Author of "Added Upon," "Romance of A Missionary," etc.
"The Keys of the Holy Priesthood unlock the Door of Knowledge and let you look into the Palace of Truth."
Salt Lake City, Utah
Other books by Nephi Anderson.
"ADDED UPON"—A story of the past, the present, and the future stages of existence.
"THE CASTLE BUILDER"—The scenes and incidents are from the "Land of the Midnight Sun."
"PINEY RIDGE COTTAGE"—A love story of a Mormon country girl. Illustrated.
"STORY OF CHESTER LAWRENCE"—Being the completed account of one who played an important part in "Piney Ridge Cottage."
"A DAUGHTER OF THE NORTH"—A story of a Norwegian girl's trials and triumphs. Illustrated.
"JOHN ST. JOHN"—The story of a young man who went through the soul-trying scenes of Missouri and Illinois.
"ROMANCE OF A MISSIONARY"—A story of English life and missionary experiences. Illustrated.
"MARCUS KING MORMON"—A story of early days in Utah.
"THE BOYS OF SPRINGTOWN"—A story about boys for boys and all interested in boys. Illustrated.
Dorian Trent was going to town to buy himself a pair of shoes. He had some other errands to perform for himself and his mother, but the reason for his going to town was the imperative need of shoes. It was Friday afternoon. The coming Sunday he must appear decently shod, so his mother had told him, at the same time hinting at some other than the Sunday reason. He now had the money, three big, jingling silver dollars in his pocket.
Dorian whistled cheerfully as he trudged along the road. It was a scant three miles to town, and he would rather walk that short distance than to be bothered with a horse. When he took Old Nig, he had to keep to the main-traveled road straight into town, then tie him to a post—and worry about him all the time; but afoot and alone, he could move along as easily as he pleased, linger on the canal bank or cut cross-lots through the fields to the river, cross it on the footbridge, then go on to town by the lower meadows.
The road was dusty that afternoon, and the sun was hot. It would be cooler under the willows by the river. At Cottonwood Corners, Dorian left the road and took the cut-off path. The river sparkled cool and clear under the overhanging willows. He saw a good-sized trout playing in the pool, but as he had no fishing tackle with him, the boy could only watch the fish in its graceful gliding in and out of sunshine and shadow. A robin overhead was making a noisy demonstration as if in alarm about a nest. Dorian sat on the bank to look and listen for a few moments, then he got up again.
Crossing the river, he took the cool foot-path under the willows. He cut down one of the smoothest, sappiest branches with which to make whistles. Dorian was a great maker of whistles, which he freely gave away to the smaller boys and girls whom he met. Just as it is more fun to catch fish than to eat them, so Dorian found more pleasure in giving away his whistles than to stuff them in his own pockets. However, that afternoon, he had to hurry on to town, so he caught no fish, and made only one whistle which he found no opportunity to give away. In the city, he attended to his mother's errands first. He purchased the few notions which the store in his home town of Greenstreet did not have, checking each item off on a slip of paper with a stub of a pencil. Then, there were his shoes.
Should he get lace or button, black or tan? Were there any bargains in shoes that afternoon? He would look about to see. He found nothing in the way of footwear on Main street which appealed to him. He lingered at the window of the book store, looking with envious eyes at the display of new books. He was well known by the bookseller, for he was a frequent visitor, and, once in a while, he made a purchase; however, to day he must not spend too much time "browsing" among books. He would, however, just slip around to Twenty-fifth street and take a look at the secondhand store there. Not to buy shoes, of course, but sometimes there were other interesting things there, especially books.
Ah, look here! Spread out on a table on the sidewalk in front of this second-hand store was a lot of books, a hundred or more—books of all kind—school books, history, fiction, all of them in good condition, some only a little shopworn, others just like new. Dorian Trent eagerly looked them over. Here were books he had read about, but had not read—and the prices! Dickens' "David Copperfield", "Tale of Two Cities", "Dombey and Son", large well-printed books, only a little shopworn, for thirty-five cents; Thackeray's "Vanity Fair", twenty-five cents; books by Mrs. Humphrey Ward and Margaret Deland; "Robinson Crusoe", a big book with fine pictures. Dorian had, of course, read "Robinson Crusoe" but he had always wanted to own a copy. Ah, what's this? Prescott's "Conquest of Peru", two volumes, new, fifty cents each! Dorian turned the leaves. A man stepped up and also began handling the books. Yes, here were bargains, surely. He stacked a number together as if he desired to secure them. Dorian becoming fearful, slipped the other volume of the Conquest under his arm and made as if to gather a number of other books under his protection. He must have some of these before they were all taken by others. The salesman now came up to him and asked:
"Find something you want?"
"O, yes, a lot of things I like" replied Dorian.
Dorian needed not to be told that.
"They're going fast, too."
"Yes, I suppose so."
His heart fell as he said it, for he realized that he had no money to buy books. He had come to town to buy shoes, which he badly needed. He glanced down at his old shoes. They were nearly falling to pieces, but they might last a little longer. If he bought the "Conquest of Peru" he would still have two dollars left. Could he buy a pair of shoes for that amount? Very likely but not the kind his mother had told him to get, the kind that were not too heavy or "stogy" looking, but would be "nice" for Sundays. He held tightly on to the two books, while Dickens and Thackeray were still protectingly within his reach. What could he do?
Down there in Peru there had been a wonderful people whom Pizarro, the bad, bold Spaniard had conquered and abused. Dorian knew about it all vaguely as a dim fairy tale; and here was the whole story, beautifully and minutely told. He must have these books. This bargain might never come again to him. But what would his mother say? She herself had added the last half dollar to his amount to make sure that he could get the nicer kind.
"Well, sir, how many of these will you have?" asked the salesman.
"I'll—I'll take these two, anyway"—meaning Prescott's Conquest—"and let me see", he looked hungrily over the titles—"And this one 'David Copperfield'." It was hard to select from so many tempting ones. Here was one he had missed: "Ben Hur"—, a fine new copy in blue and gold. He had read the Chariot Race, and if the whole story was as interesting as that, he must have it. He handed the volume to the salesman. Then his hand touched lovingly a number of other books, but he resisted the temptation, and said: "That's all—this time."
The clerk wrapped the purchase in a newspaper and handed the package to Dorian who paid for them with his two silver dollars, receiving some small silver in change. Then, with his package under his arm, the boy walked on down the street.
Well, what now? He was a little afraid of what he had done. How could he face his mother? How could he go home without shoes? Books might be useful for the head, but they would not clothe the feet. He jingled the coins in his pocket as he walked on down to the end of the business section of the city. He could not buy any kind of shoes to fit his big feet for a dollar and twenty cents. There was nothing more to do but to go home, and "face the music", so he walked on in a sort of fearsome elation. At a corner he discovered a new candy store. Next to books, Dorian liked candy. He might as well buy some candy for the twenty cents. He went into the store and took his time looking at the tempting display, finally buying ten cents worth of chocolates for himself and ten cents worth of peppermint lozenges for his mother.
You see, Dorian Trent, though sixteen years old, was very much a child; he did many childish things, and yet in some ways, he was quite a man; the child in him and the man in him did not seem to merge into the boy, but were somewhat "separate and apart," as the people of Greenstreet would say.
Dorian again took the less frequented road home. The sun was still high when he reached the river. He was not expected home for some time yet, so there was no need for hurry. He crossed the footbridge, noticing neither birds nor fish. Instead of following the main path, he struck off into a by-trail which led him to a tiny grass plat in the shade of a tree by the river. He sat down here, took off his hat, and pushed back from a freckled, sweating forehead a mop of wavy, rusty-colored hair. Then he untied his package of books and spread his treasures before him as a miser would his gold. He opened "David Copperfield", looked at the frontispiece which depicted a fat man making a very emphatic speech against someone by the name of Heep. It must all be very interesting, but it was altogether too big a book for him to begin to read now. "Ben Hur" looked solid and substantial; it would keep until next winter when he would have more time to read. Then he picked up the "Conquest", volume one. He backed up against the tree, settled himself into a comfortable position, took from his paper bag a chocolate at which he nibbled contentedly, and then away he went with Prescott to the land of the Inca and the glories of a vanished race!
For an hour he read. Then, reluctantly, he closed his book, wrapped up his package again, and went on his homeward way.
The new canal for which the farmers of Greenstreet had worked and waited so long had just been completed. The big ditch, now full of running water, was a source of delight to the children as well as to the more practical adults. The boys and girls played on its banks, and waded and sported in the cool stream. Near the village of Greenstreet was a big headgate, from which the canal branched into two divisions. As Dorian walked along the canal bank that afternoon, he saw a group of children at play near the headgate. They were making a lot of robust noise, and Dorian stopped to watch them. He was always interested in the children, being more of a favorite among them than among the boys of his own age.
"There's Dorian," shouted one of the boys. "Who are you going to marry?"
What in the world were the youngsters talking about, thought the young man, as the chattering children surrounded him.
"What's all this?" asked Dorian, "a party?"
"Yes; it's Carlia's birthday; we're just taking a walk by the canal to see the water; my, but it's nice!"
"What, the party or the water?"
"Why, the water."
"Both" added another.
"We've all told who we're going to marry," remarked a little rosy-faced miss, "all but Carlia, an' she won't tell."
"Well, but perhaps Carlia don't know. You wouldn't have her tell a fib, would you?"
"Oh, shucks, she knows as well as us."
"She's just stubborn."
She who was receiving these criticisms seemed to be somewhat older and larger than her companions. Just now, not deigning to notice the accusation of her friends, she was throwing sticks into the running water and watching them go over the falls at the headgate and dance on the rapids below. Her white party dress was as yet spotless. She swung her straw hat by the string. Her brown-black hair was crowned by an unusually large bow of red ribbon. She was not the least discomposed by the teasing of the other children, neither by Dorian's presence. This was her party, and why should not she do and say what she pleased.
Carlia now led the way along the canal bank until she came to where a pole spanned the stream. She stopped, looked at the somewhat insecure footbridge, then turning to her companions, said:
"I can back you out."
"How? Doin' what?" they asked.
"Crossing the canal on the pole."
"Shucks, you can't back me out," declared one of the boys, at which he darted across the swaying pole, and with a jump, landed safely across. Another boy went at it gingerly, and with the antics of a tight-rope walker, he managed to get to the other side. The other boys held back; none of the girls ventured.
"All right, Carlia," shouted the boys on the other bank.
The girl stood looking at the frail pole.
"Come on, it's easy," they encouraged.
Carlia placed her foot on the pole as if testing it. The other girls protested. She would fall in and drown.
"You dared us; now who's the coward," cried the boys.
Carlia took a step forward, balanced herself, and took another. The children stood in spell-bound silence. The girl advanced slowly along the frail bridge until she reached the middle where the pole swayed dangerously.
"Balance yourself," suggested the second boy.
"Run," said the first.
But Carlia could neither balance nor run. She stood for a moment on the oscillating span, then threw up her hands, and with a scream she plunged into the waters of the canal.
No thought of danger had entered Dorian's mind as he stood watching the capers of the children. If any of them fell in, he thought, they would only get a good wetting. But as Carlia fell, he sprang forward. The water at this point was quite deep and running swiftly. He saw that Carlia fell on her side and went completely under. The children screamed. Dorian, startled out of his apathy, suddenly ran to the canal and jumped in. It was done so impulsively that he still held on to his package of books. With one hand he lifted the girl out of the water, but in her struggles, she knocked the bundle from his hand, and the precious books splashed into the canal and floated down the stream. Dorian made an effort to rescue them, but Carlia clung so to his arms that he could do nothing but stand and see the package glide over the falls at the headgate and then go dancing over the rapids, even as Carlia's sticks had done. For a moment the young man's thoughts were with his books, and it seemed that he stood there in the canal for quite a while in a sort of daze, with the water rushing by his legs. Then mechanically he carried the girl to the bank and would have set her down again with her companions, but she clung to him so closely and with such terror in her eyes that he lifted her into his arms and talked reassuringly to her:
"There, now," he said, "you're only a bit wet. Don't cry."
"Take me home. I—I want to go home," sobbed the girl.
"Sure," said Dorian. "Come on everybody."
He led the way, and the rest of the children followed.
"I suppose the party's about over, anyway," suggested he.
"I—I guess so."
They walked on in silence for a time; then Carlia said:
"I guess I'm heavy."
"Not at all", lied the young man bravely, for she was heavier than he had supposed; but she made no offer to walk. By the time they reached the gate, Carlia was herself again, and inclined to look upon her wetting and escape as quite an adventure.
"There," said Dorian as he seated the girl on the broad top of the gate post; "I'll leave you there to dry. It won't take long."
He looked at his own wet clothes, and then at his ragged, mud-laden shoes. He might as well carry the girl up the path to her home, but then, that was not necessary. The day was warm, there was no danger of colds, and she could run up the path in a few minutes.
"Well, I'll go now. Goodby," he said.
"Wait a minute—Say, I'm glad you saved me, but I'm sorry you lost your package. What was in it?"
"I'll get you some more, when I get the money, yes I will. Come here and lift me down before you go."
He obeyed. She put a wet arm about his neck and cuddled her dark, damp curls against his russet mop. He lifted her lightly down, and then he slipped a chocolate secretly into her hand.
"Oh girls," exclaimed one of the party, "I know now."
"Know what?" asked Carlia.
"I know who you are going to marry."
"You're going to marry Dorian."
The disposition to lie or evade never remained long with Dorian Trent; but that evening as he turned into the lane which led up to the house, he was sorely-tempted. Once or twice only, as nearly as he could remember, had he told an untruth to his mother with results which he would never forget. He must tell her the truth now.
But he would put off the ordeal as long as possible. There could be no harm in that. Everything was quiet about the house, as his mother was away. He hurriedly divested himself of his best clothes and put on his overalls. He took the milk pail and hung it on the fence until he brought the cows from the pasture. After milking, he did his other chores. There were no signs of mother. The dusk turned to darkness, yet no light appeared in the house. Dorian went in and lighted the lamp and proceeded to get supper.
The mother came presently, carrying a bag of wool. "A big herd of sheep went by this afternoon," she explained, "and they left a lot of fine wool on the barbed-wire fences. See, I have gathered enough for a pair of stockings." She seated herself.
"You're tired," said Dorian.
"Well, you sit and rest; I'll soon have the supper on the table." This was no difficult task, as the evening meal was usually a very simple one, and Dorian had frequently prepared it. This evening as the mother sat there quietly she looked at her son with admiring eyes. What a big boy he was getting to be! He had always been big, it seemed to her. He had been a big baby and a big little boy, and now he was a big young man. He had a big head and big feet, big hands. His nose and mouth were big, and big freckles dotted his face—yes, and a big heart, as his mother very well knew. Along with his bigness of limb and body there was a certain awkwardness. He never could run as fast as the other boys, and he always fumbled the ball in their games though he could beat them swimming. So far in his youthful career he had not learned to dance. The one time he had tried, his girl partner had made fun of his awkwardness, so that ended his dancing. But Dorian was not clumsy about his mother's home and table. He handled the dishes as daintily as a girl, and the table was set and the food served in a very proper manner.
"Did you get your shoes, Dorian?"
Dorian burned his fingers on a dish which was not at all hot.
"Mother, sit up; supper is ready."
They both drew up their chairs. Dorian asked the blessing, then became unusually solicitous in helping his mother, continually talking as he did so.
"That little Duke girl was nearly drowned in the canal, this afternoon," he told her, going on with the details. "She's a plucky little thing. Ten minutes after I had her out of the canal, she was as lively as ever."
The mother liked to hear him talk, so she did not interrupt him. After they had eaten, he forced her to take her rocking-chair while he cleared the table and washed the few dishes. She asked no more questions about shoes, but leaned back in her chair with half-closed eyes. Dorian thought to give her the mint lozenges, but fearing that it might lead to more questions, he did not.
Mrs. Trent was not old in years, but hard work had bent her back and roughened her hands. Her face was pleasant to look upon, even if there were some wrinkles now, and the hair was white at the temples. She closed her eyes as if she were going to sleep.
"Now, mother, you're going to bed", said Dorian. "You have tired yourself out with this wool picking. I thought I told you before that I would gather what wool there was."
"But you weren't here, and I could not stand to see the wind blowing it away. See, what a fine lot I got." She opened her bundle and displayed her fleece.
"Well, put it away. You can't card and spin and knit it tonight."
"It will have to be washed first, you foolish boy."
Dorian got his mother to bed without further reference to shoes. He went to his own room with a conscience not altogether easy. He lighted his lamp, which was a good one, for he did a lot of reading by it. The electric wires had not yet reached Greenstreet. Dorian stood looking about his room. It was not a very large one, and somewhat sparsely furnished. The bed seemed selfishly to take up most of the space. Against one wall was set some home-made shelving containing books. He had quite a library. There were books of various kinds, gathered with no particular plan or purpose, but as means and opportunity afforded. In one corner stood a scroll saw, now not very often used. Pictures of a full-rigged sailing vessel and a big modern steamer hung on the wall above his books. On another wall were three small prints, landscapes where there were great distances with much light and warmth. Over his bed hung an artist's conception of "Lorna Doone," a beautiful face, framed in a mass of auburn hair, with smiling lips, and a dreamy look in her eyes.
"That's my girl," Dorian sometimes said, pointing to this picture. "No one can take her from me; we never quarrel; and she never scolds or frowns."
On another wall hung a portrait of his father, who had been dead nine years. His father had been a teacher with a longing to be a farmer. Eventually, this longing had been realized in the purchase of the twenty acres in Greenstreet, at that time a village with not one street which could be called green, and without a sure water supply for irrigation, at least on the land which would grow corn and potatoes and wheat. To be sure, there was water enough of its kind down on the lower slopes, besides saleratus and salt grass and cattails and the tang of marshlands in the air. Schoolmaster Trent's operations in farming had not been very successful, and when he died, the result of his failure was a part of the legacy which descended to his wife and son.
Dorian took a book from the shelf as if to read; but visions intruded of some beautiful volumes, now somewhere down the canal, a mass of water-soaked paper. He could not read. He finished his last chocolate, said his prayers, and went to bed.
Saturday was always a busy day with Dorian and his mother; but that morning Mrs. Trent was up earlier than usual. The white muslin curtains were already in the wash when Dorian looked at his mother in the summer kitchen.
"What, washing today!" he asked in surprise. Monday was washday.
"The curtains were black; they must be clean for tomorrow."
"You can see dirt where I can't see it."
"I've been looking for it longer, my boy. And, say, fix up the line you broke the other day."
The morning was clear and cool. He did his chores, then went out to his ten-acre field of wheat and lucerne. The grain was heading beautifully; and there were prospects of three cuttings of hay; the potatoes were doing fine, also the corn and the squash and the melons. The young farmer's heart was made glad to see the coming harvest, all the work of his own hands.
For this was the first real crop they had raised. For years they had struggled and pinched. Sometimes Dorian was for giving up and moving to the city; but the mother saw brighter prospects when the new canal should be finished. And then her boy would be better off working for himself on the farm than drudging for others in the town; besides, she had a desire to remain on the spot made dear by her husband's work; and so they struggled along, making their payments on the land and later on the canal stock. The summit of their difficulties seemed now to have passed, and better times were ahead. Dorian looked down at his ragged shoes and laughed to himself good-naturedly. Shucks, in a few months he would have plenty of money to buy shoes, perhaps also a Sunday suit for himself, and everything his mother needed. And if there should happen to be more book bargains, he might venture in that direction again.
Breakfast passed without the mention of shoes. What was his mother thinking about! She seemed uncommonly busy with cleaning an uncommonly clean house. When Dorian came home from irrigating at noon, he kicked off his muddy shoes by the shanty door, so as not to soil her cleanly scrubbed floor or to stain the neat home-made rug. There seemed to be even more than the extra cooking in preparation for Sunday.
The mother looked at Dorian coming so noiselessly in his stocking feet.
"You didn't show me your new shoes last night," she said.
"Say, mother, what's all this extra cleaning and cooking about?"
"We're going to have company tomorrow."
"I'll tell you about it at the table."
"Do you remember," began the mother when they were seated, "a lady and her little girl who visited us some two years ago?"
Yes, he had some recollection of them. He remembered the girl, specially, spindle-legged, with round eyes, pale cheeks, and an uncommonly long braid of yellow hair hanging down her back.
"Well, they're coming to see us tomorrow. Mrs. Brown is an old-time friend of mine, and Mildred is an only child. The girl is not strong, and so I invited them to come here and get some good country air."
"To stay with us, mother?" asked the boy in alarm.
"Just to visit. It's terribly hot in the city. We have plenty of fresh eggs and good milk, which, I am sure is just what the child needs. Mrs. Brown cannot stay more than the day, so she says, but I am going to ask that Mildred visits with us for a week anyway. I think I can bring some color into her cheeks."
"Oh, gee, mother!" he remonstrated.
"Now, Dorian, be reasonable. She's such a simple, quiet girl. She will not be in the way in the least. I want you to treat her nicely."
Dorian had finished his dinner and was gazing out of the window. There was an odd look on his face. The idea of a girl living right here with them in the same house startled and troubled him. His mother had called her a little girl, but he remembered her as being only a year or two younger than he. Gee!
"That's why I wanted you to get a pair of decent shoes for tomorrow," said the mother, "and I told you to get a nice pair. I have brushed and pressed your clothes, but you must get a new suit as soon as possible. Where are your shoes! I couldn't find them."
"I—didn't get any shoes, mother."
"Didn't get any! Why not?"
"Well, you see—I didn't know about these visitors coming, mother, and so I—bought some books for most of my money, and so; but mother, don't get mad—I—"
"Books? What books? Where are they?"
And then Dorian told her plainly the whole miserable story. At first the mother was angry, but when she saw the troubled face of her boy, she relented, not wishing to add to his misery. She even smiled at the calamitous ending of those books.
"My boy, I see that you have been sorely tempted, and I am sorry that you lost your books. The wetting that Carlia gave you did no harm ... but you must have some shoes by tomorrow. Wait."
The mother went to the bureau drawer, opened the lid of a little box, drew from the box a purse, and took from the purse two silver dollars. She handed them to Dorian.
"Go to town again this afternoon and get some shoes."
"But, mother, I hate to take your money. I think I can black my old ones so that they will not look so bad."
"Blacking will not fill the holes. Now, you do as I say. Jump on Nig and go right away."
Dorian put the money in his pocket, then went out to the yard and slipped a bridle on his horse, mounted, and was back to the house.
"Now, Dorian, remember what I say. Get you a nice pair, a nice Sunday pair."
"All right, mother, I will."
He rode off at a gallop. He lingered not by creeks or byways, but went directly to the best shoe store in the city, where he made his purchase. He stopped neither at book store or candy shops. His horse was sweating when he rode in at the home yard. His mother hearing him, came out.
"You made quick time," she said.
"Yes; just to buy a pair of shoes doesn't take long."
"You got the right kind?"
"Sure. Here, look at 'em." He handed her the package.
"I can't look at them now. Say, Dorian—" she came out nearer to him—"They are here."
"Mrs. Brown and her daughter. They got a chance to ride out this afternoon, so they did not wait until tomorrow. Lucky I cleaned up this morning. Mildred is not a bit well, and she is lying down now. Don't make any more noise than you can help."
"Gee—but, mother, gosh!" He was very much disturbed.
"They are dear, good people. They know we are simple farmers. Just you wash yourself and take off those dirty overalls before you come in. And then you just behave yourself. We're going to have something nice for supper. Now, don't be too long with your hoeing or with your chores, for supper will be early this evening."
Dorian hoed only ten rows that afternoon for the reason that he sat down to rest and to think at the end of each row. Then he dallied so with his chores that his mother had to call him twice. At last he could find no more excuses between him and the strange company. He went in with much fear and some invisible trembling.
About six o'clock in the afternoon, Mildred Brown went down through the fields to the lower pasture. She wore a gingham apron which covered her from neck to high-topped boots. She carried in one hand an easel and stool and in the other hand a box of colors. Mildred came each day to a particular spot in this lower pasture and set up her easel and stool in the shade of a black willow bush to paint a particular scene. She did her work as nearly as possible at the same time each afternoon to get the same effect of light and shade and the same stretch of reflected sunlight on the open water spaces in the marshland.
And the scene before her was worthy of a master hand, which, of course, Mildred Brown was not as yet. From her position in the shade of the willow, she looked out over the flat marshlands toward the west. Nearby, at the edge of the firmer pasture lands, the rushes grew luxuriously, now crowned with large, glossy-brown "cat-tails." The flats to the left were spotted by beds of white and black saleratus and bunches of course salt grass. Openings of sluggish water lay hot in the sun, winding in and out among reeds, and at this hour every clear afternoon, shining with the undimmed reflection of the burning sun. The air was laden with salty odors of the marshes. A light afternoon haze hung over the distance. Frogs were lazily croaking, and the killdeer's shrill cry came plaintively to the ear. A number of cows stood knee-deep in mud and water, round as barrels, and breathing hard, with tails unceasingly switching away the flies.
Dorian was in the field turning the water on his lucerne patch when he saw Mildred coming as usual down the path. He had not expected her that afternoon as he thought the picture which she had been working on was finished; but after adjusting the flow of water, he joined her, relieving her of stool and easel. They then walked on together, the big farm boy in overalls and the tall graceful girl in the enveloping gingham.
Mildred's visit had now extended to ten days, by which time Dorian had about gotten over his timidity in her presence. In fact, that had not been difficult. The girl was not a bit "stuck up," and she entered easily and naturally into the home life on the farm. She had changed considerably since Dorian had last seen her, some two years ago. Her face was still pale, although it seemed that a little pink was now creeping into her cheeks; her eyes were still big and round and blue; her hair was now done up in thick shining braids. She talked freely to Dorian and his mother, and at last Dorian had to some extent been able to find his tongue in the presence of a girl nearly his own age.
The two stopped in the shade of the willow. He set up the easel and opened the stool, while she got out her colors and brushes.
"Thank you," she said to him. "Did you get through with your work in the field?"
"I was just turning the water on the lucerne. I got through shocking the wheat some time ago."
"Is there a good crop! I don't know much about such things, but I want to learn." She smiled up into his ruddy face.
"The wheat is fine. The heads are well developed. I wouldn't be surprised if it went fifty bushels to the acre."
"Fifty bushels?" She began to squeeze the tubes of colors on to the palette.
Dorian explained; and as he talked, she seated herself, placed the canvas on the easel, and began mixing the colors.
"I thought you finished that picture yesterday," he said.
"I was not satisfied with it, and so I thought I would put in another hour on it. The setting sun promises to be unusually fine today, and I want to put a little more of its beauty into my picture, if I can."
The young man seated himself on the grass well toward the rear where he could see her at work. He thought it wonderful to be able thus to make a beautiful picture out of such a commonplace thing as a saleratus swamp. But then, he was beginning to think that this girl was capable of endless wonders. He had met no other girl just like her, so young and so beautiful, and yet so talented and so well-informed; so rich, and yet so simple in manner of her life; so high born and bred, and yet so companionable with those of humbler station.
The painter squeezed a daub of brilliant red on to her palette. She gazed for a moment at the western sky, then turning to Dorian, she asked:
"Do you think I dare put a little more red in my picture?"
"Dare?" he repeated.
The young man followed the pointing finger of the girl into the flaming depths of the sky, then came and leaned carefully over the painting.
"Tell me which is redder, the real or the picture?" she asked.
Dorian looked critically back and forth. "The sky is redder," be decided.
"And yet if I make my picture as red as the sky naturally is, many people would say that it is too red to be true. I'll risk it anyway." Then she carefully laid on a little more color.
"Nature itself, our teacher told us, is always more intense than any representation of nature."
She worked on in silence for a few moments, then without looking from her canvas, she asked: "Do you like being a farmer?"
"Oh, I guess so," he replied somewhat indefinitely. "I've lived on a farm all my life, and I don't know anything else. I used to think I would like to get away, but mother always wanted to stay. There's been a lot of hard work for both of us, but now things are coming more our way, and I like it better. Anyway, I couldn't live in the city now."
"Well, I don't seem able to breathe in the city, with its smoke and its noise and its crowding together of houses and people."
"You ought to go to Chicago or New York or Boston," she replied. "Then you would see some crowds and hear some noises."
"Have you been there?"
"I studied drawing and painting in Boston. Next to farming, what would you like to do?"
He thought for a moment—"When I was a little fellow—"
"Which you are not," she interrupted as she changed brushes.
"I thought that if I ever could attain to the position of standing behind a counter in a store where I could take a piece of candy whenever I wanted it, I should have attained to the heights of happiness. But, now, of course—"
"Well, and now?"
"I believe I'd like to be a school teacher."
"Why a teacher?"
"Because I'd then have the chance to read a lot of books."
"You like to read, don't you? and you like candy, and you like pictures."
"Especially, when someone else paints them."
Mildred arose, stepped back to get the distance for examination. "I don't think I had better use more color," she commented, "but those cat-tails in the corner need touching up a bit."
"I suppose you have been to school a lot?" he asked.
"No; just completed the high school; then, not being very strong, mother thought it best not to send me to the University; but she lets me dabble a little in painting and in music."
Dorian could not keep his eyes off this girl who had already completed the high school course which he had not yet begun; besides, she had learned a lot of other things which would be beyond him to ever reach. Even though he were an ignoramus, he could bask in the light of her greater learning. She did not resent that.
"What do you study in High School!" he asked.
"Oh, a lot of things—don't you know?" She again looked up at him.
"We studied algebra and mathematics and English and English literature, and French, and a lot of other things."
"What's algebra like?"
"Oh dear, do you want me to draw it?"
"Can you draw it?"
"About as well as I can tell it in words. Algebra is higher mathematics; yes, that's it."
"And what's the difference between English and English literature?"
"English is grammar and how sentences are or should be made. English literature is made up mostly of the reading of the great authors, such as Milton and Shakespeare,"
"Gee!" exclaimed Dorian, "that would be great fun."
"Fun? just you try it. Nobody reads these writers now only in school, where they have to. But say, Dorian"—she arose to inspect her work again. "Have I too much purple in that bunch of salt-grass on the left? What do you think?"
"I don't see any purple at all in the real grass," he said.
"There is purple there, however; but of course, you, not being an artist, cannot see it." She laughed a little for fear he might think her pronouncement harsh.
"What—what is an artist?"
"An artist is one who has learned to see more than other people can in the common things about them."
The definition was not quite clear to him. He had proved that he could see farther and clearer than she could when looking at trees or chipmunks. He looked critically again at the picture.
"I mean, of course," she added, as she noted his puzzled look, "that an artist is one who sees in nature the beauty in form, in light and shade, and in color."
"You haven't put that tree in the right place," he objected! "and you have left out that house altogether."
"This is not a photograph," she answered. "I put in my picture only that which I want there. The tree isn't in the right place, so I moved it. The house has no business in the picture because I want it to represent a scene of wild, open lonesomeness. I want to make the people who look at it feel so lonesome that they want to cry!"
She was an odd girl!
"Oh, don't you understand. I want them only to feel like it. When you saw that charcoal drawing I made the other day, you laughed."
"Well, it was funny."
"That's just it. An artist wants to be able to make people feel like laughing or crying, for then he knows he has reached their soul."
"I've got to look after the water for a few minutes, then I'll come back and help you carry your things," he said. "You're about through, aren't you?"
"Thank you; I'll be ready now in a few minutes. Go see to your water. I'll wait for you. How beautiful the west is now!"
They stood silently for a few moments side by side, looking at the glory of the setting sun through banks of clouds and then down behind the purple mountain. Then Dorian, with shovel on shoulder, hastened to his irrigating. The blossoming field of lucerne was usually a common enough sight, but now it was a stretch of sweet-scented waves of green and purple.
Mildred looked at the farmer boy until he disappeared behind the willow fence, then she began to pack up her things. Presently, she heard some low bellowing, and, looking up, she saw a number of cows, with tails erect, galloping across the fields. They had broken the fence, and were now having a gay frolic on forbidden grounds. Mildred saw that they were making directly for the corner of the pasture where she was. She was afraid of cows, even when they were within the quiet enclosure of the yard, and here was a wild lot apparently coming upon her to destroy her. She crouched, terror stricken, as if to take shelter behind the frail bulwark of her easel.
Then she saw a horse leap through the gap in the fence and come galloping after the cows. On the horse was a girl, not a large girl, but she was riding fearlessly, bare-back, and urging the horse to greater strides. Her black hair was trailing in the wind as she waved a willow switch and shouted lustily at the cows. She managed to head the cows off before they had reached Mildred, rounding them up sharply and driving them back through the breach into the road which they followed quietly homeward. The rider then galloped back to the frightened girl.
"Did the cows scare you?" she asked.
"Yes," panted Mildred. "I'm so frightened of cows, and these were so wild."
"They were just playing. They wouldn't hurt you; but they did look fierce."
"Whose cows were they?"
"They're ours. I have to get them up every day. Sometimes when the flies are bad they get a little mad, but I'm not afraid of them. They know me, you bet. I can milk the kickiest one of the lot."
"Do you milk the cows?"
"Sure—but what is that?" The rider had caught sight of the picture. "Did you make that?"
"Yes; I painted it."
"My!" She dismounted, and with arm through bridle, she and the horse came up for a closer view of the picture. The girl looked at it mutely for a moment. "It's pretty" she said; "I wish I could make a picture like that."
Mildred smiled at her. She was such a round, rosy girl, so full of health and life and color. Not such a little girl either, now a nearer view was obtained. She was only a year or two younger than Mildred herself.
"I wish I could do what you can," said the painter of pictures.
"I—what? I can't do anything like that."
"No; but you can ride a horse, and stop runaway cows. You can do a lot of things that I cannot do because you are stronger than I am. I wish I had some of that rosy red in your cheeks."
"You can have some of mine," laughed the other, "for I have more than enough; but you wouldn't like the freckles."
"I wouldn't mind them, I'm sure; but let me thank you for what you did, and let's get acquainted." Mildred held out her hand, which the other took somewhat shyly. "Don't you have to go home with your cows?"
"Yes, I guess so."
"Then we'll go back together." She gathered her material and they walked on up the path, Mildred ahead, for she was timid of the horse which the other led by the bridle rein. At the bars in the corner of the upper pasture the horse was turned loose into his own feeding ground, and the girls went on together.
"You live near here, don't you?" inquired Mildred.
"Yes, just over there."
"Oh, are you Carlia Duke?"
"Yes; how did you know?"
"Dorian has told me about you."
"Has he? We're neighbors; an' you're the girl that's visiting with the Trent's?"
"Well, I'm glad to meet you. Dorian has told me about you, too."
Thus these two, meeting for the first time, went on chatting together; and thus Dorian saw them. He had missed Mildred at the lower pasture, and so, with shovel again on shoulder, he had followed up the homeward path. The girls were some distance ahead, so he did not try to overtake them. In fact, he slackened his pace a little, so as not to get too close to them to disturb them; but he saw them plainly walk close together up the road in the twilight of the summer evening, the tall, light-haired Mildred, and the shorter, dark-haired Carlia; and the child in Dorian seemed to vanish, and the man in him asserted himself in thought and feelings which it would have been hard for him to describe in words.
Indian summer lay drowsily over the land. It had come late that season, but its rare beauty compensated for its tardiness. Its golden mellowness permeating the hazy air, had also, it seems, crept into the heart of Dorian Trent. The light coating of frost which each morning lay on the grass, had by noon vanished, and now the earth was warm and dry.
Dorian was plowing, and he was in no great haste with his work. He did not urge his horses, for they also seemed imbued with the languidness of the season. He let them rest frequently, especially at the end of the furrow where there was a grassy bank on which the plowman could lie prone on his back and look into the dreamy distances of the hills or up into the veiling clouds.
Dorian could afford to take it a little easy that afternoon, so he thought. The summer's work was practically over: the wheat had been thrashed; the hay was in the stacks; the potatoes were in the pit; the corn stood in Indian wigwam bunches in the yard; the fruit and vegetables, mostly of the mother's raising, had been sufficient for their simple needs. They were well provided for the winter; and so Dorian was happy and contented as everyone in like condition should be on such an Indian summer afternoon.
Mildred Brown's visit to the farm had ended some weeks ago; but only yesterday his mother had received a note from Mrs. Brown, asking if her daughter might not come again. Her former visit had done her so much good, and now the beautiful weather was calling her out into the country. It was a shame, Mildred had said, that Indian summer should "waste its sweetness on the desert air of the city."
"What do you say?" Mrs. Trent had asked Dorian.
"Why—why—of course, mother, if she doesn't make too much work for you."
And so Mildred had received the invitation that she was very welcome to come to Greenstreet and stay as long as she desired. Very likely, she would be with them in a day or two, thought Dorian. She would draw and paint, and then in the soft evening dusk she would play some of those exquisite melodies on her violin. Mildred did not like people to speak of her beloved instrument as a fiddle, and he remembered how she had chastised him on one occasion for so doing. Yes, she would again enter into their daily life. Her ladylike ways, her sweet smile, her golden beauty would again glorify their humble home. Why, if she came often enough and remained long enough, she might yet learn how to milk a cow, as she had threatened to do. At the thought, the boy on the grass by the nodding horses, laughed up into the sky. Dorian was happy; but whether he preferred the somewhat nervous happiness of Mildred's presence or the quiet longing happiness of her absence, he could not tell.
The plain truth of the matter was, that Dorian had fallen deeply in love with Mildred. This statement may be scoffed at by some people whose eyes have been dimmed by age so that they cannot see back into that time of youth when they also were "trailing clouds of glory" from their heavenly home. There is nothing more wholesomely sweet than this first boy and girl affection. It is clean and pure and undefiled by the many worldly elements which often enter into the more mature lovemaking.
Perhaps Mildred Brown's entrance into Dorian's life did not differ from like incidents in many lives, but to him it was something holy. Dorian at this time never admitted to himself that he was in love with the girl. He sensed very well that she was far above him in every way. The thought that she might ever become his wife never obtained foothold in him more than for a fleeting moment: that was impossible, then why think of it. But there could be no harm in loving her as he loved his mother, or as he loved the flowers, the clear-flowing water, the warm sun and the blue sky. He could at least cast adoring eyes up to her as he did to the stars at night. He could also strive to rise to her level, if that were possible. He was going to the High school the coming winter, then perhaps to the University. He could get to know as much of school learning as she, anyway. He never would become a painter of pictures or a musician, but surely there were other things which he could learn which would be worth while.
There came to Dorian that afternoon as he still lay on the grass, his one-time effort to ask a girl to a dance. He recalled what care he had taken in washing and combing and dressing, how he had finally cut cross-lots to the girl's home for fear of being seen, for surely he had thought, everybody must know what he was up to!—how he had lingered about the back door, and had at last, when the door opened, scudded back home as fast as his legs could carry him! And now, the finest girl he had ever seen was chumming with him, and he was not afraid, that is, not very much afraid.
When Mildred had packed up to go home on the occasion of her former visit she had invited Mrs. Trent to take her pick of her drawings for her own.
"All but this," Mildred had said. "This which I call 'Sunset in the Marshland' I am going to give to Dorian."
The mother had looked over the pile of sketches. There was a panel in crayon which the artist said was the big cottonwood down by the Corners. Mrs. Trent remarked that she never would have known it, but then, she added apologetically, she never had an eye for art. There was a winter scene where the houses were so sunk into the earth that only the roofs were visible. (Mrs. Trent had often wondered why the big slanting roofs were the only artistic thing about a house). Another picture showed a high, camel-backed bridge, impossible to cross by anything more real than the artist's fancy. Mrs. Trent had chosen the bridge because of its pretty colors.
"Where shall we hang Dorian's picture?" Mildred had asked.
They had gone into his room. Mildred had looked about.
"The only good light is on that wall." She had pointed to the space occupied by Dorian's "best girl."
And so Lorna Doone had come down and Mildred's study of the marshlands glowed with its warmer colors in its place.
The plowboy arose from the grass. "Get up there," he said to his horses. "We must be going, or there'll be very little plowing today."
Carlia Duke was the first person to greet Mildred as she alighted at the Trent gate. Carlia knew of her coming and was waiting. Mildred put her arm about her friend and kissed her, somewhat to the younger girl's confused pleasure. The two girls went up the path to the house where Mrs. Trent met them.
"Where's your baggage?" asked the mother of the arrival, seeing she carried only a small bag and her violin case.
"This is all. I'm not going to paint this time—just going to rest, mother said, so I do not need a lot of baggage."
"Well, come in Honey; and you too, Carlia. Dinner is about ready, an' you'll stay."
By a little urging Carlia remained, and pretty soon, Dorian came stamping in to be surprised.
"Yes; we're all here," announced Carlia, as she tossed her black curls and laughed at his confusion.
"I see you are," he replied, as he shook hands with Mildred. After which ceremony, it did not just look right to slight the other girl, so he shook hands with her also, much to her amusement.
"How do you do, Mr. Trent" she said.
"Carlia is such a tease," explained the mother.
"For which I like her," added Mildred.
"We all do. Even Dorian here, who is usually afraid of girls, makes quite a chum of her."
"Well, we're neighbors," justified the girl.
After dinner Carlia took Mildred home with her. It was not far, just around the low ridge which hid the house from view. There Mildred met Pa Duke, Ma Duke and Will Duke, Carlia's older brother. Pa Duke was a hard-working farmer, Ma Duke was likewise a hard-working farmer's wife, and Will Duke should have been a hard-working farmer's boy, but he was somewhat a failure, especially regarding the hard work part. Carlia, though so young, was already a hardworking farmer girl, with no chance of escape, as far as she could see, from the hard-working part. The Duke house, though clean and roomy, lacked the dainty home touches which mean so much. There were no porch, no lawn, no trees. The home was bare inside and out.
In deference to the "company" Carlia was permitted to "visit" with her friend that afternoon. Apparently, these two girls had very little in common, but when left to themselves they found many mutual interests.
Toward the close of the afternoon, Dorian appeared. He found the girls out in the yard, Carlia seated on the topmost pole of the corral fence, and Mildred standing beside her.
"Hello girls," Dorian greeted. "I've come to give you an invitation."
"What, a party!" exclaimed Carlia, jumping down from her perch.
"Not a dancing party, you little goose—just a surprise party."
"On Uncle Zed."
"Uncle Zed. O, shucks!"
"Well, of course, you do not have to go," said Dorian.
"I think you're mean. I do want to go if Mildred is going."
"I don't know Uncle Zed," said Mildred, "but if Mrs. Trent and Dorian wish me to go, I shall be pleased; and of course, you will go with us."
"She's invited," repeated Dorian. "It's Uncle Zed's seventy-fifth birthday. Mother keeps track of them, the only one who does, I guess, for he doesn't do it himself. We're just going down to visit with him this evening. He's a very fine old man, is Uncle Zed," this last to Mildred.
"Is he your uncle?"
"Oh, no; he's just uncle to everybody and no one in particular. He's all by himself, and has no folks?"
Just before the dusk of the evening, the little party set out for the home of Zedekiah Manning, generally and lovingly known as Uncle Zed. He lived about half a mile down the road in a two-roomed log house which had a big adobe chimney on one side. His front yard was abloom with the autumn flowers. The path leading to his door was neatly edged by small cobble stones. Autumn tinted ivy embowered his front door and climbed over the wall nearly to the low roof.
Uncle Zed met the visitors at the door. "Well, well," he exclaimed, "come right in. I'll light the lamp." Then he assisted them to find seats.
Mildred looked keenly at Uncle Zed, whom she found to be a little frail old man with clean white hair and beard, and kindly, smiling face. He sat down with his company and rubbed his hands in a way which implied: "And what does all this mean?" Mildred noted that the wall, back of his own chair, was nearly covered with books, and a number of volumes lay on the table. The room was furnished for the simple needs of the lone occupant. A fire smouldered in the open grate.
"Now, Uncle Zed, have you forgotten again?" inquired Mrs. Trent.
"Forgotten what? I suppose I have, for my memory is not so good as it used to be."
"Your memory never was good regarding the day of the year you were born."
"Day when I was born? What, has my birthday come around again? Well, sure; but I had quite forgotten. How these birthdays do pile up on one."
"How old are you today?" asked Dorian.
"How old? Let me see. I declare, I must be seventy-five."
"Isn't he a funny man," whispered Carlia to Mildred, who appeared not to hear the comment, so interested was she in the old man.
"And so you've come to celebrate," went on Uncle Zed, "come to congratulate me that I am one year nearer the grave."
"Now, Uncle Zed, you know—"
"Yes; I know; forgive me for teasing; I know why you come to wish me well. It is that I have kept the faith one year more, and that I am twelve months nearer my heavenly reward. That's it, isn't it?"
Uncle Zed pushed his glasses up on his forehead to better see his company, especially Mildred. Mrs. Trent made the proper introduction, then lifted the picnic basket from the table to a corner.
"We're just going to spend an hour or so with you," explained Mrs. Trent. "We want you to talk, Mildred to play, and then we'll have a bite to eat. We'll just sit about your grate, and look into the glow of the fire while you talk." However, Dorian and Mildred were scanning the books.
"What's this set?" the young girl asked.
Dorian bent down to read the dim titles. "The Millennial Star" he said.
"And here's another set."
"The Journal of Discourses" he replied.
"My, all sermons? they must be dry reading."
Uncle Zed heard their conversation, and stepped over to them. "Are you also interested in books?" he asked. "Dorian and I are regular book-worms, you know."
Oh, yes, she was interested in books.
"But there are books and books, you know," went on Uncle Zed. "You like story books, no doubt. So do I. There's nothing better than a rattling good love story, eh, young lady?"
Mildred hardly knew just how to take this remark, so she did not reply.
"Here's the most wonderful love story ever written." He took from the shelf a very ordinary looking volume, called the "Doctrine and Covenants." Carlia and Mrs. Trent now joined the other three. They also were interested.
"You wouldn't be looking in the 'Doctrine and Covenants' for love stories, would you; but here in the revelation on the eternity of the marriage covenant we find that men and women, under the proper conditions and by the proper authority, may be united as husbands and wives, not only for time, but for eternity. Most love stories end when the lovers are married; but think of the endlessness of life and love under this new and everlasting covenant of marriage—but I mustn't preach so early in the evening."
"But we like to hear it, Uncle Zed," said Dorian.
"Indeed, we do," added Mildred. "Tell us more about your books."
"Here is one of my precious volumes—Orson Pratt's works. When I get hungry for the solid, soul-satisfying doctrines of the kingdom, I read Orson Pratt. Parley Pratt also is good. Here is a book which is nearly forgotten, but which contains beautiful presentations of the gospel, 'Spencer's Letters'. Dorian, look here." He handed the young man a small, ancient-looking, leather bound book. "I found it in a second-hand store and paid fifteen cents for it. Yes, it's a second edition of the 'Doctrine and Covenants,' printed by John Taylor in Nauvoo in 1844. The rest of my collection is familiar to you, I am sure. Here is a complete set of the 'Contributor' and this is my 'Era' shelf, and here are most of the more modern church works. Let us now go back to the fire."
After they were again seated, Mildred asked him if he had known Brigham Young. She always liked to hear the pioneers talk of their experiences.
"No" replied Uncle Zed, "I never met President Young, but I believe I know him as well as many who had that pleasure. I have read everything that I could get in print which Brigham Young ever said. I have read all his discourses in those volumes. He was not a polished speaker, I understand, and he did not often follow a theme; but mixed with the more commonplace subjects of irrigation, Indian troubles, etc., which, in his particular day had to be spoken of, are some of the most profound gospel truths in any language. Gems of thought shine from every page of his discourses."
Carlia was nodding in a warm corner. Uncle Zed rambled on reminiscently until Mrs. Trent suddenly arose, spoke sharply to Carlia, and lifted the basket of picnic on to the table.
"We'll have our refreshments now," she said, "and then we must be going. Uncle Zed goes early to bed, and so should we."
The table was spread: roast chicken, brought by Carlia; dainty sandwiches, made by Mildred; apple pie from Mrs. Trent's cupboard; a jar of apricot preserves, suggested by Dorian. Uncle Zed asked a blessing not only on the food, but on the kind hands which had provided it. Then they ate heartily, and yet leaving a generous part to be left in Uncle Zed's own cupboard.
Then Dorian had a presentation to make. He took from the basket a small package, unwrapped it, and handed a book to the man who was seventy-five years old.
"I couldn't do much by way of the eats," said Dorian, "so my present is this."
"'Drummond's Natural Law in the Spiritual World'" read Uncle Zed. "Why, Dorian, this is fine of you. How could you guess my wishes so nicely. For a long time, this is just the book I have wanted."
"I'm glad. I thought you'd like it."
"Fine, fine," said the old man, fondling the volume as he would some dear object, as indeed, every good book was to him.
Then Mildred got out her violin, and after the proper tuning of the strings, she placed it under her shapely chin. She played without music some of the simple heart melodies, and then some of the Sunday School songs which the company softly accompanied by words.
Carlia poked the log in the grate into a blaze, then slyly turned the lamp wick down. When detected and asked why she did that she replied:
"I wanted to make it appear more like a picnic party around a camp fire in the hills."
Dorian's high school days in the city began that fall, a little late because he had so many things to set right at home; but he soon made up the lost time, for he was a student not afraid of hard work. He walked back and forth the three miles. Mrs. Brown offered him a room at her large city residence, but he could not accept it because of his daily home chores. However, he occasionally called on the Brown's who tried to make him feel as much at home as they did at Greenstreet.
Never before were days so perfect to Dorian, never before had he so enjoyed the fleeting hours. For the first week or two, he was a little shy, but the meeting each morning with boys and girls of his own age and mingling with them in their studies and their recreations, soon taught him that they were all very much alike, just happy, carefree young people, most of them trying to get an education. He soon learned, also, that he could easily hold his own in the class work with the brightest of them. The teachers, and students also, soon learned to know this. Boys came to him for help in problems, and the younger girls chattered about him with laughing eyes and tossing curls. What a wonder it was! He the simple, plainly-dressed country boy, big and awkward and ugly as he thought himself to be, becoming a person of some importance. And so the days went all too swiftly by. Contrary to his younger boyhood's experience, the closing hour came too soon, when it was time to go home to mother and chores and lessons.
And the mother shared the boy's happiness, for she could see the added joy of living and working which had come into his life by the added opportunities and new environment. He frequently discussed with his mother his lessons. She was not well posted in the knowledge derived from books, and sometimes she mildly resented this newer learning which he brought into the home and seemed to intrude on her old-established ideas. For instance, when the cold winter nights came, and Dorian kept open his bedroom window, the mother protested that he would "catch his death of cold." Night air and drafts are very dangerous, especially if let into one's bedroom, she held.
"But, mother, I must have air to breathe," said Dorian, "and what other kind of air can I have at night? I might store a little day-air in my room, but I would soon exhaust its life-giving qualities at night. You know, mother," he went on in the assurance of his newly acquired knowledge, "I guess the Lord knew what He was about when He enveloped the earth with air which presses down nearly fifteen pounds to the square inch so that it might permeate every possible nook and corner of the globe." Then he went on to explain the wonderful process of blood purification in the lungs, and demonstrated to her that the breath is continually throwing off foul matter. He did this by breathing into a fruit jar, screwing on the lid for a little while, and then having the nose make the test.
"Some bed rooms I've gone into smell just like that," he said.
"Here, mother is a clipping from a magazine. Listen:
"'Of all the marvels of God's workmanship, none is more wondrous than the air. Think of our all being bathed in a substance so delicate as to be itself unperceived, yet so dense as to be the carriage to our senses of messages from the world about us! It is never in our way; it does not ask notice; we only know it is there by the good it does us. And this exquisitely soft, pure, yielding, unseen being, like a beautiful and beneficent fairy, brings us blessings from all around. It has the skill to wash our blood clean from all foulness. Its weight keeps us from tumbling to pieces. It is a reservoir where the waters lie stored, until they fall and gladden the earth. It is a great-coat that softens to us the heat of the day, and the cold of the night. It carries sounds to our ears and smells to our nostrils. Its movements fill Nature with ceaseless change; and without their aid in wafting ships over the sea, commerce and civilization would have been scarce possible. It is of all wonders the most wonderful.'"
At another time when Dorian had a cold, and consequently, a loss of appetite, his mother urged him to eat more, saying that he must have strength to throw off his cold.
"What is a cold?" he smilingly asked.
"Why, a cold is—a cold, of course, you silly boy."
"What does it do to the activities of the body?"
"I'm not a doctor; how can I tell."
"All mothers are doctors and nurses; they do a lot of good, and some things that are not so good. For instance, why should I eat more when I have a cold?" She did not reply, and so he went on: "The body is very much like a stove or a furnace; it is burning material all the time. Sometimes the clinkers accumulate and stop the draft, both in the human as well as the iron stove. When that happens, the sensible thing to do is not to throw in more fuel but to clean out the clinkers first."
"Where did you get all that wisdom, Dorian?"
"I got it from my text book on hygiene, and I think it's true because it seems so reasonable."
"Well, last night's talk led me to believe that you would become a philosopher; now, the trend is more toward the doctor; tomorrow I'll think you are studying law."
"Oh, but we are, mother; you ought to hear us in our civil government class. We have organized into a Congress of the United States, and we are going to make laws."
"You'll be elected President, I suppose."
"I'm one of the candidates."
"Well, my boy" she smiled happily at him, "I hope you will be elected to every good thing, and that you will fill every post with honor; and now, I would like you to read to me from the 'Lady of the Lake' while I darn your stockings. Your father used to read the story to me a long, long time ago, and your voice is very much like his when you read."
And thus with school and home and ward duties the winter passed. Spring called him again to the fields to which he went with new zeal, for life was opening to him in a way which life is in the habit of doing to the young of his age. Mildred Brown and her mother were in California. He heard from her occasionally by way of postcards, and once she sent him one of her sketches of the ocean. Carlia Duke also was not forgotten by Mildred. Dorian and Carlia met frequently as neighbors will do, and they often spoke of their mutual friend. The harvest was again good that fall, and Dorian once more took up his studies at the high school in the city. Carlia finished the grades as Dorian completed his second year, and the following year Carlia walked with Dorian to the high school. That was no great task for the girl, now nearly grown to young womanhood, and it was company for both of them. During these walks Carlia had many questions to ask about her lessons, and Dorian was always pleased to help her.
"I am such a dunce," she would say, "I wish I was as smart as you."
"You must say 'were' when you wish. I were as smart as you," he corrected.
"O, yes: I forgot. My, but grammar is hard, especially to a girl which—"
"No—a girl who; which refers to objects and animals, who to persons."
Carlia laughed and swung her books by the strap. Dorian was not carrying them that day. Sometimes he was absentminded regarding the little courtesies.
The snow lay hard packed in the road and it creaked under their feet. Carlia's cheeks glowed redder than ever in contact with the keen winter air. They walked on in silence for a time.
"Say, Dorian, why do you not go and see Mildred?" asked Carlia, not looking at him, but rather at the eastern mountains.
"Why? Is she not well?"
"She is never well now. She looks bad to me."
"When did you see her?"
"Last Saturday. I called at the house, and she asked about you—Poor girl!"
"What do you mean by that?"
"You are very smart in some things, but are a stupid dunce in other things. Mildred is like an angel both in looks and—everything. I wish I was—were half as good."
"But how am I such a dunce, Carlia?"
"In not seeing how much Mildred thinks of you."
"Thinks of me? Mildred?"
"She just loves you."
Carlia still looked straight ahead as though fearful to see the agitation she had brought to the young man; but he looked at her, with cheeks still aflame. He did not understand Carlia. Why had she said that? Was she just teasing him? But she did not look as if she were teasing. Silently they walked on to the school house door.
But Dorian could not forget what Carlia had said. All day it intruded into his lessons. "She said she loves me" he whispered to his heart only. Could it be possible? Even if she did, what final good would come of it? The distance between them was still too great, for he was only a poor farmer boy. Dear Mildred—his heart did not chide him for thinking that—so frail, so weak, so beautiful. What if she—should die! Dorian was in a strange state of mind for a number of days. He longed to visit the Brown home, yet he could not find excuse to go. He could not talk to anybody about what was in his mind and heart, not even to his mother with whom he always shared his most hidden thoughts.
One evening he visited Uncle Zed, ostensibly, to talk about a book. Uncle Zed was deep in the study of "Natural Law in the Spiritual World" and would have launched into a discussion of what he had found, but Dorian did not respond; he had other thoughts in mind.
"Uncle Zed," he said, "how can I become something else than a farmer?"
The old man looked questioningly at his young friend. "What's the matter with being a farmer?" he asked.
"Well, a farmer doesn't usually amount to much, I mean in the eyes of the world. Farmers seem to be in a different class from merchants, for example, or from bankers or other more genteel workers."
"Listen to me, Dorian Trent." Uncle Zed laid down his book as if he had a serious task before him. "Let me tell you something. If you haven't done so before, begin now and thank the Lord that you began life on this globe of ours as a farmer's child and boy. Whatever you do or become in the future, you have made a good beginning. You have already laid away in the way of concepts, we may say, a generous store of nature's riches, for you have been in close touch with the earth, and the life which teems in soil and air and the waters. Pity the man whose childish eyes looked out on nothing but paved streets and brick walls or whose young ears heard nothing but the harsh rumble of the city, for his early conceptions from which to interpret his later life is artificial and therefore largely untrue."
Uncle Zed smiled up into the boy's face as if to ask, Do you get that? Dorian would have to have time to assimilate the idea; meanwhile, he had another question:
"Uncle Zed, why are there classes among members of our Church?"
"Classes? What do you mean?"
"Well, the rich do not associate with the poor nor the learned with the unlearned. I know, of course, that this is the general rule in the world, but I think it should be different in the Church."
"Yes; it ought to be and is different. There are no classes such as you have in mind in the Church, even though a few unthinking members seem to imply it by their actions; but there is no real class distinction in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, only such that are based on the doing of the right and the wrong. Character alone is the standard of classification."
"Yes, I see that that should be true."
"It is true. Let me illustrate: The presiding authority in the Church is not handed down from father to son, thus fostering an aristocratic tendency; also this authority is so wide-spread that anything like a "ruling family" would be impossible. In a town where I once lived, the owner of the bank and the town blacksmith were called on missions. They both were assigned to the same field, and the blacksmith was appointed to preside over the banker. The banker submitted willingly to be directed in his missionary labors by one who, judged by worldly standards, was far beneath him in the social scale. I know a shoemaker in the city who is a teacher in the theological class of his ward, whose membership consists of merchants, lawyers, doctors, and the like. Although he is poor and earns his living by mending shoes, he is greatly respected for his goodness and his knowledge of Scriptural subjects and doctrine."
"So you think—that a young fellow might—that it would not be wrong—or foolish for a poor man to think a lot of—of a rich girl, for instance."
Uncle Zed peered at Dorian over his glasses. The old man took him gently by the shoulders. Ah, that's what's back of all this, he thought; but what he said was:
"My boy, Emerson said, 'Hitch your wagon to a star,' and I will add, never let go, although the rocks in the road may bump you badly. Why, there's nothing impossible for a young man like you. You may be rich, if you want to; I expect to see you learned; and the Priesthood which you have is your assurance, through your diligence and faithfulness, to any heights. Yes, my boy; go ahead—love Mildred Brown all you want to; she's fine, but not a bit finer than you."
"Oh, Uncle Zed," Dorian somewhat protested; but, nevertheless, he went home that evening with his heart singing.
Some days later word came to Mrs. Trent that Mildred was very ill. "Call on them after school," she said to Dorian, "to see just how she is, and ask Mrs. Brown if I can do anything for her."
Dorian did as he was directed. He went around to the back door for fear he might disturb the sick girl. Mrs. Brown herself, seeing him coming, met him and let him in.
Yes, Mildred was very ill. Mrs. Brown was plainly worried. Could he or his mother do anything to help? No; only to lend their faith and prayers. Would he come into the sick room to see her for a few minutes? Yes, if she desired it.
Dorian followed the mother into the sick room. Mildred lay well propped up by pillows in a bed white as snow. She was thinner and paler than ever, eyes bigger, hair heavier and more golden. When she saw Dorian, she smiled and reached out her hand, letting it lie in the big strong one.
"How are you?" she said, very low.
"Well and fine, and how are you?"
She simply shook her head gently and closed her eyes, seeming content to touch the strong young manhood beside her. The mother went quietly from the room, and all became quite still. Speech was difficult for the sick girl, and equally hard for the young man. But he looked freely at the angel-like face on the pillow without rebuke from the closed eyes. He glanced about the room, beautifully clean and airy. All her books and her working material had been carried away as if she were through with them for good. In a corner on an easel stood an unfinished copy of "Sunset in Marshland." Dorian's eyes rested for a moment on the picture, and as he again looked at the girl, he saw a smile pass over the marble-like face.
That was all. Presently, he left the room, and without many words, the house.
Each day after that Dorian managed to learn of the girl's condition, though he did not go into the sick chamber. On the sixth day word came to Dorian at school that Mildred was dying. He looked about for Carlia to tell her, but she was nowhere to be found. Dorian could not go home. Mildred was dying! The one girl—yes, the only one in all the world who had looked at him with her heart in the look, was leaving the world, and him. Why could she not live, if only for his sake? He sat in the school room until all had gone, and he was alone with the janitor. His open book was still before him, but he saw not the printed page. Then the short winter day closed. Dusk came on. The janitor had finished sweeping the room and was ready to leave. Dorian gathered up his books, put on his overcoat, and went out. Mildred was dying! Perhaps she was about to begin that great journey into the unknown. Would she be afraid? Would she not need a strong hand to help her? "Mildred," he whispered.
He walked on slowly up the street toward the Brown's. Darkness came on. The light gleamed softly through the closed blinds of the house. Everything was very still. He did not try to be admitted, but paced back and forth on the other side of the street. Back and forth he went for a long time, it seemed. Then the front door opened, and the doctor passed out. Mildred must either be better or beyond all help. He wanted to ask the doctor, but he could not bring himself to intercept him. The house remained quiet. Some of the lights were extinguished. Dorian crossed the street. He must find out something. He stood by the gate, not knowing what to do. The door opened again, and a woman, evidently a neighbor, came out. She saw the young man and stopped.
"Pardon me," said Dorian, "but tell me how Mildred—Miss Brown is?"
"She just died."
The woman went into a nearby house. Dorian moved away, benumbed with the despair which sank into his heart at the final setting of his sun. Dead! Mildred was dead! He felt the night wind blow cold down the street, and he saw the storm clouds scudding along the distant sky. In the deep blue directly above him a star shone brightly, but it only reminded him of what Uncle Zed had said about hitching to a star; yes, but what if the star had suddenly been taken from the sky!
A form of a girl darted across the street toward him. He stopped and saw that it was Carlia.
"Dorian" she cried, "how is she?"
"She has just died."
"Dead! O, dear," she wailed.
They stood there under the street light, the girl looking with great pity into the face of the young man. She was only a girl, and not a very wise girl, but she saw how he suffered, and her heart went out to his heart. She took his hand and held it firmly within her warmer grasp; and by that simple thing the young man seemed again to get within the reach of human sympathy. Then they walked on without speaking, and she led him along the streets and on to the road which led to Greenstreet.
"Come on, Dorian, let's go home," she said.
"Yes; let's go home, Carlia."
The death of Mildred Brown affected Dorian Trent most profoundly. Not that he displayed any marked outward signs of his feelings, but his very soul was moved to its depths, sometimes as of despair, sometimes as of resentment. Why, he asked himself, should God send—he put it this way—send to him this beautiful creature who filled his heart so completely, why hold her out to him as if inviting him to take her, and then suddenly snatch her away out of his life—out of the life of the world!
For many days Dorian went about as if in a pained stupor. His mother, knowing her boy, tried in a wise way to comfort him; but it was not altogether a success. His studies were neglected, and he had thoughts of quitting school altogether; but he did not do this. He dragged through the few remaining days until spring, when he eagerly went to work on the open reaches of the farm, where he was more away from human beings and nearer to that something in his heart. He worked long and hard and faithfully that spring.
On the upper bank of the canal, where the sagebrush stood untouched, Dorian that summer found the first sego blossoms. He had never observed them so closely before nor seen their real beauty. How like Mildred they were! He gathered a bouquet of them that Saturday afternoon as he went home, placed them in a glass of water, and then Sunday afternoon he wrapped them in a damp newspaper and took the bouquet with him to town. His Sunday trips to the city were usually for the purpose of visiting Mildred's grave. The sun shone warm that day from a blue sky as Dorian came slowly and reverently to the plot where lay all that was earthly of one whom he loved so well. The new headstone gleamed in white marble and the young grass stood tender and green. Against the stone lay a bunch of withered wild roses. Someone had been there before him that day. Whom could it be? Her mother was not in the city, and who else would remember the visit of the angel-being who had returned to her eternal home? A pang shot through his heart, and he was half tempted to turn without placing his own tribute on the grave, then immediately he knew the thought was foolish. He took off the wrapping and placed his fresher flowers near the more withered ones. Later that summer, he learned only incidently that it had been Carlia who had been before him that afternoon.
During those days, Carlia kept out of Dorian's way as much as possible. She even avoided walking to and from school with him. He was so absentminded even with her that she in time came to resent it in her feelings. She could not understand that a big, very-much-alive boy should have his mind so fixed on a dead girl that he should altogether forget there were living ones about, especially one, Carlia Duke.
One evening Dorian met Uncle Zed driving his cow home from the pasture, and the old man invited the younger man to walk along with him. Dorian always found Uncle Zed's company acceptable.
"Why haven't you come to me with your trouble?" abruptly asked Uncle Zed.
Dorian started, then hung his head.
"We never have any unshared secrets, you know, and I may have been able to help you."
"I couldn't talk to anybody."
"No; I suppose not."
The cow was placed in the corral, and then Uncle Zed and Dorian sat down on a grassy bank. The sun was painting just such a picture of the marshlands as Dorian knew so well.
"But I can talk to you" continued the old man as if there had been no break in his sentences. "Death, I know, is a strange and terrible thing, for youth; when you get as old as I, I hope you will look on death as nothing more than a release from mortality, a moving from one sphere to another, a step along the eternal line of progress. I suppose that it is just as necessary that we pass out of the world by death as that we enter it by birth; and I further suppose that the terror with which death is vested is for the purpose of helping us to cling to this earth-life until our mission here is completed."
Dorian did not speak; his eyes were on the marshlands.
"Imagine, Dorian, this world, just as it is, with all its sin and misery and without any death. What would happen? We would all, I fear, become so self-centered, so hardened in selfishness that it would be difficult for the gentle power of love to reach us; but now there is hardly a family that has not one or more of its members on the other side. And these absent loved ones are anchors to our souls, tied to us by the never-ending cords of love and affection. You, yourself, my boy, never have had until now many interests other than those of this life; now your interests are broadened to another world, and that's something worth while.... Now, come and see me often." They arose, each to go to his home.
"I will, Uncle Zed. Thank you for what you have said."
Dorian completed his four years high school. Going to the University might come later, but now he was moved by a spirit of activity to do bigger things with his farm, and to enlarge it, if possible.
About this time, dry-farming had taken the attention of the farmers in his locality, and many of them had procured lands on the sloping foothills. Dorian, with a number of other young men had gone up the nearby canyon to the low hills of the valley beyond and had taken up lands. That first summer Dorian spent much of his time in breaking up the land. As timber was not far away, he built himself a one-roomed log house and some corrals and outhouses. A mountain stream rushed by the lower corner of his farm, and its wild music sang him to sleep when he spent the night in the hills. He furnished his "summer residence" with a few simple necessities so that he could live there a number of days at a time. He minded not the solitude. The wild odorous verdure of the hills, the cool breezes, the song of the distant streams, the call of the birds, all seemed to harmonize with his own feelings at that time. He had a good kerosene lamp, and at nights when he was not too tired, he read. On his visits to the city he usually had an eye for book bargains, and thus his board shelving came to be quite a little library. He had no method in his collecting, no course of connected study. At one time he would leisurely read one of Howell's easy-going novels, at another time he would be kept wide-eyed until midnight with "Lorna Doone" or with "Ben Hur."
Dorian had heard of Darwin, of Huxley, of Ingersol and of Tom Payne, but he had never read anything but selections from these writers. Now he obtained a copy of the "Origin of Species" and a book by Ingersol. These he read carefully. Darwin's book was rather heavy, but by close application, the young student thought he learned what the scientist was "driving at." This book disturbed him somewhat. There seemed to be much truth in it, but also some things which did not agree with what he had been taught to be true. In this he realized his lack of knowledge. More knowledge must clear up any seeming contradiction, he reasoned. Ingersol was more readable, snappy, witty, hitting the Bible in a fearless way. Dorian had no doubt that all of Ingersol's points could be answered, as he himself could refute many of them.
One day as Dorian was browsing as usual in a book store he came across a cheap copy of Drummond's "Natural Law in the Spiritual World," the book which he had given Uncle Zed. As he wanted a copy himself, he purchased this one and took it with him to his cabin in the hills. Immediately he was interested in the book, and he filled its pages with copious notes and marks of emphasis.
It was Sunday afternoon in mid-summer at Greenstreet. The wheat again stood in the shock. The alfalfa waved in scented purple. Dorian and the old philosopher of Greenstreet sat in the shade of the cottonwood and looked out on the farm scene as they talked.
"I've also been reading 'Natural Law in the Spiritual World'" said Dorian.
"Good," replied Uncle Zed. "I was going to lend you my copy, so we could talk about it intelligently. What message have you found in it for you?"
"Yes; every book should have a message and should deliver it to the reader. Drummond's book thundered a message to me, but it came too late. I am old, and past the time when I could heed any such call. If I were young, if I—if I were like you, Dorian, you who have life before you, what might not I do, with the help of the Lord!"
"What, Uncle Zed?"
"Drummond was a clergyman and a professor of natural history and science. As such, he was a student of the laws of God as revealed both through the written word of inspiration and in nature about him. In his book he aims to prove that the spiritual world is controlled by the same laws which operate in the natural wold; and as you perhaps discovered in your reading, he comes very nearly proving his claim. He presents some wonderfully interesting analogies. Of course, much of his theology is of the perverted sectarian kind, and therein lies the weakness of his argument. If he had had the clear truth of the restored gospel, how much brighter would his facts have been illumed, how much stronger would have been his deductions. Why, even I with my limited scientific knowledge can set him right in many places. So I say, if I were but a young man like you, do you know what I'd do?"