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Homing Hearts








From: The Highgrader

Jack Kilmeny had not been brought up in the dry sunbaked West for
nothing. The winds of the Rockies had entered into his character as well
as into his physique. He was a willful man, with a good deal of granite
in his make-up. A fighter from his youth, he did not find it easy to
yield the point upon which he differed from Moya. There was in her so
much of impulsive generosity that he had expected to overpower her
scruples. But she stood like a rock planted in the soil.

It came to him as he walked home after a long fight with her that in his
heart he did not want her to yield. She was the Moya Dwight he loved
because she would not compromise with her conviction. Yet, though he
wanted her to stand firm, he hated the thought of giving way himself. It
galled his pride that he must come to her without a penny, knowing that
she had the means to keep them both modestly. Nor could he, without a
pang, think of surrendering the twenty-eight thousand dollars he had
fought for and won. He was no visionary. The value of money he
understood perfectly. It stood for power, place, honor, the things that
were worth having. Given what he had, Jack knew he could double it in
Goldbanks within the year. There were legitimate opportunities for
investment that were bound to make rich returns. But without a dollar he
would be like Samson shorn of his locks.

All through the night he was joined in battle with himself, but when at
early dawn he stood on the top of Son-of-a-Gun hill and faced a sky
faintly pink with the warning of a coming sun his decision had been
made.

On his way back he met Moya and Miss Seldon. Joyce pounced upon him with
a grievance.

"You haven't told me yet how much you're going to give for the new
hospital, Mr. Kilmeny. You know we're leaving to-morrow, and you'll have
to decide at once. Be generous, please. You said yourself it was a good
cause."

He nodded agreement. "The most worthy charity I know. I've often
wondered why some Andrew Carnegie didn't set the fashion of endowing
hospitals by wholesale. They ought to be free to all poor folks out of
health. When a man is losing his wages and his family is scrimping he
ought not to be facing a thirty-dollar-a-week hospital charge. Yes, I'm
for the new hospital, Miss Seldon."

"How strong are you for it?" Joyce asked, laughing at her newly acquired
American slang. "Mr. Verinder has promised to give me two dollars for
every one I can raise among my other friends. So don't be a--a----"

"A tightwad," supplied Moya with a smile. She could do a little in the
native slang herself.

Jack went into his pocket for a checkbook and a fountain pen. He wrote
for a few seconds, tore the check from the stub, and handed it to Joyce.

That young woman gasped.

"Why--you don't really mean--it's for twenty-eight thousand two hundred
and fourteen dollars," she cried.

"And seventeen cents. Please don't forget that," he added.

"But--what on earth do you mean?"

Jack was looking at Moya, and she at him with shining eyes in which joy
swam.

"It's a little thank offering, Miss Seldon."

"Because you were rescued from the mine, I suppose. Still...."

"Because I'm engaged to be married to the best woman in the world," he
corrected.

Joyce whirled upon Moya with instant divination. "You little wretch, and
you never told me."

If Miss Dwight had not known it herself till this moment she gave no
sign to that effect. "We're telling you now, dear," she explained.

"How long have you been engaged? Was it yesterday in the bucket?"

Jack laughed. "Nothing so romantic. We've been engaged a little less
than half a minute. You get the first chance to wish Moya joy on having
won so great a catch. She's marrying a pauper, you know."

"I think we're very rich," differed his sweetheart shyly.

Joyce looked from one to the other suspiciously. "I haven't a notion
what either of you mean, but I know I'm going to hang on to this check,
Mr. Millionaire Pauper."

Imps of mischief sparkled in the highgrader's eyes. "Don't forget that
Verinder has to write one for twice as much."

Miss Seldon could not help laughing. "I'll see to that. He's not a
welcher, but ... I wonder how he'll look when I tell him."

"You ought to tell him as soon as you can," Jack hinted boldly.

"Oh, ought I? Did you say you had been engaged less than a minute, Mr.
Kilmeny? How much will you give me to go down now and tell him?"

"I've nothing left to give--except my gratitude."

"You're the first man who ever was so ungallant as to tell me he would
be grateful to have me leave him."

"I'm the first who ever proposed to another girl in your presence. The
circumstance is unusual," he flung back gayly.

"I didn't hear you propose. All you did was to announce it," she replied
saucily.

"That's true too," admitted Kilmeny. "Well, I'm going to propose now if
it isn't too late. You may stay if you like."

"Thanks, no." Joyce kissed her friend. "I hope you'll be very happy,
dear. I ... I believe you will."

Moya choked on her words. "I know I shall, Joy."

Miss Seldon looked at Jack with an expression in which embarrassment and
audacity were blended. "I've always rather liked your pauper," she
confided aloud to Moya.

Her confidences had their limits. She omitted to mention what had just
popped into her mind, that within the fortnight he had proposed to her
too on the same spot.

Jack bowed with exaggerated deference when she shook hands with him. He
was just now riding the seventh wave of happiness and felt friendly to
the whole world.

"Thanks very much. You're a good scout, Joyce."

"Good gracious! What may that be? Some more of your American slang, I
suppose." She broke away from persiflage to add seriously: "You're
right about one thing, though. You've got the best girl in the world. Be
good to her, Jack Kilmeny."

With that she turned and walked down the hill.

The other two walked up.

"I'm so proud of you, Jack, boy," whispered one of them.

He laughed happily. "I'm proud of myself. I've done the best day's work
I ever did for myself when I won Moya Dwight."

"You know what I mean, Jack. What other man would have thrown away a
small fortune--all he had--just for me?"

"I can name one other," suggested Kilmeny.

"Ned! But he's a saint."

"And I'm a sinner," her lover replied blithely.

"You're the sinner I love, then."

They had reached a clump of firs. Without knowing how it happened she
found herself in his arms. There were both tears and laughter in her
eyes as her lips turned slowly to meet his.

"The first time since we were kiddies on the Victorian, sweetheart,"
he told her.

"Yes, it's true. I loved you then. I love you now.... Jack, boy, I'm
just the happiest girl alive."

A mist-like veil of old rose hung above the mountain tops. Hand in hand
they watched the rising sun pierce through it and flood the crotches of
the hills with God's splendid canvases. It was a part of love's egoism
that all this glory of the young day seemed an accompaniment to the song
of joy that pulsed through them.

Later they came to earth and babbled the nonsense that is the highest
wisdom of lovers. They built air castles and lived in them, seeing life
through a poetic ambient as a long summer day in which they should ride
and work and play together.

At last she remembered Lady Farquhar and began to laugh.

"We must go down and tell her at once, Jack."

He agreed. "Yes, let's go back and have it out. If you like you may go
to your room and I'll tackle her alone."

"I'd rather go with you."

He delighted in her answer.

Farquhar was taking an early morning stroll, arm in arm with Lady Jim,
when he caught sight of them.

"Look, Di!"

Both of the lovers knew how to walk. Lady Farquhar, watching them,
thought she had never seen as fine a pair of untamed human beings. In
his step was the fine free swing of the hillman, and the young woman
breasted the slope lightly as a faun.

The Englishman chuckled. "You're beaten, Di. The highwayman wins."

"Nonsense," she retorted sharply, but with anxiety manifest in her
frown.

"Fact, just the same. He's coming to tell us he means to take our little
girl to his robber den."

"I believe you'd actually let him," she said scornfully.

"Even you can't stop him. It's written in the books. Not sure I'd
interfere if I could. For a middle-aged Pharisee with the gout I'm
incurably romantic. It's the child's one great chance for happiness. But
I wish to the deuce he wasn't a highgrader."

"She shan't sacrifice herself if I can prevent it," Lady Farquhar
insisted stanchly.

"I 'member a girl who sacrificed herself for a line lieutenant without a
shilling to call his own," he soliloquized aloud. "Would have him, and
did, by Jove! Three deaths made him Lord Farquhar later, but she married
the penniless subaltern."

"I've always been glad I did." She squeezed his arm fondly. "But this is
different, James."

Kilmeny and Moya stopped. The young man doffed his gray felt hat and
bowed.

"Mornin', Lady Farquhar--Lord Farquhar. We've come to ask your
permission for our marriage."

"Mornin', rebels. Fancy I'll have to refuse it," cut back Farquhar, eyes
twinkling. For this bold directness pleased and amused him.

"That would distress us extremely," answered Kilmeny with a genial
smile.

"But would not affect your plans, I understand you to mean."

"You catch the idea exactly, sir."

Lady Farquhar entered the conversation. "Are you planning to go to
prison with him, Moya, when he is convicted of highgrading?" she asked
pleasantly.

Moya told in three sentences of what her lover had done. The Englishman
wrung Kilmeny's hand cordially.

"By Jove, you reform thoroughly when you go about it. Don't think I'd
have enjoyed writing that check for Miss Joyce. Leaves you strapped,
does it?"

"Dead broke," came the very cheerful reply.

"But of course Moya has some money," said Lady Farquhar quietly.

The Westerner winced. "Wish she hadn't. It's the only thing I have to
forgive her."

Farquhar lifted his eyebrows. "Di," he remonstrated.

His wife came to time with a frank apology. "That was downright nasty of
me, Mr. Kilmeny. I withdraw it. None the less, I think Moya would be
throwing herself away. Do you realize what you are proposing? She's been
used to the best ever since she was born. Have you the means to supply
her needs? Or are you considering a Phyllida and Corydon idyll in a
cottage?"

"It will have to be something of that sort at first. I've told her all
this too, Lady Farquhar."

"What does that matter if we love each other?" Moya asked.

"You'll find it matters a good deal," said Lady Jim dryly. "When poverty
comes in love is likely to wink out any day. Of course I realize that
yours is of a quality quite unusual. It always is, my dear. Every lover
has thought that since time began."

"We'll have to take our fighting chance of that," Jack replied.

Moya, her eyes shining, nodded agreement. No great gain can be won
without risk. She knew there was a chance that she might not find
happiness in her love. But where it called her she must follow--to a
larger life certainly, to joy and to sorrow, to the fuller experiences
that must come to every woman who fulfills her destiny.

A voice hailed Jack. Colter was hurrying up the street, plainly excited.
Kilmeny moved a few steps toward him.

Lady Jim took advantage of his absence to attack Moya from another
angle. "My dear, I wish I could show you how much depends on a
similarity of tastes, of habits, of standards. Matrimony means more than
love. It means adjustment."

"I've thought of that too. But ... when you love enough that doesn't
help the adjustment?" asked the girl naively.

She had appealed to Farquhar. That gentleman came to her assistance. "It
does."

"This isn't a matter to be decided merely by personal preference," urged
the older woman. "There may be--consequences."

The color beat into the face of the young woman in a wave, but her eyes
held steadily to those of Lady Farquhar.

"I ... hope so."

"Bravo, Moya!" applauded her guardian, clapping his hands softly.

"Don't you think they--the consequences--deserve a better chance than
you will give them?"

"I'll answer that, Di," spoke up Farquhar. "When a girl chooses for the
father of her children a man who is clean and strong and virile, and on
top of that her lover, she is giving them the best possible chance in
life."

Moya's gratitude shone through the eyes that met those of her guardian.

Kilmeny swung back to the group he had left. "I've good news, friends.
This is my lucky day. You remember that when I was rescued from the
Golden Nugget my pockets were full of ore samples I had picked up as I
was tunneling."

"Yes ... picked them up while you were delirious, didn't you?" Farquhar
replied.

"Must have, I reckon. Well, you know how miners are always having pieces
of quartz assayed. Colter took these to the man we employ. He's just
learned that it is high-grade stuff."

"You've made a strike?"

"Looks like it. Colter wasn't taking any chances, anyhow. He hiked right
around to the owners of the mine and signed up a five-year lease in his
name and mine."

Farquhar shook hands with him cordially. "Hope you make a fortune,
Kilmeny."

Moya's chaperon, facing the inevitable, capitulated as graceful as she
could. After all, the girl might have done worse. The man she had chosen
was well born, good looking, forceful, and a leader in his community. If
this fortunate strike was going to leave him well off, clearly she must
make the best of him.

"You're a lucky man. I hope you know you don't deserve a girl like
Moya," she told him as she shook hands.

"I know it, all right. Can you tell me who does?" he flung back, with a
gay insouciant smile.

At that moment Ned Kilmeny stepped out upon the hotel porch. Lady Jim
nodded toward him.

"Perhaps," his cousin conceded. "But in this little old world a man
doesn't get what he deserves."

"I see he doesn't. Ned is a better man than you."

"Yes," he admitted.

Captain Kilmeny, coming down the porch steps, saw in a flash what had
happened. He came forward with the even stride and impassive face that
seldom deserted him. In two sentences Lady Farquhar told him the facts.

"You lucky dog," he said to his cousin as their hands gripped.

Jack had never liked him better than in this moment when he was giving
up so cheerfully the thing he wanted most in the world.

"It isn't always the best man that wins, captain. I take off my hat to
the better men who have tried and failed. Perhaps it may be a comfort to
them to know that I'm the man that needs her most."

The captain turned to Moya. "So you've found that good hunting already,"
he said to her in a low voice.

"Yes, I think I have ... I'm sure of it, Ned." Her eyes were full of
tender sympathy for him. She wished she could tell him how much she
admired his fine spirit.

"God keep you happy," he said wistfully.

Jack joined them and slipped Moya's arm into his. "Amen to that,
captain. And since Jack Kilmeny has been appointed deputy on the job I'm
going to see your wish comes true."

Moya looked at her lover and smiled.





Next: Two Men And A Woman

Previous: Two In A Bucket



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