E-text prepared by Al Haines
THE ENCHANTED CANYON
"The Forbidden Trail," "Still Jim," "The Heart of the Desert," "Lydia of the Pines," etc.
A. L. Burt Company Publishers ———— New York Published by arrangement with William Morrow and Company, Inc. Copyright, 1921, by Honore Willsie Morrow All rights reserved, including that of translation into foreign languages Printed in the United States of America
I MINETTA LANE II BRIGHT ANGEL
THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR
III TWENTY-TWO YEARS LATER IV DIANA ALLEN V A PHOTOGRAPHER OF INDIANS VI A NEWSPAPER REPORTER
THE ENCHANTED CANYON
VII THE DESERT VIII THE COLORADO IX THE CLIFF DWELLING X THE EXPEDITION BEGINS XI THE PERFECT ADVENTURE XII THE END OF THE CRUISE XIII GRANT'S CROSSING XIV LOVE IN THE DESERT
THE PHANTASM DESTROYED
XV THE FIRING LINE AGAIN XVI CURLY'S REPORT XVII REVENGE IS SWEET
"A boy at fourteen needs a mother or the memory of a mother as he does at no other period of his life."—Enoch's Diary.
Except for its few blocks that border Washington Square, MacDougal Street is about as squalid as any on New York's west side.
Once it was aristocratic enough for any one, but that was nearly a century ago. Alexander Hamilton's mansion and Minetta Brook are less than memories now. The blocks of fine brick houses that covered Richmond Hill are given over to Italian tenements. Minetta Brook, if it sings at all, sings among the sewers far below the dirty pavements.
But Minetta Lane still lives, a short alley that debouches on MacDougal Street. Edgar Allan Poe once strolled on summer evenings through Minetta Lane with his beautiful Annabel Lee. But God pity the sweethearts to-day who must have love in its reeking precincts! It is a lane of ugliness, now; a lane of squalor; a lane of poverty and hopelessness spelled in terms of filth and decay.
About midway in the Lane stands a two-story, red-brick house with an exquisite Georgian doorway. The wrought-iron handrail that borders the crumbling stone steps is still intact. The steps usually are crowded with dirty, quarreling children and a sore-eyed cat or two. Nobody knows and nobody cares who built the house. Enough that it is now the home of poverty and of ways that fear the open light of day. Just when the decay of the old dwelling began there is none to say. But New Yorkers of middle age recall that in their childhood the Lane already had been claimed by the slums, with the Italian influx just beginning.
One winter afternoon a number of years ago a boy stood leaning against the iron newel post of the old house, smoking a cigarette. He was perhaps fourteen or fifteen years of age, but he might have been either older or younger. The city gives even to children a sophisticated look that baffles the casual psychologist.
The children playing on the steps behind the boy were stocky, swarthy Italians. But he was tall and loosely built, with dark red hair and hard blue eyes. He was thin and raw boned. Even his smartly cut clothes could not hide his extreme awkwardness of body, his big loose joints, his flat chest and protruding shoulder blades. His face, too, could not have been an Italian product. The cheek bones were high, the cheeks slightly hollowed, the nose and lips were rough hewn. The suave lines of the three little Latins behind him were entirely alien to this boy's face.
It was warm and thawing so that the dead horse across the street, with the hugely swollen body, threw off an offensive odor.
"Smells like the good ol' summer time," said the boy, nodding his head toward the horse and addressing the rag picker who was pulling a burlap sack into the basement.
"Like ta getta da skin. No good now though," replied Luigi. "You gotta da rent money, Nucky?"
"Got nuttin'," Nucky's voice was bitter. "That brown Liz you let in last night beats the devil shakin' dice."
"We owe three mont' now, Nucky," said the Italian.
"Yes, and how much trade have I pulled into your blank blank second floor for you durin' the time, you blank blank! If I hear any more about the rent, I'll split on you, you—"
But before Nucky could continue his cursing, the Italian broke in with a volubility of oaths that reduced the boy to sullen silence. Having eased his mind, Luigi proceeded to drag the sack into the basement and slammed the door.
"Nucky! Nucky! He's onlucky!" sang one of the small girls on the crumbling steps.
"You dry up, you little alley cat!" roared the boy.
"You're just a bastard!" screamed the child, while her playmates took up the cry.
Nucky lighted a fresh cigarette and moved hurriedly up toward MacDougal Street. Once having turned the corner, he slackened his gait and climbed into an empty chair in the bootblack stand that stood in front of the Cafe Roma. The bootblack had not finished the first shoe when a policeman hoisted himself into the other chair.
"How are you, Nucky?" he grunted.
"All right, thanks," replied the boy, an uneasy look softening his cold eyes for the moment.
"Didn't keep the job I got you, long," the officer said. "What was the rip this time?"
"Aw, I ain't goin' to hold down ho five-dollar-a-week job. What do you think I am?"
"I think you are a fool headed straight for the devil," answered the officer succinctly. "Now listen to me, Nucky. I've knowed you ever since you started into the school over there. I mind how the teacher told me she was glad to see one brat that looked like an old-fashioned American. And everything the teachers and us guys at the police station could do to keep you headed right, we've done. But you just won't have it. You've growed up with just the same ideas the young toughs have 'round here. All you know about earnin' money is by gambling." Nucky stirred, but the officer put out his hand.
"Hold on now, fer I'm servin' notice on you. You've turned down every job we got you. You want to keep on doing Luigi's dirty work for him. Very well! Go to it! And the next time we get the goods on you, you'll get the limit. So watch yourself!"
"Everybody's against a guy!" muttered the boy,
"Everybody's against a fool that had rather be crooked than straight," returned the officer.
Nucky, his face sullen, descended from the chair, paid the boy and headed up MacDougal Street toward the Square.
A tall, dark woman, dressed in black entered the Square as Nucky crossed from Fourth Street. Nucky overtook her.
"Are you comin' round to-night, Liz?" he asked.
She looked at him with liquid brown eyes over her shoulder.
"Anything better there than there was last night?" she asked.
Nucky nodded eagerly. "You'll be surprised when you see the bird I got lined up."
Liz looked cautiously round the park, at the children shouting on the wet pavements, at the sparrows quarreling in the dirty snow drifts. Then she started, nervously, along the path.
"There comes Foley!" she exclaimed. "What's he doin' off his beat?"
"He's seen us now," said Nucky. "We might as well stand right here."
"Oh, I ain't afraid of that guy!" Liz tossed her head. "I got things on him, all right."
"Why don't you use 'em?" Nucky's voice was skeptical. "He's going down Waverly Place, the blank, blank!"
Liz grunted. "He's got too much on me! I ain't hopin' to start trouble. You go chase yourself, Nucky. I'll be round about midnight."
Nucky's chasing himself consisted of the purchase of a newspaper which he read for a few minutes in the sunshine of the park. Even as he sat on the park bench, apparently absorbed in the paper, there was an air of sullen unhappiness about the boy. Finally, he tossed the paper aside, and sat with folded arms, his chin on his breast.
Officer Foley, standing on the corner of Washington Place and MacDougal Street waved a pleasant salute to a tall, gray-haired man whose automobile drew up before the corner apartment house.
"How are you, Mr. Seaton?" he asked.
"Rather used up, Foley!" replied the gentleman, "Rather used up! Aren't you off your beat?"
The officer nodded. "Had business up here and started back. Then I stopped to watch that red-headed kid over there." He indicated the bench on which Nucky sat, all unconscious of the sharp eyes fastened on his back.
"I see the red hair, anyway,"—Mr. Seaton lighted a cigar and puffed it slowly. He and Foley had been friends during Seaton's twenty years' residence on the Square.
"I know you ain't been keen on boys since you lost Jack," the officer said, slowly, "but—well, I can't get this young Nucky off my mind, blast the little crook!"
"So he's a crook, is he? How old is the boy?"
"Oh, 'round fourteen! He's as smart as lightning and as crooked as he is smart. He turned up here when he was a little kid, with a woman who may or may not have been his mother. She lived with a Dago down in Minetta Lane. Guess the boy mighta been six years old when she died and Luigi took him on. We were all kind of proud of him at first. Teachers in school all said he was a wonder. But for two or three years he's been going wrong, stealing and gambling, and now this fellow Luigi's started a den on his second floor that we gotta clean out soon. His rag-picking's a stall. And he's using Nucky like a kid oughtn't to be used."
"Why don't you people have him taken away from the Italian and a proper guardian appointed?"
"Well, he's smart and we kinda hoped he'd pull up himself. We got a settlement worker interested in him and we got jobs for him, but nothing works. Judge Harmon swears he's out of patience with him and'll send him to reform school at his next offense. That'll end Nucky. He'll be a gunman by the time he's twenty."
"You seem fond of the boy in spite of his criminal tendencies," said Seaton.
"Aw, we all have criminal tendencies, far as that goes," growled Foley; "you and I and all of us. Don't know as I'm what you'd call fond of the kid. Maybe it's his name. Yes, I guess it's his name. Now what is your wildest guess for that little devil's name, Mr. Seaton?"
The gray-hatred man shook his head. "Pat Donahue, by his hair."
"But not by his face, if you could see it. His name is Enoch Huntingdon. Yes, sir, Enoch Huntingdon! What do you think of that?"
The astonishment expressed in Seaton's eyes was all that the officer could desire.
"Enoch Huntingdon! Why, man, that gutter rat has real blood in him, if he didn't steal the name."
"No kid ever stole such a name as that," said Foley. "And for all he's homely enough to stop traffic, his face sorta lives up to his name. Want a look at him?"
Mr. Seaton hesitated. The tragic death of his own boy a few years before had left him shy of all boys. But his curiosity was roused and with a sigh he nodded.
Foley crossed the street, Seaton following. As they turned into the Square, Nucky saw them out of the tail of his eye. He rose, casually, but Foley forestalled his next move by calling in a voice that carried above the street noises, "Nucky! Wait a moment!"
The boy stopped and stood waiting until the two men came up. Seaton eyed the strongly hewn face while the officer said, "That person you were with a bit ago, Nucky—I don't think much of her. Better cut her out."
"I can't help folks talking to me, can I?" demanded the boy, belligerently.
"Especially the ladies!" snorted Foley. "Regular village cut-up, you are! Well, just mind what I say," find he strolled on, followed by Seaton.
"He'll never be hung for his beauty," said Seaton. "But, Foley, I'll wager you'll find that lad breeds back to Plymouth Rock!"
Foley nodded. "Thought you'd be interested. Every man who's seen him is. But there's nothing doing. Nucky is a hard pill."
"Maybe he needs a woman's hand," suggested Seaton, "Sometimes these hard characters are clay with the right kind of a woman."
"Or the wrong kind," grunted the officer.
"No, the right kind," insisted Mr. Seaton. "I'm telling you, Foley, a good woman is the profoundest influence a man can have. There's a deep within him he never gives over to a bad woman."
Foley's keen gray eyes suddenly softened. He looked for a moment above the tree tops to the clouds sailing across the blue. "I guess you're right, Mr. Seaton," he said, "I guess you're right! Well, poor Nucky! And I must be getting back. Good day, Mr. Seaton."
"Good day, Foley!"
And Nucky, staring curiously from the Square, saw the apartment house door close on the tall, well-dressed stranger, and saw a taxi-cab driver offer a lift to his ancient enemy, Officer Foley.
"Thinks he's smart, don't he!" he muttered aloud, starting slowly back toward the Cafe Roma. "I wonder what uplifter he's got after me now?"
In the Cafe Roma, Nucky sat down at a little table and ordered a bowl of ministrone with red wine. He did not devour his food as the normal boy of his age would have done. He ate slowly and without appetite. When he was about half through the meal, a young Irishman in his early twenties sat down opposite him.
"Hello, Nucky! What's doin'?"
"Nothin' worth talking about. What's doin' with you?"
"O, I been helping Marty, the Dude, out. He's going to be alderman from this ward, some day."
"That's the idea!" cried Nucky. "That's what I'd like to be, a politician. I'd rather be Mayor of N' York than king of the world."
"I thought you wanted to be king o' the dice throwers," laughed the young Irishman.
"If I was, I'd buy myself the job of Mayor," returned Nucky. "Coming over to-night?"
"I might, 'long about midnight. Anything good in sight?"
"I hope so," Nucky's hard face looked for a moment boyishly worried.
"Business ain't been good, eh?"
"Not for me," replied Nucky. "Luigi seems to be goin' to the bank regular. You bet that guy don't risk keepin' nothin' in the house."
"I shouldn't think he would with a wonder like you around," said the young Irishman with a certain quality of admiration in his voice.
Nucky's thin chest swelled and he paid the waiter with an air that exactly duplicated the cafe manner of Marty, the Dude. Then, with a casual nod at Frank, he started back toward Luigi's, for his evening's work.
It began to snow about ten o'clock that night. The piles of dirty ice and rubbish on MacDougal Street turned to fairy mountains. The dead horse in Minetta Lane might have been an Indian mound in miniature. An occasional drunken man or woman, exuding loathsome, broken sentences, reeled past Officer Foley who stood in the shadows opposite Luigi's house. He was joined silently and one at a time by half a dozen other men. Just before midnight, a woman slipped in at the front door. And on the stroke of twelve, Foley gave a whispered order. The group of officers crossed the street and one of them put a shoulder against the door which yielded with a groan.
When the door of the large room on the second floor burst open, Nucky threw down his playing cards and sprang for the window. But Foley forestalled him and slipped handcuffs on him, while Nucky cursed and fought with all the venom that did the eight or ten other occupants of the room. Tables were kicked over. A small roulette board smashed into the sealed fire-place. Brown Liz broke a bottle of whiskey on an officer's helmet and the reek of alcohol merged with that of cigarette smoke and snow-wet clothes. Luigi freed himself for a moment and turned off the gas light roaring as he did so.
"Get out da back room! Da backa room!"
But it was a well-planned raid. No one escaped, and shortly, Nucky was climbing into the patrol wagon that had appeared silently before the door. That night he was locked in a cell with a drunken Greek. It was his first experience in a cell. Hitherto, Officer Foley had protected him from this ignominy. But Officer Foley, as he told Nucky, was through with him.
The Greek, except for an occasional oath, slept soddenly. The boy crouched in a corner of the cell, breathing rapidly and staring into black space. At dawn he had not changed his position or closed his eyes.
It was two days later that Officer Foley found a telephone message awaiting him in the police station. "Mr. John Seaton wants you to call him up, Foley."
Foley picked up the telephone. Mr. Seaton answered at once. "It was nothing in particular, Foley, except that I wanted to tell you that the red-headed boy and his name, particularly that name, in Minetta Lane, have haunted me. If he gets in trouble again, you'd better let me know."
"You're too late, Mr. Seaton! He's in up to his neck, now." The officer described the raid. "The judge has given him eighteen months at the Point and we're taking him there this afternoon."
"You don't mean it! The young whelp! Foley, what he needs is a licking and a mother to love him, not reform school."
"Sure, but no matter how able a New York policeman is, Mr. Seaton, he can't be a mother! And it's too late! The judge is out o' patience."
"Look here, Foley, hasn't he any friends at all?"
"There's several that want to be friends, but he won't have 'em. He's sittin' in his cell for all the world like a bull pup the first time he's tied."
Mr. Seaton cleared his throat. "Foley, let me come round and see him before you send him over the road, will you?"
"Sure, that can be fixed up. Only don't get sore when the kid snubs you."
"Nothing a boy could do could hurt me, Foley. You remember that Jack was not exactly an angel."
"No, that's right, but Jack was always a good sport, Mr. Seaton. That's why it's so hard to get hold of these young toughs down here! They ain't sports!" And Foley hung up the receiver with a sigh.
Mr. Seaton preferred to introduce himself to Nucky. The boy was sitting on the edge of his bunk, his red hair a beautiful bronze in the dim daylight that filtered through the high window.
"How are you, Enoch?" said Mr. Seaton. "My name is John Seaton. Officer Foley pointed you out to me the other day as a lad who was making bad use of a good name. That's a wonderful name of yours, do you realize it?"
"Every uplifter I ever met's told me so," replied Nucky, ungraciously, without looking up.
Mr. Seaton smiled. "I'm no uplifter! I'm a New York lawyer! Supposing you take a look at me so's to recognize me when we meet again."
Nucky still kept his gaze on the floor. "I know what you look like. You got gray hair and brown eyes, you're thin and tall and about fifty years old."
"Good work!" exclaimed Enoch's caller. "Now, look here, Enoch, can't I help you out of this scrape?"
"Don't want to be helped out. I was doin' a man's job and I'll take my punishment like a man."
Seaton spoke quickly. "It wasn't a man's job. It was a thief's job. You're taking your sentence like a common thief, not like a man."
"Aw, dry up and get out o' here!" snarled Nucky, jumping to his feet and looking his caller full in the face.
Seaton did not stir. In spite of its immaturity, its plainness and its sullenness, there was a curious dignity in Nucky's face, that made a strong appeal to his dignified caller.
"You guys always preachin' to me!" Nucky went on, his boyish voice breaking with weariness and excitement. "Why don't you look out for your own kids and let me alone?"
"My only boy is beyond my care. He was killed three years ago," returned Seaton. "I've had nothing to do with boys since. And I don't give a hang about you. It's your name I'm interested in. I hate to see a fine name in the hands of a prospective gunman."
"And you can't get me with the sob stuff, either," Nucky shrugged his shoulders.
Seaton scowled, then he laughed. "You're a regular tough, eh, Enoch? But you know even toughs occasionally use their brains. Do you want to go to reform school?"
"Yes, I do! Go on, get out o' here!"
"You infernal little fool!" blazed Seaton, losing his temper. "Do you think you can handle me the way you have the others? Well, it can't be done! Huntingdon is a real name in this country and if you think any pig-headed, rotten-minded boy can carry that name to the pen, without me putting up a fight, you're mistaken! You've met something more than your match this time, you are pretty sure to find out sooner or later, my sweet young friend. My hair was red, too, before—up to three years ago."
Seaton turned and slammed out of the cell. When Foley came to the door a half hour later, Nucky was again sitting on the edge of the bunk, staring sullenly at the floor.
"Come out o' this, Nucky," said the officer.
Nucky rose, obediently, and followed Foley into the next room. Mr. Seaton was leaning against the desk, talking with Captain Blackly.
"Look here, Nucky," said Blackly, "this gentleman has been telephoning the judge and the judge has paroled you once more in this gentleman's hands. I think you're a fool, Mr. Seaton, but I believe in giving a kid as young as Huntingdon the benefit of the doubt. We've all failed to find a spark of decent ambition in him. Maybe you can. Just one word for you, young fellow. If you try to get away from Mr. Seaton, we'll get you in a way you'll never forget."
Nucky said nothing. His unboyish eyes traveled from one face to another, then he shrugged his shoulders and dropped his weight to the other hip. John Seaton, whose eyes were still smoldering, tapped Nucky on the arm.
"All right, Enoch! I'm going to take you up to my house to meet Mrs. Seaton. See that you behave like a gentleman," and he led the way into the street. Nucky followed without any outward show of emotion. His new guardian did not speak until they reached the door of the apartment house, then he turned and looked the boy in the eye.
"I'm obstinate, Enoch, and quick tempered. No one but Mrs. Seaton thinks of me as a particularly likable chap. You can do as you please about liking me, but I want you to like my wife. And if I have any reason to think you've been anything but courteous to her, I'll break every bone in your body. You say you don't want sob stuff. You'll get none of it from me."
Not a muscle of Nucky's face quivered. Mr. Seaton did not wait for a reply, but led the way into the elevator. It shot up to the top floor and Nucky followed into the long, dark hall of the apartment.
"Put your hat and coat here," said his guardian, indicating the hat rack on which he was hanging his own overcoat. "Now follow me." He led the boy into the living room.
A small woman sat by the window that overlooked the Square. Her brown hair was just touched with gray. Her small round face was a little faded, with faint lines around eyes and lips. It was not an intellectual face, but it was sweet and patient, from the delicate curve of the lips to the slight downward droop of the eyebrows above the clear blue eyes. All the sweetness and patience was there with which the wives of high tempered, obstinate men are not infrequently blessed.
"Mary, this is young Enoch Huntingdon," said Seaton.
Mrs. Seaton offered her hand, which Nucky took awkwardly and unsmilingly. "How do you do, Enoch! Mr. Seaton told me about your red hair and your fine old name. Are you going to stay with us a little while?"
"I don't know, ma'am," replied Enoch.
"Sit down, Enoch! Sit down!" Seaton waved Enoch impatiently toward a seat while he took the arm chair beside his wife. "Mary, I've got to take that trip to San Francisco, after all. Houghton and Company insist on my looking into that Jameson law-suit for them."
Mary Seaton looked up, a little aghast. "But mercy, John! I can't get away now, with Sister Alice coming!"
"I know that. So I'm going to take Enoch with me."
"Oh!" Mary looked from her husband to Enoch, sitting awkwardly on the edge of the Chippendale chair. His usually pale face was a little flushed and his thin lips were set firmly together. From her scrutiny of Enoch's face, she turned to his hands. They were large and bony and the thumb and first two fingers of his right hand were yellow.
"You don't look as if you'd been eating the right kind of things, Enoch," she said, kindly. "And it's cigarettes that give your lips that bad color. You must let me help you about that. When do you start, John dear?"
"To-morrow night, and I'm afraid I'll be gone the best part of three weeks. By that time, I ought to know something about Enoch, eh?"
For the first time Enoch grinned, a little sheepishly, to be sure, and a little cynically. Nevertheless it was the first sign of tolerance he had shown and Mr. Seaton was cheered by it.
"That will give time to get Enoch outfitted," said Mary. "We'll go up to Best's to-morrow morning."
"This suit is new," said Nucky.
"It looks new," agreed Mrs. Seaton, "but a pronounced check like that isn't nice for traveling. And you'll need other things."
"I got plenty of clothes at home, and I paid for 'em myself," Nucky's voice was resentful.
"Well, drop a line to that Italian you've been living with, and tell him—" began Mr. Seaton.
"Aw, he'll be doin' time in Sing Sing by the time I get back," interrupted Nucky, "and he can't read anyhow. I always 'tended to everything but going to the bank for him."
"Did you really?" There was a pleasant note of admiration in Mrs. Seaton's voice. "You must try to look out for Mr. Seaton then on this trip. He is so absent-minded! Come and I'll show you your room, Enoch. You must get ready for dinner."
She rose, and led the boy down the hall to a small room. It was furnished in oak and chintz. Enoch thought it must have been the dead boy's room for there was a gun over the bureau and photographs of a football team and a college crew on the walls.
"Supper will be ready in ten or fifteen minutes," said Mrs. Seaton, as she left him. A moment later, he heard her speaking earnestly in the living-room. He brushed his hair, then amused himself by examining the contents of the room. The supper bell rang just as he opened the closet door. He closed it, hastily and silently, and a moment later, Mr. Seaton spoke from the hall:
"Come, Enoch!" and the boy followed into the dining-room.
His table manners were bad, of course, but Mrs. Seaton found these less difficult to endure than the boy's unresponsive, watchful ways. At last, as the pudding was being served, she exclaimed:
"What in the world are you watching for, Enoch? Do you expect us to rob you, or what?"
"I dunno, ma'am," answered Nucky,
"Do you enjoy your supper?" asked Mrs. Seaton.
"It's all right, I guess. I'm used to wine with my supper."
"Wine, you young jack-donkey!" cried John Seaton. "And don't you appreciate the difference between a home meal like this and one you pick up in Minetta Lane?"
"I dunno!" Nucky's face darkened sullenly and he pushed his pudding away.
There was silence around the table for a few moments. Mrs. Seaton, quietly watching the boy, thought of what her husband had told her of Officer Foley's account. The boy did act not unlike a bull pup put for the first time on the lead chain. She was relieved and so was Mr. Seaton when Nucky, immediately after the meal was finished, said that he was sleepy, and went to bed.
"I don't envy you your trip, John," said Mary Seaton, as she settled to her embroidery again. "What on earth possesses you to do it? The boy isn't even interesting in his badness."
"He's got the face either of a great leader or a great criminal," said Seaton, shaking out his paper. "He makes me so mad I could tan his hide every ten minutes, but I'm going to see the thing through. It's the first time in three years I've felt interested in anything."
Quick tears sprang to his wife's eyes. "I'm so glad to have you feel that way, John, that I'll swallow even this impossible boy. What makes him so ugly? Did he want to go to reform school?"
"God knows what any boy of his age wants!" replied John briefly. "But I'm going to try in the next three weeks to find out what's frozen him up so."
"Well, I'll dress him so that he won't disgrace you."
Mrs. Seaton smiled and sighed and went on with her careful stitching.
Nobody tried to talk to Nucky at the breakfast table. After the meal was over and Mr. Seaton had left for the office, the boy sat looking out of the window until Mrs. Seaton announced herself ready for the shopping expedition. Then he followed her silently to the waiting automobile.
The little woman took great care in buying the boy's outfit. The task must Have been painful to her. Only three years before she had been buying clothes for Jack from this same clerk. But Mary Seaton was a good soldier and she did a good job. When they reached home in mid-afternoon Nucky was well equipped for his journey.
To Mary's surprise and pleasure he took care of her, helping her in and out of the automobile, and waiting on her vigilantly. He was awkward, to be sure, and silent, but Mary was secretly sure that he was less resentful toward her than he had been the day before. And she began to understand her husband's interest in the strong, immature, sullen face.
The train left at six o'clock. Mrs. Seaton went with them to the very train gates.
"You'll really try to look out for Mr. Seaton, won't you, Enoch?" she said, taking the boy's limp hand, after she had kissed her husband good-by.
"Yes, ma'am," replied Nucky.
"Good-by, Enoch! I truly hope you'll enjoy the trip. Run now, or you'll miss the train. See, Mr. Seaton's far down the platform!"
Nucky turned and ran. Mr. Seaton waited for him at the door of the Pullman. His jaw was set and he looked at Nucky with curiosity not untinged with resentment. Nucky had not melted after a whole day with Mary! Perhaps there were no deeps within the boy. But as the train moved through the tunnel something lonely back of the boy's hard stare touched him and he smiled.
"Well, Enoch, old man, are you glad to go?"
"I dunno," replied Nucky.
"I was sure, when I was eighteen, that if I could but give to the world a picture of Boyhood, flagellated by the world's stupidity and brutality, the world would heed. At thirty, I gave up the hope."—Enoch's Diary.
No one could have been a less troublesome traveling companion than Nucky. He ate what was set before him, without comment. He sat for endless hours on the observation platform, smoking cigarettes, his keen eyes on the flying landscape. His blue Norfolk suit and his carefully chosen cap and linen restored a little of the adolescent look of which the flashy clothing of his own choosing had robbed him. No one glanced askance at Mr. Seaton's protege or asked the lawyer idle questions regarding him.
And yet Nucky was very seldom out of John Seaton's thoughts: Over and over he tried to get the boy into conversation only to be checked by a reply that was half sullen, half impertinent. Finally, the lawyer fell back on surmises. Was Nucky laying some deep scheme for mischief when they reached San Francisco? John had believed fully that he and Nucky would be friends before Chicago was passed. But he had been mistaken. What in the world was he to do with the young gambler in San Francisco, that paradise of gamblers? He could employ a detective to dog Nucky, but that was to acknowledge defeat. If there were only some place along the line where he could leave the boy, giving him a taste of out of door life, such as only the west knows!
For a long time Seaton turned this idea over in his mind. The train was pulling out of Albuquerque when he had a sudden inspiration. He knew Nucky too well by now to ask him for information or for an expression of opinion. But that night, at dinner, he said, casually,
"We're going to leave the main line, at Williams, Enoch, and go up to the Grand Canyon. There's a guide at Bright Angel that I camped with two years ago. It's such bad weather that I don't suppose there'll be many people up there and I telegraphed him this afternoon to give me a week or so. I'm going to turn you over to him and I'll go on to the Coast. I'll pick you up on my way back."
"All right," said Nucky, casually.
Mr. Seaton ground his teeth with impatience and thought of what Jack's enthusiasm would have been over such a program. But he said nothing and strolled out to the observation car.
It was raining and sleeting at Williams. They had to wait for hours in the little station for the connecting train to the Canyon. It came in, finally, and Seaton and Nucky climbed aboard, the only visitors for the usually popular side trip. It was a wild and lonely run to the Canyon's rim. Nucky, sitting with his face pressed against the window, saw only vague forms of cactus and evergreens through the sleet which, as the grade rose steadily, changed to snow. It was mid-afternoon when they reached the rim. A porter led them at once into the hotel and after they were established, Seaton went into Nucky's room. The boy was standing by the window, staring at the storm.
"We can't see the Canyon from our windows," said John. "I took care of that! It isn't a thing you want staring at you day and night! Nucky, I want you to get your first look at the Canyon, alone. One always should. You'd better put on your coat and go out now before the storm gets any worse. Don't wander away. Stick to the view in front of the hotel. I'll be out in a half hour."
Nucky pulled on his overcoat, picked up his cap and went out. A porter was sweeping the walk before the main entrance.
"Say, mister, I want to see the Canyon," said Nucky.
"Nothin' to hinder. Yonder she lies, waiting for you, son!" jerking his thumb over his shoulder.
Nucky looked in the direction indicated. Then he took a deep, shocked breath. The snow flakes were falling into nothingness! A bitter wind was blowing but Nucky felt the sweat start to his forehead. Through the sifting snow flakes, disappearing before his gaze, he saw a void, silver gray, dim in outline, but none the less a void. The earth gaped to its center, naked, awful, before his horrified eyes. Yet, the same urgent need to know the uttermost that forces one to the edge of the skyscraper forced Nucky to the rail. He clutched it. A great gust of wind came up from the Canyon, clearing the view of snow for the moment, and Nucky saw down, down for a mile to the black ribbon of the Colorado below.
"I can't stand it!" he muttered. "I can't stand it!" and turning, he bolted for the hotel. He stopped before the log fire in the lobby. A little group of men and women were sitting before the blaze, reading or chatting. One of the women looked up at the boy and smiled. It seemed impossible to Nucky that human beings could be sitting so calmly, doing quite ordinary things, with that horror lying just a few feet away. For perhaps five minutes he struggled with his sense of panic, then he went slowly out and forced himself to the railing again.
While he had been indoors, it had ceased to storm and the view lay clear and clean before him. Although there was a foot of level snow on the rim, so vast were the ledges and benches below that the drifts served only as high lights for their crimson and black and orange. Just beneath Nucky were tree tops, heavy laden with white. Far, far below were tiny shrubs that the porter said were trees and below these,—orderly strips of brilliant colors and still below, and below—! Nucky moistened his dry lips and once more bolted to the hotel.
Just within the door, John Seaton met him.
There was no coldness in Nucky's eyes now. They were the frightened eyes of a child.
"I can't stand that thing!" he panted. "I gotta get back to N' York, now!"
Seaton looked at Nucky curiously. "For heaven's sake, Enoch! Where's your nerve?"
"What good would nerve do a guy lookin' at hell!" gasped Nucky.
"Hell? Why the Canyon is one of the beautiful sights of the world! You're crazy, Enoch! Come out with me and look again."
"Not on your life!" cried Nucky. "I'm going back to little old N' York."
"It can't be done, my boy. There'll be no trains out of here for at least twelve hours, because of the storm. And listen, Enoch! No nonsense! Remember that if you wander away from the hotel, you're lost. There are no trolleys in this neck of the woods, and no telephones and no police. Wait a moment, Enoch, there's Frank Allen, the guide."
Seaton hailed a tall, rather heavily built man in corduroys and high laced boots, who had lounged up to the cigar stand. As he approached, Nucky saw that he was middle aged, with a heavily tanned face out of which the blue of his eyes shone conspicuously.
"Here he is, Frank!" exclaimed Seaton. "Nucky, this is the man who is going to look out for you while I'm gone."
"Well, young New York! What're you going to do with the Canyon?" Frank slapped the boy on the shoulder.
Nucky grinned uncertainly. "I dunno!" he said.
"Had a look at it?" demanded the guide.
"Yes!" Nucky spoke with sudden firmness. "And I don't like it. I want to go back to New York."
"Come on out with Frank and me and get used to it," suggested John Seaton.
"I'm not going near it again," returned Nucky.
Allen looked at the boy with deliberate interest. He noted the pasty skin, the hollow chest, the strong, unformed features, the thin lips that were trembling, despite the cigarette stained fingers that pressed against them.
"Did you ever talk to Indians?" asked Allen, suddenly.
"No," said Nucky.
"Well, let's forget the Canyon and go over to the hogan, yonder. Is that the best you two can do on shoes? I'm always sorry for you lady-like New Yorkers. Come over here a minute. I guess we can rent some boots to fit you."
"I'm going to write letters, Frank," said Seaton. "You and Enoch'll find me over at one of the desks. Fit the boy out as you think best."
Not long after, Nucky trailed the guide through the lobby. He was wearing high laced boots, with a very self-conscious air. Once outside, in the glory of the westering sun, Frank took a deep breath.
"Great air, boy! Get all you can of it into those flabby bellows of yours. Before we go to the hogan, come over to the corral. My Tom horse has got a saddle sore. A fool tourist rode him all day with a fold in the blanket as big as your fist."
"Is he a bronco?" asked Nucky, with sudden animation.
"He was a bronco. You easterners have the wrong idea. A bronco is a plains pony before he's broken. After he's busted he's a horse. See?"
"Aw, you're dead wrong, Frank!" drawled a voice.
Nucky looked up in astonishment to see a tall man, whose skin was a rich bronze, offering a cigarette to the guide.
"Dry up, Mike!" returned Frank with a grin. "What does a Navaho know about horses! Enoch, this is a sure enough Indian. Mike, let me introduce Mr. Enoch Huntingdon of New York City."
The Navaho nodded and smiled. "You look as if a little Canyon climbing would do you good," said he. "I was looking at Tom horse, Frank. He's in bad shape. How much did that tender-foot weigh that rode him?"
"I don't know. I wasn't here the day they hired him out. I know the cuss would have weighed a good deal less if I'd been here when that saddle was taken off! Going down to-morrow with Miss Planer?"
"Not unless some one breaks trail for us. Are you going to try it?"
"Not unless my young friend here gets his nerve up. Want to try it, Enoch?"
"Try what?" asked Nucky.
"The trip down Bright Angel."
"Not on your life!" cried Nucky.
Both men laughed, the Indian moving off through the snow in the direction of a dim building among the cedars, while Frank led on to the corral fence. Fifteen or twenty horses and mules were moving about the enclosure. Allen crossed swiftly among them, with Nucky following, apprehensively, close behind him. Frank's horse was in the stable, but while he seemed to examine the sore spot on the animal's back, Frank's real attention was riveted on Nucky. The boy was obviously ill at ease and only half interested in the horse.
"These are the lads that take us down the trail," said Allen finally, slapping a velvety black mule on the flank.
"We can't trust the horses. A mule knows more in a minute than a horse knows all his life."
"Will you go with me to take another look at it?" asked Nucky.
An expression of understanding crossed Frank's weather-beaten face. "Sure I will, boy! Let's walk up the rim a little and see if you can steady your nerves."
"I'd rather stay by the rail," replied Nucky, doggedly.
"All right, old man! Don't take this thing too hard, you know! After all, it's only a crack in the earth."
Nucky grinned feebly, and trudged steadily up to the rail. The sun was setting and the Canyon was like the infinite glory of God. Untiring as was his love for the view Allen preferred, this time, to watch the strange young face beside him. Nucky's pallor was still intense in spite of the stinging wind. His deep set eyes were strained like a child's, listening to a not-to-be-understood explanation of something that frightens him. For a full five minutes he gazed without speaking. Then the sun sank and the Canyon immediately was filled with gloom. Nucky's lips quivered. "I can't stand it!" he muttered again, "I can't stand it!" and once more he bolted.
This time he went directly to his room. Neither Allen nor Seaton attempted to follow him.
"He is some queer kid!" said Frank, taking the cigar Seaton offered him. "He may be a born crook or he may not, but believe me, there's something in him worth finding out about."
"Just what I say!" agreed Seaton. "But don't be sure you're the one that can unlock him. Mrs. Seaton couldn't and if she failed, any woman on earth would. And I still believe that a chap that's got any good in him will open up to a good woman."
"His woman, man! His! Not to somebody else's woman." Allen's tone was impatient.
"His woman! Don't talk like a chump, Frank! Enoch's only fourteen."
"Makes no difference. Your wife is an angel as I learned two years ago, but she may not have Enoch's number, just the same. If I were you, I'd mooch up to the kid's room if he doesn't come down promptly to supper. His nerves are in rotten shape and he oughtn't to be alone too long."
Seaton nodded, and shortly after seven he knocked softly on Nucky's door. There was an inarticulate, "Come in!" Nucky was standing by the window in the dark room.
"Supper's ready, old man. You'd better have it now and get to bed early. Jumping from sea level to a mile in the air makes a chap sleepy. Are you washed up?"
"I'm all ready," mumbled Nucky.
He went to bed shortly after eight. Something forlorn and childish about the boy's look as he said good night moved John Seaton to say,
"Tell a bell boy to open the door between our rooms, will you, Enoch?" and he imagined that a relieved look flickered in Nucky's eyes.
Seaton himself went to bed and to sleep early. He was wakened about midnight by a soft sound from Nucky's room and he lay for a few moments listening. Then he rose and turned on the light in his room, and in Nucky's. The boy hastily jerked the covers over his head. Seaton pulled the extra blanket at the bed foot over his own shoulders, then he sat down on the edge of the bed and put his hand on Nucky's heaving back.
"Don't you think, if it's bad enough to make you cry, that it's time you told a friend about it, Enoch?" he said, his voice a little husky.
For a moment sobs strangled the boy's utterance entirely. Finally, he pulled the covers down but still keeping his head turned away, he said,
"I want to go home!"
"Home, Enoch? Where's your home?"
"N' York's my home. This joint scares me."
"Whom do you want to see in New York, Enoch?"
"Anybody! Nobody! Even the police station'd look better'n that thing. I can feel it out there now, waitin' and listenin'!"
Seaton stared blankly at the back of Nucky's head. His experiment was not turning out at all as he had planned. Jack often had puzzled him but there had always been something to grasp with Jack. His own boy had been such a good sport! A good sport! Suddenly Seaton cleared his throat.
"Enoch, among the men you know, what is the opinion of a squealer?"
"We hate him," replied the boy, shortly.
"And the other night when you were arrested, you were rather proud of standing up and taking your punishment without breaking down. If one of the men arrested at that time had broken down, you'd all have despised him, I suppose?"
"Sure thing," agreed Nucky, turning his head ever so little toward the man.
"Enoch, why are you breaking down now?"
"Aw, what difference does it make?" demanded the boy. "You despise me anyhow!"
"Oh!" ejaculated Seaton as a sudden light came to his groping mind. "Oh, I see! What a chump you are, old man! Of course, I despise the kind of life you've led, but I blame Minetta Lane for that, not you. And I believe there is so much solid fine stuff in you that I'm giving you this trip to show you that there are people and things outside of Minetta Lane that are more worth a promising boy's time than gambling. But, you won't play the game. You are so vain and ignorant, you refuse to see over your nose."
"I told you, you despised me," said Nucky, sullenly.
The man smiled to himself. Suddenly he took the boy's hand in both his own.
"I suppose if Jack had been reared in Minetta Lane, he'd have been just as wrong in his ideas as you are. Look here, Enoch, I'll make a bargain with you. I want you to try the Canyon for a week or so, until I get back from the Coast. If, at the end of that time, you still want Minetta Lane, I'll land you back there with fifty dollars in your pocket, and you can go your own gait."
Nucky for the first time turned and looked Seaton in the face. "Honest?" he gasped.
"Do I have to go down the Canyon?" asked Nucky.
"You don't have to do anything except play straight, till I get back."
"I—I guess I could stand it,"—the boy's eyes were a little pitiful in their fear.
"That isn't enough. I want your promise, Enoch!"
Nucky stared into Seaton's steady eyes. "All right, I'll promise. And—and, Mr. Seaton, would you sit with me till I get to sleep?"
Seaton nodded. Nucky had made no attempt to free his hand from the kindly grasp that imprisoned it. He lay staring at the ceiling for a long moment, then his eyelids fluttered, dropped, and he slept. He did not stir when Seaton rose and went back to his own bed.
It did not snow during the night and the train that had brought Nucky and Mr. Seaton up announced itself as ready for the return trip to Williams, immediately after breakfast. Nucky slept late and only opened his eyes when Frank Allen clumped into the room about nine o'clock.
"Hello, New York! Haven't died, have you? Come on, we're going to break trail down the Canyon, you and I."
"Not on your life!" Nucky roused at once and sat up in bed, his face very pale under its thatch of dark red hair.
"John Seaton turned you over to me. Said to tell you he thought you needed the sleep more than you did to say good-by to him."
"He told me last night," exclaimed Nucky; "that I didn't have to go down the Canyon."
"And you don't, you poor sissy! You aren't afraid to get up and dress, are you?" Allen's grin took away part of the sting of his speech. "Meet me in the lobby in twenty minutes, Enoch," and he turned on his heel.
Nucky was down in less than the time allotted. As he leaned against the office desk, waiting for the guide, the room clerk said, "So you're the kid that's afraid to go down the trail. Usually it's the old ladies that kick up about that. Most boys your age are crazy for the trip."
Nucky muttered something and moved away. In front of the fire the woman who had smiled at him the day before, smiled again.
"Afraid too, aren't you! They can't get me onto that trail, either."
Nucky smiled feebly then looked about a little wildly for Frank Allen. When he espied the guide at the cigar-stand, he crossed to him hurriedly.
"Say now, Mr. Allen, listen!"
"I'm all ears, son!"
"Now don't tell everybody I'm afraid of the trail!"
"Oh, you're the kid!" exclaimed a bell boy. "Say, there was an old lady here once that used to go out every morning and pray to the Lord to close the earth's gap, it made her so nervous! Why don't you try that, kid? Maybe the Lord would take a suggestion from a New Yorker."
Nucky rushed to the dining room. He was too angry and resentful to eat much. He drank two cups of coffee, however, and swallowed some toast.
"Ain't you going to eat your eggs?" demanded the waitress. "What's the matter with you? Folks always stuff themselves, here. Say, don't let the trail scare you. I was that way at first, but finally I got my nerve up and there's nothing to it. Say, let me give you some advice. There's only a few folks here now, so the guides and the hotel people have got plenty of time on their hands. They're awful jokers and they'll tease the life out of you, till you take the trip. You just get on a mule, this morning, and start. Every day you wait, you'll hate it more."
Nucky's vanity had been deeply wounded. Greater than his fear, which was very great indeed, was Nucky's vanity. He gulped the second cup of coffee, then with the air of bravado which belonged to Marty the Dude, he sauntered up to the cigar stand where the guide still lounged.
"All right, Frank," said Nucky. "I'm ready for Bright Angel when you are."
The guide looked at the boy carefully. Two bright red spots were burning in Nucky's cheeks. He was biting his lips, nervously. But his blue eyes were hard and steady.
"I'll be ready in half an hour, Enoch. Meet me at the corral. We'll camp down below for a night or two if you hold out and I'll have to have the grub put up. You go over to the store room yonder and get a flannel shirt and a pair of denim pants to pull on over those you're wearing. Mr. Seaton left his camera for you. I put it on your bureau. Bring that along. Skip now!"
Nucky's cheeks were still burning when he met Allen at the corral. Three mules, one a well loaded pack mule, the others saddled, were waiting. Frank leaned against the bars.
"Enoch," said the man, "there's no danger at all, if you let your mule alone. Don't try to guide him. He knows the trail perfectly. All you have to do is to sit in the saddle and look up, not down! Remember, up, not down! I shall lead. You follow, on Spoons. Old Foolish Face brings up the rear with the pack. Did you ever ride, before?"
"I never touched a horse in my life," replied Nucky, trying to curb the chattering of his teeth.
"You had better mount and ride round the road here, for a bit. Take the reins, so. Stand facing the saddle, so. Now put this foot in the stirrup, seize the pommel, and swing the other leg over as you spring. That's the idea!"
Nucky was awkward, but he landed in the saddle and found the other stirrup, the mule standing fast as a mountain while he did so. Spoons moved off at Allen's bidding, and Nucky grasped at the pommel. But only for a moment.
"Don't he shake any worse than this?" he cried.
"No, but it's not so easy to stay in the saddle when the grade's steep. Pull on your right rein, Enoch, and bring old Spoons in behind me. Well done! We're off! See the bunch on the hotel steps! Guess you fooled 'em this time, New York!"
Half a dozen people, including the clerk were standing on the steps, watching the little cavalcade. As the mules filed by, somebody began to clap.
"What's the excitement, Frank?" demanded Nucky.
Frank turned in his saddle to smile at the boy. "Out in this country we admire physical nerve because we need a lot of it. And you're showing a good quality, old chap. Just sit easy now and when you want me to stop, yell."
Nucky was sitting very straight with his thin chest up, and he managed to maintain this posture as the trail turned down over the rim. Then he grasped the pommel in both hands.
It was a wonderful trail, carved with infinite patience and ingenuity out of the canyon wall. To Allen it was as safe and easy as a flight of stairs. Nucky, trembling in the saddle would have felt quite as comfortable standing on the topmost window ledge of the Flat Iron building, in New York. And, to Nucky, there was no trail! Only a narrow, corkscrew shelf, deep banked with snow into which the mules set their small feet gingerly. For many minutes, the boy saw only this trackless ledge, and the sickening blue depths below.
"I can never stand it!" he muttered. "I can never stand it! If this mule makes just one mis-step, I'm dead." He felt a little nauseated. "I can never stand it! 'Twould have been better if I'd just let 'em tease me. Hey, Frank!"
The guide looked back. The red spots were gone from Nucky's cheeks now.
"We got to go back! I can't get away with it!" cried the boy.
"It's impossible to turn here, Enoch! Look up, man! Look up! And just trust old Spoons! Are you cold? It was only eight above zero, when we left the top. But the snow'll disappear as we go down and when we reach the river it'll be summer. See that lone pine up on the rim to your right? They say an Indian girl jumped from the top of that because she bore a cross-eyed baby. Look up, Enoch, as we round this curve and see that streak of red in the wall. An Indian giant bled to death on the rim and his blood seeped through the solid rock to this point. Watch how the sky gets a deeper blue, the farther down we go. And now, Enoch look out, not down. You may come down Bright Angel a thousand times and never see the colors you see to-day. The snowfall has turned the world into a rainbow, by heck!"
Slowly, very slowly, Nucky turned his head and clinging to the pommel, he stared across the canyon. White of snow; sapphire of sky; black of sharp cut shadow. Mountains rising from the canyon floor thrust scarlet and yellow heads across his line of vision. Close to his left, as the trail curved, a wall of purest rose color lifted from a bank of snow that was as blue as Allen's eyes. Beyond and beyond and ever beyond, the vast orderliness of the multi-colored canyon strata melted into delicate white clouds that now revealed, now concealed the mountain tops.
Nucky gazed and gazed, shuddering, yet enthralled. Another sharp twist in the trail and his knee scraped against the wall. He cried out sharply. Frank turned to look but he did not stop the mules.
"Spoons thinks it's better to amputate your leg, once in a while than to risk getting too close to the outer edge of the trail in all this snow. He's an old warrior, is Spoons! He could carry a grand piano down this trail and never scrape the varnish. Look up, Enoch! We'll soon reach a broad bench where I'll let you rest."
"Don't you think I'll ever get off this brute till we reach bottom!" shuddered Nucky.
The guide laughed and silence fell again. The mules moved as silently through the snow as the mists across the mountain tops. In careful gradation the trail zigzagged downward. The snow lessened in depth with each foot of drop. The bitter cold began to give way to the increasing warmth of the sun. Sensation crept back into Nucky's feet and hands. By a supreme effort for many moments he managed to fix his eyes firmly on Frank's broad back, and though he could not give up his hold on the pommel, he sat a little straighter. Then, of a sudden, Spoons stopped in his tracks, and as suddenly a little avalanche of snow shot down the canyon wall, catching the mule's forelegs. Spoons promptly threw himself inward, against the wall. Nucky gave a startled look at the sickening depths below and when Frank turned in his saddle, Nucky had fainted, half clinging to Spoons' neck, half supported against the wet, rocky wall.
With infinite care, and astonishing speed, Frank slid from his mule and made his way back to the motionless Spoons.
"Always said you were more than human, old chap," said Allen, kicking the snow away from the mule's fore legs. "Easy now! Don't lose your passenger!" The mule regained his balance and stepped carefully forward out of the drift, while the guide, balanced perilously on the outer edge of the trail, kept a supporting hand on Nucky's shoulders.
But there was no need of the flask Frank pulled from his pocket. Nucky opened his eyes almost immediately. Whatever emotion Frank may have felt, he kept to himself. "I told you Spoons was better than a life insurance policy, Enoch."
Enoch slowly pushed himself erect. He looked from Frank's quizzical eyes to Spoons' twitching ears, then at his own shaking hands.
"I fainted, didn't I?" he asked.
Allen nodded, and something in the twist of the man's lips maddened Nucky. He burst forth wildly:
"You think I'm a blank blank sissy! Well, maybe I am. But if New York couldn't scare me, this blank blank hole out here in this blank blank jumping off place can't. I'm going on down this trail and if I fall and get killed, it's up to you and Mr. Seaton."
"Good work, New York!" responded Allen briefly. He edged his way carefully back to his mule and the cavalcade moved onward. Perhaps five minutes afterward, as they left the snow line, the guide looked back. Nucky was huddled in the saddle, his eyes closed tight, but his thin lips were drawn in a line that caused Allen to change his purpose. He did not speak as he had planned, but led the way on for a long half hour, in silence, his eyes thoughtful.
But Nucky did not keep his eyes closed long. The pull of horror, of mystery, of grandeur was too great. And after the avalanche, his confidence in Spoons was established. He was little more than a child and under his bravado and his watchfulness there was a child's recklessness. If he were to fall, at least he must see whither he was to fall. He forced himself to look from time to time into the depths below. The trail dropped steadily, while higher and higher soared canyon wall and mountain peak. It was still early when the trail met the plateau on which lie the Indian gardens.
Frank's mule suddenly quickened his stride as did Spoons. But Nucky, although he was weary and saddle sore had no intention of crying a halt, now that the trail was level. His pulse began to subside and once more he sat erect in the saddle. When the mules rushed forward to bury their noses in a cress-grown spring, he grinned at Frank.
"Well, here I am, after all!"
Frank grinned in return. "If I could put through a few more stunts like this, you'd look almost like a boy, instead of a potato sprout. Get down and limber up."
Nucky half scrambled, half fell off his mule. "Must be spring down here," he cried, staring about at grass and cottonwood.
"Just about. And it'll be summer when we reach the river."
"That was some trail, wasn't it, Frank! Do many kids take it?"
"Lots of 'em, but only with guides, and you were the worst case of scared boy I've ever seen."
Nucky flushed. "Well, you might give me credit for hanging to it, even if I was scared."
"I'll give you a lot of credit for that, old man. But if the average New York boy has nerves like yours, I'm glad many of them don't come to the Canyon, that's all. Your nerves would disgrace a girl."
"The guys I gamble with never complained of my lack of nerves," cried Nucky, angrily.
"Gambling! Thunder! What nerve does it take to stack the cards against a dub? But this country out here, let me tell you, it takes a man to stand up to it."
"And I've been through police raids too, and never squealed and I know two gunmen and they say I'm as hard as steel."
"They should have seen you with your arms around Spoons' neck, back up the trail there," said Allen dryly. "Come! Mount again, Enoch! I want to have lunch at the river."
Enoch was sullen as they started on but his sullenness did not last long. As his fear receded, his curiosity increased. He gazed about him with absorbed interest, and he began to bombard the guide with questions in genuine boy fashion.
"How far is it to the river? Do we have any steeper trails than the ones we've been on, already? Did any one ever swim across the river? Was any one ever killed when he minded what the guide told him? What guys camp in the Indian gardens? How much does it cost? Did any one ever climb up the side of the Canyon, say like one yonder where it looked like different colored stair steps going up? Did any one ever find gold in the canyon? How did they know it when they found it? Did Frank ever do any mining? What was placer mining?" And on and on, only the intermittently returning fear of the trail silencing him until Frank ordered him to dismount in a narrow chasm within sight of the roaring, muddy Colorado.
"One of the ways Seaton employed to persuade me to take care of you for a week was by telling me you were a very silent kid," added the guide.
Nucky grinned sheepishly, and turned to stare wonderingly at the black walls that here closed in upon them breathlessly. Their lunch had been prepared at the hotel. Frank fed the mules, then handed Nucky his box lunch and proceeded to open his own.
"Does it make you sore to have me ask you questions?" asked the boy.
"No! I guess it's more natural for a kid than the sulks you've been keeping up with Seaton."
"I'm not such a kid. I'm going on fifteen and I've earned my own way since I was twelve. And I earn it with men, too." Nucky jerked his head belligerently.
Frank ate a hard boiled egg before speaking. Then, with one eyebrow raised, he grunted, "What'd you work at?"
"Cards and dice!" this very proudly.
"You poor nut!" Frank's voice was a mixture of contempt and compassion. Nucky immediately turned sulky and the meal was finished in silence. When the last doughnut had been devoured, Frank stretched himself in the warm sand left among the rocks by the river at flood.
"Must be eighty degrees down here," he yawned. "We'll rest for a half hour, then we'll make the night camp. It's after two now and it will be dark in this narrow rift by four."
Nucky looked about him apprehensively. The Canyon here was little more than a gorge whose walls rose sheer and menacing toward the narrow patch of blue sky above. He could not make up his mind to lie down and relax as Frank had done. All was too new and strange.
"Are there snakes round here?" he demanded.
Frank's grunt might have been either yes or no. Nucky glanced impatiently at the guide's closed eyes, then he began to clamber aimlessly and languidly over the rocks to the river edge. At a distance of perhaps a hundred feet from Frank he stopped, looked at the bleak, blank wall of the river opposite, bit his nails and shuddering turned back. He crouched on a rock, near the guide, smoking one cigarette after another until Frank jumped to his feet.
"Three o'clock, New York! Time to get ready for the night."
"I don't want to stay in this hole all night!" protested Nucky, "I couldn't sleep."
"You'll like it. You've no idea how comfortable I'm going to make you. Now, your job is to gather drift wood and pile it on that flat topped rock yonder. Keep piling till I tell you to quit. The nights are cold and I'll keep a little blaze going late, for you."
"What's the idea?" demanded Nucky. "Why stay down here, like lost dogs, when there's a first class hotel back up there?"
Frank sighed. "Well, the idea is this! A real he man likes camping in the wilds better'n he likes anything on earth. Seaton thought maybe somewhere in that pindling carcass of yours there was the making of a he man and that you'd like the experience. I promised him I'd try you out and I'm trying you, hang you for an ungrateful, cowardly cub."
Nucky turned on his heel and began to pick up drift wood. He was in poor physical trim but the pile, though it grew slowly, grew steadily. By the time Frank announced the camp ready, Nucky's fuel pile was of really imposing dimensions. And dusk was thickening in the gorge.
Before a great flat faced rock that looked toward the river, was a stretch of clean dry sand. Against this rock, the guide had placed a rubber air-mattress and a plentiful supply of blankets. A small folding table stood before a rough stone fire place. A canvas shelter stretched vertically on two strips of driftwood, shut off the night wind that was beginning to sweep through the Canyon. The mules were tethered close to the camp.
"Where'd that mattress come from?" exclaimed Nucky.
"Partly off old Funny Face's back and part out of a bicycle pump. Didn't want to risk your sickly bones on the ground until you harden up a bit. Pretty good pile of timber for an amateur, New York." Frank looked up from the fire he was kindling into Nucky's thin, tired face. "Now, son, you sit down on the end of your bed and take it easy. I'm an old hand at this game and before we've had our week together I'm banking on you being glad to help me. But to-day you've had enough."
"Thanks," mumbled Nucky, as he eagerly followed the guide's suggestions.
The early supper tasted delicious to the boy although every muscle in his body ached. Bacon and flap jacks, coffee and canned peaches he devoured with more appetite than he ever had brought to ministrone and red wine. A queer and inexplicable sense of comfort and a desire to talk came over him after the meal was finished, the camp in order, and the fire replenished.
"This ain't so bad," he said. "I wish some of the guys that used to come to Luigi's could see me now."
"And who was Luigi?" asked Frank, lighting his pipe and stretching himself on a blanket before the fire.
"He was the guy I lived with after my mother died. He ran a gambling joint, and we was fixing the place up for women, too, when we all got pinched." This very boastfully.
"Who were your folks, Enoch?"
"Never heard of none of 'em. Luigi's a Dago. He wouldn't have been so bad if he didn't pinch the pennies so. Were you ever in New York, Frank?" This in a patronizing voice.
"Born there," replied the guide.
Nucky gasped with surprise. "How'd you ever happen to come out here?"
"I can't live anywhere else because of chronic asthma. I don't know now that I'd want to live anywhere else. I used to kick against the pricks, but you get more sense as you grow older—after it's too late."
"I should think you'd rather be dead," said Nucky sincerely. "If I thought I couldn't get back to MacDougal Street I'd want to die."
"MacDougal Street and the dice, I suppose, eh? Enoch, you're on the wrong track and I know, because that's the track I tried myself. And I got stung."
"But—" began Nucky.
"No but about it. It's the wrong track and you can't get to decency or happiness or contentment on it. There's two things a man can never make anything real out of; cards or women."
"I didn't want to make anything out of women. I want to get even with 'em, blank blank 'em all," cried Nucky with sudden fury. And he burst into an obscene tirade against the sex that utterly astonished the guide. He lay with his chin supported on his elbow, staring at the boy, at his thin, strongly marked features, and at the convulsive working of his throat as he talked.
"Here! Dry up!" Frank cried at last. "I'll bet these canyon walls never looked down on such a rotten little cur as you are in all their history. You gambling, indecent little gutter snipe, isn't there a clean spot in you?"
"You were a gambler yourself!" shrieked Nucky.
"Yes, sir, I know cards and I know women, and that's why I know just what a mess of carrion your lovely young soul is. Any kid that can see the glory o' God that you've seen to-day and then sit down and talk like an overflowing sewer isn't fit to live. I didn't know that before I came out to this country, but I know it now. You get to bed. I don't want to hear another word out of you to-night. Pull your boots off. That's all."
Half resentful, half frightened, Nucky obeyed. For a while, with nerves and over-tired muscles twitching, he lay watching the fire. Then he fell asleep.
It was about midnight when he awoke. He had kicked the blankets off and was cold. The fire was out but the full moon sailed high over the gorge. Frank, rolled in his blankets, his feet to the dead fire, slept noisily. Nucky sat up and pulled his blankets over him, but he did not lie down again. He sat staring at the wonder of the Canyon. For a long half hour he was motionless save for the occasional moistening of his lips and turning of his head as he followed the unbelievable contour of the distant silvered peaks. Then of a sudden he jumped from his bed and, stooping over Frank, shook him violently.
"Wake up!" he cried. "Wake up! I gotta tell somebody or the Canyon'll drive me crazy. I'll tell you why I'm bad. It's because my mother was bad before me. She was Luigi's mistress. She was a bad lot. It was born in me."
Frank sat up, instantly on the alert. "How old were you when she died?" he demanded.
"Six," replied Nucky.
"Shucks! you don't know anything about it, then! Who told you she was bad?"
"Luigi! I guess he'd know, wouldn't he?"
"Maybe he did and maybe he didn't. At any rate, I wouldn't take the oath on his deathbed of a fellow who ran a joint like Luigi's and taught a kid what he's taught you. He told you that, of course, to keep a hold on you."
"But she lived with him. I remember that myself."
"I can't help that. I'll bet you my next year's pay, she wasn't your mother!"
"Not my mother?" Nucky drew himself up with a long breath. "Certainly she was my mother."
Frank uncovered some embers from the ashes and threw on wood. "I'll bet she wasn't your mother," he repeated firmly. "Seaton told me that that policeman friend of yours said she might and might not be your mother. Seaton and the policeman both think she wasn't, and I'm with 'em."
"But why? Why?" cried Nucky in an agony of impatience.
"For the simple reason that a fellow with a face like your's doesn't have a bad mother."
In the light of the leaping flames Nucky's face fell. "Aw, what you giving us! Sob stuff?"
"I'm telling you something that's as true as God. You can't see Him or talk to Him, but you know He made this Canyon, don't you?"
Nucky nodded quickly.
"All right, then I'm telling you, every line of your face and head says you didn't come of a breed like the woman that lived with Luigi. I'll bet if you show you have any decent promise, Seaton will clear that point up. A good detective could do it."
"I never thought of such a thing," muttered Nucky. He continued to stare at Frank, his pale boy's face tense with conflicting hope and fear. The guide picked up his blanket, but Nucky cried out:
"Don't go to sleep for a minute, please! I can't stand it alone in this moonlight. I never thought such thoughts in my life as I have down here, about God and who I am and what a human being is. I tell you, I'm going crazy."
Frank nodded, and began to fill his pipe. "Sit down close to the fire, son. That's what the Canyon does to anybody that's thin skinned. I went through it too. I tell you, Nucky, this life here in the Canyon and the thoughts you think here, are the only real things. New York and all that, is just the outer shell of living. Understand me?"
The boy nodded, his eyes fixed on Frank's with pitiful eagerness.
"It's clean out here. This country isn't all messed up with men and women's badness. Everybody starts even and with a clean slate. Lord knows, I was a worthless bunch when I struck here, fifteen years ago. I'd been expelled from Yale in my senior year for gambling. I'd run through the money my father'd left me. I'd gotten into a woman scrape and I'd alienated every member of my family. Just why I thought a deck of cards was worth all that, I can't tell you. But I did. Then I came down here to see what the Canyon could do for my asthma and it cured that, and by the Eternal, it cured my soul, too. Now listen to me, son! You go back and lie down and put yourself to sleep thinking about your real mother. Boys are apt to take their general build from their mothers, so she was probably a big woman, not pretty, but with an intellectual face full of character. Go on, now, Enoch! You need the rest and we've got a full day to-morrow."
Nucky passed his hand unsteadily over his eyes, but rose without a word, and Frank tucked him into his blankets, then sat quietly waiting by the fire. It was not long before deep breaths that were pathetically near to sobs told the guide that Nucky was asleep. Then he rolled himself in his own blankets. The moon passed the Canyon wall and utter darkness enwrapped the Canyon and the river which murmured harshly as it ran.
Nucky wakened the next morning to the smell of coffee. He sat up and eyed Frank soberly.
"Hello, New York! This is the Grand Canyon!" Frank grinned as he lifted the coffee pot from the fire.
Nucky grinned in response. Shortly after, when he sat down to his breakfast the grin had disappeared, but with it had gone the look of sullenness that had seemed habitual.
"Frank," said Nucky, when breakfast was over, "do you care if I talk to you some more about—you know—you know what you said last night? I never talked about it to any one but Luigi, and it makes me feel better."
"Sure, go ahead!" said Frank.
"My mother—" began Nucky.
"You mean Luigi's wife," corrected the guide.
"Luigi's wife was crazy about me. She loved me just as much as any mother could. Luigi's always been jealous about it. That's why he treated me so rotten."
"Bad women can be just as fond of kids as good women," was Frank's comment. "What did she look like? Can you remember?"
"I don't know whether I remember it or if it's just what folks told me. She had dark blue eyes and dark auburn hair. Luigi said she was Italian."
"If she was, she was North Italian," mused the guide. "Did any one ever give you any hints about your father?"
A slow, painful red crept over Nucky's pale face. "I never asked but once. Maybe you can guess what Luigi said."
"If Luigi were in this part of the country," growled Allen, "I'd lead a lynching party to call on him." He paused, eying Nucky's boyish face closely, then he asked, "Did you love your mother?"
"I suppose I did. But Luigi kept at me so that now I hate her and all other women. Mrs. Seaton seemed kind of nice, but I suppose she is like the rest of 'em."
"Don't you think it! And did you know that Seaton thinks you were kidnapped?"
Nucky drew a quick breath and the guide went on, "I think so too. You never belonged to an Italian. I can't tell you just why I feel so certain. But I'd take my oath you are of New England stock. John Seaton is a first-class lawyer. As I said to you last night, if you show some decent spirit, he'd try to clear the matter up for you."
Nucky's blue eyes were as eager and as wistful as a little child's. His thin, mobile lips quivered. "I never thought of such a thing, Frank!"
"Well, you'd better think of it! Now then, you clean up these dishes for me while I attend to the stock. I want to be off in a half hour."
During the remainder of that very strenuous day, Nucky did not refer again to the matter so near his heart. He was quiet, but no longer sullen, and he was boyishly interested in the wonders of the Canyon. The sun was setting when they at last reached the rim. For an hour Nucky had not spoken. When Allen had turned in the saddle to look at the boy, Nucky had nodded and smiled, then returned to his absorbed watching of the lights and shadows in the Canyon.
They dismounted at the corral. "Now, old man," said Frank, "I want you to go in and tuck away a big supper, take a hot bath and go to bed. To-morrow we'll ride along the rim just long enough to fight off the worst of the saddle stiffness."
"All right!" Nucky nodded. "I'm half dead, that's a fact. But I've got to tell the clerk and the bell boy a thing or two before I do anything."
"Go to it!" Frank laughed, as he followed the mules through the gate.
Nucky did not open his eyes until nine o'clock the next morning. When he had finished breakfast, he found the guide waiting for him in the lobby.
"Hello, Frank!" he shouted. "Come on! Let's start!"
All that day, prowling through the snow after Allen, Nucky might have been any happy boy of fourteen. It was only when Frank again left him at dusk that his face lengthened.
"Can't I be with you this evening, Frank?" he asked.
Frank shook his head. "I've got to be with my wife and little girl."
"But why can't I—" Nucky hesitated as he caught the look in Frank's face. "You'll never forget what I said about women, I suppose!"
"Why should I forget it?" demanded Allen.
The sullen note returned to Nucky's voice. "I wouldn't harm 'em!"
"No, I'll bet you wouldn't!" returned Allen succinctly.
Nucky turned to stare into the Canyon. It seemed to the guide that it was a full five minutes that the boy gazed into the drifting depths before he turned with a smile that was as ingenuous as it was wistful.
"Frank, I guess I made an awful dirty fool of myself! I—I can't like 'em, but I'll take your word that lots of 'em are good. And nobody will ever hear me sling mud at 'em again, so help me God—and the Canyon!"
Frank silently held out his hand and Nucky grasped it. Then the guide said, "You'd better go to bed again as soon as you've eaten your supper. By to-morrow you'll be feeling like a short trip down Bright Angel. Good-night, old top!"
When Nucky came out of the hotel door the next morning, Frank, with a cavalcade of mules, was waiting for him. But he was not alone. Seated on a small mule was a little girl of five or six.
"Enoch," said Frank, "this is my daughter, Diana. She is going down the trail with us."
Nucky gravely doffed his hat, and the little girl laughed, showing two front teeth missing and a charming dimple.
"You've got red hair!" she cried.
Nucky grunted, and mounted his mule.
"Diana will ride directly behind me," said Frank. "You follow her, Enoch."
"Can that kid go all the way to the river?" demanded Nucky.
"She's been there a good many times," replied Frank, looking proudly at his little daughter.
She was not an especially pretty child, but had Nucky been a judge of feminine charms he would have realized that Diana gave promise of a beautiful womanhood. Her chestnut hair hung in thick curls on her shoulders. Her eyes were large and a clear hazel. Her skin, though tanned, was peculiarly fine in texture. But the greatest promise of her future beauty lay in a sweetness of expression in eye and lip that was extraordinary in so young a child. For the rest, she was thin and straight and wore a boy's corduroy suit.
Diana feared the trail no more than Nucky feared MacDougal Street. She was deeply interested in Nucky, turning and twisting constantly in her saddle to look at him.
"Do you like your mule, Enoch? He's a very nice mule."
"Yes, but don't turn round or you'll fall."
"How can I talk if I don't turn round? Do you like little girls?"
"I don't know any little girls. Turn round, Diana!"
"But you know me!"
"I won't know you long if you don't sit still in that saddle, Miss."
"Do you like me, Enoch?"
Nucky groaned. "Frank, if Diana don't quit twisting, I'll fall myself, even if she don't!"
"Don't bother Enoch, daughter!"
"I'm not bothering Enoch, Daddy. I'm making conversation. I like him, even if he has red hair."
Nucky sighed, and tried to turn the trend of the small girl's ideas.
"I'll bet you don't know what kind of stone that is yonder where the giant dripped blood."
"There isn't any giant's blood!" exclaimed Diana scornfully. "That is just red quartz!"
"Oh, and what's the layer next to it?" demanded Nucky skeptically.
"That's black basalt," answered the little girl. Then, leaning far out of the saddle to point to the depths below, "and that—"
"Frank!" shouted Nucky. "Diana is bound to fall! I just can't stand looking at her."
This time Frank spoke sternly. "Diana, don't turn to look at Enoch again!" and the little girl obeyed.
Had Nucky been other than he was, he might have been amused and not a little charmed by Diana's housewifely ways when they made camp that afternoon. She helped to kindle the fire and to unpack the provisions. She lent a hand at arranging the beds and set the table, all with eager docility and intelligence. But Nucky, after doing the chores Frank set him, wandered off to a seat that commanded a wide view of the trail, where he remained in silent contemplation of the wonders before him until called to supper.
He was silent during the meal, giving no heed to Diana's small attempts at conversation, and wandered early to his blankets. In the morning, however, he was all boy again, even attempting once or twice to tease Diana, in a boy's offhand manner. That small person, however, had become conscious of the fact that Enoch was not interested in her, and she had withdrawn into herself with a pride and self-control that was highly amusing to her father. Nor did she unbend during the day.
The return trip was made with but one untoward incident. This occurred after they had reached the snow line. Much of the snow had thawed and by late afternoon there was ice on the trail. Frank led the way very gingerly and the mules often stopped of their own accord, while the guide roughened the path for them with the axe. In spite of this care, as they rounded one last upper curve, Diana's mule slipped, and it was only Diana's lightning quickness in dismounting and the mule's skill in throwing himself inward that saved them both.
Diana did not utter a sound, but Nucky gave a hoarse oath and, before Frank could accomplish it, Nucky had dismounted, had rushed up the trail and stood holding Diana in his lank, boyish arms, while the mule regained his foothold.
"Now look here, Frank, Diana rides either in your lap or mine!" said Nucky shortly, his face twitching.
Frank raised his eyebrows at the boy's tone. "Set her down, Enoch! We'll all walk to the top. It's only a short distance, and the ice is getting pretty bad."
Nucky obediently set the little girl on her feet, and Diana tossed her curls and followed her father without a word. And Frank, as he led the procession, wore a puzzled grin on his genial face.
* * * * * *
Exactly ten days after Nucky's first trip down Bright Angel trail, John Seaton descended somewhat wearily from the Pullman that had landed him once more at the Canyon's rim. He had telegraphed the time of his arrival and Nucky ran up to meet him.
"Hello, Mr. Seaton!" he said.
Seaton's jaw dropped. "What on earth—?" Then he grinned.
Nucky was wearing high laced boots, a blue flannel shirt, gauntlet gloves and a huge sombrero.
"Some outfit, Enoch! Been down Bright Angel yet?"
"Three times," replied the boy, with elaborate carelessness. "Say, Mr. Seaton, can't we stay one more day and you take the trip with us?"
"I think I can arrange it." Seaton was trying not to look at the boy too sharply. "I'll be as sore as a dog, for I haven't been in a saddle since I was out here before. But Bright Angel's worth it."
"Sore!" Nucky laughed. "Say, Mr. Seaton, I just don't try to sit down any more!"
They had reached the hotel desk now and as Seaton signed the register the clerk said, with a wink:
"If you'll leave young Huntingdon behind, we'll take him on as a guide, Mr. Seaton."
Nucky tossed his head. "Huh! and you might get a worse guide than me, too. Frank says I got the real makings in me and I'll bet Frank knows more about guiding than any white in these parts. Navaho Mike told me so. And Navaho Mike says he knows I could make money out here even at fourteen."
"How, Enoch?" asked Seaton, as they followed the bell boy upstairs. He was not looking at Nucky, for fear he would show surprise. "How? at cards?"
"Aw, no! Placer mining! It don't cost much to outfit and there's millions going to waste in the Colorado! Millions! Frank and Mike say so. You skip, Billy,"—this to the bell boy,—"I'm Mr. Seaton's bell hop."
The boy pocketed the tip Nucky handed him, and closed the door after himself. Nucky opened Seaton's suitcase.
"Shall I unpack for you?" he asked.
"No, thanks, I shan't need anything but my toilet case, for I'm going to get into an outfit like yours, barring the hat and gloves."
"Ain't it a pippin!" giving the hat an admiring glance. "Frank gave it to me. He has two, and I rented the things for you, Mr. Seaton. Here they are," opening the closet door. "Shall I help you with 'em? Will you take a ride along the rim now? Shall I get the horses? Now? I'll be waiting for you at the main entrance with the best pony in the bunch."
He slammed out of the room. John Seaton scratched his head after he had shaken it several times, and made himself ready for his ride. Frank rapped on the door before he had finished and came in, smiling.
"Well, I understand you're to be taken riding!" he said.
"For the love of heaven, Frank, what have you done to the boy?"
"Me? Nothing! It was the Canyon. Let me tell you about that first trip." And he told rapidly but in detail, the story of Nucky's first two days in the Canyon.
Seaton listened with an absorbed interest. "Has he spoken of his mother to you since?" he asked, when Frank had finished.
"No, and he probably never will again. Do you think you can clear the matter up for him?"
"I'll certainly try! Do you like the boy, Frank?"
"Yes, I do. I think he's got the real makings in him. Better leave him out here with me, Seaton."
Seaton's face fell. "I—I hoped he'd want to stick by me. But the decision is up to the boy. If he wants to stay out here, I'll raise no objections."
"I'm sure it would be better for him," said Frank. "Gambling is a persistent disease. He's got years of struggle ahead of him, no matter where he goes."
"I know that, of course. Well, we'll take the trip down the trail to-morrow before we try to make any decisions. I must go along now. He's waiting for me."
"Better put cotton in one ear," suggested Allen, with a smile.
The ride was a long and pleasant one. John Seaton gave secondary heed to the shifting grandeur of the views, for he was engrossed by his endeavor to replace the sullen, unboyish Nucky he had known with this voluble, high strung and entirely adolescent person who bumped along the trail regardless of weariness or the hour.
The trip down Bright Angel the next day was an unqualified success. They took old Funny Face and camped for the night. After supper, Frank muttered an excuse and wandered off toward the mules, leaving Nucky and Seaton by the fire.
"Frank thinks you ought to stay out here with him, Enoch," said Seaton.
"What did you say to him when he told you that?" asked Nucky eagerly.
"I said I hoped you'd go back to New York with me, but that the decision was up to you."
Nucky said nothing for the moment. Seaton watched the fire glow on the boy's strong face. When Nucky looked up at his friend, his eyes were embarrassed and a little miserable.
"Did Frank tell you about our talk down here?"
"Do you know?" the boy's voice trembled with eagerness. "Was she my mother?"
"Foley thinks not. He says she spoke with an accent he thought was Italian. When I get back to New York I'll do what I can to clear the matter up for you. Queer, isn't it, that human beings crave to know even the worst about their breed."
"I got to know! I got to know! Mr. Seaton, I ran away from Luigi one time. I guess I was about eight. I wanted to live in the country. And I got as far as Central Park before they found me. He got the police on my trail right off. And when he had me back in Minetta Lane, first he licked me and then he told me how bad my mother was, and he said if folks knew it, they'd spit on me and throw me out of school, and that I was lower than any low dog. And he told me if I did exactly what he said he'd never let any one know, but if I didn't he'd go over and tell Miss Brannigan. She was a teacher I was awful fond of, and he'd tell the police, and he'd tell all the kids. And after that he was always telling me awful low things about my mother—"
Seaton interrupted firmly. "Not your mother. Call her Luigi's wife."
Nucky moistened his lips. "Luigi's wife. And it used to drive me crazy. And he told me all women was like that only some less and some worse. Mr. Seaton, is that true?"
"Enoch, it's a contemptible, unspeakable lie! The majority of women are pure and sweet as no man can hope to be. I'd like to kill Luigi, blast his soul!"
"Maybe you don't know!" persisted Nucky.
"I know! And what's more, when we get back to New York, I'll prove it to you. The world is full of clean, honest, kindly people, Enoch. I'll prove it to you, old man, if you'll give me the chance."
"But if she was my mother, how can I help being rotten?"
"Look here, Enoch, a fellow might have the rottenest mother and rottenest father on earth, but the Lord will start the fellow out with a clean slate, just the same. Folks aren't born bad. You can't inherit your parents' badness. You could inherit their weak wills, for instance, and if you live in Minetta Lane where there's only badness about you, your weak will wouldn't let you stand out against the badness. But you can't inherit evil. If that were possible, humanity would have degenerated to utter brutality long ago. And, Enoch, you haven't inherited even a weak will. You're as obstinate as old Funny Face!"
"Then you think—" faltered the boy.
"I don't think! I know that you come of fine, upstanding stock! And it's about time you moved out of Minetta Lane and gave your good blood a chance!"
Enoch's lips quivered, and he turned his head toward the fire. Seaton waited, patiently. After a while he said, "Enoch, the most important thing in a man's life is his philosophy. What do you think life is for? By what principles do you think a man ought to be guided? Do you think that the underlying purpose of life is dog eat dog, every man for himself, by whatever method? That's your gambler's philosophy. Or do you think we're put here to make life better than we found it? That was Abraham Lincoln's philosophy. Before you decide for the Grand Canyon or for New York, you ought to discover your philosophy. Do you see what I'm driving at?"
"Yes," said Nucky, "and I don't have to wait to discover it, for I've done that this week. I want to go into politics so I can clean out Minetta Lane."
Seaton looked at the lad keenly. "Good work, Nucky, old man!"
The boy spoke quickly. "Don't call me Nucky! I'm Enoch, from now on!"
"From now on, where?" asked Frank, strolling into the firelight.
"New York!" replied Enoch. "I'd rather stay here, but I got to go back."
"Mr. Seaton, have you been using bribery?" Frank was half laughing, half serious.
"Well, nothing as attractive as guiding on Bright Angel trail!" exclaimed John.
"And that's the only job I was ever offered I really wanted!" cried Enoch ruefully.
The men both laughed, and suddenly the boy joined them, laughing long and a little hysterically. "O gee!" he said at last, "I feel as free and light as air! I got to take a run up and down the sand," and a moment later they heard his whistle above the endless rushing of the Colorado.
"Ideas are important things," said Seaton, thoughtfully. "Such a one as that beast Luigi has planted in Enoch's mind can warp his entire life. He evidently is of a morbidly sensitive temperament, proud to a fault, high strung and introspective. Until some one can prove to him that his mother was not a harlot, he'll never be entirely normal. And it's been my observation that one of the most fundamentally weakening things for a boy's character is his not being able to respect his father or mother. Luigi caught Enoch when his mind was like modeling clay."
"Do you think you can clear the matter up?" asked Frank.
"I'll try my utmost. It's going to be hard, for Foley's no fool, and he's done a lot of work on it with no results. If I don't settle the matter, Enoch is going to be hag-ridden by Minetta Lane all his life. I know of a chap who was lame for twenty years because when he was about ten, he had a series of extraordinarily vivid dreams portraying a curious accident that he was not able to distinguish from actual happenings. It was not until he was a man and had accidentally come in contact with a psychologist who analyzed the thing down to facts for him that he was cured. I could cite you a hundred cases like this where the crippling was mental as well as physical. And nothing but an absolute and tangible proof of the falsity of the idea will make a cure. Some day there are going to be doctors who will handle nothing but ideas."
"The boy's worth saving!" Frank lighted his pipe thoughtfully. "There's a power of will there for good or evil that can't be ignored. And I have faith in any one the Canyon gets a real grip on. It sure has got this boy. I never saw a more marked case."
The lawyer nodded and both men sat smoking, their eyes on the distant rim.
THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR
TWENTY-TWO YEARS LATER
"It sometimes seemed to me that the Colorado said as it rushed through the Canyon, 'Nothing matters! Nothing! Nothing!'"—Enoch's Diary.
One burning morning in July, Jonas, in a cool gray seersucker suit, his black face dripping with perspiration, was struggling with the electric fan in the private office of the Secretary of the Interior. The windows were wide open and the hideous uproar of street traffic filled the room. It was a huge, high-ceilinged apartment, with portraits of former Secretaries on the walls. The Secretary's desk, a large, polished conference table, and various leather chairs, with a handsome Oriental rug, completed the furnishings.
As Jonas struggled vainly with the fan, a door from the outer office opened and a young man appeared with the day's mail. Charley Abbott was nearing thirty but he looked like a college boy. He was big and broad and blonde, with freckles disporting themselves frankly on a nose that was still upturned. His eyes were set well apart and his lips were frank. He placed a great pile of opened letters on Enoch's desk.