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THE CHOSEN VALLEY.'—- VI.
BY MARY HALLOCK FOOTE,
WITH PICTURE BY THE AUTHOR.
“'Deed, I think it's an hoursin' he was taken;
but I cannae rightly say, I have been sae crazed UDE be thankit!” cried Mar- wi' the storm an' the heat an' the sair wark o'
garet, opening the door to handlin' him—ma puir mannie!”
had been shut tight against the laden gusts, Again the dust-wind was which shook the feeble door, and beat upon the
raging up the valley, that last windows, and cast the dust of the valley road day of a pitiless September long remembered, upon the roof, like ashes on the head of a even in a patient land, for its brazen days, mourner. Margaret had crammed the stove and stifling nights, and ceaseless storming with dry sage-stumps in her haste to prepare winds that brought no rain, but“ stour.” the foot-bath; she had put mustard into the
Squaw Butte and the War Eagle had not water, and the odor of it was sickening in the been seen for weeks, so close fell the curtain close-shut, reeking room. Her face was purple, of smoke from burning forests. Hundreds of shining with tears and perspiration, and twisted acres to the north and east were on fire, turn- with grief. She knelt and lifted the pulseless ing the sun's light to a ground-glass glare, and feet into her lap, and dried them, and cried a troubling the heated atmosphere. The evening little as she showed the towel — one of the fine before a false wind blew up from the plains; ones “ the child” had given her, with her mothe clouds sulked all night, and promised rain; ther's own maiden name wrought upon it. next day a lurid sun peered forth and vanished. Dunsmuir helped her get the helpless bulk into The desert wind arose, and the dust-cloud a bed, in the other room, which Margaret had marched before it, and, as it drew near, fields hastily spread with clean sheets; and again she and fences were blotted out of the landscape, could not pass over without calling attention to houses looked like stranded hulks, and trees the comforts Dolly's mindfulness had supplied, like staggering masts, and which was earth and so grateful now to her fond, simple heart. It which sky no eye could distinguish in the yel- pleased her that Job should lie upon the finest low darkness.
and softest of linen and feathers, provided by Dunsmuir had had what Margaret would her whom they loved as their own child. have called a warning that his errand to the “He'll come out of it, Margaret," said homestead must not wait. He traveled ahead Dunsmuir. “I think he knows me.” And he of the storm, which broke upon the ranch at went up close to Job, and spoke to him as to three of the afternoon. He could scarcely see a child, asking him the question. They knew the house from the stacks where he tied his not how much of Job was there to hear, even horse. There was neither barn nor stable, no without the power to answer. It were better shelter for the few poor cattle, no roof to the he should remain without the doors of conwell, no porch to the bare, little two-roomed sciousness, than reënter, to behold the ruin cabin. Yet it was a home, and a great sorrow that he was. Job made a feeble motion of his had come to it. Dunsmuir had no need to ask left hand toward the right, which lay as it had its nature. That helpless man-shape sunk in a fallen when they placed him on his back in the chair, propped back, with a comforter tucked bed. Dunsmuir lifted that awful dead member around him, was Job. His feet were in a tub and laid it across his chest. A look of greater of hot water, which steamed up into his white, ease crept into the strange, familiar face on drawn face, and eyes ofspeechless appeal turned the pillow. “You know me, Job ? ” Dunsmuir from one to the other of the two who looked persisted, in the forlorn attempt to comfort at him as if he were already not of this world. Margaret. “He knows me, see!” Job had
“When did this happen, poor woman?” fixed his eyes upon Dunsmuir's face with a stare said Dunsmuir, giving his sympathy, as we do, that had something like intelligence in it. His to the mourner before the sufferer.
mouth worked, but he could not articulate. 1 Copyright, 1892, by Mary Hallock Foote.
Still, it was plain that the stroke was not to be pairs of fine woolen socks Margaret had knitthe final one. In the outer room, while the drear ted for him one Christmas when he had comwind tormented the valley and blotted it from plained of cold feet, and he had unwittingly their sight, Dunsmuir made known his business. hurt her feelings by never wearing. She
“ Here," said he, " is the last of the money thought with awe of Job's condition, that he that 's so long overdue; and it comes none should need to be warmed in such weather. too soon, my poor woman. I suppose you She was as red as a poppy with the heat and would not have asked me for a penny, how- perhaps from other causes. She was in her ever ye were?”
dressing-sack; but to Philip's untutored eye “ Indeed, an' I would," answered Margaret. there was no suggestion of dishabille in the “ That 's no way o' my pride. But ye need pretty white jacket sprigged with roses, which na cum'er yoursel' wi' us. We have made out showed a pair of arms he loved to look at, vera weel, as ye can see. We have wantit for whether bare or sleeved. He longed to do all naething in reason. And I'm just thankfu' that manner of wild homages to Dolly — to her we cam awa' here to oursel', as he was aye arms and hands and feet and little fair head fleechin' an' beggin' me to do. He'd a hank- of tumbled hair. She was in a great fuss and erin' to set the place in order, or ere he left me hurry, trying one trunk after another ; she to fend for mysel. I'm thinkin' he 'll have grew troubled in her search, partly at Philip's had his warnin'."
help, which confused her and made it impossi“ You put shame upon us all, Margaret, ble to think or to remember. when you talk of fending for yourself. Who In the third trunk they tried, the upper was it stood by me in the mother's place to tray was filled with a large, soft, fragrant bunmy children, with all the mother's cares, and dle that rustled richly and smelled of lavender none of her honors or blood rights ? I shall and attar of roses. never try to tell you how it fared with me to “ What can this be, laid away so presee you go out of my house without even ciously?” Philip smiled, with man-like curiosyour money wages in your pocket. You 'llity, quickened by his flattered senses.
“ This give us the right now to show you 're some- must be the offering of the wise-hearted, in blue thing more to us than a chance comer and and purple and scarlet and fine linen.' Mightone goer. Come, I must have your promise that take a peep? This is surely the odor of sanctity.” you 'll let me know, from this forth, whatever Dolly shrinkingly owned that it might be you 're in want of. So far as I 'm able, I 'll it was her mother's wedding-dress. And Philip see that you get it."
abased himself in silence. She permitted him By four o'clock the wind had moderated to lift out the long tray, and, as he did so, one so that Dunsmuir was able to set out home end caught, and came up with a jerk that sent again and to send a messenger for the doctor. a small parcel to the floor. He had proposed to come back himself and “Oh!” said she, “ I must show you theseto spend the night; but Margaret seemed so Alan's and my christening things. You'd distressed at his taking such unwonted trouble, never believe what pretty clothes I once wore, that he wisely substituted the offer of Dolly's before I was a beggar-maid. But perhaps this company, with a trusty man to stay by the is too childish ?” ranch. It was easy to surprise Margaret's “I scarcely know you any more,"— Philip wishes now; she was off all her guards at pretended offense, —" you have so many once, and softened to the simple truthfulness doubts and primmy notions. Once you were of grief. She accepted what she wanted, and not afraid to be childish.” was fearless in refusing.
They bent together over the small, soft A fair, rosy evening followed the storm. bundle as Dolly unpinned it on her lap, and There had been rain higher up, on the moun- displayed the ridiculous proportions of the tiny tains, and the freshness had descended with garments, doting with a seamstress's enthusiout the moisture; gusts of coolness scattered asm on their exquisite finish. She explained the dry roses and rustled the withering.vines. the mysteries of lace tuckers that folded down, Philip very definitely proposed to be the man and sleeves that looped up, and held one frock who should accompany Dolly and watch with beneath her chin to show its sumptuous length her at the ranch. And Dunsmuir, who de- from bib to hem of loveliest needlework, and pended on him, though he might not own it, every stitch set by hand. A subtle rich perwas thankful for his offer. Philip hurried to fumé, long laid away in the yellowing folds, change his dress after dinner. He heard Dolly stole forth upon the garret's tropic warmth. at the trunks in the attic, and went to the It spoke to them of memories merged in door, as once she had come, to see what was dreams, of a future tremulously foreshadowed. doing in there. She was hunting for an old Philip, half intoxicated by the intimacy of dressing-gown of her father's, also for certain these researches, was the only conscious one;
Dolly was simply girlishly flattered by his im- fetch and carry for Margaret the wood and passioned interest in her sartorial past. These the water, and gravely consult with her about pompous little robes had been the delight of the chores. She heard him speaking words her earliest visits to the attic; but the wed- which seemed inspired by the most delicate ding-gown had ever been hedged about with discernment. She saw him with Job's head careful ceremonies and precautions. No hands against his shoulder (in the name of all pity, but Margaret's had ever ventured to unfold what a contrast !) while Margaret fed medithose lengths of shimmering satin and creamy cines into the relaxed mouth that could neither drifts of lace, nor could Dolly realize that she protest nor thank her any more. She jealously was now sole keeper of the garments in which watched for a sign of repugnance, or condethe sacred mother-past lay folded away. Some- scension, or relief when the ordeal was over, thing of this she tried to say; for Philip was and saw him always simple, sensitive, and one who seemed to understand everything. brotherly, through all the discomfort, and sor
“I have almost a guilty feeling, do you row, and squalor of the night. She saw, above know, when I come here and rummage by all, that Margaret accepted him with the sure myself. All the history of our poor house lies instinct of grief, taking his presence and his packed away in these trunks, ever since it most intimate services as much a matter of stopped in the cañon, and nothing more hap- course as her own. Dolly was comforted in her pened. All my mother's happy girl-days were instinctive faith. Her proofs were sufficient to put away here, with her evening-gowns, and herself. He might have come of shabby anher pretty shoes, and fans, and sashes; and cestry, he might have cared and ceased to here” –Dolly laid her hand softly on the wed- care; none the less he was a friend, a gentleding-gown—"she was a bride; and here, a man, a comrade she could give her hand to mother; and then it was all over, and Mar- in joy or sorrow, and her people were his garet locked her trunks and has kept the keys people and her poor were his poor. ever since. And we children never really knew Philip went away next morning after breakher. We have no right here, do you think ?” fast, saying he would return or send some one
She was sitting on the closed trunk-lid, the in his place to spend the night. Breakfast keys hanging from her warm hand, blanched had been early; at ten the doctor made his with the heat and tremulous from exertion. visit; the remainder of the day seemed endTransported by that unconscious “we,” Philip less. After the supper-things had been set bent and kissed the hand-only the little fin- away, Margaret lay down beside the sick man, ger of it that lay apart. It was his one trans- and fell asleep. Whether Job slept or not gression. Dolly turned her face away; the Dolly could not be sure; he lay quiet with tears sprang to her eyes. Poor Margaret! closed eyes. She went out and walked about Had she forgotten Margaret, who never would the dusty premises, the roosting fowls inquiring have forgotten her? Her look put Philip far concerning her presence with querulous squalls from her, and he was moved to say humbly: and sidelong duckings. She walked from the
“Would you rather someone else went door to the fence and back till she knew every with you to the ranch ? "
weed by the path. At the gate she would “Why should you think so ? and who else stop and look up the cañon road; then she is there to go?"
restricted her looking to every other time. Philip smiled; it was hard to wait. He Now and again she opened the cabin door and looked at her troubled face, all flushed and listened, and heard only the clock ticking and weary with a childish abandonment, and the kettle rising to a boil. She had wearied thought of all the Rests, as many as the Joys of herself with walking, and was going in when Mary, with which they could rest each other. she saw Philip dismounting at the gate; he She needed the rest of change; and quickly had come across through the sage-brush. He he was rapt away in his besetting dream, of walked beside his horse up the dusty path, two young student lovers,- he with the better and she went out gladly to meet him. grasp, she with the subtler feeling,- nesting With an odd, embarrassed smile, in silence in the old cities of art and learning, always he handed her a letter. It was addressed to referring their work to the special requirements her father, and it had been opened. of the life awaiting them at home. He felt “ Did you know it was from Alan ? " himself not content to be merely a builder of “Oh, yes,” said Philip; “your father read ditches; he looked forward to being an ad- me parts of it.” Dolly thought his manner ministrator of waters in the new communities very peculiar. water should create, and here came in the hu- “If the news is bad, I wish you would tell man element which immensely enlarged the me first.” scope of his work and of her helpfulness. “There is news; but I don't know if you
That night at the ranch Dolly watched him will call it bad.”
“Does papa ?”
with all that seemed so hostile, so insolent, to “Well, yes-rather. Will you not read the herself! All the world to Dolly was made up letter? There is nothing shocking in it." of Summercamps, and their money and their
“ There are pages and pages! New York, plans and their pleasures. She had no heart to September 25. Has n't he sailed yet?" go on with Alan's rank rejoicings. In the still.
"Won't you read the letter, Dolly ?" ness of that smitten place there was almost a
“What is all this about Estelle? Who is ribald tone in his talk of dinners, and theaterEstelle, for pity's sake ?” Dolly had gone to parties, and roses at a dollar apiece, and new the root of the matter.
clothes, and new friends who had never heard “ Estelle Summercamp. Don't you remem- of the cañon or the scheme. Philip came and ber— the people who were here last summer, sat beside her, unbuckling his spurs, and knockwhom Alan met on the train ?"
ing off the dust on the door-step. “Oh, that girl! Has he been with them “Why do you take it so seriously?" all this time in New York? and is that why “She is five-and-twenty, and he is not ninehe has not written?"
teen, and they met on the train, and were en“ It 's hardly fair to Alan not to read what gaged two days after they reached New York. he has to say for himself. I 'm sure you 'll And he thinks her father and mother are defind it interesting.”
lighted. If they are, they are very strange Philip walked away, leading his horse. people.” Dolly, angry and alarmed and sick with a “Alan is a very sweet boy,” said Philip. new, ridiculous foreboding, read on, page after “Oh, he is, he is! He might have been,” page of excited boyish narrative : I came, I sobbed Dolly, breaking down. “But now he'll saw, I conquered! Dolly was cold to his jubi- never be anything but a hanger-on of those lance, for now she knew what was coming. people.” “She swears she is five-and-twenty.” [This
" They are the same age inside." Philip sentence caught her eye, as she hurried along.) tried to comfort her. “I spent a day with her “I don't believe it; she does n't look as old as I myself, remember. She is very jolly, and clever do, but she knows a precious lot more about every- as girls go, and you can't deny she is pretty. thing except riding. We ride every day in the And they have a power of money." Park; it 's awfully dear, but they don't seem to “So you think because she is pretty and rich think of the cost of anything, and she says she it must be all right!” cried Dolly, scornfully. likes me on horseback. ... Amongst them
“ I think it might be much worse. "Better they 've got about twelve hundred acres of land. ... I shall take up my land next theirs; Mr.
not be too proud.'' Summercamp says they will have a railway sta
Her lips trembled. “I know very well what tion and a town directly on the lands.
you mean. You think, with poor Alan, the most It 's gone out that I'm a younger son — British we can ask is to be defended from the worst. aristocrat - making money hand over fist in Texas But, except for Pacheco and all her squalid cattle. They don't mind, but I think I see my connections, I'd sooner it had been Antonia." father smile."
“O Dolly, no! There are possibilities with Dolly put down the letter with a flushed a Miss Summercamp, but none with an Anand burning face. She was too angry to cry. tonia. Miss Summercamp may be the very So Alan was to marry the girl with the laugh; means appointed for Alan's discipline. Come, they would go laughing through life together. Dolly,” he said, rising and offering his hand; And all this had been transacting while, in “ come, you must brace up, you know. You the cañon, days were counted till the coming will have to comfort your father. He hates it of his letters, and her father walked the floor rather worse than you do." at night, as she had heard him, hoping and They walked on toward the gate together, planning and wrestling for his son. She Dolly clasping and twisting the letter in her pushed the cabin door ajar, for she longed nervous hands. to talk it over with Margaret, who had the “Is n't it pitiful, is n't it absurd! One can't sure touch in trouble. All was still but Mar- have even the comfort of calling it a sorrow! garet's heavy breathing.
Alan could never do anything that was ex“Na, na,” she muttered in her sleep, “he pected of him. And what will be the next thing. wad be shoggen a' to pieces. I could na bear I wonder? Margaret has always said the price to see it."
would be required of us, if ever we should get The lump rose in Dolly's throat. She felt, our great wish. The work is going on; all has as never in her life before, how poor they were come to pass that we used to pray for- but in numbers, how isolated from larger circles there is Alan's cap on the wall, and papa does where life was a bustling business, and people not look as if success agreed with him." made new friends and broke with old ones “ Dolly, you are not going back on the every day. How easily Alan had affiliated scheme?"
“Ah, it costs too much. And it may not be mountains; they come down here on busifor us, after all.”
ness. Your burns are nothing but mad chil“That should not matter. And we are in it dren. Ditches are tender, good mothers, taking now for all we are worth. When a thing like this thought where they go, not ripping and teargets started it runs those who thought to run ing through the land. Oh, you will like it, and it. Don't go in yet; it is all quiet in there. You one day you will own it for your country. You look as if you needed a walk. Take my arm ?” are a bunch-grass belle,' Dolly, however you
“No; people must walk wide apart in this may boast of your heather.” dust." “ Take my hand, then.”
XIX. “ I need both hands for my skirts.”
“ Fiddlededee your skirts! I never saw a By the following spring Job had so far resmall person so occupied with her clothes. covered from his stroke as to be able to sit in You should wear buckskins, like a little the rude wheeled-chair contrived for him, in squawsy, and then you could trot alongside front of the cabin in the sunshine, and to watch and kick up all the dust you pleased.” Margaret digging in the garden, or watering
“If I were a squaw I should trot behind.” the calves, or hanging out her wash on the lines “ Not if you were my squaw.”
Job had put up for her in the days of his useDolly's chin went up, and she walked wider fulness. A neighbor had taken the management than ever; but she was no longer quite so of the farm “on shares,” but, with the chores melancholy; and presently she began quoting, and the housework and the care of the invalid, in a tone of high derision:
Margaret's hands were full. The doctor had
said that Job might be with her in his present “We twa ha'e paidlet i' the burn And pu'd the gowans fine.
condition for years, or he might be smitten
again without warning, and pass away in a few “How Margaret used to love to sing those hours. His speech had not come back, beyond words to us, who never heard the sound of a a few drear mutterings intelligible to no one but burn in all our lives! And she from a country Margaret. When they were alone she talked that sang and shouted with water!”
to him as a child to her doll, or as a mother to “What does it matter where we do our her speechless but sentient infant. paddling? It 's whom we paddle with. I can One afternoon, close upon the finish of the fancy just as good paddling in this dust of cañon work, Dunsmuir sat and talked with the plains as in any burn that ever brawled; Margaret in the door of the claim-cabin, and only I should paddle on horseback, with my between them, bolstered in his chair, was that squaw on a pony beside me. Come out where sad effigy of Job. Spring had changed everywe have n't these lines of fence-posts in our thing since the day of the gray September faces. Hark! How still it is, after the cañon!” dust-storm. The little house stood low, on the
Night was falling, the clear sky of the des- edge of a rich bottom grown up in wild grass. ert darkening slowly without a cloud. Dew The willows and cottonwoods had leaves large on the pungent sage dampened the dust and enough to cast shadows. From the mesa, gave strength to the air they breathed. A where Job's main lateral plowed along, the bell-mare hoppled somewhere in the brush brown, seeded land fell away, like a matronly clanked flatly as she stepped. Coyotes raved lap, toward the river. The wheat looked well, in the far ofting like a pack of demented dogs. considering the unfavorable spring, which is Against the low, bright west loomed a cow- ever the lot of new settlers; but the orchard, boy shape, enlarging in a spurt of dust that planted with trees the size of walking-sticks, unrolled and drifted to leeward. He veered was needing water badly. There had been a and passed them afar, and the beat of his week of hot, drying winds, most untimely; snow horse's hoofs throbbed, fainter and fainter, was going fast on the mountains, and the river long after the dust hid him.
tumbled by the vivid meadow-grass in a yel“Dolly,” said Philip, “ don't forget what low, seething flood. we are here for: this is the land we are going Dunsmuir praised Margaret's management, to reclaim. Can you not fancy it — miles and and promised her a lot of stuff' for her garden miles, at sunset, shining with ditches, catching another year. He had grown used to Job's the sky in gleams; and the low houses and the nonentity, and talked across him, cheerfully, crops, and the dark lines of trees reflected in as if his chair had been vacant. But Margaret the water-channels? You will like it when noted every subtle change in the face of her you see it, and I should n't be surprised if invalid, and whenever a wan, unrestful look you called it home. And if there are no burns, of his sought hers, she had always some comthere will be gentle, sober ditches. Our waters forting expedient in reserve. shall do their singing and shouting up in the "I'm charged to tell you," said Dunsmuir,