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Dolly was simply girlishly flattered by his impassioned interest in her sartorial past. These pompous little robes had been the delight of her earliest visits to the attic; but the wedding-gown had ever been hedged about with careful ceremonies and precautions. No hands but Margaret's had ever ventured to unfold those lengths of shimmering satin and creamy drifts of lace, nor could Dolly realize that she was now sole keeper of the garments in which the sacred mother-past lay folded away. Something of this she tried to say; for Philip was one who seemed to understand everything.
"I have almost a guilty feeling, do you know, when I come here and rummage by myself. All the history of our poor house lies packed away in these trunks, ever since it stopped in the cañon, and nothing more happened. All my mother's happy girl-days were put away here, with her evening-gowns, and her pretty shoes, and fans, and sashes; and here"-Dolly laid her hand softly on the wedding-gown-" she was a bride; and here, a mother; and then it was all over, and Margaret locked her trunks and has kept the keys ever since. And we children never really knew her. We have no right here, do you think?" She was sitting on the closed trunk-lid, the keys hanging from her warm hand, blanched with the heat and tremulous from exertion. Transported by that unconscious "we," Philip bent and kissed the hand-only the little finger of it that lay apart. It was his one transgression. Dolly turned her face away; the tears sprang to her eyes. Poor Margaret! Had she forgotten Margaret, who never would have forgotten her? Her look put Philip far from her, and he was moved to say humbly: "Would you rather some one else went with you to the ranch? "
"Why should you think so? and who is there to go?"
Philip smiled; it was hard to wait. He looked at her troubled face, all flushed and weary with a childish abandonment, and thought of all the Rests, as many as the Joys of Mary, with which they could rest each other, She needed the rest of change; and quickly he was rapt away in his besetting dream, of two young student lovers,- he with the better grasp, she with the subtler feeling,-nesting in the old cities of art and learning, always referring their work to the special requirements of the life awaiting them at home. He felt himself not content to be merely a builder of ditches; he looked forward to being an administrator of waters in the new communities water should create, and here came in the human element which immensely enlarged the scope of his work and of her helpfulness. That night at the ranch Dolly watched him
fetch and carry for Margaret the wood and the water, and gravely consult with her about the chores. She heard him speaking words which seemed inspired by the most delicate discernment. She saw him with Job's head against his shoulder (in the name of all pity, what a contrast!) while Margaret fed medicines into the relaxed mouth that could neither protest nor thank her any more. She jealously watched for a sign of repugnance, or condescension, or relief when the ordeal was over, and saw him always simple, sensitive, and brotherly, through all the discomfort, and sorrow, and squalor of the night. She saw, above all, that Margaret accepted him with the sure instinct of grief, taking his presence and his most intimate services as much a matter of course as her own. Dolly was comforted in her instinctive faith. Her proofs were sufficient to herself. He might have come of shabby ancestry, he might have cared and ceased to care; none the less he was a friend, a gentleman, a comrade she could give her hand to in joy or sorrow, and her people were his people and her poor were his poor.
Philip went away next morning after breakfast, saying he would return or send some one in his place to spend the night. Breakfast had been early; at ten the doctor made his visit; the remainder of the day seemed endless. After the supper-things had been set away, Margaret lay down beside the sick man, and fell asleep. Whether Job slept or not Dolly could not be sure; he lay quiet with closed eyes. She went out and walked about the dusty premises, the roosting fowls inquiring. concerning her presence with querulous squalls and sidelong duckings. She walked from the door to the fence and back till she knew every weed by the path. At the gate she would stop and look up the cañon road; then she restricted her looking to every other time. Now and again she opened the cabin door and listened, and heard only the clock ticking and the kettle rising to a boil. She had wearied herself with walking, and was going in when she saw Philip dismounting at the gate; he had come across through the sage-brush. He walked beside his horse up the dusty path, and she went out gladly to meet him.
With an odd, embarrassed smile, in silence he handed her a letter. It was addressed to her father, and it had been opened.
"Did you know it was from Alan ?" "Oh, yes," said Philip; "your father read me parts of it." Dolly thought his manner very peculiar.
"If the news is bad, I wish you would tell me first."
"There is news; but I don't know if you will call it bad."
"Well, yes-rather. Will you not read the letter? There is nothing shocking in it."
"There are pages and pages! New York, September 25. Has n't he sailed yet?" 66 Won't you read the letter, Dolly?" "What is all this about Estelle? Who is Estelle, for pity's sake?" Dolly had gone to the root of the matter.
"Estelle Summercamp. Don't you remember-the people who were here last summer, whom Alan met on the train ?"
"Oh, that girl! Has he been with them all this time in New York? and is that why he has not written ? "
"It's hardly fair to Alan not to read what he has to say for himself. I 'm sure you 'll find it interesting."
Philip walked away, leading his horse. Dolly, angry and alarmed and sick with a new, ridiculous foreboding, read on, page after page of excited boyish narrative: I came, I saw, I conquered! Dolly was cold to his jubilance, for now she knew what was coming.
"She swears she is five-and-twenty." [This sentence caught her eye, as she hurried along.] "I don't believe it; she does n't look as old as do, but she knows a precious lot more about everything except riding. We ride every day in the Park; it's awfully dear, but they don't seem to think of the cost of anything, and she says she likes me on horseback. . . . Amongst them they've got about twelve hundred acres of land. . . . I shall take up my land next theirs; Mr. Summercamp says they will have a railway station and a town directly on the lands. It's gone out that I 'm a younger son- British aristocrat-making money hand over fist in Texas cattle. They don't mind, but I think I see my father smile."
Dolly put down the letter with a flushed and burning face. She was too angry to cry. So Alan was to marry the girl with the laugh; they would go laughing through life together. And all this had been transacting while, in the cañon, days were counted till the coming of his letters, and her father walked the floor at night, as she had heard him, hoping and planning and wrestling for his son. She pushed the cabin door ajar, for she longed to talk it over with Margaret, who had the sure touch in trouble. All was still but Margaret's heavy breathing.
"Na, na," she muttered in her sleep, "he wad be shoggen a' to pieces. I could na bear
to see it."
The lump rose in Dolly's throat. She felt, as never in her life before, how poor they were in numbers, how isolated from larger circles where life was a bustling business, and people made new friends and broke with old ones every day. How easily Alan had affiliated
with all that seemed so hostile, so insolent, to herself! All the world to Dolly was made up of Summercamps, and their money and their plans and their pleasures. She had no heart to go on with Alan's rank rejoicings. In the stillness of that smitten place there was almost a ribald tone in his talk of dinners, and theaterparties, and roses at a dollar apiece, and new clothes, and new friends who had never heard of the cañon or the scheme. Philip came and sat beside her, unbuckling his spurs, and knocking off the dust on the door-step.
"Why do you take it so seriously?"
"She is five-and-twenty, and he is not nineteen, and they met on the train, and were engaged two days after they reached New York. And he thinks her father and mother are delighted. If they are, they are very strange people."
"Alan is a very sweet boy," said Philip. "Oh, he is, he is! He might have been," sobbed Dolly, breaking down. "But now he'll never be anything but a hanger-on of those people."
tried to comfort her. "I spent a day with her They are the same age inside." Philip myself, remember. She is very jolly, and clever as girls go, and you can't deny she is pretty. And they have a power of money."
"So you think because she is pretty and rich must be all right!" cried Dolly, scornfully. not be too proud.'" "I think it might be much worse. 'Better
Her lips trembled. "I know very well what you mean. You think, with poor Alan, the most we can ask is to be defended from the worst. But, except for Pacheco and all her squalid connections, I'd sooner it had been Antonia."
"O Dolly, no! There are possibilities with a Miss Summercamp, but none with an Antonia. Miss Summercamp may be the very means appointed for Alan's discipline. Come, Dolly," he said, rising and offering his hand; "come, you must brace up, you know. You will have to comfort your father. He hates it rather worse than you do."
They walked on toward the gate together, Dolly clasping and twisting the letter in her nervous hands.
"Is n't it pitiful, is n't it absurd! One can't have even the comfort of calling it a sorrow! Alan could never do anything that was expected of him. And what will be the next thing, I wonder? Margaret has always said the price would be required of us, if ever we should get our great wish. The work is going on; all has come to pass that we used to pray for- but there is Alan's cap on the wall, and papa does not look as if success agreed with him."
"Dolly, you are not going back on the scheme?"
"Ah, it costs too much. And it may not be for us, after all.”
"That should not matter. And we are in it now for all we are worth. When a thing like this gets started it runs those who thought to run it. Don't go in yet; it is all quiet in there. You look as if you needed a walk. Take my arm?" "No; people must walk wide apart in this dust."
"Take my hand, then."
"I need both hands for my skirts." "Fiddlededee your skirts! I never saw a small person so occupied with her clothes. You should wear buckskins, like a little squawsy, and then you could trot alongside and kick up all the dust you pleased." "If I were a squaw I should trot behind." "Not if you were my squaw."
Dolly's chin went up, and she walked wider than ever; but she was no longer quite so melancholy; and presently she began quoting, in a tone of high derision:
"We twa ha'e paidlet i' the burn
And pu'd the gowans fine.
"How Margaret used to love to sing those words to us, who never heard the sound of a burn in all our lives! And she from a country that sang and shouted with water!"
"What does it matter where we do our paddling? It's whom we paddle with. I can fancy just as good paddling in this dust of the plains as in any burn that ever brawled; only I should paddle on horseback, with my squaw on a pony beside me. Come out where we have n't these lines of fence-posts in our faces. Hark! How still it is, after the cañon!" Night was falling, the clear sky of the desert darkening slowly without a cloud. Dew on the pungent sage dampened the dust and gave strength to the air they breathed. A bell-mare hoppled somewhere in the brush clanked flatly as she stepped. Coyotes raved in the far offing like a pack of demented dogs. Against the low, bright west loomed a cowboy shape, enlarging in a spurt of dust that unrolled and drifted to leeward. He veered and passed them afar, and the beat of his horse's hoofs throbbed, fainter and fainter, long after the dust hid him.
Dolly," said Philip, "don't forget what we are here for: this is the land we are going to reclaim. Can you not fancy it-miles and miles, at sunset, shining with ditches, catching the sky in gleams; and the low houses and the crops, and the dark lines of trees reflected in the water-channels? You will like it when you see it, and I should n't be surprised if you called it home. And if there are no burns, there will be gentle, sober ditches. Our waters shall do their singing and shouting up in the
mountains; they come down here on business. Your burns are nothing but mad children. Ditches are tender, good mothers, taking thought where they go, not ripping and tearing through the land. Oh, you will like it, and one day you will own it for your country. You are a 'bunch-grass belle,' Dolly, however you may boast of your heather."
By the following spring Job had so far recovered from his stroke as to be able to sit in the rude wheeled-chair contrived for him, in front of the cabin in the sunshine, and to watch Margaret digging in the garden, or watering the calves, or hanging out her wash on the lines Job had put up for her in the days of his usefulness. A neighbor had taken the management of the farm "on shares," but, with the chores and the housework and the care of the invalid, Margaret's hands were full. The doctor had said that Job might be with her in his present condition for years, or he might be smitten again without warning, and pass away in a few hours. His speech had not come back, beyond a few drear mutterings intelligible to no one but Margaret. When they were alone she talked to him as a child to her doll, or as a mother to her speechless but sentient infant.
One afternoon, close upon the finish of the cañon work, Dunsmuir sat and talked with Margaret in the door of the claim-cabin, and between them, bolstered in his chair, was that sad effigy of Job. Spring had changed everything since the day of the gray September dust-storm. The little house stood low, on the edge of a rich bottom grown up in wild grass. The willows and cottonwoods had leaves large enough to cast shadows. From the mesa, where Job's main lateral plowed along, the brown, seeded land fell away, like a matronly lap, toward the river. The wheat looked well, considering the unfavorable spring, which is ever the lot of new settlers; but the orchard, planted with trees the size of walking-sticks, was needing water badly. There had been a week of hot, drying winds, most untimely; snow was going fast on the mountains, and the river tumbled by the vivid meadow-grass in a yellow, seething flood.
Dunsmuir praised Margaret's management, and promised her a lot of stuff' for her garden another year. He had grown used to Job's nonentity, and talked across him, cheerfully, as if his chair had been vacant. But Margaret noted every subtle change in the face of her invalid, and whenever a wan, unrestful look of his sought hers, she had always some comforting expedient in reserve.
"I'm charged to tell you," said Dunsmuir,
"that we can never do without you in these preparations for the great day. Dolly is in a dozen quandaries, and has no one but men to advise with, and the cooking will all gang agley' without Margaret to superintend; so what's to be done? Cannot we fit up one of the wagons as an ambulance for Job, and move you both, stick an' stow, up to the house till this mummery is over? Job must see the headworks before the gates are shut. Eh, Job?"
Na, na; it's not to be thought on," Margaret interposed.
"Well, then, you must think of some trusty woman with a good skill at the cooking. It is far too much to put upon Jenny and a young mistress like Dolly."
Dunsmuir fell into Margaret's way of speaking, in talking with her since her trouble; it was the expression of his nearness. Every shade of misconception had passed from between them; there was even a greater ease and kindness in Dunsmuir's manner. He was more himself with them at the cabin than with any who knew him, even his daughter. And he was more outspoken with Margaret about his own affairs than he had been while she was one of his household; for now he was freed from her anxious feminine oversight, and from the pressure of one-sided obligations.
"I'll may be no ken the new ways o' the house," said Margaret, ignoring the possibility of another woman," with a' this cum'ersome work going forrit, and the look of everything changed. I hear ye have built a new stable." Nothing of the sort; we have built a bridge from the house to the old stable, to save pulling and hauling across the gulch. There is nothing changed about the house, and the ways are the same ye have known going on for twenty years. Why, Job will be blithe to spare you for a day, with a neighbor body to wait upon him. It is not the work,-we can get hands enough, it is a head that is wanting. There'll be twenty people to luncheon at the house, and tables in the tents for the crowd. Dolly, the child, knows nothing how to provide for such a raff of folk, and my way is a man's way. She would know every detail beforehand, and she is thrifty, and grudges the waste that comes of loose providing."
"Gude save us! and is a' that to come out of the family?
Dunsmuir chuckled over Margaret's prudential alarm. He teased her a while about the expenses of the forthcoming entertainment, and then confessed it was the company's affair.
"But we must do our part, if only for pride's sake."
"And do ye think, now, that it 's worth while?" she shrewdly asked.
"Why, if advertising be worth while-it is
an advertisement of the canal. The manager knows his business. The trouble is, he thinks he knows mine. The water is to be backed against the dam to make a show for the people, when the lake should be a month, at least, filling up. But the powers have ordained that we celebrate."
"And what will they have to their program?"
"It will be a Fourth of July, wanting the powder. The head-works are the 'grand stand' for the principal guests and the speaking. There will be plenty of bunting and brandy and soda; and the city band will be there; and Price Norrisson will address the meeting. And the ladies will cast their bouquets into the canalbed, as the water is turned in,—a marriage, you see, of the river and the ditch,—and my poor girl is to cast the first one
"Eh, sirs! an' will ye allow that, an' before a' that crowd o' strange folk?"
"Well, if the thing must be done, I know no other lady who could be bridesmaid to the ditch unless it's yourself, Margaret. You might do it to spare Dolly; though, as a fact, I think the poor child is pleased. She takes it all in good faith, as she should. It 's only here by ourselves that I dare to sit among the scorners. But the cream of the joke will be Norrisson's oration. He is to father the whole concern. He will give us the progress of Irrigation (with a capital I) in this region, with a history of our own canal, for the benefit of the press reporters. He will spread it from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and by the next steamer's mail to the other side; but there will be a searching of hearts in the audience, I am thinking. There are a few of us who could give him points to help him out with his tale. Here, God pity us! is a weary page of it." Dunsmuir laid his hand on Job's nerveless right arm. "Tons and tons of rock lie bedded in the river that this white, bloodless hand sent smoking down the glen-side. Ay, if we had the rock and the stone piled in one heap that Job has moved off the canal-line, it would build him a cairn fit for a chieftain's monument. Job's hand should have been the first to raise the head-gates; but now the force has gone out of it, and I must take hold beside Norrisson. "Eh, sirs!" cried Margaret, again, all her partizan blood uprising. "And is that, do you think, as it should be, now?"
"It is as it is," said Dunsmuir. "I may let go, if I choose to sulk in public, but Norrisson's fist will remain; it has a healthy grip upon most things. Have you not learned that in this country the engineer is the hireling, not the counselor? It's money that builds here, not brains and education. Norrisson will be the great man of the day. And we that strove mightily shall eat and drink as friends. But you will come,
Margaret, and take a glass with me in silence to the memories we two are left to keep?" "Na, na; I'll drink nae glasses," said Margaret, wiping away a quiet tear that started as he spoke. "Let them eat and drink as maun, to show their gude wull. There's nae need o' that amang friends. But I will come for a day before the day, and gi' ye what help I may." "And will you not come and look on at the feasting? You will never have seen so many people together since you came to the cañon." "Na; a feast is no a feast to me wi'out my auld man is there."
"You speak like yourself," said Dunsmuir. "Well, good-by to you both-honest friends as man ever had in this world. Do you think he follows me, Margaret?" Dunsmuir laid his hand affectionately on Job's as he spoke, and looked long, with a sorrowful questioning, into the dumb-stricken countenance.
"He is there the same as ever," said Margaret.
at the waters of Meribah," said Margaret, solemnly, "for that he smote, and sanctified him not before the people. And do ye mind what was the judgment? Yet shalt thou see the land before thee, but thou shalt not go thither into that land which I give to the children of Israel.'" "Ye are grand at the Scripture, Margaret, but I can cap your judgments with the promise that stands fair for all irrigators of the desert. He that watereth also himself shall be watered.' We make no pretense to be leaders, or lawgivers, or guides to the people in their wanderings."
"Ah, ye are daffin' when ye had far better be prayin'. It disna set wi' my way of thinkin', sic a day o' muckle eatin' an' drinkin', wantin' the thanks due to the giver of a' things. There's a mony mair warnin's than promises in the Scripture set over against that word water. The Lord Almighty makes it his boast that he holds them in his hand. Do ye mind how he answered Job out o' the whirlwind, speerin' whaur was he when the sea brak' forth an' the clouds were its swaddlin' band? He that presumes to know the ordinances of Heaven; that brak's the seal o' the auld, ancient, fearsome waters, to turn them from their given course-he 'll need to mind!"
"Well, can't you give us a better word than that for the last one?" Dunsmuir held out his hand. To his surprise, Margaret was speechless. She wiped her hand hastily on her apron,
"Look out for the water at the ranch to- and gave his a hard, warm squeeze, and then morrow evening, Margaret."
"Gude save us! will it be a' that while on the road?"
"It will, and longer if I had my way of it." "Are ye afeard the banks will not be strong enough to tak' the first flood o''t?" Margaret asked in an anxious whisper. She was already in her place beside the driver on the single seat of the buckboard, having characteristically refused to stay to dinner, or to have dinner earlier, after working like three women since nine o'clock on that toilsome day before the day. Dunsmuir smiled at the precautionary whisper, not to spread her fears.
"There is no first flood in a new canal, woman. It's plain ye were not raised in a canal country. The water creeps in like a baby taking its first steps. It must walk before it can run." "Fair fa' its steps, then," Margaret ejaculated. "But, sirs! it is a fearsome business." She turned her reddened, earnest countenance upon Dunsmuir as he stood smiling, with his foot on the fore wheel, hindering her departure. "What is there fearsome about it? It is an old, respectable business as any on the face of the earth. You may read of its works in your Bible."
"I have read how the Lord proved Moses
broke down completely, and began to weep.
It was partly the sight of the cañon, as she was leaving it, at the hour of its most solemn beauty, for the place was home to her. But Margaret had also a superstitious fear of success coming to one so long out of touch with fortune, to one who claimed so much in the name of his work.
Dolly was late for dinner that evening. "I have something to do to my dress," she whispered to her father aside. "Do you mind that it is a little frock of mama's?"
"Why should I mind? Poor child, with no mother's hands to make her fine!" Dunsmuir drew her to him, pressing her head close to his breast. "Dolly, if ever any one should come, asking questions of you-be slow, be slow to answer him! Remember, a woman's no may be changed to yes; but her yes should be forever. They say he gives twice who gives quickly; it is not so with all giving. A man does not prize a woman's readiness."
"Father!" Dolly exclaimed, looking hurt and frightened.
"I'm not saying that you have been― I'm saying nothing; but for God's sake, know your mind. Tell him no, whoever he may be; tell him no, and no, for as long as you can say it!"