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Sara Goes On A Journey








From: Still Jim

"Love is the speaking voice of the Great Hunger. Happy the
human who has found one great love. All nature speaks in him
profoundly."

MUSINGS OF THE ELEPHANT.


Jim started up the road but Mr. Dennis stopped long enough to say,
"Oughtn't you to be there, doctor?"

The doctor nodded. "I'll be back as soon as I can. They've just brought
an hombre with a crushed leg into the hospital. Mrs. Flynn knows what to
do and so does his wife. He may go any time."

Uncle Denny panted after Jim, but before they reached the tent house,
Mrs. Flynn stopped them on the trail.

"It's all over," she said. "I've taken Mrs. Penelope over to our house.
I'll take charge up here."

"You don't mean Saradokis is dead?" cried Uncle Denny.

"He is, God rest his poor wicked soul!"

Jim stood white and rigid. "Did I hasten this with my scene last night,
I wonder!" he asked huskily.

Mrs. Flynn shook her head. "The doctor told me a month ago not to go out
of reach of the tent house. That this was liable to come any time. He
came out of the morphine near noon, held Mrs. Pen's hand and said she
had slapped a lot of the bitterness out of his heart last night. Then he
went to sleep and never woke up. Mr. Dennis, you go to Mrs. Penelope.
Boss, you go and do the telegraphing that's necessary."

It was supper time before Jim could leave the business of the dam and
get up to his house. He and Uncle Denny had finished supper when Pen
came out of Mrs. Flynn's room. She was white and spent, but she had not
been crying.

"Still," she said, "I want you to persuade Uncle Denny not to go back
East with me and poor Sara. I am perfectly well and quite able to make
the trip alone. Uncle Denny is needed here."

"It's not to be thought of!" cried Dennis. "When the first shock is over
I'm looking for you to go to pieces and I propose to be on the job."

"Uncle Denny," said Pen quietly, "I shall not go to pieces. I feel the
tragedy of Sara's life very deeply and I am very sad over it all. But
I'm not a widow. I'm a nurse and friend whose job is over. It will be a
pitiful journey to take Sara back to his father. But I shall be with
dear Aunt Mary in New York. I shall get no rest unless I know that you
are with Jim in this critical moment of his career."

The two men looked at each other uncertainly. Suddenly Pen's voice
shook: "Oh, don't make me argue!"

Jim spoke slowly: "We never have regretted doing what Pen told us to,
Uncle Denny. It looks heartless, but I guess we'll have to obey."

"Me soul in me is like a whirling Dervish," said Uncle Denny, "with
both of you needing me so. You'll have to decide betwixt you."

"Then Uncle Denny will stay here and we will take you over for the five
o'clock morning train, Pen. Mrs. Flynn has packed your trunk and poor
Sara is ready for his last trip. When shall we look for your return,
little Penelope?"

Pen looked a little bewildered. "Why, there is no excuse for my coming
back. I shall stay with your mother until I get rested and then I must
find something to do."

Uncle Denny jumped up and stood with his back to the fireplace while Jim
leaned on the back of Pen's chair.

"Listen to me, children," said Dennis. "Of what use is it to beat about
the bush and refuse to speak what's in the heart of each of us? How can
we pretend that poor Sara's death is not God's own relief to him and us?
We can weep, as Pen says, over the tragedy of his life, but not that he
is gone. Your talk of going to work is nonsense, me sweet Pen. After a
few months you will marry Jim and have the happiness you have earned so
dearly."

Jim did not move. Pen's pale face turned scarlet. "Oh, Uncle Denny," she
cried, "don't talk to me of marriage! I love Jim dearly, but now this is
all over I have left only a deadly fear of marriage!"

"Pen! Pen!" exclaimed Uncle Denny. "What do you know of marriage? For
every unhappy marriage we hear of there are three of such sweet
companionship that its sharers hide it from the world as if 'twere too
sacred for the common gaze. The perfect friendship is between man and
woman and when you add to that the sacrament of body and soul, you have
the only heaven humans may know on earth. And 'tis enough. 'Tis full
compensation for all the ills of life."

"Jane Ames has been talking to me that way lately," said Pen, her eyes
full of tears. "But you nor she never really had your dreams destroyed
as I have." She paused and went on as if half to herself: "And yet
nothing has come into my life so revivifying and wholesome as Oscar and
Jane's finding each other after all these years. Perhaps there is
something in marriage I don't know. Jane says there is. But--Oh, I am so
tired!"

Jim moved round to Uncle Denny's side. "It's good of Uncle Denny to
plead for me, isn't it, Penny? But you are in no state now to listen to
him or me, either. Go back to mother, and don't work, but play. You've
forgotten how to play. I remember that long ago when Uncle Denny wanted
mother to marry him he told her that marrying him would give me my
chance to play, that I couldn't come to my full strength without play.
Grown-ups need play, too, little Pen. Go back for a while and rest and
take up your tennis again and go to Coney Island with mother. Go and
play, Penny. And some day I'll come back and play with you."

Pen gave a little sigh. Suddenly her tense nerves relaxed and she
settled back in her chair with a little color in her cheeks.

Uncle Denny cleared his throat. "Tell Mrs. Flynn to fetch her some tea
and toast, me boy. Then she must go to bed for a few hours."

The automobile, with Henderson at the wheel, was at the door before
dawn. Jim had sent poor Sara on before midnight. Uncle Denny put Pen
and Jim into the tonneau, then climbed up beside Henderson and the
machine shot swiftly out on the great road.

Pen did not speak for some time and Jim did not disturb her. She looked
back at the Elephant as long as she could discern the great meditative
form in the starlight. Then, after they had gotten into the hills and
were winging like night birds up the mountain road, Jim felt a cold
little hand slip into his lean, warm paw.

Jim's heart gave a thud. He leaned forward to look into Pen's face. It
was dim in the starlight, but he saw that she smiled slightly. Jim
leaned back, feeling as if he could overturn worlds with this thrill in
his veins.

The great road curled like a hair among the dim black mountain tops. The
machine flew lightly. Uncle Denny and Henderson talked quietly, and at
last, under cover of their speech and the whirr of the engine, Pen began
to talk softly to Jim.

"I am hoping that in the years to come I can remember Sara as a college
boy, so full of life and ambition! He was a beautiful boy, Still, wasn't
he?"

"Yes, little Pen, I loved him very much, then."

"Life was unfair to him to give him a greater burden than he was
designed to bear," said Pen. "I shall miss the care of him. I am going
to miss the demands he made on my best spiritual effort. I'm going to
sag like a fiddle string released. If only he has gone on now to a
better chance! Poor, poor tortured Sara!"

Jim rubbed the little twitching fingers and Pen leaned against his
shoulder softly as though she needed his nearness to steady her. She
went on a little brokenly:

"'Envy and calumny and hate and pain
And that unrest which men miscall delight
Can touch him not and torture not again----'

"I guess I won't get over the scarring, Still. I'm so tired."

"You've the priceless gift of youth, dear Penny," said Jim softly. "Go
and play, sweetheart."

There was a long silence. Dawn was marching on the mountain tops.
Penelope watched the silver glory of the star-studded sky and she said
in a steadier tone:

"'Life like a dome of many colored glass
Stains the white radiance of Eternity
Until death tramples it to fragments----'"

A sudden scarlet revealed itself on a far peak. It was like a marvelous
translucent ruby, set in a silver mist.

Uncle Denny turned. "Henderson says we are right on the railroad."

"We are," replied Jim, "and yonder is the train."

The automobile drew into the station with the train and Uncle Denny,
with Henderson, helped embark poor Sara on his last ride, while Jim put
Pen aboard the train. Pen followed Jim back onto the train platform. Jim
shook hands with her and stood on the lower step waiting for the train
to start. His face in the dawn light was very wistful. Suddenly Pen's
lips quivered. Just as the train began to move, "Jim!" she whispered.
And she leaned over and caught his face between her hands and kissed him
quickly on the lips. Then she slipped into the coach. Jim dropped off
the train and stood staring unseeingly at Uncle Denny and Henderson. A
to-hee sang its morning song from a nearby cactus:

"O yahee! O yahai!
Sweet as arrow weed in spring!"

"Put your hat on, me boy," said Uncle Denny, who had not seen the little
episode, "and come on." He led the way to the machine and climbed in
beside Jim. "Well, Still, she's gone!"

Jim turned and looked at his Uncle Denny. "She's not gone for long. When
I have finished the Project fight I shall go after her."

"Did she agree?" asked Uncle Denny eagerly.

"No," said Jim serenely. "She's in the frame of mind that's to be
expected after the life she's lived with Sara. She is afraid of
everything. After the election, I shall go to her. She and I have missed
enough of each other."

Dennis brought his fist down on his knee. "Then that's settled right,
thank God!" he said to the dawn at large.

The next day Mrs. Ames came up to the dam. She was inconsolable that she
had not been sent for, to help Pen and Mrs. Flynn's air of superiority
was not soothing. Uncle Denny took to Mrs. Ames at once.

"I've done nothing but gad for Mr. Manning, lately," she said.

"How are things going?" asked Mrs. Flynn. "Has Bill Evans got all the
money yet?"

"Eh? What's this?" exclaimed Uncle Denny.

"Mrs. Pen thought it would do a lot of good if we could get the
farmers' wives to working against Fleckenstein," said Jane. "I've been
calling on a lot of them. Bill Evans takes me in his auto."

"Who pays Bill?" asked Uncle Denny. "Ames?"

"He does not, though he honestly offered to," said Jane. "This is a
woman's job. Mrs. Flynn is paying for it. And don't you tell Mr.
Manning. So far he hasn't asked any questions. Oscar says he's too
worried over other things."

"Bless us!" cried Uncle Denny. "That won't do! You must let me
straighten it up."

Mrs. Flynn rapped on the table with the dripping mixing spoon with which
she had followed Jane in from the kitchen. "Michael Dennis! You will
not! What's me money for if it ain't for him? Ain't he all I've got in
the wide world and you grutch me that? God knows I never thought I'd
come to this to be told I couldn't do for him! If God lets me live to
spare my life I hope to spend every cent I've got back on the Boss."

Uncle Denny nodded. "All right! You're a good woman, Mrs. Flynn. How is
your campaign going, Mrs. Ames?"

Jane shook her head. "You never know which way a woman will jump. If
only Fleckenstein can be beaten, it will be Mr. Manning's personality
that beats him, and after that he can do whatever he wants to with the
valley. But the election is only a little way off and I'm scared to
death. I've talked and visited until I'm ashamed of myself. And there's
only one woman in the valley I'm sure of."

"Who is she?" asked Uncle Denny.

"That's Mrs. Cady, a rich widow who lives near Cabillo. She's the
terror of the valley. She's a scold and she holds half the mortgages in
the county. She stopped Mr. Manning a while ago and asked what he meant
by running one of the canals the way it was. Then, just because he's
always nice to a woman, Mr. Manning stands and lets her explain his
business to him for half an hour. When she got through he thanked her
and said it was always wise to trust a woman's intuition. She thought
she'd taught him a real valuable lesson and she said he was the only man
she ever saw that knew good advice when he got it. Well, when I went
round to her the other day and told her what Mr. Manning was up against,
she flew round like a wet hen. I've heard she threatened to foreclose on
anyone that voted for Fleckenstein."

Uncle Denny chuckled. "And the boy thinks he has no friends!"

The fight into which Jim had thrown himself was an intangible one. He
knew that he could not save his job for himself, but he believed that if
he could defeat Fleckenstein, he would have made the farmers assume a
responsibility for the Project that would never be lost.

Uncle Denny did not tell Jim that he knew that every day lessened Jim's
term of office on the dam. He asked no embarrassing questions. One day,
as they stood looking at the dam slowly emerging from the river bed to
lie in the utter beauty of strength at the Elephant's feet, Jim said:

"I wonder if another man will love the dam as I have. There is not a
stone in it that I don't know and care for."

But Uncle Denny only nodded and said in reply, "A man must love the
thing he creates whether it's a dam or a child." But his heart ached
within him.

The Department of Agriculture had responded immediately and half a dozen
experts already were at work on the Project. The older farmers resented
any suggestions that were made regarding their methods, but little by
little the newcomers were turning to the experts, and Jim believed that
even in a year scientific farming would be a settled fact on the
Project.

Every moment that Jim could spare from hastening the work on the dam he
spent in the valley with the farmers. He did not harangue. He had come
to realize that deep within us all dwells a hunger of the soul on which,
when roused, the world wings forward. So he induced these men to talk to
him and listened, wondering at the deeps he touched. He did not realize
that often they were ashamed to show him narrowness or selfishness when
through his wistful silence they glimpsed his unsatisfied visioning.
Nothing in life is so contagious as a great dream.

As far as the Project was concerned, the story of Jim's alleged
interview with Freet made little impression, after all. Insinuations and
accusations had appeared so often about the engineers of the dam in the
local papers that they had ceased to be a sensation. In the East,
though, Jim knew the story would leave its permanent imprint. Murphy
interviewed Fleckenstein and never would tell what he and the politician
said to each other. But the threat of the letter never was carried out.
Fleckenstein continued a vigorous campaign, however. Money and whiskey
flowed freely and Fleckenstein saw every man that Jim saw.

Uncle Denny was only temporarily dismayed by Jim's refusal to allow him
to work openly against Fleckenstein. Mrs. Ames, having come to the end
of her talking capacity, he hired Bill Evans and his machine for the
remaining six weeks of the campaign. Bill was quite willing to let the
hogs go hungry while he and his machine were in demand.

Uncle Denny said: "A twenty-mile ride in Bill's tonneau is better as a
flesh reducer than ten hours in a Turkish bath. It is the truth when I
tell folks I'm riding for me health."

Uncle Denny made himself newsgetter-in-chief for Jim. He scoured the
valley for reports on the state of mind of every water user and business
man on the Project. Oscar and Murphy, when not with Jim, devoted
themselves to Uncle Denny. Both the men were frankly giving all their
time to the Project these days.

The weeks sped by all too rapidly. One evening Uncle Denny called a
conference at Jim's house. Jim, coming home from the office at ten
o'clock that night, found Murphy and Henderson and Oscar awaiting him
with Uncle Denny as master of ceremonies.

"Me boy," said Uncle Denny, "there's going to be a landslide for
Fleckenstein."

Jim nodded. "I think so. Well, anyhow, I've made one or two friends
below who'll remember after I'm gone some of the things I've wanted for
the Project."

Uncle Denny, standing before the grate, looked at Jim in a troubled way.
The Big Boss, as he loved to call Jim, was looking very tired.

"Well," said Murphy, "Fleckenstein can't make much trouble for a year.
Even after he takes his seat it will take time to start things even with
the money from the Trust. And in the meantime the Big Boss will be able
to put up a great counter-irritant out here if what he's done the last
few weeks is any sample."

Jim lighted his pipe and leaned back in his chair. "I won't be here,
boys," he said. "This is confidential. I have been asked for my
resignation and it takes effect the day after election."

There was utter silence in the room for a moment, then Henderson leaned
forward and spat past Uncle Denny into the grate.

"Hell's fire!" he said gently.

"How long have you known this, Boss?" asked Murphy.

"Nearly three months," answered Jim.

"Pen told me," said Dennis. "Suma-theek told her."

Jim looked up in astonishment, then he shook his head. "I'm sorry Pen
has that to bother her, too."

Murphy jumped to his feet. "And you have known this three months and
never told us! Is that any way to treat your friends? Do you suppose we
want to lie by and see you licked off this dam like a yellow cur? It's
no use for you to ask this to be kept quiet, Boss. I won't do it."

Jim rose and pointed his pipe at Murphy. "Murphy, if you try to use this
confidential talk to raise sentiment for me, I'll fire you!"

"You can't fire my friendship!" shouted Murphy. "You can have my job any
time you want it!"

Here Oscar Ames spoke for the first time. "When's Mrs. Penelope coming
back?"

"Don't you get her out here," said Jim. "She can do no good and she
needs peace and quiet."





Next: The End Of The Silent Campaign

Previous: Uncle Denny Gets Busy



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