« AnkstesnisTęsti »
DUNSMUIR and Philip sat down to dinner together in silence. At Dolly's empty place there lay a sumptuous bouquet of hothouse roses, with a gentleman's card attached. "From my father," Philip replied, to the other's questioning look.
"Ay," said Dunsmuir, grimly. "And are those the flowers she is to fling at the feet of the waters to-morrow? I should have given her a bunch of sage and sunflowers, or a handful of wild syringa from the rocks; but your father's gifts always have a trade value. There'll be as much as ten dollars' worth of roses in that bunch, I dare say?"
"Expense is nothing to us now," said Philip, forcing a smile. "The work is done."
Yes, the work is done; not as we meant, but as we could, which is the way of most men's working. The work as I planned it remains for some other man to do."
"I was not thinking of the work," said Philip; "the best thing about it to me is that it is finished. And now may I have your leave to speak to Dolly?"
"What is your hurry, man? The child has enough to think of with this silly celebration on her hands. Leave her in peace till the house is empty, and the ditch is full," he added, with his melancholy smile, in which Philip felt the touch of foreboding.
"If my speaking is going to be only another trouble to Dolly, for Heaven's sake, let me speak and have done with it!"
"Speak then; but remember,
"He that bends to himself a joy Doth the winged life destroy.
Be sure that what you grasp at is meant for you and for no other, else you will see your bonny rosebud wither in your hand."
Dunsmuir pushed back his chair, and began walking up and down the room excitedly, saying, in his deepest voice: "God knows I have nothing to wish for but my child's happiness, yet I cannot wish you success. You'll get it, I know that well enough; but why should a man win his wife so easily? It 's not the way with other winnings. And what will her yes be worth a child who has seen no one but yourself?"
"I will take it and be thankful, if I can get it," Philip murmured. "The old way is good enough for me."
Dolly came in as radiant as Night in a gauzy dress of black that left her white throat bare above the round neck of the corsage. She was too conscious of her first toilet to help smiling, her color mounting high. Philip rose with a beating heart, and placed her chair; but her father looked at her strangely.
"Is that your dress for to-morrow?" he asked.
"It is the one I spoke to you about. It was the only one that fitted me."
"Black is for mourning'; you cannot wear black for the Marriage of the Ditch."
Dolly was greatly disappointed. A vision of herself, in one of her old home-made frocks, before all that staring crowd at the head-gates, before the town ladies and the magnates from a distance, preoccupied her miserably.
"There's no gainsaying a woman on a question of her clothes," said Dunsmuir. "Come, eat your dinner, and don't sit there so big-eyed! Look at the grand bouquet the manager sends to the Lady of the Big Ditch."
Dunsmuir ate nothing himself; he was jerky and artificial in his talk. The others made no attempt to talk at all.
"If you want me," said Dunsmuir, rising and looking at Philip, "you will find me at the dam. The lake is filling fast; I shall stay below till bedtime." Philip had risen and stood by his chair, and Dolly leaned forward, watching her father's face; she was startled at its paleness and fixity. "There is a strange fascination in that vesture of stone and mortar, to one who knows its history." He spoke to Philip. “Our tale of bricks is completed: it is time we gat us up out of the land of bondage. Now what 's the word for to-morrow?-let us see." He stopped by the door, in passing out, and tore a leaf from the calendar. In the waning light he stooped and read aloud:
God is not dumb that he should speak no more:
"And find not Sinai,'" he repeated, smiling at Philip. "Did I not tell you, it is time we gat us up?"
"What does he mean by the land of bondage'?" whispered Dolly as the door closed. "His long waiting, perhaps," Philip answered, though he knew well what Dunsmuir meant.
The breeze from the river parted the light curtains on the tinkling rods; shattered gleams struck here and there about the darkening room. Moments remembered and words spoken between them revived with sudden intensity of meaning. He was free to speak now, but his heart was too full.
"Give me just a moment on the grass by the east windows?" he entreated, as if there were scarce hope of such a boon.
Their very nearness troubled the currents between them, and kept them apart. Outside, the waters were climbing silently behind the dam
faster for the heavy rains that had been falling on the mountains, augmented by the melt
ing snows. Every inch of that tremendous and to save; to the chief his watch by the watershed was casting in its drop; but below breaking dam. the hill, where the bar had been heard to roar on soft spring nights like this, all was ominously quiet. The lake was creeping up and up, leaning its swelling heart against the dam. A faint ripple, a stealthy sound, not to be detected without close listening, alone betrayed the gathering of those mighty incoming forces.
A new moon, as slender as a young girl's finger, beckoned in the west. Philip walked the grass impatiently; a hard excitement tightened his grasp upon his bated bliss.
"My love, my love," he whispered-" of the summer, of the autumn, of the winter; come, come and bless me, for the work is done, and the water, the water,is climbing fast!" All the while he was hideously conscious of the water. "Shut the gates and let her head up." This was the order which had come from the manager's office. The chief had been in a mood of desperate, savage acquiescence in any madness that might proceed from the office in town; and between the fighting captains the soldier has but his orders.
He stepped across the rose-bed, and called softly at Dolly's window, "Are you never coming?" And in that instant it was too late. There was a shout; he was wanted at the dam. He glanced at the lake as he ran along the hill. In that last hour it had climbed a foot. It was awful: climbing, shimmering, darkling; and in its depths floated the inverted crescent, his moon of love sinking in the lake.
Dunsmuir was down by the toe of the dam, stooping far out on the edge of the sluggish remnant of water which crawled in the downstream channel. He called Philip, by name, as he had not spoken to him for months. His manner was direct, simple, responsible; he bore himself as a man in the presence of a great danger.
"For God's sake, look at that!"
Water is a very secret, subtle thing; it dissembles its sinister forces in trifling appearances which might amuse a child. The two men were staring at just a toss of bubbles discolored with mud boiling up and spreading fast from the toe of the dam. But these came from a spot just over the fault in the foundation. No more was said, but the order was given to open the scouring-gate. Philip had started up the bank toward the head-works when a second eruption followed, more copious, violent, and muddier than the first.
Dunsmuir called to him: "Stop; I will go. Saddle up, and get word down the line on this side, and send a man across. Go yourself across; it will be a close call this side of the notch. You must save Margaret and the old man."
There was no question to each man of his duty to the young man his orders-to ride
As Philip bounded up the hill he was thinking, between heart-beats, not of the work nor of his orders, nor even of that deathless call that now and then singles a modest youth from the ranks, and spends him, in one wild moment, for a deed that but for some one's blundering had not needed to be done; he was arguing the point with himself quite simply and with great clearness: he could not go without one kiss from Dolly. There would not be time to ask her or to tell her why. If the dam should break before he gained the notch, she would know then why he kissed her; if he made it alive, there would be time enough to explain.
Dunsmuir had not been able to relieve the pressure on the dam. Within its foundations disorganization had progressed so rapidly that all its functions had ceased. Dissolution, he knew, must be near. He had timed Philip from his start. He had lost a moment above, warning Dolly not to go off the hill (no; Philip had not counted that moment lost); he had lost other moments raising the camps; he had lost time at the ford. He had half a mile to the notch, and two to the ranch where the old man and his wife were sleeping, unconscious of all this wild work going on above.
There was one spot where the wagon-road on the other side crossed a low ledge projecting from the foot of the last bluff, which, with its opposite neighbor, formed the notch of the cañon. When sunset fell clear, and the color lingered, a horseman crossing that step could be seen from the dam, a speck against the low light in the west. Dunsmuir walked out to the middle; the scouring-gate was nearer the head-works. He stood just over the spot where the trouble was advancing, and stared into the distance. It was too dark; he could no longer make out the ledge. He looked at the shoulder of the bluff through which the Big Cut was to have conducted the water. Against that first obstruction the wave, when it leaped, would break, and, reeling backward, overwhelm the low shore opposite. A thousand times he had watched the shock, the dizzy recoil, the thundering outward swirl of the spring floods, now magnified and uplifted to a deluge. And all that peaceful shore, with the white road hugging the bluffs, would be "turned as wax to the fire," as "clay to the seal," when the waters uprose and stamped it out of sight.
There came a third eruption, with a fearful crunching sound of smothered upheaval. Enveloped in an enormous mass of muddy water, the piles and timbers that had plugged the foundations of the dam were forced upward; the wall of the scouring-gallery sank, and the gate fell in.
"Lord, spare the green and take the ripe!"" Dunsmuir called aloud, from his watch on the dam. He stood about the middle when the heart of it burst, and the lake went out in one vast arc of solid water. The better part of the work remained as a bridge, spanning the awful rupture. On that bridge he was seen one instant and then he was gone. Even as the swollen waters rent their imperfect vesture of stone and mortar, so his soul cast off its mortal lendings: the man and his work were one.
In twenty minutes from the bursting of the dam the lake was empty. And as the swollen river thrashed and sobbed and rocked itself to rest in its old channel again, that small, cold laugh was heard, distinctly syllabled, in the echo of the mournful wave that broke beneath the ruined dam.
DOLLY walked the empty house from room to room, under festal doorways hung with flags and silly emblems, between mantels banked with flowers, breathing the sickly scent of wilted wild syringa, crowded into pots in the cold, drafty fireplaces. It was a chill spring morning, but no one had thought to build a fire. The house had a haggard, bedizened look-a stare of homeless expectancy. In the kitchen Jenny was setting forth breakfast for the men, hastily chosen from the heaped dainties that now were funeral baked-meats. The tents and all the camp outfit were strewn for miles down the valley.
Word had come from below that Philip had signaled his safety, but could not cross, as all the boats were loose, and the ford was roaring. But toward evening he came, bringing Margaret with him; and Job's wife was a widow. They had snatched the old man in his blankets and carried him, half insensible, to the mesa, when the wave went down. He had not survived the shock and the exposure, but passed away in the night, Margaret watching by him alone, while Philip went on down the submerged valley, carrying assistance to the fleeing settlers.
No lives were lost but those two most closely bound up in the history of the work: but in the track of the wave, fields were buried and houses were gutted or swept away; and a heavy tale of damages piled up against the company, besides the immediate claims on private benevolence. It was not likely that Dunsmuir's dam would ever be forgotten. Dolly's pride was as low as the dam; but her sympathies had spread like the waters. She was sister to all who owed to them their losses. Never was she to speak of the work again without remembering that it had failed; never to boast the benefits of her father's great scheme without recalling the wave of destruction that went before. And the
promise that was given in that hour of grief and humiliation Philip might safely trust, and with his contrite joy began the work of reparation.
HARDLY had the cañon household torn down its garlands and buried its dead, when Norrisson's telegrams were signaling, east, west, and south, for men and materials for the rebuilding of the dam. And Philip's orders were to receive the stuff, and straightway to reorganize the work. When the new chief (made so by his father's command, with no words wasted) went to the manager to talk over the plan for the foundation, Norrisson replied:
"Excavate! Get down to that rock if you sink to hell. This is Dunsmuir's dam." And never did Philip hear another word of acknowledgment from his father's lips. Norrisson's way was not the way of talk.
"But the high water," Philip objected. "Turn the river over the waste-weir." "But, great heaven, the cost!" "I'll take care of the cost. If the Englishmen are going to lie down, let them be quick about it; I can take my bonds elsewhere. I walked the floor on that first scheme, now it's their turn. If they want this thing, they'll have to pay first and talk afterward."
In that crisis Philip came to know his father. The man was simply a force, devoid of memory, of conscience, or of ruth. He was nothing hampered by the past nor daunted by the future. Hesaw only the hole in the dam, which he swore should be stopped before the crops withered.
"You keep your hand on the throttle, and I'll shove in the coal," he said. And Philip guided, and his father fed the fires of the work. Men, teams, powder, a costly electric plant, timber, stone, mortar, and cement, were hurled into the cañon, as fuel for those fires that burned by day and by night, without one hour's cessation, till the hole in the dam was stopped-and the crops were not yet withered. And Norrisson's exultation passed all bounds: it was the measure of his previous unspoken chagrin.
"Perhaps you thought you were working up here before," he bragged to Dunsmuir's exassistant. "Now you know what I mean by work. I should have let Dunsmuir go ahead with his own plan in the first place, if I could have driven the work; but he would n't let me drive, and he would n't drive himself. If he had been in charge here now, he 'd have refused to do anything till the river went down; and then our stock would have been as low as the river. No, sir; an Englishman does n't know the meaning of the word time."
Having done the work, and satisfied his pride, and boasted like the son of Tydeus, he proceeded to do honor to the vanquished dead. Out of his own pocket, as though the expense
were naught (how that pocket was filled has been hinted, but the thing could not be sworn to), he superadded to the parapet of the dam a tier of open arches on each side of the roadway from the head-works, or "poise," to the wasteweir. At the spot where Dunsmuir handed in his resignation one arch was raised above the others and converted into a niche, wherein was placed a bronze mural tablet, with a sculptured seat beneath. He did not meddle here with the design, nor did he build in haste, for he was not "placing" this work; it was his present to posterity, conceived in a spirit of reparation as extravagant as his pride.
While this demonstration was going forward in honor of her father, Dolly offered not a word. Philip understood well her silence; he felt, with her, the insolence of his father's complacent tribute to the man he had first broken and then bought. He also understood that she endured for the sake of the living what she would have rejected for the dead. Neither could he protest, and this strange offering of mixed motives added its significance to the story of the ditch. "Fifty years from now it will not matter," Philip comforted himself. Yes; in less than fifty years, in less than five. The great dam with its crown of sculptured arches stood there as solid as the hills, the lake above, the spreading waters below, telling its own story. No one supplied the merciful omission or enforced the lesson. Jacob who tempted, Esau who sold, for that he was weary and faint with fasting long afield-the children of those very human fathers were human also; they loved, and humble love forgave what proud principle condemned. As for their world, it was busy gathering the new wealth which the waters hadsown; it had no time to think who built the ditch or how. There was the water. On a fair spring evening, when the lake holds the glory of the sky reflected in its depths, an old woman may sometimes be seen seated sidewise in the niche, supporting on her ample knee a young child who is just beginning to stand alone. He has bright hair and wonder
ful hazel-gray eyes. With his finger he follows the raised letters of the inscription; and the pair might well have been in the sculptor's mind when he designed the niche: Margaret, keeper of the past, and Philip's child, coheir and co-worker in the future.
And the words the boy will one day read are these:
TO THE MEMORY OF
ROBERT DUNSMUIR, M. INST. C. E.,
THESE WORKS FOR IRRIGATION,
I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.
Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water.
But Margaret takes no cognizance of these haughty promises. The text from which she reads the story of the ditch, the one she will rather teach the boy to read it by, is this:
So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth
The ideal scheme is ever beckoning from the West; but the scheme with an ideal record is yet to find-the scheme that shall breed no murmurers, and see no recreants; that shall avoid envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness; that shall fulfil its promises, and pay its debts, and remember its friends, and keep itself unspotted from the world. Over the graves of the dead, and over the hearts of the living, presses the cruel expansion of our country's material progress: the prophets are confounded, the promise withdrawn, the people imagine a vain thing. Men shall go down, the deed arrives; not unimpeachable, as the first proud word went forth, but mishandled, shorn, and stained with obloquy, and dragged through crushing strains. And those that are with it in its latter days are not those who set out in the beginning. And victory, if it come, shall border hard upon defeat.
Mary Hallock Foote.
HEN one studies the vegetation of the western coast of the continent, it is found to be undergoing many and surprising changes. Native plants have been destroyed in some districts in order that exotic plants of commercial value might take their places. Exotic plants have escaped from cultivation, and are familiar denizens of roadsides and ravines. The soil and climate of California are so friendly to plant life that only a botanist can give a list of the species already naturalized, or another list of the species from all parts of the world that might easily become wild here if they had the chance.
Out of all this arises a curiously complex and interesting result as if a thousand grafts of modern garden art were already set in native stocks to produce in due season more varied and wonderful results. In other States the exotic elements remain exotic, mere pot-growers in conservatories; here they have equal rights to the soil. Giant redwoods and oaks belong to the earlier wilderness, and to the California of the pioneers; but the orchards of olive and orange are the creation of an age of intensive horticulture. The border-land between realm of orchard and realm of wild forest is full of undeveloped possibilities, new forms of landscape gardening, new harmonies of plants with
architecture. One of the first planters in the Santa Clara region was wont to say, "I have given up trying to find what I can grow on my land, but I should like to know if there is anything that I cannot grow." There are, however, an infinite number of differences in the same valley, or even on the same farm, and the key to the fascinating contradictions of California plant life is to be found only in the native flora.
California astonished the botanical world long before it began to play much of a part in politics or business. Neé, the botanist, was at San Diego and Monterey a hundred years ago, and his collections are still to be seen at Madrid. Dr. Menzies, whose portfolios are partly at Kew, partly at the British Museum, spent several seasons on the coast a few years after Neé. David Douglas, one of the most devoted and successful of botanical explorers, reached the Pacific coast in 1825. Nuttall sent his herbarium to Harvard University. Pickering, Hartweg, Coulter, and others were early in the field. None of them were more typical investigators than the late Dr. C. C. Parry, who first crossed the country with the Mexican Boundary Commission. At intervals, for forty years after, he was a familiar figure to hunters, prospectors, mountaineers, and all sorts of outdoor people from the Arizona deserts to the Siskiyou pine forests.
So early were collectors in the region, and so universal was the interest felt in Europe