SALLY OF MISSOURI
R. E. YOUNG
New York: McClure, Phillips & Co.: Mcmiii
Copyright, 1903, by McClure, Phillips & Co.
Published, October, 1903
Dedicated to Florence Wickliffe
I. STEERING OF NEW YORK, 3
II. PINEY OF THE WOODS, 23
III. THE PROMISED LAND, 36
IV. FOR THE BENEFIT OF CARINGTON, 62
V. BOOM TIME IN THE TOWN THAT JACK BUILT, 73
VI. FATHER AND DAUGHTER, 95
VII. THE GARDEN OF DREAMS, 109
VIII. WHEN A GIRL FINDS HERSELF, 119
IX. GOOD-BYE! 137
X. WHO'S GOT THE TIGMORES? 153
XI. TALL THINGS, 170
XII. THE COLOSSUS OF CANAAN, 194
XIII. MISS SALLY MADEIRA'S SWEETHEART, 203
XIV. WHEN THE MEAL GAVE OUT, 222
XV. A MISTAKE SOMEWHERE, 242
XVI. MADEIRA'S PEACE, 251
XVII. JUST A BOY, 258
XVIII. A PRETTY PRECARIOUSNESS, 268
XIX. WHEN DREAMS COME TRUE, 274
SALLY OF MISSOURI
PRINCIPAL CHARACTERS IN THE STORY
Steering, of New York
Old Bernique, of French St. Louis
Piney, of the Woods
Crittenton Madeira, of Canaan
Sally, of Missouri
There are also some kind-hearted people: Farmers, Housewives, Store-keepers, Miners, etc.
STEERING OF NEW YORK
It was half a sob, half a laugh, and, half sobbing, half laughing, the young man stopped his horse on the crest of the Tigmore Hills, in the Ozark Uplift, raised in his stirrups, and looked the country through and through, as though he must see into its very heart. In the brilliant mid-afternoon light the Southwest unrolled below him and around him in a ragged bigness and an unconquered loneliness. As far as eye could reach tumbled the knobs, the flats, the waste weedy places, the gullies, the rock-pitted sweeps of table-land and the timbered hills of the Uplift. The buffalo grass trembled across the lowlands in long, shaking billows that had all the effect of scared flight. From the base of the Tigmores a line of river bottom stretched westward, and beyond the bottom curved a pale, quiet river. In the distance wraiths of blue smoke falteringly bespoke the presence of people and cabins; on a cleared hill an object that might be horse or dog or man was silhouetted, small and vague; and in the farthest west the hoister of a deserted zinc mine cut up against the sky a little lonely way. The near and dominant things were constantly those tremulous, fleeing billows of grass, the straight strong trees, the sullen rocks, the silent, shivering water.
It was too vast, too urgent. Waiting, ready, it lay there aggressively, like a challenge. As the young man faced it, it claimed him, forcing back his past life, his old habits, his old haunts, into the realm of myth and moonshine. His old habits! His old haunts! They hung aloof in his consciousness, shadow pictures, colourless and remote.... That zestful young life at New Haven, the swift years of it, the fine last day of it, Yale honours upon him, his enthusiasms cutting away into the future, his big shoulders squared, his face set toward great things, the righting of wrongs, grand reforms, the careers of nations.... A bachelor hotel; a club whose windows looked out on the avenue; an office where Carington and he had pretended to work down on Nassau Street; drawing-rooms where Carington and he had pretended to be in love, on various streets; the whole gay, meaningless panorama of his life as a homeless, unplaced New York sojourner, who had considered that he had too much money to be anything seriously and too little money to do anything effectively.... Then another picture, jerking, mazy, a study in kinematics—"Crazy Monday" on the Street, Carington and he swept along in that day's whirlwind of speculation.... A blank in the panorama while he got used to things and thought things out.... Then a wintry twilight at the club, Carington and he by the window, talking it over, looking out upon the drifted light of the city, loving the city, in the way of New Yorkers. Then Carington's voice saying, "Bruce? Bruce, m' son? Why don't you try Missouri?" Saying it with that in his voice to indicate that there was nothing else left to try. Then the long thoughtful talk, Carington and he still by the window, while he showed Carington how little chance he had even in Missouri; then Carington's strong-hearted insistence that, in view of the agitation over the ore discoveries at Joplin, he go on "out there" and prospect; and then Carington's foolishly irrelevant heel-piece, "Miss Gossamer sails for Europe Saturday!" and the sudden appeal of the notion to go "out there," its sharp striking-in.... Carington and he taking counsel with some of the other fellows in his rooms later on, all the deep voices roaring at once, all the boys insulting him at once, belittling his cigars, saying sharp things about his pictures, that being their way of showing him that they were badly broken up over his leaving them; all their eyes shining interest in him and hope for him and even envy of him, as the young man who was "going out West," while the great soft fluff of smoke in the room made the past a dream and the present an illusion and the future a phantasm.... Then the long journey overland, the little impetus toward the new life flickering drearily, while he gripped up his heart for any fate, growing quieter and quieter, but more and more determined to take Missouri as she came.... Then Missouri herself, the stop at St. Louis, the dip into the State southwestward, toward the lead and zinc country and his own debatable land; good-bye to the railroad; by team, in company with other prospectors, through the sang hills, up and down stony ridges, along vast cattle ranges.... And now here, quite alone, twenty miles from the railroad, Missouri on all sides of him, close-timbered, rock-ribbed, gulch-broken, mortally lonely, billowing around him, over him, possessing him.
That sense of being possessed by Missouri, committed to her, had grown upon him intolerably all day. All day he had been fighting it and resenting it. At various points along the rocky ridge road he had come upon hill cabins and hill people, and, facing them, his fight and his resentment had been momentarily vicious.
"Gudday, stranger!" the people had called from the porches of the hill cabins, "Hikin' over the Ridge?"
"Yes, friend," Steering had called back, and had then projected his unfailing, anxious question: "Can you tell me how far it is to Poetical?"
At that the people from the porches had got up and come across the baked weeds of the cabin yard. Assembled at the stile-block in front of him, the people invariably lined up as a long, gaunt farmer, a thin, flat-chested woman, a troop of dusty children, and a yellow dog.
"Yass, I cand tell you. It's six sights and a right smart chanst f'm here to Poetical, stranger," the long, gaunt farmer had invariably drawled, with more accommodation than information.
"Six sights—six sights and a right what what?"
"W'y," the Missourian had explained forbearingly, blinking toward the sun, and waving his loosely jointed arms westward, "it's this-a-way—you'll git sight of Poetical f'm six hills, an' whend you git to the bottom of the sixt' hill they's a right smart chanst you won't be to Poetical evum yit awhile. You cand see far in this air. It's some mild f'm here to Poetical, an' sharp ridin' at that."
Each time that Steering had heard that, little varied in phraseology, save for the number of "sights," according to his progress, he had felt so dismal and looked so dismal that, each time, the native before him had added quickly, "Better git off an' spin' the night with us. Aint got much, but what we got's yourn."
Each time the house beyond the stile-block had looked miserably uninviting,—a plough on the front porch, harness on the porch posts; all around the house the yard litter of cheap farm life, a broken-down harrow, broken-backed furniture, straw, corn-shucks, ghosts of past winters and past summers on the farm, that had shuffled out there and died there; each time the cleared patches beyond the house had looked lean; each time the native had been sallow and toil-worn; but each time that welcome word had been a finely perfect thing, good to hear.
Steering had noticed that in declining each invitation he had suddenly stopped short in his inner fight and resentment and assumed his best manner, as though his finest and highest courtesy had responded instinctively to something in kind.
Idling on for a more expansive moment at each cabin door, the conversation had usually shaped itself like this:
"Two has already rid over the Ridge to-day—Old Bernique and the tramp-boy. Old Bernique he's on the trail ag'in. The tramp-boy he's kim along so far with Old Bernique." In saying this, or something very like it, the hill farmer who spoke had always seemed to want it definitely understood that the neighbourhood had its excitements, and seemed to argue that if the stranger knew anything he must know Old Bernique and the tramp-boy. Proceeding leisurely and reflectively, as though he had decided in his own mind how to classify the stranger, the farmer had generally added, "Lots of prospectors ride by nowadays. They head in to the relroad f'm here,—you know you aint a-goin' to ketch the relroad at Poetical?"
"Yes, I know, but when I left my friends at Bessietown yesterday I was hoping I could make it all the way across country to Canaan before to-night."
"Oh, you goin' on to Canaan?"
"Yes, going on to Canaan." Each time the words had echoed through Steering's head with an old-time promise in a mocking refrain, "Going on to Canaan! Going on to Canaan!"
Immediately the hill tribe had eyed him with renewed interest. "Going on to Canaan!" the farmer at their head had repeated, an impressive esteem in his treatment of the word Canaan. "Gre't taown, Canaan! You strike the relroad tha' all righty. Dog-oned ef th'aint abaout ev'thing tha'. Got the cote-haouse an' all, the relroad an' all—Miss Sally Madeira, Mist' Crit Madeira's daughter, she lives tha'."
It had gone like that every time. Not once in the last twenty miles had Steering exchanged a word with man or woman without this sort of reference to Canaan and, collaterally, to Miss Sally Madeira. Miss Sally, he had perceived early, excited in the hill-farm people a species of awe, as though she were on a par with the circus, thaumaturgic, almost too good to be true.
"The court house, the railroad and Miss Sally!" he had finally learned to murmur, in order to meet the demands of the situation.
"Yass, oh yass." The farmer had given his head a dogged twist, and looked as though he were cognisant of the fact that in certain essential particulars Canaan did not have to yield an inch of her title to equality with the biggest and best anywhere. "Yass, saouthwest Mizzourah's hard to beat in spots; th'aint no State in the Union quite like her. She's different," he had said, rocking on his heels, his chest lifting.
"I think you must be right about that," Steering had answered, every time with profounder emphasis.
Off here alone on the ridge road now, Missouri's unspeakable difference was coming over him in great submerging waves. Though he tried bravely to face the State and have it out with her, he couldn't do it.
"Missouri," he said at last to himself, and to her confidentially, "I'd like to cry. I'd give five hundred plunkerinos if I might be allowed to cry." Then he flicked his riding-crop over his leg in a devilishly nonchalant way, and rode straight forward.
The road went on interminably, its dust-white line, with the rocky ridge through the middle, dipping and rising and getting nowhere. The horse grew nervous and shied repeatedly from sheer loneliness. The road entered a wood. Deep in its leafy fastness wild steers heard the beat of the horse's hoofs, laid back their ears and galloped into safer depths, bellowing with alarm. Steering gave up, as helplessly homesick as a baby, his head dropped forward on his chest in a settled melancholy, from which he did not rouse until he had cleared the timber; and then only because he saw a horseman down the ridge road ahead of him. What instantly attracted Steering's attention was the man's back. It was a small but proud back. It had none of the hill stoop. It was erect, sinewy, soldierly. Steering was so lonely that he would have welcomed companionship with a chipmunk. The chance of companionship with a man who had an interesting back grew luminous. He urged his horse forward eagerly, almost hysterically glad of his opportunity.
"Good-afternoon," he called, having recourse to his well-tried form of greeting. "Can you tell me how far it is to Poetical?"
The man addressed half turned, disclosing a thin and delicate face to Steering. Then he reined his horse in gently. "Good-evening, sair. Is it that you inquire to Poetical? It is a vair' long five miles f'm here, sair."
Steering rode up beside the man, more and more pleased, regarding and analysing. The man's hickory shirt, his warped boots, his blue jean trousers, his heavy buskins were mean and earth-stained, but inherent in the quality of his low, musical voice and courteous manner was an intangible suggestion of something different, some bigger and happier past, to which, go where he would and clothe himself as he might, voice and manner had remained true.
"I wonder," said Steering, almost sighing, "if you will mind a little of my company. The road is terribly lonely, sir. The country is terribly lonely in fact."
"Yes, sair, a tr-r-ue word that. It is lonely. But sair, what will you of this particulaire portion? It is vair' yong in the Tigmores. It cannot be populate' in a day, a year. You, sair, come from the East, hein? Sair, relativement, effort against effort, they have not done as much in the East in feefty years as we have done in the Southwest in twenty,—believe that, sair." It was that same feeling for the State, that quick, leaping passion of nativity that Steering had thus far found in every Missourian with whom he had come in contact.
"You are a Missourian, I see," said Steering, to keep his companion talking along the line of this enlivening enthusiasm.
"Indeed, sair, yes. From that Saint Louis—Francois Placide DeLassus Bernique, at your service."
"Thank you. My name is Steering, from New York, if you please, but very deeply interested in Missouri just now, sir."
From that on they made easy progress into acquaintance. Bernique proved talkative, full of anecdotes about Missouri's past, and full of belief in her future. In his rich loquacity he roamed the history of the State painstakingly for the edification of Steering, as one who stood at Missouri's gates, inquiring of her true inwardness. He told Missouri's history back to Spain and France, forward to unspeakable splendour. He was intelligent, naive, unusual. Steering, responsive to the attraction that was by and by to hold them strongly together, listened delightedly.
"Yessair,"—through Bernique's speech ran a reminiscence of his native tongue, faint, sweet, fleeting, like the thought of home,—"yessair, it is I know the fashion in the eastern States to considaire all the West as vair' yong countree, and it is tr-r-ue, sair, that you, par example, have come upon the most yong part of thees gr-r-eat State of Missouri, but it is to be remembaire that this Missouri is not all rocks and wood, uncultivate', standing toward the future, but that her story date back to a remoter period and a fuller and finer civilisation, in that day when France and Spain held sway over the province of Louisiana, than does the story of many of the eastern States who hold this countree new, raw, uncivilise'. I myself,"—continued the speaker, spreading out one slender hand with an exquisite grace,—"have gr-r-own up in this State of Missouri, at that St. Louis, with the most profound convincement, aftaire much travel and observation, that for elegance we have in that city the most to it belong people in the United States of America, yessair!"
"Ah, well," admitted Steering, borne along rapidly on the vehement current of Bernique's ardour, "with your sort of spirit in the people of Missouri, whatever she was and whatever she is can be but a mighty promise of what she will become——"
"Ah, there you have it, the note!" interrupted Francois Placide DeLassus Bernique eagerly, "What she will become! That is the gr-r-and thought, sair. I who say it have preserve' my belief in what she will become through the discouragement ter-r-ible. I who speak have prospec' this land from end to end. I know her largesse. Believe me, sair, the tr-r-easures that were sought by the Castilian knights of old through all thees parts are indeed to be found here,—not the white silvaire of Castilian dreams, but iron! Coppaire! Lead! Zinc!"
"I suppose," ventured Steering, "that it would be foolish to hope for deposits in this part of the State similar to the deposits about Joplin, and all through the thirty-mile stretch?"
"Pouf!" Old Bernique made one of his pretty gestures, but said nothing.
"You have," went on Steering, "you have to the west here the Canaan Tigmores, Mr. Bernique?"
"Eh? Yessair, the Canaan Tigmores," repeated old Bernique, looking out over the ridges of hills and the flats listlessly; so listlessly that, by one of those flashes of intuitive perception that light us far along waiting paths, Steering knew suddenly that he had to deal with a man whose experience had somehow crossed the Canaan Tigmores.—"And also, Mistaire Steering, we have to the far south the Boston Range, in Arkansas, and far to the west the Kiamichi, in the Territoree."
"Yes, but about these Canaan Tigmores, Mr. Bernique," insisted Steering, not at all deflected by Bernique's effort, "what about your Canaan Tigmores, Mr. Bernique?" Steering's experience with the French Missourian had been too fragmentary for anything but conjecture to come of it, and his own plans were too immature and too heavily conditioned for him to project them directly, but he had a feeling that he should want to know Bernique better some fine day, and he was moved to get some sort of grip upon the old man's interest while the chance lasted. "The Canaan Tigmores are not as far away as the Boston Mountains, Mr. Bernique. Much nearer than the Kiamichi. What's your idea about the Canaan Tigmores—in relation to zinc, Mr. Bernique?"
"Pouf!" The old man made airy rings of smoke from the cigar with which Steering had furnished him. He would not talk about the Canaan Tigmores at all. "You will see Mr. Crittenton Madeira in Canaan about all that," he said. "And now, sir, I have the regret to leave you. Our roads part at the sign-post yonder. I ride east."
"Well, tell you what I wish!" cried Steering, with the pertinacity that was a part of him. "I am on my way to Mr. Crittenton Madeira now, and I wish you would come to me in Canaan some soon day and let me tell you the result of my business with him." Time was limited, for the horses were close to the cross-roads sign-post. "The Canaan Tigmores won't always belong to old Bruce Grierson, Mr. Bernique!" It was a random shot, but it told against Bernique's glumness.
"Pouf! The bat-fool! The blind mole!"
"The Canaan Tigmores are entailed, Mr. Bernique! The next owner may have eyes!"
"God grant!" growled Old Bernique.
"Grey eyes, eh, Mr. Bernique?" Steering flashed his own eyes smilingly at the French Missourian. The horses were at the sign-post.
"Eh, what?" cried Old Bernique, "is it that——?"
"We shall meet again, Mr. Bernique?"
"I ride east for many a day, I think," said Bernique dubiously.
"But you come back to Canaan?"
"Ah, God in Heaven, yes!" cried the old man then, with a sudden fierce impetuosity, "I ride east, ride west, ride the wide world ovaire, but always I come back,—come back to Canaan." He stopped abruptly, as though afraid of himself, and faced Steering for a silent moment.
Up to the silence, cleaving it gently, musically, there came unexpectedly the notes of a rollicking song:
"The taters grow an' grow, they grow!"
On the instant old Bernique's face relaxed pleasantly. He half grunted, half laughed. "The potato song!" he cried, his eyes gay, his mouth twitching. "Mistaire Steering, if you will ride on a little way you will have fine company. That is the tramp-boy yondaire. He is in the woods above the gulch there. He will have emerge' to the road presently. The yong scamp is musical, sair!"
"Aye, hear that!" cried Steering appreciatively, "gloriously musical!" Out of the great green timber mounted the tenor notes, piercingly sweet, pure, true, like a bird-call:
"A tater's good 'ith 'lasses."
Bernique's horse was growing restless. The old man rode a little nearer Steering and regarded him searchingly. "Good-bye, sair," he said then, "it shall be what you say. I shall come back to you in Canaan."
"Good-bye, Mr. Bernique. I'm glad to have you decide that way." Steering clung to his notion that he and Bernique were to know each other better. They shook hands under the cross-roads sign-post with understanding.
The rain was coming on fast. All the east lay grey behind Steering, all the west grey before him as he moved away from the cross-roads. But out of the west rolled the melody of the carolling boy, the voice of one singing in the wilderness, young and undismayed.
Under the cross-roads sign-post old Bernique sat his horse motionless for a time, looking after Steering. From Steering his eyes roamed afar toward the Canaan Tigmores. A little shiver caught him. "The man that was expect'," he mused, "the man that was expect'!" Then he, too, rode away.
PINEY OF THE WOODS
Where the ridge road dropped down close to the pale river at a dip in the hills, Steering overtook the tramp-boy, hallooed to him, and watched him, as he turned his pony about and sat waitingly. He was a youth of sixteen or seventeen, and from under the peak of his felt hat, slouched and old, peered out a slim young gypsy face, crowned by a thick mop of black hair that tumbled about wide temples. Motionless there, the tremble of his song still on his lips and the gladness of youth and health on his face, the tramp-boy made Steering think of the rosy young shepherd Adonis, he was so glowing, so fine and fresh.
"I have been right after you all the way from the cross-roads," explained Steering, by way of a beginning, riding up to the lad's side, "I have just parted from a friend of yours,—Mr. Bernique,—so you see we are almost friends ourselves."
"A'most." The boy smiled, showing white teeth. He seemed to like Bruce's method of dealing with him. "Wuz Unc' Bernique cross because I didn't go rat back like I said I'd do?" he queried slily.
"No, I think not. And for my part, I am glad you didn't, for I am hoping that if you are going toward Poetical you won't mind my company. You see, it's pretty dog-on lonely." A very little of the ridge road sufficed to make Bruce sick for comradeship, and his voice showed it. The boy turned an impressionable, sympathetic face.
"Come rat along," he said. He looked at Bruce a moment questioningly before adding, "Reckin's haow you aint usen to the quiet yit. Taint so lonely, the woods an' the hills whend you know um." He twisted his head like a bird and looked out across the extensive sweep of the land and the long slow curve of the river, a deep inspiration swelling his chest. "Simlike they up an' talk to you, the woods an' the hills an' the quiet, whend you know um," he said.
All on the instant Steering knew that, as in the case of Old Bernique, here again was character. "Character" seemed distinctly the richest and the pleasantest thing in Missouri. He rode in a little closer to his companion, drawn to him irresistibly, recognising in him the sweet, untutored poetry of a wildwood nature, whose young timidity was trembling and steadying into the placating, magnetic assurance of a boy, fresh-hearted as a berry. Steering had encountered the same sort of poetry in other unspoiled boys, splendid child-men whom he had known in other walks of life, and he had a quick affection for it. It was always as though on its crystal clearness a man might see the white sails of his own youth set back toward him.
"Yes," he answered, "I think you are right about that. They do talk, the hills and the woods and the quiet,—only a fellow grows dull, gets his ears full of electric gongs and push-bells, and forgets to listen."
The boy looked up with quick-witted question. "Y'aint f'm this part of the kentry, air you?" he asked.
"No. I am from—well, from Bessietown last. Where are you from?"
The boy laughed and glanced gaily at his briar-torn clothes. "F'm the woods," he said.
"My name is Bruce Steering."
They fell then to talking of many things, as they rode toward Poetical, but inevitably they spoke chiefly of the great State of Missouri. On the subject of Missouri the boy talked, as old Bernique had talked, with expansive naivete. In his roamings he had ridden the State up and down, and had found much to love in it. "You'll like her, too, all righty," he told Bruce confidently, "whend you git broke to her." On one of youth's candid impulses to speak up for the life on the inside, the cherished desire, the gallant ideal, the buoyant fancy, he made a supple, sudden divergence in the conversation. "D'you know," he said, "they aint no place whur I'd drur be than Mizzourah ceppen only one."
"Where's that?" asked Bruce, and to his immense astonishment the boy answered quickly:
"Why, how does that happen, Piney? Ever been there?"
"Nope. Hearn Unc' Bernique tell abaout it, thass all. It 'ud suit me, though. I know that." His eyes grew dreamy and he seemed to be looking far beyond Missouri. One could almost see the fine, illusory spell of the far Latin land upon him, the spiritual bond, the pull of temperament that made the hill boy at one with Italy, blest of poetry. "I d'n know huccome I want to go so bad," he went on with a deep breath, "wouldn' turn araoun' th'ee times on my heels to go anywhur else, but I shoo do want to go to Italy."
"Were your people Italians, Piney?"
"Nope. Kim f'm S'loois. But still, I got that feelin' abaout Italy. Simlike I'd be—oh, sorta at home tha'. Had that same feelin' ev' since Unc' Bernique begand to tell me abaout Italy. I'm a-goin' tha', tew, some day, all righty," he concluded at last, waking up from his little dream slowly. "Goin' to be long over to Poetical, Mist' Steerin'?" he diverged again, with his lively mental agility.
"No, son. From Poetical I am going on to"—Bruce stopped to gather strength to project the word with the large and cadenced inflection he had enjoyed in the hill farm people,—"going on to Canaan!"
"Gre't gosh!" said the boy, and something in the way he said it made Bruce look at him quickly. Piney's brows were lifted and his lips were pulled back. He seemed to try to be as much impressed as Bruce expected him to be. To Steering this sort of comradeship was growing golden.
"Well, now," he said, playing with the little joy of being understood, "haven't they the court-house at Canaan? And the railroad? And haven't they Miss Betsy,—or Miss—Miss——"
"Ah, yes, Sally! Know Sally, son?"
"Ev'body in the Tigmores knows her."
"I am beginning to want to know Sally myself." Bruce let his eyes go drowsing toward the pale river up which the slow rain was beating, and talked foolishness idly: "Red-cheeked Sally! Freckled Sally! Roly-poly Sally! What's a Missouri girl like anyway, Piney?"
"Wy, people think she's purty," protested the boy with a quick palpitant shyness, "an' most people l——," he stopped trying to talk, laughing brusquely and flushing with a very young man's self-consciousness.
"All of which goes to prove me an ass," cried Bruce, "for talking about a lady whom I have never seen." Looking repentantly at Piney, he felt a sudden ache for him. He was not very familiar with conditions in Canaan, but it occurred to him suddenly that even in Canaan there might be social gradations, and that the tramp-boy, rare little chap though he seemed to be, was probably miles away from the daughter of the promoter, Mr. Crittenton Madeira. "I retract, Piney," he added gravely.
"Aw!—not as I keer whut you say abaout her,—or whut anybody says." Piney slashed at some brilliant sumach by the wayside and his mobile lips jerked and quivered.
"I should have supposed that she was older—well, than you," said Bruce, trying to set himself right.
"May be in what she knows,—aint in what she feels,—not as I keer——" The boy was so deliciously new to his own emotions that they flashed away beyond his control, minute by minute. His eyes looked misty, with a little spark of high light cutting bravely through. He would not finish his sentence. "Did Unc' Bernique say whend he's comin' back to Canaan?" he asked moodily.
"No, he didn't, though I urged him to. That's a fine old man, Piney."
Piney's eyes softened beautifully. "Takes mighty good keer of me," he said.
"Is he kin to you?"
"I d'n know abaout that. He's took my side always. Y'see, I aint got no people an' I just ride araoun'. Y'see,"—Piney quivered with boyish fire,—"I just got to ride araoun'. I cayn't stay on no farm an' in no haouse. Kills me. I got to git to the woods an' the hills. An' Unc' Bernique he stands by me, an' keeps me in his shack whend they's any trouble abaout it. Y'see, some people think I oughter—oughter work!" Piney laughed from the gay, melodious depths of his vagabond heart and Bruce laughed with him. "An' Unc' Bernique has he'ped me abaout that," explained the tramp-boy. He let his dancing eyes dart off to the west where the hills were shouldering into a thickening drift of grey. "Hi, look yonder!" he cried. "We got to cut and run to git to Poetical before that rain."
So they cut and ran, the boy setting the pace and singing lustily, with that high melody of voice, as of temperament, of his, as they dashed down the road in the first cool scattering pelt of the rain. "Want to go to the hotel, don't you?" he called over his shoulder, and Bruce called yes. It was grey, rainy twilight now, and through the gloom five or six houses sprawled out across the little plateau toward which the road twisted. Some geese flew up under the feet of the horses, squawking wildly, some "razor-back" hogs grunted from the dust-wallows, some cow-bells tinkled, some small yellow spheres of light shone through windows.
"How far from Poetical, Piney?" shouted Steering.
"'Baout a foot," answered Piney. He made his lightning-like pony go more slowly so that Bruce's horse might come alongside, and he shook his head, his ready sympathy again on his face. "Say, it's goin' to be kinder tough on you to stay here to-night, aint it? This is ev' spittin' bit there is tew Poetical. Here's the hotel."
They drew rein before a rickety two-story frame building and Bruce lifted his shoulders shudderingly. A man came out on the hotel porch, said "Howdy," and waited.
"Say,"—Piney in a lower tone, voiced a notion that evidently drifted in to him on the high tide of his sympathy,—"why don't you ride over to Mist' Crit Madeira's? Taint so far. I'll show you the way. They cand take care of you over tha'. They'd be glad to have you. You cand caount on that. It's that-a-way in Mizzourah." The boy's conscientious earnestness was sweet. He was in good spirits again and he whisked one roughly-booted foot out of its stirrup and laid it across his saddle-horn, while he regarded Bruce. "You cand git ter see Miss Sally ef you do that," he added, pursing up his lips, a subtle sense of humour on his face. "You cand see what Mizzourah girls are like."
"Now come, Piney, you know I've been thinking everything beautiful about Miss Sally since I found out—something——"
"Aw! Tisn't no such thing. She jes likes to hear me sing. You're crazy!" The tramp-boy's young voice had its fashion of breaking and shrilling into a high soprano, like a girl's, for emphasis; he was as red as a beet, and he put his foot back in the stirrup, thrust out his under jaw and looked at the stirrup as though he had to determine how much wood had gone into its making. Again Bruce was conscious of a little ache for the boy. "But you go on over tha'," insisted Piney.
"No! Thank you for trying to look out for me, son, but I shouldn't like to do that. Oh, I can stand this all right," cried Bruce, with a flare of big bravery and, turning to face the hotel, was seized by his loneliness so violently that he shuddered again. "Here Piney!" he cried on a sudden inspiration, "why won't you come in and stay with me? Huh? How would that suit you? We can talk and smoke."
"Naw," Piney extended his hand and shook his head, as though to push the hotel out of the range of possibilities for him, "I couldn't. Much oblige'. But I cayn't sleep in haouses. Got to git back to the shack in the woods. Wisht you'd go on over to Madeira's."
"No. I'll buck it out here alone," lamented Bruce. He hated to lose Piney and take up the gloomy, rainy evening alone on this little, high, remote place in the Missouri hills.
"See you again some day, then," Piney promised in final farewell. "I'm up an' daown the Ridge rat frequent, I'll run 'crosst you."
"Well now, I should hope so," cried Bruce cordially. "Don't you ever come to Canaan?"
"Nope. Hate a taown! But me an' Unc' Bernique will strike you sometime, somewheres along the trail. S'long!"
"So long, Piney, so long!"
The boy turned his pony to the hills. The man on the porch came on out to take charge of Bruce and Bruce's horse. Black night settled down. Through the darkness cut the sound of the squawking geese, the tinkling cow-bells, the grunting hogs. Lonely, lonely Missouri! Bruce went inside, to sit in a little room upstairs, with his chin in his hand, his eyes staring through the window, his thoughts roaming after Carington, the office on Nassau Street, a girl who was a dainty fluff of lace and silk. In his ears rang the sound of Carington's voice: "Why don't you try Missouri,—Miss Gossamer sails,—Why don't you try Missouri,—Miss Gossamer sails—" a faint, recedent measure, and intermingling with it the sound of a boy's voice singing gaily on the misty hills:
"A tater's good 'ith 'lasses."
Steering leaned far out of the window, eager for the lad's music. It was so sweet.
THE PROMISED LAND
From the remotest beginning of things for the Southwest, Canaan had been a "gre't taown." From the beginning she had been the county seat, and from the beginning there had poured through her one long street, with its two or three short tributaries, the whole volume of business of Tigmore County; the strawberries, the chickens, the ginseng. Almost from the beginning, too, she had had the newspaper and the hotel and some talk about a bank. Canaanites held their heads high. So high that when it began to be rumoured that the railroad was showing a disposition to curve down toward Tigmore County, the Canaanites, unable to see past their noses, appointed a committee to go up to Jefferson City to protest to the Legislature against the proposed innovation. The committee contended to the Legislature that the railroad would cut off trade by starting up rival towns. It also contended that ox-teams had been used for many years and were reliable, rain or shine, whereas in wet weather the railroad tracks would get slick and be impracticable. Moreover, and moreunder, there was no danger of an ox-team blowin' up and bustin' and killin' somebody.
The railroad was melted to acquiescence by the appeal, and went its way some ten miles west of Canaan. Towns sprang into being along the line of the serpent's coil. Canaan said all right, but wait till the spring rains come. The rains came, the trains went by over the slick tracks gracefully. Canaan said all right, but wait till something busts. Time passed, nothing busted. The County was careening westward. There was no stopping it. Canaan kept her head high, but her heart grew as cold as ice. Then the paper up at the new railroad station of Shaleville crudely referred to Canaan as "that benighted hamlet." It was too much. When Crittenton Madeira reached Canaan from St. Louis, the first thing that he proposed for the city of his adoption was the Canaan Short Line, and, coming at the opportune moment, the consummation of that proposition placed Madeira at the head of Canaan's municipal life for the rest of his days. In a very short time after he came to Canaan, Canaan not only had a railroad, but her own railroad. Reassured, bland, she caught step with progress, by and by saw that she was progress, and settled back into her old superiority. Her trade prospered anew, the cotton came to her depot, she got accustomed to the noise of her two trains daily, and had lived through many contented years when the twentieth of September of 1899 opened up like a rose, fair, fragrance-laden, warm, around her.
Out on the face of the day there was nothing to suggest change or crisis, nothing to be afraid of, nothing to be hopeful for, a day like yesterday, like to-morrow, a golden link in a golden monotony. At Court House Square, a few farm-teams, strapping mules and big Studebakers, stood at the hitching rail. A few people came and went up and down and across the Square. Occasionally a mean-natured man said "huh-y!" to a cow or "soo-y!" to a hog in the middle of Main Street. Some coatless clerks, with great elbow-deep sleeve protectors on their arms and large lumps of cravats at their throats, lounged in store doors. The most conspicuous, as the most institutional, feature of the landscape was the group idling on boxes in front of the old Grange store—just as they had idled on boxes before the war. They were the same men, it was the same store, and it was not inconceivable that they were the same boxes. As the men idled they spat, somewhat to the menace of the passers-by, though in defence of this avocation it may be argued that any truly agile person, by watching carefully and seizing opportunity unhesitatingly, could get by undefiled. Sometimes a vehicle rolled into the street toward the Square, and when this happened it was amusement to the men to say whose vehicle without looking up—jack-knives, watch-fobs, and other valuables occasionally changing hands on an erring guess between the slow, solemn trot of Mr. Azariah's Pringle's Bess and the duck-like waddling of Mrs. Molly Jenkins' Tom, or between the swinging canter of Miss Sally Madeira's Kentucky blacks and the running walk of the small-hoofed Texas ponies from We-all Prairie. Once a great waggon, piled high with cotton, creaked by; once a burnt-skinned boy, hard as a nut, shrieking with an irrepressible sense of being alive, loped past on a mustang. Once a small, old man, in mean clothes and with a fine bearing, crossed the Square, cracking his whip nervously, his spur clicking on his boot as he walked. Once a large florid man and a tall girl came down the street and entered the door of a two-story brick building next the Grange. The man had an expansive, blustering way. The girl looked as though she were accustomed to admire the man and to badger him; her face was turned up to his adoringly, while her fun-hunting eyes, just sheathed under her lids, gleamed gaily. The building had a plate-glass window across the front of it, and on the window, in gold letters bordered in black, two legends were flung to the public:
BANK OF CANAAN
When the man and the girl had gone into the Bank of Canaan, the group at the Grange stopped gambling on the incoming teams and talked less drowsily.
"Looks like that girl gets purdier and purdier."
"Mighty pleasant ways she keeps. Never gone back on her raisin'. Never got too good for Mizzourah."
"As far as I go, I like her ways better'n her pappy's ways."
"Crit is a little toploftical."
"They mighty fond of each other, though. Seems like she's not in a hurry to marry and leave her pappy."
"Wall naow, I shouldn't be s'prised ef Miss Sally never did git married, talkin' abaout marryin'. 'Twould not s'prise me a-tall, 'twouldn't." Mr. Quin Beasley was talking. Mr. Beasley was the keeper of the Grange store and admittedly a man of fine conversational powers. His jaws worked on and he seemed able to get nutriment out of his ruminations long after a cow would have gone back to grass hungrily. "Aint sayin' I never am s'prised, becuz am, but do say that that wouldn't s'prise me, an' no more would it." Mr. Beasley brought his jaws in from their loose meanderings just as the clatter of a horse's hoofs became audible down the side street that, a little way along, became the road to Poetical.
"Name the comer, Beasley. Up to the sugar-tree about now. Name-er, name-er!" The challenger took from his pocket a huge horn knife, covered it with his hand and shook it in the face of Mr. Beasley, who responsively got his hand into his pocket and drew forth a knife, which he held covered after the manner of his opponent.
"Unsight, unseen," said Mr. Beasley. "It's Price Mason's pony."
The challenger chuckled deprecatingly over the carelessness of judgment evinced: "Price Mason's pony comes down with a hippety-hop," he remarked pityingly—"lemme listen—it's—no, taint, aint favorin' his right front foot—it's—wy!" the challenger suddenly twisted his head to one side and held it there like a lean-crawed chicken deciding where to peck. Simultaneously the other men glanced down the side street where it came into the Square, and when someone said, or whistled, "Wy, who the h-e-double-l is it?" everybody was waiting for an answer.
They had not long to wait. The horseman in question galloped straight toward the group and drew rein in front of them only a few minutes later. He was a big fellow, broad and lithe of shoulder and chest, and young and alert of face.
"Gentlemen," he called from his horse's back, "I want to find Mr. Crittenton Madeira. Ah!" he laughed, a deep, rich note, as he saw the gold and black sign, "gentlemen, I have found Mr. Madeira!" He leaped from his horse and began to tether him to a staple, set in the pavement in front of the Grange.
"Yes," replied a member of the Grange group, all of whom rose sociably, "Crit and Miss Sally,"—the young man laughed again, softly, as though he could not help it,—"Crit and Miss Sally jes went into the bank; I don't reckin they've come out again."
"Miss Sally's come out again," interposed another Granger, "because I seen her."
"It's the father that I want to see," said the horseman, with smiling emphasis, "not the daughter, not Miss Sally." He passed through the bank door, still smiling, and the Grange group looked at each other, rife with speculation on the instant.
"Hadn't-a said not, I'd-a said it wuz Miss Sally he wanted to see. Looks to me like he might be one of her beaux. Wears sumpin the same clothes."
"Looked like a Yank to me."
"Uh-huh, betchew he lets his biscuits cool before he butters 'em."
"Haven't heard Crit say he was looking for a stranger."
"Reckon if you keep up with Crit's business, my friend, you'll have to walk faster."
While the Grangers were wondering, supposing, reckoning, the man who probably let his biscuits cool before he buttered them entered the Bank of Canaan.
When the cage for the clerical force had been put into the Bank of Canaan, there was not a great deal of the bank left, so the man stopped where he thought he was least apt to be scraped, in the little space in front of the Force's window. The Force put his pen behind his ear, and, without waiting for inquiry or request, called off to the rear of the room.
"Mist' Madeira! He's here! Can he come on in? If you'll go right down there"—went on the Force,—"to that door in front of you, you can go through it."
The thing seemed feasible, as the door was half open, so the visitor attempted it. As he reached the door, however, his way was temporarily blocked by a big red-faced man who held out both hands to him and took possession of him with violent cordiality.
"God bless my soul! Howdy, howdy, howdy!" cried the big man. "Been looking for you for a week. Only last night I told Sally that I wasn't going to look for you any longer. Just eternally gave you up. How in the Sam Hill have you taken so long to get here? Come on in and have a seat."
As he talked, the Missourian led his guest inside a small private office, handed him to a chair and stood up before him, big, colossal, dominating the younger man, or at least meaning to.
"I am very rapidly concluding that you are Mr. Madeira, and that you know that I am Steering," smiled the visitor, sinking into a chair adaptably, though he realised that, for two men who had never seen each other before, the meeting had been unusual. He also realised that, off somewhere in the sphere of imponderable influences, the effect when his hand clasped the big man's hand had been exactly that of the clashing of two swords.
"Oh, God love you, there's no black magic about my knowing you for Steering—only stranger that's been expected in Canaan for six weeks!" cried Madeira, "and as for your guessing that I'm Madeira, you don't deserve a bit of credit for it. My sign's out." His manner conveyed that his sign was quite as much his personality as the black and gold letters on the window. "Yes, I'm Madeira, and you are Steering, and we both might as well own up to it. And now what's kept you so long on the road? How'd you manage to put in a whole week between here and Springfield?" Madeira seated himself in a swivel chair in front of his desk and eyed his visitor with that aggressive geniality, that tremendous sense of himself, warm and vivid in his face and manner. And, as in the moment when he had faced Missouri from the top of the Tigmore Hills, Steering had a feeling that he was being claimed, absorbed.
"Why, the explanation is of the simplest. At the very last minute, there at Springfield, too late to get a word of advice out to you, I fell in with some fellows who were going to ride across country toward the Canaan Tigmores, and I joined them. They gave out at Bessietown, but I've come every foot of the way over the Ridge on horseback, and alone at that. I wanted to see Missouri, get acquainted with the home of my ancestors, at close range, as it were."
Madeira chuckled. "God bless you, you certainly went in at the back door to do it," he said. Madeira's God-bless-you's and God-love-you's were valuable crutches to his conversation. With them and his bluster he seemed able to cover a great deal of ground.
"And then I didn't hurry," went on Steering, "because I thought, from what you wrote me, that it would, without doubt, be some weeks before that amiable relative of mine could be dragged around to any real attention to our projects."
"Ah, but that's where you missed out!" cried Madeira, a great ring of triumph in his voice. He crossed his legs, leaned back in his chair, and pushed out his chest. "That's where you didn't know C. Madeira. Young man, I've been hammering at Bruce Grierson night and day ever since I got you interested in this scheme,"—Steering looked at Madeira with a little quick motion of inquiry, but Madeira's arrangement of subject and object was evidently advised; Madeira showed that it was by repeating, "ever since I got you interested, I've been trying to get Grierson interested. We couldn't move hand or foot without him, you know that. The land is his, you know, even though you are the heir apparent, and there was no use trying to do anything with the land without him. I had got you into it without much trouble,"—Madeira paused just long enough to take the cigar that Steering offered him. (Steering could always see better through smoke.) "Yes, I had got you!" cried Madeira, biting off the end of the cigar with a sharp snap of his teeth, "and having got you, the next thing was to get Grierson. Well, I got him, got him since you left New York." He chuckled his spill-over chuckle again, swung around to his desk and took from one of its pigeon-holes an envelope addressed to him in a deep-gouging hand. The expression of geniality lingered about the wings of his nose and the corners of his mouth, as though it had been moulded there by long habit, but his eyes narrowed and the play of light from them was by now like the whisk of a sharp knife through the air. "You know I chased that old fellow all over Colorado with my letters about my scheme to open up the Tigmores, until I got him mad," he said, holding the letter up to say it, as though the contents would be illumined by his saying it. Then he handed it to Steering, who took it from its cover, flapped it open, and read:
"Use this power of attorney to open up hell if you want to, but don't you write to me.
"Your obedient servant,
It was the sort of letter to make a man laugh, and Steering laughed. Then the phrase "open up hell" caught his eye again, like a sign of sinister warning.
"I've never been able to understand," he began with a questioning inflection in his voice, "what's the trouble with the scion of the house of Grierson. Why is he so indifferent to a project for the development of his property that may mean a million to him?"
"Aw, you know he's cracked!" replied Madeira quickly and harshly.
"No, I don't know him at all, you will remember. Never saw him, never had a line from him."
"Well, he's cracked. He fooled around here in the Tigmores for twenty years hunting silver, God bless you! Spent everything he had riding that hobby, then got another hunch, for zinc this time, borrowed money, sank it, borrowed more, sank that, then got a feeling that he was abused and went away from here declaring that the Canaan Tigmores could slide into the Di before he would ever raise a finger to stop them. That's why he wouldn't write you. I've handled his affairs—what's left of them—for years, and I've had enough trouble handling them, let me tell you." He took the letter from Steering and replaced it in the pigeon-hole. "But I've got him settled now," he said, "and we can go right on—oh! for the matter of going on, things are pretty far on already." He began rummaging through his desk in other pigeon-holes. "I'll just show you what I've drawn up."
Steering found himself unable to keep up with Madeira. He took his cigar from his mouth, conscious of a sensation that he was being jerked along by the hair. He tried to get the best of the sensation by leaning back comfortably in his chair and observing Madeira leisurely. He tried to feel that he was following Madeira voluntarily, that he didn't have to if he didn't want to. When he had quitted New York he had been sustained by an idea that he had, in his correspondence, put before Madeira a plan that had some merit and promise in it, in the way that it got around the terms of a will, under which he was heir apparent to a vast acreage of land whose title now rested in another man, his relative. He and Carington had worked the thing over conscientiously, and, there in New York, they had taken some pride in the thought that they had hacked out a good base for the operations of a potential Steering-Grierson Mining and Development Company. Here, in Missouri, in Madeira's office, before the on-roll of Madeira's manner, Steering was no longer sure that he and Carington had had anything to do with the case.
"Here's my prospectus," Madeira was saying, his voice ringing triumphantly again, "and here are the articles. God bless you, we are right up to the point where we can effect the organisation and issue the first one hundred thousand shares of stock. There are some Tigmore County men that I want you to meet, some fellows who can be used to fill out the directorate, and, first thing you know, we'll be filing an application for a charter, my boy."
"Just so," said Steering absently. He had the papers in his hand, and was running them over. Both men were pulling at their cigars with strong puffs, and the room was so vaporous with smoke that Steering was beginning to see very clearly indeed, as he went through the papers. They were couched in good, clear English, the succinct English that Carington used, with admirable changes here and there, which brought out Carington's points still more clearly. "I am familiar with these," said Steering, looking up presently. "You seem to have let it stand about as we drafted it in the New York office. What changes you have made I like."
"Oh, God bless you! you can rely upon liking the things of this kind that I do." Madeira's assumption was comprehensive and bland. There was absolutely no sense in going against that manner of his at this stage of developments. Steering began to ask questions and to wait.
"Now, according to what we set forth here,"—Steering tapped the paper,—"the object and purpose of our corporation will be the mining of zinc and lead ore in the Canaan Tigmores. We are projecting upon the hypothesis that there is ore in the Tigmores, but we can't go too far upon hypothesis. There in New York it seemed worth while to take up the idea that, as there was ore all around through southwestern Missouri, there might be ore in the Canaan Tigmores. Then, being equipped for theorising only, Carington and I passed easily into the consideration of the possibilities if there were ore in the Canaan Tigmores. You say that we are ready to organise, but it looks to me just now as though before we organise it might be in order to solidify hypothesis into fact. I don't think organisation is the next step at all; the next step, according to my notion, is to get off paper into the ground. Question now is, is there any ore in the Canaan Tigmores?"
"Question now is," interrupted Madeira baldly, "are there enough fools in the United States to donate us a fortune while we are finding out whether there is or isn't ore in the Canaan Tigmores? Oh, God bless you, my boy, you must bear in mind that gold isn't the only thing that can be minted! You can mint a man's thirst for gold, if you are up to it. The Southwest is zinc crazy right now. The time is as ripe as a nut——"
"Well, one minute—what's your private opinion about the chance for ore in the Canaan Tigmores, Mr. Madeira?"
"I d'n know a thing about it. And God bless you, I don't care a thing about it. I know that old Bruce Grierson butted his brains out on the Tigmore rocks, on the jack-trail, for twenty years, and I know, that all over the country,—not here in Tigmore County, but farther southwest,—men are drilling into rock that looks rich, and cuts blind, quick enough to ruin them; and I know that we are not going into this thing to lose money, but to make it, coming and going; I know that we've got to stand to win, coming and going. That's business."
Face to face with this sort of frank self-commitment to "business," Steering was impressed into silence, and Madeira took advantage of the silence to push on in the big way he had that was like the broad-paddling, tooting vehemence of a river steamer. "I'm for getting a drill into the hills right away, just as much as ever you can be, my boy, understand. It will look better. We'll do it. But Lord love you, we won't hold back the organisation for that. Just leave these things to me. I've got a programme arranged here that will suit you, I think. First thing is to take you around and let you see that document in the recorder's office,—I believe you said you wanted to read the Bruce Peele will,—then you can come out and have dinner with Sally and me. I've got a nice place three miles out, and I've got a daughter that is not to be beat, in New York or out of it. Then this evening we'll get together some of the fellows that I handle around here, and take up some of the preliminary business."
Madeira had risen, preparatory to conducting Steering to the recorder's office in accord with the first number of his programme, and Steering got up, too. While Madeira shut up his desk, Steering threw away the stump of his cigar and brought his flexed arms back to his shoulders with an expansive pull on his chest that sent a big influx of air into his lungs. After his seance with Madeira he felt as though he had been pummelled down flat. Madeira had to open his desk again for something he had forgotten and Steering passed on to the door, impatient for some outside air. As he opened the door, with his eyes rather thoughtfully fixed upon the floor, he saw, peeping around the curve where the Force's cage elbowed its way out into the room, a foot. Being a slender foot, in a well-fitting walking boot, it held him an unconscionably long time, then drew him on mandatorily, up the little space between the Force's cage and the wall, until he had rounded the curve and had come out by the Force's window, where a bare-headed girl leaned, talking merrily, gouging a hat-pin into the hat that she had taken off.
"Oh, it's Mr. Steering,—isn't it?" she asked at once, and put her hand out to him. "I heard Father say that he was expecting you. And then, too, a friend of yours, who seemed much concerned about your fate over at Poetical, rode to our house last night and made me promise to welcome you to Canaan. I am Sally Madeira."
"Hi, Pet, you there?" Madeira's big voice came through the door of the private office and took possession of the minute and the girl—"entertain the New Yorker until I get through here, will you? I got to monkey with this blasted lock again."
"Yes, Father, I'm entertaining him," Madeira's daughter called back, while Bruce held helplessly to the hand she had given him. A peculiar mistiness had come over his senses. He could have sworn that through it he saw a picture that had been with him a good deal during the past year of his life, a picture of a woman's flower face, her fluffiness,—as of silk and lace,—lose colour, outline, significance, like a daguerreotype in the sunlight. A swift joy that he was in Canaan possessed him. All he could say was, "So you are Miss Sally?" It sounded very dull, so dull that he hastened to add, "So you know Piney?—Awfully kind of Piney to attract your attention to me." Remembering with horror some of his conversation with Piney about Miss Madeira, he repeated solemnly, "Awfully kind."
"Well, I think you can give the little vagabond credit for a kind heart." Miss Madeira laughed softly.
"I give him credit for much more than that," said Bruce. He was envying Piney, seeing that the tramp-boy's intuitive appreciations matched his vigorous young beauty, that he was far more poet than vagabond, that he, Bruce, had attempted to play clownishly upon what was a worthy and lovely idyl in the boy's heart. As though she, too, had some faint, perturbing consciousness of Piney, the girl flushed a little, laughed a little, and turned the subject readily.
"I know yet another friend of yours," said she.
"I am glad of that." Bruce had released her hand, forgotten the business that had brought him to Missouri, forgotten Crittenton Madeira, and stood with his arms folded, looking down upon her, glad that she was so tall, glad that he was taller, glad about everything.
"Yes, another friend," she nodded with fleeting meaning, "I was at Vassar with Elsie Gossamer."
Face to face with a woman like Sally Madeira the thought of a woman like Miss Gossamer must necessarily stay hazy in a man's brain. As with another Romeo, Rosaline had but laid the velvet up which came the surer feet of Juliet. "Well," said Steering happily, "all this is going to make us acquainted, isn't it?"
"It may, if you like." She had a splendid comradeship of manner. Her father's energy stopped short of bluster in her. Borne up on her breezy westernism was a fragrant reserve, a fine reticence that disengaged a tantalising promise.
"Oh, I'll like!" cried Bruce with conviction. "Do you live in Canaan?"
"Out at Madeira Place. Father said you were to come out to dine with us to-day. I hope you will."
"He will, he will! Trust me for that!" Madeira came through the space between the wall and the Force's cage noisily. For the first time that morning Steering felt no repugnance to that disposition of Madeira's to take charge of him, and he went off with Madeira, a moment later, across Court House Square to the recorder's office, with tread elastic and eyes sparkling.
When the two men had left her, the girl moved over to the plate-glass window and watched Steering, a little smile on her lips, an adequate enjoyment of his undoing dancing mercilessly in her long amber-hued eyes.
Steering stopped behind Madeira at the door of the recorder's office and, looking back at the plate-glass window unexpectedly, saw the girl's eyes fixed demurely on the floor where her boot showed under the hem of her long straight gown. It was a very little moment that they stood thus, he with his eyes on her, she with her eyes on her boot, but it was an electric moment. With him it was a cycle of self-abuse for the unadvised rot that he had talked to Piney, an era of gratitude to Piney for being the sort who would not report any of it to Miss Madeira. (Even so little did Steering understand that a boy like Piney would necessarily have to tell a woman like Miss Madeira about all that he knew; tell it exuberantly, bubblingly, without ever being quite conscious that he was telling anything.) Steering followed Madeira inside the recorder's office slowly, and the girl went on standing at the plate-glass window, studying her foot.
"Yes, indeed, sir," she began calling to him soundlessly, and broke off abruptly and stood there at the window for a time, motionless and thoughtful. She was a tall girl, of a broad-shouldered, athletic type, a college girl by the sign of the austere cut of her gown, but a western girl by the sign of the flying ends of the scarf about her throat, the unafraid looseness of her bright hair. Her face, lit by her amber eyes and crowned by those loose masses of hair, had a rare, dusky-gold beauty. Despite her hair she was dark-skinned, smooth and warm like bisque, and that same gold-dusted radiance that was in her hair and that same amber-gold light that was in her eyes glowed ineffably from beneath her skin. She was a pulse of light, colourful and vibrant. "Yes, indeed, sir," she resumed after a while, jabbing the hat-pin into the hat relentlessly, "this is what a Missouri girl is like!"
FOR THE BENEFIT OF CARINGTON
My dear Carry:
I should have written you sooner, save that the developments here have given me so little that is pleasant to write about. My experience with Grierson's agent has been too exasperating for description, and I should have given up and have got out at once had it not been for the Missouri in me, and had I not got a feeling of encouragement from other experiences.
To begin with: When I reached Missouri, I lit out for the southwestern part of the State by train. At Springfield I fell in with some English fellows who are over at Joplin in the interests of a Welsh company. They had an expedition all planned to take in some of the Southwest by team on their way back to Joplin, and as they were going to push down pretty close to my objective point, I joined the expedition. There was a great deal of enthusiasm among us about zinc,—jack they call it down here,—and the talk at first was all of the stupidity of Missourians in not getting at this part of their State, as well as the section about Joplin, in the search for ore. I noticed that as we got into the rough-going of the ridge roads, and the hills got steeper and the woods denser and the rocks thicker, the opinion seemed to grow upon us that Missourians might understand their country better than we did. We had a driver who knew the roads well, when he could find them. We had a geological expert who got sadder and sadder every time we spilled out of the waggons and speared around in the rocks for a little while. And we had a great deal of bacon. Still, when we reached Bessietown, where we struck the steam-cars, the Joplin crowd broke for the train on a run. From Bessie there was a straight trail over the Ridge to Canaan and I decided to make the trip on horseback. I had got stubborn.
Well, by and by, and more and more full of bacon, I was at Canaan, and had found Crittenton Madeira, that agent with whom we had the correspondence. I walked in upon Madeira with a pretty little notion that you and I had had something to do with the projection of a plan for developing and mining the Tigmores; I could have sworn that we originated the idea of hypothecating my heirship to the Canaan Tigmores; I remembered that in New York the fact that I would inherit from Grierson seemed to make my association with any enterprise for the development of the Tigmores of vital importance. I had not forgotten that that was our argument, and I was nursing a feeling that I was fairly necessary to any permanency of operations in the Tigmores. I am all straightened out on that score now, thanks to Madeira. The situation that I find here is this: Madeira has calmly taken over our ideas, and his plans of organisation are about complete. He is qualified to act for Grierson absolutely. The company that he will organise is to be known as The Canaan Mining and Development Company. He appreciates stingily that it may be some advantage to have me associated with the company, for the purpose of imparting a feeling of confidence to investors, but he does not begin to attach the importance to me that you and I did. He will let me in if I want to come in, but it is quite evident that he can get along without me, and yet more evident that if he takes me in, I must resign myself to his dictation,—dictating is his strong suit. To the gentleman who expected to be the president of the Steering-Grierson Company, that is not a pleasant programme; yet, my dear Carington, my circumstances are so precarious that I might attempt to fill it, if I did not see through Madeira's lack of principle, negatively speaking,—rascality, positively speaking. Now, I may have winked one eye occasionally during my business career, but I have never yet been able to shut both at once. It may be taste and it may be morals. Heretofore I have taken business too casually really to know how I am equipped for it. I have never before really met myself, spoken to myself, as I hustled through the few commercial hours of each day of my life. But out here business has become a thing of wider import on the instant, and already I am face to face with something stiff and hard on the inside of me that promises not to be very malleable under Madeira's hands. Madeira's hands, my dear boy, are pot-black. The plan that with us was a fair and square enterprise has become with him a clap-trap scheme to rob investors. I don't know how he means to do it, but he will do it. There is a chance that the company may get good money out of the Canaan Tigmores in zinc, but there is a much richer chance that Madeira will get good money out of the company, zinc or no zinc.
So here I am in a pleasant situation. I can take my choice between a block of shares in the new company, my vote to be in Madeira's control, and a place far back, where I can watch Madeira operate my land to his profit while I wait for old Grierson to die. I am holding off as yet, dazzled by both prospects. Meantime the organisation of Madeira's company is being effected among the local capitalists, the store-keepers and the substantial farmers, and it's only a question of a few days until the directorate shuts in my face. Madeira is to take me over to Joplin to-morrow,—to let the showing there have its effect upon me, to let me catch the ore fever, I suspect.
Immediately upon my arrival here, I looked into the history of my relationship to Grierson, and also looked up the record of the Peele will. Grierson is the grandson of one of the sisters of old Bruce Peele, while I am the great-great-grandson of another sister. My great-grandfather did not like pioneer life and went back East to live and cultivate the Steering family-tree into me, as the last, topmast, splendid blossom. The Grierson family stayed in Missouri and petered out into this Bruce Grierson. He is of my grandfather's generation, though he is a much younger man than a grandfather of mine could possibly be with the record of my age and my father's age to be accounted for.
I got profoundly excited in studying out the two branches of the family that are involved in the entail. Here is a map of the relationship for your benefit.
You can understand from that, can't you, Carington?
The Peele will is simple. Old Bruce Peele lived a long life as a bachelor, with a strong aversion to matrimony. Toward the end he suffered one of those revolutions in valuations that sometimes upturn people of extreme prejudices. His will sets forth emphatically that he came tardily to realise that posterity is the best thing a man can leave behind him. He had two sisters, both of whom were well along in life, unmarried, and possessed of their brother's disinclination to marry. To encourage them to cross the Rubicon he made the will that entailed the Canaan Tigmores to the heirs, first of one and then the other, under the following provisions: the land was to go to the male heirs of his sister Nancy Peele, from oldest son to oldest son so long as there were male heirs, provided that in each generation the oldest male representative of Nancy married before he reached the age of thirty-five. If, in any generation, Nancy's representative fails to marry at thirty-five, the Canaan Tigmores pass to the male representative of Kate Peele, upon the death of the man who failed. Nancy Peele married a Grierson, and so pronounced was the inherited aversion to matrimony in the house of Grierson that compliance with the terms of the will has lasted through two generations only. The present Bruce Grierson let the time-limit overtake and pass him twenty years ago, but, unmarried and grouchy, he has stood between me and the Canaan Tigmores ever since. I don't count until he dies, and not then unless I am married before I am thirty-five. (However, I feel that I might be more disposed to meet the will's requirements than the Griersons have been.)
The present Grierson is utterly unapproachable. He has not lived in this section for many years. He is particularly unapproachable on the subject of the Canaan Tigmores because he spent a great part of his youth prospecting through these hills, hoping and being disappointed. At last he turned his back upon Canaan, bitterly disillusioned, and he has been a wanderer upon the face of the earth ever since, sometimes hunting gold in the Rockies, sometimes after silver in Mexico. Half the time even Madeira does not know where he is.
The queerest thing about the mining business, Carington, is the "hunches." The Englishmen told me that down at Joplin a man would rather have a dream that he walks two miles sou'-sou-west, turns around three times on his heels and finds ore under his left heel, than to have a geologist assure him that his house sits on a ledge of Cherokee limestone that ought to be all right for zinc. I have met great numbers of miners who are hunchers. The most interesting is a man named Bernique, an old chap of education and refinement from St. Louis. He has a hunch about the Canaan Tigmores—at least so far in my intercourse with him I have not found anything more tangible than a hunch. I fell in with him just before I reached Canaan, and though he then declared his intention of being absent for some days, he did not go away, sought me out in Canaan next day and has spent a good deal of time with me ever since. He is a splendid old character. Missouri is chuck full of character, for the matter of that. Besides old Bernique, I have made another friend, named Piney. Isn't that a pretty nice name? He is a sort of gipsy lad who roams the woods in company with old Bernique. I have seen him nearly every day since I have been here, because old Bernique and I ride about the Tigmores, and Piney is sure to fall in with us somewhere along the road. I have also met some others.
You can have no conception, Carry, of the strength of pull that Missouri can exert over a fellow. You stand up on a hill and look at her, and something, your dead forefathers maybe, comes up to you in waves of influence. "Come back to your own!" says the Something, "I am waiting for you! By me conquer!" The longer I stay in Missouri, the longer I mean to stay. I have accepted the challenge of this great unconquered, waiting land. It is my own country.
Sorry to have kept you so long over all this, but I thought that you ought to know. Shall write you the out-look after the Joplin trip. I have a notion that things will be adjusted toward the future after that.
Give my love to the fellows. Yours, B. S.
P. S. Please express me one of those fold-up, carry-around-with-you bath-tubs.
When Carington, in the office down on Nassau Street, had read that, all of it, he turned over the last sheet and looked blankly at its blankness, quoted from the first paragraph, "Had I not got a feeling of encouragement from other experiences"; reread the entire letter, and was still afflicted with a sense of something lacking.
"Now where the dickens did he get the encouragement?" cried Carington fretfully. "Psha! he has not put that in at all!"
As a matter of entity and quiddity, it is well-nigh impossible to put into a letter the little quivering lift of spirit that may come to a man just because a girl's hair is lustrous, her eyes winey, her voice delicious, her smile one of gay fellowship.
 Carington could not.
BOOM TIME IN THE TOWN THAT JACK BUILT
"Here we are! This is the town that jack built, this is the town the poet wrote about!" Madeira was leaning forward from the rear seat of a high road-cart to talk to Steering, who sat on the front seat beside the driver. Madeira had the back seat by himself, but, leaning forward, with both arms spraddled out behind Steering and the driver, he seemed now and then to take possession of the front seat, too.
"Yes!" cried the driver, who, fearless, confident, glowing, was managing her spirited horses skilfully, "at Joplin's gates, you must chant the classic, 'Hey this, what's this?'"
"And up from the city rolls the triumphant answer, 'This is the town that jack built!'" declaimed Steering, glancing down into the driver's face with accordant appreciation. He felt accordant and he felt appreciative. He had enjoyed the little railway journey from Canaan in company with the Madeiras. He had enjoyed the night before, which he had spent at the house of a Joplin friend of the Madeiras. He was enjoying the ride now. The friend of the Madeiras had put good horses at Madeira's disposal and Miss Sally Madeira could get speed out of good horses as easily as other women get a purr out of a kitten. Even Madeira, just behind him, crowding forward upon him, did not very much bother Steering. It was all enjoyable.
They were on a long wide street that presented violently contrasted activities, hard to encompass with one pair of eyes. For blocks the buildings lined off on either side, low, flimsy and hastily constructed—mining-camp architecture, that gave way at abrupt intervals to tall and sightly brick-and-stone structures, built for the future metropolis rather than for the present camp. A section of an electric railway that was thirty-two miles long ran through the street, and the handsomely equipped cars on it clipped past mud-encrusted mule teams from distant hill farms, prairie schooners, and dilapidated carryalls. The scene was tremendously, occidentally irregular, setting forth that merciless clutch of the future upon the past that makes the present mere transition. The town was hard pushed to catch up with its own vast possibilities. A small place, set suddenly forward as one of the world's great ore markets, it could not even house the mining business that had poured in upon it, and that made of its main thoroughfare a tossing, turbulent stream of people. Almost every building that Steering saw was crowded to the doors with mining brokers' desks, mining brokers' desks spilled out on the side-walk, desks could be seen at the doors of the retail stores and desks kept banking-house doors from shutting. The windows of the newspaper offices and of the mineral companies were crowded with displays of ore. The hub-bub about these places was fierce, unbearable. Young men, with their handkerchiefs in their collars, hurried from one office to another, warm with excitement, flapping great bunches of letters and memoranda in their hands as they hurried. Messenger boys ran up and down the streets with telegrams. Buyers from the Kansas smelters, smelters in Illinois, smelters up about St. Louis, smelters in Indiana, smelters in Wales, nosed around like ferrets. Fine young men, who were supposed to look after the interests of the big foreign companies, sauntered out of bar-rooms, doing violence to the supposition. Map-sellers whacked their hands with folders. Wooden booths flung signs to the streets bigger than the booths themselves: "Mineral Companies Promoted," "Mining and Smelting," "Mines, Options, Leases,"—there was no end to the variations of the eternal theme of mining. Town lots, switches of flats, and hill ridges were being swapped and sold and leased from the curb-stone; leases were being made from buggies and options were being granted from a horse's back.
"Whewee!" marvelled Steering, with a little itch of fear for the ore-mad people, "legal forms are being put to fearful strains, are they not, with all this heedless buying and selling?"
Madeira laughed loudly, "God bless you, legal forms! All that a man who wants to sell has to do is to throw a plank, any little rotten plank, across the chasm of future litigation and ten buyers will walk it with nerves of steel." He patted Steering's shoulder. "My boy, it's this headlong impetus that assures the success of the Canaan Company. If I get that thing started once, all I have to do is to advertise it down here a week. The stock will go like hot-cakes. People don't care what they buy, just so they buy. They've got no sense of value left. Why, a man found an outcrop of a zinc lode under his chicken-coop yesterday—and to-day the price of chicken-coops has gone up." Madeira patted Steering's shoulder again and laughed again, pleased at his aptness in figuring the thing out.
"He's just exactly right," said the girl, nodding at Steering. "Over here the average man needs a guardian to keep him out of the clutches of the 'boodlers.' I almost hate to see this sort of excitement come into Canaan. Father has been pretty busy all his life looking after infant men, but from now on his plight is going to be pitiable. I saw that yesterday afternoon, Dad, when the farmers were filing into the bank to put their money into your hands." The girl, turning back to smile at Madeira, was the cause of Steering's turning back, too, and he was surprised to see a patriarchal, benign expression on Madeira's face, as though a reflection of the girl's illusions about his character lay warm upon him.
"Oh, I don't mind my job as nurse for the Canaanites, Pet," said Madeira softly, and then waved one hand out toward the city and changed the subject. "Pretty good for a lazy semi-southern State, eh, Steering?" He nudged the girl next and added: "Before we are through with him we'll have convinced the New Yorker that a good deal happens outside New York. Won't we, Pet?"
"Yes, sirree," said the girl, imitating her father's manner adroitly, as she put her horses through the crowded thoroughfare, "the United States of America has more than one way of living the life strenuous, and Broadway, New York, doesn't begin to be the only place where she lives it. Look abroad, look abroad!" She was altogether fascinating as she pointed out to Steering little typical features that he would have missed without her humourous, boastful sallies.
As they continued on their way, Madeira and the girl bowed and smiled to acquaintances, and once the horses were stopped at the curb to enable Madeira to talk to some man whom he knew well. While waiting, with the road-cart drawn up close to the curb, Steering and the girl could hear talk all about them,—zinc and lead, jack, jack, jack! Flying chips of conversation assailed their ears as the people scurried by; references to old companies and their latest projects, and to new companies and new finds; talk about the menace of the runs pinching out, and talk about the danger of over-stocking the world's zinc markets; grumbling talk about the wildcat exploitation going on at every corner, and envious talk about a report that some wildcat promoter had just succeeded in selling a face of ore that had cut blind under the drill of the buyer in a few lamentable days; condemnatory talk about what an extremely gold-brick country this was, and awed talk about the remarkable prices that some of the gold bricks fetched. All the talk was frankly of millions. The scale was gigantic. Even poor men seemed to have acquired a familiarity with the sound of great sums that made them take themselves as somehow richer and bigger. Voices shook with eagerness and avidity; hands worked constantly at button-holes, or at lapels, or with watch-guards. When acquaintances passed on the street they did not say "how-do-you-do"; they looked at each other's bulging pockets and said, "lemme see your rock." What Steering and the girl heard as they waited in the road-cart was fragmentary but significant: "Scotch Company will divide off another one hundred thousand acres, so they say—No, sirree-bob, no more hand-jigging for me—Wouldn't take one-quarter of a million for it, if you'd give it to me—Boston Company is bound to make millions—Yes, that's Madeira,—Canaan Tigmores—Oh, he will mint money out of it, no doubt in the world about that he goes in to win——"
The girl turned to Steering with pleased pride. "You see? He always wins. People expect him to." Madeira was over at the edge of his seat, talking earnestly to the man on the curb. Steering, beside the girl, looking down at her, not seeing Madeira because of her, nodded approvingly, the approval being for her honesty, her sweetness, her vitality. Something, perhaps the near climax for her father's enterprise at Canaan, seemed to have keyed her to a high pitch. Steering, who by now had had opportunities to see her often, had never seen her so beautiful, nor so quick of expression in word and look. Her voice thrilled him; and while he was thrilling, Madeira's voice came on to him: "You needn't hold back on that account," Madeira was saying: "God bless you, I've got the next heir in the deal, too."
"Oh-ho," said the girl, who also heard, "we are taking you for granted, aren't we?" Steering only smiled at her again. He had fallen into the habit of smiling at her, and some prescience seemed to urge him to exercise the habit while he could.
Madeira was turning from the man on the curb: "All right, I'll allot you one thousand shares, eh? Good-day.—Pet, you'd better drive on out to Chitwood, lickety-split."
Miss Madeira put the whip to her horses, and they left the Joplin streets behind them, and sped out a gritty white road that crossed a lean sweep of prairie. Ahead of them Steering could see presently a sort of settlement; wooden sheds, wide and low; hoister shafts, tall and slim, on stilts; scaffolding; pipes; chimneys; tramways; surface railways. His eyes leaped from moundlike piles of tailings, the powdery crush spit out by the concentrating mills, to boulder-like heaps of rocks that had been wheeled away to save the teeth of the mills, and his ears turned distraught from the groaning clank of unwieldy iron tubs, swinging up through skeleton shafts, to the sputtering plunk-plunk of drill engines and the booming roar of machinery.
"Hard to keep up with, eh? God bless us, it certainly is hard to keep up with!" cried Madeira. "Drive into the enclosure there at the Howdy-do, Pet, Throcker will be expecting us. I telephoned him. Yes, sir, this is the place to see what zinc means." Madeira was leaning forward again, one arm about his daughter and the other arm fathering Steering. "This is the place to understand what can be done by seeing what has been done." He seemed to want to fire Steering with the idea that just such another astounding development could be wrought out down there in the Canaan Tigmores, and though Steering was aware that he would soon be at a crisis where he would need an austere strength of judgment, uncoloured by enthusiasm of any kind, he could not help responding to the aura of enthusiasm into which he was entering. The great plant of the Howdy-do mine disseminated enthusiasm in shaking vibrations. Milled enthusiasm stood about in cars, ready for the smelters. Enthusiasm roared and whirred from the concentrating mill where wheels were turning and bands were slipping; where a tub, ore-laden, was jerking and clanking through the hoister shaft; where men on an upper platform were shovelling the dump from the tub into great crusher rolls; where the rolls were grinding and pounding, and the water was fashing and gurgling down the jigs. The whirr of it all, the whizz and bang of it, the whole effect of it all, was, to any man interested in the development of ore, a great forward impetus that swung him far out, limp and dizzy.
"Waiting for you, Mr. Madeira!" cried a man, who fairly shone with enthusiasm, and whose voice tinkled gladly as he came across to the hitching rail where Miss Madeira had stopped her horses. "Mighty glad to see you, Miss Sally—Mr. Steering, glad to meet you, sir. Here you, Mike! come and look after these horses. Miss Sally, I'm a-going to have to take you round to the tool-house for some covers, please ma'am." The accommodating and friendly mine-boss of the Howdy-do led Madeira's party to a shed opposite his mill and there outfitted them with rubber coats and caps, talking to them all the while in that tinkling voice, with the glad note singing in it.
"God bless my soul, Throcker, how much did the last blast bring down?" Madeira turned to Steering before Throcker could reply. "Whenever a miner's voice shakes and sings like that, his last blast has meant a heap."
"You are right, sir!" cried Throcker, "we opened up a face yesterday that,—well, it's going to take us weeks to handle even the loose ore we've brought down, sir. Come this way, Miss Sally, please ma'am."
Steering began to wish that the mine-boss were not so happy. It had an electric effect upon him. And he began to wish that he himself were not so happy. He dreaded developments that would surely be change.
"Well, Throcker, my boy, my ledge of Cherokee runs up here from the Canaan Tigmores, d'you know that?" said Madeira. He put his thumbs in his pockets and rocked upon the balls of his feet with a springing, tip-toe movement, as Throcker stopped them in front of a shaft out of whose cavernous depths a cage was swinging toward them. From Madeira's manner you might have inferred that the Cherokee had a Madeira permit to "run up here."
In the cage it was necessary for Steering to extend his arm behind Miss Madeira, as there were no sides between the great cables at the four corners. It was not a very large cage and the number on it crowded it, so that the girl rested lightly on Steering's arm. He could think of no place so deep down that he would not be well satisfied to journey to it like that.
But there came a jolt and a jar, the cage settled upon the stope, and the journey was over. Throcker led the way through a thick underground gloom. Great masses of crush-rock slid under foot, there was a black drip from ceiling and walls, and the excavation was filled with the hollow boom of the water-and air-pumps. With lights flaring uncertainly, they followed the mine-boss out upon a rocky crag that gave upon a deep abyss, faintly illuminated by the flicker of the lamps of the working force below and by torches set in the wall. There was an upward slope in the formation of the ledge from the bottom of the cavern to the spur upon which they stood, but it was made by irregular juttings with ugly, saw-tooth projections. Unless they were very near the edge they could not follow the dim outline of the slope at all. Throcker in his eagerness to point out the ore, shining like specks of gold all up and down the slope, worked dangerously near the edge, but he was accustomed and recovered his balance easily when a piece of his support crumbled away under his feet. Steering, who was agile and athletic, had no difficulty in keeping up with the miner, but Madeira had to be watchful. The miner would not let Miss Madeira come far out on the crag, though he let the men follow him, calling warnings to them as they came.
"From where you stand, Miss Sally," Throcker turned toward the girl who waited below the summit of the crag, "from where you stand up to here, the loose ore is worth about sixty-five thousand dollars!"
The girl looked up at them responsively. Standing there under the strange flickering light of her torch, with the black folds of the rubber coat swathing her, her face, with its fine eyes, was cut out for Steering sharp as a cameo.
"I am delighted for your sake, Mr. Throcker," she called gaily, but with a little uneasiness in her voice. "Father, please be careful."
"Sixty-five thousand dollars! Why, Lord love you, Throcker, a hundred thousand, if one." Madeira, taking charge of the probabilities in the case, moved toward the edge to support his estimate by measuring with his eye the distance down the crag.
"Father, please be careful. Watch him, Mr. Steering,—O-h-h-h!" A woman's cry of horror rang though the tunnelled walls as Madeira's great frame toppled on the edge of the crag, and disappeared.
Throwing out his right arm protectingly, as though in answer to the girl below, Steering had been able to knot the sinewy fingers of one hand about Madeira's collar as the latter fell. The force of the fall brought Steering to his knees, then flat out across the ledge, to get all the purchase power he could. Madeira's weight was terrific, even after Steering had brought his other hand into requisition; and though Throcker sprang to the rescue, Throcker was a weak man and the best aid that he could render was to assume a small share of Madeira's weight by getting down flat upon the ledge, after Steering's fashion. In the black hole below the miners saw what had happened and two burly men began to clamber up the treacherous slope.
"Gently, boys, gently," warned Throcker, as the men came on; he and Steering could feel the rock upon which they lay vibrate; there was a rending and splitting going on all through the ledge. "Can you hold on a minute alone, sir?" gasped Throcker suddenly. "I have a bad heart and it's going back on me,"—he fell weakly beside Steering.
"Yes, I can hold on alone." Steering's face was in the loose crush, and his lips were cut by the rock when he opened them, so he stopped trying to talk.
"Get back, Mr. Throcker—let me get my hands down and help Mr. Steering." It was the girl's voice, and the girl was beside Steering, quiet and capable.
"Oh, you?" said Steering. He had known all these seconds that he was doing this for her, but the strain that he was on had somehow pulled him beyond the comprehension of her as actual; for the last ten seconds she had been rather a big abstraction, a high principle of his soul, a good desire in his heart. To see her there before him was to see abstraction, principle, desire becoming adequately incarnate. "No, you mustn't try to reach down here,—your arms aren't long enough,—the commotion on the edge here is dangerous,—if you will just put something, your handkerchief, under my face where the sharp little rocks are at it,—ah, you should not have done that!"—she had slipped her hands beneath his face, and the touch of her fingers was like velvet as she worked away the sticking, stinging bits of ore and rock that worried him. He had not known how chief a part in his sensation of discomfort those bits had played until he could bury his face in the relief of her soft hands. As a matter of fact, with those bits out of his cheeks,—and his face in her hands,—he felt no great discomfort at all. If it had not been for her shivering sigh of relief he would have been sorry when the miners drew Madeira up. Madeira had not spoken, and he was purple as they carried him to a place of safety some distance back on the ledge.
"He is just the sort of man physically who ought not to be subjected to choking experiences," said Steering. One of the miners had brought water, and Steering and Miss Madeira were reviving Madeira with it. Madeira did not seem to be unconscious, but his senses were obtunded, and it was some minutes before he could sit up.
"God bless my soul! God bless my soul!" he said, at last, and shivered. Then he turned to Steering: "My boy, you know how to hold on. I believe you've got as much stick-to-it-iveness as I have." It was his supremest form of acknowledgment, and, in making it, he made, too, an impression upon Steering that he resented the circumstances that compelled him to make it.
They got back to the upper air presently, followed by a cheer from the mine force below. The miners had watched Steering perform one of those supernatural feats of strength and endurance that an onlooker can never explain afterward. Usually the performer knows that the thing was a matter of motive and will, not muscle.
Up in the daylight again, Madeira was quickly himself again. He resumed charge of affairs in his comprehensive way, and though the mine-boss, frightened and remorseful, was limp now, all his enthusiasm gone, Madeira's welled up again strong within him. They went back to their horses without loss of time, and, waving adieux to Throcker and some of his men who had gathered about, they were soon journeying back down the white road toward Joplin. Miss Madeira's hands were in bad condition for driving, Steering thought, but she had taken the reins just the same.
"We are all dilapidated for the matter of that," she said. "Father is as grey-faced as a rat, your cheeks are all cut and pricked—my hands don't count."
Twilight was coming on and a full moon was rising. The great sweep of flat stretched out about them in a mesh of soft light. The ride back was gay, and when they stopped at the house of the Joplin man, who was their host, all three were still in nervously high spirits. A negro servant came out for the horses, and Steering helped Miss Madeira to alight. The girl had drawn off her driving gauntlets, and the ungloved hand that she gave him was scratched and scarred across its brown back.
"Isn't that shameful,—and you did it for me!" mourned Steering.
"Oh, if I could have done more!" she cried breathlessly, "if I could do more,—as much as you have done for me! If I have not thanked you, you know,"—what she was saying was fragmentary and confused, but her eyes were shining sweetly upon him,—"it's because I can't. You must understand that. I never can talk when I am busy feeling. How are your shoulders?"
"I don't know that I have any," replied Steering, with wretched prevarication.
"Come on, Honey, come on." Madeira was at the stone steps of the Joplin house, and the girl took his arm and climbed the steps with him. At the top Madeira turned back to Steering, who was a step behind. "Well, old man, let's have it out now, before we go in and get mixed up with these strangers. What about those shares? Coming in with us, I reckon?" It was like Madeira to select a position of advantage like that, a higher place from which he could look down and dominate, with his daughter beside him, and it was like him to select a moment like that, a moment when the three were close, on the very summit of their friendship and sympathy. "We are to be all together on that deal, aren't we?"
Though the girl, her arm linked through her father's, was waiting for his answer, and though Steering saw that she expected his acquiescence as the right and natural thing, her influence upon him, despite that, was all for the rejection of Madeira's proposition. She looked so young, so straight, so honest, that, as an influence, she was ranged against Madeira, even though, in her ignorance, she imagined herself to be in harmony with him. Steering, looking at her first and Madeira next, knew that she really fashioned his answer, that it was really all because of her that his words came, swiftly, earnestly:
"Don't allot me any shares at all, Mr. Madeira. I have decided not to go into the company."
Madeira emitted a breezy "All right. God bless you, all right." The girl looked sorry and puzzled. Steering came on up the steps behind them, with a sense of mingled elation and sadness, and the three passed through the door of the Joplin man's house.
FATHER AND DAUGHTER
Madeira Place was the old Peele Farm, whose square brick house had been the boast of Canaan township ever since it had been put up,—out of brick hauled by team across three counties,—by the man who had established, but failed, despite his effort, to make permanent the fortunes of his family. When the grandnephew, Bruce Grierson, came on, the brick house was plastered with a mortgage that somehow passed eventually into the hands of the then alert young sapling land-agent, Crittenton Madeira. Crittenton took the house, and, by and by, Bruce Grierson, the second, took himself, with money borrowed from Madeira, out of Canaan, never to return. It was not long after this that Crittenton Madeira, who was still a slight man, with a young wife and a pretty baby out at the brick house, began to be named "our esteemed fellow townsman" by the Canaan Call. Madeira built a hotel for Canaan, promoted the Canaan Short Line, and established the Bank of Canaan. His wife died, and his little girl grew, and he became large of girth. It was not until his daughter was twelve that he had to share honours with anyone as the foremost personage of Tigmore County. At twelve the daughter began to show that she had inherited her father's vitality, though the sphere of her activities was different. He bought and sold and made money. She lassoed heifers, broke colts, and rode up and down the Di in rickety skiffs. The community took as much pride in her adventures as it did in his achievements.