you're home
again!" There was no doubting the depth of old Murdoch's welcome. He
ran before Grant into the living-room and switched on the lights. In
a moment he was back with his arm about the young man's shoulder; he
was with difficulty restraining caresses.
"Sit you down, Mr. Grant; here--this chair--it's easier. I must
get the women up. This is no night for sleeping. Why didn't you
send us word?"
"There is a tradition that official word is sent in advance," Grant
tried to explain.
"Aye, a tradition. There's a tradition that a Scotsman is a dour
body without any sentiment. Well--I must call the women."
He hurried up the stairs and Grant settled back into his chair. So
this was the home of Murdoch, the man who really had earned a
considerable part of the Grant fortune. He had never visited Murdoch
before; he had never thought of him in a domestic sense; Murdoch had
always been to him a man of figures, of competent office routine, of
almost too respectful deference. The light over the centre table fell
subdued through a pinkish shade; the corners of the room lay in
restful shadows; the comfortable furniture showed the marks of years.
The walls suggested the need of new paper; the well-worn carpet had
been shifted more than once for economy's sake. Grant made a hasty
appraisal of these conditions; possibly his old clerk was feeling the
pinch of circumstances--
Murdoch, returning, led in his wife, a motherly woman who almost
kissed the young soldier. In the welcome of her greeting it was a
moment before Grant became aware of the presence of a fourth person
in the room.
"I am very glad to see you safely back," said Phyllis Bruce. "We
have all been thinking about you a great deal."
"Why, Miss--Phyllis! It was you I was looking for!" The frank
confession came before he had time to suppress it, and, having said
so much, it seemed better to finish the job.
"Yes, Phyllis is making her home with us now," Mrs. Murdoch
explained. "It is more convenient to her work."
Grant wondered how much of this arrangement was due to Mrs.
Murdoch's sympathy for the bereaved girl, and how much to the
addition which it made to the family income. No doubt both
considerations had contributed to it.
"I called at your old home," he continued. "I needn't say how
distressed I was to hear-- The woman could tell me nothing of you,
so I came to Murdoch, hoping--"
"Yes," she said, simply, as though there were nothing more to
explain. Grant noticed that her eyes were larger and her cheeks
paler than they had been, but the delight of her presence leapt about
him. Her hurried costume seemed to accentuate her beauty despite of
all that war had done to destroy it. There was a silence which
lengthened out. They were all groping for a footing.
Mrs. Murdoch met the situation by insisting that she would put on
the kettle, and Mr. Murdoch, in a burst of almost divine inspiration,
insisted that his wife was quite incompetent to light the gas alone at
that hour of the night. When the old folks had shuffled into the
kitchen Grant found himself standing close to Phyllis Bruce.
"Why didn't you answer my letters?" he demanded, plunging to the
issue with the directness of his nature.
"Because I had promised to let you forget," she replied. There was
a softness in her voice which he had not noted in those bygone days;
she seemed more resigned and yet more poised; the strange wizardry of
suffering had worked new wonders in her soul. Suddenly, as he looked
upon her, he became aware of a new quality in Phyllis Bruce--the
quality of gentleness. She had added this to her unique
self-confidence, and it had toned down the angularities of her
character. To Grant, straight from his long exile from fine womanly
domesticity, she suddenly seemed altogether captivating.
"But I didn't want to forget!" he insisted. "I wanted not to
She could not misunderstand the emphasis he placed on that last
word, but she continued as though he had not interrupted.
"I knew you would write once or twice out of courtesy. I knew you
would do that. I made up my mind that if you wrote three times, then
I would know you really wanted to remember me. . . . I did not get
any third letter."
"But how could I know that you had placed such a test--such an
arbitrary measurement--upon my friendship?"
"It wasn't necessary for you to know. If you had cared--enough--
you would have kept on writing."
He had to admit to himself that there was just enough truth in what
she said to make her logic unanswerable. His delight in her presence
now did not alter the fact that he had found it quite possible to live
for four years without her, and it was true that upon one or two great
vital moments his mind had leapt, not to Phyllis Bruce, but to Zen
Transley! He blushed at the recollection; it was an impossible
situation, but it was true!
He was framing some plausible argument about honorable men not
persisting in a correspondence when Murdoch bustled in again.
"Mother is going to set the dining-room table," he announced, "and
the coffee will be ready presently. Well, sir, you do look well in
uniform. You will be wondering how the business has gone?"
"Not half as much as I am wondering some other things," he said,
with a significance intended for the ear of Phyllis. "You see--I was
just talking it over with a pal to-day, a very good comrade whom I
used to know in the West, and who pulled me out of No Man's Land where
I would have been lying yet if he hadn't thought more of me than he
did of himself--I was talking it over with him to-day, and we agreed
that business isn't worth the effort. Fancy sitting behind a desk,
wondering about the stock market, when you've been accustomed to
leaning up against a parapet wondering where the next shell is going
to burst! If that is not from the sublime to the ridiculous, it is at
least from the vital to the inconsequential. You can't expect men to
take a jump like that."
"No, not as a jump," Murdoch agreed. "They'll have to move down
gradually. But they must remember that life depends quite as much on
wheat-fields as it does on trenches, and that all the machinery of
commerce and industry is as vital in its way as is the machinery of
war. They must remember that, or instead of being at the end of our
troubles we will find ourselves at the beginning."
"I suppose," Grant conceded, "but it all seems so unnecessary. No
doubt you have been piling up more money to be a problem to my
"Your peculiar conscience, I might almost correct, sir. Your
responsibilities do seem to insist upon increasing. Following your
instructions I put the liquid assets into Government bonds. Interest,
even on Government bonds, has a way of working while you sleep. Then,
you may remember, we were carrying a large load of certain steel
stocks. These I did not dispose of at once, with the result that
they, in themselves, have made you a comfortable fortune."
"I suppose I should thank you for your foresight, Murdoch. I was
rather hoping you would lose my money and so relieve me of an
embarrassing situation. What am I to do with it?"
"I don't know, sir, but I feel sure you will use it for some good
purpose. I was glad to get as much of it together for you as I did,
because otherwise it might have fallen to people who would have wasted
"Upon my word, Murdoch, that smacks of my own philosophy. Is it
possible even you are becoming converted?"
"Come, Mr. Grant; come, everybody!" a cheerful voice called from
behind the sliding doors which shut off the dining-room. The
fragrant smell of coffee was already in the air, and as Grant took
his seat Mrs. Murdoch declared that for once she had decided to defy
all the laws of digestion.
At the table their talk dribbled out into thin channels. It was
as though there were at hand a great reservoir of thought, of
experience, of deep gropings into the very well-springs of life,
which none of them dared to tap lest it should rush out and overwhelm
them. They seemed in some strange awe of its presence, and spoke,
when they spoke at all, of trivial things. Grant proved
uncommunicative, and perhaps, in a sense, disappointing. He
preferred to forget both the glories and the horrors of war; when he
drew on his experience at all it was to relate some humorous incident.
That, it seemed, was all he cared to remember. He was conscious of a
restraint which hedged him about and hampered every mental deployment.
Phyllis, too, must have been conscious of that restraint, for
before they parted she said something about human minds being like
pianos, which get out of tune for lack of the master-touch. . . .
When Grant found himself in the street air again he was almost
swallowed up in the rush of things which he might have said. His
mental machinery, which seemed to have been out of mesh,--came back
into adjustment with a jerk. He suddenly discovered that he could
think; he could drive his mind from his own batteries. In soldiering
the mind is driven from the batteries of the rank higher up. The
business of discipline is to make man an automatic machine rather than
a thinking individual. It seemed to Grant that in that moment the
machine part of him gave way and the individual was restored. In his
case the change came in a moment; he had been re-tuned; he was able to
think logically in terms of civil life. He pieced together Murdoch's
conversation. "Not as a jump," Murdoch had said, when he had argued
that a man cannot emerge in a moment from the psychology of the
trenches to that of the counting-house. Undoubtedly that would be true
of the mass; they would experience no instantaneous readjustment. . .
There are moments when the mind, highly vitalized, reaches out into
the universe of thought and grasps ideas far beyond its conscious
intention. All great thoughts come from uncharted sources of
inspiration, and it may be that the function of the mind is not to
create thought, but only to record it. To do so it must be tuned to
the proper key of receptivity. Grant had a consciousness, as he
walked along the deserted streets toward his hotel, that he was in
that key; the quietness, the domesticity of Murdoch's home, the
loveliness of Phyllis Bruce, had, for the moment at least, shut out a
background of horror and lifted his thought into an exalted plane. He
paused at a bridge to lean against the railing and watch the trembling
reflection of city lights in the river.
"I have it!" he suddenly exclaimed to the steel railing. "I have
He paused for a moment to turn over his thought, as though to make
sure it should not escape. Then, at a pace which aroused the
wondering glance of one or two placid policemen, he hurried to the
Linder and Grant had been assigned to the same room, and the
sergeant's dreams, if he dreamt at all, were of the sweet hay meadows
of the West. Grant turned on the light and looked down into the face
of his friend. A smile, born of fields afar from war's alarms, was
playing about his lips. Even in his excitement Grant could not help
reflecting what a wonderful thing it is to sleep in peace. Then--
"I have it!" he shouted. "Linder, I have it!"
The sergeant sat up with a start, blinking.
"I have it!" Grant repeated.
"THEM, you mean," said Linder, suddenly awake. "Why, man, what's
wrong with you? You're more excited than if we were just going over
"I've got my great idea. I know what I'm going to do with my
"Well, don't do it to-night," Linder protested. "Someone has to
settle for this dug-out in the morning."
"We're leaving for the West to-morrow, Linder, old scout.
Everybody will say we're crazy, but that's a good sign. They've said
that of every reformer since--"
But Linder was again sleeping the sleep of a man four years in
The window was grey with the light of dawn before Grant's mind had
calmed down enough for sleep. When Linder awoke him it was noon.
"You sleep well on your Big Idea," was his comment.
"No better than you did last night," retorted Grant, springing out
of bed. "Let me see . . . . yes, I still have it clearly. I'll tell
you about it sometime, if you can stay awake. When do we eat?"
"Now, or as soon as you are presentable. I've a notion to give you
three days' C.B. for appearing on parade in your pyjamas."
"Make it a cash fine, Sergeant, old dear, and pay it out of what
you owe me. Now that that is settled order up a decent meal. I'll
be shaved and dressed long before it arrives. You know this is a
first-class hotel, where prompt service would not be tolerated."
As they ate together Grant showed no disposition to discuss what
Linder called his Big Idea, nor yet to give any satisfaction in
response to his companion's somewhat pointed references as to his
doings of the night before.
"There are times, Linder," he said, "when my soul craves solitude.
You, being a sergeant, and therefore having no soul, will not be able
to understand that longing for contemplation--"
"It's all right," said Linder. "I don't want her."
"Furthermore," Grant continued, "to-night I mean to resume my
soliloquies, and your absence will be much in demand."
"The supply will be equal to the demand."
"Good! Here are some morsels of money. If you will buy our
railway tickets and settle with the chief extortionist downstairs I
will join you at the night train going west."
Linder sprang to attention, gave a salute in which mock deference
could not entirely obscure the respect beneath, and set about on his
commissions, while Grant devoted the afternoon to a session with
Murdoch and Jones, to neither of whom would he reveal his plans
further than to say he was going west "to engage in some development
work." During the afternoon it was noted that Grant's interest
centred more in a certain telephone call than in the very gratifying
financial statement which Murdoch was able to place before him. And
it was probably as a result of that telephone call that a taxi drew up
in front of Murdoch's home at exactly six- thirty that evening and
bore Miss Phyllis Bruce and an officer wearing a captain's uniform in
the direction of the best hotel in the city.
The dining-room was sweet with the perfume of flowers, and soft
strains of music stole vagrantly about its high arching pillars,
mingling with the chatter of lovely women and of men to whom expense
was no consideration. Grant was conscious of a delicious sense of
intimacy as he helped Phyllis remove her wraps and seated himself by
her at a secluded corner table.
"By Jove!" he exclaimed. "I don't make compliments for exercise,
but you do look stunning to-night!"
A warmth of color lit up her cheek--he had noticed at Murdoch's how
pale she was--and her eyes laughed back at him with some of their
"I am so glad," she said. "It seems almost like old times--"
They gave their orders, and sat in silence through an overture.
Grant was delighting himself simply in her presence, and guessed that
for her part she could not retract the confession her love had wrung
from her so long ago.
"There are some things which don't change, Phyllis," he said, when
the orchestra had ceased.
She looked back at him with eyes moist and dreamy. "I know," she
There seemed no reason why Grant should not there and then have
laid himself, figuratively, at her feet. And there was not any
reason--only one. He wanted first to go west. He almost hoped that
out there some light of disillusionment would fall about him; that
some sudden experience such as he had known the night before would
readjust his personality in accordance with the inevitable. . .
"I asked you to dine with me to-night," he heard himself saying,
"for two reasons: first, for the delight of your exquisite
companionship; and second, because I want to place before you certain
business plans which, to me at least, are of the greatest importance.
"You know the position which I have taken with regard to the
spending of money, that one should not spend on himself or his
friends anything but his own honest earnings for which he has given
honest service to society. I have seen no reason to change my
position. On the contrary the war has strengthened me in my
convictions. It has brought home to me and to the world the fact
that heroism is a flower which grows in no peculiar soil, and that it
blossoms as richly among the unwashed and the underfed as among the
children of fortune. This fact only aggravates the extremes of wealth
and poverty, and makes them seem more unjust than ever.
"For myself I have accepted this view, but our financial system is
founded upon very different ethics. I wonder if you have ever
thought of the fact that when the barons at Runnymede laid the
foundations of democratic government for the world they overlooked
the almost equally important matter of creating a democratic system
of finance. Well--let's not delve into that now. The point is that
under our present system we do acquire wealth which we do not earn,
and the only thing to be done for the time being is to treat that
wealth as a trust to be managed for the benefit of humanity. That is
what I call the new morality as applied to money, although it is not
so new either. It can be traced back at least nineteen hundred years,
and all our philanthropists, great and little, have surely caught some
glimpse of that truth, unless, perhaps, they gave their alms that they
might have honor of men. But giving one's money away does not solve
the problem; it pauperizes the recipient and delays the evolution of
new conditions in which present injustices would be corrected. I hope
you are able to follow me?"
"Perfectly. It is easy for me, who have nothing to lose, to follow
your logic. You will have more trouble convincing those whose
pockets it would affect."
"I am not so sure of that. Humanity is pretty sound at heart, but
we can't abandon the boat we're on until we have another that is
proven seaworthy. However, it seems to me that I have found a
solution which I can apply in my individual case. Have you thought
what are the three greatest needs, commercially speaking, of the
"Production, I suppose, is the first."
"Yes--most particularly production of food. And the others are
corollary to it. They are instruction and opportunity. I am
thinking especially of returned men."
"Production--instruction--opportunity," she repeated. "How are you
going to bring them about?"
"That is my Big Idea, as Linder calls it, although I have not yet
confided in him what it is. Well--the world is crying for food, and
in our western provinces are millions of acres which have never felt
"In the East, too, for that matter."
"I know, but I naturally think of the West. I propose to form a
company and buy a large block of land, cut it up into farms, build
houses and community centres, and put returned men and their families
on these farms, under the direction of specialists in agriculture. I
shall break up the rectangular survey of the West for something with
humanizing possibilities; I mean to supplant it with a system of
survey which will permit of settlement in groups-- villages, if you
like--where I shall instal all the modern conveniences of the city,
including movie shows. Our statesmen are never done lamenting that
population continues to flow from the country to the city, but the
only way to stop that flow is to make the country the more attractive
of the two."
"But your company--who are to be the shareholders?"
"That is the keystone of the Big Idea. There never before was a
company like this will be. In the first place, I shall put up all
the money myself. Then, when I have prepared a farm ready to receive
a man and his family, I will sell him shares equivalent to the value
of his farm, and give him a perpetual lease, subject to certain
restrictions. Let me illustrate. Suppose you are the prospective
shareholder. I say, Miss Bruce, I can place you on a farm worth, with
buildings and equipment, ten thousand dollars. I do not ask any cash
from you; not a cent, but I want you to subscribe for ten thousand
dollars stock in my company. That will make you a shareholder. When
the farm begins to produce you are to have all you and your
family--this is an illustration, you know-- can consume for your own
use. The balance is to be sold, and one- third of the proceeds is to
be paid into the treasury of the company and credited on your purchase
of shares. When you have paid for all your shares in this way you
will have no further payments to make, except such levy as may be made
by the company for running expenses. You, as a shareholder of the
company, will have a voice with the other shareholders in determining
what that levy shall be. You and your descendents will be allowed
possession of that farm forever, subject only to your obeying the
rules of the company. You--"
"But why the company? It simply amounts to buying the land on
payments to be made out of each year's crop, except that you want me
to pay for shares in the company instead of for the land itself."
"That, as I told you, is the keystone of my Big Idea. If I sold
you the land you would be master of it; you could do as you liked
with it. You could let it lie idle; you could allow your buildings
and machinery to get out of repair; you could keep scrub stock; all
your methods of husbandry might be slovenly or antiquated; you could
even rent or sell the land to someone who might be morally or socially
undesirable in the community. On the other hand you might be
peculiarly successful, when you would proceed to buy out your less
successful neighbors, or make loans on their land, and thus create
yourself a land monopolist. But as a shareholder in the company you
will be subject to the rules laid down by the company. If it says that
houses must be painted every four years you will paint your house
every fourth year. If it rules that hayracks are not to be left on
the front lawn you will have to deposit yours somewhere else. If it
orders that crops must be rotated to preserve the fertility of the
soil you will obey those instructions. If you do not like the
regulations you can use your influence with the board of directors to
have them changed. If you fail there you can sell your shares to
someone else--provided you can find a purchaser acceptable to the
board--and get out. The Big Idea is that the community--the company
in this case--shall control the individual, and the individual shall
exert his proper measure of control over the community. The two are
interlocked and interdependent, each exerting exactly the proper
amount of power and accepting proportionate responsibility."
"But have you provided against the possibility of one man or a
group of men buying up a majority of the stock and so controlling the
company? They could then freeze out the smaller owners."
"Yes," said Grant, toying with his coffee, "I have made a provision
for that which I think is rather ingenious. Don't imagine that this
all came to me in a moment. The central thought struck me last night
on my way home, and I knew then I had the embryo of the plan, but I
lay awake until daylight working out details. I am going to allot
votes on a very unique principle. It seems to me that a man's stake
in a country should be measured, not by the amount of money he has,
but by the number of mouths he has to feed. I will adopt that rule in
my company, and the voting will be according to the number of children
in the family. That should curb the ambitious."
They laughed over this proviso, and Phyllis agreed that it was all
a very wonderful plan. "And when they have paid for all their shares
you get your money back," she commented.
"Oh, no. I don't want my money back. I didn't explain that to
you. I will advance the money on the bonds of the company, without
interest. Suppose I am able to finance a hundred farms that way,
then as the payments come in, still more farms. The thing will
spread like a ripple in a pool, until it covers the whole country.
When you turn a sum of money loose, WITH NO INTEREST CHARGE ATTACHED
TO IT, there is no limit to what it can accomplish."
"But what will you do with your bonds, eventually? They will be
perfectly secured. I don't see that you are getting rid of your
money at all, except the interest, which you are giving away."
"That, Phyllis, is where autocracy and democracy meet. All
progress is like the swinging of a pendulum, with autocracy at one
end of the arc and democracy at the other, and progress is the mean
of their opposing forces. But there are times when the most
democratic countries have to use autocratic methods, as, for example,
Great Britain and the United States in the late war. We must learn to
make autocracy the servant of democracy, not its enemy. Well--I'm
going to be the autocrat in this case. I am going to sit behind the
scenes and as long as my company functions all right I will leave it
alone, but if it shows signs of wrecking itself I will assume the role
of the benevolent despot and set it to rights again. Oh, Phyllis,
don't you see? It's not just MY company I'm thinking about. This is
an experiment, in which my company will represent the State. If it
succeeds I shall turn the whole machinery over to the State as my
contribution to the betterment of humanity. If it fails--well, then I
shall have demonstrated that the idea is unsound. Even that is worth
"I like to think of the great inventors, experimenting with the
mysterious forces of nature. Their business is to find the natural
laws that govern material things. And I am quite sure that there are
also natural laws designed to govern man in his social and economic
relationships, and when those laws have been discovered the
impossibilities of to-day will become the common practice of
to-morrow, just as steam and electricity have made the impossibilities
of yesterday the common practice of to-day. The first need is to find
the law, and to what more worthy purpose could a man devote himself?
When I landed here yesterday--when I walked again through these old
streets--I was a being without purpose; I was like a battery that had
dried up. All these petty affairs of life seemed so useless, so
humdrum, so commonplace, I knew I could never settle down to them
again. Then last night from some unknown source came a new idea--an
inspiration--and presto! the battery is re-charged, life again has its
purposes, and I am eager to be at work.
"I said 'some unknown source,' but it was not altogether unknown.
It had something to do with honest old Murdoch, and his good wife
pouring coffee for the midnight supper in their cozy dining-room, and
Phyllis Bruce across the table! We never know, Phyllis, how much we
owe to our friends; to that charmed circle, be it ever so small, in
which every note strikes in harmony. I know my Big Idea is only
playing on the surface; only skimming about the edges. What the world
needs is just friends."
Grant had talked himself out, but he continued to sit at the little
table, reveling in the happiness of a man who feels that he has been
called to some purpose worth while. His companion hesitated to
interrupt his thoughts; her somewhat drab business experience made her
pessimistic toward all idealism, and yet she felt that here, surely,
was a man who could carry almost any project through to success. The
unique quality in him, which distinguished him from any other man she
had ever known, was his complete unselfishness. In all his
undertakings he coveted no reward for himself; he was seeking only the
"If all men were like you there would be no problems," she
murmured, and while he could not accept the words quite at par they
rang very pleasantly in his ears.
A movement among the diners reminded him of the flight of time, and
with a glance at his watch he sprang up in surprise. "I had no idea
the evening had gone!" he exclaimed. "I have just time to see you
home and get back to catch my train."
He called a taxi and accompanied her into it. They seated
themselves together, and the fragrance of her presence was very sweet
about him. It would have been so easy to forget--all that he had been
trying to forget--in the intoxication of such environment. Surely it
was not necessary that he should go west--that he should see HER
again--in order to be sure.
"Phyllis," he breathed, "do you imagine I could undertake these
things if I cared only for myself--if it were not that I longed for
someone's approval--for someone to be proud of me? The strongest man
is weak enough for that, and the strongest man is stronger when he
knows that the woman he loves--"
He would have taken her in his arms, but she resisted, gently,
"You have made me think too much of you, Dennison," she whispered.
On the way west Grant gradually unfolded his plan to Linder, who
accepted it with his customary stoicism.
"I'm not very strong for a scheme that hasn't got any profits in
it," Linder confessed. "It doesn't sound human."
"I don't notice that you have ever figured very high in profits on
your own account," Grant retorted. "Your usefulness has been in
making them for other people. I suppose if I would let you help to
swell my bank account you would work for me for board and lodging,
but as I refuse to do that I shall have to pay you three times
Transley's rate. I don't know what he paid you, but I suspect that
for every dollar you earned for yourself you earned two for him, so I
am going to base your scale accordingly. You are to go on with the
physical work at once; buy the horses, tractors, machinery; break up
the land, fence it, build the houses and barns; in short, you are to
superintend everything that is done with muscle or its substitute. I
will bring Murdoch out shortly to take charge of the clerical details
and the general organization. As for myself, after I have bought the
land and placed the necessary funds to the credit of the company I
propose to keep out of the limelight. I will be the heart of the
undertaking; Murdoch will be the head, and you are to be the hands,
and I hope you two conspirators won't give me palpitation. You think
it a mistake to work without profits, but Murdoch thinks it a sin.
When I lay my plans before him I am quite prepared to hear him insist
upon calling in an alienist."
"It's YOUR money," Linder assented, laconically. "What are YOU
going to do?"
"I'm going to buy a half section of my own, and I'm going to start
myself on it on identically the same terms that I offer to the
shareholders in my company. I want to prove by my own experience
that it can be done, but I must keep away from the company. Human
nature is a clinging vine at best, and I don't want it clinging about
me. You will notice that my plan, unlike most communistic or
socialist ventures, relieves the individual of no atom of
responsibility. I give him the opportunity, but I put it up to him
to make good with that opportunity. I have not overlooked the fact
that a man is a man, and never can be made quite into a machine."
The two friends discussed at great length the details of the Big
Idea, and upon arrival in the West Linder lost no time in preparing
blue-prints and charts descriptive of the improvements to be made on
the land and the order in which the work was to be carried on. Grant
bought a tract suitable to his purpose, and the wheels of the machine
which was to blaze a path for the State were set in motion. When this
had been done Grant turned to the working out of his own individual
During the period in which these arrangements were being made it
was inevitable that Grant should have heard more or less of Transley.
He had not gone out of his way to seek information of the contractor,
but it rather had been forced upon him. Transley's name was
frequently heard in the offices of the business men with whom he had
to do; it was mentioned in local papers with the regularity peculiar
to celebrities in comparatively small centres. Transley, it appeared,
had become something of a power in the land. Backed by old Y.D.'s
capital he had carried some rather daring ventures through to success.
He had seized the panicky moments following the outbreak of the war
to buy heavily on the wheat and cattle markets, and increases in
prices due to the world's demand for food had made him one of the
wealthy men of the city. The desire of many young farmers to enlist
had also afforded an opportunity to acquire their holdings for small
considerations, and Transley had proved his patriotism by facilitating
the ambitions of as many men in this position as came to his
attention. The fact that even before the war ended the farms which he
acquired in this way were worth several times the price he paid was
only an incident in the transactions.
But no word of Transley's domestic affairs reached Grant, who told
himself that he had ceased to be interested in them, but kept an
alert ear nevertheless. It would seem that Transley rather eclipsed
his wife in the public eye.
So Grant set about with the development of his own farm, and kept
his mind occupied with it and with his larger experiment--except when
it went flirting with thoughts of Phyllis Bruce. He was rather proud
of the figure he had used to Linder, of the head, hands, and heart of
his organization, but to himself he admitted that that figure was
incomplete. There was a soul as well, and that soul was the girl
whose inspiring presence had in some way jerked his mind out of the
stagnant backwaters in which the war had left it. There was no doubt
of that. He had written to Murdoch to come west and undertake new
work for him. He had intimated that the change would be permanent,
and that it might be well to bring the family. . . .
He selected a farm where a ridge of foothills overlooked a broad
valley receding into the mountains. The dealer had no idea of
selling him this particular piece of land; they were bound for a half
section farther up the slope when Grant stopped on the brow of the
hill to feast his eyes on the scene that lay before him. It burst
upon him with the unexpectedness peculiar to the foothill valleys;
miles of gently undulating plain, lying apparently far below, but in
reality rising in a sharp ascent toward the snow- capped mountains
looking down silently through their gauze of blue- purple afternoon
mist. At distances which even his trained eye would not attempt to
compute lay little round lakes like silver coins on the surface of the
prairie; here and there were dark green bluffs of spruce; to the right
a ribbon of river, blue-green save where the rapids churned it white,
and along its edge a fringe of leafy cottonwoods; at vast intervals
square black plots of plowed land like sections on a chess-board of
the gods, and farm buildings cut so clear in the mountain atmosphere
that the sense of space was lost and they seemed like child-houses
just across the way.
Grant turned to his companion with an animation in his face which
almost startled the prosaic dealer in real estate.
"Wonderful! Wonderful!" he exclaimed. "We don't need to go any
farther if you can sell me this."
"Sure I can sell you this," said the dealer, looking at him
somewhat queerly. "That is, if you want it. I thought you were
looking for a wheat farm."
The man's total lack of appreciation irritated Grant unreasonably.
"Wheat makes good hog fodder," he retorted, "but sunsets keep alive
the soul. What is the price?"
Again the dealer gave him a queer sidelong look, and made as though
to argue with him, then suddenly seemed to change his purpose.
Perhaps he reflected that strange things happened to the boys
"I'll get you the price in town," he said. "You are sure it will
"Suit? No king in Christendom has his palace on a site like this.
I'd go round the world for it."
"You're the doctor," said the dealer, turning his car.
Grant completed the purchase, ordered lumber for a house and barn,
and engaged a carpenter to superintend the construction. It was one
of his whims that he would do most of the work himself.
"I guess I'm rather a man of whims," he reflected, as he stood on
the brow of the hill where the material for his buildings had been
delivered. "It was a whim which first brought me west, and a whim
which has brought me west again. I have a whim about my money, a
whim about my farm, a whim about my buildings. I do not do as other
people do, which is the unpardonable sin. To Linder I am a jester, to
Murdoch a fanatic, to our friend the real estate dealer a fool; I even
noticed my honest carpenter trying to ask me something about shell
shock! Well--they're MY whims, and I get an immense amount of
satisfaction out of them."
The days that followed were the happiest Grant had known since
childhood. The carpenter, a thin, twisted man, bowed with much labor
at the bench, and answering to the name Peter, sold his services by
the day and manifested a sympathy amounting to an indulgence toward
the whims of his employer. So long as the wages were sure Peter cared
not whether the house was finished this year or next--or not at all.
He enjoyed Grant's cooking in the temporary work-shed they had built;
he enjoyed Grant's stories of funny incidents of the war which would
crop out at unexpected moments, and which were always good for a new
pipe and a few minutes' rest; he even essayed certain flights of his
own, which showed that Peter was a creature not entirely without
humor. He developed an appreciation of scenery; he would stand for
long intervals gazing across the valley. Grant was not deceived by
these little devices, but he never took Peter to task for his
loitering. He was prepared almost to suspend his rule that money
must not be paid except for service rendered. "If the old dodger
isn't quite paying his way now, no doubt he has more than paid it
many times in the past," he mused. "This is an occasion upon which
to temper justice with mercy."
But it was in the planning and building of the house he found his
real delight. He laid it out on very modest lines, as became the
amount of money he was prepared to spend. It was to be a single-
story bungalow, with veranda round the south and west. The living-
room ran across the south side; into its east wall he built a
capacious fireplace, with narrow slits of windows to right and left,
and in the western wall were deep French windows commanding the magic
of the view across the valley. The dining-room, too, faced to the
west, with more French windows to let in sun and soul. The kitchen was
to the east, and off the kitchen lay Grant's bedroom, facing also to
the east, as becomes a man who rises early for his day's labors. And
then facing the west, and opening off the dining-room, was what he was
pleased to call his whim-room.
The idea of the whim-room came upon him as he was working out plans
on the smooth side of a board, and thinking about things in general,
and a good deal about Phyllis Bruce, and wondering if he should ever
run across Zen Transley. It struck him all of a sudden, as had the
Big Idea that night when he was on his way home from Murdoch's house.
He worked it out surreptitiously, not allowing even old Peter to see
it until he had made it into his plan, and then he described it just
as the whim-room. But it was to be by all means the best room in the
house; special finishing and flooring lumber were to be bought for it;
the fireplace had to be done in a peculiarly delicate tile; the French
windows must be high and wide and of the most brilliant transparency.
. . .
The ring of the saw, the trill of the plane, the thwack of the
hammer, were very pleasant music in his ears. Day by day he watched
his dwelling grow with the infinite joy of creating, and night after
night he crept with Peter into the work-shed and slept the sleep of a
man tired and contented. In the long summer evenings the sunlight
hung like a champagne curtain over the mountains even after bedtime,
and Grant had to cut a hole in the wall of the shed that he might
watch the dying colors of the day fade from crimson to purple to blue
on the tassels of cloud-wraith floating in the western sky. At times
Linder and Murdoch would visit him to report progress on the Big Idea,
and the three would sit on a bench in the half-built house, sweet with
the fragrance of new sawdust, and smoke placidly while they determined
matters of policy or administration. It had been something of a
disappointment to Grant that Murdoch had not considered Phyllis Bruce
one of "the family." He had left her, regretfully, in the East, but
had made provision that she was still to have her room in the old
"Phyllis would have come west, and gladly, if I could have promised
her a position," Murdoch explained, "but I could not do that, as I
knew nothing of your plans, and a girl can't afford to trifle with
her job these days, Mr. Grant."
And Grant said nothing, but he thought of his whim-room, and
Grant was almost sorry when the house was finished. "There's so
much more enjoyment in doing things than in merely possessing them
after they're done," he philosophized to Linder. "I think that must
be the secret of the peculiar fascination of the West. The East, with
all its culture and conveniences and beauty, can never win a heart
which has once known the West. That is because in the East all the
obvious things are done, but in the West they are still to do."
"You should worry," said Linder. "You still have the plowing."
"Yes, and as soon as the stable is finished I am going to buy four
horses and get to work."
"I supposed you would use a tractor."
"Not this time. I can admire a piece of machinery, but I can't
love it. I can love horses."
"You'll be housing them in the whim-room," Linder remarked dryly,
and had to jump to escape the hammer which his chief shied at him.
But the plowing was really a great experience. Grant had an eye
for horse-flesh, and the four dapple-greys which pressed their fine
shoulders into the harness of his breaking plow might have delighted
the heart of any teamster. As he sat on his steel seat and watched
the colter cut the firm sod with brittle cracking sound as it snapped
the tough roots of the wild roses, or looking back saw the regular
terraces of shiny black mould which marked his progress, he felt that
he was engaged in a rite of almost sacramental significance.
"To take a substance straight from the hand of the Creator and be
the first in all the world to impose a human will upon it is surely
an occasion for solemnity and thanksgiving," he soliloquized. "How
can anyone be so gross as to see only materialism in such work as
this? Surely it has something of fundamental religion in it! Just
as from the soil springs all physical life, may it not be that deep
down in the soil are, some way, the roots of the spiritual? The soil
feeds the city in two ways; it fills its belly with material food, and
it is continually re-vitalizing its spirit with fresh streams of
energy which can come only from the land. Up from the soil comes all
life, all progress, all development--"
At that moment Grant's plowshare struck a submerged boulder, and he
was dumped precipitately into that element which he had been so
generously apostrophizing. The well-trained horses came to a stop as
he gathered himself up, none the worse, and regained his seat.
"That WAS a spill," he commented. "Ditched not only myself, but my
whole train of thought. Never mind; perhaps I was dangerously close
to the development of a new whim, and I am well supplied in that
particular already. Hello, whom have we here?"
The horses had come to a stop a short distance before the end of
the furrow, and Grant, glancing ahead, saw immediately in front of
them a little chap of four or five obstructing the way. He stood
astride of the furrow with widespread legs bridging the distance from
the virgin prairie to the upturned sod. He was hatless, and curls of
silky yellow hair fell about his round, bright face. His hands were
stuck obtrusively in his trouser pockets.
"Well, son, what's the news?" said Grant, when the two had measured
each other for a moment.
"I got braces," the boy replied proudly. "Don't you see?"
"Why, so you have!" Grant exclaimed. "Come around here until I see
So encouraged, the little chap came skipping around the horses, and
exhibited his braces for Grant's admiration. But he had already
become interested in another subject.
"Are these your horses?" he demanded.
"Will they bite?"
"Why, no, I don't believe they would. They have been very well
"What do you call them?"
"This one is Prince, on the left, and the others are Queen, and
King, and Knave. I call him Knave because he's always scheming,
trying to get out of his share of the work, and I make him walk on
the plowed land, too."
"That serves him right," the boy declared. "What's your name?"
"What does your mother call you?"
"Just Wilson. Sometimes daddy calls me Bill."
"What's your name?"
"Call me The Man on the Hill."
"Do you live on the hill?"
"Is that your house?"
"Did you make it?"
"No. Peter helped me."
"He is the man who helped me."
These credentials exchanged, the boy fell silent, while Grant
looked down upon him with a whimsical admixture of humor and
tenderness. Suddenly, without a word, the boy dashed as fast as his
legs could carry him to the end of the field, and plunged into a clump
of bushes. In a moment he emerged with something brown and chubby in
"He's my teddy," he said to Grant. "He was watching in the bushes
to see if you were a nice man."
"And am I?" Grant was tempted to ask.
"Yes." There was no evasion about Wilson. He approved of his new
acquaintance, and said so.
"Let us give teddy a ride on Prince?"
Grant carefully arranged teddy on the horse's hames, and the boy
clapped his hands with delight.
"Now let us all go for a ride. You will sit on my knee, and teddy
will drive Prince."
He took the boy carefully on his knee, driving with one hand and
holding him in place with the other. The little body resting
confidently against his side was a new experience for Grant.
"We must drive carefully," he remarked. "Here and there are big
stones hidden in the grass. If we were to hit one it might dump us
The little chap chuckled. "Nothing could dump you off," he said.
Grant reflected that such implicit and unwarranted confidence
implied a great responsibility, and he drove with corresponding care.
A mishap now might nip this very delightful little bud of
They turned the end of the furrow with a fine jingle of loose
trace-chains, and Prince trotted a little on account of being on the
outer edge of the semicircle. The boy clapped his hands again as
teddy bounced up and down on the great shoulders.
"Have you a little boy?" he asked, when they were started again.
"Why, no," Grant confessed, laughing at the question.
There was no evading this childish inquisitor. He had a way of
pursuing a subject to bedrock.
"Well, you see, I've no wife."
"No--no wife. You see--"
"But I have a mother--"
"Of course, and she is your daddy's wife. You see they have to
Grant found himself getting into deep water, but the sharp little
intellect had cut a corner and was now ahead of him.
"Then I'll be your little boy," he said, and, clambering up to
Grant's shoulder pressed a kiss on his cheek. In a sudden burst of
emotion Grant brought his team to a stop and clasped the little
fellow in both his arms. For a moment everything seemed misty.
"And I have lived to be thirty-two years old and have never known
what this meant," he said to himself.
"Daddy's hardly ever home, anyway," the boy added, naively.
"Where is your home?"
"Down beside the river. We live there in summer."
And so the conversation continued and the acquaintanceship grew as
man and boy plied back and forth on their mile-long furrow. At
length it occurred to Grant that he should send Wilson home; the
boy's long absence might be occasioning some uneasiness. They
stopped at the end of the field and carefully removed teddy from his
place of prestige, but just at that moment a horsefly buzzing about
caused Prince to stamp impatiently, and the big hoof came down on the
boy's foot. Wilson sent up a cry proportionate to the possibilities
of the occasion, and Grant in alarm tore off the boot and stocking.
Fortunately the soil had been soft, and the only damage done was a
slight bruise across the upper part of the foot.
"There, there," said Grant, soothingly, caressing the injury with
his fingers. "It will be all right in a minute. Prince didn't mean
to do it, and besides, I've seen much worse than that at the war."
At the mention of war the boy suspended a cry half uttered.
"Were you at the war?" he demanded.
"Did you kill a German?"
"I've seen a German killed," said Grant, evading a question which
no soldier cares to discuss.
"Did you kill 'em in the tummy?" the boy persisted.
"We'll talk about that to-morrow. Now you hop up on to my
shoulders, and I'll tie the horses and then carry you home."
He followed the boy's directions until they led him to a path
running among pleasant trees down by the river. Presently he caught
a glimpse of a cottage in a little open space, its brown shingled
walls almost smothered in a riot of sweet peas.
"That's our house. Don't you like it?" said the boy, who had
already forgotten his injury.
"I think it is splendid." And Grant, taking his young charge from
his shoulder, stepped up on to the porch and knocked at the screen
In a moment it was opened by Zen Transley.
Sitting on his veranda that evening while the sun dropped low over
the mountains and the sound of horses munching contentedly came up
from the stables, Grant for the twentieth time turned over in his
mind the events of a day that was to stand out as an epochal one in
his career. The meeting with the little boy and the quick friendship
and confidence which had been formed between them; the mishap, and the
trip to the house by the river--these were logical and easily
followed. But why, of all the houses in the world, should it have
been Zen Transley's house? Why, of all the little boys in the world,
should this have been the son of his rival and the only girl he had
ever--the girl he had loved most in all his life? Surely events are
ordered to some purpose; surely everything is not mere haphazard
chance! The fatalism of the trenches forbade any other conclusion;
and if this was so, why had he been thrown into the orbit of Zen
Transley? He had not sought her; he had not dreamt of her once in all
that morning while her child was winding innocent tendrils of
affection about his heart. And yet--how the boy had gripped him!
Could it be that in some way he was a small incarnation of the Zen of
the Y.D., with all her clamorous passion expressed now in childish
love and hero-worship? Had some intelligence above his own guided him
into this environment, deliberately inviting him to defy conventions
and blaze a path of broader freedom for himself, and for her? These
were questions he wrestled with as the shadows crept down the mountain
slopes and along the valley at his feet.
For neither Zen nor himself had connived at the situation which had
made them, of all the people in the world, near neighbors in this
silent valley. Her surprise on meeting him at the door had been as
genuine as his. When she had made sure that the boy was not
seriously hurt she had turned to him, and instinctively he had known
that there are some things which all the weight of passing years can
never crush entirely dead. He loved to rehearse her words, her
gestures, the quick play of sympathetic emotions as one by one he
"You! I am surprised--I had not known--" She had become confused
in her greeting, and a color that she would have given worlds to
suppress crept slowly through her cheeks.
"I am surprised, too--and delighted," he had returned. "The little
boy came to me in the field, boasting of his braces." Then they had
both laughed, and she had asked him to come in and tell about himself.
The living-room, as he recalled it, was marked by the simplicity
appropriate to the summer home, with just a dash of elegance in the
furnishings to suggest that simplicity was a matter of choice and not
of necessity. After soothing Wilson's sobs, which had broken out
afresh in his mother's arms, she had turned him over to a maid and
drawn a chair convenient to Grant's.
"You see, I am a farmer now," he had said, apologetically regarding
"What changes have come! But I don't understand; I thought you
were rich--very rich--and that you were promoting some kind of
settlement scheme. Frank has spoken of it."
"All of which is true. You see, I am a man of whims. I choose to
live joyously. I refuse to fit into a ready-made niche in society. I
do what other people don't do--mainly for that reason. I have some
"I know. You told me." And it was then that their eyes had met
and they had fallen into a momentary silence.
"But why are you farming?" she had exclaimed, brightly.
"For several reasons. First, the world needs food. Food is the
greatest safeguard--I would almost say the only safeguard--against
anarchy and chaos. Then, I want to learn by experience; to prove by
my own demonstrations that my theories are workable--or that they're
not. And then, most of all, I love the prairies and the open life.
It's my whim, and I follow it."
"You are very wonderful," she had murmured. And then, with
startling directness, "Are you happy?"
"As happy as I have any right to be. Happier than I have been
She had risen and walked to the mantelpiece; then, with an apparent
change of impulse, she had turned and faced him. He had noted that
her figure was rounder than in girlhood, her complexion paler, but
the sunlight still danced in her hair, and her reckless force had
given way to a poise that suggested infinite resources of character.
"Frank has done well, too," she had said.
"So I have heard. I am told that he has done very well indeed."
"He has made money, and he is busy and excited over his pursuit of
success--what he calls success. He has given it his life. He thinks
of nothing else--"
She had stopped suddenly, as though her tongue had trapped her into
saying more than she had intended.
"What do you think of my summer home?" she had exclaimed, abruptly.
"Come out and admire the sweet peas," and with a gay little flourish
she had led him into the garden. "They tell me Western flowers have a
brilliance and a fragrance which the East, with all its advantages,
cannot duplicate. Is that true?"
"I believe it is. The East has greater profusion--more varieties--
but the individual qualities do not seem to be so well developed."
"I see you know something of Eastern flowers," she had said, and he
fancied he had caught a note of banter--or was it inquiry?--in her
voice. Then, with another abrupt change of subject, she had made him
describe his house on the hill. But he had said nothing of the
"I must go," he had exclaimed at length. "I left the horses tied
in the field."
"So you must. I shall let Wilson visit you frequently, if he is
not a trouble."
Then she had chosen a couple of blooms and pinned them on his coat,
laughingly overriding his protest that they consorted poorly with his
costume. And she had shaken hands and said good-bye in the manner of
good friends parting.
The more Grant thought of it the more was he convinced that in her
case, as in his own, the years had failed to extinguish the spark
kindled in the foothills that night so long ago. He reminded himself
continually that she was Transley's wife, and even while granting the
irrevocability of that fact he was demanding to know why Fate had
created for them both an atmosphere charged with unspoken
possibilities. He had turned her words over again and again,
reflecting upon the abrupt angles her speech had taken. In their few
minutes' conversation three times she had had to make a sudden tack to
safer subjects. What had she meant by that reference to Eastern and
Western flowers? His answer reminded him how well he knew. And the
confession about her husband, the worshipper of success--"what he
calls success"--how much tragedy lay under those light words?
The valley was filled with shadow, and the level rays of the
setting sun fell on the young man's face and splashed the hill-tops
with gold and saffron as within his heart raged the age-old battle. .
. . But as yet he felt none of its wounds. He was conscious only of a
wholly irrational delight.
As the next forenoon passed Grant found himself glancing with
increasing frequency toward the end of the field where the little boy
might be expected to appear. But the day wore on without sign of his
young friend, and the furrows which he had turned so joyously at nine
were dragging leadenly at eleven. He had not thought it possible that
a child could so quickly have won a way to his affections. He fell to
wondering as to the cause of the boy's absence. Had Zen, after a
night's reflection, decided that it was wiser not to allow the
acquaintance to develop? Had Transley, returning home, placed his
veto upon it? Or--and his heart paused at this prospect--had the foot
been more seriously hurt than they had supposed? Grant told himself
that he must go over that night and make inquiry. That would be the
neighborly thing to do. . . .
But early that afternoon his heart was delighted by the sight of a
little figure skipping joyously over the furrows toward him. He had
his hat crumpled in one hand, and his teddy-bear in the other, and his
face was alive with excitement. He was puffing profusely when he
pulled up beside the plow, and Grant stopped the team while he got his
"My! My! What is the hurry? I see the foot is all better."
"We got a pig!" the lad gasped, when he could speak.
"Yessir! A live one, too! He's awful big. A man brought him in a
wagon. That is why I couldn't come this morning."
Grant treated himself to a humble reflection upon the wisdom of
"What are you going to do with him?"
"Eat him up, I guess. Daddy said there was enough wasted about our
house to keep a pig, so we got one. Aren't you going to take me up?"
"Of course. But first we must put teddy in his place."
"I'm to go home at five o'clock," the boy said, when he had got
The hours slipped by all too quickly, and if the lad's presence
did not contribute to good plowing, it at least made a cheerful
plowman. It was plain that Zen had sufficient confidence in her
farmer neighbor to trust her boy in his care, and his frequent
references to his mother had an interest for Grant which he could not
have analyzed or explained. During the afternoon the merits of the
pig were sung and re-sung, and at last Wilson, after kissing his
friend on the cheek and whispering, "I like you, Uncle Man-on-
the-Hill," took his teddy-bear under his arm and plodded homeward.
The next morning he came again, but mournfully and slow. There
were tear stains on the little round cheeks.
"Why, son, what had happened?" said Grant, his abundant sympathies
"Teddy's spoiled," the child sobbed. "I set him--on the side of--
the pig pen, and he fell'd in, and the big pig et him--ate him--up.
He didn't 'zactly eat him up, either--just kind of chewed him, like."
"Well that certainly is too bad. But then, you're going to eat the
pig some day, so that will square it, won't it?"
"I guess it will," said the boy, brightening. "I never thought of
"But we must have a teddy for Prince. See, he is looking around,
waiting for it." Grant folded his coat into the shape of a dummy and
set it up on the hames, and all went merrily again.
That afternoon, which was Saturday, the boy came thoughtfully and
with an air of much importance. Delving into a pocket he produced an
envelope, somewhat crumpled in transit. It was addressed, "The Man on
Grant tore it open eagerly and read this note:
"DEAR MAN-ON-THE-HILL,--That is the name Wilson calls you, so
perhaps you will let me use it, too. Frank is to be home to- morrow,
and will you come and have dinner with us at six? My father and
mother will be here, and possibly one or two others. You had a clash
with my men-folk once, but you will find them ready enough to make
allowance for, even if they fail to understand, your point of view.
"P.S.--It just occurs to me that your associates in your
colonization scheme may want to claim your time on Sunday. If any of
them come out, bring them along. Our table is an extension one, and
its capacity has never yet been exhausted."
Although Grant's decision was made at once he took some time for
reflection before writing an acceptance. He was to enter Zen's house
on her invitation, but under the auspices, so to speak, of husband and
parents. That was eminently proper. Zen was a sensible girl. Then
there was a reference to that ancient squabble in the hay meadow. It
was evidently her plan to see the hatchet buried and friendly
relations established all around. Eminently proper and sensible.
He turned the sheet over and wrote on the back:
"DEAR ZEN,--Delighted to come. May have a couple of friends with
me, one of whom you have seen before. Prepare for an appetite long
denied the joys of home cooking.--D. G."
It was not until after the child had gone home that Grant
remembered he had addressed Transley's wife by her Christian name.
That was the way he always thought of her, and it slipped on to paper
quite naturally. Well, it couldn't be helped now.
Grant unhitched early and hurried to his house and the telephone.
In a few minutes he had Linder on the line.
"Hello, Linder? I want you to go to a store for me and buy a
The chuckle at the other end of the line irritated Grant. Linder
had a strange sense of humor.
"I mean it. A big teddy, with electric eyes, and a deep bass
growl, if they make 'em that way. The best you can get. Fetch it
out to-morrow afternoon, and come decently dressed, for once. Bring
Murdoch along if you can pry him loose."
Grant hung up the receiver. "Stupid chap, Linder, some ways," he
muttered. "Why shouldn't I buy a teddy-bear if I want to?"
Sunday afternoon saw the arrival of Linder and Murdoch, with the
largest teddy the town afforded. "What is the big idea now?" Linder
demanded, as he delivered it into Grant's hands.
"It is for a little boy I know who has been bereaved of his first
teddy by the activities of the family pig. You will renew some
pleasant acquaintanceships, Linder. You remember Transley and his
wife--Zen, of the Y.D?"
"You don't say! Thanks for that tip about dressing up. I may
explain," Linder continued, turning to Murdoch, "there was a time
when I might have been an also-ran in the race for Y.D.'s daughter,
only Transley beat me on the getaway."
"You!" Grant exclaimed, incredulously.
"You, too!" Linder returned, a great light dawning.
"Well, Mr. Grant," said Murdoch, "I brought you a good cigar,
bought at the company's expense. It comes out of the organization
fund. You must be sick of those cheap cigars."
"Since the war it is nothing but Player's," Grant returned, taking
the proffered cigar. "They tell me it has revolutionized the tobacco
business. However, this does smell a bit all right. How goes our
venture, Murdoch? Have I any prospect of being impoverished in a
"None whatever. Your foreman here is spending every dollar in a
way to make you two in spite of your daft notion--begging your
pardon, sir--about not taking profits. The subscribers are coming
along for stock, but fingering it gently, as though they can't well
believe there's no catch in it. They say it doesn't look reasonable,
and I tell them no more it is."
"And then they buy it?"
"Aye, they do. That's human nature. There's as many members
booked now as can be accommodated in the first colony. I suppose
they reason that they will be sure of their winter's housing,
"You don't seem to have much faith in human nature, Murdoch."
"Nor have I. Not in that kind of human nature which is always
wanting something for nothing."
Linder's report was more cheerful. The houses and barns were built
and were now being painted, the plowing was done, and the fences were
being run. By the use of a triangular system of survey twelve farm
homes had been centralized in one little community where a community
building would be erected which would be used as a school in daytime,
a motion-picture house at night, and a church on Sunday. A community
secretary would have his office here, and would have charge of a
select little library of fiction, poetry, biography, and works of
reference. The leading periodicals dealing with farm problems,
sociology, and economics, as well as lighter subjects, would be on
file. In connection with this building would be an assembly-room
suitable for dances, social events, and theatricals, and equipped with
a player piano and concert-size talking machine. Arrangements were
being made for a weekly exchange of records, for a weekly musical
evening by artists from the city, for a semi-monthly vaudeville show,
and for Sunday meetings addressed by the best speakers on the more
serious topics of the time.
"What has surprised me in making these arrangements," Linder
confessed, "is the comparatively small outlay they involve. The
building will cost no more than many communities spend on school and
church which they use thirty hours a week and three hours a week
respectively. This one can be used one hundred and sixty- eight hours
a week, if needed. Lecturers on many subjects can be had for paying
their expenses; in some cases they are employed by the Government, and
will come without cost. Amateur theatrical companies from the city
will be glad to come in return for an appreciative audience and a
dance afterward, with a good fill-up on solid farm cooking. Even some
of the professionals can be had on these terms. Of course, before
long we will produce our own theatricals.
"Then there is to be a plunge bath big enough to swim in, open to
men and women alternate nights, and to children every day. There
will be a pool-room, card-room, and refreshment buffet; also a quiet
little room for women's social events, and an emergency hospital ward.
I think we should hire a trained nurse who would not be too dignified
to cook and serve meals when there's no business doing in the
hospital. You know how everyone gets hankering now and then for a
meal from home,--not that it's any better, but it's different. I
suppose there are farmer's wives who don't get a meal away from home
once a year. I'm going to change all that, if I have to turn cook
"Bully for you, Linder!" said Grant, clapping him on the shoulder.
"I believe you actually are enthusiastic for once."
"I understand my orders are to make the country give the city a run
for its money, and I'm going to do it, or break you. If all I've
mentioned won't do it I've another great scheme in storage."
"Good! What is it?"
"I am inventing a machine that will make a noise like a trolley-car
and a smell like a sewer. That will add the last touch in city
When the laugh over Linder's invention had subsided Murdoch
"The office work is becoming pretty heavy, Mr. Grant, and I'm none
too confident in the help I have. Now if I could send for Miss
"What do you think you should pay her?"
"I should say she is worth a hundred dollars a month."
"Then she must be worth two hundred. Wire her to come and start
her at that figure."
Promptly at six Linder drew his automobile up in front of the
Transley summer home with Grant and Murdoch on board. Wilson had
been watching, and rushed down upon them, but before he could clamber
up on Grant a great teddy-bear was thrust into his arms and sent him,
wild with delight, to his mother.
"Look, mother! Look what The-Man-on-the-Hill brought! See! He
has fire in his eyes!"
Transley and Y.D. met the guests at the gate. "How do, Grant?
Glad to see you, old man," said Transley, shaking his hand cordially.
"The wife has had so many good words for you I am almost jealous.
What ho, Linder! By all that's wonderful! You old prairie dog, why
did you never look me up? I was beginning to think the Boche had got
Grant introduced Murdoch, and Y.D. received them as cordially as
had Transley. "Glad to see you fellows back," he exclaimed. "I
al'us said the Western men 'ud put a crimp in the Kaiser, spite o'
hell an' high water!"
"One thing the war has taught us," said Grant, modestly, "is that
men are pretty much alike, whether they come from west or east or
north or south. No race has a monopoly of heroism."
"Well, come on in," Transley beckoned, leading the way. "Dinner
will be ready sharp on time twenty minutes late. Not being a married
man, Grant, you will not understand that reckoning. You'll have to
excuse Mrs. Transley a few minutes; she's holding down the accelerator
in the kitchen. Come in; I want you to meet Squiggs."
Squiggs proved to be a round man with huge round tortoise-shell
glasses and round red face to match. He shook hands with a manner
that suggested that in doing so he was making rather a good fellow of
"We must have a little lubrication, for Y.D.'s sake," said
Transley, producing a bottle and glasses. "I suppose it was the dust
on the plains that gave these old cow punchers a thirst which never
can be slaked. These be evil days for the old-timers. Grant?"
"Not any, thanks."
"No? Well, there's no accounting for tastes. Squiggs?"
"I'm a lawyer," said Squiggs, "and as booze is now ultra vires I do
my best to keep it down," and Mr. Squiggs beamed genially upon his
pleasantry and the full glass in his hand.
"I take a snort when I want it and I don't care who knows it," said
Y.D. "I al'us did, and I reckon I'll keep on to the finish. It
didn't snuff me out in my youth and innocence, anyway. Just the
same, I'm admittin' it's bad medicine in onskilful hands. Here's
The glasses had just been drained when Mrs. Transley entered the
room, flushed but radiant from a strenuous half hour in the kitchen.
"Well, here you are!" she exclaimed. "So glad you could come, Mr.
Grant. Why, Mr. Linder! Of all people-- This IS a pleasure. And
"Mr. Murdoch," Transley supplied.
"My chief of staff; the man who persists in keeping me rich," Grant
"I mustn't keep you waiting longer. Dinner is ready. Dad, you are
"Hanged if I will! I'm a guest here, and I stand on my rights,"
"Then you must do it, Frank."
"I suppose so," said Transley, "although all I get out of a meal
when I have to carve is splashing and profanity. You know, Squiggs,
I've figured it out that this practice of requiring the nominal head
of the house to carve has come down from the days when there wasn't
usually enough to go 'round, and the carver had to make some fine
decisions and, perhaps, maintain them by force. It has no place under
"Except that someone must do it, and it's about the only household
responsibility man has not been able to evade," said Mrs. Transley.
As they entered the dining-room Zen's mother, whiter and it seemed
even more distinguished by the years, joined them, accompanied by
Mrs. Squiggs, a thin woman much concerned about social status, and
the party was complete.
Transley managed the carving more skilfully than his protest might
have suggested, and there was a lull in the conversation while the
first demands of appetite were being satisfied.
"Tell us about your settlement scheme, Mr. Grant," Mrs. Transley
urged when it seemed necessary to find a topic. "Mr. Grant has quite
a wonderful plan."
"Yes, wise us up, old man," said Transley. "I've heard something
of it, but never could see through it."
"It's all very simple," Grant explained. "I am providing the
capital to start a few families on farms. Instead of lending the
money directly to them I am financing a company in which each farmer
must subscribe for stock to the value of the land he is to occupy.
His stock he will pay for with a part of the proceeds of each year's
crop, until it is paid in full, when he becomes a paid- up
shareholder, subject to no further call except a levy which may be
made for running expenses."
"And then your advances are returned to you with interest," Squiggs
suggested. "A very creditable plan of benefaction; very creditable,
"No, that is not the idea. In the first place, I am accepting no
interest on my advances, and in the second place the money, when
repaid by the shareholders, will not be returned to me, but will be
used to establish another colony on the same basis, and so on--the
movement will be extended from group to group."
Mr. Squiggs readjusted his large round tortoise-shell glasses.
"Do I understand that you are charging no interest?"
"Not a cent."
"Then where do YOU come in?"
"I had hoped to make it clear that I am not seeking to 'come in.'
You see, the money I am doing this with is not really mine at all."
"Not yours?" cried a chorus of voices.
"No. Mr. Squiggs, you are a lawyer, and therefore a man of
perspicuity and accurate definitions. What is money?"
"You flatter me. I should say that money is a medium for the
exchange of value."
"Very well. Therefore, if a man accepts money without giving value
for it in exchange he is violating the fundamental principle
underlying the use of money. He is, in short, an economic outlaw."
"I am afraid I don't follow you."
"Let me illustrate by my own experience, and that of my family. My
father was possessed of a piece of land which at one time had little
or no value. Eventually it became of great value, not through
anything he had done, but as a result of the natural law that births
exceed deaths. Yet he, although he had done nothing to create this
value, was able, through a faulty economic system, to pocket the
proceeds. Then, as a result of the advantages which his wealth gave
him, he was able to extract from society throughout all the remainder
of his life value out of all proportion to any return he made for it.
Finally it came down to me. Holding my peculiar belief, which my
right and left bower consider sinful and silly respectively, I found
money forced upon me, regardless of the fact that I had given
absolutely no value in exchange. Now if money is a medium for the
exchange of value and I receive money without giving value for it, it
is plain that someone else must have parted with money without
receiving value in return. The thing is basically immoral."
"Your father couldn't take it with him."
"But why should _I_ have it? I never contributed a finger-weight
of service for it. From society the money came and to society it
"You should worry," said Transley. "Society isn't worrying over
you. Some more of the roast beef?"
"No, thank you. But to come down to date. It seems that I cannot
get away from this wealth which dogs me at every turn. Before
enlisting I had been margining certain steel stocks, purely in the
ordinary course of affairs. With the demands made by the war on the
steel industry my stocks went up in price and my good friend Murdoch
was able to report that it had made a fortune for me while I was
overseas. . . . And we call ourselves an intelligent people!"
"And so we are," said Mr. Squiggs. "We stick to a system we know
to be sound. It has weathered all the gales of the past, and
promises to weather those of the future. I tell you, Grant,
communism won't work. You can't get away from the principle of
individual reward for individual effort."
"My dear fellow, that's exactly what I'm pleading for. I have no
patience with any claim that all men are equal, or capable of
rendering equal service to society, and I want payment to be made
according to service rendered, not according to the freaks of a
haphazard system such as I have been trying to describe."
"But how are you going to bring that golden age about?" Murdoch
"By education. The first thing is to accept the principle that
wealth cannot be accepted except in exchange for full-measure
service. You, Mrs. Transley--you teach your little boy that he must
not steal. As he grows older simply widen your definition of theft to
include receiving value without giving value in exchange. When all the
mothers begin teaching that principle the golden age which Mr. Murdoch
inquires about will be in sight."
"How would you drive it home?" said Y.D. "We have too many laws
"Let us agree on that. The acceptance of this principle will make
half the laws now cluttering our statute books unnecessary. I merely
urge that we should treat the CAUSE of our economic malady rather than
"Theoretically your idea has much to commend it, but it is quite
impracticable," Mr. Squiggs announced with some finality. "It could
never be brought into effect."
"If a corporation can determine the value of the service rendered
by each of its hundred thousand employees, why cannot a nation
determine the value of the service rendered by each of its hundred
"THERE'S something for you to chew on, Squiggs," said Transley.
"You argue your case well, Grant; I believe you have our legal light
rather feazed--that's the word, isn't it, Mr. Murdoch?--for once. I
confess a good deal of sympathy with your point of view, but I'm
afraid you can't change human nature."
"I am not trying to do that. All that needs changing is the
popular idea of what is right and what is wrong. And that idea is
changing with a rapidity which is startling. Before the war the man
who made money, by almost any means, was set up on a pedestal called
Success. Moralists pointed to him as one to be emulated; Sunday
school papers printed articles to show that any boy might follow in
his footsteps and become great and respected. To-day, for following
precisely the same practices, the nation demands that he be thrown
into prison; the Press heaps contumely upon him; he has become an
object of suspicion in the popular eye. This change, world wide and
quite unforeseen, has come about in five years."
"Is that due to a new sense of right and wrong, or to just old-
fashioned envy of the rich which now feels strong enough to threaten
where it used to fawn?" Y.D.'s wife asked, and Grant was spared a hard
answer by the rancher's interruption, "Hit the profiteer as hard as
you like. He's got no friends."
"That depends upon who is the profiteer--a point which no one seems
to have settled. In the cities you may even hear prosperous ranchers
included in that class--absurd as that must seem to you," Grant added,
with a smile to Y.D. "Require every man to give service according to
his returns and you automatically eliminate all profiteers, large and
"But you will admit," said Mrs. Squiggs, "that we must have some
well-off people to foster culture and give tone to society
"I agree that the boy who is brought up in a home with a bath tub,
and all that that stands for, is likely to be a better citizen than
the boy who doesn't have that advantage. That's why I want every
home to have a bath tub."
Mrs. Squiggs subsided rather heavily. In youth her Saturday night
ablutions had been taken in the middle of the kitchen floor.
"I have a good deal of sympathy," said Transley, "with any movement
which has for its purpose the betterment of human conditions. Any
successful man of to-day will admit, if he is frank about it, that he
owes his success as much to good luck as to good judgment. If you
could find a way, Grant, to take the element of luck out of life,
perhaps you would be doing a service which would justify you in
keeping those millions which worry you so. But I can't see that it
makes any difference to the prosperity of a country who owns the
wealth in it, so long as the wealth is there and is usefully
employed. Money doesn't grow unless it works, and if it works it
serves Society just the same as muscle does. You could put all your
wealth in a strong-box and bury it under your house up there on the
hill, and it wouldn't increase a nickel in a thousand years, but if
you put it to work it makes money for you and money for other people
as well. I'm a little nervous about new-fangled notions. It's easier
to wreck the ship than to build a new one, which may not sail any
better. What the world needs to-day is the gospel of hard work, and
everybody, rich and poor, on the job for all that's in him. That's
the only way out."
"We seem to have much in common," Grant returned. "Hard work is
the only way out, and the best way to encourage hard work is to find
a system by which every man will be rewarded according to the service
At this point Mrs. Transley arose, and the men moved out into the
living-room to chat on less contentious subjects. After a time the
women joined them, and Grant presently found himself absorbed in
conversation with the old rancher's wife. Zen seemed to pay but
little attention to him, and for the first time he began to realize
what consummate actresses women are. Had Transley been the most
suspicious of husbands--and in reality his domestic vision was as
guileless as that of a boy--he could have caught no glint of any
smoldering spark of the long ago. Grant found himself thinking of
this dissembling quality as one of nature's provisions designed for
the protection of women, much as the sombre plumage of the prairie
chicken protects her from the eye of the sportsman. For after all
the hunting instinct runs through all men, be the game what it may.
Before they realized how the time had flown Linder was protesting
that he must be on his way. At the gate Transley put a hand on
"I'm prepared to admit," he said, "that there's a whole lot in this
old world that needs correcting, but I'm not sure that it can be
corrected. You have a right to try out your experiments, but take a
tip and keep a comfortable cache against the day when you'll want to
settle down and take things as they are. It is true and always has
been true that a man who is worth his salt, when he wants a thing,
takes it--or goes down in the attempt. The loser may squeal, but that
seems to be the path of progress. You can't beat it."
"Well, we'll see," said Grant, laughing. "Sometimes two men, each
worth his salt, collide."
"As in the meadow of the South Y.D.," said Transley, with a smile.
"You remember that, Y.D.--when our friend here upset the haying
"Sure, I remember, but I'm not holdin' it agin him now. A dead
horse is a dead horse, an' I don't go sniffin' it."
"Perhaps I ought to say, though," Grant returned, "that I really do
not know how the iron pegs got into that meadow."
"And I don't know how your haystacks got afire, but I can guess.
Remember Drazk? A little locoed, an' just the crittur to pull off a
fool stunt like that. When the fire swept up the valley, instead of
down, he made his get-away and has never been seen since. I reckon
likely there was someone in Landson's gang capable o' drivin' pegs
without consultin' the boss."
The little group were standing in the shadow and Grant had no
opportunity to notice the sudden blanching of Zen's face at the
mention of Drazk.
"You're wrong about his not having been seen again, Y.D.," said
Grant. "He managed to locate me somewhere in France. That reminds
me, he had a message for you, Mrs. Transley. I'm afraid Drazk is as
irresponsible as ever, provided he hasn't passed out, which is more
Grant shook hands cordially with Y.D. and his wife, with Squiggs
and Mrs. Squiggs, with Transley and Mrs. Transley. Any inclination
he may have felt to linger over Zen's hand was checked by her quick
withdrawal of it, and there was something in her manner quite beyond
his understanding. He could have sworn that the self- possessed Zen
Transley was actually trembling.
The next day Wilson paid his usual visit to the field where Grant
was plowing, and again was he the bearer of a message. With much
difficulty he managed to extricate the envelope from a pocket.
"Dear Mr. Grant," it read, "I am so excited over a remark you
dropped last night I must see you again as soon as possible. Can you
drop in to-night, say at eight. Yours,--ZEN."
Grant read the message a second time, wondering what remark of his
could have occasioned it. As he recalled the evening's conversation
it had been most about his experiment, and he had a sense that he had
occupied a little more of the stage than strictly good form would have
suggested. However, it was HIS scheme that had been under discussion,
and he did not propose to let it suffer for lack of a champion. But
what had he said that could be of more than general interest to Zen
Transley? For a moment he wondered if she had created a pretext upon
which to bring him to the house by the river, and then instantly
dismissed that thought as unworthy of him. At any rate it was evident
that his addressing her by her Christian name in the last message had
given no offence. This time she had not called him "The
Man-on-the-Hill," and there was no suggestion of playfulness in the
note. Then the signature, "Yours, Zen"; that might mean everything,
or it might mean nothing. Either it was purely formal or it implied a
very great deal indeed. Grant reflected that it could hardly be
interpreted anywhere between those two extremes, and was it reasonable
to suppose that Zen would use it in an ENTIRELY formal sense? If it
had been "yours truly," or "yours sincerely," or any such stereotyped
conclusion, it would not have called for a second thought, but the
simple word "yours"--
"If only she were," thought Grant, and felt the color creeping to
his face at the thought. It was the first time he had dared that
much. He had not bothered to wonder much where or how this affair
must end. Through all the years that had passed since that night
when she had fallen asleep on his shoulder, and he had watched the
ribbons of fire rising and falling in the valley, and the smell of
grass-smoke had been strong in his nostrils, through all those years
Zen had been to him a sweet, evasive memory to be dreamed over and
idealized, a wild, daring, irresponsible incarnation of the spirit of
the hills. Even in these last few days he had followed the path
simply because it lay before him. He had not sought her out in all
that great West; he had been content with his dream of the Zen of
years gone by; if Fate had brought him once more within the orbit of
his star surely Fate had a purpose in all its doings. One who has
learned to believe that no bullet will find him unless "his name and
number are on it" has little difficulty in excusing his own
indiscretions by fatalistic reasoning.
He wrote on the back of the note, "Look for me at eight," and then,
observing that the boy had not brought teddy along, he inquired
solicitously for the health of the little pet.
"He's all right, but mother wouldn't let me bring him. Said I
might lose him." The tone in which the last words were spoken
implied just how impossible such a thing was. Lose teddy! No one
but a mother could think such an absurdity.
"But I got a knife!" Wilson exclaimed, his mind darting to a
happier subject. "Daddy gave it to me. Will you sharpen it? It is
as dull as a pig."
Grant was to learn during the day that all the boy's figures of
speech were now hung on the family pig. The knife was as dull as a
pig; the plow was as rough as a pig; the horses, when they capered at
a corner, were as wild as a pig; even Grant himself, while he held the
little chap firmly on his knee, received the doubtful compliment of
being as strong as a pig. He went through the form of sharpening the
knife on the leather lines of the harness, and was pleased to discover
that Wilson, with childish dexterity of imagination, now pronounced it
as sharp as a pig.
The boy did not return to the field in the afternoon, and Grant
spent the time in a strange admixture of happiness over the pleasant
companionship he had found in this little son of the prairies and
anticipation of his meeting with Zen that night. All his reflection
had failed to suggest the subject so interesting to her as to bring
forth her unconventional note, but it was enough for him that his
presence was desired. As to the future--he would deal with that when
he came to it. As evening approached the horses began their usual
procedure of turning their heads homeward at the end of each furrow.
Beginning about five o'clock, they had a habit of assuming that each
furrow was obviously the last one for the day, and when the firm hand
on the lines brought them sharply back to position they trudged on
with an apologetic air which seemed to say that of course they were
quite willing to work another hour or two but they supposed their
master would want to be on his way home. Today, however, he surprised
them, and the first time they turned their heads he unhitched, and,
throwing himself lightly across Prince's ample back, drove them to
Grant prepared his supper of bacon and eggs and fried potatoes,
bread and jam and black tea, and ate it from the kitchen table as was
his habit except on state occasions. Sometimes a touch of the
absurdity of his behavior would tickle his imagination--he, who might
dine in the midst of wealth and splendor, with soft lights beating
down upon him, soft music swelling through arching corridors,
soft-handed waiters moving about on deep, silent carpetings, perhaps
round white shoulders across the table and the faint smell of delicate
perfumes--that he should prefer to eat from the white oilcloth of his
kitchen table was a riddle far beyond any ordinary intellect. And yet
he was happy in this life; happy in his escape from the tragic routine
of being decently civilized; happier, he knew, than he ever could be
among all the artificial pleasures that wealth could buy him.
Sometimes, as a concession to this absurdity, he would set his table
in the dining-room with his best dishes, and eat his silent meal very
grandly, until the ridiculousness of it all would overcome him and he
would jump up with a boyish whoop and sweep everything into the
But to-night he had no time for make-belief. Supper ended, he put
a basin of water on the stove and went out to give his horses their
evening attention, after which he had a wash and a careful shave and
dressed himself in a light grey suit appropriate to an autumn evening.
And then he noticed that he had just time to walk to Transley's house
before eight o'clock.
Zen received him at the door; the maid had gone to a neighbor's,
she said, and Wilson was in bed. It was still bright outside, but
the sheltered living-room, to which she showed him, was wrapped in a
"Shall we have a lamp, or the fireplace?" she asked, then
inferentially answered by saying that a cool wind was blowing down
from the mountains. "I had the maid build the fire," she continued,
and he could see the outline of her form bending over the grate. She
struck a match; its glow lit up her cheeks and hair; in a moment the
dry wood was crackling and ribbons of blue smoke were curling into the
"I have been so anxious to see you--again," she said, drawing a
chair not far from his. "A chance remark of yours last night brought
to memory many things--things I have been trying to forget." Then,
abruptly, "Did you ever kill a man?"
"You know I was in the war," he returned, evading her question.
"Yes, and you do not care to dwell on that phase of it. I should
not have asked you, but you will be the better able to understand.
For years I have lived under the cloud of having killed a man."
"Yes. The day of the fire--you remember?"
Grant had started from his chair. "I can't believe it!" he
exclaimed. "There must have been justification!"
"YOU had justification at the Front, but it doesn't make the memory
pleasant. I had justification, but it has haunted me night and day.
And then, last night you said he was still alive, and my soul seemed
to rise up again and say, 'I am free!'"
"Yes. I thought I had killed him that day of the fire. It is
rather an unpleasant story, and you will excuse me repeating the
details, I know. He attacked me--we were both on horseback, in the
river--I suppose he was crazed with his wild deed, and less
responsible than usual. He dragged me from my horse and I fought
with him in the water, but he was much too strong. I had concluded
that to drown myself, and perhaps him, was the only way out, when I
saw a leather thong floating in the water from the saddle. By a ruse
I managed to flip it around his neck, and the next moment he was at my
mercy. I had no mercy then. I understand how it might be possible to
kill prisoners. I pulled it tight, tight--pulled till I saw his face
blacken and his eyes stand out. He went down, but still I pulled.
And then after a little I found myself on shore.
"I suppose it was the excitement of the fire that carried me on
through the day, but at night--you remember?--there came a reaction,
and I couldn't keep awake. I suddenly seemed to feel that I was safe,
and I could sleep."
Grant had resumed his seat. He was deeply moved by this strange
confidence; he bent his eyes intently upon her face, now shining in
the ruddy light from the fire-place. Her frank reference to the
event that night seemed to create a new bond between them; he knew
now, if ever he had doubted it, that Zen Transley had treasured that
incident in her heart even as he had treasured it.
"I was so embarrassed after the--the accident, you know," she
continued. "I knew you must know I had been in the water. For days
and weeks I expected every hour to hear of the finding of the body. I
expected to hear the remark dropped casually by every new visitor at
the ranch, 'Drazk's body was found to-day in the river. The Mounted
Police are investigating.' But time went on and nothing was heard of
it. It would almost have been a relief to me if it had been
discovered. If I had reported the affair at once, as I should have
done, all would have been different, but having kept my secret for a
while I found it impossible to confess it later. It was the first
time I ever felt my self-reliance severely shaken. . . . But what was
his message, and why did you not tell me before?"
"Because I attached no value to it; because I was, perhaps, a
little ashamed of it. I learned something of his weaknesses at the
Front. According to Drazk's statement of it he won the war, and
could as easily win another, if occasion presented itself, so when he
said, 'If ever you see Y.D.'s daughter tell her I'm well; she'll be
glad to hear it,' I put it down to his usual boasting and thought no
more about it. I thought he was trying to impress me with the idea
that you were interested in him, which was a very absurd supposition,
as I saw it."
"Well, now you know," she said, with a little laugh. "I'm glad
it's off my mind."
"Of course your husband knows?"
"No. That made it harder. I never told Frank."
She arose and walked to the fire-place, pretending to stir the
logs. When she had seated herself again she continued.
"It has not been easy for me to tell all things to Frank. Don't
misunderstand me; he has been a model husband, according to my
"According to your standards?"
"According to my standards--when I married him. If standards were
permanent I suppose happy matings would be less unusual. A young
couple must have something in common in order to respond at all to
each other's attractions, but as they grow older they set up
different standards, and they drift apart."
She paused, and Grant sat in silence, watching the glow of the
firelight upon her cheek.
"Why don't you smoke?" she exclaimed, suddenly springing up. "Let
me find you some of Frank's cigars."
Grant protested that he smoked too much. She produced a box of
cigars and extended them to him. Then she held a match while he got
"Your standards have changed?" said Grant, taking up the thread
when she had sat down again.
"They have. They have changed more than Frank's, which makes me
feel rather at fault in the matter. How could he know that I would
change my ideal of what a husband should be?"
"Why shouldn't he know? That is the course of development.
Without changing ideals there would be stagnation."
"Perhaps," she returned, and he thought he caught a note of
weariness in her voice. "But I don't blame Frank--now. I rather
blame him then. He swept me off my feet; stampeded me. My parents
helped him, and I was only half disposed to resist. You see, I had
this other matter on my mind, and for the first time in my life I
felt the need of protection. Besides, I took a matter-of-fact view
of marriage. I thought that sentiment--love, if you like--was a
thing of books, an invention of poets and fiction writers. Practical
people would be practical in their marriages, as in their other
undertakings. To marry Frank seemed a very practical course. My
father assured me that Frank had in him qualities of large success.
He would make money; he would be a prominent man in circles of those
who do things. These predictions he has fulfilled. Frank has been
all I expected--then."
"But you have changed your opinion of marriage--of the essentials
"Do YOU need to ask that? I was beginning to see the light--
beginning to know myself--even before I married him, but I didn't
stop to analyze. I plunged ahead, as I have always done, trusting
not to get into any position from which I could not find a way out.
But there are some positions from which there is no way out."
Grant reflected that possibly his experience had been somewhat
like hers in that respect. He, too, had been following a path,
unconcerned about its end. . . . Possibly for him, too, there would
be no way out.
"Frank has been all I expected of him," she repeated, as though
anxious to do her husband justice. "He has made money. He spends it
generously. If I live here modestly, with but one maid, it is because
of a preference which I have developed for simplicity. I might have a
dozen if I asked it, and I think Frank is somewhat surprised, and, it
may be, disappointed, that I don't ask it. Although not a man for
display himself, he likes to see me make display. It's a strange
thing, isn't it, that a husband should wish his wife to be admired by
"Some are successful in that," Grant remarked.
"Some are more successful than they intend to be."
"Frank, for instance?" he queried, pointedly.
"I have not sought any man's admiration," she went on, with her
astonishing frankness. "I am too independent for that. What do I
care for their admiration? But every woman wants love."
Grant had changed his position, and sat with his elbows upon his
knees, his chin resting upon his hands. "You know, Zen," he said,
using her Christian name deliberately, "the picture I drew that day
by the river? That is the picture I have carried in my mind ever
since--shall carry to the end. Perhaps it has led me to be
"Has brought me here to-night, for example."
"You had my invitation."
"True. But why develop another situation which, as you say, has no
"Do you want to go?"
"No, Zen, no! I want to stay--with you--always! But organized
society must respect its own conventions."
She arose and stood by his chair, letting her hand fall beside his
"You silly boy!" she said. "You didn't organize society, nor
subscribe to its conventions. Still, I suppose there must be a code
of some kind, and we shall respect it. You had your chance, Denny,
and you passed it up."
"Had my chance?"
"Yes. I refused you in words, I know, but actions speak louder--"
"But when you told me you were engaged what could I honorably do?"
"More--very much more--than you can do now. You could have shown
me my mistake. How much better to have learned it then, from you,
than later, by my own experience! You could have swept me off my
feet, just as Frank did. You did nothing. If I had sought evidence
to prove how impractical you are, as compared with my super-practical
husband, I would have found it in the way you handled, or rather
failed to handle, that situation."
"What would your super-practical husband do now if he were in my
position?" he said, drawing her hands into his.
"I don't know."
"You do! He says that any man worth his salt takes what he wants
in this world. Am I worth my salt?"
"There are different standards of value. . . . Goodness! how late
it is! You must go now, and don't come back before, let us say,
Whatever may have been Grant's philosophy about the unwisdom of
creating a situation which had no way out he found himself looking
forward impatiently to Wednesday evening. An hour or two at Zen's
fireside provided the social atmosphere which his bachelor life
lacked, and as Transley seemed unappreciative of his domestic
privileges, remaining in town unless his business brought him out to
the summer home, it seemed only a just arrangement that they should be
shared by one who valued them at their worth.
The Wednesday evening conversation developed further the
understanding that was gradually evolving between them, but it
afforded no solution of the problem which confronted them. Zen made
no secret of the error she had made in the selection of her husband,
but had no suggestions to offer as to what should be done about it.
She seemed quite satisfied to enjoy Grant's conversation and company,
and let it go at that--an impossible situation, as the young man
assured himself. She dismissed him again at a quite respectable hour
with some reference to Saturday evening, which Grant interpreted as an
invitation to call again at that time.
When he entered Saturday night it was evident that she had been
expecting him. A cool wind was again blowing down from the
mountains, laden with the soft smell of melting snow, and the fire in
the grate was built ready for the match.
"I am my own maid to-night," she said, as she stooped to light it.
"Sarah usually goes to town Saturday evening. Now we shall see if
someone is in good humor."
The fire curled up pleasantly about the wood. "There!" she
exclaimed, clapping her hands. "All is well. You see how economical
I am; if we must spend on fires we save on light. I love a wood fire;
I suppose it is something which reaches back to the original savage in
all of us."
"To the days when our great ancestors roasted their victims while
they danced about the coals," said Grant, completing the picture.
"And yet they say that human nature doesn't change."
"Does it? I think our methods change with our environments, but
that is all. Wasn't it you who propounded a theory about an age when
men took what they wanted by force giving way to an age in which they
took what they wanted by subtlety? Now, I believe, you want society
to restrain the man of clever wits just as it has learned to restrain
the man of big biceps. And when that is done will not man discover
some other means of taking what he wants?"
She had seated herself beside him on a divanette and the joy of her
nearness fired Grant with a very happy intoxication. It recalled
that night on the hillside when, as she had since said, she felt safe
in his protection.
"I am really very interested," she continued. "I followed the
argument at the table on Sunday with as much concern as if it had
been my pet hobby, not yours, that was under discussion. If I said
little it was because I did not wish to appear too interested."
Her amazing frankness brought Grant, figuratively, to his feet at
every turn. She seemed to have no desire to conceal her interest in
him, her attachment for him. Hers was such candor as might well be
born of the vast hillsides, the great valleys, the brooding silences
of her girlhood. Yet it seemed obvious that she must be less candid
with Transley. . . .
"I am glad you were interested," he answered. "I was afraid I was
rather boring the company, but it was MY scheme and I had to stand up
for it. I fear I made few converts."
"You were dealing with practical men," she returned, "and practical
men are never converted to a new idea. That is one of the things I
have learned in my years of married life, Dennison. Practical men
find many ways of turning an old idea to advantage, but they never
evolve new ones. New ideas come from dreamers--theoretical fellows
"The dreamer is always a lap ahead of the rest of civilization, and
the funny thing is that the rest always thinks itself much more sane
than the dreamer, out there blazing the way."
"That's not remarkable," she replied. "That's logical. The
dreamer blazes the way--proves the possibilities of his dream--and
the practical man follows it up and makes money out of it. To a
practical man there is nothing more practical than making money."
"Did I convert you?" he pursued.
"I was not in need of conversion. I have been a follower of the
new faith--an imperfect and limping follower, it is true--ever since
you first announced it."
"I believe you are laughing at me."
"Certainly not! I have been brought up in an environment where
there is no standard higher than the money standard. Not that my
father or husband are dishonest; they are rigidly honest according to
their ideas of honesty. But to say that a man must give actual
service for every dollar he gets or it isn't his--that is a
conception of honesty so far beyond them as to be an absurdity. But I
have wanted to ask you how you are going to enforce this new
"Idealism is not enforced. We aspire to it; we may not attain to
it. Christianity itself is idealism--the idealism of unselfishness.
That ideal has never been attained by any considerable number of
people, and yet it has drawn all humanity on to somewhat higher
levels as surely as the moon draws the tide. Superficial persons in
these days are drawing pictures of the failure of Christianity, which
has failed in part; but they could find a much more depressing subject
by painting a world from which all Christian idealism had been
"But surely you have some plan for putting your theories to the
test--some plan which will force those to whom idealism appeals in
vain. We do not trust to a man's idealism to keep him from stealing;
we put him in jail."
"All that will come in time, but the question for the seeker after
truth is not 'Will it work?' but 'Is it true?' I fancy I can see the
practical men of Moses' time leaning over his shoulder as he inscribed
the Ten Commandments and remarking 'No use of putting that down,
Moses; you can never enforce it.' But Moses put it down and left the
enforcement to natural law and the growing intelligence of the
generations which have followed him. We are too much disposed to
think it possible to evade a law; to violate it, and escape
punishment; but if a law is true, punishment follows violation as
implacably as the stars follow their courses. And if society has
failed to recognize the law that service, and service only, should be
able to command service in return, society must suffer the penalty.
We have only to look about us to see that society is paying in full
for its violations.
"Yes, I have plans, and I think they would work, but the first
thing is the ideal--the new moral sense--that value must not be
accepted without giving equal value in return. Society, of course,
will have to set up the standards of value. That is a matter of
detail--a matter for the practical men who come in the wake of the
idealist. But of this I am certain--and I hark back to my old
theme--that just as society has found a means of preventing the man
who is physically superior from taking wealth without giving service
in return, so must society find a means to prevent men who are
mentally superior from taking wealth without giving service in return.
The superior person, mark you, will still have an advantage, in that
his superiority will enable him to EARN more; we shall merely stop him
taking what he does not earn. That must come. I think it will come
soon. It is the next step in the social evolution of the race."
She had drunk in his argument as one who hangs on every word, and
her wrapt face turned toward his seemed to glow and thrill him in
return with a sense of their spiritual oneness. She did not need to
tell him that Transley never talked to her like this. Transley loved
her, if he loved her at all, for the glory she reflected upon him; he
was proud of her beauty, of her daring, of her physical charm and
self-reliance. The deeper side of her mental life was to Transley a
field unexplored; a field of the very existence of which he was
probably unaware. Grant looked into her eyes, now close and
responsive, and found within their depths something which sent him to
"Zen!" he exclaimed. "The mystery of life is too much for me.
Surely there must be an answer somewhere! Surely the puzzle has a
system to it--a key which may some day be found! Or can it be just
chaos--just blind, driveling, senseless chaos? In our own lives, why
should we be stranded, helpless, wrecked, with the happiness which
might have been ours hung just beyond our reach? Is there no answer
"I suppose we disobeyed the law, back in those old days. We heard
it clearly enough, and we disobeyed. I allowed myself to be guided
by motives which were not the highest; you seemed to lack the
enterprise which would have won you its own reward. And as you have
said, those who violate the law must suffer for it. I have suffered."
She drew up her chin; he could see the firm muscles set beneath
the pink bloom of her flesh. . . . He had not thought of Zen
suffering; all his thought of her had been very grateful to his
vanity, but he had not thought of her suffering. He extended his
hands and took hers within them.
"I have sometimes wondered," he said, "why there is no second
chance; why one cannot wipe the slate clear of everything that has
been and start anew. What a world this might be!"
"Would it be any better? Or would we go on making our mistakes
over again? That seems to be the only way we learn."
"But a second chance; the idea seems so fair, so plausible.
Suppose you are shooting on the ranges, for instance; you are allowed
a shot or two to find your nerve, to get your distance, to settle
yourself to the business in hand. But in this business of life you
fire, and if some distraction, some momentary influence or folly sends
your aim wild, the shot is gone and you are left with all the years
that follow to think about it. You can do nothing but think about
it--the most profitless of all occupations."
"For you there is a second chance," she reminded him. "You must
have thought of that."
"No--no second chance."
She drew herself up slightly and away from him. "I have been very
frank with you, Dennison," she said. "Suppose you try being frank
In her eyes was still the fire of Zen of the Y.D., a woman
unconquered and unconquerable. She gave the impression that she
accepted the buffetings of life, but no one forced them upon her. She
had erred; she would suffer. That was fair; she accepted that. But as
Grant gazed on her face, tilted still in some of its old- time
recklessness and defiance, he knew that the day would come when she
would say that her cup was full, and, throwing it to the winds, would
start life over, if there can be such a thing as starting life over.
And something in her manner told him that day was very, very near.
"All right," he said, "I will be frank. Fate HAS brought within my
orbit a second chance, or what would have been a second chance had my
heart not been so full of you. She was a girl well worth thinking
about. When an employee introduces herself to you with a declaration
of independence you may know that you have met with someone out of the
ordinary. I am not speaking of these days of labor scarcity; it takes
no great moral quality to be independent when you have the whip-hand.
But in the days before the war, with two applicants for every
position, a girl who valued her freedom of spirit more than her
job--more than even a very good job--was a girl to think about."
"And you thought about her?"
"I did. I was sick of the cringing and fawning of which my wealth
made me the object; I loathed the deference paid me, because I knew
it was paid, not to me, but to my money--I was homesick to hear
someone tell me to go to hell. I wanted to brush up against that
spirit which says it is as good as anybody else--against the
manliness which stands its ground and hits back. I found that spirit
in Phyllis Bruce."
"Phyllis Bruce--rather a nice name. But are the men and women of
the East so--so servile as you suggest?"
"No! That is where I was mistaken. Generations of environment had
merely trained them into docility of habit. Underneath they are
red-blooded through and through. The war showed us that. Zen--the
proudest moment of my life--except one--was when a kid in the office
who couldn't come into my room without trembling jumped up and said
'We WILL win!'--and called me Grant! Think of that! Poor chap. . . .
What was I saying? Oh, yes; Phyllis. I grew to like her--very
much--but I couldn't marry her. You know why."
Zen was looking into the fire with unseeing eyes. "I am not sure
that I know why," she said at length. "You couldn't marry me. It
was your second chance. You should have taken it."
"Would that be playing the game fairly--with her?"
She rested her fingers lightly on the back of his hand, extending
them gently down until they fell between his own.
"Denny, you big, big boy!" she murmured. "Do you suppose every man
marries his first choice?"
"It has always seemed to me that a second choice is a makeshift.
It doesn't seem quite square--"
"No. I fancy some second choices are really first choices. Wisdom
comes with experience, you know."
"Not always. At any rate I couldn't marry her while my heart was
"I suppose not," she answered, and again he noted a touch of
weariness in her voice. "I know something of what divided
affection--if one can even say it is divided--means. Denny, I will
make a confession. I knew you would come back; I always was sure you
would come back. 'Then,' I said to myself, 'I will see this man Grant
as he is, and the reality will clear my brain of all this idealism
which I have woven about him.' Perhaps you know what I mean. We
sometimes meet people who impress us greatly at the time, but a second
meeting, perhaps years later, has a very different effect. It sweeps
all the idealism away, and we wonder what it was that could have
charmed us so. Well--I hoped--I really hoped for some experience like
that with you. If only I could meet you again and find that, after
all, you were just like other men; self- centred, arrogant, kind,
perhaps, but quite superior--if I could only find THAT to be true then
the mirage in which I have lived for all these years would be swept
away and my old philosophy that after all it doesn't matter much whom
one marries so long as he is respectable and gives her a good living
would be vindicated. And so I have encouraged you to come here; I
have been most unconventional, I know, but I was always that--I have
cultivated your acquaintance, and, Denny, I am SO disappointed!"
"Disappointed? Then the mirage HAS cleared away?"
"On the contrary, it grows more distorted every day. I see you
towering above all your fellow humans; reaching up into a heaven so
far above them that they don't even know of its existence. I see you
as really The Man-On-the-Hill, with a vision which lays all this
selfish, commonplace world at your feet. The idealism which I thought
must fade away is justified--heightened--by the reality."
She had turned her face to him, and Grant, little as he understood
the ways of women, knew that she had made her great confession. For a
moment he held himself in check. . . . then from somewhere in his
subconsciousness came ringing the phrase, "Every man worth his salt. .
. . takes what he wants." That was Transley's morality; Transley, the
Usurper, who had bullied himself into possession of this heart which
he had never won and could never hold; Transley, the fool, frittering
his days and nights with money! He seized her in his arms, crushing
down her weak resistance; he drew her to him until, as in that day by
a foothill river somewhere in the sunny past, her lips met his and
returned their caress. He cared now for nothing--nothing in the whole
world but this quivering womanhood within his arms. . . .
"You must go," she whispered at length. "It is late, and Frank's
habits are somewhat erratic."
He held her at arm's length, his hands upon her shoulders. "Do you
suppose that fear--of anything--can make me surrender you now?"
"Not fear, perhaps--I know it could not be fear--but good sense may
do it. It was not fear that made me send you home early from your
previous calls. It was discretion."
"Oh!" he said, a new light dawning, and he marvelled again at her
"But I must tell you," she resumed, "Frank leaves on a business
trip to-morrow night. He will be gone for some time, and I shall
motor into town to see him off. I am wondering about Wilson," she
hurried on, as though not daring to weigh her words; "Sarah will be
away--I am letting her have a little holiday--and I can't take Wilson
into town with me because it will be so late." Then, with a burst of
confession she spoke more deliberately. "That isn't exactly the
reason, Dennison; Frank doesn't know I have let Sarah go, and I--I
Her face shone pink and warm in the glow of the firelight, and as
the significance of her words sank in upon him Grant marvelled at
that wizardry of the gods which could bring such homage to the foot
of man. A tenderness such as he had never known suffused him; her
very presence was holy.
"Bring the boy over and let him spend the night with me. We are
great chums and we shall get along splendidly."
Grant spent his Sunday forenoon in an exhaustive house-cleaning
campaign. Bachelor life on the farm is not conducive to domestic
delicacy, and although Grant had never abandoned the fundamentals he
had allowed his interpretation of essential cleanliness to become
somewhat liberal. The result was that the day of rest usually
confronted him with a considerable array of unwashed pots and pans and
other culinary utensils. To-day, while the tawny autumn hills seemed
to fairly heave and sigh with contentment under a splendor of
opalescent sunshine, he scoured the contents of his kitchen until they
shone; washed the floor; shook the rugs from the living-room and swept
the corners, even behind the gramophone; cleared the ashes from the
hearth and generally set his house in order, for was not she to call
upon him that evening on her way to town, and was not little
Wilson--he of the high adventures with teddy-bear and knife and
pig--to spend the night with him?
When he was able to view his handiwork with a feeling that even
feminine eyes would find nothing to offend, Grant did an unwonted
thing. He unlocked the whim-room and opened the windows that the
fresh air might play through the silent chamber. To the west the
mountains looked down in sombre placidity as they had looked down
every bright autumn morning since the dawn of time, their shoulders
bathed in purple mist and their snow-crowned summits shining in the
sun. For a long time Grant stood drinking in the scene; the fertile
valley lying with its square farms like a checker-board of the gods,
with its round little lakes beating back the white sunshine like coins
from the currency of the Creator; the ruddy copper-colored patches of
ripe wheat, and drowsy herds motionless upon the receding hills; the
blue-green ribbon of river with its yellow fringes of cottonwood and
bluffs of forbidding spruce, and behind and over all the silent,
majestic mountains. It was a sight to make the soul of man rise up
and say, "I know I stand on the heights of the Eternal!" Then as his
eyes followed the course of the river Grant picked out a column of
thin blue smoke, and knew that Zen was cooking her Sunday dinner.
The thought turned him to his dusting of the whim-room, and
afterwards to his own kitchen. When he had lunched and dressed he
took a stroll over the hills, thinking a great deal, but finding no
answer. On his return he descried the familiar figure of Linder in a
semi-recumbent position on the porch, and Linder's well-worn car in
"How goes it, Linder?" he said, cheerily, as he came up. "Is the
Big Idea going to fructify?"
"The Big Idea seems to be all right. You planned it well."
"Thanks. But is it going to be self-supporting--I mean in the
matter of motive power. Would it run if you and I and Murdoch were
"Everything must have a head."
"Democracy must find its own head--must grow it out of the
materials supplied. If it doesn't do that it's a failure, and the Big
Idea will end in being the Big Fizzle. That's why I'm leaving it so
severely alone--I want to see which way it's headed."
"I could suggest another reason," said Linder, pointedly.
"Another reason for what?"
"For your leaving it so severely alone."
"What are you driving at?" demanded Grant, somewhat petulantly.
"You are in a taciturn mood to-day, Linder."
"Perhaps I am, Grant, and if so it comes from wondering how a man
with as much brains as you have can be such a damned fool upon
"Drop the riddles, Linder. Let me have it in the face."
"It's just like this, Grant, old boy," said Linder, getting up and
putting his hand on his friend's shoulder, "I feel that I still have
an interest in the chap who saved all of me except what this empty
sleeve stands for, and it's that interest which makes me speak about
something which you may say is none of my business. I was out here
Monday night to see you, and you were not at home. I came out again
Wednesday, and you were not at home. I came last night and you were
not at home, and had not come back at midnight. Your horses were in
the barn; you were not far away."
"Why didn't you telephone me?"
"If I hadn't cared more for you than I do for my job and the Big
Idea thrown in I could have settled it that way. But, Grant, I do."
"I believe you. But why this sudden worry over me? I was merely
spending the evening at a neighbor's."
"Yes--at Transley's. Transley was in town, and Mrs. Transley is--
not responsible--where you are concerned."
"I saw it all that night at dinner there. Some things are plain to
everyone--except those most involved. Now it's not my job to say to
you what's right and wrong, but the way it looks to me is this: what's
the use of setting up a new code of morality about money which
concerns, after all, only some of us, if you're going to knock down
those things which concern all of us?"
Grant regarded his foreman for some time without answering. "I
appreciate your frankness, Linder," he said at length. "Your
friendship, which I can never question, gives you that privilege. Man
to man, I'm going to be equally frank with you. To begin with, I
suppose you will admit that Y.D.'s daughter is a strong character, a
woman quite capable of directing her own affairs?"
"The stronger the engine the bigger the smash if there's a wreck."
"It's not a case of wrecking; it's a case of trying to save
something out of the wreck. Convention, Linder, is a torture-
monger; it binds men and women to the stake of propriety and bids
them smile while it snuffs out all the soul that's in them. We have
pitted ourselves against convention in economic affairs; shall we
"No! It was pure unselfishness which led you into the Big Idea.
That isn't what's leading you now."
"Well, let me put it another way. Transley is a clever man of
affairs. He knows how to accomplish his ends. He applied the
methods--somewhat modified for the occasion--of a landshark in
winning his wife. He makes a great appearance of unselfishness, but
in reality he is selfish to the core. He lavishes money on her to
satisfy his own vanity, but as for her finer nature, the real Zen, her
soul if you like--he doesn't even know she has one. He obtained
possession by false pretences. Which is the more moral thing--to
leave him in possession, or to throw him out? Didn't you yourself
hear him say that men who are worth their salt take what they want?"
"Since when did you let him set YOUR standards?"
"That's hardly fair."
"I think it is. I think, too, that you are arguing against your
own convictions. Well, I've had my say. I deliberately came out
to-day without Murdoch so that I might have it. You would be quite
justified in firing me for what I've done. But now I'm through, and
no matter what may happen, remember, Linder will never have suspected
"That's like you, old chap. We'll drop it at that, but I must
explain that Zen is going to town to-night to meet Transley, and is
leaving the boy with me. It is an event in my young life, and I have
house-cleaned for it appropriately. Come inside and admire my
Linder admired as he was directed, and then the two men fell into a
discussion of business matters. Eventually Grant cooked supper, and
just as they had finished Mrs. Transley drove up in her motor.
"Here we are!" she cried, cheerily. "Glad to see you, Mr. Linder.
Wilson has his teddy-bear and his knife and his pyjamas, and is a
little put out, I think, that I wouldn't let him bring the pig."
"I shall try and make up the deficiency," said Grant, smiling
broadly, as the boy climbed to his shoulder. "Won't you come in?
Linder, among his other accomplishments learned in France, is an
"Thank you, no; I must get along. I shall call early in the
morning, so that you will not be delayed on Wilson's account."
"No need of that; he can ride to the field with me on Prince. He
is a great help with the plowing."
"I'm sure." She stepped up to Grant and drew the boy's face down
to hers. "Good-bye, dear; be a good boy," she whispered, and Wilson
waved kisses to her as the motor sped down the road.
Linder took his departure soon after, and Grant was surprised to
find himself almost embarrassed in the presence of his little guest.
The embarrassment, however, was all on his side. Wilson was greatly
interested in the strange things in the house, and investigated them
with the romantic thoroughness of his years. Grant placed a collection
of war trophies that had no more fight in them at the child's
disposal, and he played about until it was time to go to bed.
Where to start on the bedtime preparations was a puzzle, but Wilson
himself came to Grant's aid with explicit instructions about buttons
and pins. Grant fervently hoped the boy would be able to reverse the
process in the morning, otherwise--
Suddenly, with a little dexterous movement, the child divested
himself of all his clothing, and rushed into a far corner.
"You have to catch me now," he shouted in high glee. "One, two--"
Evidently it was a game, and Grant entered into the spirit of it,
finally running Wilson to earth on the farthest corner of the kitchen
table. To adjust the pyjamas was, as Grant confessed, a bigger job
than harnessing a four-horse team, but at length it was completed.
"You must hear my prayer, Uncle Man-on-the-Hill," said the boy.
"You have to sit down in a chair."
Grant sat down and with a strange mixture of emotions drew the
little chap between his knees as he listened to the long-forgotten
prattle. He felt his fingers running through Wilson's hair as other
fingers, now long, long turned to dust, had once run through his. . .
At the third line the boy stopped. "You have to tell me now," he
"But I can't, Willie; I have forgotten."
"Huh, you don't know much," the child commented, and glibly quoted
the remaining lines. "And God bless Daddy and Mamma and teddy-bear
and Uncle Man-on-the-Hill and the pig. Amen," he concluded,
accompanying the last word with a jump which landed him fairly in
Grant's lap. His little arms went up about his friend's neck, and
his little soft cheek rested against a tanned and weather-beaten one.
Slowly Grant's arms closed about the warm, lithe body and pressed it
to his in a new passion, strange and holy. Then he led him to the
whim-room, turned down the white sheets in which no form had ever lain
and placed the boy between them, snuggled his teddy down by his side
and set his knife properly in view upon the dresser. And then he
leaned down again and kissed the little face, and whispered, "Good
night, little boy; God keep you safe to-night, and always." And
suddenly Grant realized that he had been praying. . . .
He withdrew softly, and only partly closed the door; then he chose
a seat where he could see the little figure lying peacefully on the
white bed. The last shafts of the setting sun were falling in amber
wedges across the room. He picked up a book, thinking to read, but he
could not keep his attention on the page; he found his mind wandering
back into the long-forgotten chambers of its beginning, conjuring up
from the faint recollections of infancy visions of the mother he had
hardly known. . . . After a while he tip-toed to the whim-room door
and found that Wilson, with his arms firmly clasped about his
teddy-bear, was deep in the sleep of childhood.
"The dear little chap," he murmured. "I must watch by him
to-night. It would be unspeakable if anything should happen him while
he is under my care."
He felt a sense of warmth, almost a smothering sensation, and
raised his hand to his forehead. It came down covered with
"It's amazingly close," he said, and walked to one of the French
windows opening to the west. The sun had gone down, and a brooding
darkness lay over all the valley, but far up in the sky he could
trace the outline of a cloud. Above, the stars shone with an
unwonted brightness, but below all was a bank of blue-black darkness.
The air was intensely still; in the silence he could hear the wash of
the river. Grant reflected that never before had he heard the wash of
the river at that distance.
"Looks like a storm," he commented, casually, and suddenly felt
something tighten about his heart. The storms of the foothill
country, which occasionally sweep out of the mountains and down the
valleys on the shortest notice, had no terror for him; he had sat on
horseback under an oilskin slicker through the worst of them; but
to-night! Even as he watched, the distant glare of lightning threw
the heaving proportions of the thundercloud into sharp relief.
He turned to his chair, but found himself pacing the living-room
with an altogether inexplicable nervousness. He had held the line
many a bad night at the Front while Death spat out of the darkness on
every hand; he had smoked in the faces of his men to cover his own
fear and to shame them out of theirs; he had run the whole gamut of
the emotion of the trenches, but tonight something more awesome than
any engine of man was gathering its forces in the deep valleys. He
shook himself to throw off the morbidness that was settling upon him;
he laughed, and the echo came back haunting from the silent corners of
the house. Then he lit a lamp and set it, burning low, in the
whim-room, and noted that the boy slept on, all unconcerned.
"Damn Linder, anyway!" he exclaimed presently. "I believe he shook
me up more than I realized. He charged me with insincerity; me, who
have always made sincerity my special virtue. . . . Well, there may
be something in it."
A faint, indistinct growling, as of the grinding of mighty rocks,
came down from the distances.
"The storm will be nothing," he assured himself. "A gust of wind;
a spatter of rain; perhaps a dash of hail; then, of a sudden, a sky
so calm and peaceful one would wonder how it ever could have been
disturbed." Even as he spoke the house shivered in every timber as
the gale struck it and went whining by.
He rushed to the whim-room, but found the boy still sleeping
soundly. "I must stay up," he reasoned with himself; "I must be on
hand in case he should be frightened."
Suddenly it occurred to Grant that, quite apart from his love for
Wilson, if anything should happen the child in his house a very
difficult situation would be created. Transley would demand
explanations--explanations which would be hard to make. Why was
Wilson there at all? Why was he not at home with Sarah? Sarah away
from home! Why had Zen kept that a secret? . . . How long had this
thing been going on, anyway? Grant feared neither Transley nor any
other man, and yet there was something akin to fear in his heart as he
thought of these possibilities. He would be held accountable--doubly
accountable--if anything happened the child. Even though it were
something quite beyond his control; lightning, for example--
The gale subsided as quickly as it had come, and the sudden silence
which followed was even more awesome. It lasted only for a moment; a
flash of lightning lit up every corner of the house, bursting like
white fire from every wall and ceiling. Grant rushed to the whim-room
and was standing over the child when the crash of thunder came upon
them. The boy stirred gently, smiled, and settled back to his sleep.
Grant drew the blinds in the whim-room, and went out to draw them
in the living-room, but the sight across the valley was of a majesty
so terrific that it held him fascinated. The play of the lightning
was incessant, and with every flash the little lakes shot back their
white reflection, and distant farm window-panes seemed heliographing
to each other through the night. As yet there was no rain, but a
dense wall of cloud pressed down from the west, and the farther hills
were hidden even in the brightest flashes.
Turning from the windows, Grant left the blinds open. "Only
cowardice would close them," he muttered to himself, "and surely, in
addition to the other qualities Linder has attributed to me, I am not
a coward. If it were not for Willie I could stand and enjoy it."
Presently rain began to fall; a few scattered drops at first, then
thicker, harder, until the roof and windows rattled and shook with
their force. The wind, which had gone down so suddenly, sprang up
again, buffeting the house as it rushed by with the storm. Grant
stood in the whim-room, in the dim light of the lamp turned low, and
watched the steady breathing of his little guest with as much anxiety
as if some dread disease threatened him. For the first time in his
life there came into Grant's consciousness some sense of the price
which parents pay in the rearing of little children. He thought of all
the hours of sickness, of all the childish hurts and dangers, and
suddenly he found himself thinking of his father with a tenderness
which was strange and new to him. Doubtless under even that stern
veneer of business interest had beat a heart which, many a time, had
tightened in the grip of fear for young Dennison.
As the night wore on the storm, instead of spending itself quickly
as Grant had expected, continued unabated, but his nervous tension
gradually relaxed, and when at length Wilson was awakened by an
exceptionally loud clap of thunder he took the boy in his arms and
soothed his little fears as a mother might have done. They sat for a
long while in a big chair in the living-room, and exchanged such
confidences as a man may with a child of five. After the lad had
dropped back into sleep Grant still sat with him in his arms,
thinking. . . .
And what he thought was this: He was a long while framing the
exact thought; he tried to beat it back in a dozen ways, but it
circled around him, gradually closed in upon him and forced its
acceptance. "Linder called me a fool, and he was right. He might
have called me a coward, and again he would have been right. Linder
Some way it seemed easy to reach that conclusion while this little
sleeping form lay in his arms. Perhaps it had quickened into life
that ennobling spirit of parenthood which is all sacrifice and love
and self-renunciation. The ends which seemed so all-desirable a few
hours ago now seemed sordid and mean and unimportant. Reaching out
for some means of self-justification Grant turned to the Big Idea;
that was his; that was big and generous and noble. But after all, was
it his? The idea had come in upon him from some outside source--as
perhaps all ideas do; struck him like a bullet; swept him along. He
was merely the agency employed in putting it into effect. It had cost
him nothing. He was doing that for society. Now was the time to do
something that would cost; to lay his hand upon the prize and then
relinquish it--for the sake of Wilson Transley!
"And by God I'll do it!" he exclaimed, springing to his feet. He
carried the child back to his bed, and then turned again to watch the
storm through the windows. It seemed to be subsiding; the lightning,
although still almost continuous, was not so near. The air was
cooling off and the rain was falling more steadily, without the gusts
and splatters which marked the storm in its early stages. And as he
looked out over the black valley, lighted again and again by the glare
of heaven's artillery, Grant became conscious of a deep, mysterious
sense of peace. It was as though his soul, like the elements about
him, caught in a paroxysm of elemental passion, had been swept clean
and pure in the fire of its own upheaval.
"What little incidents turn our lives!" he thought. "That boy; in
some strange way he has been the means of bringing me to see things
as they are--which not even Linder could do. The mind has to be
fertilized for the thought, or it can't think it. He brought the
necessary influence to bear. It was like the night at Murdoch's
house, the night when the Big Idea was born. Surely I owe that to
Murdoch, and his wife, and Phyllis Bruce."
The name of Phyllis Bruce came to him with almost a shock. He had
been so occupied with his farm and with Zen that he had thought but
little of her of late. As he turned the matter over in his mind now
he felt that he had used Phyllis rather shabbily. He recalled having
told Murdoch to send for her, but that was purely a business
transaction. Yet he felt that he had never entirely forgotten her,
and he was surprised to find how tenderly the memory of her welled up
within him. Zen's vision had been clearer than his; she had
recognized in Phyllis Bruce a party to his life's drama. "The second
choice may be really the first," she had said.
Grant lit a cigar and sat down to smoke and think. The matter of
Phyllis needed prompt settlement. It afforded a means to burn his
bridges behind him, and Grant felt that it would be just as well to
cut off all possibility of retreat. Fortunately the situation was
one that could be explained--to Phyllis. He had come out West again
to be sure of himself; he was sure now; would she be his wife? He had
never thought that line out to a conclusion before, but now it proved
a subject very delightful to contemplate.
He had told himself, back in those days in the East, that it would
not be fair to marry Phyllis Bruce while his heart was another's. He
had believed that then; now he knew the real reason was that he had
allowed himself to hope, against all reason, that Zen Transley might
yet be his. He had harbored an unworthy desire, and called it a
virtue. Well--the die was cast. He had definitely given Zen up. He
would tell Phyllis everything. . . . That is, everything she needed
It would be best to settle it at once--the sooner the better. He
went to his desk and took out a telegraph blank. He addressed it to
Phyllis, pondered a minute in a great hush in the storm, and wrote,
"I am sure now. May I come? Dennison."
This done he turned to the telephone, hurrying as one who fears for
the duration of his good resolutions. It was a chance if the line
was not out of business, but he lifted the receiver and listened to
the thump of his heart as he waited.
Presently came a voice as calm and still as though it spoke from
another world, "Number?"
He gave the number of Linder's rooms in town; it was likely Linder
had remained in town, but it was a question whether the telephone
bell would waken him. He had recollections of Linder as a sound
sleeper. But even as this possibility entered his mind he heard
Linder's phlegmatic voice in his ear.
"Oh, Linder! I'm so glad I got you. Rush this message to Phyllis
Bruce. . . . Linder? . . . Linder!"
There was no answer. Nothing but a hollow, empty sound on the
wire, as though it led merely into the universe in general. He tried
to call the operator, but without success. The wire was down.
He turned from it with a sense of acute impatience. Was this an
omen of obstacles to bar him now from Phyllis Bruce? He had a wild
thought of saddling a horse and riding to town, but at that moment
the storm came down afresh. Besides, there was the boy.
Suddenly came a quick knock at the door; the handle turned, and a
drenched, hatless figure, with disheveled, wet hair, and white, drawn
face burst in upon him. It was Zen Transley.
"How is he--how is Wilson?" she demanded, breathlessly.
"Sound as a bell," he answered, alarmed by her manner. The self-
assured Zen was far from self-assurance now. "Come, see, he is
He led her into the whim-room and turned up the lamp. The lad was
sleeping soundly, his teddy-bear clasped in his arms, his little pink
and white face serene under the magic skies of slumberland. Grant
expected that Zen would throw herself upon the child in her agitation,
but she did not. She drew her fingers gently across his brow, then,
turning to Grant,
"Rather an unceremonious way to break into your house," she said,
with a little laugh. "I hope you will pardon me. . . . I was uneasy
"But tell me--how--where did you come from?"
"From town. Let me stand in your kitchen, or somewhere."
"You're wet through. I can't offer you much change."
"Not as wet as when you first met me, Dennison," she said, with a
smile. "I have a good waterproof, but my hat blew off. It's
somewhere on the road. I couldn't see through the windshield, so I
put my head out, and away it went."
Then both laughed, and an atmosphere that had been tense began to
settle back to normal. Grant led her out to the living-room, removed
her coat, and started a fire.
"So you drove out over those roads?" he said, when the smoke began
to curl up around the logs. "You had your courage."
"It wasn't courage, Dennison; it was terror. Fear sometimes makes
one wonderfully brave. After I saw Frank off I went to the hotel. I
had a room on the west side, and instead of going to bed I sat by the
window looking out at the storm and at the wet streets. I could see
the flashes of lightning striking down as though they were aimed at
definite objects, and I began to think of Wilson, and of you. You
see, it was the first night I had ever spent away from him, and I
began to think. . . .
"After a while I could bear it no longer, and I rushed down and out
to the garage. There was just one young man on night duty, and I'm
sure he thought me crazy. When he couldn't dissuade me he wanted to
send a driver with me. You know I couldn't have that."
She was looking squarely at him, her face strangely calm and
emotionless. Grant nodded that he followed her reasoning.
"So here I am," she continued. "No doubt you think me silly, too.
You are not a mother."
"I think I understand," he answered, tenderly. "I think I do."
They sat in silence for some time, and presently they became aware
of a grey light displacing the yellow glow from the lamp and the
ruddy reflections of the fire. "It is morning," said Grant. "I
believe the storm has cleared."
He stood beside her chair and took her hand in his. "Let us watch
the dawn break on the mountains," he said, and together they moved to
the windows that overlooked the valley and the grim ranges beyond.
Already shafts of crimson light were firing the scattered drift of
clouds far overhead. . . .
"Dennison," she said at length, turning her face to his, "I hope
you will understand, but--I have thought it all over. I have not
hidden my heart from you. For the boy's sake, and for your sake, and
for the sake of 'a scrap of paper'--that was what the war was over,
"I know," he whispered. "I know."
"Then you have been thinking, too? . . . I am so glad!" In the
growing light he could see the moisture in her bright eyes glisten,
and it seemed to him this wild, daring daughter of the hills had
never been lovelier than in this moment of confession and of high
"I am so glad," she repeated, "for your sake--and for my own. Now,
again, you are really the Man-on-the-Hill. We have been in the
valley of late. You can go ahead now with your high plans, with your
Big Idea. You will marry Miss Bruce, and forget."
"I shall remember with chastened memory, but I shall never forget,"
he said at length. "I shall never forget Zen of the Y.D. And you--
what will you do?"
"I have the boy. I did not realize how much I had until to-night.
Suddenly it came upon me that he was everything. You won't
understand, Dennison, but as we grow older our hearts wrap up around
our children with a love quite different from that which expresses
itself in marriage. This love gives--gives--gives, lavishly,
unselfishly, asking nothing in return."
"I think I understand," he said again. "I think I do."
They turned their eyes to the mountains, and as they looked the
first shafts of sunlight fell on the white peaks and set them
dazzling like mighty diamond-points against the blue bosom of the
West. Slowly the flood of light poured down their mighty sides and
melted the mauve shadows of the valley. Suddenly a ray of the
morning splendor shot through the little window in the eastern wall
of the living-room and fell fairly upon the woman's head, crowning
her like a halo of the Madonna.
"It is morning on the mountains--and on you!" Grant exclaimed.
"Zen, you are very, very beautiful." He raised her hand and pressed
her fingers to his lips.
As they stood watching the sunlight pour into the valley a sharp
knock sounded on the door. "Come," said Dennison, and the next
moment it swung open and Phyllis Bruce entered, followed immediately
by Linder. A question leapt into her eyes at the remarkable
situation which greeted them, and she paused in embarrassment.
"Phyllis!" Grant exclaimed. "You here!"
"It would seem that I was not expected."
"It is all very simple," Grant explained, with a laugh. "Little
Willie Transley was my guest overnight. On account of the storm his
mother became alarmed, and drove out from the city early this morning
for him. Mrs. Transley, let me introduce Miss Bruce-- Phyllis Bruce,
of whom I have told you."
Zen's cordial handshake did more to reassure Phyllis than any
amount of explanations, and Linder's timely observation that he knew
Wilson was there and was wondering about him himself had valuable
"But now--YOUR explanations?" said Grant. "How comes it, Linder?"
"Simple enough, from our side. When I got back to town last night
I found Murdoch highly excited over a telegram from Miss Bruce that
she would arrive on the 3 a.m. train. He was determined to wait up,
but when the storm came on I persuaded him to go home, as I was sure I
could identify her. So I was lounging in my room waiting for three
o'clock when I got your telephone call. All I could catch was the
fact that you were mighty glad to get me, and had some urgent message
for Miss Bruce. Then the connection broke."
"I see. And you, of course, assured Miss Bruce that I was being
murdered, or meeting some such happy and effective ending, out here
in the wilderness."
"Not exactly that, but I reported what I could, and Miss Bruce
insisted upon coming out at once. The roads were dreadful, but we
had daylight. Also, we have a trophy."
Linder went out and returned in a moment with a sadly bedraggled
"My poor hat!" Zen exclaimed. "I lost it on the way."
"It is the best kind of evidence that you had but recently come
over the road," said Linder, significantly.
"I think no more evidence need be called," said Phyllis. "May I
lay off my things?"
"Certainly--certainly," Grant apologized. "But I must introduce
one more exhibit." He handed her the telegram he had written during
the night. "That is the message I wanted Linder to rush to you," he
said, and as she read it he saw the color deepen in her cheeks.
"I'm going to get breakfast, Mr. Grant," Zen announced with a
sudden burst of energy. "Everybody keep out of the kitchen."
"Guess I'll feed up for you, this morning, old chap," said Linder,
beating a retreat to the stables.
And when Phyllis had laid aside her coat and hat and had
straightened her hair a little in the glass above the mantelpiece she
walked straight to Grant and put both her hands in his. "Let me see
this boy, Willie Transley," she said.
Grant led her into the whim-room, where the boy still slept
soundly, and drew aside the blinds that the morning light might fall
about him. Phyllis bent over the child. "Isn't he dear?" she said,
and stooped and kissed his lips.
Then she stood up and looked for what seemed to Grant a very long
time at the panorama of grandeur that stretched away to the westward.
"When may I expect an answer, Phyllis?" he said at length. "You
know why my question has been so long delayed. I shall not attempt
to excuse myself. I have been very, very foolish. But to-day I am
very, very wise. May I also be very, very happy?"
He had taken her hands in his, and as she did not resist he drew
her gently to him.
"Little Willie christened me The Man-on-the-Hill," he whispered.
"I have tried to live on the hill, but I need you to keep me from
"What about your settlement plan? I thought you wanted me for
"We will give our lives to that, together, Phyllis, to that, and to
making this house a home. If God should give us--"
He did not finish the thought, for the form of Phyllis Bruce
trembled against his, and her lips had murmured "Yes." . . .
"Mr. Grant! Mr. Grant! The telephone is ringing," called the
clear voice of Zen Transley. "Shall I take the message?"
"Please do," said Dennison, inwardly abjuring the efficiency of the
lineman who had already made repairs.
"It's Mr. Murdoch, and he's highly excited, and he says have you
Phyllis Bruce here."
"Tell him I have, and I'm going to keep her."