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and they sent out one of their men to look the thing over. He was satisfied, and they put up fifty thousand to enable us to go on with the work and hold the right, while they placed the rest of the money.
"Now you'll notice how Dunsmuir's training got away with him. Here, with no demand as yet for water, he used the same care in laying out his system as in India, in a thickly settled country on a tail division, where every inch of duty was required. Well, there never were such surveys made in this part of the country as Dunsmuir's-longitudinal sections, and cross-sections, and elaborate detailed maps; and everything costing, you know, like the deuce. He put two hundred men on that heavy sidehill work in the cañon, and lined his earthbanks with masonry. Dunsmuir's cry was always that no work is so expensive as cheap work which has to be done over. I could n't gainsay him on technical grounds; what I did urge was this: put your men below, on the easy part of the line, and you can show our people, when they come out here, ten miles of ditch that will have cost no more than half a mile up there in the cañon. Dunsmuir called this "jockeying the scheme." The entire ditch below the cañon could be built, he said, in less time than those first three miles and the headworks. Why, then, should he push forward the lower work merely to let it stand waiting to its detriment? I had nothing to do but to bring forward my usual doctrine of expediency, which Dunsmuir scorned, both as a man and an engineer.
"It turned out precisely as I expected. Our people were to have come in June, when the country is at its best; they did n't get here till September, when it looks its worst-dust on the plains six inches deep; smoke from fires in the mountains, cutting off the view; hot; and the river sunk to a creek. The miners said they had n't seen it so low for twenty years. Our people doubted that we had even the water we claimed to have. They doubted everything but Dunsmuir's figures, showing what the cañon work was costing. They would n't listen to his averages; it was the big figures that stuck. They proposed to cut down the canal to half Its size, covering a portion of the lands first. Later, if the water held out and the settlement demanded it, the canal could be enlarged. Well, you can't imagine Dunsmuir's disgust. We had a battle royal-Dunsmuir's note-books, his Indian experience, his historical precedents, all his professional artillery, and his personal enthusiasm against their cold, hard, business sense. They were scared, it's true; but I did n't wonder they were scared. And Dunsmuir would n't go a step to meet them. He had taken offense at their criticism of his economy.
Did you ever see a magnificent handler of money who did n't think himself a great economist? He was suspicious, moreover, of their plan of opening the lands for settlement. They talked more about that part of the business than was advisable to Dunsmuir, at least. They were square men enough, but Dunsmuir thought they meant to squeeze the settlers. Privately he did n't wish to give them control of the scheme. He told me as much, and urged me to let them go, with what stock their money represented. I knew we could n't afford to play with our chances, and I wanted to unload and be ready for the next thing.
"But you must know I had an anchor to windward. While we were waiting, seeing how Dunsmuir was carrying on with the funds, I privately got possession of a little bundle of water-rights down the river; all put together, they represent our present system. I did n't inform Dunsmuir what I was doing; he would have considered it a sort of potential bad faith, and I did n't wish to take issue with him on any new grounds. We had plenty to discuss as it was. When I saw our big deal growing cold, I showed the Larimers this little pocketscheme; no rock-work, no masonry, line of ditch directly upon the lands. They liked it. We closed the bargain, and then I offered to go halves with Dunsmuir. Lord, how he did kick! I had been forelaying for the event of failure, he said. I had betrayed our mutual interest for a private deal of my own. He made nothing of my offer to go snacks. A vain show, he called it, offering him a share in a rotten scheme which I well knew his reputation would n't allow him to touch. He called it rotten because we were proposing to raise money on contracts for water which, he said, we could n't supply. Why could n't we? Because we had n't the first elements of a ditch; to begin with, we had no site for our headworks. Very true; but we have made shift to get along without one. He argued that our failure would be a blow to irrigation in this section for years to come. Very true—if we had failed. He could n't understand that one scheme was no more to me than another. To hear him talk of how I had weakened, you 'd have supposed there was some principle at stake. What the big scheme really meant to him, I 'm not sure that I know. Anyhow, he would n't look at any substitute. He might have gone in with us; he preferred to hold out alone against us. Since then I have treated him as I would any other obstacle to my company's success.
"He built him a house up on his location, as solid as the hill it stands on. I have come to stay, was the idea. He brought his family over, and he raised money on the other side to
buy out our interest. I advised our people not to sell, to keep their hold on his scheme. Ultimately, I knew we could freeze him out. Our game has been to let him make his deal, and then quietly come in at the last and be the card too many. The tendency has n't been to increase Dunsmuir's friendship for us."
"How was it, sir, that with your interest in the big canal you did n't wish it to go through?" Philip inquired.
"Our interest was a small one, though with an option of increasing it on certain terms. We should not have had the controlling voice in the management; it might have gone against us, conflicting with our own ditch. We wanted the thing to hang in the wind till we were ready to take hold of it ourselves, as we now propose to do, and make the two ditches into one system under our own management. Then we shall abandon our shifty head-gates, and build on Dunsmuir's location, and supply the lower line from the upper one. If Dunsmuir could be approached like any other man, on a business basis, it would be easy enough to compromise; it 's as much to his interest as to ours; but he's terribly complicated. We've got to satisfy his science, and his principles, and his pride, and his romantic sentiments, and the bitterness of fifteen years' steady disappointment. It has been hard for him to look on and see us succeed by the very methods he despises. Probably the hardest thing for him to forgive us is the plain truth that we are not so black as he has painted us."
"Possibly that truth is not yet obvious to him."
"Possibly not. In that case it must be painful to him to reflect upon the ways of Providence." The two men smoked awhile in silence. "My definition of a theorist," Mr. Norrisson resumed, "is a person who is never satisfied with his own work, nor with anybody else's, not even the works of the Creator. Meet them where you will, they are always obstructionists, injuring other people's chances, coquetting with their own, but terribly sore-headed if they find they 've been left out in the cold. In politics they are Mugwumps; in religion they are nodevil Unitarians; and if they read novels, they only read 'em for the truth to life.' No, sir; I've no use for a theorist - not if he 's a man. Women are born that way sometimes, and can't help themselves."
Mr. Norrisson was in very good spirits. He felt that he had told his story tolerably well and with fairness to the other side, and he was confident that he had carried his son with him. He gave Philip credit for being, as he would have expressed it, "a boy of sense." Philip was certainly impressed. He sat thinking the story over, and was not prepared for
the change of subject when his father spoke again. "Do o you think your mother will come home, Philip? What does she say about it?" "From what she says, I should hardly expect it; but it is n't always safe, you know, to take a woman at her word."
"No," Mr. Norrisson coincided grimly; "I took one at her word some five and twenty years ago, and it was the greatest wrong, it seems, that I could have done her. "No," he corrected himself, after a moment; "I took a child's word for a woman's, thinking I could win the woman afterward. And that 's why I forgive her. I took the risks. She did n't know what the risks were. It was n't a square game; but I 've paid the shot, and I've never complained - more than I'm complaining now; and I don't say, if it was all to do over again, I should n't take the chances, just the same. What is all the rest of it worth if you can't marry the woman you want? And if you can't make her happy, who knows whether any other man could? Have you always made her happy, Philip? She loves you."
"I am not making her happy now." "No; but she blames me for it. All her talk about America, you know, means me. If I were in Europe, she would come home."
"I don't think so," said Philip, earnestly; "but of course I don't know. Her very bitterness seems to me to be a sign there is feeling left. I had not thought of it before, but now it comes to me that she talks about - America as if she were fighting some half-stifled plea for the country she says she deplores."
Both men smiled at the word.
"Well," said Mr. Norrisson," when she does come back I shall expect to see her out here. She deplores' the West, but she was born a Western woman, and she does n't love the East now, you know!"
THE CHILDREN OF THE SCHEME.
BEFORE they separated for the night, Mr. Norrisson planned with Philip a reconnaissance up the line of the " old ditch" to look at Dunsmuir's location. The next day the manager was called away, and it turned out that Philip rode up the ditch-line into Dunsmuir's domains alone. He was told that about three miles above the mouth of the cañon, where it debouches upon the plain, he would come to the "big cut," a spot often chosen by excursionists as a camping-ground. Was the cañon, then, a place much frequented? Philip inquired. At certain seasons, yes; when the young folks went on picnics and riding-parties. Tourists generally took a look at it on account of the lava bluffs
that rose, in some places, two hundred feet above the river, to the level of the hill pastures.
"But don't you go foolin' round the house. The old man don't take no stock in strangers up there on his location, you bet!"
Bearing this in mind, Philip entered the cañon. The bridle-path hugged the shore, winding in and out amidst dusty sage- and willowthickets, and boulders fallen from the bluffs. The first sign of Dunsmuir's occupation was the cabin of the "force," where a purblind mongrel collie barked at him, without crawling from the house-shadow where he lay. Half a mile farther on he passed the force itself-two men at work blasting rock on the slope of ancient debris escarped against the bluffs. The sun, declining in a cloudless sky, hung midway between these barriers, heating their vitreous surfaces to the temperature of a brick-kiln. The breeze that faintly puffed and died could be tracked on its way down the trail by the dustpillars whirling before it. It smote Philip in the face, and left him with the sensation of having been exposed to a sand-blast. Across his sight the heat-veins quivered; the river's monotonous ululation drowned the silence-a sound of mocking coolness to a horseman on the blinding trail. Philip saw ahead of him a black notch of shadow, and spurred forward to the shelter of the "big cut."
It was a noble, unroofed gallery, sixty feet across the top and forty feet upon the ground, with floor and slope-walls of cut stone laid in cement; bending in a mathematical curve around the hill, and so averted from the sun. It might have been the hall of approach to a tomb of prehistoric kings. But here the perennial picnicker had made himself at home; broken bottles, tin cans, greasy paper bags desecrated the pavement laid for the tread of waters which fate and that instrument of fate, Mr. Price Norrsson, had conducted another way.
Philip gave himself up to a moment of frank sentimentality over this good work come to naught. Like the work of many another theorist, it had been in advance of its time. He sat still, breathing his horse, loath to quit the shadow for the glare. More than once he heard the call of a bird, the only voice in the cañon, before its peculiar, indeterminate, yet persistent rhythm took hold upon his ear. It was not the "perfect cadence"; it would have been difficult to repeat upon any instrument the first note of the combination, still more the doubtful fragment which followed, dropping down the scale and ceasing suddenly, the final note wanting. While he waited came the pure, sad postulate again, unsupported in the sequel; and then the haunting pause. Philip listened, fairly thirsting for the sound so delicious in the hot silence. Where was it, the poet-bird? No
thing stirred in the dead air of the cut; there was not a leaf nor a spear of grass to record that a breath of wind had wandered into it: but the broken utterance came again and again, as if aware of a listener and trying to make itself understood, always with the one word wanting. Nothing came of this lyric pause: Philip rode on reluctantly, and his horse's tread silenced the bird.
By the distance he had come from the mouth of the cañon he judged the house itself could not be far away; and as the walls of the cut fell back he saw it straight before him, the only house for miles-as distinct in that absolute light as the picture in the small lens of a telescope, yet unreal and dreamlike in its dwarfed proportions because of that very perfection of detail. A long, yellow house of adobe, or plastered brick, with low dormers scarcely breaking the line of the roof, peering out like saurian eyes into the glare. The roof, sloping outward at a slight angle, rested on the squat pillars of a massive portico, which shaded the entrance to the house. A side entrance for carriages was through a blind wall, running back like the wall of a court; and beneath the arch of the gateway hung a bell for announcement or warning. The sun beat upon the dull red roof, projecting the shadows of smokeless chimneys, and emphasizing the dormers with lines of black. The aspect of the place was that of sullen, torpid seclusion. The plateau, or bench, on which it stood parted the meager waters of a stream which trickled down a side-gulch, one of the laterals of the cañon. Small, stunted trees clung to the slope, crouching all one way, as if the wind were ever at their back. A blight had withered the patches of thin grass on top; but up the gulch, following the stream, a double rank of poplars towered, their dark green tops clear-cut against the sky, a landmark in that dun country of drought.
Philip concluded that all the water descending from the gulch had been hoarded within the court, for here and there a fruit-tree overtopped the wall, or a vine flung a loose spray over it; showing there was a heart of verdure inside that stone shell which the house presented to a stranger. Scarcely a leaf trembled in the hot, intermittent lull; even the river seemed to hold its breath; then, with a hoarse sigh, the sound bore down again; a sheet of ripples spread, whitening the current; the poplars began to rock and strain; and a flicker of white, like the folds of a thin curtain, blew out of one of the lidless dormers in the roof.
Leaving the cut, the trail made directly toward the house. Philip saw that he could follow it no further without trespassing; but as he proposed to see something more of the cañon, he rode back to the shelter of the cut,
tied his horse, and returned to the trail on foot. His plan was, if possible, to gain the top of the bluff, whence he could survey the region and study it as upon a map. He marked where a thicket of wild shrubs flourished close at the foot of the cañon wall. The water-supply which they had "located" was the storage from melted snows, collecting in hollows of the rocks above, which had dripped, or fallen in slender cataracts, down the face of the bluff. Discolored streaks showed where, spring after spring, the muddy overflow had descended. The slope of debris here rose to within fifty feet of the top, and Philip decided to try this spot for the ascent, trusting to find cracks and footholds caused by the action of the water. His spurs were in his way as a climber, so he took them off, and went light-footed up the talus as far as the foot of the bluffs. Here, in the shade of a huge buck sage, ablaze with yellow blossoms, he threw himself down to rest. Already his prospect was immensely enlarged; he had gained a cooler stratum of air; he could see the formation of the cañon from end to end, from its rise in the hills to the gate of the river's departure. He could pick out the rocks and shallows in the brown water beneath. Tons of boulders, fallen from the bluffs, lay embedded near shore, breaking the current into swirls and eddies. The river had worn a way down to its present bed, from the level of its former path, through a fissure in the ancient lava-flow which once submerged the valley. Such was the word of science respecting its history, a revelation to be classed with visions and dreams of the night. Had Dunsmuir taken counsel of nature during his fifteen years' waiting, and learned patience in the daily presence of this astounding achievement? Or had he fretted the more for these silent agencies, witnessing how long, how heartbreaking in their slowness, are those works which endure; how the life of a man is as the frosts of a single season to the accomplishment of one of nature's schemes?
Below the house the river's channel pinched suddenly, and the volume of waters rushed down, with a splendid outward swirl, between two natural rock-piers resembling the abutments of a bridge. This spot Philip accepted at a glance as the famous location. Here, upon this footstool of the bluffs, Dunsmuir had planned to build his dam and waste-gates. The river was to have been raised to the level of the big cut, and its waters transmitted thence, by the high line, to the plains. It was a fine, courageous piece of fancy, from an engineering point of view, and conceived closely within the bounds of practicability; but it was the dream of a potentate with the credit of a nation to back him. Philip saw how alarming it might have been to a few private capitalists, who were
not building for fame or for posterity. Yet the dreamer's time had come. The only doubtful issue now remaining was the personal oneupon which men waste their lives. Philip was beginning to dread it in proportion as his sympathies went out to the man whom his father was quietly encompassing.
Suddenly a hand, unseen, touched the strings of a guitar close to his ear, the sound proceeding from the heart of the wild-sage thicket. Amazed, he sat listening, while a boyish voice shouted out a Spanish chorus, with a most deplorable accent, but in excellent and bold time, to a somewhat timid touch on the guitar :
I love them all, the pretty girls,
I love them all, both dark and fair.
"Be still a moment; I thought I heard a step."
The accompaniment broke off as a softer voice hushed the singer.
"Who could be stepping around here?" The chanter began again, but the guitar was silent.
Philip rose up and stared at the tuneful bush. He walked around it, and saw that on both sides its crooked boughs brushed the face of the cliff; every twig was strung with blossoms of a vivid gipsy yellow; the whole mass, gilded with sunshine against the purple blackness of the rock, seemed loudly to defy investigation.
"I am simply positive there is some one," the girl-voice exclaimed, low, but so near that Philip started, as if a singing-bird had sprung out at his feet. There was silence and intense curiosity on both sides of the bush.
Philip peered at its winking blossoms awhile, and then essayed a way between the quickset. and the cliff. The springy boughs yielded transiently; the rock seemed to give way; he caught himself, and stumbled forward into the hidden nest. It was a shallow cave, or pocket, left by the falling of a segment of sheer rock, completely screened from discovery, yet free to every breeze that wandered up the valley. A threadbare rug, a cushion or two of old-fashioned needlework, a few badly used books, a field-glass such as the stock-herders of that region use to pick out their brands at a distance, and the guitar, composed its furniture. The boy-singer had started to his feet, and Philip saw that he was crippled of one arm, which was neatly bandaged and carried in a sling. The girl had backed away on the rug, holding the guitar, while with her free hand she improved the arrangement of her skirts. The interruption had evidently been rather haughtily expected, but in the eyes of the charming pair, as they met his, Philip saw a change of expression, and both began to smile.
the boy inquired, in the slipshod speech of the frontier.
"Prospecting for anything in particular?" pair of forlorn little tan-goat buskins, whitened by dust and defaced by the rocks, the like of which Philip had never seen before on such a foot. Under the circumstances he would willingly have foregone the bluffs for the cave, with the very least encouragement, but it seemed to be taken for granted by his young hosts that he was in haste to go.
"Yes," said Philip; "for a way out of the cañon without crossing private grounds." "How far have you followed the trail?" "Until I came in sight of the stone house at the mouth of the gulch."
"Go ahead, then, till you come to a wire fence on this side of the gulch. Follow it along up, and cross above it where you see the poplars in the fold of the hills. Or you can go down on the beach and follow that along; only it's a bad climb back again. Are you for the hills or the shore?"
"I am for the bluffs. Is it possible to get up from here?"
The youth had remained standing; he now turned toward the leafy tent-curtain and looked
"There is nothing up there," he conscientiously explained. "Seventy-five miles of bunchgrass, and the mountains, and the cañon, which you can see from here."
"That is quite enough for me," said Philip. "Still, I don't wish to be troublesome. I see
"Well, not with a horse. You 're not foot- you are not very fit for climbing." ing it?"
Philip explained that he had left his horse in the shade below, and was at present exploring the cañon on foot.
The young people took counsel together with their eyes. "There is a way up from here," said the lad. "It is our short cut to the cave; we come down from above. If I show it you, you won't give it away, will you? We don't care to have the mob in here, you know, with their egg-shells and paper bags."
Philip agreed to keep the secret of the "short cut" from the mob. The lad moved aside to give him room upon the rug, and the young girl handed him one of the cushions.
Plainly the couple were brother and sister; they might have been twins from the likeness between them, yet the unlikeness was equally strong. Both were gray-eyed blondes. Both were the slender, tawny children of wind and drought. The girl's smooth cheek was toned by the sun to the creamy tint of a meerschaum in the first bloom of coloring. Her single braid of long hair, coiled around her neck like a torque, had broken silver lights that were lovely against the warm, even flesh-tones. She had deep-set eyes and dark eyelashes, and here the differences began: for the boy had the prominent eye of a talker; his brows and lashes were reddish gold; his beauty was altogether more striking than the girl's, but also of a commoner type. In his flannel shirt and belt and flowing necktiehe might have been the ornamental member of a "Buffalo Bill" troop; while the maiden, seated like a squaw on a blanket, looked a perfect little gentlewoman. Her dress would not be worth mentioning but that Philip came afterward to know so well the dark-blue serge skirt, and the faded silk blouse with its half-obliterated stripe of pink, and the neat little darns in the sleeves, which were too short, and "drew" a little at the elbows. Everything she had on had been good in its day; all but her shoes, a
"But the climb is nothing at all. We go up a crevice by steps in the rock; it's no more than climbing a ladder."
"Thanks," said Philip, seeing that he was. expected to come to some conclusion. "Is the secret of the short cut mine to keep only, or to use, if I should come this way again?"
He looked at the girl, who had not risen. "Alan-my brother, is master here," she said. "He is very fond of company," she added more encouragingly.
She rose now, showing her height, which was nearly equal to her brother's. Her face seemed childlike in contrast with her woman's growth. Her gray eyes just swept the surface of Philip's delighted gaze, seeming to see no more than that he stood there; but her lips kept back a smile.
Alan called from without, and Philip reluctantly made his exit as he had come. A few moments later he was roaming with his guide along the top of the bluffs. He saw the circle of mountains, and the seventy-five miles of summer-dried pasture dipping and rising to meet it. Through the midst the cañon plowed a great crooked rent. The level light encompassed them; their own shadows were the only ones in sight. The river's voice rose in mightier volume. They felt the first breath of the change, a freshness preluding the down-cañon wind which sets in, after sunset, toward the hot plains from the mountains.
My sister has n't a notion that we 've given the key of our back stairs to the son of Mr. Price Norrisson," said Alan, coolly, as he strode through the brittle weeds at Philip's side.
"If you knew me, was there any reason why you should n't have said so?"
"I don't know you, except by sight. You know, perhaps, that I am the son of Robert Dunsmuir."
"Not until this moment; and I 'm sorry if I have come by anything in the way of cour