TRANSFORMATION OF JOB
A TALE OF THE HIGH SIERRAS
BY FREDERICK VINING FISHER.
DAVID C. COOK PUBLISHING COMPANY ELGIN, ILL., AND 36 WASHINGTON ST., CHICAGO.
Copyright, 1900, By David C. Cook Publishing Company.
If one will take the trouble to tramp with staff in hand the high Sierras, he will find not only the Yosemite, but Gold City and Pine Tree Ranch, though perhaps they bear another name. Most of the quaint characters of this tale still dwell among the vine-clad hills. To introduce to you these friends that have interested the author, and to tell anew the story of the human soul, this work is written.
Out of love of never-to-be-forgotten memories of Pine Tree Ranch, the author dedicates this book to him who once welcomed him to its white porch, but who now sleeps beneath the shadow of the mountains—Andrew Malden.
FREDERICK VINING FISHER.
THE TRANSFORMATION OF JOB,
A TALE OF THE HIGH SIERRAS.
By FREDERICK VINING FISHER.
THE NEW ARRIVAL AT GOLD CITY.
The stage was late at Gold City. It always was. Everybody knew it, but everybody pretended to expect it on time.
Just exactly as the old court-house bell up the hill struck six, the postmistress hurriedly opened her door and stood anxiously peering up the street, the loafers who had been dozing on the saloon benches shuffled out and leaned up against the posts, the old piano in the Miners' Home began to rattle and a squeaky violin to gasp for breath, while the pompous landlord of the "Palace Hotel," sending a Chinaman to drive away a dozen pigs that had been in front of his door through the day, took his post on the sidewalk to await his coming guests—who generally never came.
There was a time when Gold City had been a great town—
"In days of old, In days of gold, In days of forty-nine."
The boys often hung around the saloon steps and listened with gaping mouths while Yankee Sam and the other old men told of the golden age, when the streets of Gold City were crowded and Tom Perry made a fortune in one day and lost it all gambling that night; when there was more life in Gold City than 'Frisco could shake a stick at; when the four quarters of the globe came in on the stage and mined all day, danced all night and went away rich.
But Gold City, now, was neither large nor rich. The same eternal hills surrounded her and the same great pine trees shaded her in summer's heat and hung in white like sentinals of the past in the winter's moonlight. But the sound of other days had died away. The creek bed had long since yielded up its treasure and lay neglected, exposed to the heat and frost. The old brick buildings rambling up the street were still left, but were fast tottering to decay. Side by side with the occupied buildings, stood half-fallen adobes and shattered blocks filled only with the ghosts of other years.
Up on the hill rose the court house, the perfect image of some quaint Dutch church along the Mohawk in York State. Gray and old, changeless it stood, looking down in silent disdain on these California buildings hastening to an early grave. Here and there, hid by pines and vines, up the dusty side-hill roads, one caught glimpses of pretty cottage homes, where dwelt the few who, when the tide had turned, were left stranded in this far-off California mining town.
Yes, Gold City was of the past. Her glory had long since departed. Yet somehow everyone expected its return. The old men read the 'Frisco papers, when they could get them, and grew excited when they heard that silver had fallen and gold had a new chance for life. The night that news came, Yankee Sam ordered a treat for the whole crowd and politely told the saloon-keeper that he would settle shortly, when the boom came. Possibly some great capitalist might come in any day and buy up the mines and things would boom. He might be on the stage any night. That is the reason the whole town came out regularly to meet the stage, marveled if it was late, and gambled on the probability that a telegram from 'Frisco had held it for a special train of "bigbugs." That is why the hotel-keeper drove the pigs away and prepared for business.
They had done that thing now in Gold City so long it was beginning to be second nature; and yet deeper was getting the sleep, and the only thing that could rouse the town was the coming of the stage with its possibilities.
The stage was later than usual this night. So late the old-timers were sure Joe must have a passenger. As it was fifty miles over the plains and foot-hills that Joe had to come, there was, of course, plenty of chance of his being late. In fact, he never was on time. They all knew that. But to think that Joe would be two whole hours back was a little unusual for a town where nothing unusual ever happened. The big colored porter at the Miners' Home was tired of holding his bell ready to ring, the loungers on the benches in front of the corner grocery had exhausted their yarns, when the dust up the street on the hill caused the barefooted boys to stop their games and stand expectant in the road to watch Joe arrive.
With a shout and a flourish, the four horses came tearing around the court-house corner, plunged relentlessly down the hill and dragged the rickety old coach up to the hotel, with a jerk that nearly upset the poor thing and brought admiration to everybody's eyes. Fortunately for the coach, that was the only time of day the horses ever went off a snail's pace. The dinner bell at the Miners' Home clanged vigorously, the piano in the saloon opposite set up a clatter, the crowd hurried around the dust-enveloped coach to see if they could discover a passenger, while the red-faced landlord shouted, "This way to the Palace Hotel, gentlemen!"
To-night, when the dust cleared away, for the first time in weeks the crowds discovered a passenger. In fact, he was out on the brick sidewalk before they saw him. Pale-faced, blue-eyed, with delicate, clear-cut features, clad in a neat gray coat and short trousers, which merged into black stockings and shoes, with a black tie and soiled white collar, all topped off with a derby hat and plenty of dust, a wondering, trembling lad of twelve stood before them. Such a sight had not been seen in Gold City in its history. A city lad dropped down among these rough miners and worn-out wrecks of humanity!
"Well, pard, who be yer?" at last asked a voice; and a dozen echoed his query.
With a frightened look around for some refuge, such as the deer gives when surprised, the new-comer answered. "I am Mr. Arthur Teale's boy, and I want to see him;" and, turning to the landlord, asked if he would please tell Mr. Teale his boy had come.
Not a man moved, but each glanced significantly at the other. Yankee Sam, a sort of father to the town, who, at times, felt his responsibility, when not too overcome by the hot stuff at the Miners' Home, now stepped up and interviewed the lad.
Mr. Teale's son, was he? And who was Mr. Teale, and where did he come from, and why was he traveling alone?
Standing there in the evening twilight, on the rough brick walk in front of the Palace Hotel, to that group of rough-handed men in unkempt locks and woolen shirts and overalls, to those shirt-sleeved, well-oiled, red-faced bar-keepers, with the landlord in the center, the passenger told his story.
He told of a home in the far East; of how, one day long ago, his father started away out West to make his fortune; how he patted him on the head and said some day he should send for him and mamma—but he never did. The little fellow faltered, as he told how his mother grew sick and his grandfather died; and how, after a time, he and his mother had started to find father, and over the wide prairies and high mountains and dusty deserts, had traveled the long journey in search of husband and father.
The young eyes filled with tears—yes, and some older, rough ones did, too, that had been dry for years—as he told how mother had grown weaker and weaker; and, when they had reached the California city and the summer's heat had climbed up the mountain side, she had died; and, dying, had told him to go on and find Gold City and his father. So he had come, and "Would some one please tell Mr. Teale his boy was here?"
That night there was great excitement in Gold City. Groups of men were talking in undertones everywhere. With a promise to try and find his father, Yankee Sam left the boy sitting on the doorstep of the Palace; where, hungry and tired, he fell asleep, while all the street arabs stood at a respectful distance commenting on "the city kid what says he's Teale's boy." No one thought to take the little wanderer in. No one thought he was hungry. They were too excited for that. Teale's kid was here. What should they do with him and how could they tell him?
Did they know Teale? Yes, they did. Slim, pale-faced, the picture of this boy, only taller, fuller grown, he had come to Gold City. With ragged clothes that spoke of better days, he had tramped into town one winter night through the snow and begged a bed at the Miners' Home. He had struck it rich for a time down by Mormon Bar, and treated all the boys in joy over his good luck, then lost it all over the card table in the end. Thrice he had repeated that experience. In his better moments he had talked of a wife and blue-eyed boy in the East, then again he seemed to forget them. The gaming table, the drink, the crowd he went with, ruined him. One night the boys heard cries in the hollow back of "Monte Carlo," the worst saloon and gambling den in the place; when morning came they found Teale and a boon companion both dead there. Who was to blame? Nobody knew. Under the old pine trees on the hill, just outside the graveyard gate, where the respectable dead lay, they buried them. And now Teale's boy was come, and who should tell him, and where should he go?
Andrew Malden was in town that night, yet no one thought of asking him, the hardest-hearted man in Grizzly county. Rich, with acres to spare, a mill that turned out lumber by the wholesale, horses that could outstrip any Bucephalus in the county. Either from jealousy or some cause, the world about Gold City, Frost Creek, Chichilla, all hated Andy Malden.
No one noticed how he listened to the story, how he glanced more than once at the tired traveler, till they heard him order his horses at moon-up, order the landlord to wake the boy and feed him.
When, promptly at ten, he took the strange lad in his arms and put him in his buckboard, seized the reins and drove toward Spring Creek, the Pines and home, the whole town was more dumfounded than in years, and the landlord said he guessed old Andy was crazy. Only Yankee Sam seemed to understand, and the old man muttered to himself, as he turned once more to the saloon, "Well, now! Andy thinks it is his youngster come back again that I helped lay beneath the pines, coming thirty years now."
Sam was right. It was the dormant love of thirty long-gone years, all roused again, that stirred the old man that night. The lonely, homeless boy on the "Palace" doorstep had touched a heart that most men thought too hard to be broken in this world or the next.
Andrew Malden was not a bad man, if he was hard. The outward vices which had ruined most men who had come to Gold City to gain the world and lose their souls, never touched him. That craving for excitement, the natural heritage of hot-headed youth, which often in that old mining camp lasted long after the passionate days of young life and lit the glazed eyes of age with a wild, unnatural fire, never seemed a part of his nature. Other men fed the fires of passion with the hot stuff of the "Monte Carlo," and the midnight gaming table, till, tottering wrecks consumed of self, they lingered on the doorsteps of Gold City, the ghosts of men that were. The world of appetite was a foreign realm to him. He looked with contempt on men who lost themselves in its meshes. But he was a hard man, the people said, and selfishness and a cold heart were far worse vices in the eyes of the generous-hearted, rough miners who came and went among these hills, than what the polished, cold, calculating money-getters of the far-off city counted as sin. So Andrew Malden was more of a sinner in the estimation of Gold City than Yankee Sam. Perhaps the ethics of that mining camp were truer than the world thinks. Perhaps he who sins against society is worse than he who sins against self.
The fact was that, though Andrew Malden had grown old in Grizzly county, and no face was more familiar, no one knew him. He was a hard man, but not as the people meant. There are two kinds of stern men in this world: Those who are without hearts, who take pleasure in the suffering of others; and those who, repulsed sometime, somewhere, have closed the portals of their inmost souls and hid away within themselves. Such was the "Lord of Pine Tree Mountain," as the boys used to call him.
Once he was a merry, happy, strong mountain lad in the old Kentucky hills, where he had helped his father, a hardy New Englander, make a new home. He had a heart in those old days. He loved the hills and forests; loved the romping dogs that played around him as he drove the logging team to the river-mill; aye, more than that, he had loved Mary Moore. She was bright and sweet and pretty, a bewitching maid, who seemed all out of place on the frontier. He loved to hear her talk of Charleston Bay and the Berkshire Hills, and of the days when she danced the minuet on Cambridge Green. Once he asked her to marry him. It was the month the war broke out with Mexico. The frontiersmen were slinging down their axes and swinging their guns across their shoulders. She laughed, and said that if Andy would go and fight and come home a hero, she would marry him—perhaps.
So he went. Tramped over miles and miles of Mexican soil, fought at Monterey and Buena Vista, endured and almost died—men said for love of Yankeedom; he knew it was for Mary Moore.
The war over, he came back a hero, and Col. Malden was named with old Zach Taylor by tried, loyal men. But Mary Moore was gone. She had found another hero. Gone to Massachusetts, so they said.
That night, Andy Malden left the Kentucky hills forever. The news of gold in California was in the air. He would join the mad procession that, over plain and isthmus, was going hither. He would go as far from the old life as deserts and mountains would put him.
So he came to Gold City. With a diligence far more systematic than the others, he had washed the gold from Frost Creek and off Mormon Bar. Other men lost all they found in daylight over the gaming table at midnight. He never gambled. All the others who succeeded went below to the great city or back to the States to enjoy their gains. He cared naught for the city, he hated the States; he never went. In a solitary mountain spot amid immeasurable grandeur, he buried himself in his lonely cabin. Yet he was not a hermit. He mingled with the crowd; he sought its suffrage for public office; yet he was not of it. He was a mystery to all. They elected him to office and continued to do so; why, they never knew, unless it was because he could save for them when others could not.
At last he married a farmer's girl from the plains, who had come up there to teach the Frost Creek school. She failed as a teacher. She was born for the kitchen and farm. Andrew Malden saw it. She would make him as good a helpmate as any, better than the Chinese women and half-breeds with whom some of his neighbors consorted, so he married.
The mines were giving out. His keen eye saw there were mines above ground as well as below. He quietly left off placer mining, drew out some gold from a hidden purse, and, before the world of Gold City knew it, had nine hundred acres on Pine Tree Mountain, a big saw-mill going, a nice ranch home, and barns like folks back in the States.
At last a baby came—a baby boy; almost the first in Grizzly county. The neighbors would have cheered if they dared. Judge Lawson did dare to suggest a celebration, but the people were afraid of the stern man on Pine Tree Mountain.
Oh, how he loved that boy! His wife looked on with wonder, for she thought he knew not what stuff love was made of. It was not long. A few short years, and the lad, who seemed so strangely merry for a son of Andy Malden, grew pale and took the fever and died; and, where the pine trees stoop to shade the mountain flowers in hot midsummer, strange Yankee Sam and Andy, all alone, laid him to rest. There was no clergyman. The "Gospel Peddlers," as the miners called them, had not yet come to the hills to stay. Just as Sam was putting the soil over the rough box, Andy stopped him and muttered something about the boy's prayer. He must say it for him, and he whispered in a broken voice, "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep."
That was the last prayer Andrew Malden had uttered. Many years had come and gone; more and more he had lived within himself. He used to go to the boy's grave on holidays. Now he never went. For years his wife had lived with him and kept his house and prepared his food, and grown, like him, silent and apart from all around. She died at last and he gave her a high-toned funeral; had a coffin from the city and a preacher and all that. She had died of loneliness. He did not know it. She did not realize it. He went on as if it was a matter of course. The old house was kept up carefully; a Chinaman, as silent as himself, kept it for him, and a corps of men kept him busy at the mill.
He was rich, the people said; he was mean and grinding, the men muttered; and yet he prospered when others failed. Men envied, feared, hated him. Now he was growing old and men were wondering who would have his riches when he was gone. He had no kin this side the Ohio; and, for aught he knew, nowhere. His wife's nephews and cousins, pegging away in these hills, were beginning to build air-castles of days when the Pine Tree mill should be theirs.
Such was the old man who drove along in the moonlight, past Mormon Bar and over Chichilla Hill, holding a sleeping lad in his arms; and feeling, for the first time in years, the heart within him.
It was nearer dawn than midnight when the tired team, which had been slowly creeping up the mountain road for hours, turned into the lane above the mill and waited for their owner to swing open the gate which barred the way to the private road leading through the oak pasture to Pine Tree Ranch and home. It was one of those matchless nights that come only in the mountains, when the world is flooded with a soft, silvery light and the great trees stand out transfigured against the sky, amid a silence profound and awe-inspiring.
It had been a long ride; aye, a long one indeed to Andrew Malden. He had traveled across more than half a century of life since they left Gold City. His own childhood, Mary Moore, old Kentucky, had all come back to him. Then he had thought of that silent grave down beyond Gold City, and of the large part of his life buried there. He turned to the lad at his side, sleeping unconscious of life's ills and disappointments, of which, poor boy, he had already had his share. The sight of the innocent face thrilled the old man. In his slumbers the boy murmured, "Mamma, papa;" and, turning, the old man did a strange thing for him. He leaned over and kissed the lad, and whispered, "Mamma, papa! Boy, as long as Andy Malden lives, he shall be both to you."
When they reached the house, he hushed the dogs to silence, bade Hans, who stared astonished at his master's guest, to take the horses; and, lifting the sleeping form, carried it into his room, and, gently removing coat and shoes, laid the boy in the great bed, while he prepared to stretch himself on a couch near by.
That night a new life came to Andrew Malden and the Pine Tree Ranch.
"Yer darsn't do it! Yer old Malden's slave, yer know yer are, and yer darsn't breathe 'less he says so."
It was in front of the Miners' Home in Gold City, and the speaker was an overgrown, brawny, low-browed boy of some seventeen years, who, in ragged clothes and an old slouch hat, leaned against the post that helped support the tumble-down roof of that notorious establishment. In front of him, barefooted and in overalls rolled up over well-browned legs, old blue cap, astride a little black pony whose eyes rolled appreciatively as he lovingly half leaned upon her neck, sat Job Malden, as the store-keepers called him; or "Andy's Tenderfoot," as the boys dubbed him.
You would not have dreamed, had you seen him, that this brown-skinned, tall fifteen-year-old, who rose in his saddle at this remark and spoke out sharp and strong, was the same pale-faced city lad who had come in the stage three years ago, homeless and friendless. The mountains had done wonders for him; the pallor had gone from his cheeks; the sun had tanned his shapely limbs; the wild life of nature and the still rougher world of humanity had roused all his temper and passion. Yet, withal, there was the touch of another world in his face. No stranger, at second view, would have taken him for a native born. He had known a different realm, and it had left its trace in a high brow, a fine face, a clearer eye than one usually saw on the streets of the mining camp.
"Yer darsn't do it!" leered again the same contemptible fellow. "Yer a city kid an' hain't got sand 'nuff to make an ant-hill. I hearn tell yer get the old man to button yer clothes, and yer cry in the dark—guess it's so, ain't it, tenderfoot?"
At this remark the crowd of loungers around broke forth into cheers, and Job's eyes, usually so blue, flashed fire. He sprang from Bess' back, and, in an instant, had struck the bully a blow that sent him reeling back into the arms of Yankee Sam. A moment, and a general melee seemed imminent, when Dan Dean stepped up and called a halt. He was the smoothest, most affable, meanest fellow in town, nephew by marriage to the lord of Pine Tree Mountain, and, as he had always boasted, the lord that was to be.
Job had always felt, ever since he came to Grizzly county, that Dan was his mortal enemy, yet he had always been so sly Job had never been able to prove him guilty of any one of the thousand petty annoyances he was sure were instigated by him.
Taking Job by the arm, Dan now led him off to one side, while the crowd were laughing at the blubbering bully backing up the street and threatening all sorts of vengeance on "that tenderfoot."
All the trouble was over a horse-race. It was coming off next Sunday down at Coyote Valley, four miles below town. Pete Wilkins had offered his horse against all Grizzly county, and Dan Dean had boasted that he had a horse, a black mare—or at least his Uncle Andy had—that could beat any horse Pete could trot out. Pete had dared him to appear with the mare; and Dan, well knowing he could not get her, was doing his best to induce Job to steal away with her and run the race for him. "Me and yer is cousins, yer know, seein' yer call the old man uncle and he's my sure-enough uncle; so we's cousins, and we ought to be pardners; now yer run the race, get the gold nugget the fellows at the Yellow Jacket have put up, and I'll get Pete's bet, and my! won't we have a lark! Fact is, yer don't want fellers to think yer a baby, I know; and, as for its being Sunday, I say the better the day the better the deed. Come, Job. I jest want to see the old black mare come in across the line and you on her! My! what a hot one yer'll be! The fellers will never call yer tenderfoot again!"
It was a big temptation to Job, the biggest the boy had ever known—to beat Pete; to show off Bess; to prove he was no "tenderfoot" or "kid" any more. But—oh, that but!—how could he deceive Mr. Malden! And then, Sunday, too!
"Gold nugget! Whew! Such a chance!" insidious Dan still kept crying, till Job shut his teeth together, turned from his mother's face which, somehow, persisted in haunting him just then, laughed a sort of hollow laugh, and said with an oath—the first he had ever uttered out loud—that sure he would be there and show these Gold City bullies and Pete and the whole crowd he was nobody's slave. Yet, as he said it, there came a sort of feeling into his soul which he repelled, but which yet came back again, that he was now indeed a slave—a slave to Dan, a slave to the Evil One.
* * * * *
Coyote Valley was all alive. Vaqueros from the foot-hill ranches were tearing up and down the dusty road along Coyote Creek from Wilkins' ranch to the foot of the valley, buckboards loaded with Mexicans, Joe's stage creaking beneath the weight of half the roughs of Gold City, groups of excited miners on foot, were making their way as fast as possible to Wilkins' old hay barn, which had been turned into a combination of saloon and grand stand. Under the shade of an immense live-oak just west of the barn, the big waiter at the Miners' Home was running an opposition saloon to the one inside, with a plank on two kegs for a bar. The center of the barn was already filled with dark-skinned Senoritas and tall, gawky miners dancing to the music of a squeaky violin.
The air was filled with dust and bets and oaths, when on that strange Sunday morning Job galloped up Coyote Valley and pulled up in time to hear Dan's voice in high pitch cry out:
"There she is, the best mare in Grizzly county; ten to one against the crowd! Come in, Job; come up, boys! Let's have a drink around to the success of the Hon. Job Malden, the slickest rider in all the hills!"
Almost before he knew it. Job was hauled bodily up to the bar and had a beer glass in his hand. How strange he felt! How queer it all was! He had been in the mountains three years, but this was his first Sunday picnic.
Andrew Malden, though he had no religion, had always seen that Job went to Sunday-school at the Frost Creek School. To-day he had ostensibly started for there. But this was very different from the old log school-house.
How different Job looked from the rest! He wore "store clothes" and a neck-tie. In the rush, something dropped on the floor. He looked down and picked it up, with a quick glance around, while a great lump came into his throat. It was a little Testament, his mother's, the one she had given him the day she died, and there was the old temperance pledge he had signed in a boy's scrawling hand. He was supposed to be at Sunday-school, so he had been obliged to carry the book.
For a moment he hesitated, then he jammed it in his pocket out of sight. He hated it, he hated himself. The step was taken; he took the glass, he drank with the rest. He left the bar with a proud air. He was a man. He would win that race or die.
* * * * *
All day long the violin squeaked, the clattering feet resounded on the barn floor, the kegs were emptied into throats, and races of all kinds—fat men's races, women's races, old men's races—followed each other. At last, the great event was called—Malden's mare against Pete's noted plunger. The Vaqueros cleared the way, a pistol shot in the distance announced they had started, a cloud of dust that they were coming. It was not a trot; it was a neck-and-neck run, such as Job had taken hundreds of times over the great pasture lot on Pine Tree Ranch. He was perfectly at home. With arms clasped around her neck, he urged Bess on; he sang, he coaxed, he cheered her. Bess knew that voice, and, catching the passion of the hour, fairly flew. Faster and faster she went, but faster and faster came Pete at her heels—now Job felt the hot breath of the other horse on his cheek—now they fell back—now they were close behind him. They were near the line—but a hundred paces and the old oak would be passed. Pete was desperate; the fire of anger was in his eyes. Job heard one of Pete's excited friends shout, "Throw him, Pete!" The thought of awful danger flew through Job's mind: The angry man would do it—Bess must go faster. She was white with foam now, but go she must. He hugged her closer; he sang—how out of place the piece seemed! 'Twas the song, though, that always roused her, so he sang it, as so often be had sung it in the great oak pasture of the home ranch—"Palms of victory, crowns of glory I shall wear,"—and, singing it, dashed across the line the victor, while the mob yelled and Dan hugged Bess and the waiter offered a free treat to the whole crowd. Job Malden had won the race, the gold nugget was his, but oh, how much he had lost!
"Wait till the clouds roll by, Jennie, Wait till the clouds roll by."
It was the clear, high voice of a rosy-cheeked, black-eyed, short-skirted, barefooted maiden that sang, who, with her long black tresses blowing in the afternoon breeze, and a pail on her arm, was gayly skipping down the narrow road that separated the fence of Pine Tree Ranch from the endless forest that stretched away towards the big trees and Yosemite. "'Wait till the clouds'—gracious sakes, boy! what did you scare me for?" Jane Reed cried, as out of the dark woods, around a sugar pine, a tall, tanned lad strode, with gun over his shoulder, and a long-eared dog at his heels.
"Oh, just for ducks!" said Job Malden, who, after a celebration of his sixteenth birthday, was returning from one of his favorite quail hunts with "Shot," his only playmate on Pine Tree Ranch.
"Where did you get those shoes, sissy?" said the boy, looking at her bare, bronzed feet.
"From the Lord," quietly answered the girl.
"Humph!" said Job with a sneer, "the only lord I know is the one of Pine Tree Mountain, and the one that is to be—that's myself—and I'm mighty sure he or I never made such looking things."
At this, the girl made an unsuccessful attempt to run past him, then sank down on the ground in a big cry.
With the heartless, contemptuous air of a boy who scorns tears and girls, Job stood there; and, posing dramatically, sang in a falsetto voice:
"Wait till the clouds roll by, Jennie, Wait till the clouds roll by."
I wonder, if his mother could have come back from her far-off grave by the Sacramento, whether she would have known that insolent, rude fellow standing there as her pretty, blue-eyed boy whom she had so tenderly loved.
How quickly, when a fellow starts down hill, he gets under way! That first Sunday picnic had borne its fruit. The Sunday-school at Frost Creek never knew him now. That little Testament was at the bottom of his trunk. Fear of the old man had saved him from an open life of wrong, and a certain pride made him disdain to be on a level with Dan Dean and the Gold City gang. Andrew Malden saw the change and yet did not understand it. He never talked with people enough to hear the rumors afloat of the Sunday horse-races, or of the midnight revel on the Fourth of July at the Yellow Jacket. The night that Bess came home saddleless and riderless, with the white foam on her, and when he searched till near morning, to at last find Job stretched in a stupor by the wayside down the Chichilla road, he thought the boy's after story was true—that story of a frightened runaway—and little knew it was Pete Wilkins' whisky that had thrown him.
Ah! it was only yesterday the old man had said, "She was a traitor, and so is the boy. I have loved him, fed him, sheltered him, and yet all he cares for is to get my money some day. The world's all alike!" And Andrew Malden shut the door of his heart, which, a few short years ago, had swung open for the homeless lad.
It was this boy, touched, alas! not alone by the beauty and grandeur of the mountains, but by the shame and sin of the men who dwelt among them, that now laughed at a poor girl's feeble wrath. He laughed, and then a spark of innate good-nature and manhood touched him, and, picking up the pail, he muttered an apology and offered to escort the maiden home.
Very soon the clouds did roll by, and under the sky of twilight the pair walked leisurely along the trail that passed out of the main road, up across Sugar Pine Hill and down towards Blackberry Valley and old Tom Reed's cabin, where Jane was both daughter and mistress.
This girl was so different from the crowd he had seen at Wilkins' barn and down at Mike's, that he could not joke her; he could only play the gallant, and he rather liked it.
It was a long way over the hill and many stops to rest—at Deer Spring, Squirrel Run and the Summit—and the picking up cones made it longer. It was just as they crossed the hill that they heard a crackling of the branches above them, and both looked up to be struck with terror. Climbing from one great tree to another was the low, dark form of a mountain lion. He did not notice them. Job motioned silence and shrunk into the bushes. The girl instinctively followed and drew up close to him. With gun cocked and bated breath, they waited and waited; but whether the wind was away from them, or the vicious animal had something else in view, he slunk away in the trees and out toward the Gulch, where he made his lair.
For a half hour Jane and Job sat with hearts beating fast, while both tried to make a show of being brave. How strange it seemed to Job to be thus protecting a girl! He felt a queer interest in her; he did not know what it was. He took her arm a little later to help her over the rocks, down the hill. He lingered, in a bashful way, at the spring at the foot of the path to see that she got to the cabin door safely, then went around by the main road home, so slowly and so thoughtfully that the moon was high when Shot barked a response to Carlo's bark as he entered the gate.
That was not the last time he saw Jane Reed. A something of which he had never heard and of which he was barely conscious drew him to her. That autumn he often walked home from school with her. When the snows came and the logging sleds were passing every day loaded for Andrew Malden's mill, he always managed to find Jane at Sugar Pine Hill at all odd sorts of hours and give her a ride to the mill on the top of the logs, and walk back with her, as he let the horses tug the old sled slowly up the mountain. The only rival he had was Dan, his pretended friend but certain enemy.
* * * * *
It was at the time of the big snow. Indian Bill, the rheumatic old native trapper whose family had perished at the massacre of the Yosemite some years before, and who ever since had lived in a little cabin on the edge of the Gulch, said it was the biggest in two hundred moons.
When Job, shivering and chattering, looked out of the little, narrow, cheerless upstairs room which he called his own, he found himself apparently in the first story. He gazed on the endless drifts of snow that rolled away in a silent sea over barn and fences, with only the shaggy, white-bearded pines shaking their faces at him above the limitless white. The little ravine back of the house, where the milk-house stood, had leveled up to the rest of the world, the chicken corral was missing, and only the loft of the old barn rose above the snowy waves.
What a busy day that was of shoveling tunnels, and, with the full force of the mill men and all the logging teams, breaking a path up the road to the logging camp! By night the whole country round was out. Dan was there riding the leader, and reaching out to get snowballs from the high bank to throw at Jane, who had clambered up on the vantage point of an old shed and was watching the queer procession, with its shouts and rattle of bells and chains, push its way up the road.
That night old Andy Malden gave a treat to all the hands at the mill, with hard cider and apples and nuts a plenty, and even had Blind Dick, the fiddler, who lived in Tom Reed's upper cabin, to help them make merry. That is, Andy gave the treat, but his foreman was host; he never came himself. Jane was there and Dan monopolized her. He knew her well, so that night he never danced, never drank; but Job, poor fellow! asked her to dance and she refused him; then he offered her cider, and her great black eyes snapped fire and she turned from him. He was mad with rage. He drank. He danced with the Alviso girls, the lowest Mexicans in the county. He glared after Dan as he saw him start off with Jane.
The cider, the jealousy in his soul, or the evil in both, probably, made him start after them. A something whispered to take the short-cut across to the junction of the road and Blackberry Valley trail, and face them and have it out. He hurried stumbling over the drifts. He hid in the shade of a great tree. Up the road he heard them coming, heard Dan say, "Oh, well, I was afraid Uncle Andy would be fooled when he took that kid in. Regular chip of the old block; his father went to the bad, and he is going fast. He came from the city slums; none of the brave, true blood of the mountains in his veins. Steer clear of him, Jane." Heard an indistinguishable reply in Jane's voice, felt a blind passion rising within him, clinched his fists, started with a bound for the dark shadows coming up the road, felt a terrible blow on his head, and—well, it must have been a long while before he thought again. Then he was lying down in the depths of a snow-drift, where he had fallen when he started so angrily for Dan and had struck his head against the limb of the old oak at the turn and been hurled back twenty feet down through the snow on the rock of the creek bed.
He tried to rise, but could not. A broken limb refused to act. He called for help, but the cry rose no higher than the snowbank. He was in an open grave of white on the sharp rocks and bitterly cold ice of the stream. He shivered and shook, then gradually a sort of delightful repose began to steal over him. At first it felt pleasant, then he realized he was freezing, freezing to death! Death! The thought struck terror to his heart. Death! It was the last thing for which he was ready. Memory was unnaturally active. The New England hills, the white church, grandfather, mother, home, all came back to him. He was mother's boy again as in those old days before hate and drink and sin had hurt his life. For a moment the tears came. He forgot himself, he struggled to rise. He would go to mother and put his head in her lap and tell her he loved her still. Then the clouds crept over the stars, the bitter wind whistled above the snow. Mother—ah! He could not go to her; she had gone forever out of his life; never in this world would he see her again. And then, like a knife that cut him through and through, came the bitter consciousness that there was no hope of seeing mother in the world to come; that long ago he had gone away from her and the old innocent life of childhood so far that if she could come back from her grave by the turbid Sacramento, she would not even know her boy.
The night chill crept over him; the tears froze on his cheeks. He thought of Dan and Jane and the life he had lived, and love froze in his heart. And then, alone in the snow-drift, dying, he hated Dan, he hated Jane, he hated all the world and hated God, and waited, with the fear of a lost soul, the outer darkness that was coming—coming nearer and nearer.
* * * * *
They found him there, numb and unconscious, long after midnight, Hans and Tony, Malden's men, who had searched for him.
* * * * *
The snow had melted on the hill-tops and the flowers were peeping above the earth, when Job threw aside his crutches and whistled to Shot that the time had come for another quail hunt.
THE CAMP MEETING.
"It's the biggest thing out—beats a horse-race! My! it's a sight! Don't miss it, boys. See you all down at Wilkins', sure."
It was "Nickel John" who was speaking, the fellow that the boys said would do any evil deed for a nickel. It was down in front of the Miners' Home among a great crowd of the boys, in the midst of whom stood Job as an interested listener.
The coming event was no less than a Methodist camp-meeting down in Coyote Valley the next Sunday. Of course he would go, said Job, as he rode home; anything nowadays to avoid being alone with himself. Up at the mill he told the fellows about it; and, when they dared him to be there and go to the altar, he vowed that he would do it.
"All hail the power of Jesus' name! Let angels prostrate fall."
Strong and clear, a great volume of sound, it rang out on the air that never-to-be-forgotten Sunday morning, as Job rode Bess up the Coyote road to Pete Wilkins' barn, now transformed into a sanctuary where the Sierra District Camp-meeting was well under way.
"Bring forth the royal diadem, And crown him Lord of all."
The rafters of the barn shook with the music, while it rolled out through the great side and rear doors, thrown open so wide that the old building looked like outdoors with a roof on. The big structure was full to the doors, while around it all sorts of vehicles and nags were hitched. To the right and left rows of tents stretched away. Just outside, under the old oak, a portly dame was dishing out lemonade for a nickel to late-comers, while a group of boys were playing leap-frog. Job struggled through the outer crowd and pushed inside, only to find himself in the center of "the gang," who greeted him with a wink and a whisper, "The speakin' racket's next!"
"Oh, that with yonder sacred throng We at His feet may fall!"
How grand it sounded! Such a host of voices were singing! Far up in front, on a platform, surrounded by several preachers, gray-haired and young, in varied attire, from the conventional black suit and white tie to a farmer's outfit, was a little organ, and a familiar form was sitting back of it and getting its old bellows to roll out the hymn. The organist was no other than Jane, and her face flushed as she caught Job's eye.
Just then the music stopped and a sweet-faced old man stepped up and said, "Brethren and sisters, we have knelt at the Lord's table; let us now tell of the Lord's love. Let us have fifty testimonies in the next few minutes. Let us sing, 'I love to tell the story of Jesus and his love.'"
The scene faded away; the music was a far-off echo, the barn was gone. Job was back, a lad, in the old New England church; grandsir was there, and mother, and the old, old friends, and Ned Winthrop was poking him with a pin. That song!—how it brought them all back!
Just then be heard a murmur behind him, and looked up to see, near the front, a trembling old man rise and begin to speak. He told of boyhood days; he told of a young man's sins; of how one day on the old camp ground back in York State he had learned that God loved him and could make a man of him. Then he faltered as he told a story of sorrows, and how at last, alone in the world, he awaited the angels that should bear him home.
Job trembled. Unpleasant memories arose in his heart. He grew pale and red, then bit his lips in excitement. He wished he was at home. Testimony followed testimony. Love, peace and joy rang through all. At last Jane rose—could it be possible? He hung on every word.
"Last night, down there at the bench, the Lord converted my soul. I have been a poor sinner, but I know Jesus loves me, and I wish—I wish," and she looked over to the far rear, "you would let him save you;" and she sat down in tears.
Job was wildly angry. "The mischief take her!" he muttered. And Dan leaned over and whispered, "See, she's gone daft, like the rest!"
The testimonies and love-feast were over, a prayer that made Job feel as if Some One great and good was near, had been offered, and then it was announced that the Rev. William Pendergast of Calavero circuit would preach.
"What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"
It was a young, fresh, boyish face that looked into Job's as the speaker uttered these words. Just such a bright, athletic, noble fellow as every true boy secretly wishes to be. He caught Job's attention and held it.
This was a very different thing from what he had thought sermons to be. The young man talked of life here, not hereafter; he showed how a man may live in this world and yet live a lost life; have gold and lands, and yet lose all love and hope and peace and manhood. He pictured the man who gains wealth and grows hard and loveless, and Job thought of Andy Malden; he told of him who plunges into dissipation and drink, and lingers a wreck in the streets, and Job knew he meant Yankee Sam. Aye, he pictured a young life that grasps all the world and forgets right and God and mother's Bible and mother's prayers, and grows selfish and the slave of hate and trembles lest death come, and Job thought of himself and the awful night in the snow and wished he was miles away.
But wait! They are singing:
"Come, ye sinners, poor and needy, Weak and wounded, sick and sore."
They have cleared the mourners' bench and are giving the invitation:
"Jesus ready stands to save you, Full of pity, love and power."
Job trembles. Does that mean him? Tim Nolan the mill-man leans over and whispers almost out loud: "Remember your bet, Job!"
Poor Job would have given all the gold in the Sierras to be out of there. All the sins of his life rose before him, all his conceit and boasting vanished. He was ashamed of Job Malden. He longed to sink somewhere out of sight.
The preacher was talking again; the old, old story of the Prodigal Son and how God's arms are always ready to take in a mother's lost boy. The room swam before Job's eyes. The crowds were flocking to the altar, the people were shouting, the boys were punching him and saying. "Yer dursn't go!" Heaven, hell, sin and Christ were very real to him all of a sudden.
"All the fitness he requireth Is to feel your need of him."
How it happened he never knew, but just as Dan said, "Now, let's see Job get religion," he rose, and, striding down the long aisle, he rushed to the altar, and there, just where he had taken his first drink on that awful Sunday, he threw himself in tears, a big, heart-broken boy, with the thought of his evil life throbbing through his brain.
It was late that night when Job left the camp ground, flung himself across Bess' back and started home. The stars never looked down on a happier boy. The burden, the hate, the bitterness in his heart, were all gone. A holy love, an exaltation of soul, an awakening of all that is best in a manly life, stirred him. The past was gone; "old things had passed away and all things had become new." The world was the same. Dan, with all his meanness, was in it. The saloon doors were open, the gamblers still sat at midnight at the Monte Carlo. Grizzly county had not changed, but he had. A new life was his.
As he galloped down the road, far away he heard them singing:
"Palms of victory, crowns of glory, I shall wear,"
and a strange feeling came over him. He took up the refrain, and, looking up at the stars, he seemed to see his mother's face afar off among the flashing worlds. The tears stole down his cheeks, tears of joy, as, galloping on through the night toward home, again he sang:
"Palms of victory, crowns of glory, I shall wear."
It was a little, long, low, unpainted shanty, with a rude doorstep, almost hid amid a jungle of vines and overarching trees at the end of a long lane, where Marshall Dean lived. A sallow-faced, thin Kentuckian, he had come up here from the plains after his sister married Andrew Malden, in the hope that being near a rich relative would save him from unnecessary labor. Andrew Malden had given him a good place at the mill, but he found it too hard on his muscles, and so decided to "ranch it." Malden had then given him the old Jones ranch and a start; but as the years drifted by he had not succeeded in raising much except a numerous family of dirty, unkempt youngsters of whom Dan was the oldest and the most promising specimen, the one who had inherited his father's pride and selfishness, with a certain natural shrewdness and sagacity that his mother's family possessed, but of which she had failed to receive much.
While Malden's wife lived, they managed to silently share in the income of Pine Tree Ranch, but after she died the smuggling business between the big place and Dean's Lane suddenly stopped. Nothing ever cut deeper—they could never forgive her for dying. At last they settled down to a stolid, long wait for the old man's end. The chief theme of conversation at home was the uncertainties of life for the "old miser," and the sure probability of their move some day on to the big ranch, though not one of them knew what they would do with it if they got it. Dan felt no hesitation about telling this at school, and it was common gossip of the county.
But alas! the night Dan came home and excitedly told the family, as they looked up from their rough board table and bacon and mush and molasses, that "the old man had taken Teale's kid in, sure he had," consternation seized them. It took them weeks to rally; and, when they did, for the first time in their history the family had an object in life, and that was to make life miserable for Job.
Unsuspecting and innocent, the twelve-year-old lad had gone over to play with the Dean children, as he would at any home, till the time when petty persecutions culminated in all the rude youngsters calling him vile names and throwing stones at him, and the father standing by and drawling out, "Give it to him, the ornery critter!"
Annoyance followed annoyance. Job's pets always got hurt or disappeared. Dick, his first pony, was accidentally lamed for life; the big dog he romped with was found dead from poison. All the mischief in the neighborhood was eventually laid at Job's door. For a long time the boy systematically avoided the Deans, till by some strange political fortune Marshall Dean was appointed postmaster for the Pine Mountain post-office. That was a gala day in Deans' Lane. Sally Dean had a brand-new dress on the strength of it, and Dan gave himself more airs than ever before. After that Job was obliged to go to the Deans' twice a week for the mail, and more than once went away with the suspicion that Andrew Malden's mail had been well inspected before it left the office.
The wrath of the Dean family reached its culmination on that Sunday night when Dan came home with the news that Job had attended the Coyote Valley camp-meeting and had been converted; "now he would be putting on holy airs and setting himself above folks." That night in Dean's shanty Sally and Dan and "Pap" put their heads together to plan how they could in some way make Job Malden backslide.
It was toward this house that Job was making his way, on the very next week, bound for the semi-weekly mail. As he went up the path old Dean himself rose to meet him; and, putting up his pipe, remarked on the "uncommon fine morning." As he pushed open the shanty door, Mrs. Dean and fifteen-year-old Sally were all smiles. The postman had brought no mail, the former said, but wouldn't he stay and rest? She had heard the Methodists were having a fandango down in the valley. Queer people, whose religion consisted in shouting and jumping. As for her, she believed in practical religion; she paid her honest debts and didn't set herself up above her neighbors.
Job was just leaving, when Mrs. Dean said:
"Oh, you mustn't go without drinking to Sally's health—she's fifteen to-day. See what a big girl she is—what rosy cheeks and big hands! Come, we have the finest cider out; just drink with us to Sally's health."
"Why, excuse me, ma'am," stammered Job, quite bewildered by this sudden good nature and the invitation to drink. "Why—I can't drink any more—I—"
"Oh, my!" said Mrs. Dean. "You're all straight! This won't be too much, if you have drank before this afternoon."
"Oh, but—" stammered Job, "I don't mean that. I don't drink any more—I have joined the Methodists and been converted."
"Such a likely boy as you gone and jined the fools! Surely Andy Malden don't know it, does he?"
"Why—no," stammered Job.
"Waal, now, purty feller you are, to take your bread and butter from Andy Malden, and then go and disgrace him by joinin' the hypocrites and never tellin' him, and then comin' round here and refusin' to drink harmless apple juice with our Sally! Puttin' yourself up above respectable people like us, whose parents lie in respectable graves."
Job faltered. That speech cut. The hot blood came to his brow. A week ago he would have lost his temper, but now he bit his lip and kept still.
Then the woman's mood changed. She wished him no ill luck, she said, and surely he would be good enough if he was as good as his Master, and she "'lowed that Christ drank wine at a wedding spread onct. Surely he wouldn't refuse a little cider with Sally?"
Perhaps it would be best. Perhaps he was trying to be too good. Aye, perhaps one drink would give him a good chance to escape. So Job thought, and he took the glass. But then came a vision of that bar at the horse-race, of that cider at Malden's mill, and the winter night and the snow, and his hand in his pocket touched the old temperance pledge he had signed again on Sunday night when he got home, and up from his heart went a silent cry for help. At that, he seemed to hear a voice saying, "With every temptation, a way of escape," and he said in a firm voice, as he sat down the glass:
"Best wishes for Sally, Mrs. Dean, but I cannot drink the cider."
Just then a shrill cry from outside sent both Sally and her mother flying to help rescue three-year-old Ross, whose father was hauling him out of the well.
In the excitement, Job started home with a light heart, singing to himself:
"Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin, Each victory will help you some other to win."
THE OLD MAN'S BIRTHDAY.
They were sitting together at Pine Tree Ranch, on the side porch of the neat little white farmhouse, over which the vines were trained and from which the well-kept lawn and flower-bordered walks rolled away to the white picket fence. It was a late August evening, which had merged from sunset into moonlight so softly and quietly that one hardly knew when the one began and the other ended. Job, in old coat and overalls and a broken straw hat, just as he had come in from his evening chores, sat on the veranda's edge. Back of him, in a low-bottomed, old cane rocker, was Andrew Malden in a rough suit of gray, his white beard reaching far down on his breast, while his silver locks were blowing in the breeze.
For once, at least, he was opening his heart and memory to the lad whom he secretly loved; the lad who often wondered why the latch string of Pine Tree Ranch was out for him, and what matter would it be if some day, when he and Bess went off over the Chichilla hills, they never came back again.
To-night the old man was talkative. It was his birthday and he was in retrospective mood. "Seventy to-night, Job—just to think of it! Twenty years more, perhaps, and then—well, a coffin, I suppose, and six feet of ground—and that's all," he said.
Job wanted to say, "And heaven," but he did not dare. And then a thought startled him: Was this man, who had gained this world, ready for any other?
For an hour Andrew Malden rambled on. He talked of the Mexican war; told of Vera Cruz and the battle of Monterey. "Bravest thing you ever saw, boy. One of those Greasers rode square up to our line and flung a taunt in our faces, and rode away in disdain, while all our batteries opened on him."
He came to the close of the war stories, when he suddenly stopped and grew silent, puffed at an old pipe, rose and walked back and forth. He was thinking of that day when he had come back so proudly to claim Mary Moore, and had found the blow under which he had staggered for nearly forty years.
"You've heard of Lincoln, my boy—old Abe Lincoln? Well, I knew him when we were boys," he said, as he sat down again. Then he told story after story of the long, lean, lank Kentucky boy, who rode a raft down the Mississippi and helped clear the frontier forests; the boy who was one day to strike a blow for right that would shake a continent.
Andrew Malden laughed till Job caught the contagion and laughed, too, as story followed story. Then, after another silence, he went on again:
"Dead! Abe Lincoln's dead, and Zach Taylor's dead—and so the world goes. 'Vanity of vanities, all is vanity,' the Bible says. My father used to read it to us boys, when I was your age. It's true, my boy. Have as little to do with the world as you can, except to get an honest living out of it—a living anyway. Don't love anybody. It don't pay."
The old man faltered. He got up and paced the porch again, then, coming back, he put his hand on the boy's shoulder, and, looking into his face, said:
"Job, I want to tell you something; seems as if I must to-night."
And there in the clear moonlight, interrupted only by Shot's occasional growl, and the distant hoot of an owl or bark of a coyote, Andrew Malden told his life story to the boy at his side, the boy who was just passing up to young manhood. He told of Mary Moore; of the weary tramp behind an ox-team across the prairies and Nevada desert; of that snow-bound winter near Denver Lake; of the early days of Gold City. He told of his son who slept beneath the graveyard pines; of his own lonely life in the mountains; then he came to that night when he had brought this boy home. He put his arm around the lad as he talked of his interest in him and how he had known more of his sins and downward life than Job ever dreamed.
"Now," he said, "they tell me you have joined the Methodists—have got religion or whatever you call it. Stick to it, boy. Andy Malden's too old to ever change his views. You may be right or not, but anyway I'd rather see you go to Methodist meetin' than Pete's saloon. You're going to have a hard time of it, boy; these pesky Deans, who owe all they are to me, hate you because you are mine. As long as you live with Andy Malden, you will have to suffer. Sometimes I think it ain't worth while—what do you care for an old man?"
Again the voice ceased, and Job trembled, he hardly knew why.
"Boy," up spoke the old man again, "boy, it isn't worth while! I will give you a bag of nuggets, and you can take Bess and go to-morrow down to the city and get some learnin' and be somethin', and be out of this everlastin' quarrelsome world of Grizzly county, and never see the Deans again. I will stand it; I lived alone before you came, and I suppose I can do it again. Only a few years and I will be gone; God knows where—if there is a God."
By this time Job was choked with emotion. All his nature was aroused. He fairly loved this strange old man. Looking up, he begged him not to send him away; stay he would, whatever it cost; and he would be as true a son to him as a strong young fellow could.
At that, the old man rose, went into the house, and came back with something that glittered in his hand.
"Take this, Job, put it in your hip-pocket, and the first time any one of the Deans, big or little, insults you, put a bullet through him."
Job shrank back at sight of the revolver.
"No! Oh, no! I can't take that! Down at the camp-meeting I promised God to love my enemies, uncle. I can't take that."
Then Job poured out his heart to Andrew Malden. He told of his conversion, of his trust in God, and that he was no longer afraid of the Deans or of anything.
"Humph! humph!", said the old man. "Well, I won't argue with you, boy; but as for me, I'd rather trust my hip-pocket when I have to deal with the people of Grizzly county. Do as you please. But I'll keep this revolver, and death to the man that harms a hair of Job Malden, the only one in all the world that Andy Malden loves."
The old man's voice trembled, and he walked into the house and shut the door; and Job knew the talk was over for that night.
Whistling to Shot, he and the dog stole upstairs to Job's little bare room, where a few wood-cuts hung on the wall, and a long, narrow bedstead, a chair, and a box that served for table, were the only furniture. He took the little Testament from under his pillow and lovingly kissed it; then turning, he read for his good-night lesson from his new-found divine Friend: "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."
Kneeling a moment for a good-night prayer, he was soon in bed and asleep, with Shot curled up on the covers at his feet, while through the open window the sound of a guitar came where one of the mill hands was playing the tune of
"Hush, my child, lie still and slumber, Holy angels guard thy bed."
OFF TO THE BIG TREES.
The radical change that had come into Job's life cut him off from the companions of other days and left him without a chum. It showed the manliness of his nature that as he started out in the new life, seeing quickly that he must part company with the old companions who had nearly wrecked his life, he acted on the conviction at once.
Perhaps it was this, perhaps the fact that his life was now almost altogether on the ranch, that made Job and Bess boon companions. Many a mountain trip they took together. It was on one of these that they went to the Big Trees. That bright September morning, gayly attired with new sombrero and red bandanna above his white outing-shirt, astride Bess, Job rode slowly up the Chichilla mountain on his way to visit those giant trees. Up by "Doc" Trainer's place, over the smooth, hard county turnpike, where the toll-road, ever winding round and round the mountain-side, climbs on through the passes of the live-oak belt to the scraggly pines of the low hills, on to the endless giant forests of the cloud-kissed summits, the young horseman made his way. Now and then the road descended to a little ravine, where a mountain torrent had torn a path to the deep canyons below: again it stretched through a dim, royal archway of green where the great trees linked branches as over a king's pathway; and then it turned a bend where the steep sides sank so suddenly that even the trees had no foothold and the bare space disclosed a view over boundless forests of dark green, and the vast, yawning canyons and distant rolling hills, to where, far-off, like some dream of the past, one caught glimpses of the endless plains covered with the autumn haze and golden in the morning sunlight.
The grandeur of the scenery, the roar of the brook in deep canyons below, whose echo he caught from afar, the exhilarating ride, the fresh morning breeze, combined with the spiritual experiences of his nature, which were daily deepening, to rouse all the poetry in Job's soul, of which he had more than the average rough country lad who rode over those eternal hills. He shouted, he whistled patriotic airs and snatches of the popular songs he heard on the Gold City streets; then the old songs of church and the heart-life came to him, and he sang them, while he laid his head over on Bess' neck as she silently climbed ever higher and higher.
Suddenly Bess gave a start that nearly threw him, as the delicate form of a deer rose behind a fallen tree. For an instant the beautiful animal stood looking with great soft eyes in a bewildered stare at the cause of his sudden awakening, then plunged his horns into the bushes and leaped away down the mountain-side.
Job quickly reached for his rifle, only to discover what he well knew—that it was far away at home; of which he was glad as he thought of those tender, pleading eyes, and a great love for the harmless creature, the forests, the mountains and all the world welled up in his soul. "My!" he said, "I'd like to hug that deer! I'd like to hug everything, everybody! I used to hate them; I would even hug Dan. Bess, dear old girl, I'll just love you!" and he flung his arms around her neck and hummed away as they passed up the hill.
Soon a turn in the road brought them to the summit, where for a moment the trees part and one catches glimpses of the long winding road over which one has come, and the ever-rolling forests beyond, climbing far up to a still higher ridge that reaches toward the Yosemite and the high Sierras. The view thrilled Job. The psalm he had learned for last Sunday came to him. He repeated it solemnly with cap off, as he sat still on Bess' back: "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help; my help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth."
Only a moment be paused, and then started on a gallop down the hill. The ring of Bess' feet on the hard road scared the shy gray squirrels, which ran chattering up the tall pines, leaving their feast of nuts on the ground beneath.
A few minutes later and all the solemnity of his soul and the beauty of the forests was sadly interrupted as he rode round a curve and came out at the junction of the Signal Point and the Yosemite toll-road.
There stood, or lay rather, half on its side, a rickety, old two-seated structure shaded by white canvas supported by four rough-hewn posts. It leaned far to the side on one wheel and a splintered hub. Down the hill a broken wheel was bounding; while, on the dusty road, four women—one tall and angular in a yellow duster, one little and weazened, arrayed in a prim gray traveling suit, a weeping maiden of uncertain age, and a portly dame of ponderous proportions, dressed not in a duster but a very dusty black silk—were pulling themselves up. Near by three little tots were howling vigorously, yet making no impression on the poor, lone, lank white mare which stood stock still in the shafts, with a contented air that showed an immense satisfaction in the privilege of one good stop.
"Mary Jane, this is awful! Every bone in me is cracked and this silk dress is ruined—yes, is ruined! I tell yer it ain't fit for Mirandy's little gal's doll! And my! I know my heart is broken, too; I can hear it rattle! I'll never come with you and that horrid runaway horse again!"
The poor horse flapped her ears as if in appreciation of this last remark, while Mary Jane, rising up like a yellow-draped beanpole, retorted in a shrill voice:
"Aunt Eliza, ain't you ashamed to be deriding me, a poor lone widder with three helpless children! I hope ye are cracked—cracked bad! Horse, humph! I guess my horse is the likeliest in Grizzly county! Yer know yer made all the trouble; any decent wheel would give way when it had a square mile of bones and stuffin's and silk above it!"
"Now, sister Mary and Aunt Eliza," spoke up, in a thin, metallic voice, that of the diminutive dame in gray, as she adjusted her bonnet strings, "let us not grow unduly aggravated at the disconcerting providence which has overwhelmed us in the journey of life. There are compensating circumstances which should alleviate our sorrow. Our lives are spared, and the immeasurable forests are undisturbed by the trifling event which has overtaken us poor, insignificant creatures, whose—"
"Insignificant!" roared Aunt Eliza, "I guess I ain't insignificant! I own twenty town lots down in Almedy, as purty as yer ever saw. Insignificant! I—the mother of ten children and goodness knows how many grandchildren! And as for them trees that yer say yer can't measure, I'd rather see the clothes-poles in Sally's back yard!"
"Yes," chimed in Mary Jane, "and 'trifles' yer call it, for a poor woman that raises spuds and washes clothes for the men at the mines for a livin', to lose her fine coach Pete built the very year he took sick of the heart-failure and died, and left me a lone widder in a cold and friendless world!" At which she wiped her eyes with the yellow duster.
"'Trifles'!" cried Aunt Eliza again. "'Trifles,' for us poor guileless wimmen to be left here alone in the wilderness, twenty mile from a livin' creature, and nobody knows what wild animals and awful men may come along any minute!"
For a moment Job halted Bess and watched the scene. An almost uncontrollable desire to laugh possessed him; but, restraining himself, he took the first chance he had to make his presence known, at which Aunt Eliza groaned, "Oh, my!" and Mary Jane instinctively grasped her yelling children, and the prim spinster curtsied and asked if he used tobacco. At Job's surprised look and negative reply, she said, "Very well. I never employ a male being who permeates his environment with the noxious weed. As you do not, I will offer you proper remuneration if you will assist us in this unforeseen calamity."
Assuring her that he would, without pay, do all he could, Job went to work. It was well on in the day ere, by his repeated errands down to the big hotel barn some distance below, he had procured enough material to get the rickety old structure in order and help Aunt Eliza back up its high side to the seat she had left so unceremoniously that morning. The last he heard, as the white horse slowly pulled out of sight through the forest, was Aunt Eliza's, "Go slow, Mary Jane, for mercy's sake! Don't let her run away!" while the prim spinster shouted back in a high key, "Good-by, young man! You're a great credit to your sex;" and Mary Jane, pounding the poor mare vigorously, yelled, "G'lang! Get up! We'll never get home!"
* * * * *
It was nearer sunset than it should have been when Job reached the sign-board far up the toll-road that read, "To the Big Trees." Putting spurs to Bess, he galloped on at a rapid pace for a mile or more, when he became conscious that the sugar pines and cedars were giving place to strange trees which had loomed up before him so gradually that he was not aware the far-famed Sequoias, the giants of the forest, were all about him.
A dim, strange light filled the place. The twilight was coming fast in that far, lonely spot shaded by the close ranks of the Titanic forms. He walked Bess slowly down the shadowy corridor along the line of those straight giants, whose tapering spires seemed lost in heaven's blue.
How long it took to pass a tree! Bess and he were but toys beside them, yet he could scarcely realize their vastness till he slid off her back, and, throwing the rein over her neck, started around one, and lost Bess from view as he turned the corner and walked a full hundred feet before he had encircled the monster. How ponderous the bark, how strangely small the cones!
Mounting Bess, he rode down through the vast aisle of these monarchs of the mountains. A feeling of awe came over him. The world of Gold City and strife and jealousy and struggle, the realm of Mary Jane and Aunt Eliza, the world of petty humanity, seemed far away. He was alone with God and the eternities. Silent he stood, with bared head, and looked along the monster trunks that stretched far up, up, up, towards where the soft blue of evening twilight seemed to rest on them for support. He found himself praying—he could not help it. It was the litany of his soul rising with Nature's silent prayer: "Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name." All through he said it, to the reverent "Amen," then, putting on his hat, rode on toward the farther grove.
On he went past "Grizzly Giant," standing lone and bare, its foliage gone, its old age come—"Grizzly Giant," which was old before Christ was born; on by vigorous saplings, already rivals of the biggest pines. One time-worn veteran had succumbed to some Titanic stroke of Nature's power and lay prostrate on the ground. Decay and many generations of little denizens of the forest had hollowed its great trunk like some vast tunnel. Job, looking in, could see the light in the distance.
It was big enough for Bess and him—he was sure it was; he would try it. So, whispering lovingly to the horse, he rode into the gaping monster, rode through the dark heart of the old giant, clear to the other end and on into daylight. Enthused by his achievement, Job hurried on down the road and around the great curve, to see looming up before him "Wawona," far-famed Wawona, the portal of the silent cathedral through whose wide-spreading base and under whose towering form a coach and six can drive.
The sun was down, the shadows were fast gathering, the great trees were retreating one by one in the gloom, when Job found the little one-roomed log cabin with open door where he had planned to spend the night. Unsaddling Bess and giving her the bag of grain on the back of the saddle, hurriedly eating a lunch, and gathering some sticks for a fire in the old stone fireplace in case he needed one, throwing a drink into his mouth, Indian style, from the spring just back of the cabin, he prepared for the night. A little later, tying Bess securely to the nearest sapling, he closed the cabin door behind him, rolled down the old blankets he found there, and lay down to sleep.
How dark it was! How still the world! A feeling of intense loneliness stole over Job, and then a sense of God's nearness soothed him and he fell asleep.
It must have been after midnight when he awoke with a start, a feeling of something dreadful filling him. He listened. All was still save for Bess' occasional pawing near by. Then he heard a sound that set the blood curdling in his veins, that sent his hair up straight, and made his heart beat like an engine—from far off in the mountains came a weird, heart-breaking cry as of a lost child.
Job knew it well. It was the call of a mountain lion. Again it came, but nearer on the other side. It was voice answering voice. Bess snorted, pawed, and seemed crazed. What should he do? He trembled, hesitated; then, breathing a prayer, he hurriedly opened the cabin door, cut Bess' rope, led her in through the low portal, barred the door behind, and, soothing her with low whispers of tenderness, tied her to the further wall of the cabin, and crept back into bed. Then he lay and waited breathlessly for another cry, and thought all was well, till in a distant moan, far down the road, he heard it again.
For a moment fear almost overpowered him; then the old Psalm whispered, "He that keepeth thee will not slumber nor sleep." A sweet consciousness of the absolute safety of God's children stole over the youth; and catching, from a rift in the roof, one glimpse of the stars struggling through the tree tops, he turned over and fell asleep as peacefully as if in his bed at home.
It was Christmas Sunday when Job was received into full membership in the quaint old Gold City Methodist church. Snow was on the ground, and sleigh bells rang through the air. All day long the streets had been reverberating with that essential of a California Christmas, the fire-cracker. As the preacher came over from Hartsville, the service was in the evening.
The old building looked really fine in its new dress of holly berries, mistletoe and cedar. Across the front was hung in big red and white letters, "Unto us a Child is Born." Over the organ was suspended a large gilt star.
The place was crowded that night. The double fact that it was Christmas, and that the camp-meeting converts would be baptized, brought everybody out.
"Joy to the world, the Lord is come!"
sang the choir as Job, dressed in a neat new suit of gray and "store" shirt, entered the church, making a way for Andy Malden, who, for the first time in untold years, had crossed the threshold of the meeting-house. The arrival, a few minutes before, of Slim Jim the gambler, who hung around the Monte Carlo, and Col. Dick, its proprietor, had not attracted so much attention as the entrance of "Jedge Malden," as the politicians called him who sought his political influence.
The preacher, as he looked down on that audience, was amazed. He had seen no such scene in this old church since, with faint heart, he had first stood in its plain pulpit as pastor. The walls were lined with all the representative characters of the town, good and bad, rich and poor; merchants, bar-keepers, politicians and miners. In the center the old-time church-goers sat. Up the front, filling every inch of space, the starched and well-washed youngsters wriggled and grinned and sang without fear, as hymn after hymn was announced.
All soon caught the spirit of the hour, and a general feeling of good-nature settled down on all. In fact, the place fairly trembled with good-will, as a class of boys marched to the platform and sang:
"The Christmas bells are ringing over land and sea, The winter winds are bringing their merry notes to me,"
and the wee tots involuntarily turned to the rear as they ended with almost a yell:
"Then shout, boys, shout! Shout with all your might; For Merry Christmas's at the door, He's coming here to-night!"
On the programme went—recitations, songs, choruses, following close after one another. A fairy-like girl, with all childhood's innocence, told anew the old story of Bethlehem and the Christ Child. The tears stole down some rough cheeks as the memories of long-gone childhood's Christmas days came back to them.
The wee tots had sung their last hymn, when the preacher began his sermon on the angel's song that echoes still each Christmas over all the world: "Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, good-will toward men." For twenty minutes he talked of glory, peace, good-will—those things so sadly lacking in many lives before him; talked till each face grew solemn, and Slim Jim looked as if he was far away in some distant memory-world. Andy Malden seemed to hear Peter Cartright, as he had heard him in his father's cabin when a boy, and remembered for the first time in years the night he had promised the eccentric old preacher he would be a Christian—a promise that had been drowned by the drum-beat of the old war days and the disappointment of a lifetime.
As the preacher finished, every man and woman there made a silent resolution to be better-natured and pay their debts and make life a little brighter for somebody. But, alas! resolutions are easily broken.
"The candidates for baptism will please come forward," said the parson.
Up they rose, old and young; Tim Dennis, the cobbler; aged Grandpa Lewis; a score of both sexes. Around the altar they stood, a long semicircle; and, as it so happened, Jane at one end, and Job, with serious, manly air, at the other.
Question after question of the ritual was asked. Clear and strong came the answers. "Wilt thou renounce the devil and all his works?" Jane nodded yes—how little she knew of the devil! Job answered loudly, "I will"—how much he did know! "The vain pomp and glory of the world?" continued the minister; and old Mrs. Smith, who lived alone in the hollow back of the church and had had such a struggle of soul to give up the flowers on her hat that she fancied were too worldly, responded, "Yes," with a groan. "Wilt thou be baptized in this faith?" asked the preacher at last. A unanimous chorus answered, "I will," and, taking the bowl in his hand, he passed down the line of the now kneeling forms and administered the sacred ordinance. Job was last. Leaning over, the parson asked his name, then there rang out through the church, as the eager throng leaned forward to hear and Andrew Malden poked the floor with his cane, "Job Teale Malden, I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."
The service was over. The crowds were pouring out the door, the organist was playing "Marching Through Georgia" on the wheezy organ as the liveliest thing she knew, the people were wishing each other "Merry Christmas," as Job, hurrying out of the church, felt a touch on his shoulder, and, looking up, saw Slim Jim the gambler.
"Job, come out here. I have something to tell you," said he.
Pushing through the throng, they crept around the church in the dark, when Jim, putting his hand on the youth's shoulder, said:
"Job, I remember the night you came to Gold City, what a poor, homeless lad you were! I remember the day you won the horse-race and I said, 'The devil's got the kid now sure.' And now I am so glad, Job, that you've gone and done the square thing. I helped bury your father, and I tell you he was a fine fellow—a gentleman, if he had only let the drink and cards alone. Oh, Job, never touch them! You think it's strange, perhaps, but I was good once, far off in old Pennsylvania. I was a mother's boy, and went to church, and—Job, would you believe it?—I was going to be a preacher!—I, poor Slim Jim that nobody cares for, now. But I wanted to get rich, and I came to Gold City. I learned to play cards, and—well, here I am. No help for me—Slim Jim's lost this world and his soul, too. But you're on the right track, and, if when you die and go up there where those things shine,"—and he pointed through the pines to the starlit sky—"you meet a little, sweet old lady with white hair and a gray dress knitting a pair of socks, tell her that her Jamie never forgot her and would give the best hand he ever had to feel her kiss once more and hear her say good-night. Tell her—listen, boy!—tell her it was the cards that ruined Jamie, but he's her Jamie still." And with tears on his face and in his voice, the tall, pale wreck of manhood hurried off in the darkness, leaving Job alone in the gloom.
It was late that night when Job said his prayer by his bed at home, but he made it long enough to put in one plea for Slim Jim.
THE COVE MINE.
It is six miles from Pine Tree Ranch to the Cove Mine. You go over Lookout Point, from where El Capitan and the outline of the Yosemite can be easily seen on a clear day, down along the winding upper ridge of the Gulch, up again over the divide near Deer Spring and down along the zigzag trail on the steep side of Big Bear Mountain, then down to the very waters of the south fork of the Merced; just six miles to where, in the depth of the canyon, lies Wright's Cove Mine. In all the far-famed Sierras there can be no more picturesque spot. If one will take the trouble to climb the almost perpendicular ridge that rises two thousand feet behind the old tumble-down buildings, long, low cook-houses and superintendent's vine-covered cottage, along that narrow, half-destroyed trail that follows the rusty tracks and cogs and cable of an old railroad, up to the first and then on further to the second tunnel, where a few deserted ore-cars stand waiting the trains that never come, on still higher to the narrow ridge that separates the south fork from the north fork of the Merced River, he is rewarded with a view worth a long trip to see.
Let him stand there at sunset in the early spring and he has seen a view worthy of the land of the Jung Frau and Mt. Blanc. All around, the white-topped peaks of the high Sierras; far away, the snow banner waving over the Yosemite; to the left of him, far below, like a river of gold, sending up hither a faint murmur as it rushes over giant boulders and innumerable cataracts, the North Fork, hurrying from that ice-bound gorge which is the wonder of the Sierras; to the right, on the other side, dancing down from the far-off Big Trees, threading the tangled jungles of the Gulch, coming out through the dark green forest like a rim of molten silver, roaring down past the quaint little mining settlement, which looks half hid in partly-melted snow banks like some Swiss village, comes the south fork of the river, disappearing behind the mountain on which one stands.
The rushing stream, whose music is like some far-off echo; the strange deserted village; the narrow line of dark rails up the mountain-side through the snow; the gloomy, cavernous tunnels; the setting sun in the west gilding all with its transfiguring touch—these give a scene worthy the brush of a master-artist, who has never yet found his way over the Pine Mountain trail to the South Fork and Wright's Cove Mine.
It was just such a day in spring as this, as Job came whistling down the trail, gun in hand, looking for deer-tracks, that he thought he heard the report of a gun up in the second tunnel. He had often been there before; had climbed the trail and the cog railroad, played around and over the deserted buildings, and gone swimming off the iron bridge where the torrent was deepest. Once he and Dolph Swartz, a neighbor boy, had slept all night in the tool-house shed, waiting for game, and had seen only what Dolph was sure was a ghost—so sure that he hurried Job home at daybreak with a vow that he would never stay at Wright's Cove another night.
Job knew the place well, yet on this spring day he stopped and looked mystified. There it was again! Who could be in the second tunnel with a gun? Was it the spirit of some poor forty-niner come back again? He doubled his speed, slid down through the mud and slush, grasped a sapling and leaped down the short cut, ran up the bank and rocky sides of the roaring torrent, walked carefully over the slippery iron rails of the old rusty bridge, and made his way up the steep Tunnel Trail.
Soon he was close to the tunnel, so far up that the river's noise was lost behind him. He stopped and listened. Not a sound. Then clean and strong the ring of a gun, and a dull echo in the dim cavern!
All kinds of thoughts rushed through Job's head. He was not a superstitious boy, yet this was enough to make anybody feel queer—all alone in that deserted wilderness, with the echo of a gun coming out of the lonely mine, unworked for years and into which no human footstep had penetrated since the day that old Wright shot himself in the tunnel when he found that the mine which had paid big at first and into which he had put all his income, was a failure. Job had heard the boys tell that Indian Bill, the trapper, said he had seen the old fellow's skeleton marching up and down with gun in hand, two hundred feet down the tunnel, defending it against all intruders. Perhaps that was the ghost now! Would he dare to go? His flesh crept at the thought. He wished Shot was with him, or at least some living thing. Again he heard the report. His courage rose. He would face the thing, whatever it was.
Creeping up slowly and noiselessly, he reached the entrance to the tunnel and looked in. All was as dark as the grave. A cold draft rushed out over him. He could hear the drip, drip, of water from the roof. At first he thought he saw something moving in the distance, then he was not sure. He decided he would turn back; then curiosity was too much for him; he began to whistle and walked boldly into the darkness, followed the rotten ties, when, lo! he saw a flash of light, heard a thundering report, and, involuntarily giving a yell, started to run, when a familiar voice shouted:
"Job, Job, come here!"
He turned, and there loomed up before him, to his utter amazement, the form of Andrew Malden.
The old man was evidently disconcerted and angry at being found, while the boy was utterly dumfounded.
"Wait a minute, Job; I'll go home with you," said Malden, as he took out the queerest charge Job had ever seen in a gun—a load of gold dust, which he carefully rammed down the barrel, then, bidding Job look out, fired into the rock.
"Why, what are you doing that for?" stammered the boy.
"Oh, salting the mine, just so it will keep," laughed Andrew Malden—a strange, hoarse laugh. "But mind, Job, nobody needs to know I did it. The mine will keep better if they don't."
As they passed out, Job noticed that the wall of the mine glittered in a way he had never seen before. What did it all mean? He dared ask no more questions of Andrew Malden. Almost in silence they climbed down the old trail, edged across the bridge, and strode with a steady pace up the long six miles over the Point to their home.
"What's 'salting a mine,' Tony?" asked Job of the black hostler one day a week after.
"Doan' know, Marse Job, unless it's doctoring the critter so you can make somebody believe it's worth a million, when it ain't worth a rabbit's hind foot. Tony's up to better bizness than salting mines."
"Who owns the Cove Mine, Tony?"
"Why, Marse Malden, I 'spec," said the surprised negro.
That evening Job looked at his guardian with a queer feeling as they sat down to supper, and that night he heard gun-shots in his dreams, and awoke with a shiver and waited for something to happen. He was conscious of impending trouble. Something was wrong.
* * * * *
It had been a hard winter in Grizzly county, and throughout the whole country, for that matter; a hard winter, following a fatal summer which closed with crops a failure on the plains, the stunted grain fields uncut, and the whole country paralyzed. The cities were full of men out of work. The demand for lumber had fallen off, and the Pine Mountain Mill was idle over half the time. The pessimism that filled the air had reached Andrew Malden, and he sat by the fire all winter nursing it. If he could sell the Cove Mine—but what was there to sell? And he gave it up as a futile project. Then there came news of a rich strike of gold in Shasta county, and a little later in the far south the deserts of the Mojave were found to glitter. A perfect epidemic of mining excitement followed. The most unthought-of places, the old deserted mines, were found to be bonanzas. Andy caught the fever. He tramped all over the Pine Tree Ranch prospecting, but gave up in despair. Then he thought once more of the Cove Mine. He made many a secret trip there. Then he ordered a box of gold dust from the Yellow Jacket and stole down to the Cove again and again, till discovered by Job.
In all those years of living for himself and to himself, Andrew Malden had tried to be square with the world. Business was business with him. He made no concessions to any man; pity and altruism were not in his vocabulary. Unconsciously to himself, he had grown to be a very hard man, and the heart within him found it difficult to make itself felt through the calloused surface of his life. But with it all Andrew Malden had been honest. His word was as good as his bond in all Grizzly county. No man questioned his statements. Everyone got a hundred cents on the dollar when Andrew Malden paid his debts.
But no man knew that in those days of the hard spring the gray-haired pioneer was passing through one of the greatest temptations of his life. Men were buying up mines all about him, just at a glance; mines fully as worthless as the Cove Mine. Anyhow, who knew the Cove Mine was worthless? It had had a marvelous record in early days. A little capital spent might bring immense reward. The old man sat, again and again, alone on the front porch and turned it over in his mind. Then he would creep off down to the mine, and feel his way in the dark tunnel, looking for a new lead. He looked at the places he had salted, until he almost brought himself to believe them genuine. Nobody would know the difference, he argued. Job did not know what he was doing when he found him. He would take the risk; he might lose the ranch itself if he did not. And, coming home with the first stain of dishonesty on his soul, Andrew Malden astonished Job by ordering him to have Jack and Dave hitched up at three in the morning; he was going to drive to the plains and the railroad station, then take a train to the city, and would be back in a few days.