The Lady Doc
by Caroline Lockhart
THE LADY DOC
Author of The Man from Bitter Roots, The Fighting Shepherdess
Frontispiece by Gayle Hoskins
[Illustration: No, Essie Tisdale, I can't just see you in any such
setting as that"]
A. L. Burt Company Publishers New York Published by arrangement with
J. B. Lippincott Company
Copyright, 1912, by J. B. Lippincott Company
Published September, 1912
I. THE “CANUCK”
THAT SAVED FLOUR
II. THE HUMOR OF
IV. “THE GROUND
V. ANOTHER CASE
VI. “THE CHURCH
VII. THE SHEEP
FROM THE GOATS
CHANCE OF A
IX. THE WAYS OF
XI. THE OPENING
XII. THEIR FIRST
XIV. “THE ETHICS
XVI. THE TOP
XIX. “DOWN AND
XXI. TURNING A
XXIV. THE DAGO
DUKE AND DAN
IN THE WORLD
I. THE "CANUCK" THAT SAVED FLOUR GOLD
A fellow must have something against himselfhe certainly mustto
live down here year in and year out and never do a lick of work on a
trail like this, that he's usin' constant. Gettin' off half a dozen
times to lift the front end of your horse around a point, and then the
back endthere's nothin' to it!
Grumbling to himself and talking whimsically to the three horses
stringing behind him, Dick Kincaid picked his way down the zigzag,
sidling trail which led from the saddleback between two peaks of the
Bitter Root Mountains into the valley which still lay far below him.
Quit your crowdin', can't you, Baldy! He laid a restraining hand
upon the white nose of the horse following close at his heels. Want to
jam me off this ledge and send me rollin' two thousand feet down onto
their roof? Good as I've been to you, too!
He stopped and peered over the edge of the precipice along which the
faint trail ran.
Looks like smoke. He nodded in satisfaction. Yes, 'tis smoke.
Long past dinner time, but then these squaws go to cookin' whenever
they happen to think about it. Lord, but I'm hungry! Wish some
good-lookin' squaw would get took with me and follow me off, for I sure
hates cookin' and housework.
Still talking to himself he resumed the descent, slipping and
sliding and digging his heels hard to hold himself back.
They say she sticks like beeswax, Dubois's squaw, never tries to
run off but stays right to home raisin' up a batch of young 'uns. You
take these Nez Perces and they're good Injuns as Injuns go. Smarter'n
most, fair lookers, and tolerable clean. Will you look at that infernal
pack slippin' again, and right here where there's no chance to fix it!
Say, but I'd like to get my thumb in the eye of the fellow that
made these pack-saddles. Too narrow by four inches for any horse not
just off grass and rollin' fat. Won't fit any horse that packs in
these hills. Doggone it, his back'll be as raw as a piece of
beefsteak and if there's anything in this world that I hate it's to
pack a sore-backed horse.
You can bet I wouldn't a made this trip for money if I wasn't so
plumb anxious to see how Dubois saves that flour gold. You take one of
these here 'canucks' and he's blamed near as good if not a better
placer miner than a Chink; more ingenious and just as savin'. Say,
Baldy, will you keep off my heels? If I have to tell you again about
walkin' up my pant leg I aim to break your head in. It's bad enough to
come down a trail so steep it wears your back hair off t'hout havin'
your clothes tore off you into the bargain.
And so, entertaining himself with his own conversation and scolding
amiably at his saddle and pack horses, the youthful prospector slid for
another hour down the mountain trail, though, as a rock would fall, the
log house of the French Canadian was not more than a thousand yards
It was the middle of May and the deep snows of winter still lay in
the passes and upon the summit, but in the valley the violets made
purple blotches along the stream now foaming with the force of the
water trickling from the melting drifts above. The thorn bushes were
white with blossoms and the service-berry bushes were like fragrant
banks of snow. Accustomed as he was to the beauty of valleys and the
grandeur of peaks, something in the peaceful scene below him stirred
the soul of young Dick Kincaid, and he stopped to look before he made
the last drop into the valley.
Ain't that a young paradise? He breathed deep of the odorous air.
Ain't it, now?
The faint blue smoke rising straight among the white blossoms
reminded him again of his hunger, so, wiping the perspiration from his
snow-burned face, he started on again, but when he came to the ditch
which carried water from the stream through a hundred and fifty feet of
sluice-boxes he stopped and examined with eager interest the methods
used for saving fine gold, for, keen as was his hunger, the miner's
instinct within him was keener.
Will you look at the lumber he's whip-sawed! Astonishment was in
his voice! Whip-sawin' lumber is the hardest work a man ever did. I'll
bet the squaw was on the other end of that saw; I never heard of Dubois
hiring help. Uh-huh, he uses the Carriboo riffles. Look at the work
he's been topunchin' all those holes in that sheet-iron. And here's
two boxes of pole riffles, and a set of Hungarian riffles, not to
mention three distributin' boxes and a table. Say, he isn't takin' any
chances on losin' anything, is he? But it's all rightyou gotta be
careful with this light gold and heavy sand. I'm liable to learn
something down here. Lord I'm hungry! Come on, Baldy!
As he pulled his saddle horse in the direction of the smoke he
noticed that there were no footprints in the trail and a stillness
which impressed him as peculiar pervaded the place. There was something
which he missedwhat was it? To be suredogs! There were no barking
dogs to greet him. It was curious, he thought, for these isolated
families always had plenty of dogs and no breed or Injun outfit
ever kept fewer than six. There were no shrill voices of children at
play, no sound of an axe or a saw or a hammer.
Blamed funny, he muttered, yet he knew where there was smoke there
must be human beings.
He stopped short at some sound and listened attentively. A
whimpering minor wail reached him faintly. It was unlike any sound he
ever had heard, yet he knew it was a woman's voice. There was something
in the cadence which sent a chill over him. He dropped the bridle reins
and walked softly down the trail. Suddenly he halted and his lips
parted in a whispered ejaculation of astonishment and horror. He was
young then, Dick Kincaid, but the sight which met his eyes stayed with
him distinct in every detail, through all his adventurous life.
Two children, boys of eleven and thirteen or thereabouts, were
roasting a ground squirrel in the smouldering embers of what had been a
cabin. A dead baby lay on a ragged soogan near a partially dug grave.
Cross-legged on the ground beside it was a woman wailing unceasingly as
she rocked her gaunt and nearly naked body to and fro. The eagerness of
famished animals gleamed in the boys' eyes as they tore the half-cooked
squirrel in two, yet each offered his share to his mother, who seemed
not to see the proffered food.
Just a little piece, mother, coaxed the elder, and he extended an
emaciated arm from which hung the rags of a tattered shirt sleeve.
Both children were dressed in the remnants of copper-riveted
overalls and their feet were bound in strips of canvas torn from a
tarp. Their straight black hair hung over faces sunken and sallow and
from the waist up they were naked.
The boy held the food before her as long as he could endure it, then
he tore it with his teeth in the ferocity of starvation.
Can you beat it! Can you beat that! The boys did not
hear Kincaid's shocked exclamation.
It was not until he cleared his throat and called in a friendly,
reassuring voice that they learned they were not alone. Then they
jumped in fright and scurried into a near-by thicket like two scared
rabbits, each holding tight his food. But Dick Kincaid's face was one
to inspire confidence, and as he approached they came forth timidly.
Their first fright gave place to delirious joy. The smaller threw his
arms about Kincaid's long legs and hugged them in an ecstasy of delight
while the elder clung to his hand as though afraid he might vanish. The
woman merely glanced at him with vacant eyes and went on wailing.
While he took cold biscuits and bacon from his pack they told him
what had happenedbriefly, simply, without the smallest attempt to
color the story for his sympathy.
We couldn't have held out much longer, m'sieu, we're so weak. The
elder boy was the spokesman.
And the strawberries and sarvis-berries won't be ripe for a long
time yet. It wasn't so bad till the cabin burned. We could keep warm.
But we went off in the woods to see if we could kill something, and
when we came back the cabin was burned and the baby dead. Mother went
crazy more than a month ago, I guess it was. She wouldn't let us bury
the baby till yesterday, and when we started to dig we found we could
only dig a little at a time. We got tired so quick, and besides, we had
to try and keep a fire, for we have no more matches.
I could dig longer nor you, chimed in the younger boy boastfully.
The other smiled wanly.
I know it, Petie, but you had more to eat. You had two trout and a
bird more nor me.
You have a gun, then? and fish-hooks?
Not now. We lost our hooks and shot our shells away long ago. We
kill things with rocks but it takes muscle, m'sieu, to throw hard
enough. The dog was starvin' and we killed and ate him. We couldn't try
to get out because mother wouldn't leave and she'd a been dead before
we got back. We couldn't have wallered through the snow anyhow. We'd
never have made it if we'd gone. There wasn't anything to do but to try
and hang on till spring; then we hoped somebody would come down like
The boy did not cry as he told the story nor did his lip so much as
quiver at the recollection of their sufferings. He made no effort to
describe them, but the hollows in his cheeks and the dreadful thinness
of his arms and little body told it all more eloquently than words.
Kincaid noticed that he had not mentioned his father's name, so he
Where's Dubois? Where's your father? I came to see him.
The childish face hardened instantly.
I don't know. He cleaned up the sluice-boxes late last fall after
the first freeze. Mother helped him clean up. He got a lot of goldthe
most yetand he took it with him and all the horses. He said he was
going out for grub but he never came back. Then the big snows came in
the mountains and we knew he couldn't get in. We ate our bacon up
first, then the flour give out, and the beans. The baby cried all the
time 'cause 'twas hungry and Petie and me wore our shoes out huntin'
through the hills. It was awful, m'sieu.
Kincaid swallowed a lump in his throat.
Do you think he'll come back? the younger boy asked eagerly.
He might have stayed outside longer than he intended and found he
couldn't get in for the snow, or he might have tried and froze in the
pass. It's deep there yet, was Kincaid's evasive reply.
He'll never come back, said the older boy slowly, andhe wasn't
froze in the pass.
It was still May when Dick Kincaid climbed out of the valley with
the whimpering squaw clinging to the horn of his saddle while the
swarthy little breeds trudged manfully in the trail close to his
heels. The violets still made purple blotches along the bank of the
noisy stream, the thorn trees and the service-berry bushes were still
like fragrant banks of snow, the grass in the valley was as green and
the picture as serenely beautiful as when first he had stopped to gaze
upon it, but it no longer looked like paradise to Dick Kincaid.
They stopped to rest and let the horses get their breath when they
reached the edge of the snows, and for a time they stood in silence
looking their last upon the valley below them. The older boy drew his
thin hand from Kincaid's big palm and touched the gun swinging in its
holster on his hip.
Do they cost much, a gun like this?
Not much, boy. Why?
The younger answered for him, smiling at the shrewdness of his
I know. He's goin' to hunt for father when he's big.
There was no answering smile upon his brother's face, the gravity of
manhood sat strangely upon it as he answered without boastfulness or
bitterness but rather in the tone of one who speaks of a duty:
I'm goin' to find him, m'sieu, and when I do I'll get him sure!
Dick Kincaid regarded him for a moment from the shadow of his
If you do, boy, and I find it out, I don't know as I'll give you
II. THE HUMOR OF THE FATE LACHESIS
What possible connection, however remote, this tragedy of the Bitter
Root Mountains could have with the future of Doctor Emma Harpe, who,
nearly twenty years later, sat at a pine table in a forlorn Nebraska
town filling out a death certificate, or what part it could play in the
life of Essie Tisdale, the belle of the still smaller frontier town of
Crowheart, in a distant State, who at the moment was cleaning her white
slippers with gasoline, only the Fate Lachesis spinning the thread of
human life from Clotho's distaff could foresee.
When Dr. Harpe, whose fingers were cold with nervousness, made
tremulous strokes which caused the words to look like a forgery, the
ugly Fate Lachesis grinned, and grinned again when Essie Tisdale, many
hundred miles away, held the slipper up before her and dimpled at its
arched smallness; then Lachesis rearranged her threads.
Dr. Harpe arose when the certificate was blotted and, thrusting her
hands deep in the pockets of her loose, square-cut coat, made a turn or
two the length of the office, walking with the long strides of a man.
Unexpectedly her pallid, clear-cut features crumpled, the strained
muscles relaxed, and she dropped into a chair, her elbows on her knees,
her feet wide apart, her face buried in her hands. She was unfeminine
even in her tears.
Alice Freoff was dead! Alice Freoff was dead! Dr. Harpe was still
numb with the chilling shock of it. She had not expected it. Such a
result had not entered into her calculationsnot until she had seen
her best friend slipping into the other world had she considered it;
then she had fought frantically to hold her back. Her efforts had been
useless and with a frightful clutching at her heart she had watched the
woman sink. Alexander Freoff was away from home. What would he say when
he learned that his wife had died of an operation which he had
forbidden Dr. Harpe to attempt? Fear checked the tears of grief with
which her cheeks were wet. He was a man of violent temper and he had
not liked the intimacy between herself and his wife. He did not like
herDr. Emma Harpeand now that Alice was dead and the fact that
she, as a physician, had blundered, was too obvious to be denied, the
situation held alarming possibilities. Consternation replaced her grief
and the tears dried on her cheeks while again she paced the floor.
She was tired almost to exhaustion when she stopped suddenly and
flung her shoulder in defiance and self-disgust. Bah! I'm going to
pieces like a schoolgirl. I must pull myself together. Twenty-four
hours will tell the tale and I must keep my nerve. The doctors
willthey must stand by me!
Dr. Harpe was correct in her surmise that her suspense would be
short. The interview between herself and the husband of her dead friend
was one she was not likely to forget. Then the coroner, himself a
physician, sent for her and she found him waiting at his desk. All the
former friendliness was gone from his eyes when he swung in his office
chair and looked at her.
It will not be necessary, I believe, to explain why I have sent for
you, Dr. Harpe. His cool, impersonal voice was more ominous, more
final than anger, and she found it hard to preserve her elaborate
assumption of ease.
A dull red mounted slowly to her cheeks and faded, leaving them
Two doors are open to you. He weighed his words carefully. If you
remain here, suit will be brought against you by Alexander Freoff; and
since, in this case, you have acted in violation of all recognized
methods of medical science, I will not uphold you. As a matter of fact,
immediate action will be taken by the State Medical Board, of which I
am a member, to disqualify you. If you leave town within twenty-four
hours you will be permitted to go unmolested. This concession I am
willing to make; not for your sake but for the sake of the profession
which you have disgraced. You have my ultimatum; you may take your
She gripped the arms of her chair hard, silent from an inability to
speak. At last she arose uncertainly and said in a voice which was
I will go.
And so it happened that while Dr. Emma Harpe was saying good-by to a
few wondering acquaintances who accompanied her to the station, Essie
Tisdale was making preparations for a dance which was an event in the
embryotic metropolis of Crowheart, several hundred miles away.
Crowheart was booming and the news of its prosperity had spread.
Settlers were hurrying toward it from the Middle West to take up
homesteads and desert claims in the surrounding country. There was no
specific reason why the town should boom, but it did boom in that
mysterious fashion which far western towns have, up to a certain stage,
after which the reaction sets in.
But there was no thought of reaction now. All was life, eagerness,
good-nature, boundless belief in a great and coming prosperity. The Far
West and the Middle West greeted each other with cordial, outstretched
hands and this dance, though given by a single individual, was in the
nature of a reception from the old settlers to the new as well as to
celebrate the inception of an undertaking which was to insure
Crowheart's prosperity for all time.
Crowheart was platted on a sagebrush bench on a spur of a branch
railroad. The snow-covered peaks of a lofty range rose skyward in the
west. To the north was the solitary butte from which the town received
its name. To the south was a line of dimpled foothills, while eastward
stretched a barren vista of cactus, sand, and sagebrush. A shallow
stream flowed between alkali-coated banks on two sides of the town. In
the spring when melting mountain snows filled it to overflowing, it ran
swift and yellow; but in the late fall and winter it dropped to an
inconsequential creek of clear water, hard with alkali. The inevitable
Main Street was wide and its two business blocks consisted of
one-story buildings of log and unpainted pine lumber. There was the
inevitable General Merchandise Store with its huge sign on the high
front, and the inevitable newspaper which always exists, like the
faithful at prayer, where two or three are gathered together. There
were saloons in plenty with irrelevant and picturesque names, a dance
hall and a blacksmith shop. The most conspicuous and pretentious
building in Crowheart was the Terriberry House, bilious in color and
Spartan in its architecture, located in the centre of Main Street on a
corner. The houses as yet were chiefly tar-paper shacks or floored and
partially boarded tents, but the sound of the saw and the hammer was
heard week-days and Sundays so no one could doubt but that it was only
a question of time when Crowheart would be comfortably housed. There
was nothing distinctive about Crowheart; it had its prototype in a
thousand towns between Peace River and the Rio Grande; it was typical
of the settlements which are springing up every year along the lines of
those railroads that are stretching their tentacles over the Far West.
Yet the hopes of Crowheart expressed themselves in boulevards outlined
with new stakes and in a park which should, some day, be a breathing
spot for a great city. It was Crowheart's last thought that it should
remain stationary and obscure.
To Dr. Harpe swinging down from the high step of the single
passenger coach in the mixed train of coal and cattle cars, it looked
like a highly colored picture on a drop-curtain. The effect was
impressionistic and bizarre as it lay in the gorgeous light of the
setting sun, yet it pleased and rested the eye of the woman whose
thoughts had not been conducive to an appreciation of scenery during
the journey past.
As she drew a deep breath of the thin, stimulating air, the tension
lessened on her strained nerves. She looked back at the interminable
miles over which she had come, the miles which lay between her and the
nightmare of disgrace and failure she had left, and then at the new,
untried field before her. The light of new hope shone in her handsome
hazel eyes, and there was fresh life in her step as she picked up her
suitcase and started across the railroad track toward the town.
Emma Harpe ... St. Louis, she wrote boldly upon the bethumbed
register of the Terriberry House.
The loungers in the office studied her signature earnestly but it
told them nothing of that which they most wished to knowher business.
She might be selling books upon the instalment plan: she might be
peddling skin-food warranted to restore their weather-beaten
complexions to the texture of a baby's: she might be a new
inmate for the dance hall. Anything was possible in Crowheart.
She was the object of interested glances as she ate her supper in
the long dining-room for, although she was nearly thirty, there was
still something of girlhood in her tired face. But she seemed engrossed
in her own thoughts and returned to her room as soon as she had eaten.
There she lay down upon the patchwork quilt which covered her bed, with
her hands clasped above her head, staring at the ceiling and trying to
forget the past in conjecturing the future.
The clatter of dishes ceased after a time and with the darkness came
the sound of many voices in the hall below. There was laughter and much
scurrying to and fro. Then she heard the explanatory tuning of a violin
and finally a loud and masterful voice urging the selection of partners
for a quadrille. Whoops of exuberance, shrill feminine laughter, and
jocose personalities shouted across the room followed. Then,
simultaneous with a burst of music, the scuffling of sliding soles and
stamping heels told her that the dance was on.
The jubilant shriek of the violin, the lively twang of a guitar, the
boom! boom of a drum marking time, the stentorian voice of the master
of ceremonies, reached her plainly as she lay staring at the stars
through the single window of her room. She liked the sounds; they were
cheerful; they helped to shut out the dying face of Alice Freoff and to
dull the pitiless voice of the coroner. She found herself keeping time
with her foot to the music below.
An hour passed with no diminution of the hilarity downstairs and
having no desire to sleep she still lay with her lamp unlighted. While
she listened her ear caught a sound which had no part in the gayety
below. It came faintly at first, then louder as a smothered sob became
a sharp intake of breath.
Dr. Harpe sat up and listened intently. The sound was close,
apparently at the head of the stairs. She was not mistaken, a woman was
cryingso she opened the door.
A crouching figure on the top step shrank farther into the shadow.
Is that you crying?
Another sob was the answer.
What ails you? Come in here.
While she struck a match to light the lamp the girl obeyed
Dr. Harpe shoved a chair toward her with her foot.
Now what's the trouble? she demanded half humorously. Are you a
wall-flower or is your beau dancing with another girl?
There was a rush of tears which the girl covered her face with her
hands to hide.
HuhI hit it, did I?
While she wept softly, Dr. Harpe inspected her with deliberation.
She was tall and awkward, with long, flat feet, and a wide face with
high cheek bones that was Scandinavian in its type. Her straight hair
was the drab shade which flaxen hair becomes before it darkens, and her
large mouth had a solemn, unsmiling droop. Her best feature was her
brown, melancholy, imaginative eyes. She looked like the American-born
daughter of Swedish or Norwegian emigrants and her large-knuckled
hands, too, bespoke the peasant strain.
Quit it, Niobe, and tell me your name.
The girl raised her tearful eyes.
The girl nodded.
Well, Miss Kunkelshe suppressed a smiletell me your troubles
and perhaps you'll feel better.
More tears was the girl's reply.
Look herethere was impatience in her voicethere's no man
worth bawling over.
Butbut wept the girl, he said he'd marry me!
Isn't he going to?
I don't knowhe's going away in a few days and he won't talk any
more about it. He's waltzed every waltz to-night with Essie Tisdale and
has not danced once with me.
So? And who's Essie Tisdale?
She's the waitress here.
Downstairs? In this hotel?
Augusta Kunkel nodded.
I don't blame him, Dr. Harpe replied bluntly, I saw her at
supper. She's a peach!
She's the belle of Crowheart, admitted the girl reluctantly.
And who is he? What's his name?
The girl hesitated but as though yielding to a stronger will than
her own, she whimpered:
SymesAndy P. Symes.
Why don't you let Andy P. Symes go if he wants to? He isn't the
only man in Crowheart, is he?
But he promised! The girl wrung her hands convulsively. He
A look of quick suspicion flashed across Dr. Harpe's face.
He promisedoh, I see!
She arose and closed the door.
The interview was interrupted by a bounding step upon the stairs and
a little tap upon the door, and when it was opened the belle of
Crowheart stood flushed and radiant on the threshold.
We want you to come down, she said in her vivacious, friendly
voice. It must be lonely for you up here, and Mr. Symeshe's giving
the dance, you knowhe sent me up to ask you. She caught sight of the
girl's tear-stained face and stepped quickly into the room. Why,
Gussie. She laid her arm about her shoulder. What's the matter?
Augusta Kunkel drew away with frank hostility in her brown eyes and
Nothing's the matterI'm tired, that's all.
Though she flushed at the rebuff, she murmured gently: I'm sorry,
Gussie. Turning to Dr. Harpe, she urged persuasively:
Please come down. We're having the best time ever!
Dr. Harpe hesitated, for she thought of Alice Freoff, but the violin
was shrieking enticingly and the voice of the master of ceremonies in
alluring command floated up the stairway:
Choose your partners for a waltz, gents!
She jerked her head at Augusta Kunkel.
Come alongdon't sit up here and mope.
Andy P. Symes, waiting in the hall below, was a little puzzled by
the intentness of the newcomer's gaze as she descended the stairs, but
at the bottom he extended a huge hand:
I'm glad you decided to join us, Miss
HarpeDoctor Emma Harpe.
Oh, surprised amusement was in his tone, you've come to settle
among us, perhaps? Permit me to welcome you, Dr. Harpe. We are to be
congratulated. Our nearest physician is sixty miles away, so you will
have the field to yourself. You should prosper. Do you come from the
She looked him in the eyes.
Take your pardners for the waltz, gents!
Andy P. Symes held out his arms in smiling invitation while the news
flashed round the room that the newcomer with the cold, immobile face,
the peculiar pallor of which contrasted strongly with their own
sun-blistered skins, was a lady-doctor who had come to live in
The abandon, the freedom of it all, appealed strongly to Dr. Harpe.
The atmosphere was congenial, and when the waltz was done she asked
that she might be allowed to sit quietly for a time since she found
herself more fatigued by her long journey than she had realized; but,
in truth, she desired to familiarize herself with the character of the
people among whom her future work lay.
A noisy, heterogeneous gathering it was, boisterous without
vulgarity, free without familiarity. There were no covert glances of
dislike or envy, no shrugs of disdain, no whispered innuendoes. The
social lines which breed these things did not exist. Every man
considered his neighbor and his neighbor's wife as good as himself and
his genuine liking was in his frank glance, his hearty tones, his
beaming, friendly smile. Men and women looked at each other clear-eyed
The piercing yips of cowboys meant nothing but an excess of
spirits. The stamping of feet, the shouts and laughter were indicative
only of effervescent youth seeking an outlet. Most were young, all were
full of life and hope, and the world was far away, that world where
clothes and money matter.
The scene was typical of a new town in the frontier West. The old
settlers and the new mingled gaily. The old timers with their
indifferent dress, their vernacular and free manners of the mountains
and ranges brushed elbows with the more modern folk of the poor and the
middle class of the Middle West. They were uninteresting and mediocre,
these newcomers, yet the sort who thrive astonishingly upon new soil,
who become prosperous and self-important in an atmosphere of equality.
There were, too, educated failures from the East andpeople who had
blundered. But all alike to-night, irrespective of pasts or presents or
futures, were bent upon enjoying themselves to their capacities.
Callous-handed ranchers and their faded wives promenaded arm in arm.
Sheep-herders and cow-punchers passed in the figures of the dance
eyeing each other in mutual antipathy. The neat hand-me-downs of
grocery clerks contrasted with the copper-riveted overalls of shy and
silent prospectors from the hills who stood against the walls envying
their dapper ease. A remittance man from Devonshire whose ancestral
halls had sheltered an hundred knights danced with Faro Nell, who
gambled for a living, while the station agent's attenuated daughter
palpitated in the arms of a husky stage-driver. Mr. Percy Parrott, the
sprightly cashier of the new bank, swung the new milliner from South
Dakota. Sylvanus Starr, the gifted editor of the Crowheart Courier, schottisched with Mrs. Hank Terriberry, while his no less gifted
wife swayed in the arms of the local barber, and his two lovely
daughters, Pearline and Planchette, tripped it respectively with
the barkeep of the White Elephant Saloon and a Minneapolis
shoe-drummer. In the centre of the floor the new plasterer and his wife
moved through the figures of the French minuet with the stiff-kneed
grace of two self-conscious giraffes, while Mrs. Percy Parrott, a
long-limbed lady with a big, white, Hereford-like face, capered with
Tinhorn Frank, the oily, dark, craftily observant proprietor of the
Walla Walla Restaurant and Saloon. Mr. Abe Tutts, of the Flour and
Feed Store, skimmed the floor with the darting ease of a water-spider
dragging beside him his far less active wife, a belligerent-appearing
and somewhat hard-featured lady several years his senior.
But the long, crowded dining-room held two central figures, one of
which was Andy P. Symes, and the other was Essie Tisdale, the little
waitress of the Terriberry House and the belle of Crowheart.
Symes moved among his guests with the air of a man who found
amusement in mingling with those he deemed his inferiors even while
patently bidding for their admiration and regard. His height and
breadth of shoulder made him conspicuous even in this gathering of tall
men. His finely shaped head was well set but in contrast his utterly
inconsequential nose came as something of a shock. His face was florid
and genial and he had a word for the most obscure.
Yet the trained and sensitive observer would have felt capabilities
for boorishness beneath his amiability, a lack of sincerity in his
impartial and too fulsome compliments. His manner denoted a degree of
social training and a knowledge of social forms acquired in another
than his present environment, but he was too fond of the limelightit
cheapened him; too broad in his attentions to womenit coarsened him;
his waistcoat was the dingy waistcoat of a man of careless habits; his
linen was not too immaculate and the nails of his blunt fingers showed
lack of attention. He was the sort of man who is nearly, but not quite,
The slim little belle of Crowheart seemed to be everywhere, her
youthful spirits were unflagging, and her contagious, merry laugh rang
out constantly from the centre of lively groups. Her features were
delicate and there was pride, sensitiveness and good-breeding in her
mouth with its short, red upper lip. Her face held more than
prettiness, for there was thoughtfulness, as well, in her blue eyes and
innate kindness in its entire expression. Her light brown hair was soft
and plentiful and added to her stature by its high dressing. She was
natural of manner and graceful with the ease of happy youth and her
flushed cheeks were pinker than her simple gown. She looked farther
removed from her occupation than any woman in the room and to Dr.
Harpe, following her with her eyes, the connection seemed incongruous.
Moses! she whispered to herself, but that little biscuit-shooter
would be a winner if she had clothes.
Other eyes than Dr. Harpe's were following Essie Tisdale and with an
intentness which finally attracted her attention. She stopped as she
was passing a swarthy, silent man in the corner, who had not moved from
his chair since the beginning of the dance, and, arching her eyebrows,
she asked mischievously:
Don't you mean to ask me for a single dance, Mr. Duboisnot one?
To her surprise and the amusement of all who heard, he arose at
once, bending his squat figure in an awkward bow, and replied:
Certainly, m'amselle, if you will give me that pleasure.
And all the roomful stared in mingled astonishment and glee when old
Edouard Dubois, the taciturn and little-liked sheepman from the
Limestone Rim, led Essie Tisdale out upon the floor to complete a
The evening was well along when Dr. Harpe laid her hand upon the
unpainted railing which served as a bannister and turned to look once
more at the roomful of hot, ecstatically happy dancers before she went
Harpe, she murmured, and her eyes narrowed, Harpe, we're going to
make good here. We're going to win out. We're going to make money hand
And even with her own boastful words there came a pang which had its
source in a knowledge her dance with Symes had brought her. Something
was dead within her! That something was the spirit of youth, and with
it had gone the best of Emma Harpe.
III. A MÉSALLIANCE
Crowheart was surprised but not shocked when the engagement of Andy
P. Symes to the blacksmith's sister was announced. It saw no
mésalliance in the union. It was merely unaware that he had been
attentive to Augusta Kunkel. Now they were to be married in the long
dining-room of the Terriberry House and take the night train for
Chicago on their honeymoon.
Dr. Harpe standing at the window of her new office on the second
floor of the hotel smiled to herself as she saw the chairs going inside
which served equally well for funerals or for social functions. The
match, she felt, was really of her making.
You've got to do it, she had told him. You've simply got to do
He had come to see her at Augusta's insistence.
But! he had groaned; a Kunkel! Perhaps you don't knowbut I'm
one of the Symes of Maine. Great-grandfather a personal friend of
Alexander Hamilton's, and all that. My family don't expect much
of me since I'm the black sheep, but, a dull red had surged over his
face, they expect something better of me than a Kunkel!
She had shrugged her shoulders.
Suit yourself, I'm only telling you how it looks to me. You'll
queer yourself forever if you don't marry her, for this country is
still western enough to respect women. You are just starting in to
promote this irrigation project and if you succeed you can't tell what
the future will hold for you politically; this is just the sort of
thing to bob up and down you. You know I'm right.
But she looks so obviously what she is, he had groaned miserably.
Some day I may want to go homeand think of introducing Augusta
You are wrong there, she had replied with conviction, Augusta has
possibilities. She has good eyes, her voice is low, her English is far
better than you might expect, and, best of all, she's tall and slender.
If she was short and fat I'd call her rather hopeless, but you hang
good clothes on these slim ones and it works wonders. Besides, she's
imitative as a parrot.
He had thrown his arms aloft in despair.
But think of it!the rest of my lifewith a parrot.
It's the lesser of two evils, she had urged, and in the end he had
I guess you're right, Dr. Harpe. Your advice no doubt is good,
though, like your medicine, a bitter dose just now. You've done me a
favor, I suppose, and I'll not forget it.
When the door of her office had closed upon his broad back she had
said to herself:
I'll see that you don't forget it. And she repeated it again with
renewed satisfaction. She liked the feeling that she already had become
a factor in the affairs of Crowheart and she intended to remain one.
The practice of medicine with Dr. Harpe was frankly for personal
gain. No ideals had influenced her in the choice of her profession and
her practice of it had developed no ambition save the single one of
building up a bank account. The ethical distinction between the trades
and professions, which is based upon the fact that the professional man
or woman is supposed to take up his or her life work primarily because
he loves both his profession and the people whom it may benefit, was a
distinction which she never had grasped. She practised medicine in the
same commercial spirit that a cheap drummer builds up a trade. She had
no sentiment regarding it, none of the ambitious dreams of high
professional standing attained by meritorious work which inspire those
who achieve. It was a business pure and simple; each patient was a
Another consideration in her choice of this profession was the
freedom it gave her. Because of it she was exempt from many of the
restrictions and conventionalities which hampered her sex, and above
all else she disliked restraint.
She was the single result of a typhoid romance. Her mother, a
trained nurse, had attended a St. Louis politician during a long
illness. Upon his recovery he married his nurse and as promptly
deserted her, providing a modest support for the child. She had grown
to womanhood in a cheap boarding school, attaining thereby a
superficial education but sufficient to enable her to pass the
preliminary examinations necessary to begin her studies in the medical
college which was an outcast among its kind and known among the
profession as a diploma mill. She selected it because the course was
easy and the tuition light, though its equipment was a farce and its
laboratory too meagre to deserve the name; one of the commercial
medical colleges turning out each year by the hundreds, for a few
dollars, illiterate graduates, totally unfitted by temperament and
education for a profession that calls for the highest and best, sending
them out in hordes like licensed murderers to prescribe and operate
among the trusting and the ignorant.
Dr. Harpe had framed her sheepskin and been duly photographed in her
cap and gown; then, after a short hospital experience, she had gone to
the little Nebraska town where perhaps the most forceful comment upon
the success of her career there was that the small steamer trunk, which
she was now opening, contained very comfortably both her summer and
Her pose was an air of camaraderie, of blunt good-nature. Her
conspicuous walk was a swaggering stride, while in dress she affected
the masculine severity of some professional women. Her hair was the
dull red that is nearly brown and she wore it coiled in trying
simplicity at the back of her head. Her handsome eyes were the hazel
that is alternately brown and green and gray, sometimes an odd mixture
of all three. Ordinarily there was a suspicion of hardness in her face
but there was also upon occasions a kind of winsomeness, an unexpected
peeping out of a personality which was like the wraith of the child
which she once had beena suggestion of girlish charm and spontaneity
utterly unlike her usual self.
This attractive phase of her personality was uppermost as she sought
in the trunk for something to wear, and a smile curved the corners of
her straight lips and brought out a faint cleft in her square chin, as
she inspected its contents.
She found what she wanted in a plain cloth skirt and a white
tailored waist with stiffly starched cuffs, and a man's sleeve links.
When she was dressed a man's linen waistcoat with a black silk
watch-fob hanging from the pocket added further to the unfeminine
tout ensemble. She liked the effect, and, as she thrust a scarf-pin
in the long black four-in-hand before her mirror, she viewed the
result with satisfaction.
Dr. Harpe regarded the wedding as exceedingly opportune for herself,
bringing in as it did the settlers from the isolated ranches and
outlying districts of the big county, and she meant it to serve as her
real debut in the community.
It was in fact a notable event for the reason that it was the first
wedding in Crowheart, and, since the invitation was general, the guests
were coming from far and near to show their approval and incidentally
perhaps to partake of the champagne which it was rumored was to flow
like water. Champagne was the standard by which Crowheart gauged the
success of an entertainment and certainly Andy P. Symes was not the man
to serve sarsaparilla at his own wedding.
When Dr. Harpe came downstairs she found the long dining-room
cleared of its tables and already well filled with guests. Curly the
camp cook was caressing his violin, and Snake River Jim, tolerably
drunk, was in his place beside him, while Ole Peterson, redolent of the
livery-stable in which he worked, constantly felt his muscle to show
that he was prepared to do his share with the big bass drum.
As Andy P. Symes moved through the rapidly growing crowd no one but
Dr. Harpe guessed that he winced inwardly at the resounding slaps upon
his back and the congratulations or that his heart all but failed him
when he saw his bride-to-be in her bobinet veil, a flush upon her broad
face and following his every movement with adoring eyes. To all but Dr.
Harpe he looked the fortunate and beaming bridegroom and only she saw
the tiny lines which sleeplessness had left about his eyes or detected
the hollowness of his frequent laughter.
It was more or less of a relief to all when the ceremony was over
and the nervous and perspiring Justice of the Peace, miserable in a
collar, had wished them every known joy. It was a relief to Symes who
kissed his bride perfunctorily and returned her to weeping
Grandmother Kunkel's armsa relief to those impatient to dancea
relief to the thirsty whose surreptitious glances wandered in spite of
their best efforts toward the pile of champagne cases in the corner.
But the reward of patience came to all, and as the violin and guitar
tuned up the popping of corks was assurance enough that the unsurpassed
thirst created by alkali dust would shortly be assuaged. Hank
Terriberry, in whose competent charge Symes had placed this portion of
the wedding entertainment, realizing that, at best, pouring from a
bottle and drinking from a glass is a slow and tedious process, to
facilitate matters had provided two large, bright, new dish-pans which
he filled with wine, also a plentiful supply of bright, new, tin
They drank Symes's health in long, deep draughts and it was with
some forebodings that Symes noted the frequency with which the same
guests appeared in line. Symes had no great desire that his wedding
should go down in the annals of Crowheart as the most complete drunk in
its history nor was his bank account inexhaustible. Also he observed
with, annoyance that his newly-created brother-in-law, Adolph Kunkel,
had retired to a quiet corner where he might drink from the bottle
unmolested. Adolph Kunkel, sober, was bad enough, but Adolph Kunkel,
drunk, was worse.
That his fears were not unfounded was shortly made evident by the
appearance of Sylvanus Starr with a bland, bucolic smile upon his
wafer-like countenance and his scant foretop tied in a baby-blue ribbon
which had embellished the dainty ham sandwiches provided by Mrs.
Terriberry. By the time the dance was well under way eyes had
brightened perceptibly and sunburned faces had taken on a deeper hue
while Snake River Jim sat with a pickle behind his ear and his eyes
rolled to the ceiling as though entranced by his own heavenly strains.
As the room grew warmer, the conversation waxed louder, the dance
faster and the whoops of exuberance more frequent, until Bedlam
reigned. Percy Parrot chancing to observe Tinhorn Frank sliding
toward the door with two unopened bottles of champagne protruding from
his coat pockets made a low tackle and clasped him about the ankles. As
Tinhorn lay prone he was shamed in vivid English by the graceful
barber while the new plasterer excused himself from his partner long
enough to kick the prostrate ingrate in the ribs. Mrs. Hank
Terriberry, whose hair looked like a pair of angora chaps in a high
wind, returning from her third trip to the dish-pan, burst into tears
at the man's depravity and inadvertently wiped her streaming eyes on
the end of her long lace jabot instead of her handkerchief.
Sylvanus Starr, declaring that his chivalrous nature was unable to
endure the sight of a woman's tears, sought to divert her by slipping
his arm about her waist and whirling her dizzily the length of the room
and back again where they were met by Mr. Terriberry who, while
playfully endeavoring to snatch his wife from the editor's encircling
arms, accidentally stepped on the train of her black satin skirt. There
was a popping, ripping sound! In the brief but awful second while this
handsome creation slid to the floor, Mrs. Terriberry stood
panic-stricken in a short, red-flannel petticoat. She screamed
piercingly and with the sound of her own voice recovered her presence
of mind. Swooping, she picked up the garment and bounded out of the
room, thereby revealing upon her plump calves the encircling stripes of
a pair of white and black stockings.
The milliner, who was clairvoyant, covered her face with her gauze
fan, while Pearline and Planchette Starr asked to be taken into the
air, and left the room each leaning heavily upon an arm of the Sheep
King of Poison Crick.
The remittance man from Devonshire removed the crash towel from its
roller in the wash-room off the hotel office, and spread it carefully
on the floor in a corner to protect his clothing while he refreshed
himself with a short nap.
A Roumanian prince who had that day returned from a big game hunt in
the mountains and who had been cordially urged by Symes to honor his
wedding, adjusted his monocle and stood on a chair under a kerosene
wall-lamp that he might the better inspect the fig filling of Mrs.
Terriberry's layer cake which he seemed to regard with some suspicion.
Mrs. Abe Tutts, who was reputed to have histrionic ability, of her
own accord recited in a voice which made the welkin ring: Shoot if you
will this old gray head, But spare my country's flag. Whereupon Baby
Briggs, six foot two in his cowboy boots, produced a six-shooter and
humorously pretended to be about to take her at her word. Mrs. Tutts
was revived from a fainting condition by a drink while Baby Briggs
was relieved of his weapon.
Take your pardners for a quadrille! yelled Curly, the camp cook,
rising from his chair.
The guests scrambled for places in the quickly formed sets.
Swing your pardner! he whooped.
Andy P. Symes slipped his arm about Essie Tisdale's waist and the
dance moved fast and furious.
Join your hands and circle to the left!
Around they went in a giddy whirl and starched petticoats stood out
First lady swing with the right hand round with the right hand
The train of Mrs. Abe Tutts's diaphanous tea-gown laid out on the
breeze, thereby revealing the fact that she was wearing Congress
gaiters, comfortable but not dressy.
Pardner with your left with your left hand round!
Andy P. Symes held Essie Tisdale's hand in a lingering clasp and
whispered in foolish flattery:
Terpsichore herself outdone!
Swing in the centre and seven hands around. Birdie hop out and crow
hop in! Take holt of paddies and run around agin!
Abe Tutts executed a double shuffle on the corner.
Allemande Joe! Eight hand to pardner and around you go! Balance to
corners, don't be slack! Turn right around and take a back track! When
you git home, don't be afraid. Swing her agin and all promenade!
It was a glorious dance and it moved unflaggingly to the end; but
when it was done and the dancers laughing and exhausted sought their
seats, it was discovered that Snake River Jim had fallen to weeping
because he said it was his unhappy lot to work while others danced.
Therefore Sylvanus Starr suggested that out of a delicate regard for
an artist's feelings, and no one could deny but Snake River Jim was
that, the dance be temporarily suspended while the bridegroom and
others expressed their sentiments and delight in the occasion by a few
remarks, Sylvanus Starr himself setting the example by bursting into an
eulogy which had the impassioned fervor of inspiration.
The vocabulary of laudatory adjectives gleaned in many years'
experience in the obituary department of an eastern newspaper were
ejected like volcanic matter, red hot and unrestrained, running over
and around the name of Symes to harden into sentences of which a
magnificent specimen of manhood, a physical and intellectual giant,
gallantly snatching from our midst the fairest flower that ever bloomed
upon a desert waste, only moderately illustrates the editor's gift of
When Andy P. Symes stood on a chair and faced the expectant throng
the few trite remarks which he had in mind all but fled when his eyes
fell for the first time upon his bride buttoned into her going away
gown. As he mounted the chair his face wore the set smile of the man
who means to die a nervy death on the gallows. His voice sounded
strained and unnatural to himself as he began:
Ladies and gentlemen.
Wee-hee! squealed a youth in a leather collar and a rattleskin
This is the happiest moment of my life!
Wee-ough! It ought to be! yelled the Sheep King of Poison Crick
as he pressed the arms of the Misses Starr gently and impartially
against his sides.
Also the proudest moment. He looked at his bride, noting that she
wore a broach which might have belonged on a set of harness.
Yip! Yip! Yee-ough!
I am deeply conscious of my own unworthiness and not insensible to
the fact that the gods have singled me out for special favor
Any reference to the gods was considered a mark of learning and
eloquence, so Symes's humble admission was loudly applauded.
Love, the Wise Ones say, 'is blind.' If this is true it is my
earnest wish that I may remain so, for I desire to continue to regard
my wife as the most beautiful, attractive, charming of her sex. He
bowed elaborately toward the grotesque figure whose adoring eyes were
fixed upon his face.
The guests howled in ecstasy at this flight of sentiment and only
Dr. Harpe caught the sneering note beneath the commonplaces he uttered
with such convincing fervor.
What a cad, she thought, yet she looked in something like
admiration at his towering figure. If only he had brains in proportion
to his body he might accomplish great things here, she murmured.
Shrugging her shoulder, she added: I envy him his chance.
It did not occur to any person present that this wedding was an
important, far-reaching event to any save the principals; but to Essie
Tisdale and to Dr. Harpe it was a turning point in their careers. It
meant waning triumphs to the merry little belle of Crowheart, while it
spread a fallow field before Dr. Harpe the planting of which in deeds
of good or evil was as surely in her hands as is the seed the farmer
sows for his ultimate harvest. Which it was to be, can be surmised from
the fact that already she was considering how soon, and in what way,
she might utilize her knowledge after Symes's return from his wedding
IV. THE GROUND FLOOR
While Andy P. Symes on his honeymoon was combining business with
pleasure in that vague region known as Back East, and his bride was
learning not to fold the hotel napkin or call the waiter sir, the
population of Crowheart was increasing so rapidly that the town had
growing pains. Where, last month, the cactus bloomed, tar-paper shacks
surrounded by chicken-wire, kid-proof fences was home the next to
families of tow-heads.
Crowheart, the citizens of the newly incorporated town told each
other, was booming right.
They came in prairie schooners, travel-stained and weary, their
horses thin and jaded from the long, heavy pull across the sandy trail
of the sagebrush desert. With funds barely sufficient for horse feed
and a few weeks' provisions, they came without definite knowledge of
conditions or plans. A rumor had reached them back there in Minnesota
or Iowa, Nebraska or Missouri, of the opportunities in this new country
and, anyway, they wanted to movewhere was not a matter of
great moment. Others came by rail, all bearing the earmarks of
straitened circumstances, and few of them with any but the most vague
ideas as to what they had come for beyond the universal expectation of
getting rich, somehow, somewhere, some time. They were poor alike, and
the first efforts of the head of each household were spent in the
construction of a place of shelter for himself and family. The
makeshifts of poverty were seldom if ever the subject of ridicule or
comment, for most had a sympathetic understanding of the emergencies
which made them necessary. Kindness, helpfulness, good-fellowship were
in the air.
When Ephriam Baskitt loomed up on the horizon with two freight
wagons filled with the dust-covered canned goods of a defunct grocery
store and twenty-four hours later was a fixture, nobody saw anything
humorous in the headline in the Courier which heralded him as
The Merchant Prince of Crowheart. Two new saloons opened while
Curly resigned as chef for the Lazy S Outfit to become the orchestra
in a new dance hall which arrived about midnight in a prairie schooner.
As Dr. Harpe made friends with the newcomers and continued to
ingratiate herself with the old, she sometimes felt that the death of
Alice Freoff was not after all the tragedy it had at first seemed. She
missed the womannot the woman so much either, as the associationand
there was no one in Crowheart to fill her place, so she was frequently
lonely, often bored, with the intensely practical, unsophisticated
women whom she attracted strongly. Sometimes she thought of Augusta
Kunkel and a derisive smile always curved her lips as she attempted to
picture her in a worldly setting and the smile grew when she tried to
imagine Symes's sensations while presenting her to his friends. She
indulged, too, in speculation as to the outcome of the marriage, but
could not venture a prophecy since it was one of those affairs to which
no ending would be improbable.
But while Dr. Harpe speculated, observation and the suggestions of
Andy P. Symes were working wonders in the appearance of the gawky,
long-limbed woman. A session with a hair-dresser had not been wasted,
for she had learned to dress her hair in the prevailing mode. Symes had
lost no time in rushing her to an establishment where the brown
cashmere basque and many gored skirt had been exchanged for a gown of
fashionable cut. A pair of French stays developed indications of a
figure and the concho-like broach had been discarded, while Augusta
herself had learned that black silk mitts had not been greatly in vogue
for nearly a quarter of a century. The conspicuous marvel which had
displayed the skill of the clairvoyant milliner from South Dakota had
been replaced by a hat of good lines and simplicity, and, for the first
time in her life, Augusta Kunkel rustled when she walked.
When the transformation was complete, Andy P. Symes sighed in a
little more than relief, and mentally observed that in the course of
human events he might be able to introduce her to his family.
Nor was Symes himself idle in a land where Capital hung like an
over-ripe peach waiting to be plucked by the proper hand. Mr. Symes was
convinced that his was the hand, so he lost no opportunity of widening
his circle of desirable acquaintances.
In his wide-brimmed Stetson, with his broad shoulders towering above
the average man, his genial smile and jovial manners, he was the
typical free, big-hearted westerner of the eastern imagination. And he
liked the rôle; also he played it well. Symes was essentially a poseur.
He loved the limelight like a showman. To be foremost, to lead, was
essential to his happiness. He demanded satellites and more satellites.
His love of prominence amounted to a passion. Sycophancy was as
acceptable as real regard, since each catered to his vanity.
It required money, much money, to live up to the popular conception
of the type he chose to represent. To successfully carry out his rôle
of the breezy, liberal, unconventional westerner required money enough
to include the cabman on the pavement in his invitations to drink,
money enough to donate bank notes to bellboys, to wave change to
waiters, to occupy boxes where he could lay his conspicuous Stetson
upon the rail. Having indulged himself in these delightful
extravagances, Symes was suddenly recalled one morning to a realization
of the fact that earthly paradises end by a curt notification from his
bank that he had overdrawn his account.
This was awkward. It was particularly awkward to Symes because he
had no assets. With the singular improvidence which distinguished him
he had not provided for this exigency before leaving Crowheart. True,
he had made a vague calculation which would seem to indicate that he
had sufficient funds to last the trip, but it was more extended than he
had anticipated and he had forgotten to deduct the amount of the checks
which he had given in payment for the champagne provided in such
unstinted quantities by Hank Terriberry.
Not only was Symes without reserve funds but he had a large hotel
bill owing. Yes, it was high time he was doing something. Doing
something to Mr. Symes, meant devising some means of securing an
income without physical and no great mental effort, something which
should be compatible with the notable House of Symes.
Had he borne any other than that sacred name he would have turned to
insurance or a mail order business with the same unerring instinct with
which the sunflower turns to the sun, but this avenue was closed to him
by the necessity of preserving the dignity of his name. It was
necessary for him as a Symes to promote some enterprise which would
give him the power and prestige in the community which belonged to him.
Mr. Symes had been East before with this end in view. As he himself
observed, he never went East except to eat oysters and raise money.
He had been much more successful as an oyster eater than a promoter.
There was that vein of coking coal over beyond the Limestone Rim; he
nearly landed that, but the investors discovered too soon that it was
150 miles from a railroad. There was an embryo coal mine back in the
hillsa fine proposition but open to the same objection. Also an
asbestos deposit, valueless for the same reason. He had tried copper
prospects with startling assays and had found himself shunned nor had
mountains of marble aroused the enthusiasm of Capital. They had
listened with marked coldness to his story of a wonderful oil seepage
and had turned a deaf ear on natural gas. He had baited a hook with a
stratum of gypsum which would furnish the world with cement. Capital
had barely sniffed at the bait. Nor had banks of shale adapted to the
making of a perfect brick appealed to its jaded palate. But Symes was
never at a loss for something to promote, for there was always a nebula
of schemes vaguely present in his prolific brain. Irrigation was the
opportunity of the moment and he meant to grab it with a strangle hold.
He had been dilatory but now he intended to get down to business.
If only he could hang on until he accomplished his end! Symes
stopped manicuring his nails with a pin, which he kept in the lapel of
his coat for that commendable purpose, and counted his money. He was
thankful that since he had overdrawn his account he had done it
so liberally as, by strict economy, it would enable him to remain a
short while and depart with his credit still unimpaired.
Augusta Symes regarded the pile of crisp banknotes with pleased
eyes. She could not recollect ever having seen so much money together
before; the proceeds of horse-shoeing and wagon repairs came mostly in
silver. Placing the banknotes in his wallet with considerably more than
his usual care, Mr. Symes paced the floor of their corner suite with
the slow, measured strides of meditation, his noble head sunk upon his
breast and his broad brow corrugated in thought. Mrs. Symes's eyes
followed him in silent and respectful admiration.
When he stopped, finally, in the middle of the room, the fire of
enthusiasm was newly kindled in his eyes and an unconscious squaring of
his shoulders announced that he was now prepared to do something.
Symes really had initial energy and the trait was most apparent when
driven by necessity. The first step toward getting his enterprise under
way was the bringing together of the people he hoped to interest. He
reached for his hat and straightened his scarf before the mirror.
Augusta watched the preparations in some dismay; she dreaded being
alone in the great hotel.
Will you be gone long, Mr. Symes?
Good God! Don't call me Mister Symes, he burst out in unexpected
Augusta's eyes filled with tears.
Butbut everybody calls you 'Andy' andand just 'Symes' sounds so
familiar. Why can't I call you 'Phidias?'
Phidias! Do, by all means, call me Phidias. I dote on Phidias! I
love the combinationPhidias Symes. Father was drunk when he named
He slammed the door behind him, forgetting to explain that he was
not returning for luncheon or dinner so, that evening, while Augusta
wandered aimlessly through the rooms, both hungry and anxious yet
afraid to venture into the big dining-room, Andy P. Symes was saying
with impressive emphasis as he fumbled in a box of cabanas:
Big opportunities, I am convinced, seldom come more than once to a
His guests listened to the trite axiom with the respect due one who
has met and grappled successfully with his one great chance. His
well-fed appearance, his genial, contented smile, gave an impression of
prosperity even when his linen was frayed and his elbows glossy; now in
the latest achievement of a good tailor it was difficult to conceive
him as being anything less than a millionaire.
And this, Symes looked squarely in each eager eye in turn, this,
gentlemen, is such an opportunity.
The timid voice of a man who had made a hundred thousand from a
patent fly-trap broke the awed silence.
It sounds good.
Sounds good! It is good. Mr. Symes clenched his huge
fist and emphasized the declaration with a blow upon the table which
made the dishes rattle.
Think of it, he went on, two hundred thousand acres that can be
made to bloom like the rose. An earthly paradise of our own making.
The flowery figures were borrowed from a railroad folder but Mr. Symes
had grasped them with the avidity of true genius and made them his own.
The waiter starting away with a tray load of dishes stopped to
By the mere introduction of water upon the most fertile soil in the
world! Is there anything like ita miracle worker! Mr. Symes shut one
eye and peered into an empty bottle. And how can this be done? He
answered himself. By the expenditure of a ridiculously small amount of
money; the absurd sum of $250,000. And look at the returns!
By the intentness of their gaze it was evident that all were willing
enough to look. Symes lowered his voice to a dramatic whisper and swept
the air with his outspread fingers.
A clean million!
The man who made only six thousand a year selling plumbers'
But who's goin' to buy it? It was the timid voice of the Fly-trap
Buy it! The questioner withered before Symes's scorn. Buy
it? Why, the world is land-hungrycrying for land!and water. But
I've considered all that; I've arranged for it, Mr. Symes went on with
a touch of impatience. We'll colonize it. We'll import Russian Jews to
raise sugar-beets for the sugar-beet factory which we will establish.
They will buy it for $50 an acre cash or $60 an acre with 10 per cent.
interest upon the deferred payments. It's very simple.
ButbutI thought Russian Jews went in mostly for collar buttons,
shoe-strings and lacemercantile enterprisescommercial natures, you
know? Besides, where they going to get their money for the first
Symes curbed his irritation at the piffling objections of the
Fly-trap King and responded tolerantly.
We'll organize a bank and loan 'em the money. If they fail to come
through at the specified time the land will return to the company and
we'll have their improvements, making them a small allowance for same,
at our discretion. We'll lay out a town and build an Opera House, get
electric light and street railway franchisesa million? Why, there's
millions in sight when you consider the possibilities.
The painting of the roseate picture had flushed Mr. Symes's cheeks;
already Symesville or Symeston rose clear before his mental vision,
while his listeners endeavored to calculate their share of the millions
when proportioned in accordance with the investment of all their
available cash. Certainly the returns were temptingly large and the
least optimistic among them believed he could convince his wife of the
perfect safety of the investment, the success of which was practically
assured by the fact that Andy P. Symes for an infinitesimal salary, as
compared to his ability, was willing to assume the management.
A slender, blond gentleman, who derived a satisfactory income from
the importation of Scotch woollens and Irish linens, confessed that for
years he had cherished a secret desire to do something for mankind,
providing he was assured of a reasonable return upon his investment,
and, with the King of Brobdingnag, believed that the man who made, say,
two sugar-beets grow where only one grew before, rendered an
incalculable service to the human race.
The other guests expressed their admiration of the woollen
importer's high sentiments, and while they admitted that no such noble
impulse governed them they subscribed generously for stock in the
company which was formed then and there to apply for the segregation of
200,000 acres of irrigable land.
Mr. Symes talked familiarly of State Land Boards, water rights,
flood water, ditches, laterals, subsoil and seepage, the rotation of
crops and general productiveness until even the cynical politician who
controlled the negro vote in his ward began to realize that it was a
liberal education merely to know Andy P. Symes, not to mention the
distinction of being associated with him in business.
Inspired by the prospect of once again handling real money, Andy P.
Symes talked with an earnestness and fluency which cast a hypnotic
spell upon his listeners. Swiftly, graphically, he outlined the future
of the country which would be opened up to settlement by this great
irrigation project. His florid face turned a deeper red, his eyes
sparkled as the winged imagination of the natural promoter began to
play. It was of the dirigible kind, Symes's imagination, he could steer
it in any direction. It could rise to any heights. It now shot upward
and he saw himself at the head of a project which would make his name a
household word throughout the State. He saw crowds of Russian Jews
crying hosannas as he walked along the street of Symesville; he heard
the clang of trolleys; he saw the smoke of factories; he heard the name
of Symes upon the lips of little children; he saw, but the dazzling
vision made him blink and he leaned back in his chair with the
beneficent smile of a man who had just endowed a hospital for crippled
children, while he permitted himself to accept a subscription for
$15,000 from a guest who had cleared that modest sum in the manufacture
of white lead and paint. A slow and laborious process compared to the
sale of irrigated land to Russian Jews.
Symes's guests wrung his hand at parting, in silent gratitude at
being permitted to get in on the ground floor of what was undoubtedly
the greatest money making enterprise still open to investors. And they
left him with the assurance of their hearty co-operation and
willingness to endeavor to raise the balance among their friends.
While the subscribers for the stock of the Symes Irrigation Project
were rousing their wives from their first sleep to gloat with them over
the unprecedented good fortune which had thrown the big-hearted and
shrewd but honest westerner in their paths, that person was returning
from a night lunch cart with two hot frankfurter sandwiches for Augusta
concealed in his pocket. The dinner, although so fruitful of results,
had seriously reduced the roll of crisp bank notes.
Strict economy was imperative during the days which followed and it
became no uncommon occurrence for Andy P. Symes to whisk Augusta into a
caravansera where the gentlemen patrons ate large, filling plates of
griddle cakes with their hats on. But such are the sordid straits to
which the proudest spirits are sometimes reduced and depressing as it
was to Andy P. Symes, who winced each time that he seated himself at
the varnished pine table upon which the pewter castor was chained to
the wall and selected a paper napkin from a glass tumbler, he consoled
himself with the thought that it would not be for long. Also it was
some little compensation to see traces of animation in Augusta's stolid
face, for the atmosphere was vastly more congenial to his wife than
that of the fashionable hotel restaurant where her appetite fled before
the waiter's observant eye and the bewildering nightmare of a menu.
Invariably upon these humiliating occasions when Symes dined cheek
by jowl with hoi polloi who left their spoons in their cups and
departed using a toothpick like a peavy, his thoughts turned to his
coming triumph in Crowheart. And although his gorge rose at the sight
of a large, buck cockroach which scurried across the table and turned
to wave a fraternal leg at him before it disappeared, the knowledge
that he would soon take his rightful position as that city's leading
citizen helped to restore his equanimity.
With an assured income, Company money to spend among the local
merchants, work for many applicants, Symes felt that he could do little
else than step into the niche which clearly belonged to him. The one
smudge upon the picture was Augusta. Her eyes were ever upon him in
adoring, dog-like fidelity and it irritated him. Her appearance had
altered amazingly, she no longer called him Mister Symes, and by
repeated corrections he had succeeded in inducing her to refrain from
folding her hands upon her abdomen, but the plebeian strain, the
deficiency of gentle birth betrayed itself in a dozen little ways, by
indelicacies none the less irritating because they were trifling.
Symes knew what a gentlewoman should be, for he had mingled with
them in the past and he never had thought of his wife as being anything
else than well born. Augusta's large knuckled hands, conspicuous in
white kid gloves, her long, flat feet, the shiny, bald spots behind her
ears, were sources of real mortification to him, and invariably he
found himself growing red upon the occasions when it was necessary to
present her to his friends.
In the presence of other women she sat bolt upright, a red spot
burning on either cheek-bone, her eyes bright with nervous excitement
while she answered the careless small talk with preternatural
seriousness. At such times Symes himself talked rapidly to hide the
gaucheries of her speech, and they were ordeals which he took care
should be as few as possible.
If the yoke were chafing already, he asked himself frequently, what
would its weight be in a year, five, ten years later?
V. ANOTHER CASE IN SURGERY
Dr. Emma Harpe walked briskly into her office and, taking ten silver
dollars and some worn banknotes from the pocket of her square-cut coat,
piled them upon her office desk.
Moses! I need that money, and, she sniggered at the recollection,
didn't old Dubois hate to dig.
She threw the Stetson hat she now affected upon a chair, her coat
upon another, and rolling a cigarette with the skill of practice,
sauntered up and down the room.
He's sick all rightthe old guinea. Looks like typhoid. If it is,
it'll pull me out of this hole. Mileage counts up in this country at a
dollar a mile. About five cases of typhoid would put me square again
and see me through the summer; an epidemic would be a godsend. This is
the infernalest healthy country I ever saw; die in their boots or dry
up and blow off. Two cases of measles and the whooping cough in six
weeks. Dubois comes like a shower of manna, for I can't stand off the
Terriberrys forever. I'll go out and see him again in a couple of days
and give him a dose of calomel. If he pulls through the credit is mine;
if he dies, it's the will of God. Any way it goes, I'm squared. Harpe,
she stopped and looked out of the window, you belong to a noble
profeshyou play a safe and genteel game where you can't lose.
She watched idly as a covered wagon accompanied by two men on
horseback stopped on the vacant lot opposite the hotel which was much
used as a camping-ground by freighters and campers. It was a common
enough sight and she looked on indifferently while the team was
unharnessed and the saddle horses led toward the livery stable by one
of the riders and the driver of the wagon hastened across the street,
looking, she thought, at the sign beneath her window.
She barely had time to throw away her cigarette and fan the smoke
out of the air before the hurrying footsteps which had told her of his
approach brought the man to her office door.
Are you the doctor? he asked in surprise at seeing a woman.
Will you come over right away? My little girl fell over the wheel
and one of the fellows that's along says her leg is broken. It only
happened a little ways back but it's beginning to swell.
The man's face was pale beneath its tan and the dust of travel, and
he plainly chafed at her deliberate movements as she took bandages from
the drawer and adjusted her hat before a mirror. It was the first
practical test of her theoretical knowledge of bone-setting and because
of some misgivings her swagger was a little more pronounced than usual
when she accompanied him across the street.
The child lay upon the bunk in the front of the wagon and her eyes
were bright with the pain of the dull ache, and fear of more that the
doctor might inflict.
Is it hurtin' bad, Rosie? Anxiety was in the man's voice.
Not so very much, Daddy, she replied bravely.
The man glanced at Dr. Harpe quickly in a mixture of surprise and
My sister'syoung'un, he answered curtly.
The child winced as Dr. Harpe picked up the foot roughly and ran her
fingers along the bone.
Yep; it's broken. She hesitated for an instant and added: The
job'll cost you fifty dollars.
Fifty dollars! Consternation was in the man's tone. Ain't that
pretty steep for settin' a leg?
That's my price. She added indifferently, There's another
sawbones sixty miles farther on.
You know well enough that she can't wait to get there.
Well, she shrugged her shoulder, dig then.
But I haven't got it, he pleaded.
Sell a horse.
He looked to see if she was serious; undoubtedly she was.
How am I to go on if I sell a horse?
That's your lookout.
He stared at her in real curiosity.
What kind of a doctor are you, anyhow? What kind of a woman?
O Daddyit's hurtin' worse! moaned the child.
Dr. Harpe laughed disagreeably
I'm not in Crowheart for my health. Ignoring the displeasure which
came into the man's eyes, she suggested: Can't you borrow from those
fellows that came with you?
They're strangers. We are all strangers to each otherwe only fell
in together on the road. The one lying under the wagon was on a tear in
the last town; most likely he's broke.
The child in the bunk whimpered with the increasing pain.
How much have you got yourself? she haggled.
Twenty-two dollars and fifty cents; it's all I've got and
we're a hundred miles yet from the end of our road. I've got work there
and I'll give you my note and send the balance as soon as I earn it.
Twenty-two dollars and fifty centsit was more than she
anticipated, but every extra dollar was velvet as she phrased it.
See what you can do with that fellow outside.
The man's dark eyes flashed and his face went blood red, but he left
the wagon abruptly, and she heard distinctly the angry explanation to
his travelling companion lying on a saddle blanket in the shade of the
wagon. The knowledge that she was forfeiting these strangers' respect
did not disturb her. These indigent campersgone on the morrowcould
do her no harm in Crowheart where her reputation for blunt kindness and
imperturbable good nature was already established. It was something of
a luxury to indulge her hidden traits; in other words, she was enjoying
A forceful ejaculation told her that the slumbering débauché had
revived and grasped the situation. She listened intently to his
response to the other's request for a loan.
So the lady doc wants money? She wants to see the color of your
dust before she can set the baby's broken leg, you say?
Interestingvery. By all means give the kind lady money. How much
money does the lady want?
The color rose swiftly in her cheeks, not so much because of the
mocking words as the intonation of the voice in which they were
utteredthe most wonderfully musical speaking voice she ever had
heard. The angry resentment of the child's foster-father had left her
unmoved but this was different. The sneering, cutting insolence came
from no ordinary person. It stung her. She thought she detected a
slight foreign accent in the carefully articulated words, though the
phraseology was distinctly western. The voice was high pitched without
effeminacy, soft yet penetrating, polished yet conveying all the
meaning of an insult. No Anglo-Saxon could express such mocking
contempt by the voice alonethat accomplishment is almost exclusively
a gift of the Latins.
She was hot and uncomfortable, conscious that the blood was still in
her face, when she heard him scramble to his feet and walk to the back
of the wagon. Ever after Dr. Harpe remembered him as she saw him first
framed in the white canvas opening of the prairie schooner.
His unusually high-crowned Stetson was pushed to the back of his
head, one slender, aristocratic hand rested carelessly upon his hip, a
fallen lock of straight, black hair hung nearly to his
eyebrowseyebrows which all but met above a pair of narrow, brilliant
eyes. The aquiline nose, the creamy, colorless complexion, the long
face with its thin, slightly drooping lips was unmistakably foreign in
its type while a loose, silk neck scarf containing the bright colors of
the Roman stripe added an alien touch. There was at once high breeding
and reckless diablerie in his handsome face.
In the antagonistic moment in which they eyed each other, Dr. Harpe
endeavored to recall the something or somebody which his appearance
suggested. She groped for it in the dim gallery of youthful memories.
What was it? It flashed upon her with the suddenness of a forgotten
word. She remembered it plainly nowthat treasured, highly colored
lithograph of a brigand holding up a coach in a mountain pass! There
was in this face the same mocking deviltry; his figure had the same
lithe grace; he needed only the big hoop earrings to complete the
He removed his hat with a long, sweeping gesture and bowed in
At your service, he murmured.
There was no need she began in a kind of apology.
Fifty dollars is little enough to pay for the privilege of your
skill, madam. Shall it be in advance? Of course; in advance.
She threw out her hand in a gesture of protest, which he ignored.
Permit me at least to show you that we have it here. I feel sure
that you can work with a freer mind if I count it out and lay it where
you can see it. He took an odd, foreign purse from the belt of his
chaps and she noted that it sagged with the weight of its contents.
Gold, he explained; nearly new from the Mint. You can have it
tested at the bank before you beginacids or something of the sort, I
She crimsoned with anger, but he went on
Fifty dollars! What a very little sum to start the milk of human
I told him he needn't mindthere was no rushjust when it was
convenient. He misunderstood me. She found her tongue at last and lied
The child's foster-father stared at her as though he doubted his own
ears. Her very audacity left him speechless.
There you are, $50 in gold! He flung the money into her lap. Old
hoss, he laid his hand upon the man's shoulder while his mocking laugh
again made her cheeks tingle, you oughtn't to lie to me like that.
When he had sauntered across the street with his careless, easy
stride and disappeared inside the swinging doors of the bar-room of the
Terriberry House, Dr. Harpe said brusquely:
Here, you gotta help me yank this leg straight but, first, I want
you to go over to the store and bust up a thin boxsomething for
splintsstrips off a fruit case would be best if you can get 'em.
Haven't you splints? the man asked in surprise.
No; I've just come; I haven't got a stock yet and there's no drug
store in this jay town. It's on the way but that doesn't help us now.
We ought to have plaster of Paris but we haven't. Hurry upget a move
on before it swells any more.
The man did as he was bid, with a look of doubt and uncertainty upon
He returned almost immediately with strips torn from a case of
That's good. Dr. Harpe laid them on the bunk with the bandages.
She added shortly: She's going to howl.
Can't you give her anything?
No; I can't give ether by myself. I'm not going to take a chance
like that. If she'd die on my hands it'd queer me here on the jump.
'Twon't kill her. She'll probably faint and then it'll be easy. When
the muscles relax, hold on to her leg above her knee while I pull.
The man's face turned a ghastly hue as the child screamed and
fainted away, nor did the color return as he watched the woman's clumsy
fingers, the bungling movements which, unlettered as he was, told him
of her inexperiencebungling movements which had not even compensating
When the child had revived and Dr. Harpe had finished, the man went
outside and leaned against the wheel.
Are you sure it'll be straight?
She saw her own misgivings reflected in his face, and it exasperated
What a fool question. Do you think I don't know my business?
He did not answer, and she turned away.
Yes, Rosie. He was at her side at once.
She lifted her clear eyes to his face.
I don't like that woman.
Like her! he answered slowly. Like her! Her heart is as black as
To herself Dr. Harpe was saying:
Moses! I had to start in on somebody.
It was with relief that she looked through her office window after
supper and saw that the wagon was gone from the vacant lot.
Good riddance! she muttered. I wouldn't have that black-eyed
devil hanging around this town for money. He's onery enought to do me
mischief. I wonder who he was? He might be anything or anybody; a dago
duke or a hold-upor both. Anyway, he's gone, and if I never see him
again it'll be soon enough.
She sat down in her office chair and rested her heels on the window
sill while her cigarette burned to ashes between her listless fingers.
For a time she watched the white light of the June moon grow on the
line of dimpled foothills, the myriad odors of spring were in the air
and the balmy west wind lifted the hair at her temples as it came
through the open window. She felt lonelyinexpressibly lonely. She
thought of Alice Freoff and restlessness grew. Downstairs she heard
Essie Tisdale's merry laughter and it changed the current of her
She had learned her story now and the mystery of her identity had
given the little belle of Crowheart an added attraction. Everybody in
Crowheart knew her story for that matter; it was one of the stock tales
of the country to be repeated to interest strangers.
In the old days when Crowheart was a blacksmith shop and the
stamping ground of Snow-shoe Brown, whose log cabin hung on the edge
of the bench overlooking the stream like a crow's nest in a cottonwood
tree, Snow-shoe Brown had yelled in vain, one spring day, at a man
and woman on the seat of a covered wagon who were preparing to ford the
stream at the usual crossing. But the sullen roar of the water drowned
his warning that it was swimming depth, and, even while he ran for his
horse and uncoiled his saddle rope, the current was sweeping the wagon
and the struggling horses down stream. He followed along the bank until
the horse's feet came up and the wagon went down, while there floated
from the open end, among other things, something that looked to his
astonished eyes like a wooden cradle. He threw his rope, and threw
again, with the skill which long practice in roping mavericks had given
him; and gently, gently, with a success which seemed miraculous even to
Snow-shoe Brown, he had drawn the bobbing cradle gradually to shore.
Inside, a baby smiled up at him with the bluest eyes he ever had seen.
There was a picture primer tucked beneath the flannel coverlet and it
contained the single clue to her identity. Esther Tisdale was written
on the fly-leaf with a recent date.
Snow-shoe Brown said she was a maverick and unblushingly declared
that he claimed all mavericks that he had had his rope on; therefore
Esther Tisdale belonged to him. He left her in the care of the wife
of a cattleman who hoped thereby to purchase immunity from
Snow-shoe's activities, which he did, though that person rustled
elsewhere with renewed energy, since he said he had a family to keep.
So she learned to ride and shoot as straight as Snow-shoe himself and
even as a child gave promise of a winsome, lovely girlhood. The unique
relationship ended when her guardian died in his boots in the little
cowtown over beyond the Limestone Rim. A hard winter and the inroads of
sheep broke the cattleman who sold out and moved away, while Esther
Tisdale shifted for herself that she might not be a burden. She was
nearly twenty now, and, in the democratic community never had felt or
been made to feel that her position was subservient or inferior.
Therefore when her work was done and she bounded up the stairs to Dr.
Harpe's door she felt sure of a welcome.
It's only Essie Tisdale, she said in her merry voice as she rapped
and peered into the room.
Come in, Essie; I'm lonesome as the deuce!
It was some time later that Mrs. Terriberry sailing through the
corridor in her dressing-sacque and petticoat, with her feet scuffling
in Mr. Terriberry's carpet-slippers, had the stone-china water-pitcher
dashed from her hand as she turned a corner.
Oh, I'm sorry, Mrs. Terriberry!
What's the matter? She looked wonderingly at the girl's crimson
Don't ask me! but don't expect me to be friends with that woman
Have you had wordshave you quarrelled with Dr. Harpe?
Yesyes; we quarrelled! But don't ask me any more! I won'tI
can't tell you! the girl replied fiercely as she rushed on and slammed
the door of her room behind her.
In her office, Dr. Harpe was sitting by the window panic-stricken,
sick with the fear of the one thing in the world of which she was most
afraid, namely, Public Opinion.
She was deaf to the night sounds of the town; to the thick,
argumentative voices beneath her window; to the scratched phonograph
squeaking an ancient air in the office of the Terriberry House; to the
banging of an erratic piano in the saloon two doors above; to the
sleepy wails of the butcher's urchin in the tar-paper shack one door
below, and to a heap of snarling dogs fighting in the deep, white dust
of the street.
She glanced through the window and saw without seeing, the
deputy-sheriff escorting an unsteady prisoner down the street followed
by a boisterous crowd. In a way she was dimly conscious that there was
something familiar in the prisoner's appearance, but the impression was
not strong enough to rouse her from her preoccupation, and she turned
to walk the floor without being cognizant of the fact that she was
She suddenly threw both hands aloft.
I've got it! she cried exultingly. The very thing to counteract
her story. It'll workit always doesand I know that I can do it!
In her relief she laughed, a queer, cackling laugh which came
strangely from the lips of a woman barely thirty. The laughter was
still on her lips when a sound reached her ears which killed it as
quickly as it came.
Addio mia bella Napoli, addio, addio!
La tua soave imagine chi mai, chi mai scordar potra!
Del ciel l'auzzurro fulgido, la placida marina,
Qual core non imebria, non bea non bea divolutta!
In tela terra el 'aura favellano d'amore;
Te sola al mio dolore conforto io sognero
Oh! addio mia bella Napoli, addio, addio!
Addio care memorie del tempo ah! che fuggi!
The voice rang out like a golden bell, vibrating, as sweetly
penetrating. The strange words fell like the notes of the meadow lark
in spring, easy, liquid, yet with the sureness of knowledge.
The incoherent argument beneath the window ceased, the piano and the
phonograph were silenced, the wailing urchin dried its tears and all
the raw little town of Crowheart seemed to hold its breath as the
wonderful tenor voice rose and fell on the soft June night.
Adieu, my own dear Napoli! Adieu to thee, Adieu to thee!
Thy wondrous pictures in the sea, will ever fill my memory!
Thy skies of deepest, brightest blue, thy placid waves so soft
With heaving sigh and bitter tear, I bid a last, a sad adieu!
Adieu the fragrant orange grove, the scented air that breathes
Shall charm my heart with one bright ray, in dreams, wher'er I
Oh, adieu, my own dear Napoli! Adieu to thee, Adieu to thee!
Adieu each soul-felt memory, of happy days long passed away!
The old street-song of Italy, the song of its people, never held a
stranger audience in thraldom. If the song had been without words the
result would have been the same, almost, for it was the voice which
reached through liquor befuddled brains to find and stir remote and
hidden recesses in natures long since hardened to sentiment. Rough
speeches, ribald words and oaths died on the lips of those who crowded
the doorway of saloons, and they stood spell-bound by the song which
was sung as they felt dimly the angels must sing up there in that
shadowy land back of the stars in which vaguely they believed.
Only those who have lived in isolated places can understand what
music means to those who year after year are without it. Any sound that
is not an actual discord becomes music then and the least gentle listen
with pathetic eagerness. A worn phonograph screeching the popular songs
of a past decade holds the rapt attention of such. It reminds them of
that world they left long ago, a world which in the perspective of
waning years looks all song and laughter, good company, good clothes,
good food, and green things everywhere.
Therefore it is little wonder that this voice of marvellous
sweetness and power rising unexpectedly out of the moonlit night should
lay an awed hush upon the music-starved town. To some it brought a
flood of memories and lumps in aching throats while many a
weather-beaten face was lifted from mediocrity by a momentary
exultation that was of the soul.
That a human voice unaided by a visible personality could throw such
a spell upon the listeners seems rather a tax upon credulity; but the
singer himself appeared to have no misgivings. His face wore a look of
smiling, mocking confidence as he stood with one hand on his hip, the
other grasping a bar of the iron grating which covered the single
window of Crowheart's calaboose, pouring forth the golden notes with an
occasional imperious toss of his head and a flash of his black eyes
which made him look like a royal prisoner.
When the last note had died away, Dr. Harpe breathed an ejaculation.
The Dago Duke!
He sings like an angel, said Slivers, a barkeep.
And fights like a devil, replied Dan Treu, the deputy-sheriff. He
turned a knife in Tinhorn's shoulder.
VI. THE CHURCH RACKET
Dr. Harpe went downstairs the next morning with her straight upper
lip stretched in the set smile with which she met a crisis. Hank
Terriberry passed through the hall as she descended the stairs and she
watched him breathlessly.
Mornin', Doc. He nodded in friendly nonchalance and her heart
leaped in relief.
He knew nothing of the quarrel!
Wait a minute, Mr. Terriberry, she called, and he stopped. Say,
what church do you belong to? What are you?
Mr. Terriberry suffered from pyorrhea, and the row of upper teeth
which he now displayed in a genial grin looked like a garden-rake, due
to his shrinking gums.
I'm a Presbyterian, Doc, but I don't work at it. Why?
Let's get together and build a church. I'll go around with a
subscription paper myself and raise the money. I feel lost without a
church, I honestly do. It's downright heathenish.
That's so, Mr. Terriberry agreed heartily, there's something
damned respectable about a church. It makes a good impression upon
strangers to come into a town and hear a church bell ringin', even if
nobody goes. Doc, you're all right, he patted her shoulder
approvingly; you're a rough diamond; you can put me down for $50.
When Mr. Terriberry had gone his pious way, Dr. Harpe smiled and
reiterated mentally: There's nothing like the church racket; it always
She passed on into the dining-room where the Dago Duke who had sung
himself out of the calaboose sprang to his feet and, laying his hand
upon his heart, bowed low in a burlesqued bow of deference.
A tribute to your skill and learning, madam.
She stared at him stonily and his white teeth flashed.
How she hated him! yet she felt helpless before his impudence and
audacity. He had presence, poise, and she knew instinctively that to
whatever lengths she might go in retaliation he would go further. She
would only bring upon herself discomfiture by such a course. She knew
that she had forfeited his respect; more than that, she felt that she
had incurred a deep and lasting enmity which seemed to her out of all
proportion to the cause.
His horseback companion of the previous day was breakfasting beside
him and she found the young man's cold, impersonal scrutiny as hard to
bear as the Dago Duke's frank impudence as she swaggered to her seat at
the end of the long dining-room and faced them. He was as different in
his way from the men about him as the Dago Duke, yet he differed, too,
from that conspicuous person. He seemed self-contained, reserved to the
point of reticence, but with a quiet assurance of manner as pronounced
as the other's effrontery. He was dressed in a blue flannel shirt and
worn corduroys. His face was tanned but it was the sunburned face of an
invalid. There were hollows in his cheeks and a tired look in his gray
eyes. Having critically examined her, Dr. Harpe observed that he seemed
to forget her.
Essie Tisdale passed her without a glance, but Mrs. Terriberry came
behind with the breakfast of fried potatoes and the thin, fried
beefsteak on the platter which served also as a plate, from which menu
the Terriberry House never deviated by so much as a mutton chop.
I'm sorry you and Essie fell out, said Mrs. Terriberry
apologetically as she placed the dishes before her. But she seems
awful set on not waitin' on you.
Dr. Harpe dropped her eyes for an instant.
It's up to her.
She's as good-natured as anybody I ever saw but she's high-strung,
too; she's got a temper.
Dr. Harpe lifted a shoulder.
She'd better have my friendship than my enmity, even if she has a
Essie's mighty well liked here, Mrs. Terriberry returned quickly.
Popularity is a mighty uncertain asset in a small town.
Don't forget that yourself, Doc, returned Mrs. Terriberry, nettled
by her tone.
Dr. Harpe laughed good-naturedly; she had no desire to antagonize
She watched the Dago Duke hold up a warning finger as Essie placed
the heavy hotel dishes before him.
Be careful, Miss, be very careful not to nick this fragile ware. As
a lover of ceramic art, it would pain me to see it injured.
The girl dimpled, and, in spite of herself, burst into a trill of
laughter which was so merry and contagious that the grave stranger
beside him looked up at her with an interested and amused smile as
though seeing her for the first time.
Breakfasting at the Terriberry House was a pleasure which seemed a
long way off last night, observed the Dago Duke without embarrassment.
You heard the imprisoned bird singing for his liberty? Music to soothe
the savage breast of your sheriff. When I am myself I can converse in
five languages; when I am drunk it is my misfortune to be able only to
sing or holler. Your jail is a disgrace to Crowheart; I've never been
in a worse one. The mattress is lumpy and the pillow hard; I was
voicing my protest.
I don't care why you sing so long as you sing, said Essie,
dimpling again. It was beautiful, but isn't it bad for your health to
Not at all, returned the Dago Duke airily. Look at mefresh as a
rock-rose with the dew on it!
Again the grave stranger smiled but rather at Essie Tisdale's
laughter than his companion's brazen humor.
He interested Dr. Harpe, this other stranger, and as soon as her
breakfast was finished she looked for his name upon the register.
Ogden Van Lennop, she read, and his address was a little town in
the county. She shook her head and said to herself: He never came from
this neck of the woods. Another black sheep, I wonder?
Dr. Harpe lost no time in agitating the subject of a church and it
tickled Crowheart's risibilities, since she was the last person to be
suspected of spiritual yearningsher personality seeming incongruous
with religious fervor. But while they laughed it was with good-nature
and approval for it merely confirmed them in their opinion that with
all her idiosyncrasies she was at heart what she liked to be
considered, a rough diamond, sympathetic and kind of heart underneath
her blunt candor. That she had never been known to refuse a drink to
the knowledge of any inhabitant was one of the stock jokes of the town,
yet it was never urged against her. Already she had come to be pointed
out to strangers with a kind of affectionate pride as a local
celebritya character. She had a strong attraction for the women of
Crowheartan attraction that amounted to fascination. Her stronger
personality overshadowed theirs as her stronger will dominated them.
She quickly became a leader among them, and her leadership aroused no
jealousy. They quoted her rude speeches as characteristic bits of wit
and laughed at her uncouth manners. Her callousness passed for the
confidence of knowledge.
She's so different, they told each other. She's a law unto
herself. Yet the most timid among them had less fear of Public Opinion
than Dr. Harpe to whom it was always a menacing juggernaut.
She returned at the end of the day tired but content in the
knowledge that her efforts had produced exactly the effect she desired.
She had raised enough money to insure the erection of a modest mission
church, but the important thing was that in so doing she had built a
stout bulwark about herself which would long withstand any explanation
that Essie Tisdale might make as to the cause of the mysterious break
While she congratulated herself upon the success of this inspired
move on her part, circumstances due to other than her own efforts were
conspiring to eliminate the girl as a dangerous factor in her life.
She retired early and, consequently, was in ignorance of the receipt
of a telegram by Sylvanus Starr announcing the return of Andy P. Symes
and the complete success of his eastern mission. So when she was
awakened the next morning by a conflict of sounds which resembled the
efforts of a Chinese orchestra and raised the shade to see the newly
organized Cowboy band making superhuman endeavors to march and yet
produce a sufficiently correct number of notes from the score of A Hot
Time in the Old Town to make that American warcry recognizable, she
knew that something unusual had developed in the interim of her long
It was like Andy P. Symes to announce his coming that he might
extract all the glory possible from his arrival and he knew that he
could depend upon Sylvanus Starr to make the most of the occasion.
The editor issued an Extra of dodger-like appearance, and it is
doubtful if he would have used larger type to announce an anticipated
visit of the President. He called upon every citizen with a spark of
civic pride to turn out and give Andy P. Symes a fitting welcome; to do
homage to the man who was to Crowheart what the patron saints are to
the cities of the Old World.
The matutinal Hot Time in the Old Town and a majority of the
population waiting on the cinders about the red water tank were the
results of his impassioned plea.
Tears of gratified vanity stood in the eyes of Andy P. Symes as from
the front platform of the passenger coach he saw his neighbors
assembled to greet him. It seemed an eminently fitting and proper
tribute to the great-grandson of the man who had been a personal friend
of Alexander Hamilton's. He viewed the welcoming throng through misty
eyes as, with an entire appreciation of the imposing figure he
presented, he bared his massive head in deference to Mrs. Terriberry,
Mrs. Percy Parrott, Mrs. Starr and her two lovely daughters whose
shrill shrieks were audible above the grinding of the car-wheels upon
the rusty track.
Sylvanus Starr with many sweeping gestures of a hand which suggested
a prehensile, well-inked claw, welcomed him in an outburst of oratory,
iridescent with adjectives which gushed from him like a volume of water
from a fire-plug, that made Crowheart's jaw drop. While Symes may have
felt that the editor was going it rather strong when he compared him to
the financial geniuses of the world beginning with Croesus and ending
with the Guggenheims, he made no protest.
Behind Mr. Symes, wide-eyed and solemn, and transformed nearly past
recognition by a hobble skirt and kimona sleeves, stood Mrs. Symes
with the growing feeling of complacent aloofness which comes from being
the wife of a great man.
In contrast to Sylvanus Starr's fluency Symes's response seemed
halting and slow, but it gained thereby in impressiveness. When he
clenched his huge fist and struck at the air, declaring for the third
time that it was good to be home! nobody doubted him. And they need
not have doubted him, for, since his salary did not begin until his
return to Crowheart, and the offerings of night-lunch carts are taxing
upon the digestion, it was indeed good to be home!
VII. THE SHEEP FROM THE GOATS
Andy P. Symes decided to emphasize further his return to Crowheart
by issuing invitations for a dinner to be given in the Terriberry
House, reserving the announcement of his future plans for this
occasion; and, although Crowheart did not realize it at the time, this
dinner was an epoch-making function. It was not until the printed
invitations worded with such elegance by Sylvanus Starr were issued,
that Crowheart dimly suspected there were sheep and goats, and this was
the initial step toward separating them.
The making up of a social list in any frontier town is not without
its puzzling features and Mr. Symes in this instance found it
particularly difficult once he began to discriminate.
First there came the awkward question of his relatives by marriage.
At first glance it would have seemed rather necessary to head the list
with Grandmother Kunkel, but the fact that she was also the hotel
laundress at the time made it a subject for debate. Once, just once, he
was willing to test the social possibilities of his brother-in-law, so
Symes magnanimously gave him his chance and the name of Adolph Kunkel
headed the list.
The Percy Parrotts, of course, went through the sieve, and the
Starrs, and Dr. Emma Harpe, but there was the embarrassing question of
Mrs. Alva Jackson who had but lately sold her dance hall, goodwill, and
fixtures, to marry Alva Jackson, a prosperous cattlemantoo
prosperous, Mr. Symes finally decided, to ignore. Would the presence of
the sprightly Faro Nell give a touch of piquancy to the occasion or
lower its tone? Could rich, old Edouard Dubois be induced to change his
shirt if invited? The clairvoyant milliner was barred owing to the fact
that she was in trade, but Tinhorn Frank, who no longer sat drunk
and collarless in his dirt-floored saloon fumbling a deck of cards
thick with grime, went down upon the list as Mr. Rhodes, the citizens
of Crowheart learning his name for the first time when it appeared on
the sign above the door of his new real estate office.
When the difficult undertaking was complete Mrs. Symes looked over
his shoulder and read the list.
You haven't Essie Tisdale's name.
Mr. Symes laughed good-humoredly
Oh, she'll be there; she'll wait on the table.
You don't mean to ask Essie Tisdale? Mrs. Symes's eyes opened.
Symes shook his head.
That seems awfully mean, insisted Mrs. Symes in feeble protest;
she's always been so nice to me at dances and things.
My dear, Symes replied impatiently, we can't invite all the
people who have been nice to us. Won't you ever understand that society
must draw the line somewhere?
Mrs. Symes pondered this new thought a long time.
When the invitations were out and the news of the dinner spread it
became the chief topic of conversation. The fact that the dinner was at
seven instead of twelve o'clock, noon, occasioned much hilarity among
the uninvited while the invited guests were more than delighted at the
fashionable hour. A tinge of acerbity was noticeable in the comments of
those who were unaccustomed to the sensation of being excluded, among
them Mrs. Abe Tutts, whose quick recognition of slights led one to
believe she had received a great many of them. Mrs. Tutts, who was
personally distasteful to Mr. Symes, went so far as to inquire
belligerently of Mrs. Symes why she had not been invited.
I don't know, stammered Mrs. Symes who was still truthful rather
than tactful, but I'll ask Phidias.
You find out and lemme know, said Mrs. Tutts menacingly. They
can't nobody in this town hand me nothin'!
Since Mrs. Tutts's sensitiveness appeared always to show itself in a
desire to do the offender bodily harm, Andy P. Symes took care not to
Until the very last Essie Tisdale could not believe that she had
been intentionally omitted. She was among the first thought of when any
gathering was planned and in her naive way was as sure of her
popularity as Symes himself, so she had pressed the wrinkles from her
simple gown and cleaned once more the white slippers which were among
her dearest treasures.
As a matter of course Mrs. Terriberry had engaged other help for the
occasion and all the afternoon of the day set Essie Tisdale waited for
the tardy invitation which she told herself was an oversight. She could
not believe that Augusta Kunkel, who was indebted to her for more good
times than she ever had had in her uneventful life, could find it in
her heart to slight her.
But the afternoon waned and no belated invitation came, so when the
hour had arrived for her to go below she hung her cheap little frock
upon its nail and replaced the cherished slippers in their box, hurt
and heavy hearted and still unaware that the day when she had tripped
in them as the acknowledged belle of Crowheart was done and the old
régime of charity and democratic, unpretentious hospitality was gone
never to return.
Her shapely head was erect and her eyes bright with the pain of hurt
pride when she knocked upon Mrs. Terriberry's door. That lady thrust a
floured face through the crack.
You needn't get anyone to take my place to-night, she said
bravely, I'm not invited.
In the white expanse Mrs. Terriberry's mouth looked like a crack in
Essie Tisdale shook her head.
Come in. Mrs. Terriberry sank upon the bed which sagged like a
hammock with her weight. What do you 'spose is the reason?
I haven't the least idea in the world. Essie's chin quivered in
spite of her.
For half a cent I wouldn't budge! Mrs. Terriberry shook a warlike
coiffure. Folks like that ought to be learned something.
Oh, yes, you must go.
If I do it'll be only to see what they wear and how they act; I
don't expect to enjoy myself a bit after hearin' this. I've lost
interest in it.
With a zest somewhat at variance with her words Mrs. Terriberry
began to manipulate a pair of curling tongs which had been heating in
A sizzling sound followed and a cloud of smoke rose in the air.
There! I've burnt off my scoldin' locks. Mrs. Terriberry viewed
the damage with dismay. I'm just so upset I don't know what I'm doin'.
Essie, if you don't want to wait on 'em you needn't.
I won't mind muchafter the first. It will be hard at first. Thank
If I ever git me another pair of these 'pinch-ins', panted Mrs.
Terriberry, you'll know it. Take holt and lay back on them strings,
will you? They got to come closter than that or that skirt won't meet
on me by an inchand to think twenty-fours was loose on me onct! Wait
a minute! A startled look came in Mrs. Terriberry's bulging eyes. I
thought I felt somethin' give inside of medon't take much to cave a
rib in sometimes.
Yep; these things have gotta meet if I have to hitch the 'bus team
When she was finally encased in a steel-colored satin bodice her
plump shoulders appeared to start directly beneath her ears, and her
hands were not only purple, but slightly numb.
How do I look, child?
How do you feel? asked Essie evasively.
As well as anybody could with their in'ards crowded up under their
chin, replied Mrs. Terriberry grimly. I hope the house don't ketch
fire while we're eatin', for I sure aims to slide these slippers off
onct we're set down, and there's one thing certain, Mrs. Terriberry
continued savagely, I'm sufferin' enough to git some good out of it.
As Essie turned away Mrs. Terriberry kissed her cheek kindly.
Keep a stiff upper lip, Essie, don't let them see.
I can do that, the girl replied proudly.
Innovations are nearly always attended by difficulties and
embarrassments but even Andy P. Symes had not anticipated that his
effort to establish a local aristocracy would entail so many awkward
moments and painful situations.
If the printed invitations and the unusual hour had filled his
guests with awe, the formalities of the dinner itself had the effect of
temporarily paralyzing their faculties. In lieu of the merry scramble
characteristic of Crowheart's festivities, there was a kind of a Death
March into the dining-room from which Mrs. Terriberry had
unceremoniously fanned the regular boarders.
The procession was headed by Andy P. Symes bearing Mrs. Starr,
tittering hysterically, upon his arm. Mrs. Symes's newly acquired
savoir-faire deserted her; her hands grew clammy and Sylvanus
Starr's desperate conversational efforts evoked no other response than
Yes, sirNo, sir. Mrs. Terriberry, red and flustered, found herself
engaged in a wrestling match with little Alva Jackson, which lasted all
the way from the door of the dining-room to the long table at the end.
Mr. Jackson in his panic was determined to take Mrs. Terriberry's arm,
whereas she was equally determined that she would take his, having
furtively observed her host gallantly offering support to Mrs. Starr.
A sure indication of the importance attached to the affair was the
number of new boots and shoes purchased for the occasion. Now,
thick-soled, lustrous, in the frozen silence of the procession, these
boots and shoes clumping across the bare floor called attention to
themselves in voices which seemed to shriek and with the fiendishness
of inanimate objects screamed the louder at their owners' gingerly
steps. A function of the Commune when Madame Guillotine presided must
have been a frothy and frivolous affair compared to the beginning of
Adolph Kunkel, who had attached himself to Dr. Harpe to the extent
of walking within four feet of her side, darted from line and pulled
out the nearest chair at the table. Observing too late that the other
guests were still standing, he sprang to his feet and looked wildly
about to see if he had been noticed. He had. Alva Jackson covered his
mouth with his handkerchief and giggled.
There was a frozen smile upon the faces of the ladies who, sitting
bolt upright, twisted their fingers under the kindly shelter of the
table-cloth. Each trivial observation, humorous or otherwise, was
greeted with a burst of laughter and the person brave enough to venture
a remark seemed immediately appalled by the sound of his own voice.
Adolph Kunkel, to show that he was perfectly at ease, stretched his
arms behind his neighbor's chair and yawned.
In spite of the efforts which brought beads of perspiration out on
the broad forehead of their host, Essie Tisdale appeared with the first
course mid a ghastly silence.
I hardly ever drink tea, observed Mr. Rhodes, for the purpose,
merely, of making conversation.
Oh, my Gawd, Tinhorn, that ain't tea, it's bullion! Mrs.
Terriberry's loud whisper was heard the length of the table as she tore
the sugar bowl from his hand, but the warning came too late, for Mr.
Rhodes already had sweetened his consommé.
The guests displayed their tact by assuming a wooden expression, and
turning their heads away secretly relieved that they had not committed
the faux pas themselves. Only Alva Jackson stared at Mr.
Rhodes's embarrassment in unconcealed delight.
Let Essie bring you another cup, suggested Mr. Symes.
Oh, no! not at all; I take sweetenin' in everything, declared Mr.
There was a distinct relaxation of tension all around when Andy P.
Symes took the initiative in the matter of spoons.
This here soup makes me think of the time I had mountain fever and
et it stiddy for three weeks. Adolph Kunkel whispered the reminiscence
behind the back of his hand.
My real favorite is bean soup, admitted Mr. Terriberry, and Mrs.
Terriberry looked mortified at this confession of her husband's vulgar
It's very nourishing, declared Mrs. Starr tremulously.
And delicious, too, when properly served. Mrs. Percy Parrott
curled her little finger elegantly and toyed with a spoon.
It's a pretty good article in camp, said Mr. Symes desperately to
keep the ball rolling.
The guests shrieked with mirthless laughter at the suggestion of
rough camp life.
Gosh! me and Gus was weaned and raised on bean soupand
liverwurst, interjected Adolph Kunkel in the lull which followed, and
immediately squirmed under Mrs. Symes's blazing eyes. Of course, he
added lamely, we et other things, toomush and headcheese.
During these trying moments Dr. Harpe settled back in her chair with
folded arms regarding the scene with the impersonal amusement with
which she would have sat through a staged comedy. No sense of
obligation toward her host and hostess impelled her to do her share
toward lessening the strain, and Andy P. Symes felt a growing
irritation at the faint smile of superiority upon her face. She was the
one person present who might have helped him through the uncomfortable
Formality was the keynote of the occasion. Ladies who had been at
each other's back door a few hours previous borrowing starch or sugar
now addressed each other in strained and distant tones while the men
were frankly dumb. It was a relief to everybody when a heaping platter
of fried chicken appeared upon the table followed by mounds of mashed
potatoes and giblet gravy which made the guests' eyes gleam like
bird-dogs gaunt from a run.
Fried chicken is only fried chicken to those who dwell in the
country where chickens scratch in every backyard, but to those who
dwell where they reckon time from the occasion when they last ate an
egg, fried chicken bears the same relation to other food that
nightingales' tongues bore to other dishes at epicurean Roman feasts.
As a further evidence of Symes's prodigality there was champagne in
hollow-stemmed glasses brought from the East.
It was a glorious feast with cold storage chicken expressed from the
Main Line and potatoes freighted up from the Mormon settlement a
hundred miles below.
It's a durn shame, said Adolph Kunkel as he surreptitiously
removed an olive, that the plums is spiled, for this is the best
supper I ever flopped my lip over.
Symes suppressed a groan.
Each guest devoted himself to his food with an abandon and
singleness of purpose which left no doubt as to his enjoyment, and the
effort of old Edouard Dubois to scrape the last vestige of potato from
his plate brought out a suggestion from Adolph Kunkel to leave the gilt
design on the bottom. And when tiny after-dinner coffee cups appeared,
the guests felt that a new and valuable experience was being added to
Holy smokebut that's stout! hinted Mr. Terriberry after looking
the table over for the customary pitcher of tinned milk. But before Mr.
Symes could act upon the hint his brother-in-law's eyes began to water
and bulge. He groped for his napkin while he compressed his lips in an
heroic effort to retain the hot and bitter coffee, but instead he
grabbed the hanging edge of the table-cloth. His pitiful eyes were
fixed upon the coldly disapproving face of Andy P. Symes, but there is
a limit to human endurance and Adolph Kunkel quickly reached it.
Simultaneous with a spurt of coffee Adolph rose and fled, upsetting his
chair as he went, disgraced upon his only appearance in that exclusive
set from which he was henceforth and forever barred.
He coughed significantly under the window to remind Mr. Symes that
he might be induced to return, but the hint passed unheeded, for regret
would not have been among Mr. Symes's emotions if his brother-in-law's
removal had been complete and permanent.
Over the coffee and a superior brand of cigars to which Mr. Symes
called particular attention, the conversation of his guests began to
contain some degree of naturalness and their painful self-consciousness
gradually vanished. When they seemed in a mellow and receptive mood he
began to rehearse his achievements in the East and unfold his plans. As
he talked, their imaginations stimulated by wine, they saw the future
of Crowheart pass before them like a panorama.
The army of laborers who were to be employed upon this enormous
ditch would spend their wages in Crowheart. The huge payroll would be a
benefit to every citizen. The price of horses would jump to war-time
values and every onery cayuse on the range would be hauling a scraper.
Alfalfa and timothy would sell for $18 a ton in the stack and there
would be work for every able-bodied man who applied. The grocery bills
of the commissary would make the grocers rich and Crowheart would boom
right. When the water was running swift and deep in the ditch the
land-hungry homeseekers would fight for ground. And it was only a step
from settlement to trolley cars, electric lights, sandstone business
blocks and cement pavements, together with lawns growing real grass!
Under the spell of his magnetic presence and convincing eloquence
nothing seemed more plausible or possible than the fulfilment of these
prophecies. And all this was to be brought about through the efforts of
Andy P. Symes, who intimated that not one million but millions had been
placed at his disposal by eager and trusting capitalists to be used by
him if necessary in making the desert bloom like the rose.
Mr. Rhodes saw himself selling corner lots at twenty thousand each
while space rates rose in the mind of Sylvanus Starr in leaps and
bounds. The Percy Parrots saw themselves lolling in a rubber-tired
vehicle while the vulgar populace on the curb identified them by
pointing with their grimy fingers. Each guest looked forward to the
fulfilment of some cherished dream and Dr. Emma Harpe saw a picture,
too, as she gazed at Symes with speculative, contemplative eyes.
He looked the embodiment of prosperity and success, did Symes, and
if he subtly intimated that the road to prosperity lay through loyalty
to him, that his friendship, support and approval were the steps by
which they could best climb, they were willing to give it without
quibbling. They were content to shine in his reflected glory, and they
dispersed at a late hour feeling that they had been tacitly set
aparta chosen people.
The next issue of the Crowheart Courier referred to the
dinner as a three-course banquet, and published the menu. If the
description of the guests' costumes made Crowheart's eyes pop and none
more than the wearers, the latter did not mention it.
Pleased but bewildered, Mrs. Terriberry read of herself as queenly
in gray satin and diamonds, being unable to place the diamonds until
she recalled the rhinestone comb in her back hair which sparkled with
the doubtful brilliancy of a row of alum cubes.
Mrs. Percy Parrott had some difficulty in recognizing herself as
ravishing in shot silk garnished with pearls, since the plaid taffeta
which had come in a barrel from home with the collar tab pinned flat
with a moonstone pin bore little resemblance to the elegance suggested
in the paragraph.
And if the editor chose to refer to the pineapple pattern, No. 60
cotton, collarette which Mrs. Jackson had crocheted between beers in
the good old Dance Hall days as an exquisite effect in point lace,
certainly Mrs. Jackson was not the lady to contradict him.
But this was merely the warming up exercise of the editor's
vocabulary. When he really cut loose on Andy P. Symes the graves of
dead and buried adjectives opened to do him honor. In the lurid lexicon
of his eloquence there was no such word as obsolete and no known
synonym failed to pay tribute to this mental and physical colossus.
In his shirt sleeves, minus his cuffs, with his brain in a lather, one
might say, Sylvanus Starr painted a picture of the coming Utopia,
experiencing in so doing such joys of creation as he had not known
since his removal from the obituary department.
And reading, the citizens of Crowheart rejoiced or envied according
to their individual natures.
VIII. THE CHANCE OF A LIFETIME
Dr. Harpe was still young enough to be piqued by Ogden Van Lennop's
utter indifference to herself. He was now established in the hotel,
apparently for an indefinite stay, and they met frequently in the
corridors and on the stairs. His attitude of impassive politeness
nettled her far more than the alert hostility of the Dago Duke whom she
The slight overtures she made met no response and she minded it the
more that he made no attempt to disguise his liking for Essie Tisdale,
whose laughing good-nature and quaint humor had penetrated the reserve
which was in his manner toward every one else. He seemed even to have
no desire to take advantage of the patronizing advances of Andy P.
Symes and was content enough to spend a portion of each day reading
books with mystifying titles and to ride away into the hills to be gone
for hours at a time. He still wore the regalia of the country, the
Stetson hat, flannel shirt and corduroys that were too common to
attract attention, but the hollows in his cheeks were filling out and
the tired look was going from his eyes.
When he had been a month in Crowheart and had made not the smallest
effort to get a job he began to be regarded with some suspicion. The
fact that he seemed always to have money for which he did not work
inspired distrust. Then, too, as Mr. Rhodes shrewdly pointed out, he
had the long white hands of a high-toned crook. As a result of the
various theories advanced, Ogden Van Lennop came gradually to be looked
at askancea fact of which he seemed totally oblivious. And when the
clairvoyant milliner went into a trance and declared that a desperado
was in their midst planning a raid on Crowheart the finger of suspicion
pointed straight at the uncommunicative stranger, and the Iowa Notion
Store installed a riot gun.
Dr. Harpe wondered with the rest but she did not share their
ignorant mistrust, for she had sufficient worldly wisdom to recognize
the nicety of his speech and the reticence of his manners as belonging
to a gentlemana gentleman under a cloud mayhap but still born a
gentleman. She was intensely curious regarding his antecedents, and one
day she had her curiosity gratified. A letter which came in the morning
mail from a schoolmate in the East, read:
I have just learned through the papers here that Ogden Van
roughing it in your country and I thought I'd write and give
hint in case you come across him. Grab him, my dear, if you
ghost of a show, for he is the most eligible man in seven
Money, family, social positionit makes me green to think of
chance, it's the chance of a lifetimefor I'd never meet him
humble sphere in a thousand years. He's an awfully decent sort,
they say. He overworked after he came out of college and he's
getting his health back. Good luck to you and I hope you
Dr. Harpe folded the letter and put it away.
Don't I though? she said grimly.
She frowned as Van Lennop's low, amused laugh, mingling with Essie
Tisdale's merry trill, reached her through the open window.
The presumptuous little upstart! The biscuit-shooter! Dr. Harpe's
face was not pleasant to see.
She took care to keep to herself what she had learned for when they
met, as she was now determined that they should, she wished the
friendship she meant to proffer to seem above all else disinterested.
While she realized that she had his prejudice to overcome, she believed
that she could overcome it and she would wait now with eagerness for
the opportunity to insert the opening wedge.
Heretofore the dubious compliment a good fellow, from the men with
whom she smoked and drank, had pleased and satisfied her. She had no
desire to appeal to them in any other way; but this was different
because Ogden Van Lennop was different, being the first really eligible
man who had ever come within the circle to which she had been limited
by her always straitened circumstances. She looked upon Van Lennop in
the light of an exceptional business chance, and with a conceit oddly
at variance with her eminently practical nature, she believed she had
only to set about exerting herself in earnest to arouse his interest
and attach him to herself.
Van Lennop found himself still smiling at Essie Tisdale's sallies as
he came up the stairs. Her droll originality amused him as he had not
been amused in a long time, and he found himself unbending to a degree
which often surprised himself; besides, with her frankness, her
naturalness and perfect unconsciousness of any social barrier, she
seemed to him a perfect western type. He prized the novel friendship,
for it had become that, and would have regretted keenly anything which
might have interrupted it.
Her realistic descriptions of the episodes of a small town were
irresistible and Van Lennop never found himself more genuinely
entertained than when after a certain set form of greeting which they
went through daily with the greatest gravity, he would inquire
Well, Miss Tisdale, what are the developments in the world to-day?
And with her quick, dimpling smile she would respond with some item of
local news which took its humor chiefly from the telling.
When a sign on the tar-paper shack which bore the legend Warshing
was replaced by Plane Sewing Done, she reported the change and,
again, the fact that he was aware of Mrs. Abe Tutts's existence was due
to Essie Tisdale's graphic account of the outburst of temper in which
that erratic lady, while rehearsing the rôle of a duchess in an amateur
production, kicked, not figuratively but literally, the dukea rôle
essayed by the talented plastererdown the stairs of Odd Fellow's Hall
over the General Merchandise Store. The girl enjoyed life and its small
incidents with the zest of exuberant youth and Van Lennop often
declared himself as anxious that Mrs. Percy Parrott should accumulate
enough from the sale of milk to buy screens before flytime as that lady
herself since Essie sustained his interest by daily account of the
addition to the screen fund. He was still thinking of the combative
Mrs. Tutts when he opened a book and sat down by the open window.
A murmur of voices which began shortly underneath his window did not
disturb him, though subconsciously he was aware that one of them
belonged to Essie Tisdale. It was not until he heard his own name that
he lifted his eyes from the interesting pages before him.
You lak him I t'inkdat loaferdat fellow Van Lennop?
Van Lennop recognized the thick, gutteral voice of old Edouard
Like him? Of course I like him, andthere was asperity in Essie's
tone nowhe isn't a loafer.
Hold-up, then, substituted Dubois.
Nor a hold-up.
What you t'ink he is?
Something you would never recognize, she answered sharply; a
Van Lennop smiled, for in his mind's eye he could see the tense
aggressiveness of her slim figure.
Chentleman! was the contemptuous snort. Chentlemanand never buy
de drinks for nobody all de time he is in Crowheart. Fine chentleman
When do you buy any? was the pointed inquiry.
I haf to work for my money; his comes easy, he replied
You said that before. The voice was growing shriller. How do you
I must believe it if you say so.
Why you get mad? Why you stick up for him so hard? persisted the
Why wouldn't I stick up for him? He's a friend of mine.
Fine frendat lazy cheap-skate! There was real venom in the
Van Lennop heard the stamp of Essie Tisdale's small foot upon the
You needn't think you'll advance your own interests by calling him
such names as that! Let me tell you I wouldn't marry you if you asked
me a million, million times!
Van Lennop started. So he was asking Essie Tisdale to marry
himthis old Edouard Dubois with the bullet-shaped head and the brutal
face that Van Lennop had found so objectionable upon each occasion that
he had been his vis-a-vis in the dining-room?
Oh, you wouldn't marry me?the guttural voice was ugly nowI
offer you good home, good clothes, ze chance to travel when you lak and
hear ze good music zat you love and you wouldn't marry me if I ask you
million times? Maybe some time, Mees Teesdale, you be glad to
marry me when I ask you once!
Maybe I will, the angry young voice flung back, but that time
hasn't come yet, Mr. Dubois!
And God forbid that it ever should, breathed Van Lennop to himself
at the window above. His eyes had grown a little moist at this
exhibition of her loyalty and somehow the genuineness of it made him
glow, the more perhaps that he was never without a lurking suspicion of
the disinterestedness of women's friendship for the reasons which Dr.
Harpe, for instance, knew.
What Van Lennop had learned through his unintentional eavesdropping
was something of a revelation. In his mild conjectures as to
Crowheart's opinion of him it never had occurred to him that it
considered him anything more interesting than an impecunious
semi-invalid or possibly a homeseeker taking his own time to locate.
But a hold-up! a loafer! a lazy cheap-skate! Van Lennop shook with
silent laughter. A skinflint too mean to buy a drink! He had no notion
of enlightening Crowheart in regard to himself because of the
illuminating conversation he had overheard. The situation afforded him
too much amusement and since Essie Tisdale liked him for himself and
trusted him in the face of what was evidently Crowheart's opinion,
nothing else mattered. The only result then was to give him a more
minute interest in his surroundings. Heretofore he had viewed the life
about him in the impersonal fashion in which persons of large interests
and wide experience regard unimportant people doing unimportant things.
In the light of what he had learned he placed a new interpretation upon
the curious stares, averted faces, frankly disapproving looks or
challenging insolence of glances such as he received from Mr. Rhodes's
bold eyes. He smiled often in keen enjoyment of his shady reputation
and kept adding to his unpopularity by steadfastly refusing to be drawn
into poker games which bore evidence of having been arranged for his
The experience of being avoided by the respectably inclined and
sought after by those who had no respectability to lose was a new
experience to Van Lennop, who had been accustomed from infancy to the
deference which is tacitly accorded those of unusual wealth; but even
had he found the antagonistic atmosphere which he encountered
frequently now annoying, he would have felt more than compensated by
the knowledge that he had discovered in the little belle of Crowheart a
friend whose loyalty was strong enough to stand the difficult test of
Essie Tisdale had no notion that Van Lennop had overheard her
quarrel with the Frenchman, but her quick perceptions recognized an
added friendliness in his mannera kind of unbending gentleness which
was newand she needed it for she daily felt the growing lack of it in
people whom she had called her friends.
In the days which followed, Van Lennop sometimes asked himself if
anything had gone wrong with Essie Tisdale. Her shapely head had a
proud uplift which was new and in unguarded moments her red, sensitive
lips had a droop that he had not noticed before.
Essie Tisdale was not, in her feelings, unlike a frolicsome puppy
that has received its first vicious kick. She was digesting the new
knowledge that there were people who could hurt others deliberately,
cruelly, and so far as she knew, without provocation; that there were
people whom she had counted her friends that were capable of hurting
herwho could wound her like enemies. And, like the puppy who runs
from him who has inflicted his first pain and turns to look with
bewilderment and reproach in his soft puppy eyes, Essie felt no
resentment yet, only surprise and the pain of the blow together with a
great and growing wonder as to what she had done.
The ordeal of the dinner had been greater even than she had
anticipated. For the first time in her life she had been treated like
an inferiora situation which Essie Tisdale did not know how to meet.
But it had remained for Andy P. Symes who but a few months previous had
pressed her hand and called her the prettiest girl in Crowheart to
inflict the blow that hurt most.
The guests were leaving when she had found a chance to whisper, You
look so well to-night, Gussie, and Andy P. Symes had interrupted
coldly, Mrs. Symes, if you please, Essie.
Her cheeks grew scarlet when she thought of it. She had meant to
tell them in that way that the slight had not altered her friendship
and Andy P. Symes had told her in his way that they did not want her
She did not understand yet, she only felt, and felt so keenly, that
she could not bring herself to speak of it, even to Ogden Van Lennop,
who still supposed that she had gone as an invited guest.
IX. THE WAYS OF POLITE SOCIETY
The change which a marcelled pompadour, kimona sleeves, a
peach-basket hat, and a hobble skirt wrought in the appearance of Mrs.
Andy P. Symes, nee Kunkel, was a source of amazement to Crowheart. Her
apologetic diffidence was now replaced by an air of complacency arising
from the fact that since her return she began to regard herself as a
travelled lady who had seen much of life. The occasions upon which she
had sat blushing and stammering in the presence of her husband's
friends were fast fading from mind in the agreeable experience of
finding herself treated with deference by those who formerly had seemed
rather to tolerate than desire her society. Until her return to
Crowheart she had not in the least realized what a difference her
marriage was to make in her life.
In that other environment she had felt like a servant girl taken
red-handed and heavy-footed from the kitchen and suddenly placed in the
drawing-room upon terms of equality with her mistress and her
mistresses's friends, but she had profited by her opportunities and now
brought back with her something of the air and manner of speech and
dress of those who had embarrassed her. While Crowheart laughed a
little behind her back it was nevertheless impressed by the mild
It is no exaggeration to say that Crowheart's eyes protruded when
Mrs. Symes returned the neighborly visits of the ladies who had just
run in to see how she was gettin' on, by a series of formal afternoon
calls. No such fashionable sight ever had been witnessed in the town as
Mrs. Symes presented when, in a pair of white kid gloves and a veil,
she picked her way with ostentatious daintiness across several vacant
lots still encumbered with cactus and sagebrush, to the log residence
of Mr. and Mrs. Alva Jackson.
There was a pair of eyes staring unabashed at every front window in
the neighborhood when Mrs. Symes stood on Mrs. Jackson's stoop and
removed a piece of baling wire from the lace frill of her petticoat
before she wrapped her handkerchief around her hand to protect her
white kid knuckles and knocked with lady-like gentleness upon Mrs.
Mrs. Jackson, who had been peering through the foliage of a potted
geranium on the window-sill, was pinning frantically at her scolding
locks, but retained sufficient presence of mind to let a proper length
of time elapse before opening the door. When she did, it was with an
elaborate bow from the waistline and a surprised
Why, how do you do, Mis' Symes!
Mrs. Symes smiled in prim sweetness, and noting that Mrs. Jackson's
hands looked reasonably clean, extended one of the first two white kid
gloves in Crowheart which Mrs. Jackson shook with heartiness before
bouncing back and inquiring
Won't you come in, Mis' Symes?
Thanks. Mrs. Symes took a pinch of the front breadth of her skirt
between her thumb and finger and stepped daintily over the door-sill.
Set down, urged Mrs. Jackson making a dash at a blue plush
rocking-chair which she rolled into the centre of the room with great
When the chair tipped and sent Mrs. Symes's feet into the air Mrs.
Jackson's burst of laughter was heard distinctly by Mrs. Tutts across
Trash! exclaimed that person in unfathomable contempt.
Mrs. Jackson had two missing front teeth which she had lost upon an
occasion to which she no longer referred, also a voice strained and
husky from the many midnight choruses in which she had joined before
she sold her goodwill and fixtures. She now rested her outspread
fingers upon each knee and wildly ransacked her brain for something
light and airy in the way of conversation.
Mrs. Symes, sitting bolt upright on the edge of the plush
rocking-chair with her long, flat feet pressed tightly together,
tweaked at the only veil in Crowheart and cleared her throat with
subdued and lady-like restraint before she inquired
Isn't it a lovely day?
Oh, lovely! Mrs. Jackson answered with husky vivacity. Perfeckly
Another silence followed and something of Mrs. Jackson's mental
state could be read in her dilated pupils and excited, restless eyes.
Finally she said in a desperate voice
It's a grand climate anyhow.
If it wasn't for the wind; it's one drawback.
Another burst of laughter from Mrs. Jackson who covered her mouth
with her hand after the manner of those who have been unfortunate in
the matter of front teeth.
Cats! hissed Mrs. Tutts across the street. I'll bet they are
laffin' at me!
We had charming weather while we were gone, continued Mrs. Symes
easily. The word was new to her vocabulary and its elegance did not
escape Mrs. Jackson.
The change was so beneficial to me. One so soon exhausts a small
town, don't you think so, Mrs. Jackson?
Mrs. Jackson could not truthfully say that she ever had felt that
she had exhausted Crowheart, but she agreed weakly
I had so many new and delightful experiences, too. Mrs. Symes
smiled a sweetly reminiscent smile.
You musta had.
Going out in the train we had cantelope with cracked ice in it. You
must try it sometimes, Mrs. Jacksonit's delicious.
I can't say when I've et a cantelope but, Oh Lord, I has a
hankerin' for eggs! I tell Jackson the next time he ships he's gotta
take me along, for I want to git out where I can git my mitt on a pair
We became quite surfeited with eggs, Phidias and I, observed Mrs.
Symes with an air of ennui.
Mrs. Jackson blinked.
I can't go 'em onless they're plumb fresh, she replied
I've had such a pleasant call. Mrs. Symes rose.
Run in agin. Mrs. Jackson's eyes were glued upon the leather
card-case from which Mrs. Symes was endeavoring to extract a card with
fingers which she was unable to bend.
Thanks. I've been so busy getting settled and all but now I mean to
keep a servant and shall have more time.
Mrs. Jackson had read of ladies who kept servants but never had
hoped to know one.
Where you goin' to gitit? From Omyhaw or K. C.?
Grandmother has promised to come to me, said Mrs. Symes languidly.
Mrs. Jackson's jaw dropped.
Gramma Kunkel ain't a servant, is she? she's 'help.'
'Help' are servants, explained Mrs. Symes with gentle patience as
she laid her printed visiting card upon the centre table.
Gosh! that strikes me funny. Mrs. Jackson was natural at last.
Not at all, replied Mrs. Symes with hauteur. She must work, so
why not for me? She's strong and very, very capable.
Oh, she's capable all right, but, persisted Mrs. Jackson
unconvinced, it strikes me funny. Say, is Essie Tisdale a servant,
Mrs. Symes smiled ever so slightly as she fumbled with her visiting
card and laid it in a more conspicuous place.
Was that why she wasn't ast to the banquet?
Again Mrs. Symes smiled the slow, deprecating smile which she was
Society must draw the line somewhere, Mrs. Jackson.
Mrs. Jackson gulped with a clicking sound, and at the door shook
hands with Mrs. Symes, wearing the dazed expression of one who has
bumped his head on a shelf corner. Through the potted geranium she
watched Mrs. Symes picking her way across another vacant lot to the
dwelling of the Sylvanus Starr's.
Mrs. Abe Tutts with her blue flannel yachting cap set at an
aggressive angle over one eye paddled across the street and was upon
Mrs. Jackson before that person was aware of her presence.
Has that guttersnipe gone? A quite superfluous question, as Mrs.
Jackson was well aware.
Of who are you speakin'? inquired Mrs. Jackson coldly.
Who would I be speakin' of but Gus Kunkel? demanded Mrs. Tutts
Look here, Mis' Tutts, I don't want to have no words with you,
What's that? interrupted Mrs. Tutts eyeing the visiting card which
Mrs. Jackson had been studying intently. Is she leavin' tickets for
Oh, no, replied. Mrs. Jackson in a blasé tone, this is merely her
Callin' card! You was to home, wasn't you?
It's the new style to leave your callin' card whether they're to
home or not, explained Mrs. Jackson, hazarding a guess.
Mrs. Jackson's air of familiarity with social mysteries was most
exasperating to Mrs. Tutts.
What's the sense of that? Lemme see it.
Mrs. Tutts read laboriously and with unmitigated scorn:
MRS. ANDREW PHIDIAS SYMES
She sank cautiously into the blue rocking-chair and removed a hatpin
which skewered her yachting cap to a knob of hair.
That beats me! 'Mrs. Andrew Phidias Symes!' Mrs. Tutts saw
no reason to slight the letter p and pronounced it distinctly. At home
Thursdays between two and four! What of it? Ain't we all generally home
Thursdays between two and four?
Gussie has improved wonderful, replied Mrs. Jackson pacifically.
Improved! If you call goin' around passin' of them up that
she's knowed well 'improved' why then she has improved wonderful.
I don't think she really aimed to pass you up.
I wasn't thinkin' of myself, replied Mrs. Tutts hotly, I was
thinking of Essie Tisdale. I hope Mis' Symes don't come around to call
on meI'm kind of perticular who I entertain.
Mrs. Jackson's hard blue eyes began to shine, but Mrs. Jackson had
been something of a warrior herself in her day and knew a warrior when
she saw one. She had no desire to engage in a hand to hand conflict
with Mrs. Tutts, whose fierceness she was well aware was more than
surface deep, and she read in that person's alert pose a disconcerting
readiness for action. It was a critical moment, one which required
tact, for a single injudicious word would precipitate a fray of which
Mrs. Jackson could not be altogether sure of the result. Besides,
poised as she was like a winged Mercury on the threshold of Society,
she could not afford any low scene with Mrs. Tutts. Conquering her
resentment, Mrs. Jackson said conciliatingly
Yes, of course, now we 're married it's differentwe have
to be perticular who we entertain. As Mis' Symes says'Society must
draw the line somewhere!'
Mrs. Tutts searched her face in quick suspicion.
Who'd she say it about?
Promise me that this won't go no furtherhope to die?but to tell
the truth we was speakin' of Essie Tisdale.
Mrs. Tutts looked mystified.
What's she done?
In unconscious imitation of Mrs. Symes, Mrs. Jackson curled her
little finger and smiled a slow, deprecating smile
You see she works outshe's really a servant.
Mrs. Tutts nodded in entire comprehension.
I know; back East in Dakoty we always looked down on them more or
less as was out'n out hired girls. But out here I've aimed to treat
everybody the same.
I'll say that for you, Mis' Tutts, declared Mrs. Jackson
generously, you've never showed no diffrunce to nobody.
I'm glad you think so, said Mrs. Tutts modestly, and I don't mean
to pass Essie Tisdale up altogether.
Ner me, declared Mrs. Jackson, she's a perfeckly good girl so far
as I know.
Where do you suppose Mis' Symes got them cards printed? inquired
Mrs. Tutts. I gotta git Tutts to git to work and git me some.
Over to the Courier office I should think, Mrs. Jackson
added. It's lucky I got some in the house since they've started in
There was a moment's silence in which Mrs. Tutts eyed Mrs. Jackson
with unfriendly eyes. It seemed very plain to her that her neighbor was
trying to put it over her. The temptation against which she struggled
was too strong and she inquired pointedly while she discreetly arose to
Business cards, Mis' Jacksonsome you had left over?
Diplomacy was scattered to the four winds.
No; not business cards, Mis' Tutts! Callin' cards. I'll show you
one since I've no notion you ever saw one back there in that beer
garden where you cracked your voice singin'!
Mrs. Tutts put on her yachting cap and pulling it down on her head
until her hair was well covered, advanced menacingly.
You gotta eat them words, Mis' Jackson, she said with ominous
Mrs. Jackson retreated until the marble-topped centre table formed a
Don't you start no rough-house here, Mis' Tutts.
Mrs. Tutts continued to advance and her lips had contracted as
though an invisible gathering string had been jerked violently.
You gotta eat them words, Mis' Jackson. Unwavering purpose was in
I'll have the law on you if you begin a ruckus here. Mrs. Jackson
moved to the opposite side of the table.
The law's nothin' to me. Mrs. Tutts went around the table.
I haven't forgot I'm a lady! Mrs. Jackson quickened her gait.
Everybody else has. Mrs. Tutts also accelerated her pace.
Don't you dast lay hands on me! Mrs. Jackson broke into a trot.
Not if I can stomp on you, declared Mrs. Tutts as the back fulness
of Mrs. Jackson's skirt slipped through her fingers.
What's the use of this? I don't want to fight, Mis' Tutts. Mrs.
Jackson was galloping and slightly dizzy.
You will onct you git into it, encouraged Mrs. Tutts, grimly
measuring the distance between them with her eye.
You ought to have your brains beat out for this! On the thirteenth
lap around the table Mrs. Jackson was panting audibly.
Couldn't reach yours th'out cuttin' your feet off! responded Mrs.
Tutts, in whose eyes gleamed what sporting writers describe as the joy
The strength of the hunted hostess was waning visibly.
I've got heart trouble, Mis' Tutts, she gasped in desperation,
and I'm liable to drop dead any jump!
No such luck. Mrs. Tutts made a pass at her across the table.
This is perfeckly ridic'lous; do you at all realize what you're
I won't, Mrs. Tutts spoke with full knowledge of the deadly
insult; I won't until I git a few handfuls of your red hair!
Mrs. Jackson stopped in her tracks and fear fell from her. Her
roving eye searched the room for a weapon and her glance fell upon the
potted geranium. Mrs. Tutts already had possessed herself of the
My hair may be red, Mis' Tutts, her shrill voice whistled through
the space left by her missing teeth, as she stood with the geranium
poised aloft, but it's my own!
Mrs. Tutts staggered under the crash of pottery and the thud of
packed dirt upon her head. She sank to the floor, but rose again, dazed
and blinking, her warlike spirit temporarily crushed.
There's the door, Mis' Tutts. Mrs. Jackson drew herself up with
regal hauteur and pointed. Now get the hell out of here!
X. ESSIE TISDALE'S ENFORCED
There was one place at least where the popularity of the little
belle of Crowheart showed no signs of diminution and this was in the
menagerie of domestic animals which occupied quarters in the rear of
the large backyard of the hotel. The phlegmatic black omnibus and dray
horses neighed for sugar at her coming, the calf she had weaned from
the wild range cow bawled at sight of her, while various useless dogs
leaped about her in ecstasy, and a mere glimpse of her skirt through
the kitchen doorway was sufficient to start such a duet from the two
excessively vital and omniverous mammals whom Essie had ironically
named Alphonse and Gaston that Van Lennop, who had the full benefit of
this chorus, often wished the time had arrived for Alphonse and Gaston
to fulfil their destiny. Yet he found diversion, too, in her efforts to
instil into their minds the importance of politeness and unselfishness
and frequently he laughed aloud at the fragments of conversation which
reached him when he heard her laboring with them in the interest of
A loud and persistent squealing caused Van Lennop to raise his eyes
from his book and look out upon the pole corral wherein the vociferous
Alphonse and Gaston were confined. Essie Tisdale was perched upon the
top pole, seemingly deaf to their shrill importunities; depression was
in every line of her slim figure, despondency in the droop of her head.
Her attitude held his attention and set him wondering, for he thought
of her always as the embodiment of laughter, good-humor, and exuberant
youth. Of all the women he ever had known, either well or casually, she
had seemed the farthest from moods or nerves or anything even dimly
suggestive of the neurasthenic.
Moved by an impulse Van Lennop laid down his book and went below.
Air-castles, Miss Tisdale? he asked as he sauntered toward her. He
still insisted upon the whimsical formality of Miss Tisdale, although
to all Crowheart, naturally, she was Essie.
The girl lifted her sombre eyes at the sound of his voice and the
shadow in them gave them the look of deep blue velvet, Van Lennop
You only build air-castles when you are happy, don't you? and
And are you not happy and hopeful, Miss Tisdale? Amusement
glimmered in his eyes. I thought you were quite the happiest person I
know, and to be happy is to be hopeful.
What have I to make me happy? she demanded with an intensity which
startled him. What have I to hope for?
Fishing, Miss Tisdale? He still smiled at her.
For what? To be told that I'm pretty?
And young, Van Lennop supplemented. I know women who would give a
king's ransom to be young and pretty. Isn't that enough to make one
And what good will being either ever do me? she demanded bitterly;
me, a biscuit-shooter! Her musical voice was almost harsh in its
bitterness. She turned upon him fiercely. I've been happy because I
was ignorant, but I've been enlightened; I've been made to see; I've
been shown my place!
That was it then; some one had hurt her, some one had found it in
his heart to hurt Essie Tisdale whose friendliness was as impartial and
as boundless as the sunshine itself. He looked at her inquiringly and
she went on
Don't you think I see what's ahead of me? It's as plain as though
it had happened and there's nothing else possible for me.
And what is it? he asked gently.
There'll come a day when I'm tired and discouraged and utterly,
utterly hopeless that some cowpuncher will ask me to marry him and I'll
say yes. Then he'll file on a homestead away off somewhere in the
foothills where the range is good and there's no sheep and it's fifty
miles to a neighbor and a two days' trip to town. She stared straight
ahead as though visualizing the picture. He'll build a log house with
a slat bunk in one end and set up a camp-stove with cracked lids in the
other. There'll be a home-made table with a red oilcloth table cover
and a bench and a home-made rocking chair with a woven bottom of
cowhide for me. He'll buy a little bunch of yearlings with his savings
and what he can borrow and in the spring I'll herd them off the poison
while he breaks ground to put in a little crop of alfalfa. I'll get
wrinkles at the corners of my eyes from squinting in the sun and a
weather-beaten skin from riding in the wind and lines about my mouth
from worrying over paying interest on our loan.
In the winter we'll be snowed up for weeks at a time and spend the
hours looking at the pictures in a mail order catalogue and threshing
the affairs of our acquaintances threadbare. Twice a year we'll go to
town in a second-hand Studebaker. I'll be dressed in the clothes I wore
before I was married and he'll wear overalls and boots with run-over
heels. A dollar will look a shade smaller than a full moon and I'll cry
for joy when I get a clothes-wringer or a washing machine for a
Christmas present. That, she concluded laconically, is my finish.
Van Lennop did not smile, instead he shook his head gravely.
No, Essie Tisdale, I can't just see you in any such setting as
Why not? I've seen it happen to others.
But, he spoke decisively, you're different.
Yes, she cried with a vehemence which sent the color flying under
her fair skin, I am different! If I wasn't I wouldn't mind. But
I care for things that the girls who have married like that do not care
for, and I can't help it. They save their money to buy useful things
and I spend all mine buying books. Perhaps it's wrong, for that may be
the reason of my shrinking from a life such as I've described since
books have taught me there's something else outside. Being different
only makes it all the harder.
And yet, said Van Lennop, I'm somehow glad you are. But what has
happened? Who has hurt you? Did something go wrong at this wonderful
dinner of which you told me? Were you not after all quite the prettiest
I wasn't asked!
Van Lennop's eyes widened.
You were not? Why, I thought the belle of Crowheart was always
Not now; I'm a biscuit-shooter; I workand'Society must draw the
Who said that? Amazement was in Van Lennop's tone.
Mr. Symes said it to Mrs. Symes, Mrs. Symes said it to Mrs.
Jackson, Mrs. Jackson said it to Mrs. Tutts, Mrs. Tutts said it to me.
But what society? Van Lennop's face still wore a puzzled look.
A light broke over his face; then he laughed aloud, such a shout of
unadulterated glee that Alphonse and Gaston ceased to squeal and fixed
their twinkling eyes upon him in momentary wonder.
When I told you I was going I thought of course they would ask me.
I thought the tardy invitation was just an oversight, but now I
knowher chin quivered suddenly like a hurt child'sthat they never
meant to ask me.
Van Lennop's face had quickly sobered.
You are sure he really said thatthis Andy P. Symes?
I think there's no mistake. It was the easiest way to rid
themselves of my friendship. She told him then of the reproof Symes
An unwonted shine came into Van Lennop's calm eyes as he listened.
This put a different face upon the affair, this intentional injury to
the feelings of his stanch little champion, it somehow made it a more
personal matter. The social line amused him merely, though, in a way,
it held a sociological interest for him, too. It was, he told himself,
like being privileged to witness the awakening of social ambitions in a
tribe of bushmen.
Van Lennop was silent, but the girl felt his unspoken sympathy, and
it was balm to her sore little heart.
Thissociety? she asked after a time. What is it? We've never
had it before. Everybody knows everybody else out here and there are so
few of us that we've always had our good times together and we have
never left anybody out. The very last thing we wanted to do was to hurt
anyone else's feelings in that way.
You have left those halycon days behind, I'm afraid, Van Lennop
replied. The first instinct of a certain class of people is to hurt
the feelings of others. It's the only way they know to proclaim their
superiority, a superiority of which they are not at all sure,
themselves. Just what 'society' is, is an old and threadbare subject
and has been threshed out over and over again without greatly altering
anybody's individual point of view. Good breeding, brains and money are
generally conceded to be the essentials required by that complex
institution and certainly one or all of them are necessary for any
great social success.
Van Lennop watched her troubled face and waited.
Then that's why old Edouard Dubois was asked, though he never
speaks, and Alva Jackson, who is uncouth and ignorant? They represent
Van Lennop smiled.
And the Starrs are brains.
He laughed outright now.
The power of the press! Correct, Miss Tisdale.
And Andy P. Symes Van Lennop supplied drylyis family. He
had a great-grandfather, I believe.
Van Lennop returned the persistent, pleading stare of Alphonse and
Gaston while Essie pondered this bewildering subject.
But out here it's mostly money that counts, or rather will count in
Yes, with a man of Symes's type it would be nearly the only
qualification necessary. If you had been the 'rich Miss Tisdale' you
undoubtedly would have been the guest of honor.
Then, she said chokingly, my good times are over, for I'mnobody
knows whojust Essie Tisdalea biscuit-shooter whose friendship
counts for nothing.
With feminine intuition she grasped Crowheart's new point of view,
and Van Lennop, because he knew human nature, could not contradict her,
but in the security of his own position he could not fully understand
how much it all meant to her in her small world.
You mustn't take this to heart, he said gently, conscious of a
strong desire to comfort her. If the cost of an invitation were a
single tear it would be too high a price to pay. In explaining to you
what the world recognizes in a general way as 'Society,' I had no
thought of Crowheart in my mind. There can be no 'Society' in Crowheart
with its present material. What it is obvious this man Symes means to
attempt, is only an absurd imitation of something he can never hope to
attain. The effort resembles the attempts of a group of amateurs to
present a Boucicault comedy, while 'in front' the world laughs at them,
not with them. It is a dangerous experiment to pretend to be anything
other than what you are. It means loss of dignity, for you are merely
absurd when you attempt to play a part which by birth and training and
temperament you are nowise fitted to play. You become a target for the
people whom you care most to impress.
When one begins to imitate he loses his individuality and his
individuality is the westerner's chief charm. Be yourself, Essie
Tisdale, be simple, sincere, and you can never be absurd.
I am sorry for what you have told me, since, if what seems
threatening comes to pass, Crowheart will be only a middle class,
commonplace town of which it has a thousand prototypes. Its strongest
attraction now is its western flavor, the lingering atmosphere of the
frontier. This must pass with time, of course, but it seems a shame
that the change should be forced prematurely by the efforts of this man
Symes. Really I feel a distinct sense of personal injury at his
innovations. Van Lennop laughed slightly. The old way was the best
way for a long time to come, it seems to me. That was real democracya
Utopian condition that had of necessity to go with the town's growth,
but certainly not at this stage. In larger communities it is natural
enough that those of similar tastes should seek each other, but, in a
place like Crowheart where the interests and the mental calibre of its
inhabitants are practically the same, the man who seeks to establish an
'aristocracy' proclaims himself a petty-minded, silly ass. Be a
philosopher, Miss Tisdale.
But Essie Tisdale was not a philosopher; the experience was still
too new and bewildering for philosophy to prove an instant remedy. She
found Van Lennop's sympathy far more comforting than his logic, but
through her heavy-heartedness there was creeping a growing appreciation
of the superiority of this stranger in worn corduroys to his
surroundings, a clearer conception of his calm mental poise.
Van Lennop himself was a living contradiction of the fallacious
statement that all men are equal, and now, moved by her unhappiness,
she caught a glimpse of that lying beneath the impregnable reserve of a
polite and agreeable exterior which made the distinction. She realized
more strongly than before that he lived upon a different plane from
that of any man she ever had known.
Do you know who I think must have been like you? she asked him
He shook his head smilingly.
I can't imagine.
Robert Louis Stevenson.
He flushed a little.
You surely flatter me; there is no one whom I admire more. He
looked at her in something of pleased surprise. You read
Stevensonyou like him?
Her face lighted with enthusiasm.
So very, very much. He seems so wise and sohuman. I have all that
he has writtenhis published letters, everything.
He continued to look at her oddly. Yes, Essie Tisdale was
different and somehow he was glad. The personal conversation had
shown him unexpected phases of her character. He saw beneath her
youthful unworldliness the latent ambitions, undeveloped, immature
desires and something of the underlying strength concealed by her
ordinarily light-hearted exuberance. While the readjustment of
Crowheart's social affairs was hurting her on the raw he saw the
sensitiveness of her nature, the quick pride and perceptions which he
might otherwise have been long in discovering. Previously she had
amused and interested him, now she awakened in him a real anxiety as to
Be brave, he said, and keep on smiling, Essie Tisdale. You must
work out your own salvation as must we all. This will pass and be
forgotten; there will be triumphs with your failures, don't forget
that, and the long years ahead of you which you so dread may hold
better things than you dare dream. In some way that I don't see now I
may be able to lend you a helping hand.
Your friendship and your sympathy are enough, she said gratefully.
You have them both, he answered, and on the strength of ten years'
difference in their ages he patted her slim fingers with a quite
paternal hand, in ignorance of the malevolent pair of eyes watching him
from the window at the end of the upper corridor.
XI. THE OPENING WEDGE
It was with mixed feelings that Dr. Harpe saw Van Lennop ride
briskly from the livery stable leading a saddle horse behind his own.
It was for Essie Tisdale, she surmised, and her conjecture was
confirmed when she saw them gallop away.
While the sight galled her it pleased her, too, for it lent color to
the impression she was discreetly but persistently endeavoring to
spread in the community that the open rupture between herself and the
girl was of her making and was necessitated by reasons which she could
but did not care to make public. She made no definite charge, but with
a deprecatory shrug of her shoulder and a casual observation that it
was a pity Essie Tisdale was making such a fool of herself and allowing
a perfect stranger to make such a fool of her she was gradually
achieving the result she desired. The newcomers seized upon her
insinuations with avidity, but the old settlers were loath to believe,
though upon each, in the end, it had its effect, for Dr. Harpe was now
firmly established in Crowheart's esteem. She had, she felt sure,
safeguarded herself so far as Essie Tisdale was concerned, yet she was
not satisfied, for she seemed no nearer overcoming Van Lennop's
prejudice than the day she had aroused it. He distinctly avoided her,
and she did not believe in forcing issues. Time, she often averred,
would bring nearly every desired result, and she could wait; but she
did not wait patiently, fretting more and more as the days drifted by
without bringing to her the desired opportunity.
I hate to be thwarted! I hate it! I hate it! she often said
angrily to herself, but she was helpless in the face of Van Lennop's
In the meantime the bugbear of her existence was making history in
his own way. The Dago Duke was no inconspicuous figure in Crowheart,
for his daily life was punctuated with escapades which constantly
furnished fresh topics of conversation to the populace. He fluctuated
between periods of abject poverty and briefer periods of princely
affluence, the latter seldom lasting longer than a night. He engaged in
disputes over money where the sum involved rarely exceeded a dollar,
with a night in the calaboose and a fine as a result, after which it
was his wont to present his disfigured opponent with a munificent gift
as a token of his esteem. Who or what he was and why he chose to honor
Crowheart with his presence were questions which he showed no desire to
answer. He was duly considered as a social possibility by Andy P.
Symes, but rejected owing to the fact that he was seldom if ever sober,
and, furthermore, in spite of his undeniably polished manners, showed a
marked preference for the companionship of the element who were
unmistakably goats in the social division.
At last there came a time when the Dago Duke was unable to raise a
cup of coffee to his lips without scalding himself. He had no desire
for food, his eyes were bloodshot, and his favorite bartender tied his
scarf for him mornings. He moved from saloon to saloon haranguing the
patrons upon the curse of wealth, encouraged in his socialistic views
by the professional gamblers who presided over the poker games and
roulette wheels. In view of their interest there seemed no likelihood
that the curse would rest upon him long.
Then one night, or morning, to be exact, after the Dago Duke had
been assisted to retire by his friend the bartender, and the washstand
by actual count had chased the bureau sixty-two times around the room,
the Dago Duke noticed a lizard on the wall. He was not entirely
convinced that it was a lizard until he sat up in bed and noticed that
there were two lizards.
He crept out and picked up his shoe for a weapon.
Now if I can paste that first one, he told himself optimistically,
I know the other will leave.
He struck at it with the heel of his shoe, and it darted to the
ceiling, whence it looked down upon him with a peculiarly tantalizing
The Dago Duke stood on the bureau and endeavored to reach it, but it
was surprisingly agile; besides other lizards were now appearing. They
came from every crack and corner. They swarmed. Lizards though harmless
are unpleasant and the perspiration stood out on the Dago Duke's brow
as he watched their number grow. He struck a mighty blow at the lizard
on the ceiling and the bureau toppled. He found himself uninjured, but
the breaking of the glass made something of a crash. The floor was all
but covered with lizards, so he decided to return to his bed before he
was obliged to step on them. He was shaking as with a chill and his
teeth clicked. They were on his bed! They were under his pillow! Then
he laughed aloud when he discovered it was only a roll of banknotes he
had placed there before his friend the bartender had blown out the
light. But the rest were lizards, there was no doubt about that, and he
would tell Terriberry in the morning what he thought of him and his
hotel! They were darting over the walls and ceiling and wiggling over
I can stand it to-night, he muttered, but to-morrow
What was that in the corner? He had only to look twice to know. He
had seen Gila monsters in Arizona! He had seen a cowpuncher ride into
town with one biting his thumb in two. The puncher went crazy later.
Yes, he knew a Gila monster when he saw one and this was plain enough;
there were the orange and black markings, the wicked head, the beady,
evil eyesand this one was growing! It would soon be as big as a
sea-turtle and it was blinking at him with malicious purpose in its
The Dago Duke's hands and feet were like ice, while the cold sweat
stood in beads on his forehead. Then he screamed. He had not intended
to scream, but the monster had moved toward him, hypnotizing him with
its stare. He could see clearly the poisonous vapor which it was said
to exhale! He screamed again and a man's scream is a sound not to be
forgotten. The Dago Duke had them, as Crowheart phrased it, and had
The bartender was the first to arrive and Van Lennop was not far
behind, while others, hastily dressed, followed.
The Dago Duke gripped Van Lennop's hand in dreadful terror.
Don't let it come across that seam in the carpet! Don't let it
I'll not; it shan't touch you; don't be afraid, old man. There was
something wonderfully soothing in Van Lennop's quiet voice.
I'll tell the lady doc to bounce out, said the bartender. He's
got 'em bad. I had 'em twict myself and took the cure. It's fierce.
He's gotta have some dopea shot o' hop will fix him.
The bartender hurried away on his kindly mission, while the Dago
Duke clung to Van Lennop like a horrified child to its mother.
Dr. Harpe came quickly, her hair loose about her shoulders, looking
younger and more girlish in a soft negligee than Van Lennop had ever
seen her. She saw the faint shade of prejudice cross his face as she
entered, but satisfaction was in her own. Her chance had come at last
in this unexpected way.
Snakes, she said laconically.
Yes, Van Lennop replied with equal brevity.
I'll have to quiet him. Will you stay with him? She addressed Van
Look here, protested the bartender in an injured voice. He's my
best friend and havin' had snakes myself
Awclear outall of you. We'll take care of him.
Folks that has snakes likes their bes' friends around 'em,
declared the bartender stubbornly. They has influence
Get out, reiterated Dr. Harpe curtly, and he finally went with the
I'll give him a hypodermic, she said when the room was cleared,
and hastened back to her office for the needle.
Together they watched the morphine do its work and sat in silence
while the wrecked and jangling nerves relaxed and sleep came to the
unregenerate Dago Duke.
Dr. Harpe's impassive face gave no indication of the activity of her
mind. Now that the opportunity to square herself, to use her own
words, had arrived, she had no notion of letting it pass.
He seems in a bad way, Van Lennop said at last in a formal tone.
It had to comethe clip he was going, she replied, seating
herself on the edge of the bed and wiping the moisture from his
forehead with the corner of the sheet.
The action was womanly, she herself looked softer, more womanly,
than she had appeared to Van Lennop, yet he felt no relenting and
wondered at himself.
She ended another silence by turning to him suddenly and asking with
something of a child's blunt candor
You don't like me, do you?
The awkward and unexpected question surprised him and he did not
immediately reply. His first impulse was to answer with a bluntness
equal to her own, but he checked it and said instead
One's first impressions are often lasting and you must admit, Dr.
Harpe, that my first knowledge of you
Was extremely unfavorable, she finished for him. I know it. She
laughed in embarrassment. You thought, and still think, that I'm one
of these medicine sharksa regular money grabber.
Van Lennop replied dryly
I do not recollect ever having known another physician quite so
keen about his fee.
She flushed, but went on determinedly
I know how it must have looked to youI've thought of it a
thousand timesbut there were extenuating circumstances. I came here
'broke' with only a little black case of pills and a few bandages. My
hotel bill was overdue and my little drug stock exhausted. I was 'up
against it'desperateand I believed if that fellow got away I'd
never see or hear of him again. I've had that experience and I was just
in a position where I couldn't afford to take a chance. There isn't
much practice here, it's a miserably healthful place, and necessity
sometimes makes us seem sordid whether we are or not. I'd like your
good opinion, Mr. Van Lennop. Won't you try and see my position from a
more charitable point of view?
He wanted to be fair to her, he intended to be just, and yet he
found himself only able to say
I can't quite understand how you could find it in your heart even
to hesitate in a case like that.
I meant to do it in the end, she pleaded. But I was wrong, I see
that now, and I've been sorrier than you can know. Please be
She put out her hand impulsively and he took itreluctantly. He
wondered why she repelled him so strongly even while recognizing the
odd charm of manner which was undoubtedly hers when she chose to
I hope we'll be good friends, she said earnestly.
I trust so, he murmured, but in his heart he knew they never would
be good friends.
XII. THEIR FIRST CLASH
The Symes Irrigation Company was now well under way. The application
for segregation of 200,000 acres of irrigable land had been granted.
The surveyors had finished and the line of stakes stretching away
across the hills was a mecca for Sunday sight-seers. The contracts for
the moving of dirt from the intake to the first station had been let
and when the first furrow was turned and the first scoop of dirt
removed from the excavation, Crowheart all but carried Andy P. Symes on
Nothing succeeds like success, he was wont to tell himself
frequently but without bitterness or resentment for previous lack of
appreciation. He could let bygones be bygones, for it was easy enough
to be generous in the hour of his triumph.
He had it in him, one-time sceptics admitted.
Blood will tell, declared his supporters emphatically and there
was now no dissenting voice to the oft-repeated aphorism.
Symes moved among his satellites with that benign unbending which is
a recognized attribute of the truly great. The large and opulent air
which formerly he had assumed when most in need of credit was now
habitual, but his patronage was regarded as a favor; indeed the
Crowheart Mercantile Company considered it the longest step in its
career when the commissary of the Symes Irrigation Company owed it
Conditions changed rapidly in Crowheart once work actually began.
The call for laborers brought a new and strange class of people to its
streetsswarthy, chattering persons with long backs, and short legs,
of frugal habits, yet, after all, leaving much silver in the town on
the Saturday night which followed payday.
Symes's domestic life was moving as smoothly and as satisfactorily
as his business affairs. A lifetime seemed to lie between that
memorable journey on the Main Line with Augusta in her brown basque
and dreadful hat, and the present. She was improving wonderfully. He
had to admit that. No, sir, he told himself occasionally, Augusta
isn't half bad. Her unconcealed adoration and devotion to himself had
awakened affection in return, at least her gaucheries no longer
exasperated him and they were daily growing less. Dr. Harpe had been
right when she had told him that Augusta was as imitative as a parrot,
and he often smiled to himself at her affectations, directly traceable
to her diligent perusal of The Ladies' Own and the column
devoted to the queries of troubled social aspirants. While it amused
him he approved, for an imitation lady was better than the frankly
impossible girl he had married. Something of this was in his mind while
engaged one day in the absorbing occupation of buttoning Mrs. Symes's
blouse up the back.
He raised his head at the sound of a step on the narrow porch.
There was a suspicion of irritation in his voice, for now that he
came to think of it, he and Augusta had not dined alone a single
evening that week.
What of it? Do you mind, Phidias?
Oh, no; only isn't she crowding the mourners a little? Isn't she
I asked her, Mrs. Symes replied uneasily.
It's all right; I'm not complainingonly why don't you ask some
one else occasionally?
I don't want them, she answered bluntly.
The best of reasons, my dear, and Symes turned away to complete
his own toilet while Augusta hastened out of the room to greet the
Symes wondered if the installation of a meal ticket system at the
Terriberry House had anything to do with the frequency with which he
found Dr. Harpe at his table, and was immediately ashamed of himself
for the thought. It recalled, however, an incident which had amused
him, though it had since slipped his mind. He had found a pie in his
writing desk and had asked Grandma Kunkel, who still formed a part of
his unique ménage, for an explanation.
I'm hidin' it, she had answered shortly.
Dr. Harpe. I have to do it if I want anything for the next meal.
She helps herself. She's got an awful appetite.
He had laughed at the time at her injured tone and angry eyes and he
smiled now at the recollection. It was obvious that she did not like
Dr. Harpe, and he was not sure, he could not exactly say, that he liked
her himself, or rather, he did not entirely like this sudden and
violent intimacy between her and Augusta, which brought her so
constantly to the house. Some time he meant to ask Grandmother Kunkel
why she so resented Dr. Harpe's presence.
Dr. Harpe was seated in a porch chair, with one leg thrown over the
arm, swinging her dangling foot, when Mrs. Symes appeared. She turned
her head and eyed her critically, as she stood in the doorway.
Gus, you're gettin' to be a looker.
Mrs. Symes smiled with pleasure at the compliment.
You are for a fact; that's a nifty way you have of doin' your hair
and you walk as if you had some gumption. Come here, Gus.
Dr. Harpe pushed her unpinned Stetson to the back of her head with a
careless gesture; it was a man's gesture and her strong hand beneath
the stiff cuff of her tailored shirtwaist strengthened the impression
She arose and motioned Mrs. Symes to take the chair she had vacated
while she seated herself upon the arm.
Where have you been all day? There was reproach in Mrs. Symes's
dark eyes as she raised them to the woman's face.
Have you missed me? A faint smile curved Dr. Harpe's lips.
Missed you! I've been so nervous and restless all day that I
couldn't sit still.
Why didn't you come over to the hotel? Dr. Harpe was watching her
troubled face intently.
I wanted toI wanted to go so much that I determined not to give
in to the feeling. Really it frightened me.
Dr. Harpe's eyes looked a muddy green, like the sea when it washes
among the piling.
Perhaps I was wishing for youwilling you to come.
Were you? I felt as though something was making me go,
making me almost against my will, and each time I started toward the
door I simply had to force myself to go back. I can't explain exactly,
but it was so strange.
Very strange, Gus. Her eyes now held a curious gleam. But the
next time you want to comecome, do you hear? I shall be
wishing for you.
But why did you stay away all day?
I wanted to see if you would miss mehow much.
I was miserably lonesome. Don't do it againplease!
You have your Phidias. There was a sneer in her voice.
Oh, yes, Mrs. Symes responded simply, but he has been gone all
All day! Dreadfulhow very sad! She laughed disagreeably. And
are you still so desperately in love with Phidias?
Of course. Why not? He's very good to me. Did you imagine I was
Oh, no, the other returned carelessly.
Then why did you ask?
No reason at all except thatI like you pretty well myself.
Clothes have been the making of you, Gus. You're an attractive woman
Mrs. Symes flushed with pleasure at the unusual compliment from
Am I? Really?
You are. I like women anyhow; men bore me mostly. I had a desperate
'crush' at boarding-school, but she quit me cold when she married. I've
taken a great shine to you, Gus; and there's one thing you mustn't
What's that? Mrs. Symes asked, smiling.
I'm jealousof your Phidias.
How absurd! Mrs. Symes laughed aloud.
I mean it. Dr. Harpe spoke lightly and there was a smile upon her
straight lips, but earnestness, a kind of warning, was in her eyes.
A clatter of tinware at the kitchen window attracted Symes's
attention as he came from the bedroom.
What's the matter, grandmother? he asked in the teasing tone he
sometimes used in speaking to her. Not the cooking sherry, I hope.
She did not smile at his badinage.
There's enough drinkin' in this house without my help, she
What do you mean? Symes's eyes opened. Are you serious?
The question he saw was superfluous.
It's nothin' I'd joke about.
You amaze me. Do you mean Augustadrinks?
No; always with Dr. Harpe. Dr. Harpe drinks like a manthat size.
She held up significant fingers.
I know that Dr. Harpe's sentiments are noterstrictly
temperance, but Augustathis is news to me, and I don't like it. He
thrust his hands deep in his trousers pockets and leaned his shoulder
against the door jamb.
When did this commence?
With the comin' of that woman to this house.
It's curiousI've never noticed it.
They've taken care of that. She's anuisance.
You don't like Dr. Harpe? Watching her face, Symes saw the change
which flashed over it with his question.
Like her! Like Dr. Harpe? She took a step toward him, and the
intensity in her voice startled him. Her little gray eyes seemed to
dart sparks as she answeredI come nearer hatin' her than I ever have
any human bein'!
But why? he persisted. Perhaps in her answer he would find an
answer to the question he had but recently asked himself.
There was confusion in the old woman's eyes as they fell before his.
Because, she answered finally, with a tightening of her lips.
There's no definite reason? Nothing except your prejudice and this
matter you've mentioned?
A red spot burned on either withered cheek. She hesitated.
No; I guess not, she said, and turned away.
If I thought for a moment that her influence over Augusta was not
good I'd put an end to this intimacy at once; but I suppose it's
natural that she should desire some woman friend and it seems only
reasonable to believe that a professional woman would be a better
companion than that illiterate Parrott creature or the tittering
Starrs. Symes shifted his broad shoulders to the opposite side of the
door and his tone was the essence of complacency as he went on
Yes, if I had the shadow of a reason for forbidding this silly
schoolgirl friendship I'd stop it quick.
The old woman's lips twisted in a faintly cynical smile.
And could you?
Symes laughed. Nothing could have been more preposterous than the
suggestion that his control over Augusta was not absolute.
Why, certainly. I mean to speak to Augusta at once in regard to
this matter of drinking. I've never approved of it for women. There are
two things that cannot be deniedAugusta is obedient and she's
truthful. His good-nature restored by the contemplation of these
facts, he turned away determined to demonstrate his control of the
situation for his own and the old woman's benefit at the earliest
opportunity. In fact, the present was as good as any.
He walked to the door opening upon the porch, where Dr. Harpe still
sat on the arm of the chair, her hand resting upon Augusta's shoulder.
One moment, Augusta, if you please.
She arose at once with a slightly inquiring look and followed him
I have reason to believe, or rather to know, that you have fallen
into the way of doing something of which I do not at all approve, he
began. I mean drinking, Augusta. It's nothing serious, I am aware of
that, it's only that I do not like it, so oblige me by not doing that
sort of thing again. His tone was kindly but final.
He expected to see contrition in Augusta's face, her usual penitence
for mistakes; instead of which there was a sullen resentment in the
glance she flashed at him from her dark eyes.
It's true, isn't it? You do not mean to deny it?
You intend to respect my wishes, of course?
Of course. She turned from him abruptly and went back to the
The action was unlike her. He was still thinking of it when he put
on his hat and went down town to attend to an errand before dinner.
As the gate swung behind him Dr. Harpe said unpleasantly
You were raked over the coals, eh, Gus?
Mrs. Symes flushed in discomfiture.
Oh, nonot exactly.
Oh, yes, you were. Don't deny it; you're as transparent as a
window-pane. What was it?
He has found outsome one has told him that wethat I have been
That old woman. Dr. Harpe jerked her head contemptuously toward
Probably it was grandmashe doesn't like it, I'm sure, for I never
was allowed to do anything of the sort; in fact, I never thought of it
or cared to.
You are a free human being, aren't you? You can do what you like?
I've always preferred to do what Phidias liked since we've been
Phidias! Phidias! You make me tired! You talk like a peon!
Her hand rested heavily upon Mrs. Symes's shoulder. Assert
yourselfdon't be a fool! Let's have a drink. Mrs. Symes winced under
her tightening grip.
Oh, no, no, she replied hastily. Phidias would be furious. II
Look here. She took Mrs. Symes's chin in her hand and raised her
face, looking deep into her eyes. Won't you do it for me? because I
I can't. There was an appeal in her eyes as she lifted them to the
determined face above her.
You can. You will. Do you want me to stay away again?
No, no, no!
Then do what I ask youjust this once, and I'll not ask it again.
She saw the weakening in the other woman's face. Come on, she urged.
Mrs. Symes rose mechanically with a doubting, dazed expression and
Dr. Harpe followed her inside.
Throughout the constraint of the dinner Dr. Harpe sat with a lurking
smile upon her face. The domestic storm she had raised had been
prompted solely by one of those impulses of deviltry which she seemed
sometimes unable to restrain. It was not the part of wisdom to
antagonize Symes, but her desire to convince him, and Augusta, and
herself, that hers was the stronger will when it came to a test, was
greater than her discretion. This was an occasion when she could not
resist the temptation to show her power, and Symes with his eyes
shining ominously found her illy-concealed smirk of amusement and
triumph far harder to bear than Augusta's tittering, half-hysterical
When she had gone and Symes had closed the door of their sleeping
apartment behind him he turned to Augusta.
Well, what explanation have you to make?
The cold interrogation brought her to herself like a dash of water.
Oh, Phidias! she whimpered, and sank down upon the edge of the
bed, rolling her handkerchief into a ball between her palms, like an
abashed and frightened child.
Her uncertain dignity, her veneer of breeding dropped from her like
a cloak and she was again the blacksmith's sister, self-conscious, awed
and tongue-tied in the imposing presence of Andy P. Symes. Her
prominent knees visible beneath her thin skirt, her flat feet sprawling
at an awkward angle, unconsciously added to Symes's anger. She looked,
he thought, like a terrified servant that has broken the cut-glass
berry bowl. Yet subconsciously he was aware that he was wounded deeper
than his vanity by her disregard of his wishes.
I insist upon an answer.
II haven't any answer exceptthatthat I'm sorry.
Did you drink at Dr. Harpe's suggestion? he demanded in growing
She wadded the handkerchief between her palms and swallowed hard
before she shook her head.
She should never come here again if I thought you were not telling
me the truth.
Agitation leaped into her eyes beneath their lowered lids and she
blurted in a kind of desperation
But I amit was my faultI suggested itshe had nothing to do
Am I to understand that you have no intention of respecting my
wishes in this matter?
She arose suddenly and began weeping upon his shoulder. The action
and her tears softened him a little.
Am I, Augusta?
No; I'll never do it againhonest truly.
That's enough, thenwe'll say no more about it. This is a small
matter comparatively, but it is our first clash and we must understand
each other. Where questions arise which concern your welfare and mine
you must abide by my judgment, and this is one of them. I am
old-fashioned in my ideas concerning women, or, rather, concerning the
woman that is my wife, and I do not like the notion of your drinking
alone or with another woman; with anyone else, in fact, except when you
are with meand then moderately. Personally, I like a womanly woman;
Dr. Harpe isamusingbut I should not care to see you imitate her.
One does not fancy eccentricity in one's wife. There, there, he kissed
her magnanimously, now we'll forget this ever happened.
XIII. ESSIE TISDALE'S COLORS
Essie Tisdale's ostracism was practically complete, her position was
all that even Dr. Harpe could desire, yet it left that person
unsatisfied. There was something in the girl she could not crush, but
more disquieting than that was the fact that her isolation seemed only
to cement the friendship between her and Van Lennop, while her own
progressed no farther than a bowing acquaintance. His imperturbable
politeness formed a barrier she was too wise to attempt to cross until
another opportune time arrived. But she fretted none the less and her
eagerness to know him better increased with the delay.
She had plenty of time, too, in which to fret, for her practice was
far from what she desired, owing to the climate, the exasperating
healthfulness of which she so frequently lamented, and the arrival of a
pale personality named Lamb who somehow had managed to pass the State
Board of Medical Examiners. The only gratifying feature of her present
life was the belief that Essie Tisdale was feeling keenly her altered
position in Crowheart. The girl gave no outward sign, yet Dr. Harpe
knew that it must be so.
The change in people Essie Tisdale had known well was so gradual, so
elusive, so difficult of description that in her brighter moments she
told herself that it was imaginary and due to her own
supersensitiveness. But it was not for long that she could so convince
herself, for her intuitions were too sure to admit of her going far
astray in her conclusions.
She detected the note of uneasiness in Mrs. Percy Parrott's
hysterical mirth when they met in public, although she was entirely
herself if no one was about. The Percy Parrotts, with nearly $400 in
the bank to their credit, were climbing rapidly, and Mrs. Parrott lost
no opportunity to explain how dreadfully shocked mamma was when she
learned that her only daughter was doing her own workMrs. Parrott
being still in ignorance of the fact that local sleuths had learned to
a certainty that Mrs. Parrott formerly had lived on a street where the
male residents left with their dinner pails when the whistle blew in
Essie Tisdale saw Mrs. Alva Jackson's furtive glances toward the
Symes's home when they met for a moment on the street and she
interpreted correctly the trend of events when Mrs. Abe Tutts ceased to
invite her to run in and set a spell.
Pearline and Planchette Starr no longer laid their arms about her
shoulders and there was constraint in the voices of the younger
sisters, Lucille and Camille when they sang out Hullo on their way to
The only persons in whom Essie could detect no change were Hank
and Mrs. Terriberry, the latter herself clinging desperately to the
fringe of Crowheart's social life, determined that no ordinary jar
should shake her loose.
Van Lennop himself saw, since Essie had made the situation clear to
him, the patronizing manner of her erstwhile friends, the small
discourtesies, the petty slights, and he found springing up within him
a feeling of partisanship so vigorous as frequently to surprise
himself. Were they really so ignorant, so blind, he asked himself, as
to be unable to see that the girl, regardless of her occupation or
antecedents, had a distinction of mind and manner which they could
never hope to achieve? Of her parentage he knew nothing, for she seldom
talked of herself, but he felt there was breeding somewhere to account
for her clean, bright mind, the shapeliness of her hands, the slender
feet and ankles and that rare carriage of her head. Immigrant stock, he
assured himself, did not produce small pink ears, short upper lips, and
a grace as natural as an antelope's.
But it was a small thing in itselfit is nearly always small things
which precipitate great onesthat at last stirred Van Lennop to his
They were riding that afternoon and the saddle horses were at the
long hitching post in front of the hotel when Symes came down the
street as Essie stepped from the doorway. She bowed as he passed, while
Van Lennop mechanically raised his hat. The half-burnt cigar stayed in
the corner of Symes's mouth, his hands in his trousers pockets, and his
grudging nod was an insult, the greater that a few steps on he lifted
his hat with a sweeping bow to Mrs. Alva Jackson.
Van Lennop's face reddened under its tan.
Does hedo that often? His voice was quiet, but there was a
quaver in it.
Often, Essie Tisdale answered.
They galloped out of town in silence. The incident seemed to have
robbed the day of its brightness for the girl and a frown rested upon
Van Lennop's usually calm face. They often rode in silence, but it was
the silence of comradeship and understanding; it was nothing like this
which was lasting for a mile or more. She made an effort at speech
after awhile, but it was plainly an effort, and he answered in
monosyllables. She glanced at him sideways once or twice and she saw
that his eyes were narrowed in thought and their grayness was steel.
When the town was lost to sight and their horses had dropped to a
walk on the sandy road which stretched to the horizon, Essie turned in
her saddle and looked behind her.
I wish we were never going back! she said impulsively. I hate it
all! I wish we were going on and onanywherebut backdon't you?
His eyes were upon her as she spoke, and he had no notion how they
softened, while her color rose at something in his voice as he
I can imagine worse things in life than riding 'on and on' with
Essie Tisdale. Buthis tone took on a new and vigorous inflectionI
want to go back. I want to stay. As a matter of fact I'm just getting
interested in Crowheart.
She looked at him questioningly and then explained
It couldn't be, of course; I was only wishing, but you don't
understand quiteabout things.
He spoke promptly
I think I dofar better than you believeand I've about made up
my mind to take a hand myself. I cannot well be less chivalrous, less
loyal than you.
She looked puzzled, but he did not explain that he had overheard her
valiant defence of himself to old Edouard Dubois.
You're not vindictive, are you?
She shook her head.
I think not, but I am what is just as bad, perhapsterribly
Even your beloved Stevenson was not too meek, he reminded her. Do
you remember his essay 'Ordered South'?
If I am quoting correctly, he says in speaking of a man's duties:
'He, as a living man, has some to help, some to love, some to correct;
it may be, some to punish.' And, he was speaking to himself now rather
than to her, the spirit of retaliation is strong within me.
She answered, They've been very unjust to you, but I did not think
He laughed aloud.
To me? Do you think I'd trouble myself for anything they might say
or do to me?
Her eyes widened
You don't mean because of
You? Exactly. Aren't we friendsthe best of friendsEssie
The quick tears filled her eyes.
Sometimes, she answered chokingly, I think you are my only
friend. She continued, And that's the reason I want you to be
careful. Don't resent anything on my account
That's the privilege of friendship, he answered with a reassuring
smile. But why be carefulof whom? There was some curtness in his
And why Symes?
You must remember that you are in a country where the people are
poor and struggling. Money is power, and influence, and friends. He has
all, and we have neither. I appreciate your reasons, and am more
grateful than I can tell you, but you would only hurt yourself, and
Andy P. Symes cannot bereached; is that the word?
Van Lennop's lips twitched ever so slightly and he turned his head
away that she might not see the betraying twinkle which he felt was in
his eyes. When his face was quite grave again, he replied
Yes, 'reached' is the word, but there are few of us who cannot be
reached when it comes to that, for somewhere there is some one who has
the 'long arm.' Once more the shadow of a smile rested upon his lips.
I still believe that Andy P. Symes might be 'reached.'
But, she argued, it is his privilege to withdraw his friendship,
if he likes.
But not his privilege to treat you with disrespectto insult you
both openly and covertly. I like fair play, and Symes fights with a
woman's weapons. Listen, Essie Tisdale. I mean from now on to wear your
colors in the arena where men fightthe arena where I have
moderately indulged my combative proclivities with the weapons I know
best how to usethe arena where there is no quarter given or received.
The most satisfying retaliation is to make money out of your enemies.
Concentrate your energy; don't waste it in words. Allow me to add to my
He concluded with a whimsical smile, but she had been studying his
face wonderingly as he talked, for it wore an expression which was new
to her. The keen, worldly look of a man of affairs when his mind
reverts to business had come into his eyes and his voice was curt,
assured, containing the unconscious authority of one who knows his
Essie Tisdale's knowledge of the world was too limited for her to
entirely grasp the significance of his words; she felt, rather, the
chivalry which inspired them, that spirit of defence of the weaker
which lies close to the surface in all good men.
She put out her hand with a gesture of protest.
Don't antagonize him. Your friendship and your sympathy are enough.
To know that you are too big, too strong, to be influenced by the
reasons which have made cowards of those upon whom I counted, is all I
want. You can't tell to what lengths these people here will go when
their private interests are attacked, and that is what Andy P. Symes
represents to them.
You are not very complimentary, he laughed. You don't think
highly of my ability, I'm afraid. What you tell me is not news.
Self-interest is the controlling factor in the affairs of human life.
I've learned this largely by having my cuticle removed in many quarters
of the globe. The methods here are rather raw and shameless, also more
novel and picturesque. We accomplish the same result with more finesse
in the East.
I wasn't thinking of your ability, but of your safety, she said
quickly. I know this world out here as you know yours, and
Remember this, Essie Tisdale, he interrupted, and unexpectedly he
leaned and laid his gloved hand upon her fingers as they rested on the
saddle horn, whatever I may do, I do of my own volition, freely,
He spoke more lightly as he withdrew his hand and continued
The situation appeals to my sporting blood which I believe has been
greatly underrated in Crowheart. He laughed as he remembered Dubois's
complaints. Whatever I may chose to do in the future, please consider
that I regard it solely in the light of recreation. It's one's enemies
that give a zest to life, you know, and if I choose to match my wits
against the wits of Andy P. Symesmy wits and resourcesdon't grudge
me the pleasure, for it is in much the same spirit in which I might
play the races or work out a game of chess.
But, she shook her head dubiously, with less chance of success.
XIV. THE ETHICS OF THE PROFESSION
Andy P. Symes sat in his comfortable porch chair in the cool of the
evening, at peace with all the world. His frame of mind was enviable;
indeed, that person would be hard to please who could look down the
vista of pleasant probabilities which stretched before his mental
vision and not feel tolerably serene.
His enterprise had been singularly free from the obstacles, delays,
and annoyances which so often attend the getting under way of a new
undertaking. Mudge, the Chicago promoter, had been particularly
successful in disposing of the Company's bonds, at least a sufficient
number to keep the work going and meet the local obligations. Save in a
few instances, the contractors had made money on their contracts and
were eager for more. The commissary was a source of revenue and there
were certain commissions and rebates in the purchase of equipment which
he did not mention but which added materially to his income. His
salary, thus far, had been ample and sure. Symes told himself, and
sometimes others, that he had nothing in life to trouble him, that he
was, in fact, that rare anomalya perfectly happy man.
This evening in the agreeable picture which he could see quite
plainly by merely closing his eyes, there was an imposing residence
that bore the same relation to Crowheart which the manor house does to
the retainers upon a great English estate. He could see a touring car
which sent the coyotes loping to their dens and made the natives gape;
not so close, but equally distinct, a friendly hand was pointing the
way to political honors whose only limit was his own desires. And
Augustahis smile of complacency did not fadeshe was equal to any
emergency now, he believed. She had not only changed amazingly but she
was still changing and Symes watched the various stages of her
development with quiet interest and approval. It is true he missed her
former demonstrativeness and open admiration of himself, but he
considered her self-repression a mark of advancement, an evidence of
the repose of manner which she was cultivating. There were times, he
thought, when she carried it a bit too far, when she seemed
indifferent, unresponsive to his moods, but at such moments he would
assure himself that not for the world would he have had her as she was
in the beginning.
She was happy, too; he could hear her occasional laughter and the
murmur of her voice as she swung in the hammock at the corner of the
house with Dr. Harpe. On his right, he heard the unceasing click of
Grandmother Kunkel's needles as they flew in and out upon the top row
of the woollen stocking that was never done. It was a pleasing domestic
scene and he opened his eyes lazily to enjoy it. They sought the
hammock and their listlessness was gradually replaced by an intentness
of gaze which became a stare.
Grandmother, he said after a time, and he noticed that her mouth
was a tight pucker of displeasure, though she seemed to have eyes only
for her work. You remember our conversation some time agohave you
changed your opinion in regard to the person we discussed?
In the look she flashed at him he read not only the answer to his
question but something of the fierce emotion which was finding vent in
her flying needles.
I haven't! she snapped.
You truly believe that her influence over Augusta is not good?
She leaned toward him in quiet intensity
Believe it? I know it! I've been prayin' that you might see
it yourself before it is too late.
Too late? What do you mean?
Just what I say. Her old chin trembled. Before Augusta has lost
every spark of affection for you and mebefore I am sent away.
He looked at her incredulously.
You don't mean that?
I've been warned already. I'm in Dr. Harpe's way; she knows what I
think of her, and she'd rather have some stranger here.
You amaze me. Does she dominate Augusta to such an extent as that!
His mind ran back over the events of the past few weeks and he could
see that those occasions from which Dr. Harpe had been excluded had
seemed flat, stale, footless to Augusta. She had been absent-minded,
preoccupied, even openly bored. He recalled the fact now that it was
only at this woman's coming that animation had returned and that she
had hung absorbed, fascinated upon her words. She became alive in her
presence as though she drew her very vitality from this stronger-willed
I've noticed a changebut I thought it was nervesthe altitude,
perhapsand I've intended taking her with me on my next trip East.
She wouldn't go.
I can't believe that.
Ask her, was the grim reply.
She obeyed me in that other matter, Symes argued.
Because she was allowed to do so.
I'm going to stop this intimacy; I'm tired of her
interferencetired of seeing her aroundtired of boarding her, as a
matter of fact, and I will end it. He spoke in intense
Look out, Andy P., you'll make a mistake if you try in that way.
You might have done it in the beginnin' or when I first warned you; but
Augusta's like putty in her hands now. She don't seem to have any will
of her own or gratitudeor affection. I'm tellin' you straight, Andy
There is a way, if I could bring myself to do it.
Make Augusta jealous. Touch her pride, wound her vanity by making
love to Dr. Harpe. No, he put the thought from him vehemently, I'm
not that kind of a hypocrite. But she can't be invulnerabletell me
her weaknesses. You women know each other.
The old woman assented vigorously
I know her you kin be sure. For one thing she's a coward. She's
brave only when she thinks she's safe. She's afraid of peopleof what
they'll say of her, and she's crazy for money.
They were getting up, the two in the hammock, and as Dr. Harpe
sauntered to the porch, Andy P. Symes looked at her in a sudden and
violent dislike which he took no pains to conceal. Her hands were
shoved deep in her jacket pockets as she swaggered toward him, straight
strands of hair hung in dishevelment about her colorless, immobile
face, while her muddy hazel eyes became alternately shifting or bold as
she noted the intentness of his gaze. No detail of her slovenly
appearance, her strange personality, escaped him.
I'll be goin', Gus; good-night, Dr. Harpe said shortly. She felt
both uneasy and irritated by the expression on his face.
Symes watched her swaggering down the sidewalk to the gate, and when
it had slammed behind her, he said, sharply
I'll be greatly obliged to you, Augusta, if you will ask Dr. Harpe
not to abbreviate your name. It's vulgar and I detest it.
Mrs. Symes turned and regarded him coolly for a moment before
I do not in the least mind what Dr. Harpe calls me.
That is obvioushis voice was harshbut I domost
Her eyes flashed defiance.
Then tell her yourself, for I have no notion of doing so, and she
stalked inside the house.
The incident of the evening brought to a head certain plans which
long had been formulating in Dr. Harpe's mind; and the result was a
note which made his lip curl as he read and re-read it the next morning
with various shadings of angry scorn.
MY DEAR MR. SYMES:
Kindly call at your earliest convenience, and oblige,
Symes had spent a sleepless night and his mood was savage. Another
defiant interview before leaving the house had not improved it and now
this communication from Dr. Harpe came as a climax.
He swung in his office chair.
'My earliest convenience!' If that isn't like her confounded
impudenceher colossal nerve! When she's stalking past here every
fifteen minutes all day long. 'My earliest convenience!' By gad!he
struck the desk in sudden determinationI'm just in the mood to humor
her. Things have come to a pretty pass when Andy P. Symes can't say who
and who not shall be admitted to his home. If she wants to know what's
the matter with me, I'll tell her!
He closed his desk with a slam and slung his broad-brimmed hat upon
his head. Dr. Harpe, glancing through her window, read purpose in his
stride as he came down the street. Her green eyes took on the gleam of
battle and to doubly fortify herself she wrenched open her desk drawer
and filled a whiskey glass to the brim. When she had drained it without
removing it from her lips she drew her shirtwaist sleeve across her
mouth to dry it, in a fashion peculiarly her own. Then she tilted her
desk chair at a comfortable angle and her crossed legs displayed a
stocking wrinkled in its usual mosquetaire effect. She was without her
jacket but wore a man's starched piqué waistcoat over her white
shirtwaist, and from one pocket there dangled a man's watch-fob of
braided leather. She threw an arm over the chair-back and toyed with a
pencil on her desk, waiting in this studied pose of nonchalance the
arrival of Symes.
The occasion when he had last climbed the stairs of the Terriberry
House for the purpose of visiting Dr. Harp was unpleasantly vivid and
the secret they had in common nettled him for the first time. But
secret or no secret he was in no humor to temporize or conciliate and
there were only harsh thoughts of the woman in his mind.
How are you, Mr. Symes? She greeted him carelessly as he opened
the door, without altering her position.
Good morning, he responded curtly. There was no trace of his usual
urbanity and he chewed nervously upon the end of an unlighted cigar.
Sit down. She waved him casually to a chair, and there was that in
her impudent assurance which made him shut his teeth hard upon the
Thanks, he said stiffly, and did as she bid him.
Light up, she urged, and fumbled in a pocket of her waistcoat for
a match which she handed him. Guess I'll smoke myself. It helps me
talk, and that's what we're here for.
He had not known that she smoked, and as he watched her roll a
cigarette with the skill of much practice the action filled him with
fresh repugnance. Through rings of smoke he regarded her with coldly
quizzical eyes while he waited for her to open the conversation.
I've got a proposition to put up to you, she began, a scheme that
I had in the back of my head ever since you started in to 'make the
desert bloom like the rose.'
Her covert sneer did not escape him, but he made no sign.
She went on
It's an easy graft; it's done everywhere, and I know it'll work
here like a breeze.
Graft was a raw word and Symes's face hardened slightly, but he
waited to hear her out.
You're putting a big force of men on the ditch, I understand. How
About five hundred.
Give me a medical contract.
So that was it? His eyes lit up with understanding. She wanted to
make moneythrough him? Her tone and attitude was not exactly that of
a person asking a favor. A faint smile of derision curved his lips. She
saw it and added
I'll give you a rake-off.
He resented both the words and her tone, but she only laughed at the
frown which appeared for a moment.
You're 'out for the stuff,' aren't you? she demanded. Well, so am
He regarded her silently. Had she always been so coarse of speech,
he wondered, or for some reason he could not divine was she merely
throwing off restraint? Brushing the ashes from his cigar with
deliberation, he inquired non-committally
Just what is your scheme?
It's simple enough, and customary. Take a dollar a month out of
your employees' wages for medical services and I'll look after them and
put up some kind of a jimcrow hospital in case they get too bad to lie
in the bunk-house on the works. I can run in some kind of a cheap woman
to cook and look after them and you bet the grub won't founder 'em.
Why, there's nothin' to it, Mr. SymesI can run the joint, give you
two bits out of every dollar, and still make money.
Symes scarcely heard what she said for looking at her face. It
seemed transformed by cupidity, a kind of mean penuriousness which he
had observed in the faces of persons of small interests, but never to
such a degree. She's money mad, Grandmother Kunkel had said; the old
woman was right.
He was not squeamish, Andy P. Symes, and it was true that he was
out for the stuff, but the woman's bald statement shocked him. Upon a
few occasions Symes had been surprised to find that he had standards of
conduct, unsuspected ideals, and somehow, her attitude toward her
profession outraged his sense of decency. If a minister of the gospel
had hung over his Bible and shouted from the pulpit I'm out for the
stuff! the effect upon Symes would have been much the same.
Until she thrust her sordid views upon him he had not realized that
he entertained for the medical profession any deeper respect than for
any other class of persons engaged in earning a livelihood, but now he
remembered that the best physicians he had known had seemed to look
upon their life-work as a consecration of themselves to humanity and
the most flippant among them, as men, had always a dignity apart from
themselves when they became the physician, and he knew, too, that as a
class they were jealous of the good name of their profession and
sensitive to a degree where anything affected its honor. The viewpoint
now presented was new to him and sufficiently interesting to
investigate further; besides it shed a new light upon the woman's
But supposing the men object to such a deduction, he said
tentatively. There's little sickness in this climate and the camps are
Object? What of it! she argued eagerly. They'll have to submit if
you say so; certainly they're not goin' to throw up their jobs for a
dollar. Work's too scarce for that. They can't kick and they won't kick
if you give 'em to understand that they've got to dig up this dollar or
But, Symes evaded, the most of this work is let to contractors
and it's for them to determine; I don't feel like dictating to them.
Why not? Her voice quavered with impatience. They want new
contracts. They'd make the arrangement if they thought it would please
But, Symes answered coolly, I don't know that it would please
He saw the quick, antagonistic glitter which leaped into her eyes,
but he went on calmly
Where the work is dangerous and the force is large your scheme is
customary and practicable, I know, but upon a project of this size
where the conditions are healthy, there is nothing to justify me in
demanding a compulsory contribution of $500 a month for your benefit.
She controlled her temper with visible effort.
But there will be dangerous work, she urged. I've been over the
ground and I know. There'll be a tunnel, lots of rock-work, blasting,
and, in consequence, accidents.
That would be my chief objection to giving you the contract.
What do you mean?
His smile was ironical as he answered
You are not a surgeon.
Hell! I can plaster 'em up somehow.
Symes stared. His expression quickly brought her to a realization of
the mistake into which her angry vehemence had led her and she colored
to the roots of her hair.
Your confidence is reassuring, he said dryly at the end of an
uncomfortable pause. But tell me,her callousness aroused his
curiositywould you, admittedly without experience or practical
surgical knowledge, be willing to shoulder the responsibilities which
would come to you in such a position?
I told you, she answered obstinately, I can fix 'em up somehow; I
can do the trick and get away with it. You needn't be afraid of me.
What I'm afraid of isn't the question; but haven't you any
feeling of moral responsibility when it comes to tinkering and
experimenting with the lives and limbs of workingmen who have families
dependent upon them?
What's the use of worryin' over what hasn't happened? she asked
evasively. I'll do the best I can.
But supposing 'the best you can' isn't enough? Supposing through
inexperience or ignorance you blunder, unmistakably, palpably blunder,
Well, she shrugged her shoulder, I wouldn't be the first.
But, he suggested ironically, a victim has redress.
Not a doctor's victim. Did you ever hear of a patient winnin' a
case against a doctor? Did you ever hear of a successful malpractice
I can't say that I've known the sort of doctors who figure in
malpractice suits, but since I think of it I don't believe I ever read
or heard of one who ever did.
And you won't, she said tersely.
Why not? The rest of the world must pay for the mistakes of
'The ethics of the profession,' she quoted mockingly. We protect
each other. The last thing a doctor wants to do, or will do, is to
testify against a fellow practitioner. He may despise him in his heart
but he'll protect him on the witness stand. Besides, we're allowed a
certain percentage of mistakes; the best are not infallible.
That's true; but supposing, he persisted, that the mistake to a
competent surgeon was so obviously the result of ignorance that it
could not be gotten around, would he still protect you?
Nine times in ten he would, she replied; at least he'd be
And allow you to go on experimenting?
He saw that she hesitated. She was thinking that she need not tell
him she had known such a one.
Of course there are high-brows who set the standards for themselves
and others pretty high, and if I acted, or failed to act, in violation
of all recognized methods of procedure, and with fatal results, they
might make me trouble. But you can bet, she finished with a grin,
the ethics of the profession have saved many a poor quack's hide.
Oh, they may have diplomas. A diploma doesn't mean so much in these
days of cheap medical colleges where they grind 'em out by the
hundreds; you need only know where to go and have the price.
This isilluminating. Symes wondered at her candor. She seemed
very sure of her position with him, he thought.
What difference does it make where your diploma's from to jays like
these? She waved her arm at Crowheart. A little horse sense, a bold
front, a hypodermic needle, and a few pills will put you a long way on
your road among this class of people. I'm talkin' pretty free to an
outsider, but, she looked at him significantly, I know we can trust
The implication irritated him, but he ignored it for the present.
Do you mean to tell me, he demanded, that there are medical
schools where you can buy a diploma? Where anybody can
She laughed at his amazement.
A quiz-compend and a good memory will put a farm-hand or a
sheep-herder through if he can read and write; he doesn't have to have
a High School education. She inquired jocularly, appearing to find
enjoyment in shocking him: You've seen my hated rival, haven't
youLamb, the new M.D. that pulled in here the other day? His wife
looks like a horse with a straw bonnet on and he ought to be jailed on
sight if there's anything in Lombroso's theories. Have you noticed
He laid brick until he was thirty-five, she added nonchalantly.
I've thought some of taking him in with me on this contract, for some
men, working men especially, are devilish prejudiced against women
Symes's eyes narrowed.
Why share thespoils?
It's a good thing to have somebody like him to slough the blame on
in case of trouble.
By gad!the exclamation burst from him involuntarilybut you're
a cold-blooded proposition.
She construed this as a compliment.
Merely business foresight, my dear Mr. Symes, she smirked
complacently. Some fool, you know, might think he could get a judgment
if he didn't like the way we handled him.
And you're sure he couldn't?
Lord!no. Not out here. Her leg slipped over her knee and her
foot slumped to the floor. She slid lower in the chair, until her head
rested on the back, her sprawling legs outstretched, her fingers
clasped across her starched waistcoat, upon her face an expression of
humorous disdain. Let me tell you a story to illustrate what you can
do and get away with itto ease your mind if you're afraid of gettin'
into trouble on my account. A friend of mine who had a diploma from my
school came out West to practise and she had a case of a fellow with a
slashed wristthe tendons were plumb severed. She didn't know how to
draw 'em together, so she just sewed up the outside skin. They shrunk,
and he lost the use of his hand. Then he goes back East for treatment
and comes home full of talk about damage suits and that sort of thing.
Well, sir, she just bluffed him down. Told him she had fixed 'em all
right, but when he was drunk he had torn the tendons loose and was
tryin' to lay the blame on her. She made her bluff stick, too. Funny,
Excruciating, said Symes.
She seemed strangely indifferent to his sarcasmto his opinion.
I can promise you, she urged, that I'll be equal to any
I've no doubt of it, he returned.
Symes smoked hard; he was thinking, not of the contract which he
intended to peremptorily refuse, but how best, in what words to tell
this woman that now more than ever he wished the intimacy between her
and his wife to end.
At the close of an impatient silence she demanded bluntly
Do I get the contract?
With equal bluntness he responded
You do not.
She straightened herself instantly in the chair and he knew from the
look in her eyes that the clash had come.
Do you want a bigger rake-off? she sneered offensively.
Do you think I'm a petty thief?
She shrugged her shoulder cynically, but answered
Perhaps; but I don't choose to do it. I refuse to force your
confessedly inexperienced and incompetent services upon my men. What
you ask is impossible.
He expected an outburst but none came; instead, she sat looking at
him with a twisted smile.
You'd better reconsider, she said at last, and there was in her
voice and manner the taunting confidence of a gun-man who has his
hand at his hip.
Symes spat out a particle of tobacco with angry vehemence and his
ruddy face turned redder.
My answer is final.
Her composure grew with his loss of it.
I hoped it wouldn't be necessary to remind you of your first visit
here, but it seems it is.
That was it thenthe source of her assuranceshe meant to trade
upon, to make capital of a professional secret. It was like her to
remind him of an obligation, to attain her ends.
I've not forgotten, he answered with an effort, but the favor you
ask is one I cannot conscientiously grant.
She laughed disagreeably.
Since when has your conscience become a factor in your affairs?
He could have throttled her for her insolence, but she gave him no
chance to reply.
Supposing I insist?
Insist? Was she threatening him?
She answered coldly
That's what I said.
Do you meanhis voice dropped to an incredulous whisperthat
you are threatening to betray Augusta to attain your end?
I don't like to be thwarted for a whima senseless piece of
sentiment. This contract means too much to me.
But do I understand aright? She gloated as she saw his fading
color. Do you intend to say that the price of your silence is this
Something of the sort, she replied in cold stubbornness.
The full knowledge of her power swept over him; the helplessness of
his position filled him with sudden fury. He sprang to his feet and
hurled his cigar through the open window. His thick fingers twitched to
choke the insolent smile from her face.
You traitor! You blackmailer!
She arose leisurely.
Unpleasant wordsbut there are others as unpleasant.
With his hands thrust deep in his trousers pockets Symes faced her,
eyeing her with an expression which would have made most women wince
but which she returned with absolute composure. She was in control of
the situation and realized it to the full. Symes was speechless nearly
in the face of such effrontery, such disloyalty, such ingratitude.
You would sacrifice your best friend for money!
Business is business, and I'm out for the stuff, as I told you, but
there's no sense in letting it come to that. I don't want to do
it, so don't be a fool!
Symes groaned; she had attacked him in his most vulnerable spot,
namely, his horror of scandal, of anything which would besmirch the
name of which he was so inordinately proud. This pride was at once his
strength and his weakness.
And if I permit myself to be blackmailedthere is no use in
mincing wordsif I give you this contract in exchange for my wife's
good name are you willing to consider every obligation wiped out?
Her eyes flashed their triumph at this quick collapse of his stand.
And, furthermore, will you agree to discontinue your visits to my
Why? There was hard bravado in the question.
Your influence is not good, Dr. Harpe.
What does Augusta say?
I've not consulted her.
And the contract is mine?that is settled?
So long as you keep your word.
She smiled enigmatically.
I'll keep my word.
A fumbling at the door ended the interview, for it opened to admit a
white-faced woman with a child moaning in her arms.
Oh, Doctor, I'm so glad you're here! she cried in relief. He's
been like this since early this morning and I brought him in town as
quick as I could. Is it anything serious?
Come here, my little man.
Symes saw the reddening of the ranchwoman's eyelids at the sympathy
in the Doctor's voice, at the gentleness with which she took the child
from her arms. Symes paused in the doorway to look longer at the swift
transition which made her the woman that her patients knew. There was a
softly maternal look in her face as she hung brooding over the child, a
look so genuine that it bewildered him in the light of what had just
transpired. Was this another phase of the woman's character or was it
assumed for his benefit?
The child's shawl slipped to the floor and, as the mother stooped
for it, Dr. Harpe flashed him a mocking glance which left him in no
XV. SYMES'S AUTHORITY
Symes descended the stairs of the Terriberry House in a frame of
mind that was very different from the determined arrogance with which
he had ascended them less than an hour before. He was filled with a
humiliating sense of defeat, and of having acted weakly. He returned
mechanically the salutations of those he passed upon the street and
sunk into his office chair with his hat upon his head, a dazed sense of
shock and humiliation still upon him.
He had been blind as a bat, he told himself, blinder even, for a bat
has an instinct which warns it of danger. The interview which had
revealed the woman's character came in the nature of a revelation in
spite of that he already knew. The part he had been forced to play did
not become more heroic by contemplation, and the only satisfaction he
could wring from it was that he was rid of herthat she would never
pollute his home again. It had cost him his pride and the sacrifice of
his conscience, but he tried to make himself believe that it was worth
the purchase price; yet the thought always came back that he, Andy P.
Symes, had allowed himself to be blackmailed.
The knowledge of Dr. Harpe's unbelievable perfidy would be a shock
to Augusta, but it would terminate the friendship, he told himself, and
he would be relieved of the disagreeable necessity of asserting his
authority too strongly.
Symes removed his hat and flung it upon a near-by chair, then turned
to his desk. A telegram propped conspicuously upon the ink-well proved
to be from Mudge, the promoter, and read:
Have possible investor who wants detailed information. Better
on at once.
S. L. MUDGE
Symes's face lighted.
This is lucky! It couldn't have been more opportune! We'll go
to-morrow and I'll tell Augusta while we're gone.
Thus the problem of abruptly ending the friendship without causing
comment was solved. He had no misgivings as to the outcome when he
issued his mandate concerning Dr. Harpe, but there might be a scene,
and he had a man's instinctive dread of a family row in case that
Augusta was loath to believe. She was loyal by nature and there was
When his wife was removed from the influence which had undermined
him in his own home, the old Augusta would return, he thought
confidently; that adoring Augusta so flatteringly attentive to his
opinions, so responsive to his moods. He wanted the old Augusta back
more than he would have believed possible.
As his thoughts slipped in retrospect over the weeks past he could
see that the change in her had come almost from the commencement of her
friendship with Dr. Harpe. He shut his teeth hard as he thought of the
banal influence she had exercised over a good woman; he always had
considered Augusta that.
Well, it was ended. They would start once more with a better
understanding of each other, in a clearer atmosphere. Something in the
prospect made him glow; he felt a boyish eagerness to tell her of the
proposed trip, but decided to wait until evening, as she would then
have plenty of time to prepare.
The nervous strain of the day previous and the interview of the
morning left Symes with a feeling of fatigue when evening came. As he
stretched himself upon a couch watching Augusta moving to and fro
freshly dressed for the dinner which had now wholly replaced the
plebeian supper in the Symes household, he was again impressed by the
improvement in her appearance.
The artificial wave in her straight, ash-blond hair softened greatly
her prominent cheek bones, and a frill of lace partially hid the
peasant hand that had so frequently distressed him. Her high-heeled
slippers shortened and gave an instep to her long, flat foot. He smiled
a little at the prim dignity which she unconsciously took on with her
clothes; but that at which he did not smile was the air of cool
toleration with which she listened to his few remarks. She seemed
restless and went frequently to the door; when they faced each other at
the dinner table he exerted himself to interest her and his reward was
a shadowy smile. He was not at all sure that she was listening and he
asked himself if this could be the woman who not so long ago had glowed
with happiness merely to be noticed? As the meal progressed he became
alternately chagrined and angry. Was the change in her more marked than
usual, or was it only that he was awake? He felt that he could not
endure her vacant, absent-minded stare much longer without comment, so
it was a distinct relief when they arose from the table. He concluded
to keep the pleasant surprise he had for her a little longer.
He felt something like a pang when she walked past the porch chair
where he was sitting and went to the hammock at the corner of the
house. She had a book and passed him without a glance, appearing not to
notice the hand which he partially extended to detain her.
She looked often toward the street and he noticed that she only
seemed to read. Would Dr. Harpe keep her word? Symes believed that she
The twilight deepened and he could plainly see her restlessness
grow. She no longer made a pretence of reading but sat with her eyes
upon the street. Symes remembered that it had been a long time since
she had watched for him like that. Finally she threw down her book and
stood up that she might have a better view of the door of the
Terriberry House. When she started down the sidewalk toward the gate
Symes called her.
What is it? She made no movement to return.
If you pleaseone moment.
I'll be back in a little while.
But I want to speak to you now. His tone was a command.
Pshaw! She frowned in annoyance, but reluctantly obeyed.
Where are you going?
Over to the hotel, she answered shortly.
To look for Dr. Harpe?
Resentment was in her curt answer
Don't go, Augusta.
Because I want to talk to you.
You can talk when I come back.
I want to talk now; please sit down.
She made no motion to do so.
What's the matter with you, Augusta?
Nothing,her face was sullenonly I don't like to be ordered
I'm not ordering you, as you put it, but I've a surprise for you
and I want to tell you of it.
For answer she looked at him inquiringly.
We're going to Chicago to-morrow.
Instead of the pleasure which he anticipated would light her dark
eyes, there was a look rather of apprehension, of disapproval, of
anything, in fact, but delight.
Aren't you glad? he asked in amazement.
I'm not ready; I've no clothes.
We can soon remedy that.
She stood before him in sullen silence and he finally asked
I don't want to go, if you must know! She blurted the
answer rudely and turned away.
I'm going to the hotel, she flung over her shoulder.
She kept on walking.
Unlatching the gate she flung it open in defiance.
No! She seemed like a person obsessed.
Symes arose and walked quickly after her. She stopped then and Symes
wondered at his own self-control as he faced her.
Augusta, he said quietly, Dr. Harpe is not coming here again.
He saw her face pale.
Why not? Her vehemence startled him.
Because I have told her not to; she understands.
How dare you? Her voice rose shrill and her eyes blazed into his.
She's my friend!
No, she's not your friend or my friend. He grasped her wrist as
she started to go. You've got to listen; you've got to hear me out! I
found her out to-day and I meant to tell you when we had gone from
here, but you are forcing me to do it now. Still grasping her wrist he
told her briefly of the interview and the price he had paid for her
silence. When he had done she wrenched herself free.
I don't believe it! Anyway, why shouldn't you give her the
contract? Why shouldn't you? I tell you I'm going to her and you shan't
Augusta! There was horror in his voice. Do you realize what this
means? Do you understand what you are doingthat you are choosing
between this woman and me? Are you crazy? Are you mad?
Yes, yes, yes! Anything you like, but I'm going! I tell you, you
shan't dictate who and who not shall be my friends!
But she isn't your friend! he cried with savage bitterness. She's
your worst enemy. Augusta,the harshness went suddenly from his
voiceI beg of you don't let this woman come between us!
You're a nice one to criticise others.
He winced at the taunt.
I've tried to make amends, he pleaded.
Wellyou haven't! And, she flung the challenge at him recklessly,
if you want to get a divorce, get it, for I'll quit you quick before
I'll give up Dr. Harpe.
She stared into his eyes defiant, unabashed, and in her face he read
his defeatthe utter uselessness and futility of commands, or threats,
or appeals. He loosened his hold of her wrist without a word, and,
flinging him a last glance of angry resentment and defiance, she walked
swiftly toward the hotel.
XVI. THE TOP WAVE
Medical contracts between Drs. Harpe and Lamb, Andy P. Symes and the
several contractors upon the project, were properly executed before
Symes left for Chicagoalone. It entailed a delay, but Dr. Harpe
insisted upon immediate action, and her covert threats had the desired
I've kept my word, she said, and it's up to you to keep yours. If
Gus comes to see me that's your lookout, not mine. And since Symes
could not help himself, he consented, although he knew that the delay
might mean the loss of an investor.
Dr. Harpe quickly realized that she had assailed him in his most
vulnerable spot and Symes realized as surely that she would use this
knowledge to the limit to attain her ends.
Am I a coward or a hero? Symes sometimes asked himself in his
hours of humiliation and ignominy.
The day Andy P. Symes left for Chicago Dr. Harpe celebrated the era
of prosperity upon which she was about to enter, by the purchase of a
top-buggy, which is usually the first evidence of affluence in the
Doc's all rightshe's smart, chuckled the populace when they
heard the news of the contract and watched her sitting up very straight
in the new vehicle with its shining red wheels and neatly folded top.
Moses! Dr. Harpe told herself frequently and complacently,
'getting there' is easy enough if you've only the brains and the nerve
to pull the right wire, and she considered that she had taken a turn
around Opportunity's foretop in a manner which would have been
creditable to a far more experienced hand than hers; also she had no
reason to doubt that the wire upon which she now held an unshakable
grip held manifold possibilities. By her astuteness and daring, she
assured herself, she was in absolute control of a situation which
promised as great a success as any person handicapped by petticoats
could hope for. Assuredly the top wave made pleasant riding.
Lamb accepted her partnership proposition with an avidity which
rather indicated that he needed the money. He had no objections to
being a salaried scapegoat providing the pay was sure, but naturally it
did not occur to Lamb to regard himself in any such light. If Dr. Harpe
dubbed him her peon, she took care to treat him and his opinions with
They rented a long, unpainted, one-story building which had been a
boarding house, for hospital purposes. It was divided lengthwise by a
narrow hall which ended in a dingy kitchen in the rear. Dr. Lamb who
had some vague theories upon sanitation protested feebly when the
operating room was located next to the kitchen, but the location was
not changed on that account. The office in the front was furnished with
a few imposing bottles and their combined display of cutlery was
calculated to impress. Their ideas as to keeping expenses for equipment
at a minimum were in perfect harmony, for Lamb as well as Dr. Harpe
regarded it as a purely commercial venture. The latter, however, was
disposed to regard the purchase of an X-ray machine as a profitable
investment because of the impression it would make upon their private
Moses! She chortled at the notion. Wouldn't their eyes bung out
if I showed 'em their own bones! I could soak 'em twice the fee and
they'd never peep.
Lamb discouraged the idea for the present on the grounds of economy
and advised a sterilizing apparatus instead, which Dr. Harpe opposed
for the same reason.
If Dr. Harpe had been given the opportunity of selecting an
associate from a multitude of practitioners, it is doubtful if she
could have found another better suited to her purpose than the man
Lamb. Although, by some means, he had succeeded in being graduated from
an institution of good repute, he was a charlatan in every
instinctgreedy, unscrupulous, covering the ignorance of an untrained
mind with a cloak of solemn and pious pretence which served its purpose
in the uncritical, unsuspicious western community where a profession is
always regarded with more or less awe.
Lamb's colorless personality had made no great impression upon
Crowheart and as yet he was known chiefly through his professional card
which appeared among the advertisements in the Crowheart Courier. Dr. Harpe had not reckoned him a formidable rival, but she recognized
in him an invaluable associate; and often as she contemplated his pasty
face, his close, deep-set eyes and listened to his nasal voice she
congratulated herself upon her choice, for he was what she needed most
of all, a pliable partner.
Be you goin' to put up a sign? inquired Lamb.
Sure; we want all the advertisin' we can get out of this, don't
we? And soon the day came when the two partners stood across the
street and read proudly:
HARPE AND LAMB HOSPITAL
In her new buggy with its flashing wheels Dr. Harpe was soon driving
through the different camps along the project, and the laborers rather
enjoyed the novelty of visits from the lady doc, as they called her,
and consented good-naturedly enough to the deduction of monthly dues
for hospital benefits from their wages.
While they regarded her professionally and personally in a humorous
light and made her more or less the target of coarse jokes, as is any
woman who leaves the beaten track, yet the general feeling toward her
was one of friendliness.
They laughed at her swaggering stride, her masculine dress, the
vernacular which was their own speech, but there was quickly
established between them and her a good-humored familiarity which was
greatly to her liking. They become Bill and Pat and Tony to her
and she was Doc to them.
While her horses trotted briskly the length of the ditch and she was
returning smiling nods and flinging retorts that were not too delicate
over her shoulder, she began to feel herself a personage; she was
filled with a growing sense of importance and power.
There was everything to indicate that the contract would prove all
that she and Lamb had hoped for. The general health was exceptionally
good and she urged sanitary precautions upon the men to prevent long
and expensive fevers; as yet there was no dangerous rock-work entailing
the use of explosives to imperil the lives and limbs of the men. The
remedies required were of the simplest and the running expenses of the
hospital were nil.
When they received their first checks from the Company and the
contractors, Lamb's joy was almost tearful.
It's easier than layin' bricks, Doc, he said as they wrung each
other's hands in mutual congratulation.
Dr. Harpes' ambitions grew with her bank account, and among them
there was one which began to take the shape of a fixed purpose. With
her successful manipulations of conditions to further her own ends she
came to believe herself in her small world invincible. The effect of
this belief upon a nature like hers was to increase its natural
arrogance and her tendency to domineer, while the strange, extravagant
personal conceit which seemed so at variance with her practical nature
became a paramount trait.
There was really no doubt in her mind that she could marry Ogden Van
Lennop if she really set about doing so. It was only of late that she
had given the thought words. In the beginning when she had discovered
his identity, the most she had hoped for was to be friends, for a
friend of Van Lennop's importance might be useful. She felt that there
would be some way of turning his friendship to account. The fact that
they were still only acquaintances did not discourage her, nor the fact
that he seemed entirely satisfied with the companionship of the
erstwhile belle of Crowheart.
Rich men and rich men's sons had a way of amusing themselves with
the society of their inferiors where they were unknown, was her
disdainful explanation to herself, but it piqued and irritated her even
while it furnished the material for her sly innuendoes, for the
insidious attacks which were fast completing what Andy P. Symes's
social dictatorship had begun. With her mounting arrogance Dr. Harpe
believed that if her ultimate success in her new ambition demanded the
entire removal of Essie Tisdale from the field, this too she could
accomplish. Her overweening confidence now was such that she was
persuaded that she could shape events and mould the lives of others and
her own as she willed.
She was resting one day in her new office in the hospital after a
long drive along the ditch, and from her window she watched Van Lennop
at the Kunkel blacksmith shop across the street. He gave his horse a
friendly pat between the eyes before he swung into the saddle and she
stood up to watch him gallop the length of the street with the lithe
and confident grace which made him a noticeable figure in the saddle.
Moses! she observed aloud, but he has improved in looks since he
landed herehis looks, however, are a mere incident compared to the
value of his name on the business end of a check. Harpe,she
sniggered at a mental picturehow will you look anyhow hanging to a
man's arm? As a clingin' vine you'll never be a conspicuous success,
but you could give a fair imitation if the game was worth the candle,
and this happens to be an instance where it is. Let's have a look at
you, my child.
She took a small hand-mirror from beneath the papers of a drawer and
regarded her reflection with a critically humorous smile.
You're not the dimpled darling you once were, Harpe, she said
aloud. You're tired now and not at your best, but all the same there's
a kind of a hard-boiled look coming that's a warning, a hint from
Father Time, that you've got to do something in the matrimonial line
before it gets chronic.
Still viewing herself in the mirror she continued her soliloquy
By rights, Harpe, you ought to cut out these piqué vests and manly
shirt bosoms and take to ruches and frills and ruffles. It would be the
quickest way to make a dent in his heart. He's that sort, I can see,
but, Lord! how I hate such prissy clothes! Your chance will come,
Harpe, you'll wear the orange blossoms now you've set your mind on it,
and, if the chance doesn't come soon you'll have to make it.
XVII. THE POSSIBLE INVESTOR
The slender, mild-mannered young man to whom Symes was introduced in
the office of Mudge, the promoter, was not a person Symes himself would
have singled out as one entrusted with the handling and investment of
the funds of a great estate. He had a slight impediment of speech, he
was modest to diffidence, and modesty and money was a combination not
easy for Symes to conceive, but Mudge had said anxiously upon Symes's
I hope you make a good impression, Symes, and can put the
proposition up to him right, because if we can land him at all we may
be able to land him for the whole cheese, and it will take a load off
me if we can. It's gettin' harder all the time to place these bonds;
money is tighter and people seem leary of irrigation projects.
I had no idea so many people had been pecked in the head until I
began to handle this proposition. They're damned suspicious I can tell
you. It's nearly as easy to sell mining stock and, compared to that,
peddling needles and pins from door to door is a snap. Talk it up big
but don't overdo it, for J. Collins Prescott is no yap.
Leave him to me, Symes had replied confidently; don't worry. If
he has got real money and is looking for a place to put it, I'll see
that he finds it. And Mudge, noting the warmth of his grasp, the
heartiness of his big voice, the steady frankness of the look which the
westerner sent into Prescott's eyes, felt that Symes was the man to do
the trick and congratulated himself upon his wisdom in sending for him.
II've been looking through your prospectus, Mr. Symes, said J.
Collins Prescott after he had been duly presented with a cabana by that
gentleman, and it is v-very attractive, I might say a-alluring.
Symes beamed benignly.
You think so? I tell Mudge there's one fault I have to find with
itit's too conservative.
A good fault, commended Mr. Prescott.
Yes, yes, of course, better that than overdrawn, and then it's
always an agreeable surprise to investors when they come out and look
the proposition over. If you are thinking seriously of this thing, Mr.
Prescott, I wish you could arrange to return with me. I invariably
advise it. Mr. Mudge tells me you have some idle money and I feel sure
that you could not place it where you'd get bigger returns.
W-western irrigated lands have a-always interested me
c-considerably, admitted Mr. Prescott, but heretofore the estate
which I represent has confined itself chiefly to the acquirement of
water-power sites and their development. Theythey're good investments
in your opinion?
Undoubtedly, was Mr. Symes's emphatic reply. Very; but they're
gettin' scarce, while the irrigating of arid lands is as yet in its
E-exactly. I feel that we should begin reaching out along those
lines, and although I am not greatly c-conversant with investments of
this nature, I can readily see their possibilities.
No limit! declared Symes. Nothin' but! Takes capital of
course, but the returns are big and sure. That's what we are all
I know little if anything of the actual construction of a ditch,
but I should presume that the personnel of the m-management would count
for much, ventured Mr. Prescott.
Rather! Symes replied abruptly, and if I may say soif you will
pardon methe name of Symes is a valuable asset to any
enterpriseprestige, you know, and all that.
Prescott looked slightly mystified.
The Symes of Mainegrandfather personal friend of Alexander
Hamilton'sfather one-time Speaker of the House; naturally the name of
Symes stands for something.
Not a muscle of J. Collins Prescott's face moved, but Mudge,
watching him keenly, felt uncomfortable and a sudden annoyance at
Symes's childish boastings, for so they sounded in Prescott's presence.
Symes seemed unable to realize the importance of the unassuming young
man who listened so attentively but non-committally to all that he was
saying, and in the light of their relative positions Mudge felt that
Symes was making himself a trifle ridiculous.
Ah, yes, Prescott replied courteously, Symes is a notable name,
but I was considering the management from a business rather than a
social point of view. You have a w-wide experience in this line? You
c-can, I presume, furnish credentials as to past successes, Mr. Symes?
Symes's natural impulse was to reply, Certainly, to be sure, years
of experience, delighted to furnish anything you like, but something,
the voice of caution or Mudge's warning look, induced him to say
I can't say a wide experience, Mr. Prescott, not truthfully
a wide one, but some, of course, in fact considerable.
Experience isn't really necessary; horse-sense is the thing,
horse-sense, executive ability and large-mindednessthese
qualifications I think I may conscientiously say I possess.
Mudge pulled nervously at his mustache.
As a matter of fact, continued Mr. Symes, I never permit myself
to be identified with failures. When I see that things are shootin' the
chutes I pull out. Mr. Symes laughed heartily. I get from under.
V-very wise. For an instant, the infinitessimal part of a second,
there was a glint of amusement in Prescott's mild eyes and, as he
added, Mudge once more felt that uncomfortable warmth under his collar,
Symes and success are synonymous terms, I infer.
Symes laughed modestly.
But to get down to business,there was a suggestion of weariness
in Prescott's tonethe water supply is ample?
Oceans! Worlds of it, I might say.
The water rights perfectstand the severest legal scrutiny?
Only engineers of recognized ability consulted and employed upon a
project of such magnitude, I infer?
Mr. Symes's hesitation was so slight as to be scarcely perceptible.
The best obtainable.
And approximately 200,000 acres of segregated land can be reclaimed
under your project?
Every foot of it.
At an expense of $250,000, according to the figures in your
That's our estimate and the amount of our bond issue.
You believe you will have no difficulty in disposing of this land
at $50 an acre?
Dispose of it? They'll fight for it! Why, declared Mr. Symes,
striking at the air with a gesture of conviction, the whole country is
It's a liberal return upon the investment, murmured Prescott.
It's a big thing! And think of the Russian Jews.
Colonization, you know, hundreds of Russian Jews out there raising
sugar-beets for the sugar-beet factory, happy as larks.
To be sureI had forgotten. Mr. Prescott reached for a prospectus
upon the table at his elbow and looked at the picture of a factory with
smoke pouring from myriad chimneys and covering nothing short of an
The soil is deep thenstrong enough to stand sugar-beets?
Rotation of cropsscientific farming, explained Symes, gives it
a chance to recover.
I see. The length of the ditch is
Thirty-five miles and a fraction.
What is the normal width and what amount of water does it carry?
Sixty-five feet and it carries six feet of water.
What is the slope?
Two and a half feet per mile.
How much water to the acre is applied in your State?
Symes was showing some surprise. For a man who was not familiar with
irrigation projects Prescott was asking decidedly pertinent questions,
but Symes answered glibly
A cubic foot per second to each seventy acres.
And the yardage? What are your engineer's figures on the yardage?
Symes cleared his throata habit which manifested itself when he
It can be moved for ten to fifteen cents a cubic yard.
C-cheap enough. Prescott looked at him with interested intentness.
And the loose rock?
Twenty-five to thirty. Symes stirred uneasily in his chair.
And the cuts? the solid rock?
Fifty to sixty cents, Symes replied after an instant's hesitation.
Ah, soft rock. These are your engineer's figures, of course?
Of course, Symes answered curtly, and added: I should say that
you had a good deal of practical knowledge of such matters, Mr.
Prescott answered easily
Superficial, v-very superficial, just a little I picked up in
There were more questions as to loss of water by seepage, air and
subsoil drainage, drops, earth canals, character and depth of soil,
possibilities of alkali, all of which questions Symes answered readily
enough, but which at the conclusion left Symes with the exhausted
feeling of a long session on the witness stand.
There are still something like $150,000 worth of bonds in the
market, I believe?
Approximately. It was Mudge who spoke up hopefully.
And there is no doubt in your mind, Mr. Symes, but that with this
amount you can finish the work at the specified time and in a manner
satisfactory to the State engineers?
Symes jingled the loose change in his trousers pockets and replied
with a large air of confidence
None whatever, sir.
Mr. Prescott arose and stood for a moment thoughtfully stroking the
back of one gray suede glove with the tips of the other.
II will take the matter up with my p-people and give you their
His eyes were lowered so he did not see the look which made Symes's
face radiant for an instant, but he may have imagined it was there, for
his lips curved in ever so faint a smile.
It has been a p-pleasure to meet you, Mr. Symes. Prescott extended
a gray suede hand. I do not feel that the hour has been wasted, since
I have learned so m-much.
Ask any question that occurs to you: my time is at your disposal as
long as I am here. Symes shook his hand heartily in a strong western
grip. Great pleasure to converse with a gentleman again, I assure
Symes and Mudge looked at each other when the door had closed upon
Tractable as a kitten! exclaimed Symes, beaming.
Think so? Mudge did not seem greatly elated.
Why, yes; don't you? Symes looked surprised.
'Tractable' isn't just the word I'd ever apply to Prescott, he
answered dryly. You don't understand his kind.
You're wrong there, Symes answered with asperity. But don't you
think we're goin' to land him?
Mudge shrugged his shoulders.
I'll bet you a hat! cried Symes confidently. I know the
difference between a nibble and a bite. I tell you Prescott's hooked.
I hope you're rightMudge's tone was doubtfulbut get it out of
your head that he's an easy mark. I know that outfit; they're
conservative as a country bank. Prescott didn't ask questions enough.
Didn't ask questions enough? Lord amighty, he was cocked and
Mudge smiled grimly.
Not for Prescott. Besides, it's not like them to go into a
proposition like this without further investigation. If they'd send an
engineer back with you I'd begin to hope.
Bosh! Symes exclaimed impatiently. My name counts for something
in a game like this.
Mudge was unresponsive.
Gentlemen understand each other, Symes went on complacently,
intuitionhunchkind of a silent sympathy. I tell you, Mudge, I'm
goin' to win a hat off you.
After leaving the office of Mudge, the promoter, J. Collins
Prescott, sauntered into a secluded waiting room in a near-by hotel and
sank into the depths of a huge leather chair. He took a voluminous
type-written report from the pocket of his fashionable top-coat and
fell to studying it with interest and care. He was engrossed in its
contents for nearly an hour, and when he had finished he replaced it in
his pocket. Then he sauntered to the telegrapher's station in the
corner of the hotel office and wrote upon a blank with swift decision a
telegram which seemed a trifle at variance with the almost foppish
elegance of his appearance. The telegram read:
Crooked as a dog's hind leg. Buy.
XVIII. HER SUPREME MOMENT
Dr. Harpe had surprisingly good shoulders for so slender a
womanwhite, well rounded, and with a gentle feminine slope. That she
never had been given the opportunity of showing them to Crowheart had
been a matter of some regret. Her chance came when Andy P. Symes
celebrated the sale of $150,000 worth of bonds by an invitation ball in
the dining-room of the Terriberry House.
Elation over the placing of these bonds with the estate represented
by J. Collins Prescott mitigated in some slight degree the humiliation
and bitterness of his feelings when, upon his return from his
successful business trip, he found that not only had Grandmother Kunkel
gone as she had foreseen she would go, but Dr. Harpe had resumed her
visits as before and vouchsafed to him no word of explanation or
apology at the deliberate violation of her promise.
In any case, as Symes saw clearly now, the fulfilment of it would
have been futile so far as ending the intimacy was concerned, for the
only result would have been that Augusta would have done the visiting.
That he let the matter of Dr. Harpe's broken word pass without protest
evidenced the completeness of his capitulation, his entire realization
of the hopelessness of resistance to the situation, as did also the
silence in which he accepted Augusta's cold explanation of Grandmother
It is not likely that more time and care is devoted to the making up
of the list for a court ball than Symes bestowed upon the selection of
guests for the proposed function, which he intended should leave an
indelible impression upon Crowheart. It was a difficult task, but when
completed the result was gratifying.
No person whom Symes could even dimly foresee as being of future use
to himself was omitted and with real astuteness he singled out those
who had within themselves the qualities which made for future
importance. Even Mrs. Abe Tutts, who, he had learned, was second cousin
to a railroad president, was thrown into a state of emotional
intoxication by receiving the first printed invitation of her life.
Besides, Mrs. Tutts had turned her talents churchward and now ruled the
church choir with an iron hand. While her husky rendition of the solo
parts of certain anthems was strongly suggestive of the Bijou Theatre
with its adjoining beer garden, her efforts were highly praised. This
invitation demonstrated clearly that Mrs. Tutts was rising in the
It was due to a suggestion from Dr. Harpe, made through Augusta,
that Van Lennop also received his first social recognition in
I don't know who the fellow is, Symes demurred. In reality his
reluctance was largely due to a secret resentment that Van Lennop had
seemed to withstand so easily the influence of his genial personality.
Their acquaintance never had passed the nodding stage and the fact had
piqued Symes more than he cared to admit. Besides, he has elected to
identify himself with rather singular company.
No doubt he has been lonely, defended Mrs. Symes mildly, and of
course Essie is pretty.
When Van Lennop found the invitation in the mail a couple of days
later he frowned in mingled annoyance and amusement.
Discovered, he said dryly, quickly guessing its import.
Dr. Harpe's increased friendliness had not escaped him and it had
occurred to him that their frequent meetings were not entirely
accidental. Past experiences had taught him the significance of certain
signs, and when Dr. Harpe appeared with her hair curled and wearing a
lingerie waist, the fact which roused the risibilities of her friends
stirred in him a feeling which resembled the instinct of
Van Lennop's brow contracted as he re-read the invitation in his
Confound it! I'm not ready to be discovered yet. Then he grinned,
in spite of himself, at the hint in the cornerfull dress. He flung
it contemptuously upon the washstand. What an ass! and it is to be
feared he referred to the sole representative of the notable House of
The initial step in Crowheart toward preparing for any function was
a hair washing, and the day following the mailing of the invitations
saw the fortunate recipients drying their hair on their respective back
steps or hanging over dividing fences with flowing locks in animated
discussion of the coming event.
That there was some uncertainty as to the exact meaning of the
request to wear full dress may be gathered from Mrs. Abe Tutts's
observation, while drying a few dank hairs at Mrs. Jackson's front
gate, that it was lucky she had not ripped up her accordion-pleated
skirt which was as full as anybody could wear and hope to get around
'Tain't that, Mrs. Jackson snorted in her face. The fuller a
dress is the less they is of it. You're thinkin' of a masquerade,
maybe. Personally myself, declared Mrs. Jackson modestly, I don't aim
to expose my shoulder blades for nobodynot for nobody.
I'd do it if I was you, replied Mrs. Tutts significantly.
Why, if you was me? inquired Mrs. Jackson, biting guilelessly.
BecauseMrs. Tutts backed out of reach.they's a law agin'
carryin' concealed weapons.
Mrs. Tutts did not tarry to complete the drying of her hair, for
Mrs. Jackson had succeeded in wrenching a paling from the fence and was
fumbling at the catch on the gate.
The dining-room of the Terriberry House was a dazzling sight to the
arriving guests, who were impressed to momentary speechlessness by such
evidences of wealth and elegance as real carnations and smilax and a
real orchestra imported from the nearest large town on the main line.
The sight which held their eyes longest, however, was a large glass
bowl on a table in an anteroom, beside which, self-conscious but
splendid in new evening clothes, stood Mr. Symes urging an unknown but
palatable beverage hospitably upon each arrival.
This is cert'nly a swell affair, they confided to each other in
whispers behind the back of their hands after the first formal
greetings. Trust Andy P. for doin' things right.
They frankly stared at each other in unaccustomed garb and sometimes
as frankly laughed.
Gosh! said Mr. Terriberry as he sniffed the pungent atmosphere due
to the odor of camphor emanating from clothing which had lain in the
bottom of trunks since the wearers had wagoned it in from Iowa or
Nebraska, looks like you might call this here function a moth ball.
Mr. Terriberry himself gave distinction to the gathering by
appearing in a dinner jacket, borrowed from the tailor, and his pearl
gray wedding trousers, preserved sentimentally by Mrs. Terriberry.
Mr. Abe Tutts, in a frock coat of minstrel-like cut and plum-colored
trousers of shiny diagonal cloth, claimed his share of public
attention. For the sake of that peace which he had come to prize
highly, Mr. Tutts had consented to make a dude of himself.
Mr. Percy Parrott appeared once more in the dinner clothes which
upon a previous occasion had given Crowheart its first sight of the
habiliment of polite society. If their exceeding snugness had caused
him discomfiture then his present sensations were nothing less than
anguish. His collar was too high, his collar-band too tight, the
arm-holes of his jacket checked his circulation, and his waistcoat
interfered with the normal action of his diaphragm, while Mr. Parrott
firmly refused to sit out dances for reasons of his own. It was
apparent too that he selected partners only for such numbers on the
programme as called for steps of a sliding or gliding nature, for Mr.
Parrott had the timid caution of an imaginative mind. Following him
with anxious eyes was Mrs. Parrott looking like an India famine
From the bottom of that mysterious wardrobe trunk, which resembled
the widow's cruse in that it seemed to have no limitations, Mrs. Abe
Tutts had resurrected an aigrette which sprouted from a knob of hair
tightly twisted on the top of her head. As the evening advanced and the
exercise of the dance loosened Mrs. Tutts's simple coiffure, the
aigrette slipped forward until that lady resembled nothing so much as a
Mrs. Terriberry was unique and also warm in a long pink boa of
curled chicken feathers which she kept wound closely about her neck.
The red and feverish appearance of Mrs. Alva Jackson's eyelids was
easily accounted for by the numberless French knots on her new
peach-blow silk, but she felt more than repaid for so small a matter as
strained eyes by the look of astonishment and envy which she surprised
from Mrs. Abe Tutts, who had exhausted her ingenuity in trying to
discover what she meant to wear.
Mrs. Ed Ricketts in black jet and sequins, décolleté, en train,
leaning on the arm of her husband, who was attired in a pair of
copper-riveted overalls, new and neat, was as noticeable a figure as
any lady present.
Mrs. Ricketts's French creation was a souvenir of a brief but
memorable period in the history of the Ricketts family.
A few years previous Mr. Ricketts had washed $15,000 from a placer
claim in an adjoining State and started at once for Europe to spend it,
meaning to wash $15,000 more upon his return. In his absence some one
washed it for him. When he came back with a wide knowledge of Parisian
cafés, a carved bedstead, two four-foot candelabra and six trunks
filled with Mrs. Ricketts's gowns, but no cash, it was a shock to learn
that financially he was nil. After months of endeavor in other lines
there seemed no alternative but to light his four-foot candelabra and
die of starvation in his carved bedstead, or herd sheep, so he wisely
decided upon the latter. Mrs. Ricketts adapted herself to the situation
and made petticoats of her court trains and drove the sheep-wagon
décolleté, so Crowheart was more or less accustomed to Mrs. Ricketts in
silk and satin.
Dr. Harpe did not come down until the evening was well along, but
the delay produced the effect she intended. As she appeared, fresh and
cool with her hair in perfect order, at the end of a number which left
the dancers red and dishevelled, she caused a sensation that could not
well have been otherwise than flattering. Crowheart stared in candid
amazement and admiration.
Her sheer, white gown fell from sloping, well powdered shoulders and
its filminess softened wonderfully the lines which were beginning to
harden her face. She had dressed with the eagerness of a débutante, and
her eyes were luminous, her cheeks delicately flushed with the
excitement of it and with happiness at the visible impression she was
Dr. Harpe could, upon occasions, assume an air which gave her a
certain distinction of carriage and manner which was the direct
antithesis of the careless, swaggering, unfeminine creature that
Crowheart knew, and as she now came slowly into the ballroom it is
little wonder that a buzz went round after the first flattering silence
of astonishment, for even a stranger would have singled her out at a
glance from the perspiring female crudities upon the floor.
She looked younger by years and with that unexpected winsomeness
which was her charm. The murmur of approval was a tribute to her
femininity that was music in her ears. The night promised to be one of
triumph which she intended to enjoy to the utmost, but to her it
ensured more than that, for Ogden Van Lennop was there, as she had seen
in one swift glance, and it meant, perhaps, her chance.
For reasons of his own Van Lennop finally decided to accept the
invitation which at first thought he fully intended to refuse. He
figured that he had time to telegraph for his clothes, and this he did
with the result that Crowheart stared as hard almost at him as at Dr.
Harpe's amazing transformation. The reserved, unapproachable stranger
in worn corduroys, who had come to be tacitly recognized as an object
of suspicion, was not readily reconciled with this suave,
self-possessed young man in clothes which they felt intuitively were
correct in every detail. He moved among them with a savoir-faire
which was new to Crowheart, talking easily and with flattering
deference to this neglected lady and that, agreeable to a point which
left them animated and coquettish. He danced with Mrs. Terriberry, he
escorted Mrs. Tutts to the punch bowl, he threw Mrs. Jackson's scarf
about her shoulders with a gallantry that turned Jackson green, a neat
compliment sent Mrs. Percy Parrott off in a series of the hysterical
shrieks which always followed when Mrs. Parrott found herself at a loss
for words. Long before Dr. Harpe's appearance it had begun to dawn upon
Crowheart that in holding aloof in unfriendly suspicion the loss had
been theirs, for it was being borne in even upon their ignorance that
Van Lennop's sphere was one in which they did not belong.
Dr. Harpe quickly demonstrated that she was easily the best dancer
in the room, and there was no dearth of partners after the first awe of
her had worn off, but her satisfaction in her night of triumph was not
complete until Van Lennop's name was upon her programme.
Essie Tisdale, busy elsewhere, had her first glimpse of the ballroom
where Van Lennop claimed his dance. She grew white even to her lips,
and her knees shook unaccountably beneath her as she watched Dr. Harpe
glide the length of the room in Van Lennop's arms. The momentary pain
she felt in her heart had the poignancy of an actual stab. It was
soso unexpected; he had so unequivocally ranged himself upon her
side, he had seen so plainly Dr. Harpe's illy-concealed venom and
resented it in his quiet way, as she had thought, that this seemed like
disloyalty, and in the first shock of bewilderment and pain Essie
Tisdale was conscious only that the one person in all the world upon
whom she had felt she could count was being taken from her.
Van Lennop had told her of his invitation in amusement and later had
remarked carelessly that he might accept, but apparently had given it
no further thought. Even in her unhappiness the girl was fair to her
merciless enemy. She looked wellfar, far more attractive than Essie
would have believed possible, softer, more feminine andmore
dangerous. Van Lennop was human; and, after all, as she was forced to
recognize more and more fully, she was only the pretty biscuit-shooter
of the Terriberry House. Essie Tisdale pushed the swinging doors from
her with a shaking hand and managed somehow to get back into the
kitchen where, as she thought, with a strange, new bitterness, she
Van Lennop did not leave Dr. Harpe when the waltz was done, but
seated himself beside her, first parting the curtain that she might get
the air and showing a solicitude for her comfort so different from the
cold, impersonal courtesy of months that her heart beat high with
triumph. Verily, this propitious beginning was all she needed and, she
told herself again, was all she asked. While she believed in herself
and her personal charm when she chose to exercise it, Van Lennop's
tacit recognition of it brightened her eyes and softened her face into
smiling curves of happiness.
Van Lennop toyed with her fan and talked idly of impersonal things,
but there was a veiled look of curiosity in his eyes, a kind of puzzled
wonder each time that they rested upon her face. As he covertly studied
her altered expression and manner, strongly conscious of the different
atmosphere which she created, there rose persistently in his mind
Stevenson's story of the strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He
could not conceive a more striking example of dual personality or
double consciousness than Dr. Harpe now presented. There was a girlish
shyness in her fluttering glance, honesty in the depths of her limpid
hazel eyes, while her white, unmarred forehead suggested the serenity
of a good woman, and Van Lennop was dimly conscious that for some
undefined reason he never had thought of her as that. She had personal
magnetismthat he had conceded from the first, for invariably he had
found himself sensible of her presence even when disliking her the
most. To-night he was more strongly aware of it than ever.
You are enjoying the evening?
Isn't that apparent? A twinkle shone for a moment in his eyes.
And you? adding quickly, An unnecessary questionyour face is the
She laughed lightly.
It doesn't belie me, for I like thisimmensely. Flossying up
occasionally helps me keep my self-respect. You didn't expect to find
this sort of thing out here, did you?
He looked at her oddly, not sure that she was serious. Was it
possible that she did not see the raw absurdity of it all? Somehow he
had thought that she belonged a little more than this; her unusual
self-possession gave the impression perhaps. He glanced at the
attenuated Mrs. Percy Parrott, at Mrs. Sylvanus Starr, exhilarated by
numerous glasses of punch, capering through an impromptu cakewalk with
Tinhorn Frank, at Mrs. Andy P. Symes, solemn and as stiffly erect as a
ramrod, trying to manage her first train, and Van Lennop's lips curved
upward ever so slightly, but his voice had the proper gravity when he
She shot a quick look at him.
You don't like it, she asserted.
Van Lennop smiled slightly at her keenness.
To be candid, I don't. The West has always been a bit of a hobby of
mine since I was a lad and adored Davy Crockett and strained my eyes
over the adventures of Lewis and Clark. I like the picturesqueness, the
naturalness, the big, kind spirit of the old days and I'm sorry to see
them goprematurelyfor that which takes their place makes no appeal
to the heart or the imagination. It is only awella poor imitation
of something else.
With no notion of criticising my host, I must say, that in my
opinion those who introduce these innovationshe included the
ballroom with a slight movement of her folded fanare robbing the
West of its greatest charm. But then, he concluded lightly, and with a
slight inclination of his head, if I were a woman and the results
ofer'flossying up' were as gratifying as in your case, for
instance, I might welcome such opportunities.
Dr. Harpe raised her eyes to his for one fluttering second and
achieved a blush while he smiled down upon her with the faint,
impersonal smile which was oftenest on his face.
* * * * *
Just this once, my dear, and I won't ask you to go in there again.
I know how hard it must be for you.
Not at allEssie had looked at Mrs. Terriberry bravelyI will
do whatever is to be done.
She picked up a tray of fresh glasses for the table in the well
patronized anteroom as she spoke and passed through the swinging door
in time to see Dr. Harpe's uplifted eyes and blush and Van Lennop's
The glasses jingled upon the tray in her unsteady hand, but her
little mouth shut in a red, straight line as she nerved herself for the
ordeal of passing them. She came toward them with her head erect and a
set look upon her young, almost childish face, and Van Lennop catching
sight of her intuitively guessed something of her thoughts and
interpreted aright the strained look upon her white face.
She thinks me disloyal, flashed into his mind, and he all but
smiled at the idea.
Swift as was the passing of the softly interested expression upon
Van Lennop's face, Dr. Harpe caught it and involuntarily turned her
head to follow his gaze.
Essie Tisdale! Her face hardened and all her slumbering jealousy and
hatred of the girl leaped to life in a mad, unreasoning desire to do
her harm, bodily harm; she tingled with a longing to inflict physical
The whirling dancers made it necessary for Essie to pass close,
close enough to brush the skirts of the women occupying the chairs
along the wall, and as she came toward them with her head erect,
looking straight before her, Dr. Harpe acted upon an unconquerable
impulse and slid her slippered toe from beneath her skirt. There was a
crash of glass as the girl tripped and fell headlong. Tinhorn Frank
guffawed; a few of his ilk did likewise, but the laughter died upon
their lips at the blazing glance Van Lennop flashed them.
Essie, you are hurt! Your hand is bleeding!
Dr. Harpe shut her teeth hard at the concern in Van Lennop's voice
as he helped the girl to her feet, but there was solicitude in her tone
when she said:
Let me see if there's glass in it, Essie.
The girl hesitated for an instant, then with an enigmatical smile
extended her hand, but there was nothing enigmatical in the sidelong
look which Van Lennop gave Dr. Harpe, a look that, had she seen it,
would for once have made her grateful for her sex. Subconsciously he
had seen the slight movement of her foot and leg as Essie Tisdale
passed, but had not grasped its significance until the girl fell.
I don't think there's any glass in it, but wash it out well and
bring me a bandage. You got a hard fall; you must have slipped.
Yes, I must have slipped. Her smile this time was ironic.
The night fulfilled the promise of the evening. It was a succession
of triumphs for Dr. Harpe. The floor was air beneath her feet and the
combination of insidious punch and sensuous music turned her cold,
slow-running blood to fire. She was the undisputed belle of the
evening, and they took the trailing smilax from the side lamps on the
wall and made her a wreath in laughing acknowledgment of the fact. It
was such an hour as she had dreamed of and the reality fulfilled every
She had attracted Van Lennop to herself at last; she had aroused and
held his interest as she had known she could and she had sent Essie
Tisdale sprawling ridiculously at his feet. She had shown Crowheart how
she could look when she triedwhat she could do and be with only half
an effort. In other words, she had proved to Van Lennop and to
Crowheart that she was a success as a woman as well as a doctor. What
more could any one person ask? The road to the end looked smooth before
her. She wanted to scream, to shriek aloud in exultation. Her cheeks
burned, her eyes blazed triumph. She had the feeling that it was the
climax of her career, that no more satisfying hour could come to her
unless perhaps it was the day she married Ogden Van Lennop. And she
owed nothing, she thought as she whirled dizzily in Mr. Terriberry's
arms, to anyone but herself. Every victory, every step forward since
she arrived penniless and unknown in Crowheart had been due to her
brains and efforts. She raised her chin arrogantly. She had never been
thwarted and the person was not born who could defeat her ultimately in
any ambition! Her mental elation gave her a feeling akin to
A clicking sound in Mr. Terriberry's throat due to an ineffectual
effort to moisten his lips brought the realization that her own throat
and mouth were parched.
Let's stop and hit one up, she whispered feverishly. I'm dry as a
Mr. Terriberry seemed to check himself in midair.
I kin hardly swaller.
He led the way to the anteroom and she followed, swaying a little
both from the dizzy dance and the effects of previous visits to the
punch bowl. The hour was late and the remaining guests were rapidly
casting aside the strained dignity which their clothes and the occasion
had seemed to demand. Observing that Van Lennop had made his adieux,
Dr. Harpe also felt a sudden freedom from restraint.
Mr. Terriberry filled a glass to the brim and executed a notable bow
as he handed it to her.
To the fairest of the fair, said Mr. Terriberry gallantly,
protruding his upper lip over the edge of his glass something in the
manner of a horse gathering in the last oat in his box.
Dr. Harpe raised her glass to arms' length and cried exultantly
To my Supreme Moment!
Mr. Terriberry, who had closed his eyes while the cooling beverage
flowed down his throat, opened them again.
Again she swung her glass above her head and shrilled
My Supreme Momentdrink to it if you're a friend of mine!
Frien' of yours? Frien' of yours! Why, Doc, I'd die fer you. But
that's all same Ogollalah Sioux 'bout your S'preme Moment! Many of 'em,
Doc, many of 'em, and here's t'you!
They drained their glasses together.
Always liked you, Doc. H'nest t'God, from the first minute I laid
eyes on you. Mr. Terriberry reached for her fan dangling from the end
of its chain and began to fan her with tender solicitude.
Come on, let's have another drink; I don't cut loose often. Her
eyes and voice were reckless.
Me and you don't want to go out of here with our ropes draggin',
protested Mr. Terriberry in feeble hesitation. Let's go out on the
porch fer a minute an' look at the meller moon.
Meller moon nothin'! Come on, don't be a piker. She was
ladling punch into each of their glasses.
Ah-h-h! Ain't that great cough mixture! Mr. Terriberry rolled his
eyes in ecstasy as he once more saw the bottom of his glass. Doc,
'bout one more and me and you couldn't hit the groun' with our hats.
Mr. Terriberry speared a bit of pineapple with the long nail of his
forefinger and added ambiguously: M'bet you.
Aw, g'long! Food for infants, thiswish I had a barrel of it.
Doc, you got a nawful capac'ty. Mr. Terriberry looked at her in
languishing admiration. That's why I like you. Honest t'God I hate to
see a lady go under the table firs' shot out o' the box. Now my
wife,suddenly remembering the existence of that lady Mr. Terriberry
tiptoed to the door and endeavored to locate hermy wife, he
continued in a confidential whisper, can't take two drinks t'hout
showing it. Doc,Mr. Terriberry's chin quivered as the pathos of the
fact swept over himDoc, Merta's no sport. Mr. Terriberry buried his
face in his highly perfumed handkerchief as he confessed his wife's
Aw, dry up! Take another and forget it, replied his unsympathetic
Mr. Terriberry looked up in quick cheerfulness.
Le's do, Doc. Do you know I hate waterjust plain water. If it'll
rot your boots what'll it do to your stummick!
A man breathless from haste appeared in the doorway of the anteroom.
What is it? She did not turn around.
A case came in at the hospitalfeller shot, down the street.
Where's Lamb? she demanded irritably.
Out of town.
Thunder! She stamped her foot impatiently. Who is it? she
Billy Duncan. He's bleedin' bad, Doc. There was a note of entreaty
in his voice.
All right, she answered shortly, I'll be down.
Frien' of yours? inquired Terriberry.
Friend? No. One of those damned hoboes on the Ditch. Looks like he
might have taken some other night than this.
Don't blame you 'tall, Doc. I gotta get to work and fin' Merta. If
you see Merta Mr. Terriberry suddenly realized that he was talking
As Dr. Harpe made her way to the cloak-room she was conscious that
it was well she was leaving. The lights were blurring rapidly, the
dancers in the ballroom were unrecognizable and indistinct, she was
sensible, too, of the increasing thickness of her tongue. Yet more than
ever she wanted to laugh hysterically, to scream, to boast before them
all of the things she had done and of those she meant to do. Yes,
decidedly, it was time she was leaving, her saner self told her.
She fumbled among the wraps in the cloak-room until she found her
own, then, steadying herself by running her fingertips along the wall,
she slipped from the hotel without being observed.
Made a good getaway that time, she muttered.
Her lips felt stiff and dry and she moistened them frequently as she
stumbled across the hummocks of sagebrush growing on the vacant lots
between the hospital and the hotel. She fell, and cursed aloud as she
felt the sting of cacti spines in her palm. She sat where she fell and
tried to extract them by the light of the moon. Then she arose and
God! I'm drunkjus' plain drunk, she said thickly, and was glad
that there would be no one but Nell Beecroft about.
Nell was safe. She had long since attended to that. They shared too
many secrets in common for Nell to squeal. Nell was not easily shocked.
She laughed foolishly at the thought of Nell being shocked and wondered
what could do it.
Her contract with Symes called for a graduate nurseDr. Harpe
snorteda graduate nurse for hoboes! Nell was cheaper, and even if her
reputation was more than doubtful she was big and huskyand they
understood each other. The right woman in the right place, and with
Lamb helped form a trio that stood for harmony and self-protection.
Graduate nurse for hoboes! She muttered it scornfully again. Not
on your tintype!
She fell against the kitchen door and it opened with her weight.
Hullo, Nell! She blinked foolishly in the glare of the light.
The woman looked at her in silence.
Hullo, I say! The cloak slipped from her bare shoulders and she
lunged toward a chair.
The flush on her face had faded and her color was ghastly, a grayish
white, the pallor of an anæmic; the many short hairs on her forehead
and temples hung straight in her eyes, the filmy flounce of her gown
was torn and trailing, while a scraggly bunch of Russian thistle clung
to the chiffon ruffles of her silk drop-skirt.
The woman stood in the centre of the kitchen with her arms akimboa
huge raw-boned creature of a rough, frontier type.
She spoke at last.
Well, you're a sight!
Been celebratin', Nell, she chuckled gleefully, been celebratin'
my S'preme Moment.
You'd better git in there and fix that feller's arm or we'll be
celebratin' a funeral, the woman answered curtly. He's bleedin' like
a stuck pig.
That's what he isgood joke, Nell. Where'd it happen? She seated
herself in a chair and slid until her head rested on the back, her
sprawling legs outstretched.
Gun fight at the dance hall. Look here, she took her roughly by
the arm, I tell you he's bad off. You gotta git in there and do
Shut up! Lemme be! She pulled loose from the nurse's grasp, but
arose, nevertheless, and staggered down the long hallway into the room
where the new patient lay moaning softly upon the narrow iron cot.
Hullo, Bill Duncan!
His moaning ceased and he said faintly in relief
Oh, I'm glad! I thought you'd never come, Doc.
Say, her voice was quarrelsome, do you think I've nothin' to do
but wait at the beck and call of you wops?
The boy, for he was only that, looked surprise and resentment at the
epithet, but he was too weak to waste his strength in useless words.
She raised his arm bound in its blood-soaked rags roughly and he
Keep still, you calf!
He shut his teeth hard and the sweat of agony stood out on his
pallid face as she twisted and pulled and probed with clumsy, drunken
Nell! she called thickly.
The woman was watching from the doorway.
Get the hypodermic and I'll give him a shot of hop, then I'm goin'
to bed. Lamb can look after him when he comes. I'm not goin' to monkey
with him now.
But, Doc, the boy protested, don't leave me like this. The
bullet's in there yet, and a piece of my shirt. The boys pulled out
some, but they couldn't reach the rest. Ain't you goin' to clean out
the hole or something? I'm scart of blood-poisonin', Doc, for I've seen
how it works, he pleaded.
His protest angered her.
God! but you're wise with your talk of blood-poisonin'! You bums
from the Ditch give me more trouble and do more kickin' than all my
private patients put together. What do you want for a dollar a
monthshe sneereda special nurse? A shot in the arm will shut your
mouth till morning anyhow.
She shoved up the sleeve of his night clothes on the good arm and
gripped his wrist; then she jabbed the needle viciously.
His colorless lips were shut in a straight line and in his
pain-stricken eyes there was not so much anger now as a great wonder.
Was this the woman of whose acquaintance he had been proud, by whose
bow of recognition he always had felt flattered; this woman whose free
speech and careless good-nature he had defended against the occasional
criticism of coarser minds? This woman with her reeking breath and an
expression which seen through a mist of pain made her face look like
that of Satan himself, was it possible that she had had his liking and
respect? He was still wondering when the drowsiness of the drug seized
him and he slipped away into sleep.
Dr. Harpe gathered his clothes from the foot of the bed as she
Did he have anything on him, Nell?
They must have cleaned him out down below. She jerked her head
toward the dance hall as she turned a pocket inside out. A dollar
watch and a jack-knife. She threw them both contemptuously upon the
kitchen table. If he wakes up bellerin', shove the needle into
himyou can do it as well as I can. I'm goin' to bed.
She lunged down the corridor once more and Nell Beecroft stood
looking after with a curious expression of derision and contempt upon
her hard face.
Dr. Harpe threw herself upon the bed in one of the private rooms and
soon her loud breathing told Nell Beecroft that she was in the heavy
sleep of drink. The nurse opened the door and stood by the bedside
looking down upon her as she lay dressed as she had come from the
dance, on the outside of the counterpane. One bare arm was thrown over
her head, the other was hanging limply over the edge of the bed, her
loose hair was a snarled mass upon the pillow and her open mouth gave
her face an empty, sodden look that was bestial.
I wonder what your swell friends would say to you now? the woman
muttered, staring at her through narrowed lids. Those private patients
that you're always bragging swear by you? What would they say if I
should tell 'em that just bein' plain drunk like any common prostitute
was the least of she checked herself and glanced into the hallway.
What would they think if they knew you as I know youwhat would they
say if I told them only half? Her mouth dropped in a contemptuous
smile. They wouldn't believe methey'd say I lied about their 'lady
She went on in sneering self-condemnation
I'm nothin'just nothin'; drug up among the worst; no learnin'no
raisin'but herHER! Nell Beecroft's lips curled in
indescribable scorn. She's worse than nothin', for she's had
There was no color in the East, only a growing light which made Dr.
Harpe look ashen and haggard when she crawled from the bed and looked
at herself in a square of glass on the wall.
You sure don't look like a spring chicken in the cold, gray dawn,
Harpe, she said aloud as she made a wry face and ran out her tongue.
Bilious! A dose of nux vomica for you. That mixed stuff does knock a
fellow's stomach out and no mistake. Moses! I look fierce.
Her head ached dully, her mouth and throat felt parched, and yet
withal she had a feeling of contentment the reason for which did not
immediately penetrate her dull consciousness. She realized only that
some agreeable happening had left her with a sensation of warmth about
As she fumbled on the floor for hair-pins, yawning sleepily until
her jaws cracked, she wondered what it was. She stopped in the midst of
twisting her loose hair and her face lighted in sudden recollection.
Ogden Van Lennop! Ah, that was it. She remembered now. She had broken
down his prejudice; she had partially won him over; she had been the
hit of the evening; further conquests were in sight and within easy
reach if she played her cards right. And Essie Tisdaleher long upper
lip stretched in its mirthless smileshe would not have her feelings
this morning for a goodly sum.
The thought of Van Lennop accelerated her movements. She must get
back to the hotel before Crowheart was astir, for it might be her
ill-luck to bump into Van Lennop starting on one of his early morning
rides. She had no desire that he should see her in her present plight.
The closeness of the illy-ventilated hospital, with its odors of
disinfectants and sickness, nauseated her slightly as she opened the
door and stepped into the hallway. She frowned at the delirious
mutterings of a typhoid patient at the end of the corridor, for it
reminded her of a threatening epidemic in one of the camps. The sharper
moans of Billy Duncan, whose inflamed and swollen arm was wringing from
him ejaculations of pain, recalled vaguely to her mind something of the
incident of the night before.
Hearing her step, he called aloud as she passed the door
Won't somebody give me a drink? Please, please give me a drink! I'm
Nell will be up directly, she answered over her shoulder. There
was no time to lose, for the day was coming fast.
She lifted her torn and trailing flounce and pulled her cloak about
her bare shoulders as she opened the street door. The air felt good
upon her hot forehead and she breathed deep of it. The East was pink
now, but the town was still as silent as the grave save for the sound
of escaping steam from the early morning train. Happening to glance
toward the station, something in the appearance of a man carrying a
suitcase across the cinders attracted her attention and caused her to
slacken her pace. It looked like Ogden Van Lennop. It was Ogden
Van Lennop. He was leaving! What did it mean? Her air-castles collapsed
with a thud which left her limp.
She kept on toward the hotel, but her step lagged. What did she care
who saw her now? Surely, she reassured herself, he was not leaving for
goodlike this. It was certainly strange.
Entering the hotel through the unlocked office door she found the
night lamp still burning and Terriberry was nowhere about. That was
curious, for he was always up when any of his guests were leaving on
the early train.
Van Lennop's decision must have been sudden. What could be the
There was a letter propped against the lamp on a table behind the
office desk and, as she surmised, it was addressed to Mr. Terriberry in
Van Lennop's handwriting. Looking closer she saw the end of a second
envelope behind the first. To whom could he have written? In some
respects Dr. Harpe had the curiosity of a servant and it now prompted
her to walk behind the desk and gratify it.
Miss Essie Tisdale was the address on the second envelope.
Instantly her face changed and the swift, jealous rage of the evening
before swept over her again.
She ground her teeth together as she regarded the letter with malice
glittering in her heavy eyes. He was writing to her, then, the little
upstart, that infernal little biscuit-shooter!
Shorty, the cook, was rattling the kitchen range. She listened a
moment. There was no other sound. She thrust the letter quickly beneath
the line of her low-cut bodice and tiptoed up the stairs with slinking,
XIX. DOWN AND OUT
Dr. Harpe ripped open the envelope addressed to Essie Tisdale and
devoured its contents standing by the window, bare-shouldered in the
dawn. Long before she had finished reading her hand shook with
excitement, and her nose looked pinched and drawn about the nostrils.
As a matter of fact the woman was being dealt a staggering blow. Until
the moment she had not herself realized how strongly she had built upon
the outcome of this self-constructed romance of hers.
In her wildest dreams she had not considered Van Lennop's attentions
to Essie Tisdale serious or, indeed, his motives good. That Ogden Van
Lennop had entertained the remotest notion of asking Essie Tisdale to
be his wife was furthest from her thoughts. Yet there it was in black
and white, staring at her in words which burned themselves upon her
brain, searing the deeper because she learned from them that her own
deed had precipitated the crisis.
I wasn't sure of myself until last night, Van Lennop wrote, but
that creature's disgraceful act left me in no doubt. If I had been sure
of you, Essie Tisdale, I would have put my arm about you then
and there and told that braying crowd that any indignity offered you
was offered to my future wife.
But I was not sure, I am not sure now, and only business of the
utmost urgency could take me away from you in this state of
uncertainty. If you want me to come back won't you send me a telegram
telling me so to the address I am giving below? Just a word, Essie
Tisdale, to let me know that you care a little bit, that your sweet
friendship holds something more for me than just friendship? I shall
haunt the office until I hear from you, so lose no time.
Further on she read:
I love you mightily, Essie Tisdale, and I have not closed my eyes
for making plans for you and me. It is quite the most delirious
happiness I have ever known. I long to take you away from Crowheart and
place you in the environment in which you rightly belong, for, while we
know nothing of your parentage, I would stake my life that in it you
have no cause for shame. I am filled with all a lover's eagerness to
give, to heap upon you the things which women liketo share with you
my possessions and my pleasures.
But in the midst of my castle building comes the chilling thought
that I am taking everything for granted and the fear that I have been
presumptuous in mistaking your dear, loyal comradeship for something
more makes me fairly tremble. I am very humble, Essie Tisdale, when I
think of you, but I am going to believe you will say 'yes' until
you have said 'no'.
Dr. Harpe crumpled the letter and hurled it into the farthermost
corner of the room, half sick with a feeling of helplessness, of
passionate regret and despair. She realized to the fullest what she was
losing, or, as she phrased it to herself, what was slipping through
her fingers, And this was to be the future of the girl whom it seemed
to her she hated above all others and all else in the world! The
thought was maddening. She strode to and fro, kicking her torn flounce
and trailing skirt out of the way with savage resentment. Van Lennop's
letter temporarily punctured her conceit, chagrin and mortification
adding to her feeling the anguish of that bad half hour. That
creature he was calling her while in her ridiculous self-complacency
she was drinking to her Supreme Moment. Oh, it was unbearable! She
covered her reddening face with both hands.
When she raised it at last there was a light in her eyes, new
purpose in her face. Her moment of weakness and defeat had passed. She
would make good her boast that that person was not yet born who could
ultimately defeat her. She would not go so far as to say that in the
end she would marry Van Lennop nor would she admit that it was
impossible, but she swore that whatever else might happen, Essie
Tisdale should never be his wife. In every clash between herself and
this girl she had won, so why not again? There must bethere wassome
way to prevent it!
She had no plan in mind as yet, but something would suggest itself,
she knew, for her crafty resourcefulness had helped her since her
childhood in many a tight place, from seemingly hopeless situations.
She picked up the crumpled letter and seating herself by the window
smoothed the sheets upon her knee.
She read it through again, calmly, critically this time, lingering
over the paragraph which hinted at the things he had to offer the woman
who became his wife.
Diamonds and good clothes that means, a box at the Opera, fine
horses and a limousine. The trollop! the! The epithet was the most
offensive that she knew. He knows she would like such things, she
Her mind was working in a circuitous way toward a definite goal
which she herself had not as yet perceived, but when she did see it, it
came with the flash of inspiration. She all but bounded to her feet and
began to pace the floor in the quick strides of mental excitement. A
plan suddenly outlined itself before her with the clearness of a
written text. Her crushing disappointment was almost forgotten in the
keen joy of working out the details of her plot. If only she could
influence certain mindscould manipulate conditions.
I can! I will! She emphasized her determination with
After a hasty toilette she surveyed herself in the glass with
satisfaction. The jaded look was fast fading under the stimulus of the
congenial work ahead of her and little trace of her intemperate
indulgence of the night remained.
You're standing up well under the jolt, Harpe, she commented.
That letter was sure a body blow.
She seated herself at the breakfast table and in her habitual
attitude of slouching nonchalance sat with half-lowered lids watching
Essie Tisdale as she moved about the dining-room. There was something
in her crouching pose, the cruel eagerness of her eyes, which suggested
a bird of prey, but it was not until they were alone that she asked
How's the hand, Ess?
The girl gave no sign of having heard.
That was rather a bad fall you got.
Essie turned upon her with blazing eyes.
Not so bad as you intended.
Dr. Harpe laughed softly and asked with a mocking pretence of
Why, what do you mean?
You know perfectly well that I know you tripped me. You need not
pretend with me. Don't you think I know by this time that you would go
to any length to injure mein any waythat you already have done so?
You flatter me; you overestimate my power.
Not at all. How can I when I see the evidence of it every day? You
have left me practically without a friend; if that flatters you, enjoy
it to the utmost. The girl's eyes filled with tears.
Not without one, she sneered significantly; surely you
don't mean that?
The peach-blow color rose in the girl's cheeks.
No, she answered with a touch of defiance, not without one, or
two when it comes to that.
And who isthe other?
I can count on Mrs. Terriberry. Even you have no influence with
her, Dr. Harpe.
You are very sure of your two friends. The woman slouching over
the table looked more than ever like a bird of prey.
Very sure, Essie Tisdale answered, again in proud defiance.
Then of course you know that Van Lennop left Crowheart this
morning? She drawled the words in cruel enjoyment with her eyes fixed
upon the girl's face.
Her eyes shone malevolently as she saw it blanch.
Didn't he tell you he was going? I'm amazed.
The girl stood in stunned silence.
Yes, a telegram sent him to Mexico to look after some important
interests there. Quite unexpected. He left a letter for me saying
good-by and regretting that he would not be back. So you see, my dear
Essie, that when it comes to the actual count your friends have
simmered down to one. It was not enough that she should crush her, she
wanted somehow to wring from her a cry of pain.
You made a fool of yourself over him, Ess! The whole town laughed
at you. You should have known that a man like Van Lennop, of his
position, doesn't take a biscuit-shooter seriously. Green as you are
you should have known that. You've ruined yourself in Crowheart,
doggin' his footsteps every time he turned and all that sort of thing;
he simply couldn't shake you. You're done for here; you're down and out
and you might as well quit the flat. It's the best thing you can do, or
marry the first man that asks you and settle down.
Essie Tisdale looked at her, speechless with pain and shock. She had
no reply; in the face of such a leave-taking there seemed nothing for
her to say. Every taunt was like a stab in her aching heart because she
felt they must be true. It was true, else he would not have left
her without a word. What did it all mean? How could such sincerity be
false! Was no one true in all the world? Oh, the sickening misery of it
She turned away and left the dining-room, swaying a little as she
Dr. Harpe returned to her room with a smirk of deep satisfaction
upon her face.
I soaked the knife home that time, she murmured, pinning on
her stiff-brimmed Stetson before the mirror, but, mingled with her
gratification was a slight feeling of uneasiness because she had gone
farther than she had intended in mentioning Van Lennop's letter and
boasting that it had been left for her.
The pair of horses which she and Lamb owned in common was at the
stable already harnessed for their semi-weekly trip to the camps along
the Ditch, but Dr. Harpe turned their heads in the opposite direction
and by noon had reached the sheep-camp of old Edouard Dubois.
She hitched her horses to the shearing-pen and opened the unlocked
door of the cabin. A pan of freshly-made biscuit and a table covered
with unwashed breakfast dishes told her that the cabin was being
occupied, so she reasoned that it was safer to wait until some one
returned than to search the hills for Dubois.
A barking sheep-dog told her of some one's approach, and in relief
she went out to meet him, for she was restless and impatient of any
delay. But instead of the lumbering old French Canadian she saw the
Dago Duke coming leisurely from a near-by coulee, picturesque in the
unpicturesque garb of a sheep-herder.
If there was no welcoming smile upon her face the Dago Duke was the
last person to be embarrassed by the omission.
Ah, 'Angels unawares' and so forth. The Dago Duke swept his hat
from his head in a low bow. A rare pleasure, Doctor, to return and
find a lady
She flushed at the mocking emphasis.
Cut that out; any fool can be sarcastic.
You surprise and pain me. If it is sarcasm to refer to you as a
He waved his hand toward the coulee and she walked away.
The Dago Duke looked after her with an expression of amused
speculation in his handsome eyes. What deviltry was she up to now?
Addio, mia bella Napoli, he whistled. Addio! addio! What
difference did it make so long as she confined her activities to
Dubois?since he had no more liking for one than the other.
The Dago Duke had applied to Dubois for work as a sheep-herder and
After the memorable midnight session with pink lizards and the Gila
monster, the Dago Duke applied for work as a sheep-herder and got it,
chiefly because of his indifference to the question of wages.
I want to get away from the gilded palaces of vice and my
solicitous friends; I want to lead the simple, virtuous life of a
sheep-herder until my system recovers from a certain shock, explained
the applicant glibly, and something within me tells me that you are
not the man to refuse a job to a youth filled with such a worthy
Dubois grinned understandingly and gave him work at half a
sheep-herder's usual pay.
Whatever the nature of Dr. Harpe's business with his employer, the
interview appeared to have been eminently satisfactory to them both,
for she was smiling broadly, while Dubois seemed not only excited but
elated when they returned together.
He looked after her buggy as she drove away, and chuckled
Hashe brings me good newszat woman!
While the Dago Duke was warming up the fried potatoes and bacon,
which remained from breakfast, over the rusty camp-stove, Dubois was
diving under his bunk for a box from which he produced a yellowed shirt
and collar, together with a suit of black clothes, nearly new.
Per Iddio! 'Tis the Day of Judgment and you've gotten inside
information! jeered the Dago Duke.
Dubois showed his yellowed teeth.
Mais oui, 'eet is ze Resurrection.
I swear, you look like Napoleon, Dubois! gibed the Dago Duke, when
he was fully arrayed.
Why not? The Frenchman's face wore a complacent smirk. Ze Little
Corporal, he married a queen.
The frying-pan of fried potatoes all but dropped from the Dago
Duke's hand, while his employer enjoyed to the utmost the amazement
upon his face.
The lady doc?
Dubois threw up both hands in vehement protest.
Non, non! Mon Dieu, non, non!
The Dago Duke shrugged his shoulders impertinently.
You aim higher, perhaps?
Mais certes, he leered. Old Dubois has thirty thousand sheep.
To exchange for
A queen, ze belle of CrowheartMees Essie Teesdale!
The Dago Duke stared and continued to regard his employer fixedly.
Essie Tisdale! Had the solitude affected the old man's mind at last?
Was he crazy? How else account for the preposterous suggestion, his
colossal egotism? Why, Essie Tisdale, even to the Dago Duke's critical
eye, was like a delicately tinted prairie rose, while old Dubois with
his iron-gray hair bristling on his bullet-shaped head, his thick,
furrow-encircled neck, his swarthy, obstinate, brutal face, was
seventy, a remarkable seventy, it is true, but seventy, and far from
prepossessing. It was too absurd! It must be one of the lady doc's
practical jokesit was sufficiently indelicate, he told himself. At
any rate he would soon see Dubois returning crestfallen from his
courting expedition, and the sight, he felt, was one he should relish.
I'll reserve my congratulations until you come, said the Dago Duke
as he picked up his sheep-herder's staff and returned to his band of
You will have ze opportunity, my frien', grinned Dubois
Dr. Harpe had advised
Give her a night to cry her eyes out. Twenty-four hours will put a
crimp in her courage. Let the fact that she's jilted soak in. Give her
time to realize what she's up against in Crowheart.
And the woman had been right in her reasoning, for a night of tears
and grief, of shame and humiliation left Essie Tisdale with weakened
courage, mentally and physically spent.
Back of everything, above all else loomed in black and gigantic
proportions the fact that Van Lennop had gone away forever without a
word to her, that he even had thought less of her when it came to
leaving than of the woman whom he had seemed to avoid.
In the long hours of the night her tired brain constantly recalled
the things which he had said that had made her glow with happiness at
the time, but which she knew now were only the pleasant, idle words of
the people who came from the world east of the big hills. Dr. Harpe was
right when she had told her that in her ignorance of the world and its
men she had misunderstood the kindness Van Lennop would have shown to
any person in her position.
But he didn't show it to herhe didn't show it to anyone else but
me! she would whisper in a fierce joy, which was short-lived, for,
instantly, the crushing remembrance of his leave-taking confronted her.
Her face burned in the darkness when she remembered that Dr. Harpe
had taunted her with having displayed her love to all the town. She no
longer made any attempt to conceal it from herself, the sure knowledge
had come with Van Lennop's departure, and she whispered it aloud in the
darkness in glorious defiance, but the mood as quickly passed and her
face flamed scarlet at the thought that she had unwittingly showed her
precious secret to the unfriendly and curious.
She crept from bed and sat on the floor, with her folded arms upon
the window-sill, finding the night air good upon her hot face. She felt
weak, the weakness of black despair, for it seemed to her that her
faith in human nature had received its final shock. If only there was
some one upon whose shoulder she could lay her head she imagined that
it might not be half so hard. There was Mrs. Terriberry, but after what
had happened could she be sure even of Mrs. Terriberry? Could any
inconsequential person like herself be sure of anybody if it conflicted
with their interests? It seemed not. She shrank from voicing the
thought, but the truth was she dared not put Mrs. Terriberry's
friendship to any test.
The best way to have friends, she whispered bitterly with a lump
in her aching throat, is not to need them.
She dreaded the beginning of another day, but it must be gotten
through somehow, and not only that day but the day after that and all
the innumerable, dreary days ahead of her. Finally she crept shivering
to bed to await the ordeal of another to-morrow.
The long shadows of the afternoon's sun lay in the backyard of the
Terriberry House when Essie sat down in the doorway to rest before her
evening's work began. The girl's sad face rested in the palm of her
hand and her shoulders drooped wearily as Mrs. Abe Tutts in her blue
flannel yachting cap came down the road beside her friend Mrs. Jackson,
who rustled richly in the watered silk raincoat which advertised the
fact that she was either going to or returning from a social function.
Mrs. Jackson's raincoat was a sure signal of social activity.
Let's walk up clost along the fence and see how she's takin' it,
suggested Mrs. Tutts amiably. Gittin' the mitten is some of a pill to
swaller. Don't you speak to her, Mis' Jackson?
Mrs. Jackson glanced furtively over her shoulder and observed that
Mrs. Symes was still standing on the veranda.
If I come upon her face to face, but I don't go out of my way
a-tall, she added in unconscious imitation of Mrs. Symes's
newly-acquired languor of speech. One rully can't afford to after her
bein' so indiscreet and all.
Rotten, I says declared Mrs. Tutts tersely.
She looks kinda pale around the gills s'well as I can see from
here, opined Mrs. Jackson, staring critically as they passed along.
They tittered audibly. I tell you what, Mrs. Tutts, Essie ought to get
to work and marry some man what'll put her right up in society where
Alva put me.
A biting comment which it caused Mrs. Tutts real suffering to
suppress was upon the tip of that lady's tongue, but it was gradually
being borne in upon her that the first families were not given to
actual hand-to-hand conflicts, so she checked it and inquired
But could he, after ridin' over the country t'hout no chaperon and
Mrs. Tutts had only recently found out about chaperons and their
function, but, since she had she insisted upon them fiercely, and Mrs.
Jackson was finally forced to admit that this violation of the
conventions was indeed hard to overlook.
Essie Tisdale was too unhappy either to observe the passing of the
women or their failure to recognize her. In the presence of this new,
real grief their friendliness or lack of it seemed a small affair. The
only thing which mattered was Ogden Van Lennop's going. The sun, for
her, had gone down and with the inexperience of youth she did not
believe it ever would rise again.
The girl sat motionless, her chin still resting in her palm, until a
tremulous voice behind her spoke her name.
She turned to see Mrs. Terriberry, buttoned into her steel-colored
bodice and obviously flustered.
Yes? There was a trace of wonder in her voice.
At the sight of the pale face the girl upturned to her, Mrs.
Terriberry's courage nearly failed her in the task to which she had
Essie, she faltered, twisting her rings nervously, finally
blurting out, I'm afraid you'll have to go, Essie.
The girl started violently.
Go? she gasped. Go?
Mrs. Terriberry nodded, relieved that it was out.
But why? Why? It seemed too incredible to believe. This was the
very last thing she had expected, or thought of.
Mrs. Terriberry avoided her eyes; it was even harder than she had
anticipated. Why hadn't she let Hank Terriberry tell her himself!
Mrs. Terriberry was one of that numerous class whose naturally kind
hearts are ever warring with their bump of caution.
She was sorry now that she had been so impulsive in telling him all
that Dr. Harpe had whispered over the afternoon tea at Mrs. Symes's now
fashionable Thursday At Home. It was the first of the coveted cards
which Mrs. Terriberry had received and Dr. Harpe took care to adroitly
convey the information that the invitation was due to her, and Mrs.
Terriberry was correspondingly grateful.
You can't afford to keep her; you simply can't afford it, Mrs.
Terriberry, Dr. Harpe had whispered earnestly in a confidential
But, she had protested in feeble loyalty, but I like
Of course you do, Dr. Harpe had agreed magnanimously; so do I;
she's a really beautiful girl, but you know how it is in a small town
and I am telling you for your own good that you can't afford to harbor
I couldn't think of turning her out just when she needs a friend,
Mrs. Terriberry had replied with some decision, and Dr. Harpe's face
had hardened slightly at the answer.
It's your own affair, naturally, she had returned indifferently;
but I'll have to find accomodations elsewhere. If living in the same
house would injure me professionally, merely a boarder, you can guess
what it will do to you in a business way, and, she had added
Mrs. Terriberry had looked startled. After hanging to the fringe
until she was all but exhausted, it was small wonder that she had no
desire to again go through the harrowing experience of overcoming
Society's objections to a hotelkeeper's wife.
Certainly I don't blame you for hanging on to her as long as you
can, Dr. Harpe had added, and of course you would be the last to hear
all the gossip that there is about her. But, on the whole, isn't it
rather a high price to pay forwell, for a biscuit-shooter's
friendship? Such people really don't count, you know.
Mrs. Terriberry who had once shot biscuits in a Harvey's Eating
House murmured meekly
Of course not. But instantly ashamed of her weak disloyalty she
had declared with a show of spirit, However, unless Hank says she must
go she can stay, for Essie has come pretty close to bein' like my own
girl to me.
Dr. Harpe had been satisfied to let it rest at that, for she felt
sure enough of Terriberry's answer.
He needs my money, but if more pressure is necessary,she
sniggered at the recollection of Mr. Terriberry's sentimental
leaningsI can spend an hour with him in the light of the 'meller
Again Dr. Harpe was right. Mr. Terriberry needed the money, also his
fears took instant alarm at the thought of losing so popular and
influential a guest, one, who, as he told Mrs. Terriberry emphatically,
could do him a power of harm. The actual dismissal of the girl who had
grown to womanhood under his eyes he wisely left to his wife.
The girl stood up now, a slender, swaying figure: white, desolate,
with uplifted arms outstretched, she looked like a storm-whipped
Oh, what shall I do! Where shall I go!
The low, broken-hearted cry of despair set Mrs. Terriberry's plain
face in lines of distress.
Essie, Essie, don't feel so bad! she begged chokingly.
The girl's answer was a swift look of bitter reproach.
You can stay here until you find some place that suits you.
The girl shook her head.
To-morrow I'll gosomewhere.
Don't feel hard toward me, Essie, and she would have taken the
girl's hand, but she drew it quietly away and stood with folded arms in
an attitude of aloofness which was new to her.
It's not that; it's only that I don't want yourpity. I don't
think that I want anything you have to give. You have hurt me; you have
cut me to the quick and something is happeninghas happenedhere! She laid both hands upon her heart. I feel still and cold and sort
I understand perfectly, Mrs. Terriberry. You like meyou like me
very much, but you are one kind of a coward, and of what value is a
coward's friendship or regard? I don't mean to be impertinentI'm just
trying to explain how I feel. In your heart you believe in me, but you
are afraidafraid of public opinionafraid of being left out of the
teas and card parties which mean more to you than I do. You've known me
all my life and fail me at the first test.
I hate to hear you talk like that; it doesn't sound like Essie
Tisdale. But in her heart she knew the girl was right. She was a
coward; she had not the requisite courage to set her face against the
crowd, but must needs turn and run with them while every impulse and
instinct within her pulled the other way.
Doesn't it? The girl smiled bitterly. Why should it? Can't you
seedon't you understand that you've helped kill that Essie
Tisdalethat blundering, ignorant Essie Tisdale who liked everybody
and believed in everybody as she thought they liked and believed in
Dear me! oh, dear me! Mrs. Terriberry rubbed her forehead and
Any consecutive line of thought outside the usual channels pulled
Mrs. Terriberry down like a spell of sickness. She looked jaded from
the present conversation and her thoughts ran together bewilderingly.
I know to-night how an outlaw feels when the posse's at his heels
and he rides with murder in his heart, the girl went on with hardness
in her young voice. I know to-night why he makes them pay dear for his
life when he takes his last stand behind a rock.
Oh, Essie, don't! Mrs. Terriberry wrung her garnet and
moonstone-ringed fingers together in distress. You mustn't get
What real difference does it make to you or anybody else how I
get? she demanded fiercely, and added: You are showing me how much
when you advertise to all the town by turning me out that you believe
their evil tongues.
I'm goin' to talk to Hank again but Essie stopped her with a
You needn't. I don't want pity, I tell you, I don't want favors. I
am going to-morrow. There is some way out. There is a place in the
world for me somewhere and I'll find it.
She turned away and walked toward the corral where the black omnibus
horses nickered softly at her coming, while Alphonse and Gaston stood
on their hind legs and squealed a vociferous welcome.
My only friends and she smiled bitterly.
She winced when she saw a new face passing the kitchen door and
realized that Mr. Terriberry already had filled her place. It was only
one small thing more, but it brought again the feeling that the world
was sinking beneath her feet.
She stood for a long time with her forehead resting on her folded
arms which lay upon the top rail of the corral. The big 'bus horses
shoved her gently with their soft muzzles, impatient to be noticed, but
she did not lift her head until a step upon the hard-trodden yard
roused her from her apathy of dull misery. She glanced around
indifferently to see old Edouard Dubois lumbering toward her in the
fast gathering dusk.
Dubois's self-conscious, ingratiating smile did not fade because she
drew her arched eyebrows together in a slight frown. It took more than
an unwelcoming face to divert the obstinate old Frenchman from any
purpose firmly fixed in his mind.
HaI am ver' glad to find you alone, Mees Teesdale, I lak have
leetle talk with you. There was a purposeful look behind his set smile
She shrank from him a little as he came close to her, but he
appeared not to notice the movement, and went on
I hear you are in troubleeh? I hear you get fire from ze hotel?
Again the girl's face took on its new look of bitterness. That was
the way in which they were expressing it, spreading the news throughout
the town. They were losing no timeher friends.
'Fired' is the word when a biscuit-shooter is dismissed, she
I hear you get lef' by that loafer, too. I tole you, mam'selle,
that fellow Van Lennop no good. I know that kind, I see that kind
before, Mees Teesdale. Lak every pretty girl an' have good time, then
'pouf!zat is all!
She turned upon him hotly, her face a mixture of humiliation and
You can't criticise him to me, Mr. Dubois! I won't listen. If I
have been fool enough to misunderstand his kindness that's my fault,
Dubois's eyes became suddenly inscrutable. After a moment's silence
he said quietly
You love heem, I think. Zat iss too bad for you. What you do now,
Mees Teesdale? Where you go?
He saw that her clasped hands tightened at the question, though she
I don't know, not yet.
Perhaps you marry me, mam'selle? I ask you onceI haf not change
She stared at him with a kind of terror in her eyes.
Was this her way out! Was this the place that somewhere in
the world she had declared defiantly was meant for her? Was it the
purpose of the Fates to crowd her down and outuntil she was glad to
fill ita punishment for her ambitionsfor daring to believe she was
intended for some other life than this?
Upon that previous occasion when the old Frenchman had made her the
offer of marriage which had seemed so grotesque and impossible at the
time, he had asserted in his pique, You might be glad to marry old
Edouard Dubois some day, and she had turned her back upon him in light
contemptnow she was, not glad, she could never be that, but grateful.
But Idon't love you. Her voice sounded strained and hoarse.
Zat question I did not ask youI ask you will you marry me? He
did not wait for an answer, but went on persuasively, yet stating the
bald and hopeless facts that seemed so crushing to her youth and
inexperience. You have no parentno home, Mees Teesdale; you have no
money and not so many friend in Crowheart. You marry me and all is
change. You have good home and many friends, because, he chuckled
shrewdly, when I die you have thirty thousand sheep. Plenty sheep,
plenty friends, my girl. How you like be the richest woman in this big
The girl was listening, that was something; and she was thinking
Money! how they all harped upon it!when she had thought the most
important thing in the world was love. Even Ogden Van Lennop she
remembered had called it the great essential and now she saw that old
Edouard Dubois who had lived for seventy years regarded it in a wholly
When you marry me you have no more worry, no more trouble, no more
Her lips moved; she was repeating to herself
No more worry, no more trouble, no more tears.
She was bewildered with the problems which confronted her,
frightened by the overwhelming odds against her, tired of thinking,
sick to death of the humiliation of her position. She stopped the
guttural, wheedling voice with a quick, vehement gesture.
Give me time to thinkgive me until to-morrow morning.
What time to-morrow morning?
At ten o'clock,there was desperation in her faceat ten
to-morrow I will tell you 'yes' or 'no.'
She was clutching at a straw, clinging to a faint hope which had not
entirely deserted her: she might yet get a letter from Van Lennop, just
a line to let her know that he cared enough to send it; and if it came,
a single sentence, she knew well enough what her answer to Dubois would
Until to-morrow. The old Frenchman bowed low in clumsy and
unaccustomed politeness, but gloating satisfaction shone from his
deep-set eyes, small and hard as two gray marbles.
XX. AN UNFORTUNATE AFFAIR
Billy Duncan was in a bad way, so it was reported to the men upon
the works, and the men to show their sympathy and liking for the
fair-haired, happy-go-lucky Billy Duncan made up a purse of $90 and
sent it to him by Dan Treu, the big deputy-sheriff, who also was Billy
It'll buy fruit for the kid, something to read, and a special nurse
if he needs one, they told the deputy and they gave the money with the
warmest of good wishes.
Dan Treu took their gift to the hospital, and Billy Duncan burst
into tears when he saw him.
Oh, come, come! Buck up, Billy, you're goin' to pull through all
Dan! Dan! Take me out of heretake me away! Quick!
The deputy looked his surprise.
What's the matter, Billy? What's wrong?
Everything's wrong, Dan, everything! His voice was shrill in his
weakness. I'm goin' to croak if you don't get me out of here!
Dan Treu bent over him and patted his shoulder as he would have
comforted a child.
There, there, don't talk like that, Billy. You're not goin' to
croak. You're a little down in the mouth, that's all. He glanced
around the tiny room. It looks clean and comfortable here; you're
lucky to have a place like this to go to and Doc's a blamed good
fellow. She'll pull you through.
But she ain't, Danshe ain't anything that we thought. Lay here
sick if you want to find her out. She thinks we don't count, us fellows
on the works, and Lamb's no better, only he's more sneakin'he hasn't
her gall. He searched the deputy's face for a moment then cried
pitifully, You don't believe me, Dan. You think I'm sore about
something and stretchin' the truth. It's so, DanI tell you they left
me here the night I was brought in until the next forenoon without
touchin' my arm. They've never half cleaned the hole out. It's swelled
to the shoulder and little pieces of my shirt keep sloughing out. Any
cowpuncher with a jack-knife could do a better job than they have done.
They don't know how, Dan, and what's worse they don't care!
He reached for the deputy's hand and clung to it as he begged
My God! Dan, won't you believe me and get me out of here? Honest,
honest, I'm goin' to die if you don't!
In his growing excitement the boy's voice rose to a penetrating
pitch and it brought Lamb quickly from the office in the front. He
looked disconcerted for an instant when he saw the deputy, for he had
not known of his presence in the hospital. Glancing from one to the
other he read something of the situation in Billy Duncan's excited face
and Dan Treu's puzzled look. Stepping back from the doorway he beckoned
the deputy into the hall.
I guess he was talkin' wild, wasn't he? He walked out of the sick
boy's hearing. Kickin', wasn't he?
Dan Treu hesitated.
I thought as much, nodded Lamb. But you mustn't pay any attention
to him. His fever's way up and he's out of his head most of the time.
He seems to think his arm ain't had the care it should,Treu's
voice was troubledthat the wound ain't clean and it's swellin' bad.
His hallucination; he's way off at times. Everything's been done
for him. We like the boy and he's havin' the best of care. Why, we
couldn't afford to have it get around that we neglect our patients, so
you see what he says ain't sense.
The deputy-sheriff's face cleared gradually at Lamb's explanation
Yes, I guess he is a little 'off,' though I must say he don't
exactly look it. But do all you can for him, Lamb, for Billy's a fine
chap at heart and he's a friend of mine. The boys have raised some
money for any extras that he wantsI put it under his pillow.
Lamb brightened perceptibly.
That's a good thing, because seein' as how he wasn't hurt on the
works he'll have to pay like any private patient and of course we'd
like to see where our money is comin' from. I've asked him for the
moneyhis week is up to-daybut he don't seem to think he owes it.
Kind of strikes me the same way, replied the deputy obviously
That's accordin' to contractthat's the written agreement. Lamb's
nasal voice immediately became argumentative.
It may be that,the deputy looked at him soberlybut it don't
sound like common humanity to meor fairness. He's been paying a
dollar a month to you and your hospital ever since it started and
hundreds of men who have no need of its services have been doin' the
same, and I must say, Lamb, it sounds like pretty small potatoes for
you to charge him for an outside accident like this because your
contract will let you do it and get away with it.
We ain't here for our health, be we? demanded Lamb, offensively on
It don't look like it, Treu replied shortly.
But he'll want for nothin' while he's under our care. Lamb's tone
grew suddenly conciliatory. You'd better go now, your presence excites
him and he must have quiet. Step to the door and say good-by, if you
like, but no conversation, please.
Adios, Billy! The deputy thrust his head and broad shoulders in
the doorway. I'll come again soon.
Good-by, Dan, good-by for keeps, old man. I don't believe I'll be
here when you come again. All the excitement was gone and the boy
spoke in the quiet voice of conviction. You're quittin' me, Dan. You
don't believe me and the jig's up. You'd risk your life to save me if I
was drowning or up against it in a fight, but you're walkin' away and
leavin' me here to die. You don't believe me now, but I know you're
goin' to find out some time for yourself that I'm tellin' the truth
when I say that I've been murdered. There's more ways to kill a man
than with a gun. Ignorance and neglect does the trick as well. Tell the
boys 'much obliged,' Dan. He turned his white face to the wall and the
tears slipped hot from beneath his lashes.
Dan Treu's troubled eyes sought Lamb's, who waited in the hallway.
He'll be himself when you come again, said Lamb reassuringly.
We're doin' everything to git his fever down. Don't let his talk worry
But in spite of Lamb's confident assurance Dan Treu walked away from
the hospital filled with a sense of oppression which lasted throughout
the day. The next morning he heard upon the street that they had
amputated Billy Duncan's arm.
Amputated Billy Duncan's arm! The deputy-sheriff kept saying it
over and over to himself as he hurried to the hospital. He was shocked;
he was filled with a regret that was personal in its poignancy. He knew
exactly what such a loss meant to Billy Duncan, who earned his living
with his hands and gloried in his strengthindependent young Billy
Duncan an object of pity in his mutilated manhood! Dan Treu could not
entirely realize it yet.
Lamb met him at the hospital door as though he had awaited his
Blood-poisonin' set in, he began with a haste which seemed due to
excitement. Developed sudden. Had to amputate to save his life. He was
willin' enough; he knew it was for the best, his only chance in fact.
Dan Treu was seized with a sudden aversion for Lamb's shifty,
dark-circled eyes, his unconvincing nasal voice.
Blood-poisonin' set in, you say? He eyed Lamb steadily.
His habits, you know, battin' around and all that. Bad blood.
Bad bloodhell! said Dan Treu sharply. His blood was as good as
yours or mine, and his habits too.
He made to step inside, but Lamb stopped him.
He hasn't come out of the ether yetI'll let you know when you can
There was nothing more to say, so Dan Treu turned on his heel and
walked away, angry, scepticalwithout exactly knowing why.
The aversion which Lamb had inspired was still strong within him
when he stopped on a street corner to ruminate and incidentally roll a
When he gets close I feel like I do when a wet dog comes out of the
crick and is goin' to shake. The deputy felt uncommonly pleased with
the simile which so well described his feelings.
Dan Treu did not receive the promised notification that Billy Duncan
was in a condition to be seen, which was not strange, since Billy
Duncan was dyingdying because a man and woman whose diplomas licensed
them to juggle with human life and limb were unable in their ignorance
and inexperience to stop the flow of blood. Vital, life-loving,
happy-go-lucky Billy Duncan lay limp on his narrow bed in the bare,
white room, filled with a great heart-sickness at the uselessness of
it, the helpless ignominy of dying like a stuck pig! With a last effort
he turned his head upon his pillow and through the window by his
bedside watched the colors of the distant foothills change from gold to
purplepurple like the shadows of the Big Dark for which he was bound.
And when at last the night shut out the world he loved so well, Billy
Duncan cougheda choking, strangling cough and died alone.
Nell Beecroft learned it first when she brought the soup and prunes
which she was pleased to call his supper. She set the tray upon the bed
and stood with arms akimbo looking down upon him. The boyish look of
him as he lay so still brought the thought home to her for the first
time that somewhere in the world there was some onea mothera woman
like herself who loved young Billy Duncan. She stooped and with rough
gentleness brushed a lock of fair hair from his forehead.
Poor devil! she murmured.
He's dead. She conveyed the news shortly when Lamb came to make
his nightly round.
The kidBilly Duncan.
Lamb looked startled. It had come sooner than he thought. Recovering
himself, he wagged his head and sighed in his pious whine:
Ah, truly, 'the wages of sin is death.' Altogether a most
unfortunate affair, but no human skill could save him. His voice
faltered a little, at the end, for pretence seemed ridiculous beneath
Nell Beecroft's hard eyes, and her unpleasant laugh nettled him as she
strode back to the kitchen.
Yes, Billy Duncan was deadthere was no doubt about thatperfectly
and safely dead. There was no question of it in Dr. Lamb's mind when he
slipped his hand beneath the pillow and withdrew the $90 which Billy
Duncan had so obstinately refused to turn over toward his hospital
expenses. Ninety dollars; yes, it was all there; Lamb counted it
carefully. Little enough for the trouble and anxiety he had been. The
eminent surgeon's waistcoat bulged with the gift of Billy Duncan's
friends when he closed the door behind him.
A curious stillness came over Dan Treu when Lamb himself brought the
news that Billy Duncan was dead. His jaw dropped slightly and he forgot
The shockhis weakened conditionit was to be expected, though we
hoped for the best. Lamb found it something of an effort to speak
naturally beneath the Deputy-sheriff's fixed gaze. But he wanted for
nothing. Me and the nurse was with him at the last.
A mist blurred Dan Treu's eyes and he turned abruptly on his heel.
Wait a minute! Ahem! there's one thing more.
The deputy halted.
You will arrange with the County about his funeral expenses?
With the County? Billy Duncan's no pauper.
Why ain't he? I've been around and found out he's got nothin' in
You have? He eyed Lamb for a moment. Billy Duncan will not be
buried by the County, he finished curtly.
I'm glad to hear that, said Lamb conciliatingly, and added: Of
course you're not counting on that $90?
There must be some left.
Oh, nonothing. Arm amputations are a $100. We are really out
$10more than that with his board and all, buthis tone was
magnanimity itselflet it go.
When the Deputy-sheriff went out on the works and raised $125 more
among Billy Duncan's friends, he handed it to Lutz, the hospital
undertaker, and said
The best you can do for the money, Lutz. I've got to go to the
County seat on a case and I can't be here myself. Billy was a personal
friend of mine, so treat him right.
Sure; we can turn him out first-class for that money; a new suit of
clothes and a tony coffin. Any friend of yours I'll handle like he was
There was something slightly jocular in his tone, a flippancy which
Dan Treu felt and silently resented. He looked at Lutz in his shiny,
black diagonals, undersized, sallow, his meaningless brown eyes as dull
as the eyes of a dead fish, and he thought to himself as he walked
That feller's in the right business, and, by gosh, he's thrown in
with the right bunch.
The grave-digger's mouth puckered in a whistle when Lutz went to his
home to notify him that his services were needed.
The undertaker grinned.
I'm about used up from gittin' robbed of my rest, complained the
grave-digger. This night-work ain't to my taste.
It's no use kickin'; you know what Lamb saysthat these daylight
buryin's makes talk amongst the neighbors.
Should think it would, retorted the grave-digger, with them
typhoids dyin' like flies.
I thought of a joke, Lem.
Undertakin' is a comical business; what is it?
When an undertaker's sick ought he to go to the doctor what gives
him the most work or the least?
You got me; I'll think it over and let you know.
In spite of his garrulous complaints the grave-digger was at work in
a new grave on the sagebrush flat a mile or more from town when the
undertaker and the liveryman drove up at midnight with all that
remained of Billy Duncan jolting in the box of a lumber wagon.
The coffin of unplaned lumber was unloaded at the grave and the
liveryman hastened away, for he himself had no liking for these
nocturnal drives, but neither was he the man to quarrel with his own
interests. If the Health Officer and His Honor, the mayor, asked no
questions when the hospital deaths went unreported, he felt that these
frequent midnight pilgrimages were no concern of his.
The undertaker peered into the shallow grave.
This hole looks like a chicken had been dustin' itself.
You'd think it was deep enough if you was diggin' in these rocks
and drawin' only $5.00 for it, was the tart reply. I told you I
wouldn't dig but three feet for that money. 'Tain't like diggin' in
nice, easy Nebrasky soil. Gimme $10 a grave an' I'll dig 'em regalation
Quit jawin' and take holt of this here box.
Is he heavy?
Never heard of any of 'em comin' out of there fat. Slide the strap
under your end.
He's heavier than most, grunted the grave-digger. He couldn't a
been in there long.
They made a quick job of this one. Steady nowlet her slide.
The grave-digger was sleepy and cross and careless. The strap
slipped through his fingers and the box fell with a heavy thud. It fell
upon its side and the lid came off.
My God! The grave-digger was staring into the hole with all his
You fool! You clumsy, blunderin' fool!
The epithet passed unheard, for the grave-digger was looking at the
stark body rolled in a soiled blanket now lying face downward in the
dirt of the grave.
Jump in there and put him back! cried Lutz excitedly.
The grave-digger backed off and shook his head emphatically.
What are you here foryou?
Not for jobs like this; this sure don't look right to me.
What do I care how it looks to you! Get busy and help me roll him
back and be quick about it!
I ain't paid for no such crooked work as this.
I've heard it straight that every pauper had a suit o' clothes, a
coffin, a six-foot grave, and a headboard comin' to him from the
County. That's the law.
Look here, Lem, use a little sense. Now what's the use spendin'
County money on these paupers from God knows where? That's a good
Oh, yes, that's a peach of a blanket. Kind of a shame to waste such
a good blanket, ain't it? Why don't you take it off him? He'll never
tell. But say, are you sure the County don't pay for that suit of
clothes and coffin and six feet of diggin' he didn't git?
Are you goin' to lend a hand here or not?
Not. The grave-digger picked up his shovel and started off looking
like a gnome in the moonlight under his high-crowned Stetson.
Come back here! Don't be a fool.
I'm not the man you're lookin' for, he replied stubbornly.
The undertaker started after him and laid a hand roughly upon his
See here, Lem, you goin' to blab this all over town?
Remembering the graves he had dug for $5.00, the grave-digger began
to enjoy Lutz's anxiety.
Can't tell what I'll do when I get a few drinks in me.
You start somethin' and you'll be sorry. Lutz's tone was
I'm naturally truthful; I aims to stick strictly to facts if I does
Facts don't cut any ice in a libel suit, replied the undertaker
Libel suit! That sounded like the law and the grave-digger had a
poor man's fear of the law. There was less assurance in his voice when
No man don't own me.
I don't want to see you get in trouble, Lem, and I'm tellin' you
for your own good that you better keep your trap shut on this. Who'd
believe you if you'd tell any such story? You couldn't prove anything
with the mayor and town officer against you if it was anything likely
to get out and hurt the town. Who of Lamb and Harpe's friends that see
them pikin' off to church every Sunday, singin' their sa'ms and the
first at the altar of a Communion Sunday, who, I say, would believe us
if we'd tell what we knew about that hospital and the whole lot more
that we suspect? They could bluff you out because you haven't got the
money it would take to prove you're right. Come back here and behave
yourself and I'll try and get you that $10.
If I wasn't a family man mumbled the grave-digger.
But you are, and it's no use bein' squeamish over somethin' that's
none of your business. This is your bread and butter.
It was the argument which has tied men's tongues since the world
began and it never grows less effective. The shovel dropped from the
Hop in here and help me roll him back.
The grave-digger reluctantly obeyed.
This looks fierce to me. He wiped the cold perspiration from his
Take a rock and hammer in them shingle-nails and forget it!
When Dan Treu returned from his business trip to the County seat the
undertaker met him smilingly.
I made a fine show for the money, Dan; you'd have been pleased.
Everything was plain but good and went off without a slip. I handled
him as I promisedlike he was my own.
The few in Crowheart who heard the story laughed openly at the
statement which Giovanni Pelezzo made when he returned to camp one day
and declared that while seated in the doorway of the operating room of
the hospital he had turned in time to see Dr. Harpe take five dollars
and some small change from the pocket of his cousin Antonio Pelezzo,
whom she had etherized for a minor operation.
Although Antonio turned his empty pockets inside out to verify
Giovanni's stoutly reiterated assertion, the camp ridiculed their story
and none laughed more heartily at the absurdity of the tale than Dr.
Harpe herself. When she declared that it was only one illustration of
the lengths to which ignorant and suspicious foreigners would go, her
listeners agreed that she must indeed have much with which to contend
in practising her profession among such a class of people as were
employed upon the project.
The only person who did not laugh, beside the countrymen of the two
Italians, was Dan Treu. He made no comment when he heard the tale, but
he sat for a long time on the corner of the White Elephant's billiard
table, holding a cigarette which he forgot to smoke.
XXI. TURNING A CORNER
Andy P. Symes was much occupied with his own thoughts, he was not
sleeping well and all food tasted much alike, while the adulation of
his fellow-townsmen did not afford him the usual pleasure. These
symptoms are most frequently associated with lack of funds, and in this
respect Mr. Symes's case was not a peculiar one, the fact being that
the total of the month's payroll exceeded the amount in the
treasurywith no relief in sightinterest in the great Symes
Irrigation Project having seemed suddenly to lag in financial circles.
Maybe I imagine it, Mudge, the promoter, had written, but it
looks to me as though Capital was giving us the frosty mitt. They won't
even listen. I can't raise a dollar among the stockholders or sell a
bond. Could anybody have been knocking the proposition?
Symes had written back
Ridiculous! Who would knock? I have no enemies of sufficient
importance to hurt me, and particularly back there. Do your utmost, for
the situation is growing critical heredesperate, in fact.
And desperate was the word when Symes contemplated going into his
own pocket for money to make up the deficitmoney which he had told
himself he would salt away against that rainy day with which he had
become all too familiar.
Symes's private bank account had grown to quite a respectable sum
since that memorable morning when he had received word that his balance
was in the red. If he was given a confidential discount upon machinery
for which he charged the company full price, was he not entitled to the
difference? If he received a modest revenue from his manipulation of
the commissary, and the hospital contract contributed its mite, was it
not all in the game? Wasn't it done every day by men in similar
positions and as honest as himself? It was legitimate enough,
certainly, and, if he did not mention it, it was because it was his own
The longer and harder Symes walked the floor the more he realized
that payday must be met. Labor was not an account which could wait.
Nothing would so arouse suspicion and hurt his credit as a dilatory
payday. Local merchants would come down upon him like a thousand of
brick for the settlement of the large accounts which at the present
moment they were rather proud of his owing.
The impression was general that the affairs of the Symes Irrigation
Company were entirely satisfactory, and Symes's credit had only been
limited by the local merchants' own credit.
Heretofore the treasury had been replenished through the activities
of Mudge, but it was now disturbingly low and payday was close, while
instead of the expected check from the promoter came his disquieting
Mudge is losin' his grip; he's gettin' timid, Symes thought
irritably. I may have to go back myself and raise the wind. His
success with J. Collins Prescott had given him added confidence in his
abilities along this line.
The estate which Prescott represented were now the largest
bondholders and at the time of the purchase Symes had chortled
If we can just get this crowd in deep enough they won't dare lay
down if we get in a hole. They've got to see the proposition through to
Yes, Mudge had agreed doubtfully, but you gotta be careful. And
added in the tone of a specialist in the delicate art of handling
capital: You can't force or crowd 'em, for once they get their necks
bowed they'd sooner drop their pile than give an inch.
The question which Symes was now trying to decide was whether it was
better to meet payday with his own money and trust Mudge to raise
sufficient to reimburse him and meet the next payday or to bare the
situation to the stock and bondholders and make an imperative demand
In the end Symes's own money met the payroll, and the sensation of
checking it out was much like parting with his heart's blood. Though it
was a relief to feel that his credit was still good and that he could
continue to shine in the community for another month as its one large,
luminous star, it also brought the cold perspiration out on him when he
woke up in the night and remembered where this noble act had placed
him. He was worse than penniless if Mudge could not raise more money,
but this he refused to believe a possibility.
In the days which followed, the circles deepened beneath his eyes,
his high color faded and Mudge's laconic messages Nothing doing were
not calculated to restore it. As the time shortened toward another
payday there were moments when Symes felt that his overtaxed nerves
nearly had reached their limit. There was no rest or solace for him in
his home, for when Augusta was not away with Dr. Harpe the latter was
there to remind him of the skeleton jangling in his closet. He came and
went beneath the cold eyes of the one and the half-contemptuous glances
of the other, like, as he told himself, a necessary but objectionable
He no longer found diversion in his nightly game of slough in the
card room of the Terriberry House, for they became only occasions to
remind him that he owed his fellow-players more than he could ever hope
to pay if Mudge did not dispose of more bonds quickly or the
stockholders did not come through, as he phrased it. He knew fairly
well the financial resources of those whom he had favored with his
liberal patronage and realized that they were doomed to go down with
him to that limbo provided for the over-sanguine and the over-trusting.
At last the black day came when the treasury could not meet the
smallest bills. Delay was no longer possible. He must play his last
card. An imperative call must be made upon the stockholders and Symes
telegraphed Mudge to this effect.
Symes dreaded the reply, yet he tried to bolster his courage with
the argument which had seemed so potent at the time he used it, namely,
that they were all in too deep to refuse aid at this crisis. Symes
imagined that he could almost see himself growing old in the hours of
suspense which followed the sending of the telegram.
Symes's hand shook noticeably when he took the yellow sheet from the
operator who delivered it in person. The message read:
Turned down cold. Something wrong. Letter follows.
Symes's towering figure seemed to crumple in the office chair.
Abe Tutts to whom he owed $2500 for hay and grain waved a genial
hand as he passed the door.
How goes it? he called.
Great! and the boastful reply sickened him.
Greatwhen he was ruined!
It was the sentence Something wrong which gave Symes that weak
feeling in his knees. To what did Mudge refer, to the stock and
bondholders or to the project and himself? Must he go about for the
four days which must intervene before a letter could reach him with
that sinking sensation in the pit of his stomach, that curious limpness
of his spine?
He lived through it somehow without betraying himself and when
Mudge's letter came it read in part:
Your theory regarding the extraction of funds from stockholders is
all right only it don't work. When I called a meeting and suggested
that they raise more money among themselves to relieve the present
situation and protect their interests, they cut me off at the pockets.
That Fly-trap King of yours said, 'If that's all you got us
together for, Mudge, we might as well get to hell out of here because
I, for one, don't propose to put another cent into the propositionMy
Wife Won't Let Me.'
The air was so chilly I could see my own breath and my last
winter's chilblains began to hurt.
'Gentlemen,' I said, 'I don't understand your attitude in this
matter. We've got to raise this money to save ourselves. The
proposition is as good as it ever was.'
'We don't doubt that,' says Prescott in that infernally quiet way
of his that makes your ears tingle, and a grin like a slice of
watermelon went round.
I tell you, Symes, something or somebody has queered us here and if
you can find out who or what it is you can do more than I've been able
to do. Haven't you got some powerful enemy? Is there any weak spot in
the proposition? Rack your brains and let me know the result.
These fellows don't seem worried and that's the strange part of it,
for I know that some of them have got in a whole lot more than they can
afford to lose.
Whatever's at the bottom of it, it's mighty effective, for I'm up
against a blank wall. I've exhausted every resource and I can't raise a
dollar. If only we dared advertise the land and get some purchasers to
make part payments down it would keep things moving for a while, but I
suppose this is out of the question.
Was it? Symes laid the letter down. It was against the law to sell
land before the water was actually upon it, but was it out of the
In his desperation Symes decided that it was not.
Casually imparting the information to the Crowheart Courier
that he was going out to meet a party of millionaires who were anxious
to invest, Symes packed his suitcase and arrived in the State Capital
as soon as an express train could get him there.
When he appeared before the State Land Board the arguments he used
to that body never were made public, but they were sufficiently
convincing to enable him to send a guarded telegram to Mudge that night
telling him to prepare additional literature and commence a campaign of
advertisement. Also to arrange with the railroad for a Homeseekers'
Excursion at as early a date as possible.
The telegram restored Mudge's faith in Symes, revived his waning
enthusiasm and courage. He composed a pamphlet for distribution among
Eastern and Middle West farmers, from which he quoted extracts to his
wife in the middle of the night, awakening her for that purpose.
Extend a hand to Nature and she meets you with outstretched arms!
Tickle the soil and it laughs gold!
Wouldn't that start a man-milliner to raising alfalfa? demanded
Mudge upon such occasions.
Where the clouds never lower and the sun shines always. Where the
perfumed zephyrs fan the cheeks of men and brothers. The Perfect
Climate found at last! Crowheart the Gem of the Rockies! within easy
reach. Buy a ticket for $29.50 and breathe the Elixir of Life while you
look over our unequalled proposition.
That ought to catch all the lungers in the world, averred Mudge.
That the promoter's confidence in the merits of his pamphlet was
justified was soon evidenced by the flood of inquiries and requests for
additional information which came by mail while his office became a
mecca for the restless and the land hungry who read his vivid
description of the great Symes irrigation project which was making the
desert bloom like the rose.
They came in droves to ask questions and to stare at the
twenty-pound beet which sat conspicuously upon Mudge's desk and their
jaws dropped when he explained carelessly
A runt from under the Mormon ditch; we raise bigger on our
They studied the map of the neatly plotted townsite of Symes with
its substantial bank building, its park, its boulevards, its public
school building and band-stand.
That's goin' to be some town, Mudge told each with a confidential
air, and you've got a chance to make something if you gobble up a
corner lot or two before prices soar. Quick turns while the boom is on
is the way to do it in the West.
Mudge believed all that he said, because he believed in Symes; that
is, he was convinced that all would be as he represented as soon as
Symes could be provided with money to complete the project, and if he
permitted his imagination to take liberties with the truth, it was
solely because he felt that the end justified the means. He assured
himself that all would be forgotten and forgiven in the ultimate
success of the enterprise and so great was his faith in it and its
efficient management that his own money paid for the pamphlets and the
half-page newspaper advertisements which told the world of the
Homeseekers' Excursion to the great Symes Irrigation Project where the
desert was blooming like the rose. If at times there came to him, as
there did to Symes, chilling thoughts of the exact meaning of failure
should their plans miscarry, he did not allow them to long dampen his
We'll put it through somehow! he declared vehemently.
There'll be a trainload of these Homeseekers, and, out of a bunch like
that, surely some of 'em will stick even if it isn'twellnot
quite exactly in the shape they expect to find it. They'll see the
merits of the proposition and make allowances for my enthusiasm; and if
we can work this once we can work it again. Mudge insisted to himself
resolutely, I'm not the man to be stumped by a few obstacles, I can't
afford to be identified with failures and we'll put this thing through
if S. B. Mudge goes broke trying.
The stock and bondholders had something of the attitude of blasé
spectators at a circus, regarding Mudge's sensational efforts calmly,
without applause or protest. A curious attitude, Mudge thought, for
persons so vitally concerned, and there were times, after a chance
meeting with Prescott, for instance, when Mudge wondered if they really
were as indifferent as they seemed. That Prescott had an amazing
knowledge of the situation for one in a position to know so little was
evidenced by an occasional pertinent comment. But Mudge was too busy
getting his Homeseekers in line to attempt the solution of any
mysteries on the side.
In Crowheart the coming excursion of Homeseekers was the chief
theme. Its citizens were elated at the wide publicity which the
Company's advertising campaign was giving to the town, and increased
deference to Symes was the result, for the merchants of Crowheart made
no secret of the fact among themselves that without the payroll of the
Symes Irrigation Project real money would be uncommonly scarce, and
should the project failthe remote possibility made them shudder.
Gradually it had dawned upon these venturesome pioneers from way back
East in Nebraska that the surrounding country had few if any resources
and without the opening of fresh territory Crowheart's future was one
they preferred not to contemplate.
If they wondered somewhat at the elasticity of the law, Symes's
ability to stretch it only demonstrated still further his power, his
ability to bend men and things to his iron will, and their awe of him
increased proportionately. To the isolated community of obscure persons
Symes seemed very nearly omnipotent. They had no criticism to make of
the law's adaptability to Symes's needs; it was enough for them that
Crowheart was in the limelight and the influx of settlers meant their
It soon became obvious from the sale of excursion tickets that the
Terriberry House would not be able to accommodate the Homeseekers.
Not a carload but a trainload! said Symes jubilantly to the editor
of the Crowheart Courier, and Sylvester dashed off a double
leaded plea to the first families of Crowheart to throw open their
homes and do their utmost to make the strangers feel that they would
be received upon terms of equality and find a welcome in their midst.
Crowheart's citizens responded magnificently to the appeal. The
Percy Parrotts threw open their three-roomed residence and made
arrangements to sleep in the hay, while their self-sacrificing example
was quickly followed by others. Neither the Cowboy Band nor the
neighbors knew either rest or sleep until they had mastered a Sousa
March, while Mrs. Tutts showed her public spirit by rehearsing
Crowheart's talented amateurs in an emergency performance of the Lady
of Lyons for the strangers' evening entertainment.
Every available vehicle was engaged by Symes to convey the
excursionists to the project and a committee chosen to meet them on the
cinders at the station, himself to greet them in a few neat words.
With so much upon his mind, so many responsibilities upon his
shoulders, it is small wonder that the little formality of payday
should slip by without being properly observed. When it was called to
his attention his explanation sounded reasonable enough.
I'm just so busy now, boys, that I haven't the time to attend to
your checks. But your money's as safe as though it was in the Bank of
England, and if you'll oblige me by waiting until this excursion is
over I'll greatly appreciate it.
Sure! they replied heartily, and indeed it was a pleasure to do
Andy P. Symes a favor when he asked it in his big, genial voice. Take
your time, Mr. Symes, we are in no rush. In his magnetic presence they
had quite forgotten that they were in a rush; besides, it was plain
that he had more than one man should be expected to attend to, and no
one dreamed that a dollar dropped in the treasury would have echoed
like a rock falling in a well.
Like Mudge, Symes was convinced that out of a trainload of
Homeseekers some of them would stick. The inducement to do so was the
privilege of the first choice of the 160-acre tractsfor a substantial
But those who did not stick?those who were strongly under the
impression that the water was already flowing through the ditch or that
it was so near completion that it would do so shortlywould they
beirritated? As the day of the excursion approached the disquieting
thought came with increasing frequency to Symes that they would
XXII. CROWHEART'S FIRST MURDER
The postmaster's curt nothing was like a judge's sentence to Essie
Tisdale, for it meant to her the end of things. And now the marriage
ceremony was over. She looked at the gold band upon her finger with a
heavy, sinking heart. She must wear it always, she was thinking, to
remind her that she had sold herself for a place to lay her head and
thirty thousand sheep.
The jocose congratulations of the burly Justice of the Peace went
unanswered and her eyes swept the smirking, curious faces of the
bystanders without recognition. She heard Dubois's guttural voice
Go there to ze hotel, my dear, and get your clothes. Ze wagon is at
ze shop for repairs and there you meet me. I've got to get back to ze
sheep for awhile. You will haf good rest in ze hills.
The lonely hills with Dubois for company! A shiver like a chill
passed over her. Returning to the hotel she found that the news had
preceded her, for Mrs. Terriberry rushed down upon her with
Why didn't you tell me last night, Essie?
The girl withdrew herself from the plump embrace.
I didn't know it last night.
I declare, if this isn't romantic! Mrs. Terriberry fanned herself
vigorously with her apron. You'll be the richest woman around here
when Dubois dies. She added irrelevantly, And I've been like a mother
to you, Ess.
Why don't you and Dubois stay in town a few days and make us a
visit? Mr. Terriberry's voice rang with cordial hospitality.
The girl looked at him with embarrassing steadiness. The thirty
thousand sheep were doing their work well.
We are going to the camp to-day, she answered and turned upstairs.
When her few belongings were folded in a canvas telescope she
looked about her with the panic-stricken feeling of one about to take a
desperate, final plunge. The tiny, cheaply furnished room had been her
home, her refuge, and she was leaving it, for she knew not what.
Every scratch upon the rickety washstand was familiar to her and she
knew exactly how to dodge the waves in the mirror which distorted her
reflection ludicrously. She was leaving behind her the shabby kid
slippers in which she had danced so happilywas it centuries ago? And
the pink frock hung limp and abandoned on its nail.
She walked to the window where she had sat so often planning new
pleasures, happy because she was young and merry, and her heart brimmed
with warmth and affection for all whom she knew, and she looked at the
purple hills which shut out that wonderful East of which she had
dreamed of seeing some time with somebody that she loved. She turned
from the window with a lump in her aching throat and looked at the flat
pillow which had been so often damp of late with her tears.
It's over, she whispered brokenly as she picked up the awkward
telescope, everything is ended that I planned and hoped for. There's
no happiness or love or laughter in the long, hot alkali road ahead of
me. Just enduranceonly duty.
She closed the door behind her, the door that always had to be
slammed to make it fasten, and, drooping beneath the weight of the
heavy bag trudged down the street toward the blacksmith shop.
It was less than an hour after the sheep-wagon had rumbled out of
town with Dubois slapping the reins loosely upon the backs of the
shambling grays that the telegraph operator, hatless, in his
shirt-sleeves, bumped into Dr. Harpe as she was leaving the hotel.
Have they gone?
Who?but her eyes looked frightened.
Essie and old Dubois.
I'm sorry, I hoped I'd catch her; perhaps I've something she ought
Dr. Harpe looked at the telegram. Perhaps it was something she ought
to have also.
Look here, I've got a call to make over in the direction of
Dubois's sheep camp and I'll take the message.
Will you, Doc? he said in relief. That's good of you. He looked
at the telegram and hesitated. I didn't stop for an envelope.
Oh, I won't read it.
I know that, Doc, he assured her. But
She was already hastening away for the purpose.
Whew! Dr. Harpe threw open her coat in sudden warmth. I'm glad
she didn't get that!
She re-read the message
Have heard nothing from you. Am anxious. Is all well with you?
Telegraph answer to address given in letter.
Dr. Harpe tore the telegram in bits and watched the pieces flutter
into the waste-basket.
The Old Boy certainly looks after his own, Harpe, she murmured,
but her fingertips were cold with nervousness.
Dr. Harpe had paid her professional visit and her horses were
dragging the buggy through the deep sand in the direction of Dubois's
sheep-ranch, where she contemplated staying for supper and driving home
in the cooler evening. The small matter of being unwelcome never
deterred Dr. Harpe when she was hungry and could save expense.
There was no one in sight nor human habitation within her range of
vision; the slow drag was monotonous; the flies were bad and the heat
was great; she was both drowsy and irritable.
Lord! how I hate the smell of sheep! she said fretfully as the
odor rose strong from a bedding-ground, and their everlastin' bleat
would set me crazy. Gosh! it's hot! Wonder how she'll enjoy spending
her honeymoon about forty feet from Dubois's shearing-pens, she
sniggered. Well, no matter what comes up in the future, I've settled
her; she's out of the way for good and all, and I've kept my
wordshe'll never marry Ogden Van Lennop!
Yet she was aware that there was hollowness in her triumphthat it
was marred by a nameless fear which she refused to admit. Van Lennop
was still to be reckoned with. His telegram had reminded her forcibly
The muffled sound of galloping hoofs in the sand caused her to raise
her chin from her chest and her mind became instantly alert. It would
be a relief to exchange a word with some one, she thought, and wondered
vaguely at the swiftness of the gait upon so hot a day. She could hear
the labored breathing of the horses now and suddenly two riders flashed
into sight around the curve of the hill. Instantly they pulled their
horses on their haunches and swung them with rein and spur into the
deep washout in the gulch where the giant sagebrush hid them.
It was so quickly done that Dr. Harpe had only a glimpse of flashing
eyes, swarthy skins, and close-cropped, coal-black hair, but the
glimpse was sufficient to cause her to say to herself
Breedsand a long way from the home range, she added musingly.
Looks like a getawaywhat honest men would be smokin' up their horses
in heat like this?
A barking sheep-dog ran up the road to greet her when, after another
hour of plodding, she finally reached the ridge where she could look
down upon the alkali flat where Dubois had built his shearing-pens, his
log store house and his cabin of one room.
No smoke. Darned inhospitable, I say, when it's near supper time
and company comin'.
There was no sign of life anywhere save the sheep-dog leaping at her
Can it be the turtle-doves don't know it's time to eat? she
sneered. Get ep!
The grating of the wheels against the brake as she drove down the
steep pitch brought no one around the corner of the house, which faced
the trickling stream that made the ranch a valuable one.
They were somewhere about, she was sure of that, for she had
recognized gray horses feeding some distance away and the sheep-wagon
in which they had left town was drawn up close to the house. She tied
her fagged team to the shearing-pens and sauntered toward the house,
but with something of uncertainty in her face. There was a chance that
she had been seen and the new Mrs. Dubois did not mean to receive her.
A faint, quavering moan stopped her at the corner of the house. She
listened. It was repeated. She stepped swiftly to the doorway and
looked inside. The girl was lying in a limp heap on the bunk, her face,
her hands and wrists, her white shirtwaist smeared horribly with blood,
while an unforgettable look of terror and repulsion seemed frozen in
her eyes. The sight startled even Dr. Harpe.
What's the matter? What's happened? She shook her roughly by the
shoulder, for the half-unconscious girl seemed about to faint. Where's
She bent her head to catch the answer.
Dr. Harpe was not gone long, but returned to stand beside the bunk,
looking down upon Essie with eyes that in the dimness of the
illy-lighted cabin shone with the baleful gleam of some rapacious
You did a good job, Ess; he's dead as a mackerel.
The answer was the faint, broken moan which came and went with her
I'll go to town for help
The girl opened her eyes and looked at her beseechingly.
Don't leave me alone!
Dr. Harpe ignored the whispered prayer.
Don't touch anythingleave everything just as it is, she said
curtly; it'll be better for you.
Before she untied her team at the shearing-pens she walked around
the house and looked once more at the repulsive object lying upon a
dingy quilt. Death had refused Dubois even the usual gift of dignity.
His mouth was open, and his eyes; he looked even more than in life the
brute and the miser.
Two shots; and each made a bull's eye. One in the temple and
another for luck. Either would have killed him.
She covered his face with a corner of the soogan and glanced
around. The short, highly polished barrel of a Colt's automatic
protruded from a clump of dwarf cactus some few feet away. She swooped
swiftly down upon it and broke it open. The first cartridge had jammed
and every other chamber was filled. Dr. Harpe held it in the palm of
her hand, regarding it reflectively. Then she took her thumb nail and
extracted the jammed cartridge and shook a second from the chamber.
These she kept. The gun she threw from her with all her strength.
She lost no time in urging her fagged horses up the steep hill
opposite the ranch house on the road back to Crowheart. At the top she
let them pant a moment before they started up another almost as steep.
Dr. Harpe removed her hat and lifted her moist hair with her
fingers. The sun was lowering, the annoying gnats and flies were
beginning to subside, it soon would be cool and pleasant. Dr. Harpe
looked back at the peaceful scene in the flat belowthe sheep-wagon
with its canvas top, the square, log cabin, the still heap beside
itreally there was no reason why she should not enjoy exceedingly the
drive back to town.
Out of the hills behind her came a golden voice that had the
carrying qualities of a flute.
Farewell, my own dear Napoli, farewell to thee, farewell to thee.
The smile faded from her face.
The devil! She chirped to her horses. Where'd he come
Those of Crowheart's citizens who yawned at 8 and retired at 8.30
were aroused from their peaceful slumbers by the astounding news that
Essie Tisdale had shot and killed old Edouard Dubois, and the very same
day that she had married him for his money. As a result, Crowheart was
astir at dawn, bearing every evidence of a sleepless night and a hasty
This was the town's first real murder mystery. To be sure, there was
the sheep-herder, who was found with his throat cut and his ear taken
for a souvenir; but there was not much mystery about that, because he
was off his range and had been duly warned. Also there had been plain
killings over cards and ladies of the dance hallsurprising sometimes,
but only briefly interestingcertainly never anything mysterious and
thrilling like this.
Sylvanus Starr in that semi-conscious state midway between waking
and sleeping, composed a headline which appeared on the Extra issued
shortly after breakfast.
A Man, a Maid, a Marriage and a Murder read the headline, and
while the editor made no definite charges, he declared in double-leaded
type that the County should spare no expense to bring the assassin to
justice regardless of sex, and the phrase the dastardly murder
of a good citizen and an honorable man passed from lip to lip
unmindful of the fact that in life Dubois had not been regarded as
That portion of Crowheart which was pleased to speak of itself as
the sane and conservative element endeavored to suspend sentence
until the deputy-sheriff should return with further details, but even
they were forced to admit that, from the meagre account furnished by
Dr. Harpe, it certainly looked bad for Essie Tisdale.
Dan Treu and the coroner, who was also the local baker, started
immediately for the sheep-ranch, and Dr. Harpe accompanied them. Ess
looked about 'all in,' she said in explanation.
They found the girl and the Dago Duke waiting by the fire which he
had built outside the cabin. Huddled in a blanket which he had thrown
about her shoulders she sat staring into the fire with the shocked look
which never left her eyes. Utter, utter weariness was in her
flower-like face and over and over again her subconsciousness was
asking her tired brain, What next? What horrible thing can happen to
me next? What is there left to happen? She felt crushed in spirit,
unresentful even of Dr. Harpe's presence, for she felt herself at the
mercy of whosoever chose to be merciless. But the Dago Duke was
unhampered by any such feelings. He commented loudly as Dr. Harpe
swaggered toward them with her hands thrust deep in the pockets of the
man's overcoat which she wore on chilly drives
The ghouls are arriving early.
There's another word as ugly, Dr. Harpe retorted significantly.
I can't imagineunless it's quack.
Or accomplice, she suggested with a sneer.
Dan Treu frowned.
With the surprising tact and gentleness which blunt men of his type
sometimes show, the deputy-sheriff drew from the girl her story of the
I went to the creekdown the trail thereto get some water. I was
only gone a moment; I was bending downdipping with the pailI heard
two shotsclose together. I thought he was shooting at prairie dogsI
did not hurry. When I came backhe was lying near the wagon. It was
horrible! I called and called. He was dead. The blood was running
everywhere. I got a quilt and dragged and dragged until I got him on it
somehow. I saw no one. I heard no one.
Her slender hands were clenched tightly and she spoke with an
effort. There was silence when she finished, for her story seemed
complete; there seemed nothing more that she could tell. It was Dr.
Harpe who asked
But his gunwhere's his gun? He's always kept a gunI've seen
ita Colt's automatic?
The girl shook her head.
I don't know.
And, Doctor,it was the Dago Duke's suave voice that asked the
questionyou saw no onepassed no one while driving through the
She looked at him steadily.
I saw no one.
His eyelids slowly veiled his eyes.
Why do you ask that? His faint smile irritated her. Don't you
suppose I would have said so long before this?
Let's look for that gun, the deputy interrupted. He had a
gunI'm sure of that; every sheepman packs a gun.
With the aid of a lantern and the glare of a huge sagebrush fire
they searched in the immediate vicinity for the gun and in the hope of
finding some accidental clue.
We can't expect to do much till morning, the deputy opined as with
his light close to the ground he looked for some strange footprint in
the dust of the dooryard.
It was behind the cabin that Dan Treu stooped quickly and brought
the lantern close to a blurred outline in a bit of soft earth close to
a growth of cactus. He looked at it long and intently and when he
straightened himself his heavy, rather expressionless face wore a
Come here, he called finally to the coroner. He pointed to the
indistinct outline. What does that look like to you?
The coroner was not long from Ohio.
It looks to me like somebody had made a track in his stockin'
The deputy was born near the Rosebud Agency.
Does it? he added. I guess we won't walk around any more until
The track was a moccasin print to him.
It was the coroner who said to Dan Treu in an undertone as they sat
by the fire waiting for the daylight
Did you ever see a woman act like Doc? By Gosh! did you ever see
anybody act like Doc? She's enjoyin' thisupon my soul she is! She
makes me think of a half-starved hunting dog that's pulled somethin'
down and has got a taste of blood.
The deputy nodded with an odd smile.
The Dago Duke said nothing. But he seemed vastly interested in
watching Dr. Harpe. He observed her every movement, her every
expression, with a purposeful look upon his face which was new to it.
They found the gun in the morning, caught in a giant sagebrush where
it hung concealed until accidentally jarred loose by no less a person
than Mr. Percy Parrott, who had arrived early to give his unsolicited
aid to the deputy-sheriff.
The Colt's automatic was easily identified as Dubois's gun, and two
shells were missing.
A pretty rough piece of work, commented Dr. Harpe as she looked at
the empty chambers.
As raw as they make it, agreed the Dago Duke for once.
Don't run away, Dago, said the sheriff, I may want you.
Run?when I go I'll fly.
All the town turned out to look when Dan Treu drove into town with
the girl sitting bolt upright and very white upon the seat beside him.
They stopped at the Terriberry House and her old room was assigned
to her, but all the gaping crowd considered her a prisoner.
XXIII. SYMES MEETS THE HOMESEEKERS
Andy P. Symes awoke from a night of troubled dreams with the
impression still strong upon him that he was the exact centre of a
typhoon in the China Seas. He realized gradually that the house was
alternately shivering and rocking, that the shade of the slightly
lowered window was flapping furiously, that his nose and throat were
raw from the tiny particles of dust which covered the counterpane and
furniture, that pebbles were striking the window-panes like the
bombardment of a gatling gun. There was a wailing and shrieking from
the wires which anchored his kitchen flue, a rattling and banging
outside which conveyed the knowledge that the sheet-iron roof on his
coal-house was loose, while a clatter from the street told his
experienced ears that some one's tin garbage-can was passing.
He groaned. This was the day the Homeseekers' Excursion was
duecoming to view the land where the perfumed zephyrs fanned the
cheeks of men and brothers! Coming to breathe the Elixir of Life,
while they inspected that portion of the desert which was blooming
like the rose!
Even the elements were against him it seemed.
Symes shoved up the shade to see the lovely Pearline Starr, with her
head tied in a nubia, fighting her way through his front gate. She was
bearing ahead of her some garment on the end of a stick. Mr. Symes
dressed hastily that he might respond to her knock.
When Mr. Symes opened the door Miss Starr was clinging, breathless,
to a pillar of the veranda in order to keep her footing. She cast down
her eyes as she extended her offering.
Are these yours, Mr. Symes? We found them around a sagebrush in the
If they were, said Mr. Symes shortly, I'd be in bed. They look
The air was filled with flying papers, shingles, pans, and there
were times when he could not see across the street. Alva Jackson was in
his corral distributing hay among his horses from a sack instead of a
pitchfork. The Perfect Climate! Symes watched Miss Starr dig in her
heels and depart lying back horizontally on the breeze. Then he slammed
the door, but not before he saw Parrott's coal-house making its way
toward his lot. He already had a cellar-door and a chicken coop which
did not belong to him, while a wash he did not recognize was lodged
in his woodpile of jack-pine and ground-cedar in the backyard.
The Homeseekers' Excursion arrived at lasthours latedelayed by
the worst dust-storm in months. The committee of prominent citizens met
it where the cinder platform had been before it blew off.
The excursionists looked through the car-windows to see members of
the Cowboy Band with one arm locked around the frame-work of the
water-tank and with the other endeavoring to keep divers horns,
trombones and flutes in their mouth. No sound reached the ears of the
excursionists owing to the fact that they were on the windward side of
the band and the stirring notes of Hot Time in the Old Town were
going the other way.
Mr. Symes's neat speech of welcome was literally blown out of his
mouth, so he contented himself with shouting a warning to look out for
his hat in the ear of the first Homeseeker to venture from the car,
and led the way to the Terriberry House.
Crowheart found itself in the position of the boy at the
double-ringed circus who suffers from the knowledge that there is
something he must miss. It could not give its undivided attention to
the strangers and at the same time attend the funeral of old Edouard
Dubois, which was to be held under the auspices of the beneficiary
society of which he had been a member.
To extend the warm, western hand of fellowship to the Homeseekers
and find out where they came from, what their business was, and how
much money they had was a pleasure to which the citizens of Crowheart
had long looked forward, but also it was a pleasure and a duty to walk
down the Main street in white cotton gloves and strange habiliments,
following the new hearse. The lateness of the train had made it
impossible to do both.
They were a different type, these Homeseekers, from the first crop
of penniless adventurers who had settled Crowheart, being chiefly
shrewd, anxious-eyed farmers from the Middle West who prided themselves
upon not owing a dollar in the world and whose modest bank accounts
represented broiling days in the hay field and a day's work before
dawn, by lantern light, when there was ice to chop in the watering
trough and racks to be filled for the bawling cattle being wintered on
A trip like this had not been undertaken lightly by these men, but
Mudge's alluring literature had stirred even their unimaginative minds,
and the more impulsive had gone so far as to dispose of farming
implements and stock that they might send for their families without
delay when the purchase of the land was consummated.
In the long journey across the plains, one man had been tacitly
assigned the position of spokesman for the excursionists. He was big,
this prosperous looking stranger who seemed so unconscious of his
leadership, as big as Andy P. Symes himself, and as muscular. He was a
western type, yet he differed noticeably from his companions in that
his clothes fitted him and his cosmopolitan speech and manner were
never acquired in Oak Grove, Iowa. His eyes were both humorous and
shrewd. He compelled attention and deference without demanding it. They
explained him with pride, the Homeseekers, to inquiring citizens of
That fellow? Why he controls all kinds of money beside what he's
got himself; cattleman, banker, land, money to burn. He's representin'
some farmers from his section that want to invest if the proposition's
This was enough for Crowheart, and Andy P. Symes, who was attracted
to Capital by an instinct as sure as a law of Nature, flew to him and
clung like a bit of steel to a magnet.
Murder case, explained Symes for conversational purposes as he and
the banker stood at the front window in the office of the Terriberry
House and watched a mad race between Lutz, the undertaker, and a plume
which had blown off the hearse.
Pretty raw piece of work, continued Symes, while the banker
searched in his case for a cigar. Old sheepman shot dead in his tracks
the same day he was married to a girl young enough to be his
granddaughter. Married him for his money and there's no doubt in
anybody's mind but that she killed him for the same purpose. She may
get away with it, though, for she'll be able to put up a fight with old
Whose? The banker's hand stopped on its way to scratch a match on
French Canadian; signed himself 'Edouard Dubois.' Name familiar?
The banker's face was a curious study as his mind went galloping
back through the years.
You say he was murderedshot?
Dead as a door nail. Symes was pleased to have found a topic
interesting to the stranger. Each shot made a bull's-eye, one through
the forehead and the other in his heart. She's a good shot, this girl,
her one accomplishment.
Does she admit it?
Oh, no; she tells some tale about having gone for water and hearing
two shotsjust about the sort of a yarn she would tell, but
there was blood on her clothing and Dubois's own gun with two empty
chambers was found where she had thrown it. They had a row probably and
she beat him to his gun or else she waited and got the drop on him.
But have they looked for strange footprints or any clues to
corroborate her story? persisted the banker.
Symes returned indifferently
I suppose so, but it's an open and shut case and the girl is
practically a prisoner here in the hotel. The sheriff is hanging back
about her arrestwestern chivalry, you know, but it can't stand in the
way of justice, and the people are pretty sore. Hurts a town, a thing
like this, continued Symes feelingly, gets in all the eastern papers,
and when we appear in print we wish it to be in connection with
The banker agreed absent-mindedly, and asked
Do you know herthis Mrs. Dubois?
In a wayas one person knows another in a small townhe
hesitated delicatelynot socially at all. She was never in society.
The banker looked at Symes sidewise through a cloud of smoke and his
lips twitched suspiciously at the corners. He said merely:
No? and continued to stare at the pall-bearers clinging to the
wheels of the hearse while they waited outside the undertaking
establishment for Lutz to beat his way back with the plume.
I'd like to have a look at this man Dubois, if it's possible, he
Why, yes, said Symes not too willingly. They're going to the Hall
now to hold the services. He hated to be separated from Capital even
for so short a time, besides he had a hope that his magnetic
personality and personal explanations might go a long way toward
softening any criticisms he might make when he noted the discrepancies
between Mudge's statements and the actual conditions.
Symes had been quick to recognize this man's leadership and
importance; simultaneously his sanguine temperament had commenced to
build upon the banker's supportperhaps even to the extent of
financing the rest of the project.
The banker followed the morbid crowd up the steep stairs to the Hall
and seated himself on one of the squeaking folding chairs beside Mrs.
Abe Tutts and Mrs. Alva Jackson, who were holding hands and stifling
sobs which gave the impression that their hearts were breaking.
The ugly lodge room whose walls were decorated with the gaudy
insignias of the Order was filled to overflowing with the citizens of
Crowheart, whose attendance was prompted by every other reason than
respect. But this a stranger could not know, since the emotion which
racked Mrs. Percy Parrott's slender frame and reddened Mrs. Hank
Terriberry's nose seemed to spring from overwhelming grief at the loss
of a good friend and neighbor.
Mrs. Jackson's rose-geranium had blossomed just in the nick of time,
and Mrs. Parrott, who did beautiful work in paper flowers, had
fashioned a purple pillow which read At Rest and reposed
conspicuously upon the highly polished cover of a sample coffin. Nor
could the stranger, who found himself dividing attention with the
casket, know that the faltering tributes to the deceased taxed the
young rector's ingenuity and conscience to the utmost. Indeed, as he
saw the evidences of esteem and noted the tears of the grief-stricken
ladies, he regretted the impulse which had prompted him to go, for he
could not conceive the removal of the Dubois of his acquaintance being
the occasion of either private or public sorrow.
But even the sermons of young rectors must end, and at last Lutz, in
the tremulous, minor, crepe-trimmed voice and drooping attitude which
made the listeners feel that undertakers like poets are born, not made,
urged those who cared to do so to step forward and pass around to the
Yes, it was he; there was no doubt about that; the brutal, obstinate
face had altered very little in twenty years. Twenty years? It was all
of that since he had seen old Ed Dubois betting his gold-dust on an
Indian horse racetwenty years since young Dick Kincaid had floundered
through the drifts in a mountain pass to see how the Canuck saved flour
gold. Once more he was on the trail, scuffling rocks which rolled a
mile without a stop. Before him were the purple blotches which the
violets made and he could smell the blossoms of the thorn and service
berry bushes that looked like fragrant banks of snow. He felt again the
depression of the silence in the valley belowthe silence in which he
heard, instead of barking dogs and laughing children, the beating of
his own heart. He never had forgotten the sight that met his eyes, and
he recalled it now with a vividness which made him shudder, and he
heard with startling clearness the childish voice of a half-naked,
emaciated boy saying without braggadocio or hysteria
I'm goin' to find him, m'sieu, and when I do I'll get him, sure!
Twenty years is a long time to remember an injury, but not too long
for Indian blood. It was a good shotthe purple hole was exactly in
the centre of the low, corrugated foreheadit had been no boyish, idle
threat. His son had got him, sure! Neither had Dick Kincaid
forgotten his own answer
If you do, boy, and I find it out, I don't know as I'll give you
He had learned to save flour gold and he was known as Richard H.
Kincaid in the important middle west city where he had returned with
his fortune. Time and experience had cooled his blood, yet, deep down,
his heart always responded to the call of the old, primitive justice of
the mining campsAn eye for an eye: a tooth for a tooth.
Kincaid became conscious that he was being eyed in curiosity and
impatience by the eager folk behind. He heard Mrs. Tutts's rasping
whisper as he moved along
She ain't shed a tearnot even gone into black. I'll bet she don't
aim to view the corp' at all!
Kincaid followed Mrs. Tutts's disapproving gaze.
That was the suspect! That slim, young girl with her delicately cut
features hardened to meet the concentrated gaze of a procession of
staring, unfriendly eyes? Why, as he glanced about him, she looked the
only lady in the room!
Essie sat with the feeling that ice had formed about her heart,
trying to bear unflinchingly the curious or sneering looks of those she
had known well enough to call by their first names. It was torture for
the sensitive girl who saw in each cold eye the thought that she had
killed a mankilled a human beingfor money!
A feeling of overwhelming pity surged over Kincaid as he looked at
her, a feeling so strong that when she raised her eyes and gazed
squarely into his he wondered if he had spoken aloud. They were blue
and beautiful, her eyes, as two mountain forget-me-nots, like two
bruised flowers, he thought, that had been hurt to death. He could
remember having seen only one other pair like them.
An impulse so strong, a resolve so sudden and violent that it sent
the blood in a crimson wave above his collar and over his face seized
him, and he whispered to himself as he moved toward the door
I'll see her through, by George! I'll stand by her till there's
skating in the place that don't commonly freeze!
XXIV. THE DAGO DUKE AND DAN TREU
They were shod horses and they were goin' some. See how deep the
corks sunk. Look at the length of the jumps. The sheriff followed the
hoof tracks with his eye until they turned at an angle and dropped into
Pft!like thatand they were gone, said the Dago Duke, with an
expressive gesture. Over there, where I was reposing under the scant
shade of a sagebrush, I opened my eyes just in time to see the top of
their black hats disappear. Her buggy was turning the hill.
The sheriff stepped off the distance.
Less than a hundred yards. She must have seen them plainly.
Certainly; that's when they swung into the gulch.
Well, sir, it gets me. With the admission the sheriff thrust his
hands deep in his trousers pockets and looked frankly nonplussed.
She denied as plain as she could say it in English that she had
seen or met anybody and she'll probably do the same under oath.
No doubt about it, replied the Dago Duke.
But why should she? demanded the sheriff in frowning perplexity.
I can think of no reason, yet she must have one. Do you suppose she
knew the menthat she's protecting them at the girl's expense?
The Dago Duke shrugged his shoulders.
It's possible, but not probable if they were Indians.
If them wasn't moccasin tracks around the camp, I'll eat 'em, Dan
Treu declared with conviction. I've run with Injuns and fit 'em, too,
enough to know their tracks in the dark, but, man, there ain't an Injun
within two hundred miles of here, and besides they never got away with
anything, there was nothin' gone, and Reservation Injuns ain't killin'
for fun these days. That's right, too, about her not knowin' them if
they were Injuns. I'll tell you, Dago, I never run up agin' a
proposition just like this.
The Dago Duke looked reflectively at the end of his cigarette.
It seems as though that little girl's fate depends upon this
You say they are urging you to arrest her?
The sheriff's face darkened.
Oh, yes, they've got it all cut and dried just how it happened.
They make me think of a pack of wolves that's got a weak one down; he's
outnumbered and can't fight back, so jump him! tear him! They're
roarin' at me to 'do somethin'Tinhorn Frank, Symes, Parrott, the
whole outfit of 'em. Say, Dago, I wasn't raised to fight women.
Does your chivalry extend to the lady doc?
No, by gum! it don't, replied the sheriff, with a promptness which
made the other laugh. If I knew any way short of choking her to get
the truth I'd do it.
You mean to try?
To choke her?
To get the truth.
I'm goin' to appeal to her first.
The Dago Duke laughed sardonically.
You think it won't work?
Not for a minute.
I'll see what bull-dozing will do, then.
Better save your breath.
It's a question of veracity. She'll see that. Her word against
mine. Even you must admit, Dan, that I haven't her spotless reputation.
A communicant of the church versus the town drunkard. She'd merely say
that instead of Gila monsters I was 'having' assassins. This chronic
cloud under which I live has its drawbacks. The fact that I haven't had
a drink in six weeks wouldn't have the slightest weight if she chooses
to persist in her denial that she met these men.
I suppose you're right, the sheriff admitted reluctantly, and if
this wind keeps up we won't even have tracks to back up your story.
Besides, added the Dago Duke, if there is not great friendship
between them there is, at least, no open quarrel to furnish a plausible
reason for her silence. We would only make ourselves absurd, Dan, by
any public charge. But there is some way to get the truth. Try your
methods and thenwell, I'll try mine.
This was in the forenoon. That evening the Dago Duke leaned against
the door-jamb of the White Elephant Saloon and watched Dan Treu coming
from Dr. Harpe's office with failure written upon his face. His white
teeth gleamed in a smile of amusement as he waited for the sheriff.
Don't swear, Dan. Never speak disrespectfully of a lady if you can
Dago, said the sheriff, with his slow, emphatic drawl, I wish she
was a man just for a minutehalf a minuteone second would do.
She laughed at you, yes?
She laughed at me, yes? Well, I guess she did. She gave me the
merry ha! ha! I told her you had seen two men on horseback pass her out
there in the hills, that I had seen the mark of her buggy wheels and
the tracks of the two horses on the run and that the print of moccasins
led from the sheep-wagon into the brush. She looked at me with that
kind of stare where you can see the lie lying back of it and said
I didn't see anybody. I've told you that and I'll swear to it if
'Look here, Doc,' I says, 'if you don't tell that you saw these men
we'll tell it for you.'
That's when she laughed, cackled would be a better word, it sure
wasn't a laugh, you'd call ketchin', and says
'You fly at it. Try startin' something like that and see what
happens to you. I got some pull in this town and you'll find it out if
you don't know it. You'll wake up some mornin' and find yourself out of
a job. Who do you think would take that drunken loafer's word against
mine? And beside, why should I keep anything back that would clear
Essie Tisdale? You're crazy, man! Why, she's a friend of mine.'
You called the turn on her all right, Dago; she said just about
what you said she would say.
You haven't got the right kind of a mind, Dan, to sabe women of her
sort. It takes a Latin to do that. There's natural craft and intrigue
enough of the feminine in the southern races to follow their illogical
reasoning and to understand their moods and caprices as an Anglo-Saxon
never can. You are like a big, blundering, honest watch-dog, Dan,
trying to do field work that requires a trained hunting dog with a fine
nose and hereditary instincts. If this was a horse-stealing case, or
cattle rustling, or a sheep raid, and you were dealing with men all
The deputy-sheriff's jaw set grimly.
I'd have the truth or he'd be in the hospital. I'm handicapped here
because there's no money in the treasury to work with. This county's as
big as a State and only two or three thousand in it, so we are about as
flush as grasshopper year in Kansas. The people are howling about
bringin' the murderer to justice at any cost, but if I'd ask 'em to dig
up a hundred apiece in cold cash for expense money they'd subside
This is one of the few occasions when my past extravagances and
habits fill me with regret, replied the Dago Duke, with half-humorous
seriousness. My remittance which has shrunk until it is barely
sufficient to sustain life, is already spoken for some months ahead by
certain low persons who consider themselves my creditors. Tinhorn
Frank, who drew to a straight and filled, is one of them, and Slivers,
inside, has a mortgage on my body and soul until an alleged
indebtedness is wiped out.
Financially and socially I am nil; mentally and physically my
faculties are at your disposal. Do you happen to know anything in the
lady's past or present that she would not care to have exploited?
Blackmail, yes? I have no scruples. What do you know?
The deputy gave the Dago Duke a curious look, but did not answer.
There's something, guessed the other quickly.
Yes, Dago, there is, said Dan Treu finally with awkward
hesitation. It's something so fierce that I hate to tell it even to
you for fear there might be some mistake. It's hard to believe it
myself. It sounds so preposterous that I'd be laughed at if I told it
to anyone else in Crowheart.
I'll not laugh, said the Dago Duke. It's the preposterousthe
most unlikely thing you can think of that is frequently true. I've
studied that woman, with my comparatively limited opportunities, until
I know her better than you think and far, far better than she thinks.
Dago, the big deputy squirmed as he asked the question:
Could you believe her a petty thief?
Without the least difficulty, replied the Dago Duke composedly.
That she would rifle a man's pocketsroll him like any common
woman of the street?
If it was safequite, quite safe.
Slowly, even reluctantly, Dan Treu told the Dago Duke the story of
the Italians as he had heard it in their broken English from their own
lips. Through it all the Dago Duke whistled softly, listening without
emotion or surprise. He still whistled when the deputy had finished.
Do you believe it? the sheriff asked anxiously, at last.
Emphatically I do. Let me tell you something, Dan: a woman that
will stoop to the petty leg-pulling, sponging, grafting that she does
to save two bits or less has got a thief's make-up. Her mania for
money, for getting, for saving it, is a matter of common knowledge.
You know and I know that she will do any indelicate thing which
occurs to her to get what she wants without paying for it. When she
wants a drink, which the good God knows is often, she asks any man she
happens to know and is near to buy it for her. Her camaraderie flatters
him. She habitually 'bums' cigarettes and I've known her to go through
a fellow's war-bag, in his absence, for tobacco. When she's hungry,
which I should judge was all the time, she drops in casually upon a
patient and humorously raids the pantryall with that air of
nonchalant good fellowship which shields her from much criticism, since
what in reality is miserliness and gluttony passes very well for
Dan Treu laughed.
You've got her sized up right in that way, Dago. I know a fellow
that was sick and had to cache the chocolate and things his folks sent
him from the East under the mattress when he saw her coming and he
always locked the fruit in his trunk after she had cleaned him out a
dozen times as though a flock of seventeen-year locusts had swarmed
down upon him. One night about two or three in the morning when she
couldn't sleep, she called on a typhoid patient under the pretext of
making a professional visit, and got the nurse to fry her some eggs.
She's as regular as a boarder at Andy P. Symes's when meal-time rolls
around. I wonder sometimes that he stands for it.
The Dago Duke looked at him oddly, but observed merely:
And you don't think the dagos made a mistake or misunderstood
something through not talkin' English much? It sounded straight to me
the way they told it, but a thing like this is something you don't want
to repeat unless you just about saw it for yourself.
If they told you they had $5.50 taken from them you can bet it's
so. Italians of that class know to a penny what they have sent home,
what they have in the bank, what there is in their pockets to spend.
Generations of poverty have taught them carefulness and thrift.
Americans call them ignorant and stupid because their unfamiliarity
with the language and customs make them appear so, but they are neither
too ignorant nor stupid to misunderstand an incident like this. Are the
men still on the works?
The deputy nodded.
If you'll loan me your horse I'll ride out and see them myself. My
understudy can perhaps stand another day with the sheep without going
crazy. When I come back I may be in a better position to call upon the
lady doc and talk it over. She's fond of me, you know.
So I've noticed. Dan Treu grinned as he recalled the invariable
exchange of personalities when they met.
XXV. CROWHEART DEMANDS JUSTICE
The utterly insignificant telegraph operator at an equally
insignificant railway station in Mexico loomed a person of colossal
importance to Ogden Van Lennop, who had calculated that the reply to
his telegram was considerably more than a week overdue. As he went once
more to the telegraph office, the only reason of which he could think
for being glad that he was the principal owner in the only paying mine
in the vicinity was that the operator did not dare laugh in his face.
Anything for me?
Nothing; not yet, sir.
The operator's voice and manner were respectful, but Van Lennop saw
his teeth gleam beneath his dark mustache. He had found it quite
useless to assure Van Lennop that he need not trouble himself to call
as any telegram would be delivered immediately upon its receipt, also
he had been long enough in the service to know that young Americans of
Van Lennop's type did not ordinarily become so intense over a matter of
Could it have gone astraythis infernal nameit looks like a
piece of barbed wire when it's spelled outis there another place of
the same name in Mexico?
Not in the world, sir.
I didn't think so, returned Van Lennop grimly. He continued: I
want you to telegraph the operator in Crowheart and find out positively
if the message was delivered to the person to whom it was sent.
I'll get it off at once, sir.
So this was being in love?this frenzy of impatience, this
unceasing anxiety which would not let him sleep! It seemed to Van
Lennop that he had nearly run the emotional gamut since leaving
Crowheart and all that remained to be experienced was further depths of
doubt and dark despair. Had he been too sure of her, he asked himself;
had something in his letter or the sending of his telegram displeased
her? Was she ill?
He reproached himself bitterly for not telling her before he left,
and thought with angry impatience of the caution which had kept him
silent because he wanted to be sure of himself.
Sure of myself! he repeated it contemptuously. I should have been
making sure of her! The veriest yokel would have known that he was
completelydesperately in love with her, but I, like the spineless
mollusk that I am, must needs wait a little longer'to be sure of
To shorten the long hours which must intervene before he could
expect a reply from Crowheart, Van Lennop ordered his saddle horse and
rode to the mine, where a rascally superintendent had stripped the ore
shoot and departed with everything but the machinery. Van Lennop had
the tangled affairs of the mine fairly well straightened out and the
new superintendent was due that day, so the end of his enforced stay
was in sight in a day or two morethree at the most.
As his horse picked its way over the mountain trail the fresh air
seemed to clear his brain of the jumble of doubts and misgivings and
replace them with a growing conviction that something had gone
wrongthat all was not well with Essie Tisdale. His unanswered letter
and telegram was entirely at variance with her sweet good-nature. What
if she were needing him, calling upon him now, this very minute? He
urged his horse unconsciously at the thought. Some accidenthe could
think of nothing elseunless a serious illness.
The employees at the mine observed that the young American owner was
singularly inattentive that day to the complaints and grievances to
which heretofore he had lent a patient ear.
His horse was sweating when upon his return he threw the reins to an
idle Mexican in front of his hotel and hurried into the office.
Yes; there was a telegram for Señor Van Lennoptwo, in fact.
He tore open the envelope of one with fingers which were awkward in
their haste. The telegram read:
Message addressed to Miss Essie Tisdale received and delivered.
Van Lennop stood quite still and read it again, even to the
unintelligible date-line. He felt suddenly lifeless, listless, as
though he wanted to sit down. It was all over, then. She had received
his letter and his telegram, and her reply to his offer of his love and
himself wassilence? It was not like her, but there seemed nothing
more for him to do. He could not force himself and his love upon her.
She knew her own mind. His conceit had led him into error. It was done.
He opened the other telegram mechanically. It was from Prescott and
partially in code. It was a long one for Prescott to send, but Van
Lennop looked at it without interest. He would translate it at his
leisurethere was no hurry nowthe game had lost its zest.
Van Lennop turned to the dingy register. A train had arrived in his
absence and perhaps Britt, the new superintendent, had come. His name
was therethat was something for which to be grateful, as he could the
sooner get back into the world where he could find in business
something better than his own wretched thoughts to occupy his mind.
He walked languidly over the stone flagging to his room and dropped
listlessly into a chair. It was not long before he heard Britt's alert
step in the corridor quickly followed by his brisk rap upon the door.
He always had liked the ambitious young engineer and they shook hands
I'm more than glad to see you.
I dare say. A week in a place like this is much like a jail
sentence unless you're hard at work. Are things in pretty much of a
Van Lennop went over the situation briefly, and concluded
I'll stay over a day or so, if you desire.
There's no necessity, I think, said Britt, rising. I'll keep in
touch with you by wire. Crowheart again?
Van Lennop shook his head.
I'm going east from here.
Here's a late paper; perhaps you'd like to look it over. When I'm
in a place like this I can read a patent medicine pamphlet, and enjoy
Van Lennop smiled.
Much obliged. There's the supper gong. Don't wait for me; I'll be a
Van Lennop had no desire for food, much less for conversation, so he
picked up the travel-worn newspaper which Britt had tossed upon the
table and glanced at the headlines.
The stock market was stronger. Nevada Con was up three points. The
girl with the beautiful eyebrows had married that French jackanapes
after all. Another famine in India. A Crowheart date-line caught his
WEALTHY SHEEPMAN MURDERED
EDOUARD DUBOIS SHOT AND KILLED AT HIS CAMP
BRIDE OF A DAY TO BE ARRESTED
The story of Essie Tisdale's marriage with Dubois followed, and even
the news editor's pencil could not eliminate Sylvanus Starr's
distinctive style. He had made the most of a chance of a lifetime. An
old man's darlingSerpent he had warmed in his bosomWeltering in
his bloodall the trite phrases and vulgarisms of country journalism
were used to tell the sensational story which sickened Van Lennop as he
The arrest of the murdered patriarch's beautiful bride is expected
hourly, as the leading citizens of Crowheart are clamoring for justice
and are bringing strong pressure to bear upon Sheriff Treu, who seems
strangely reluctant to act.
The paper dropped from Van Lennop's nerveless hand and he sat
staring at it where it lay. He picked it up and read the last
paragraph, for his dazed brain had not yet grasped its meaning. But
when its entire significance was made clear to him it came with a rush:
it was like the instantaneous effect of some powerful drug or stimulant
that turned the blood to fire and crazed the brain. The blind rage
which made the room swing round was like the frenzy of insanity. Van
Lennop's face went crimson and oaths that never had passed his lips
came forth, choking-hot and inarticulate.
The leading citizens of Crowheart, the outcasts and riff-raff of
civilization, the tinhorn gamblers, the embezzlers, ex-bankrupts and
libertines, the sheep-herders and reformed cattle-thieves, the
blackmailers and dance-hall touts swollen by prosperity, disguised by a
veneer of respectability, want justice, do they? By God! Van Lennop
shook his clenched fist at the empty air, the leading citizens of
Crowheart shall HAVE justice!
He smoothed Prescott's crumpled telegram and reached for his
When he had its meaning he pulled a telegraph-blank toward him, and
Carry out my instructions to the letter. Do not neglect the
smallest detail. Leave no stone unturned to accomplish the end
XXVI. LATIN METHODS
Oh, Doc! It was the telegraph operator, hatless, in his
shirt-sleeves, hurrying toward her from the station as she passed.
Doctor Harpe stood quite still and waited, not purposely but because
a sudden weakness in her knees made it impossible for her to meet him
half-way. She was conscious that the color was leaving her face even as
her upper lip stretched in the straight, mirthless smile with which she
faced a crisis. She knew well enough why he called her, the dread of
this moment had been with her ever since her foolish boast of Van
Lennop's letter and the destruction of his telegram.
You gave that message to Essie? She got it all right, didn't she,
She had prepared herself a hundred times to answer this question,
but now that it was put she found it no easier to decide on a reply; to
know what answer would best save her from the consequences of the
stupid error into which her hatred had led her.
If she said that she had lost it and subsequent events had driven it
from her mind, he would duplicate the message. If she said she had
delivered it and her falsehood was discovered, her position was
rendered more dangerous, ten-fold. She decided on the answer which
placed discovery a little farther off.
Sure, she got it; I gave it to her that afternoon.
Her assurance closed the incident so far as the telegraph operator
was concerned; it was the real beginning of it to Doctor Harpe, whose
intelligence enabled her to realize to the utmost the position in which
she now had irrevocably placed herself. She turned abruptly and walked
to her office with a nervous rapidity totally unlike her usual swagger.
When the door was closed behind her she paced the floor with excited
strides. It was useless to attempt to hide from herself the fact that
she was horribly, cravenly afraid of Ogden Van Lennop; for she
recognized beneath his calm exterior a quality which inspired fear. She
was afraid of him as an individual, afraid of his money and the power
of his influence if he chose to use them, for Dr. Harpe had brains
enough, worldly wisdom enough, to know that he was beyond her reach.
In Crowheart, she believed that through her strong personality and
the support of Andy P. Symes she could accomplish nearly anything she
undertook; but she knew that in the great world outside where she had
discovered Van Lennop was a factor, she would be only an eccentric
female doctor, amusing perhaps, mildly interesting, even, but entirely
Her thoughts became a chaotic jam of incoherent explanations as she
thought of an accounting to Van Lennop should he return, and again she
raged at herself for the insane impulse which had led her to boast of a
farewell letter to her. The sleepless hours in which she had gone over
and over the situation with every solution growing more preposterous
than the last, had been telling upon the nerves which never had quite
recovered from the shock and the incidents which followed Alice
Freoff's death. The slightest excitement seemed to set them jangling of
They were twitching now; her eyelids, her shoulders, her mouth
seemed never in repose when she was alone. Her hand shook
uncontrollably as she refilled a whiskey glass and rolled and smoked
another cigarette. It was no new thing, this nervous paroxysm, being
nearly always the climax to a night of exaggerated fear. The necessity
for self-possession and outward calmness in public made it a relief to
let her nerves go when alone.
If he comes back, I'm ruined! He'll cut loose on me in public and
he'll sting; I know him well enough for that. Her hands grew clammy at
the thought. It'll put a crimp in my practice. If it wasn't for the
backin' of Symes I'd as well pull my freightbut he hasn't come yet.
It's not likely he ever will with no word from her and this scandal
comin' close on the heels of her silence. I'm a fool to worryto let
myself get in such a state as this.
She no longer entertained the hallucination that she might attract
Van Lennop to herself; to save herself from public exposure, should he
by any chance return, was her one thought, her only aim. And always her
hopes simmered down to the one which centred in Symes's influence in
Crowheart and his compulsory protection of herself. He dared not desert
Let him try it! She voiced her defiant thoughts. Let him go back
on me if he dare! If I get in a place where I've absolutely nothing to
loseif he throws me downAndy P. Symes and Crowheart will have food
for thought for many a day. But, pshaw! I'm rattled now; I've pulled
out before and I'll
A hand upon the door-knob startled her. Hastily she shoved the glass
and bottle from sight and pulled herself together.
Oh, it's you? Her tone was not cordial, as the Dago Duke stood
Did you think it was your pastor, inquired that person suavely as
he sniffed the air, come to remonstrate with you upon your intemperate
She laughed her short, harsh laugh as she took the bottle from its
hiding-place and shoved it toward him.
She had long since learned that it was useless to pretend before the
Dago Duke. His mocking, comprehending eyes made pretence ridiculous
even to herself. She dreaded meeting him in public because of the
flippant disrespect of his manner toward her; privately she found a
certain pleasure in throwing off the cloak which hid her dark,
inner-self from Crowheart. He assumed her hypocrisy as though it were a
fact too obvious to question and she had been obliged to accept his
estimate of her.
How like you, my dear Doctor! He picked up the bottle and read the
label. Your womanly solicitude for my thirst touches me deeply,
but,he replaced the bottle upon her desksince I've stood off the
demon Rum for six weeks now I'll hold him at bay until I finish my
little talk with you.
If you're here on business, cut it short, she said curtly.
I can't imagine myself here on any other errand he returned
placidly. Say, Doc,there was a note in his wonderful speaking voice
which made her look up quicklywhy don't you give back that $5.00 and
four bits you pinched from Giovanni Pellezzo?
The moment showed her remarkable self-control. She could feel her
overtaxed nerves jump, but not a muscle of her face moved.
What are you driving at? she demanded.
The name is not familiar to you?
Not at all.
I'm not surprised at that, since your interest in your contract
patients extends no further than their pockets.
If you're here to insult me
I couldn't do that, returned the Dago Duke composedly; I've
You've got to explain.
That's what I came for. He smiled pleasantly.
Well? She tapped her foot.
Don't rush me, Doc. I have so few pleasures, you know that, and the
enjoyment I'm extracting from your suspense makes me desire to prolong
it. You are anxious, you must admit that, although you really
conceal it very well. But you're gray around the mouth and those lines
from your nose down look likeyes, like irrigation
lateralsfurrowsupon my soul, Doc, you've grown ten years older
since I came in. You should avoid worry by all means, but I can
understand exactly how you feel when you're not quite sure to which
case I may refer.
Her tense nerves seemed suddenly to snap. She struck the desk with
her open palm, and cried
I'm sick of this!
He looked at her critically.
I can believe it. Temper adds nothing to your appearance. But, Doc,
with your intelligence and experience, how did you come to rifle a
man's pocket with a witness in the room?
She jumped to her feet.
I won't stand this! I don't have to stand it!
The Dago Duke crossed his legs leisurely.
Noyou don't have to, but I believe I would if I were you. The
fact is, Doc, I dropped in merely to make a little deal with you.
Blackmail! she cried furiously.
In a wayyes. Strictly, I suppose, you might call it blackmail.
You're broke againyou want money!
The Dago Duke shuddered.
Oh, Doc! how can you be so indelicate as to taunt me with my
poverty; to suggest, to hint even so subtly, that I would fill my empty
pockets from your purse? He looked at her reproachfully.
What do you want, then?
The Dago Duke's voice took on a purring, feline softness which was
more emphatic and final than any loud-mouthed vehemence
What do I want? I want you to tell the officers that you passed two
men riding on a run from Dubois's sheep-camptwo Indians or 'breeds'
in moccasinsand I want you to do it quick!
You want me to perjure myself and you 'want me to do it quick,'
He paid no attention.
I want you to help clear that girl; if you refuse, Giovanni
Pellezzo will swear out a warrant for your arrest, charging you with
the theft of $5.50 while he was etherized for a minor operation.
They regarded each other in a long silence.
She said finally
You know, of course, that this Italian will have to go after this?
You'll have him discharged?
He needs a rest.
He'll get it.
Another pause came before she asked
Do you imagine for a moment that an ignorant foreigner can get a
warrant for me on such a charge?
I foresee the difficulty.
You mean to persist?
She flung at him
If we fail in this, continued the Dago Duke evenly, there's the
case of Antonio Amato, whose hand the nurse, acting under your
instructions, held after thrusting a pencil in his limp fingers and
signed a check when he was dying and unconscious. Which check you
cashed after his death, in violation of the State banking laws from
which perhaps even you are not exempt if this man's relatives choose to
bring you to account for the irregularity.
It is a lie!
It is not impossible, he continued, to get the nurse who left you
before Nell Beecroft came, saying that she knew enough about you both
to 'send you over the road.' It is not too difficult to bring to light
the examples of your incredible incompetency which prove you unfit to
sign a death certificate, nor is your record in Nebraska hard to get.
She moistened her colorless lips before she spoke.
And where is the money coming from to do all this?
She had touched the weak spot in his attack, but he replied with
It will be ready when needed.
This is persecutiona plot to ruin me on the trumped-up charges of
The Dago Duke's keen ear detected the faint note of uncertainty and
agitation beneath the defiance of her tone.
These things are trueand more, he returned unemotionally. But
consider, even if you beat us at every turn through personal influence,
you will pay dearly for your victories in money, in peace, in
reputation. These things will leave a stigma which will outlast you. It
will arouse suspicion of your ability and skill among your private
patients who now trust you. You'll have to fight every inch of the road
to retain your ground, or any part of it, against the new and abler
physicians who must come with the growth of the country. You'll not be
wanted by your best friends when it comes to a case of life and death.
You'll become only a kind of licensed midwife rushing about from one
accouchement to another, and, even for this, you must finesse and
intrigue in the manner which has made the incompetents of your sex in
medicine the bête noir of the profession.
The sneering smile she had forced faded as he talked. It was like
the deliberate voice of Prophecy, drawing pictures which she had seen
in waking nightmares that she called the blues and was wont to drive
away with a drink or a social call outside.
She raised her chin from her chest where it had sunk, and summoned
You have taken a great deal of trouble to inform yourself upon the
subject of the medical profession and my unfitness for it.
The Dago Duke hesitated and an expression which was new to it
crossed his face, a look of mingled pride and pain.
I have gone to less trouble than you think, he answered finally.
I was reared in the atmosphere of medicine. My father was a beloved
and trusted physician to the royal family of my country. I was to have
followed in his footsteps and partially prepared myself to do so. The
reason that I have not is not too difficult to guess since it is the
same which sends me sheep-herding at $40 a month.
But my identity is neither here nor there. The Dago Duke threw up
his hand with a characteristic, foreign gesture as though dismissing
himself from the conversation and half regretting even so much of his
personal history. It serves but one purpose and that is that you may
know that the degrees which I have earned, not bought, qualify me to
speak of your ability, or lack of it, with rather more authority than
the average layman's. He arose languidly and sauntered across the room
where he stood looking up at her framed diploma, and added, To judge,
too, of the value of a sheepskin like that. How much did you pay for
it, Doc? Seeming to expect no reply, he continued serenely, Well I'll
have to be going. Stake me to a cigarette paper? I haven't talked so
much or been so strongly moved since my remittance was reduced to $100
a month. I can't get drunk like a gentlemen on thatyou couldn't
yourselfand it's an inhuman outrage. It may drive me to reformI've
thought of it. You're such a sympathetic listener, Doc. It makes me
babble. His hand was on the door-knob. Since you've nothing to say I
suppose you mean to stick to your story, but you must admit, Doc, I've
at least been as much of a gentleman as a rattlesnake. I'm rattling
before I strike.
The door had closed upon his back when she tore it open.
Wait a minute! She was panting as though she had been running a
distance. He saw, too, the desperation in her eyes. Give mea
The Dago Duke's tone was one of easy friendliness.
All you need, but don't forget the suspense is hard on Essie
XXVII. ESSIE TISDALE'S MOMENT.
Mrs. Sylvanus Starr, who was indisposed, sat up in her robe de
nuit of pink, striped outing-flannel and looked down into the
Pearline, she said hastily, turn the dish-pan over the roast beef
and cache the oranges. Planchette, hide the cake and just lay this
sweet chocolate under the mattressthe doctor's coming.
She cleaned us out last time all right, commented Lucille.
Her legs are hollow, observed Camille, she can eat half a sheep.
What's half a sheep to a growing girl? inquired Mrs. Starr as she
plucked at her pompadour and straightened the counterpane.
The Starrs were still tittering when Dr. Harpe walked in. Their
hilarity quickly passed at the sight of her face. Another intelligence,
a new personality from which they unconsciously shrank looked at them
through Dr. Harpe's familiar features. The Starrs were not analytical
nor given to psychology, therefore it was no subtle change which could
make them stare. It was as though a ruthless hand had torn away a mask
disclosing a woman who only resembled some one they had known. She was
a trifle more than thirty and she looked to-day a haggard forty-five.
A grayish pallor had settled upon her face, and her neck, by the
simple turning of her head, had the lines of withered old age. Her lips
were colorless, and dry, and drooped in a kind of sneering cruelty,
while her restless, glittering eyes contained the malice and
desperation of a vicious animal when it's cornered. The uneasiness and
erratic movements of a user of cocaine was in her manner.
What ails you now? Her voice was harsh and Mrs. Starr flushed at
the blunt question.
She saw that Dr. Harpe was not listening to her reply.
Get this filled. The prescription she wrote and handed her was
scarcely legible. I'll be in again.
She stalked downstairs without more words.
The Starrs looked at each other blankly when she had gone.
What's the matter with Dr. Harpe?
Elsewhere throughout the town the same question was being asked. The
clairvoyant milliner cautiously asked the baker's wife as they watched
her turn the corner
Have you noticed anything queer about Dr. Harpe?
There was that about her which repelled, and those who were wont to
pass her on the street with a friendly flourish of the hand and a
Hello, Doc, somehow omitted it and substituted a nod and a stare of
curiosity. Her swaggering stride of assurance was a shamble, and, as
she came down the street now with her head down, her Stetson pulled low
over her eyes, her hand thrust deep in one pocket of her square cut
coat, her skirt flapping petticoatless about her, she looked even to
the wife of the baker, who liked her, and to the clairvoyant milliner,
who imitated her, a caricature upon womankind.
There was a look of evil upon her face at the moment not easy to
describe. She and Augusta had quarrelledfor the first timeand when
she could least afford to quarrel.
She had spoken often of Andy P. Symes as the laziest man in
Crowheart and Augusta always had giggled; to-day she had resented it.
Was it, Dr. Harpe asked herself, that she was losing control of Augusta
because she was losing her own? Nothing more disastrous could happen to
her at this time than to lose her footing in the Symes household. Her
power over Symes went with her prestige, for her word would have little
weight if the Dago Duke even partially carried out his threats. Her
disclosure would appear but the last resort of malice and receive
As she walked down the street with bent head she was asking herself
if the props were to be pulled from beneath her one by one, if the
invisible lines emanating from her own acts were tightening about her
to her undoing?
With a fierce gesture she pushed these thoughts from her as though
they were tangible things. No, no! she would not be beaten! Insomnia,
narcotics and stimulants had unnerved her for the time, but she was
strong enough to pull herself together and stay the circumstances which
threatened to swamp her midway in her career. Bolstered for the moment
by this resolve, she threw back her head and raised her eyes.
The Dago Duke, Dan Treu, and an important looking stranger were
crossing the street and she felt intuitively that it was for the
purpose of meeting her face to face. The Dago Duke bowed with his
exaggerated salutation of respect as they passed, the deputy-sheriff
with an odd constraint of manner, while the stranger who raised his hat
in formal politeness gave her a look which seemed to search her soul.
It frightened her. Who was he? She had seen him at old Dubois's
funeral. Was he some new factor to be reckoned with, or was it merely
her crazy nerves that made her see fresh danger at every turn, a new
enemy in every stranger?
She climbed the stairs to her office in a kind of nervous frenzy.
She felt like screaming, like beating upon the walls with her bare
fists. Inaction was no longer possible. She must do something, else
this agony of uncertainty and suspense would drive her mad. She strode
up and down at a pace which left her breathless, clenching and
unclenching her hands, while thickly, between set teeth, she raved at
Essie Tisdale, upon whom her venom concentrated.
I could throttle her! She looked at her curved, outspread fingers,
tense and strong as steel hooks. I could choke her with my own hands
till she is black! Curse hercurse her! She's been a stumbling block
in my way ever since I came. The sight of her is a needle in my flesh.
I'd only want a minute if I could get my fingers on her throat! I'd
shut that baby mouth of hers for good and all. God! How I hate her!
She hissed the words in venomous intensity, racked with the strength of
her emotions, weak from it, her ghastly face moist with perspiration.
I've humiliated her! she gasped. I've made her suffer. I've
downed her, but there's something left yet that I haven't crushed! I'm
not satisfied; I haven't done enough. I want to break her spirit, to
break her heart, to finish her for all time!
She groped for the door-knob as one who sees dimly, and all but ran
down the corridor. Even as she went the thought flashed through her
mind that she was making a fool of herself, that she was being led by
an impulse for which she would be sorry.
But she was at a pitch where the voice of caution had no weight; she
wanted what she wanted and in her heart she knew that she was going to
Essie Tisdale with the intention of inflicting physical pain. Nothing
less would satisfy her. Yet, when the door opened in response to her
knock, her upper lip stretched in its straight, mirthless smile.
Hello, Ess! She stepped back a bit into the dimly lighted corridor
and the girl all but shrank from the malice glowing in her eyes.
Essie did not immediately respond, so she asked in mock humility
Can't I come in, Mrs. Dubois?
She saw the girl wince at the name by which no one as yet had called
Why this timidity, this unexpected politeness, when it's not usual
for you even to knock?
She stepped inside and closed the door behind her.
True enough, Mrs. Dubois, but naturally a poor country doctor like
me would hesitate before bolting in upon the privacy of a rich widow.
If you use 'poor' in the sense of incompetent I am afraid I must
agree with you, was the unexpected answer.
Ah, beginning to feel your oats, my dear. She slouched into the
nearest chair and flung her hat carelessly upon the floor.
You notice it, my dear? mimicked Essie Tisdale.
When a range cayuse has a few square meals he gets onery.
While they merely give a well-bred horse spirit.
Dr. Harpe looked at her searchingly. There was a change in Essie
Tisdale. She had a new confidence of manner, a cool poise that was
older than her years, while that intangible something which she could
never crush looked at her more defiantly than ever from the girl's
sparkling eyes. She had a feeling that Essie Tisdale welcomed her
coming. Certainly her assurance and animation was strangely at variance
with her precarious position. What had happened? Dr. Harpe intended to
learn before she left the room.
At any rate you've paid high for your oats, Ess, she said finally.
The girl agreed coolly
And you're not done paying, she added significantly.
That remains to be seen.
Dr. Harpe's eyes narrowed in thought.
Ess, in a patronizing drawl, why don't you pull your freight?
I'll advance you the money myself.
Run away? Why?
You're going to be arrestedthat's a straight tip. You may get
off, but think what you'll have to go through first. Skip till things
simmer down. They'll not go after you.
The girl flashed a smile of real merriment at her, which almost cost
Dr. Harpe her self-control. The young and now glowing beauty of the
girl before her, the unconscious air of superiority and confidence
which had its wellspring in some mysterious source was maddening to
her. The interview was taxing her self-control to the limit and she
felt that in some inexplicable way the tables were turning.
Youwon't go, then? Her voice held a menace.
Why should I, since I am innocent? Take a vacation yourself, Dr.
Harpe, with the money you so generously offer me. You need it.
She followed the girl's dancing eyes to the mirror opposite which
was tilted so that it reflected the whole of her uncouth pose. Slid far
down in the chair with her heels resting on the floor and wrinkling
hose exposed above her boottops, a knot of dull, red hair slipped to
one side with shorter ends hanging in dishevelment about her face, she
lookedthe thought was her ownlike a drab of the streets in the
magistrate's court in the morning. She was startled, shocked by her own
appearance. Was she, Emma Harpe, as old, as haggard, as evil-looking as
She had clung with peculiar tenacity to the hallucination that she
still had youthful charm of face and figure. As she stared, it seemed
as though the sand was sliding a little faster from beneath her feet.
She shoved the loose knot of hair to its place and straightened
herself, growing hot at the realization that she had betrayed to Essie
Tisdale something of her consternation.
She turned upon her fiercely
Look here, Ess, if you want to be friends with me, and have my
influence to get you out of this mess, you'd better change your
Haven't I yet made it clear to you that I care no more for your
friendship than for your enmity? Do you imagine that you can frighten
liking, or force respect after the occasion which we both remember?
There's one thing I can doI can make Crowheart too hot to hold
you! Her grip on herself was going fast.
Essie Tisdale stood up and, folding her arms, drew herself to her
slim height while she looked at her in contemptuous silence.
I know there is no low thing to which you would not stoop to make
good your boast. You make me think of a viper that has exhausted its
venom. You have the disposition to strike, but you no longer have the
You think not? And why? Do you imagine that your position in
Crowheart will be changed one iota by the fact that you've got a few
dollars that are red with blood? She flung the taunt at her with
My position in Crowheart is of no importance to me. Buther voice
cut like finely tempered steeldon't goad me too far. Don't forget
that I know you for what you area moral plaguecreeping like a
pestilence among people who are not familiar with your face. I know,
and you know that I know you are in no position, Dr. Harpe, to
point a finger at the commonest women in the dance hall below.
The woman sprang from her chair and walked to her with the crouching
swiftness of a preying animal. She grasped Essie Tisdale's wrist in a
grip which left its imprint for hours after.
How dare you!
Essie Tisdale raised her chin higher.
How dare I? She smiled in the infuriated woman's face. It takes
no courage for me to oppose you now. When I was a biscuit-shooter here,
as you lost no opportunity to remind me, you loomed large! That time
has gone by. Crowheart will know you some day as I know you. Your name
will be a byword in every saloon and bunk-house in the country!
I'll kill you!
The tense fingers were curved like steel hooks as she sprang for
Essie Tisdale's slender throat, but even as the girl shoved her chair
between them a masculine voice called Esther and a rap came upon the
Doctor Harpe's arms dropped to her side and she clutched handfuls of
her skirt as she struggled for self-control.
Essie Tisdale walked swiftly to the door and threw it wide. The
towering stranger stood in the corridor looking in amazement from one
woman to the other.
The girl turned and said with careful distinctness:
You have been so occupied of late that perhaps you have not heard
the news. My uncleMr. Richard KincaidDr. Harpe.
XXVIII. THE SWEETEST THING IN THE
Dr. Harpe standing at her office window saw the lovely Pearline
Starr, curled and dressed at ten in the morning, trip down the street
bearing a glass of buffalo berry jelly in her white-gloved hands, while
Mrs. Percy Parrott sitting erect in the Parrotts' new, second-hand
surrey, drove toward the hotel, carefully protecting from accident some
prized package which she held in her lap. Mrs. Parrott was wearing her
new ding-a-ling hat, grass-green in color, which, topping off the
moss-colored serge which, closely fitting her attenuated figure, gave
Mrs. Parrott a surprising resemblance to a katydid about to jump.
Dr. Harpe could not see Mrs. Abe Tutts walking gingerly across lots
carrying a pot of baked beans and brown bread in her two hands, nor
Mrs. Alva Jackson panting up another street with a Lady Baltimore cake
in the hope of reaching the hotel before her dearest friend and enemy
Mrs. Tutts, but Dr. Harpe knew from what she already had seen and from
the curious glances cast at the windows of the Terriberry House, that
the town was agog with Essie Tisdale's romantic story and her newly
established relationship to the important looking stranger. Mrs.
Terriberry could be trusted to attend to that and in her capable hands
it was certain to lose nothing in the telling.
The story was simple enough in itself and had its counterpart in
many towns throughout the West. Young Dick Kincaid had run away from
his home on the bank of the Mississippi River to make his fortune in
the mining camps of the far West. He did not write, because the fortune
was always just a little farther on. The months slipped into years, and
when he returned with the stake which was to be his peace offering,
the name of Kincaid was but a memory in the community, and the restless
Mississippi with its ever-changing channel flowed over the valuable
tract of black-walnut timber which had constituted the financial
resources of the Kincaids. The little sister had married a westerner as
poor as he was picturesque, and against her parents' wishes. They had
gone, never to be heard from again, disappeared mysteriously and
completely, and Samuel Kincaid had died, he and his wife, as much of
loneliness and longing as of age.
The triumphant return of his boyish dreams was, instead, an acute
and haunting remorse. The success that had been his, the success that
was to be his in the near-by city, never erased the bitter
disappointment of that home-coming. He had searched in vain for some
trace of the little sister whom he had loved. He had never given up
hoping and that hope had had its weight in influencing him to make the
tedious trip to Crowheart.
And then, as though the Fates had punished him enough for his filial
neglect, his sister's eyes had looked out at him from the flower-like
face at the funeral of old Edouard Dubois. He had followed up his
impulse, and the rest is quickly told, for all Crowheart knew the story
of Essie Tisdale's miraculous rescue and of the picture primer which
had furnished the single clue to her identity.
With the news of Essie Tisdale's altered positionand Mrs.
Terriberry missed no opportunity to convey the impression that
Kincaid's resources were unlimitedthe tide turned and the buffalo
berry jelly, the Lady Baltimore cake, baked beans and Mrs. Parrott's
tinned lobster salad, were the straws which in Crowheart always showed
which way the wind was blowing. That the ladies bearing these toothsome
offerings had not been speaking to Essie for some months past was a
small matter which they deemed best to forget.
Not so Mrs. Terriberry.
Mrs. Terriberry not only had Essie Tisdale's score to pay off but
her own as well, and who knows but that the latter was the sharper
incentive? To have been obliged to watch through a crack in the curtain
the fashionable world rustle by on its way to Mrs. Alva Jackson's
euchre had occasioned a pang not easily forgotten. To have knowledge of
the monthly meetings of Mrs. Parrott's Shadow Embroidery Class only
through the Society Column of the Crowheart Courier and to be
deprived of the privilege of hearing Mrs. Abe Tutts's paper upon
Wagnerian music at the Culture Club were slights that rankled.
She was suspiciously close at hand when the ladies appeared in the
office of the Terriberry House with their culinary successes; also she
was wearing the red foulard which never went out of the closet except
to funerals and important functions.
Although the most conspicuous thing about these early callers was
the parcels they carried, Mrs. Terriberry chose to ignore them.
Why, how do you do, Mrs. Parrott, and Miss Starr, too. It's a
lovely day to be out, isn't it? Her voice was distinctly patronizing
and she extended a languid hand to Mrs. Jackson. And usin' your brain
like you do, Mrs. Tutts, writin' them pieces for the Culture Club, I
suppose you have to git exercise.
I've brought Essie some lobster salad from a receipt that mamma
sent me, said Mrs. Parrott when she could get an opening, and while
it's canned lobster, it's really delicious!
The whites of sixteen aigs I put in this Lady Baltimore cake, and
it's light as a feather.
Mrs. Terriberry made no offer to take the package which Mrs. Jackson
Just a little taste of buffalo berry jelly for Essie, said Miss
Starr, with her most radiant smile. Her uncle might enjoy it.
I ain't forgot, said Mrs. Tutts, how fond Ess is of brown bread,
so I says to myself I'll just take some of my baked beans along, too.
Tutts says I beat the world on baked beans. Where's Ess? I'd like to
Yes; tell her we're here, chorused the others.
Mrs. Terriberry's moment had come. She drew herself up in a pose of
hauteur which a stout person can only achieve with practice.
Miss Tisdale, she replied with glib gusto, is engaged at present
and begs to be excused. But, she added in words which were obviously
her own, you can put your junk in the closet over there with the rest
* * * * *
Dr. Harpe understood perfectly now the meaning of the Dago Duke's
confident smile and the stranger's cold, searching look of enmity. He
was no weakling, this new-found relative of Essie Tisdale's, and the
Dago Duke's threats were no longer empty boastings.
If only she could sleep! Sleep? Was it days or weeks since she had
slept? Forebodings, suspicions of those whom she had been forced to
trust, Nell Beecroft, Lamb, and others, were spectres that frightened
sleep from her strained eyes. A tight band seemed stretched across her
forehead. She rubbed it hard, as though to lessen the tension. There
was a dull ache at the base of her brain and she shook her head to free
herself from it, but the jar hurt her.
Some one whistled in the corridor. She listened.
Farewell, my own dear Napoli, Farewell to Thee, Farewell to
Thee How she hated that song! The Dago Duke was coming for his
He stood before her with his hat in his hand, the other hand resting
on his hip smiling, confident, the one long, black lock of hair hanging
nearly in his eyes. He made no comment, but she saw that he was noting
the ravages which the intervening hours had left in her face. Beneath
his smile there was something hard and pitilessa look that the
executioner of a de Medici might have wornand for a moment it put her
at a loss for words. Then with an attempt at her old-time camaraderie,
she shoved a glass toward him
His white teeth flashed in a fleeting smile
If you will join mein my last drink?
For answer she filled his glass and hers.
He raised it and looked at her.
I give youthe sweetest thing in the world.
Her lip curled.
His black eyes glittered between their narrowed lids.
The power to avenge the wrongs of the helpless.
He set down his empty glass and fumbled in his pocket for a paper
which he handed her to read.
It's always well to know what you're signing, he said, and he
watched her face as her eyes followed the lines, with the intent yet
impersonal scrutiny of a specialist studying his case.
She looked, as she read, like a corpse that has been propped to a
sitting position, with nostrils sunken and lips of Parian marble. Her
hand shook with a violence which recalled her to herself, and when she
raised her eyes they looked as though the iris itself had faded. The
Dago Duke seemed absorbed in the curious effect.
He could hear the dryness of her mouth when she asked at last
You expect meto put my nameto this?
He inclined his head.
He replied evenly:
It is necessary.
You are asking me to sign my own death warrant.
He lifted his shoulders.
It is your reputation or Essie Tisdale's.
The name seemed to prick her like a goad. Her hands and body
twitched nervously and then he saw swift decision arrive in her face.
I'll not do it!
As moved by a common impulse they arose.
It's the lesser of two evils.
I don't care! She reiterated in a kind of hopeless desperation, I
don't careI'll fight!
He eyed her again with a recurrence of his impersonal professional
You can't go through it, Doc; you haven't the stamina, any more.
You don't know what you're up against, for I haven't half showed my
hand. I have no personal grievance, as you know, but the wrongs of my
countrymen are my wrongs, and for your brutality to them you shall
answer to me. Fight if you will, but when you're done you'll not
disgrace your profession again in this or any other State.
While this scene was occurring in Doctor Harpe's office, Andy P.
Symes in his office was toying impatiently with an unopened letter from
Mudge as Mr. Percy Parrott, hat in hand, stood before him.
It's not that I'm worried at all, Mr. Symesevery line of
Parrott's face was deep-lined with anxiety as he spokebut, of
course, I've made you these loans largely upon my own responsibility,
I've exceeded my authority, in fact, and any failure on your part
Mr. Parrott finding himself floundering under Symes's cold gaze blurted
out desperately, Well, 'twould break us!
Certainly, certainly, I know all that, but, really, these frequent
dunsthis Homeseekers' Excursion has put me behind with my work, but
as soon as things are straightened out again
Oh, of course. That's all right. I understand, but as soon as you
Mr. Parrott's lengthened jaw rested between the white wings of his
collar as he turned away. It might have reached his shirt-stud had he
known the number of creditors that had preceded him.
Even Symes's confident assurances that the complete failure of the
Homeseekers' Excursion was relatively a small matter, could not
entirely eradicate from the minds of Crowheart's merchants the picture
presented by the procession of excursionists returning with their
satchels to the station, glowering at Crowheart's citizens as they
passed and making loud charges of misrepresentation and fraud.
When the door closed behind him Symes dropped the catch that he
might read Mudge's bulky letter undisturbed. Mudge's diction was ever
open to criticism, but he had a faculty for conveying his meaning which
genius well might envy.
The letter read:
MY DEAR SYMES:
Are you the damnedest fool or the biggest scoundrel out of jail?
Write and let me know.
I told you there was something wrong; that some outside
was queering us all along the line and I let myself be talked
my conviction by you instead of getting busy and finding out
The stock and bondholders have had a meeting and are going to
the court to appoint a Receiver, and when he gets through with
we'll cut as much ice in the affairs of the Company as two
office-boys, with no cause for complaint if we keep out of
There's been a high-priced engineer doing detective work on the
project for days and his report wouldn't be apt to swell your
The bondholders know more about the Symes Irrigation Company
conditions under the project than I ever did.
They know that your none too perfect water-right won't furnish
for a third of the land under the ditch. They know that if you
every water-right on the river that there's some ten thousand
of high land that couldn't be reached with a fire-hose. They
that there's another thousand or so where the soil isn't deep
to grow radishes, let alone sugar-beets. They know, too, that
instead of the $250,000 of your estimate to complete the ditch
will require nearly half a million, and they're on to the fact
in order to get this estimate you cut your own engineer's
two, and then some, upon the cost of making cuts and handling
Rough work, Symes, raw even for a green hand. You've left a
blood a yard wide behind you.
Furthermore, the report contained the information that the wide
business experience which you lost no occasion to mention
chiefly of standing off your creditors in various sections of
I trust that I have made it quite plain to you that we're down
and out. I have about as much weight in financial circles as a
second-story man, and am regarded in much the same light, while
are as important as a cipher without the rim.
And the man behind all this, the largest bond-holder, the fellow
that has pulled the strings, is not the Fly-Trap King, or even
Collins Prescott, but the man he works for, Ogden Van Lennop,
present address happens to be Crowheart.
What's the answer? Why has a man like Van Lennop who is there on
ground and has long been familiar with conditions, why has he
the largest investor? Why should he tie up money in a project
the engineer reports will never pay more than a minimum rate of
interest upon the investment even when the Company is
and the ditch pushed to completion under economical and capable
management? Why has he come in the Company for the one purpose
wrecking it? Why has he stuck the knife between your short ribs
mineand turned it? What's the answer, Symes, you must know?
We might as well buck the Bank of England as the Van Lennops, or
match our wits against the Secret Service. They've got us roped
tied and I'd advise you not to squeal.
S. B. MUDGE
Symes laid down the letter and smoothed it carefully, setting a
small brass crocodile exactly in the centre. Wiping his clammy palms
upon one of the handkerchiefs purchased on his wedding tour, the
texture of which always gave him a pleasurable sense of refinement and
well-being, he read again the line which showed below the paper-weight:
There's one thing surewe're down and out.
Symes's head sunk weakly forward. Down and out! Not even Mudge knew
how far down and out!
Stripped of the hope of success, robbed of the position which he had
made for himself, his self-esteem punctured, his home-life a mockery,
no longer youngit was the combination which makes a man whose vanity
is his strength, lose his grip. To be little where he had been big; to
be the object of his ruined neighbors' scornmen have blown their
brains out in his mood, and for less.
What Mudge and the Company regarded as wilful misrepresentations had
in the beginning been due to inexperience and ignorance of an
undertaking which it required scientific knowledge to successfully
carry out. When the truth had been gradually borne in upon him as the
work progressed, he felt that it was too late to explain or retract if
he would raise more money and keep his position. The real cost he
believed would frighten possible investors and with the peculiar
sanguineness of the short-sighted, he thought that it would work out
And all had gone well until Mudge's unheeded warning had come that
some subtle but formidable influence was at work to their undoing.
The dull red of mortification crept slowly over Symes's face as he
realized that Ogden Van Lennop, before whom he had boasted of his
lineage, and patronized, was a conspicuous member of a family whose
name was all but a household word throughout the land!
But why, Symes asked the question that Mudge had asked, why should
Van Lennop thrust the knife between his short ribsand turn it? It
could not be because Van Lennop had resented his patronage and his
vaporings to any such extent as this; he was not that kind. No; he had
been touched deeper than his pride or any petty vanity.
Another question like an answer to his first flashed through his
mind. Could it bewas it possible that his attentions to Essie
Tisdale, the biscuit-shooter of the Terriberry House, had been sincere?
Symes rose in sudden excitement and paced the floor.
He believed it was! The belief grew to conviction and he dropped
again into his chair. If this was it he need expect no quarter. As his
thoughts flashed back over the past the fact began to stand out clearly
that nearly every unfriendly act he had shown the girl had been
instigated by Doctor Harpe and accomplished through Augusta.
That woman! The veins swelled in his temples. Always that woman!
and as though in answer to her name he saw her pass the window and
shake the latched door.
Let me in! It was a peremptory demand.
Symes threw the catch back hard.
Yes, Dr. Harpe, I'll let you in. I've business with you. For the
first time in my life I want to see you. His tone was brutal. Sit
down! He laid his huge hand upon her shoulder and thrust her into a
Towering above her in the red-faced, loud-voiced fury of a man who
has lost his self-control, he shouted:
I want you to get out! To quit! To leave this town! Twenty-four
hours I'll give you to get your traps together. Do you hear? If you
don't, so help me God, I'll put you where you belong! Don't speak, he
raised his hand as though to forestall her, lest I forget your sex.
He went on, inarticulate with passion: I've protected you as long as I
canas long as I'm going to. Do you understand? I'm done. I've got
some little self-respect left; not much, but enough to see me through
this. And you can tell Augusta Symes that if she wants to go, every
door is open wide! Tell hertell her that for me!
He stopped, choked with the violence of his feelings, and in the
pause which followed she sat looking up at him unmoved. The shock
seemed to quiet her. Then, too, it was so like another scene indelibly
engraved upon her memory that she wanted to laughactually to laugh.
Yet Symes's violence cut her less than had the cool, impersonal voice
of the coroner back there in that little Nebraska town. She found his
blazing eyes far easier to meet than the cold unfriendliness in the
gaze of the man who had delivered that other ultimatum. Perhaps it was
because she believed she had less to fear. Symes dared notdared
not, she told herselfenforce his threats.
Symes read something of this thought in her face and it maddened
him. Was it not possible to make her comprehend? Was she really so
callous, so thick-skinned that she was immune from insult? His hand
dropped once more upon her shoulder.
I'm ruineddo you understand? He shook her. I'm down and out.
I'm broke; and so is Crowheart! She winced under his tightening grip.
The smash was due when Van Lennop said the word. He's said it. He
felt her start at the name and there was something like fear in her
face at last. Van Lennop, he reiterated, Van Lennop that you've made
my enemy to gratify your personal spite and jealousy. He continued
through clenched teeth:
From the beginning you've used me to further your petty ends. It's
plain enough to me now, for, with all your fancied cleverness, you're
transparent as a window-pane when one understands your character.
You've silenced me, I admit it, and blackmailed me through my pride and
ambition, but you've reached the limit. You can't do it any more. I've
You expect to cling to my coat-tails to keep yourself up. You look
to my position for shelter, but let me make it clear to you that you
can't hide behind my prestige and my position any longer. You human
sponge! You parasite! Do you think I'm blind because I've been dumb?
Go! youDEGENERATE! By God! you go before I kill you!
In his insane fury he pulled her to her feet by the shoulders of her
loose-cut coat where she stood looking at him uncertainly, her faded
eyes set in a gray mask.
See here, Mr. Symes, see here she said in a kind of vague
Symes pushed her toward the door as Adolph Kunkel passed.
Will you go? Symes shouted.
She turned on the sidewalk and faced him. The gray mask wore a
Hi, Doc! Kunkel pointed to a straight, black pillar of smoke
rising at the station, and yelled in local parlance: Look there! Your
beau's come! That's the Van Lennop Special!
XXIX. THE BITTER END
She ain't here. Nell Beecroft, with arms akimbo, blocked the
Upon your honor, Nell?
She looked the sheriff squarely in the eyes.
Upon my honor, Dan.
She saw the doubt lying behind his look, but she did not flinch.
When she comes, send me word. No, on second thought, you needn't;
I'll be back. He tapped the inside pocket of his coat significantly.
I want to see Dr. Harpe most particular.
I'll tell her, the woman answered shortly. She watched him down
the street. He knows I'm lyin', she muttered, and though the heat was
unusual, she closed the door behind her.
The muffled sound of beating fists drew her to the cellarway.
Nelllet me out! Quick! Open the door!
Nell Beecroft took a key from her apron pocket and demanded harshly
as she turned it in the lock:
What's the matter with you, anyhow?
Dr. Harpe stumbled blinking into the light.
Oh-h-h! she gasped in relief.
You'd better stay cached. Nell Beecroft eyed, with a look of
contempt, the woman for whom she had lied. Dan Treu was here; he's got
I don't careI'll not go down there! She pinned wildly at the
loosened knot of dull red hair which lay upon her shoulders. That was
fierce! She looked in horror down the dusky cellarway.
What ails you, Harpe? There was no sympathy in the harsh voice.
Dr. Harpe laugheda foolish, apologetic laugh.
SpooksNell! I'm nervousI'm all unstrung. Moses! I thought all
the arms and legs we've amputated were chasin' me upstairs. Did you
hear me scream?
No, the woman reiterated sharply. Dan Treu was here. He wants to
see you most particular.
You didn't tell him
Of course not.
You won't go back on me, Nell?
The woman regarded her in cold dislike.
No, I'll not go back on you, Harpe. A man or a woman that ain't got
some redeemin' trait, some one thing that you can bank on, is no good
on earth, and stickin' to them I've throwed in with happens to be mine.
What you goin' to do? stay and brazen it outthis mess you're inor
quit the flat?
Nell, she replied irrelevantly with a quick, uncertain glance
around, I'm afraid. Do you know what it is to be afraid?
I've been scart, the woman answered curtly.
I've a queer, sinkin' feeling here, she laid her hand at the pit
of her stomach, and my back feels weakall gone. My knees take spells
of wobblin' when I walk. I'm afraid in the dark. I'm afraid in the
light. Not so much of any one thing as of some big, intangible thing
that hasn't happened. I can't shake off the feeling. It's horrible. My
mind won't stop thinkin' of things I don't want to think of. My nerves
are a wreck, Nell. I've lost my grip, my judgment. I'm not myself.
Nell Beecroft listened in hard curiosity, eyeing her critically.
Oh, yes, you are, only you've never really seen yourself before.
You've took your brass for courage. Lots of people do that till some
real show-down comes.
Look here, Nell,her voice held a whine of protestyou haven't
got me sized up right. Yet in her heart she knew that the woman's
brutal analysis was true. Better even than Nell Beecroft she knew that
what passed with her following for shrewdness and courage in reality
was callousness and calculating cynicism.
The woman ignored the interruption and went on
So long as you could swagger around with Andy P. Symes to bolster
you up and a crowd of old women to flatter you, you could put up a
front, but you ain't the kind, Harpe, that can turn your back to the
wall, fold your arms, and sling defiance at the town if they all turn
But they won't.
You've got a kind of mulishness, and you've got gall, and when
things are goin' your way you'll take long chances, but they ain't the
traits that gives a person the sand to stand out in the open with their
head up and let the storms whip thunder out of them without a whimper.
It's my nerves, I tell you; they're shot to piecesthe strain I've
been undereverything goin' wrongpilin' on me like a thousand of
Is it goin' to be any better?
Some of my friends will stick, Dr. Harpe repeated stubbornly.
Sure, they will. A woman like you will always have a followin'
among the igner'nt and weak-minded.
What you roastin' me for like this? The woman's brutal frankness
touched her at last. Who and what do you think you are yourself?
Nothin', Nell Beecroft returned composedly. Nobody at all. Just
the wife of a horse-thief that's doin' time. But, and her hard, gray
eyes flashed in momentary pride, he learnt me the diffrunce between
sand and a yellow-streak. They sent fifty men to take him out of the
hills, and when he was handed his medicine he swallowed the whole dose
to save his pardner, and never squeaked.
Nell Beecroft walked to the window swallowing hard at the lump which
rose in her throat.
If I could sleepget one night's decent sleep
When you collapse you'll go quick, opined the woman unemotionally.
But I'm goin' to see it throughI'll stick to the bitter endI'm
Ain't you? Sudden excitement leaped into Nell Beecroft's voice and
she stared hard down the street. Unless I'm mistaken you're goin' to
have as fine a chance to prove it as anybody I ever see. Come here.
She pointed to a gesticulating mob which was turning the corner where
the road led from the Symes Irrigation Project into town.
The dagos! Dr. Harpe's voice was a whisper of fear.
They're on the prod, Nell Beecroft said briefly, and strode to the
cellar-door. Cache yourself! She would have thrust Dr. Harpe down the
Nononot there! I can't! I'd scream! She shrank back in
unfeigned horror. I'm goin' to run for it, Nell! The Dago Duke has
ribbed this up on me! From force of habit she reached for her black
medicine case as she swung her Stetson on her head. If I can get to
Symes's housedown the alleythey can't see me
Nell Beecroft, with curling lips, stood in the kitchen doorway and
watched her go. Crouching, with her head bent, she ran through the
alley, panting, wild-eyed in her exaggerated fear.
A big band of bleating sheep on the way to the loading pens at the
station blocked her way where she would have crossed the street to
Symes's house. She swore in a frenzy of impatience as she waited for
them to pass in the cloud of choking dust raised by their tiny, pointed
Way 'round 'em, Shep! The voice was familiar. Hullo, Doc! The
Sheep King of Poison Creek waved a grimy, genial hand.
Hurry your infernal woolers along, can't you? she yelled in
That other cloud of dust rising above the road which led from the
Symes Irrigation Project into town was coming closer. She plunged among
the sheep, forcing a path for herself through the moving mass of woolly
You're in a desprit rush, looks like. They won't die till you get
there! The Sheep King was not too pleased as he ran to head the sheep
she had turned.
Like the devil was after her. He watched her bound up the steps of
Symes's veranda and burst through the doorway.
The engineer had steam up and the last half dozen sheep were being
prodded into the last car of the long train bound for the Eastern
market when the Sheep King of Poison Creek drew his shirt sleeve across
his moist forehead in relief and observed with feeling:
Of all the contraryonerysay, Bill, there's them as says sheep
It took a moment for this surprising assertion to sink into his
They as says sheep is fools Bill, the herder's voice rang with
scorn, them as says sheep is fools great mental effort was
visible upon his blank countenance as he groped for some word or
combination of words sufficiently strong to express his opinion of
those who doubted the intelligence of sheepis fools themselves, he
added lamely, finding none.
Guess we're about ready to pull out. Get aboard, Bill. The Sheep
King, squinting along the track where the banked cinders radiated heat
waves, was watching, not the signalling brakeman, but a figure skulking
in the shade of the red water-tank. It looks like
The heavy train of bleating sheep began to crawl up the grade. The
Sheep King stood at the door of the rear car looking fixedly at the
slinking figure so obviously waiting for the caboose to pass.
Dr. Harpe threw her black medicine case upon the platform.
Give us a hand. The words were a demand, but there was appeal in
the eyes upturned to his as she thrust up her own hand.
Sure. The cordiality in the Sheep King's voice was forced as he
dragged her aboard; and in his curious looks, his constraint of manner,
the sly glances and averted, grinning faces of his helpers inside, Dr.
Harpe read her fate.
Your name, Essie Tisdale had said, will be a byword in every
sheep-camp and bunk-house in the country.
Sick with a baffled feeling of defeat and the realization that the
prophecy of the girl she hated already had come true, Dr. Harpe sat on
the top step of the caboose, her chin buried in her hands, with moody,
malignant eyes watching Crowheart fade as the bleating, ill-smelling
sheep train crept up the grade.
XXX. THICKER THAN WATER
Essie Tisdale pulled aside the coarse lace curtains starched to
asbesteroid stiffness which draped the front windows of the upstairs
parlor in the Terriberry House, and looked with growing interest at an
excited and rapidly growing group on the wide sidewalk in front of the
Such gatherings in Crowheart nearly always portended a fight, but
since the hub of the fast widening circle appeared to be Mr. Percy
Parrott gesticulating wildly with a newspaper, she concluded that it
was merely a sensational bit of news which had come from the outside
world. Yet the citizens of Crowheart were not given to exhibiting
concern over any happening which did not directly concern themselves,
and Dr. Lamb was running. From a hurried walk he broke into a
short-stepped, high-kneed prance which was like the action of an
English cob, while from across the street dashed Sohmes, the abnormally
fat butcher, clasping both hands over his swaying abdomen to lessen the
She turned from the window, and one of the waves of gladness which
kept rising within her again swept over her as she realized that the
affairs of Crowheart meant nothing to her now. A gulf, invisible as
yet, but real as her own existence, lay between her and the life of
which she had been a part such a little time before.
She looked about her at the cotton plush furniture of dingy red, at
the marble-topped centre table upon whose chilly surface a large,
gilt-edged family Bible reposedplaced there by Mrs. Terriberry in the
serene confidence that its fair margins would never be defiled through
use. Beside the Bible, lay the plush album with its Lombroso-like
villainous gallery of countenances upon which transient vandals had
pencilled mustaches regardless of sex. She looked at the fly-roost of
pampas grass in the sky-blue vase on the shelf from which hung an
old-gold lambriquin that represented the highest art of the Kensington
cultwater lilies on plushand at the crowning glory of the parlor, a
pier glass in a walnut frame.
It was tawdry and cheap and offended her eye, but it was exclusively
her own and she looked about her with a keen thrill of pleasure because
of the condition which her occupancy of it represented. Somehow it
seemed years ago that she had walked around the hole in the ingrain
carpet in the bare room which looked out upon the heap of tin-cans and
corrals of the Terriberry House.
Through the door which opened into her bed-chamber she saw the floor
littered with boxes and papers, the new near-silk petticoat draping a
chair, the new near-tailored suit which represented the last cry from
the General Merchandise Store, the Parisian hat which the clairvoyant
milliner had seen in a trance and trimmed from memory, but the lines of
which suggested that the milliner's astral body had practised a
deception and projected itself no further than 14th Street.
A fresh realization of what these things meant, namely the personal
interest of some one who cared, brought a rush of tears to her eyes.
They were still moist when Mr. Richard Kincaid appeared in the parlor,
his eyes twinkling above a pillar of boxes and bundles which he carried
in his arms.
What's the matter, Esther? What has happened? He dropped the
packages and went to her side.
She threw her arms impulsively about his neck and laid her head upon
his breast while she said between little sobs of tears and laughter
I'm so happy! happy! happy! Uncle Dickthat's all. And so
grateful, too. I love you so much that I want to cry, and so happy that
I want to laugh. So I do both. I didn't have to learn to love you. I
did from the first. It came with a rush just as soon as I found out who
you werethat we belonged to each other, you know. All at once I felt
so differentso safeso sure of you, and so secureand so proud to
think we were related. I can't explain exactly, but just being me, so longnot knowing who I was or where I came fromand belonging to
no one at allit seems a wonderful thing to have you!
She turned her face to his shoulder and cried softly.
He patted her cheek and smileda smile that was of sadness and
I know what you mean, Esther; I comprehend your feelings perfectly.
It's the bond of kinship which you recognize, the tie of blood, and let
me tell you, girl, there never was a truer saying than the old one that
'blood is thicker than water.' Disguise it as you will, and bitter
family feuds would sometimes seem to give it the lie, but it's a fact
just the same. It takes time to find it outa lifetime oftenbut deep
in the heart of every normal human being there's an instinctive,
intimate, personal feeling for one's own flesh and blood that is like
nothing else. Their successes and their failures touch us closer, for
the pride of race is in us all.
There's none who realize more strongly the limitations of
strangers' friendships than those, who, like you and I, have been
dependent upon them as a substitute for the affection of our own. But
there, that's done with, loneliness is behind us, for we have each
other now; and, bottled up within me, I've the longings of twenty years
to spoil and pamper somebody. When I was the marrying age I was off in
the hills; since then I've been too busy and too critical. So you see,
Esther Kincaid Tisdale, you are filling a long-felt want.
He kissed her with a smack and she hugged his arm in ecstasy.
I'm going to try and make up for what we both have lost. No harm
can come to you so long as I have a dollar and the brains to make
It's like stories I've dreamed! she breathed happily.
But tell me,some thought made him hold her at arms' length to
read her facehas there been no one, no one at all who has figured in
these dreams of yours in a different way from which I do?
He watched with something like consternation the tell-tale color
rise in her face and her eyes drop from his own.
There wasone, she faltered, but heImisunderstoodI was
vain enough to think he cared for me. It was a mistakea stupid
mistake of minehe just liked mehe was lonelyI supposethat's
all. She swallowed hard to down the rising lump in her throat.
Who was he?
I don't know exactly who he was; he just came here; rode in on
horsebackfor his health, he said. They used to say he was a hold-up
getting the lay of the town to make a raid, or a gambler, but he
wasn't, he wasn't anything like that. You'd have liked
him, Uncle Dick, I know you would have liked him! Her eyes were
sparkling now. He talked like you, and when he was interested enough
to exert himself he had the same sure way of doing things. But he went
away about three weeks ago and did not even say good-by.
What's his name?
She answered with an effort
Ogden Van Lennop.
Van Lennop? Kincaid's voice was sharp with astonishment. Why,
girl, he's here. He just got in and he's raising Cain in Crowheart! I
meant to tell you, but this shopping business quite drove it from my
head. The news has only come out that the Symes's Irrigation Company is
going into a Receiver's hands and the bondholders will foreclose their
mortgages. Look down in the street. There's a mob of workmen from the
project and the creditors of your friend Symes considering how they
best can extract blood from a turnip. For some reason of his own Van
Lennop has gone after Symes's scalp and got it. Don't be too quick to
judge him, Esther. But a glance at her face told him he need not plead
Van Lennop's cause.
He meant it, then! she exclaimed breathlessly. All that he said
that day we rode together. I didn't understand his meaning, but this is
it: 'I'll wear your colors in the arena where men fightand
win,' he said. 'I'll fight with the weapons I know best how to use.'
If he's the member of the family that I think he is, said Kincaid
dryly, it's almost unsportsmanlike for him to go after Symes; it's
like a crack pigeon shot shooting a bird sitting.
And he said, Essie went on, 'Don't waste your energy in
quarrelling with your enemies, concentratemake money out of them.'
Did Van Lennop say that?
They'll pay tribute, then. Van Lennop will put this project through
in his own good time; but let me prophesy they'll be pitching
horse-shoes in the main street of Crowheart first.
The sound of a commotion on the stairs reached them.
What's broken loose in this man's town now?
As though in direct answer to Kincaid's question Mrs. Terriberry
lunged down the corridor looking like a hippopotamus in red foulard.
If anything more happensMrs. Terriberry's voice rose shrill and
positiveI shall die!
A lunge in his direction indicated that her demise might take place
in Kincaid's arms, but a startled side-step saved him and she sank
heavily upon the red plush sofa. Her teeth chattered with a touch of
nervous chill and her skin looked mottled.
She choked her! choked her almost to death! She'd a done it in a
minute more only the hired girl broke her holt!
Who? What do you mean, Mrs. Terriberry?
Dr. Harpe! She choked Gussie Symes because Gussie wouldn't leave
her home and go away with her! Did you ever hear such a thing! She
went on in disconnected gasps: Crazy! Jealous! I don't know
whatnobody doesand she's disappearedthey can't find her. Mrs.
Terriberry's shudders made the sofa creak. And her active in church
work, which they say her langwudge was awful!
But Essie Tisdale was listening to another step upon the stair and
she trembled when she heard the steps hastening down the corridor.
Van Lennop saw only her as he came toward her with outstretched
hands, speaking her name with the yearning tenderness with which he had
spoken it to himself a hundred times
He kissed her, and she yielded, as though there were no need for
words between them.
But my letter? My telegram? Why didn't you answer?
Her eyes widened with astonishment.
Your letter! Your telegram!
You didn't get them?
Who did then?
She shook her head.
No one knew you'd gone but Dr. Harpe.
You wrote her!
I wrote Dr. Harpe? He stared at her for one incredulous second. I
wrote Dr. Harpe! She said so?
She said you left a letter for her.
There leaped into his steel-gray eyes a look which reminded Kincaid
of the play of a jagged flash of lightning. He spoke slowly and
enunciated very carefully when he said
I knew Dr. Harpe had the instincts of a prying servant, but I
scarcely thought she'd go as far as that.
Essie, Kincaid tapped her on the shoulder, don't forget that your
old Uncle Dick is here and waiting to be noticed.
He laughed aloud at her confusion and said as he and Van Lennop
shook each other's hand
Just as I think I'm fixed for life, by George! I'm shoved out in
the cold again; for I am forced to believehis eyes twinkled as he
looked at Van Lennopthat I am not the only Homeseeker left in