Virginia Takes Another Motor Ride
From: Cavanaugh: Forest Ranger
Lee Virginia's efforts to refine the little hotel produced an amazing
change in Eliza Wetherford's affairs. The dining-room swarmed with those
seeking food, and as the news of the girl's beauty went out upon the
range, the cowboys sought excuse to ride in and get a square meal and a
glimpse of the "Queen" whose hand had witched "the old shack" into a
marvel of cleanliness.
Say what you will, beauty is a sovereign appeal. These men, unspeakably
profane, cruel, and obscene in their saddle-talk, were awed by the fresh
linen, the burnished glass, and the well-ordered tables which they found
in place of the flies, the dirt, and the disorder of aforetime. "It's
worth a day's ride just to see that girl for a minute," declared one
They did not all use the napkins, but they enjoyed having them there
beside their plates, and the subdued light, the freedom from insects
impressed them almost to decorum. They entered with awe, avid for a word
with "Lize Wetherford's girl." Generally they failed of so much as a
glance at her, for she kept away from the dining-room at meal-time.
Lee Virginia was fully aware of this male curiosity, and vaguely conscious
of the merciless light which shone in the eyes of some of them (men like
Gregg), who went about their game with the shameless directness of the
brute. She had begun to understand, too, that her mother's reputation was
a barrier between the better class of folk and herself; but as they came
now and again to take a meal, they permitted themselves a word in her
praise, which she resented. "I don't want their friendship now," she
As she gained courage to look about her, she began to be interested in
some of her coatless, collarless boarders on account of their
extraordinary history. There was Brady, the old government scout, retired
on a pension, who was accustomed to sit for hours on the porch, gazing
away over the northern plains--never toward the mountains--as if he
watched for bear or bison, or for the files of hostile red hunters--though
in reality there was nothing to see but the stage, coming and going, or a
bunch of cowboys galloping into town. Nevertheless, every cloud of dust
was to him diversion, and he appeared to dream, like a captive eagle,
bedraggled, spiritless, but with an inner spark of memory burning deep in
his dim blue eyes.
Then there was an old miner, distressingly filthy, who hobbled to his
meals on feet that had been frozen into clubs. He had a little gold loaned
at interest, and on this he lived in tragic parsimony. He and the old
scout sat much together, usually without speech (each knew to the last
word the other's stories), as if they recognized each other's utter
Sifton, the old remittance man, had been born to a higher culture,
therefore was his degradation the deeper. His poverty was due to his
weakness. Virginia was especially drawn toward him by reason of his
inalienable politeness and his well-chosen words. He was always the
gentleman--no matter how frayed his clothing.
So far as the younger men were concerned, she saw little to admire and
much to hate. They were crude and uninteresting rowdies for the most part.
She was put upon her defence by their glances, and she came to dread
walking along the street, so open and coarse were their words of praise.
She felt dishonored by the glances which her feet drew after her, and she
always walked swiftly to and from the store or the post-office.
Few of these loafers had the courage to stand on their feet and court her
favor, but there was one who speedily became her chief persecutor. This
was Neill Ballard, celebrated (and made impudent) by two years' travel
with a Wild West show. He was tall, lean, angular, and freckled, but his
horsemanship was marvellous and his skill with the rope magical. His
special glory consisted in a complicated whirling of the lariat. In his
hand the limp, inert cord took on life, grace, charm. It hung in the air
or ran in rhythmic waves about him, rising, falling, expanding,
diminishing, as if controlled by some agency other than a man's hand, and
its gyrations had won much applause in the Eastern cities, where such
skill is expected of the cowboys.
He had lost his engagement by reason of a drunken brawl, and he was now
living with his sister, the wife of a small rancher near by. He was vain,
lazy, and unspeakably corrupt, full of open boasting of his exploits in
the drinking-dens of the East. No sooner did he fix eyes upon Virginia
than he marked her for his special prey. He had the depraved heart of the
herder and the insolent confidence of the hoodlum, and something of this
the girl perceived. She despised the other men, but she feared this one,
and quite justly, for he was capable of assaulting and binding her with
his rope, as he had once done with a Shoshone squaw.
The Greggs, father and son, were in open rivalry for Lee also, but in
different ways. The older man, who had already been married several times,
was disposed to buy her hand in what he called "honorable wedlock," but
the son, at heart a libertine, approached her as one who despised the
West, and who, being kept in the beastly country by duty to a parent, was
ready to amuse himself at any one's expense. He had no purpose in life but
to feed his body and escape toil.
There are women to whom all this warfare would have been diverting, but it
was not so to Lee. Her sense of responsibility was too keen. It was both a
torture and a shame. The chivalry of the plains, of which she had read so
much--and which she supposed she remembered--was gone. She doubted if it
had ever existed among these centaurs. Why should it inhere in ignorant,
brutal plainsmen any more than in ignorant, brutal factory hands?
There came to her, now and again, gentle old ranchers--"grangers," they
would be called--and shy boys from the farms, but for the most part the
men she saw embittered her, and she kept out of their sight as much as
possible. Her keenest pleasures, almost her only pleasures, lay in the
occasional brief visits of the ranger, as he rode in for his mail.
Lize perceived all these attacks on her daughter, and was infuriated by
them. She snapped and snarled like a tigress leading her half-grown kitten
through a throng of leopards. Her brows were knotted with care as well as
with pain, and she incessantly urged Virginia to go back to Sulphur. "I'll
send you money to pay your board till you strike a job." But to this the
girl would not agree; and the business, by reason of her presence, went on
increasing from day to day.
To Redfield Lize one day confessed her pain. "I ought to send for that
doctor up there, but the plain truth is I'm afraid of him. I don't want to
know what's the matter of me. It's his job to tell me I'm sick and I'm
scared of his verdict."
"Nonsense," he replied; "you can't afford to put off getting him much
longer. I'm going back to-night, but I'll be over again to-morrow. Why
don't you let me bring him down? It will save you twelve dollars. And, by
the way, suppose you let me take Lee Virginia home with me? She looks a
bit depressed; an outing will do her good. She's taken hold here
"Hasn't she! But I should have sent her away the very first night. I'm
getting to depend on her. I'm plumb foolish about her now--can't let her
out of my sight; and yet I'm off my feed worryin' over her. Gregg is
getting dangerous--you can't fool me when it comes to men. Curse 'em,
they're all alike--beasts, every cussed one of them. I won't have my girl
mistreated, I tell you that! I'm not fit to be her mother, now that's the
God's truth, Reddy, and this rotten little back-country cow-town is no
place for her. But what can I do? She won't leave me so long as I'm sick,
and every day ties her closer to me. I don't know what I'd do without her.
If I'm goin' to die I want her by me when I take my drop. So you see just
how I'm placed."
She looked yellow and drawn as she ended, and Redfield was moved by her
"Now let me advise," he began, after a moment's pause. "We musn't let the
girl get homesick. I'll take her home with me this afternoon, and bring
her back along with a doctor to-morrow."
"All right, but before you go I want to have a private talk--I want to
tell you something."
He warned her away from what promised to be a confession. "Now, now,
Eliza, don't tell me anything that requires that tone of voice; I'm a bad
person to keep a secret, and you might be sorry for it. I don't want to
know anything more about your business than I can guess."
"I don't mean the whiskey trade," she explained. "I've cut that all out
anyway. It's something more important--it's about Ed and me."
"I don't want to hear that either," he declared. "Let bygones be
bygones. What you did then is outlawed, anyway. Those were fierce times,
and I want to forget them." He looked about. "Let me see this Miss
Virginia and convey to her Mrs. Redfield's invitation."
"She's in the kitchen, I reckon. Go right out."
He was rather glad of a chance to see the young reformer in action, and
smiled as he came upon her surrounded by waiters and cooks, busily
superintending the preparations for the noon meal, which amounted to a
tumult each day.
She saw Redfield, nodded, and a few moments later came toward him, flushed
and beaming with welcome. "I'm glad to see you again, Mr. Supervisor."
He bowed profoundly. "I'm delighted to find you well, Miss Virginia, and
doubly pleased to see you in your regimentals, which you mightily adorn."
She looked down at her apron. "I made this myself. Do you know our
business is increasing wonderfully? I'm busy every moment of the day till
"Indeed I do know it. I hear of the Wetherford House all up and down the
line. I was just telling your mother she'll be forced to build bigger,
like the chap in the Bible."
"She works too hard. Poor mother! I try to get her to turn the cash-drawer
over to me, but she won't do it. Doesn't she seem paler and weaker to
"She does, indeed, and this is what I came in to propose. Mrs. Redfield
sends by me a formal invitation to you to visit Elk Lodge. She is not
quite able to take the long ride, else she'd come to you." Here he handed
her a note. "I suggest that you go up with me this afternoon, and
to-morrow we'll fetch the doctor down to see your mother. What do you say
Her eyes were dewy with grateful appreciation of his kindness as she
answered: "That would be a great pleasure, Mr. Redfield, if mother feels
able to spare me."
"I've talked with her; she is anxious to have you go."
Virginia was indeed greatly pleased and pleasantly excited by this
message, for she had heard much of Mrs. Redfield's exclusiveness, and also
of the splendor of her establishment. She hurried away to dress with such
flutter of joyous anticipation that Redfield felt quite repaid for the
pressure he had put upon his wife to induce her to write that note. "You
may leave Lize Wetherford out of the count, my dear," he had said. "There
is nothing of her discernible in the girl. Virginia is a lady. I don't
know where she got it, but she's a gentlewoman by nature."
Lize said: "Don't you figure on me in any way, Reddy. I'm nothing but the
old hen that raised up this lark, and all I'm a-livin' for now is to make
her happy. Just you cut me out when it comes to any question about your
wife and Virginia. I'm not in their class."
It was hot and still in the town, but no sooner was the car in motion than
both heat and dust were forgotten. Redfield's machine was not large, and
as he was content to go at moderate speed, conversation was possible.
He was of that sunny, optimistic, ever-youthful nature which finds delight
in human companionship under any conditions whatsoever. He accepted this
girl for what she seemed--a fresh, unspoiled child. He saw nothing cheap
or commonplace in her, and was not disposed to impose any of her father's
wild doings upon her calendar. He had his misgivings as to her
future--that was the main reason why he had said to Mrs. Redfield, "The
girl must be helped." Afterward he had said "sustained."
It was inevitable that the girl should soon refer to the ranger, and
Redfield was as complimentary of him as she could wish. "Ross hasn't a
fault but one, and that's a negative one: he doesn't care a hang about
getting on, as they say over in England. He's content just to do the duty
of the moment. He made a good cow-puncher and a good soldier; but as for
promotion, he laughs when I mention it."
"He told me that he hoped to be Chief Forester," protested Virginia.
"Oh yes, he says that; but do you know, he'd rather be where he is, riding
over the hills, than live in London. You should see his cabin some time.
It's most wonderful, really. His walls are covered with bookshelves of his
own manufacture, and chairs of his own design. Where the boy got the
skill, I don't see. Heaven knows, his sisters are conventional enough!
He's capable of being Supervisor, but he won't live in town and work in an
office. He's like an Indian in his love of the open."
All this was quite too absorbingly interesting to permit of any study of
the landscape, which went by as if dismissed by the chariot wheels of some
contemptuous magician. Redfield's eyes were mostly on the road (in the
manner of the careful driver), but when he did look up it was to admire
the color and poise of his seat-mate, who made the landscape of small
She kept the conversation to the desired point. "Mr. Cavanagh's work
interests me very much. It seems very important; and it must be new, for I
never heard of a forest ranger when I was a child."
"The forester is new--at least, in America," he answered. "My dear young
lady, you are returned just in the most momentous period in the history of
the West. The old dominion--the cattle-range--is passing. The supremacy of
the cowboy is ended. The cow-boss is raising oats, the cowboy is pitching
alfalfa, and swearing horribly as he blisters his hands. Some of the
rangers at the moment are men of Western training like Ross, but whose
allegiance is now to Uncle Sam. With others that transfer of allegiance is
not quite complete, hence the insolence of men like Gregg, who think they
can bribe or intimidate these forest guards, and so obtain favors; the
newer men are college-bred, real foresters. But you can't know what it all
means till you see Ross, or some other ranger, on his own heath. We'll
make up a little party some day and drop down upon him, and have him show
us about. It's a lonely life, and so the ranger keeps open house. Would
you like to go?"
"Oh, yes indeed! I'm eager to get into the mountains. Every night as I see
the sun go down over them I wonder what the world is like up there."
Then he began very delicately to inquire about her Eastern experience.
There was not much to tell. In a lovely old town not far from
Philadelphia, where her aunt lived, she had spent ten years of happy
exile. "I was horribly lonely and homesick at first," she said. "Mother
wrote only short letters, and my father never wrote at all. I didn't know
he was dead then. He was always good to me. He wasn't a bad man, was he?"
"No," responded Redfield, without hesitation. "He was very like the rest
of us--only a little more reckless and a little more partisan, that's all.
He was a dashing horseman and a dead-shot, and so, naturally, a leader of
these daredevils. He was popular with both sides of the controversy up to
the very moment when he went South to lead the invaders against the
"What was it all about? I never understood it. What were they fighting
"In a sense, it was all very simple. You see, Uncle Sam, in his careless,
do-nothing way, has always left his range to whomever got there first, and
that was the cattle-man. At first there was grass enough for us all, but
as we built sheds and corrals about watering-places we came to claim
rights on the range. We usually secured by fraud homesteads in the
sections containing water, and so, gun in hand, 'stood off' the man who
came after. Gradually, after much shooting and lawing, we parcelled out
the range and settled down covering practically the whole State. Our
adjustments were not perfect, but our system was working smoothly for us
who controlled the range. We had convinced ourselves, and pretty nearly
everybody else, that the State was only fit for cattle-grazing, and that
we were the most competent grazers; furthermore, we were in possession,
and no man could come in without our consent.
"However, a very curious law of our own making was our undoing. Of course
the 'nester' or 'punkin roller,' as we contemptuously called the small
farmer, began sifting in here and there in spite of our guns, but he was
only a mosquito bite in comparison with the trouble which our cow-punchers
stirred up. Perhaps you remember enough about the business to know that an
unbranded yearling calf without its mother is called a maverick?"
"Yes, I remember that. It belongs to the man who finds him, and brands
"Precisely. Now that law worked very nicely so long as the poor cowboy was
willing to catch and brand him for his employer, but it proved a 'joker'
when he woke up and said to his fellows: 'Why brand these mavericks at
five dollars per head for this or that outfit when the law says it belongs
to the man who finds him?'"
Lee Virginia looked up brightly. "That seems right to me!"
"Ah yes; but wait. We cattle-men had large herds, and the probabilities
were that the calf belonged to some one of us; whereas, the cowboy, having
no herd at all, knew the maverick belonged to some one's herd. True, the
law said it was his, but the law did not mean to reward the freebooter;
yet that is exactly what it did. At first only a few outlaws took
advantage of it; but hard years came on, the cattle business became less
and less profitable, we were forced to lay off our men, and so at last the
range swarmed with idle cow-punchers; then came the breakdown in our
scheme! The cowboys took to 'mavericking' on their own account. Some of
them had the grace to go into partnership with some farmer, and so claim a
small bunch of cows, but others suddenly and miraculously acquired herds
of their own. From keeping within the law, they passed to violent methods.
They slit the tongues of calves for the purpose of separating them from
their mothers. Finding he could not suck, bossy would at last wander away
from his dam, and so become a 'maverick.' In short, anarchy reigned on the
"But surely my father had nothing to do with this?"
"No; your father, up to this time, had been on good terms with everybody.
He had a small herd of cattle down the river, which he owned in common
with a man named Hart."
"I remember him."
"He was well thought of by all the big outfits; and when the situation
became intolerable, and we got together to weed out 'the rustlers,' as
these cattle-thieves were called, your father was approached and converted
to a belief in drastic measures. He had suffered less than the rest of us
because of his small herd and the fact that he was very popular among the
cowboys. So far as I was concerned, the use of violent methods revolted
me. My training in the East had made me a respecter of the law. 'Change
the law,' I said. 'The law is all right,' they replied; 'the trouble is
with these rustlers. We'll hang a few of 'em, and that will break up the
Parts of this story came back to the girl's mind, producing momentary
flashes of perfect recollection. She heard again the voices of excited men
arguing over and over the question of "mavericking," and she saw her
father as he rode up to the house that last day before he went South.
Redfield went on. "The whole plan as developed was silly, and I wonder
still that Ed Wetherford, who knew 'the nester' and the cowboy so well,
should have lent his aid to it. The cattle-men--some from Cheyenne, some
from Denver, and a few from New York and Chicago--agreed to finance a sort
of Vigilante Corps composed of men from the outside, on the understanding
that this policing body should be commanded by one of their own number.
Your father was chosen second in command, and was to guide the party; for
he knew almost every one of the rustlers, and could ride directly to their
"I wish he hadn't done that," murmured the girl.
"I must be frank with you, Virginia. I can't excuse that in him. It was a
kind of treachery. He must have been warped by his associates. They
convinced him by some means that it was his duty, and one fine day the
Fork was startled by a messenger, who rode in to say that the
cattle-barons were coming with a hundred Texas bad men 'to clean out the
town,' and to put their own men into office. This last was silly rot to
me, but the people believed it."
The girl was tingling now. "I remember! I remember the men who rode into
the town to give the alarm. Their horses were white with foam; their heads
hung down, and their sides went in and out. I pitied the poor things.
Mother jumped on her pony, and rode out among the men. She wanted to go
with them, but they wouldn't let her. I was scared almost breathless."
"I was in Sulphur City, and did not hear of it till it was nearly all
over," Redfield resumed, his speech showing a little of the excitement
which thrilled through the girl's voice. "Well, the first act of vengeance
was so ill-considered that it practically ended the whole campaign. The
invaders fell upon and killed two ranchers--one of whom was probably not a
rustler at all, but a peaceable settler, and the other one they most
barbarously hanged. More than this, they attacked and vainly tried to kill
two settlers whom they met on the road--German farmers, with no
connection, so far as known, with the thieves. These men escaped, and gave
the alarm. In a few hours the whole range was aflame with vengeful fire.
The Forks, as you may recall, was like a swarm of bumblebees. Every man
and boy was armed and mounted. The storekeepers distributed guns and
ammunition, leaders developed, and the embattled 'punkin rollers,'
rustlers, and townsmen rode out to meet the invaders."
The girl paled with memory of it. "It was terrible! I went all day without
eating, and for two nights we were all too excited to sleep. It seemed as
if the world were coming to an end. Mother cried because they wouldn't let
her go with them. She didn't know father was leading the other army."
"She must have known soon, for it was reported that your father was among
them. She certainly knew when they were driven to earth in that log fort,
for they were obliged to restrain her by force from going to your father.
As I run over those furious days it all seems incredible, like a sudden
reversal to barbarism."
"How did it all end? The soldiers came, didn't they?"
"Yes; the long arm of Uncle Sam reached out and took hold upon the necks
of both parties. I guess your father and his band would have died right
there had not the regular army interfered. It only required a sergeant
wearing Uncle Sam's uniform to come among those armed and furious cowboys
and remove their prisoners."
"I saw that. It was very strange--that sergeant was so young and so
He turned and smiled at her. "Do you know who that was?"
Her eyes flashed. She drew her breath with a gasp. "Was it Mr. Cavanagh?"
"Yes, it was Ross. He was serving in the regular army at the time. He has
told me since that he felt no fear whatever. 'Uncle Sam's blue coat was
like Siegfried's magic armor,' he said; 'it was the kind of thing the
mounted police of Canada had been called upon to do many a time, and I
went in and got my men.' That ended the war, so far as violent measures
went, and it really ended the sovereignty of the cattle-man. The power of
the 'nester' has steadily increased from that moment."
"But my father--what became of him? They took him away to the East, and
that is all I ever knew. What do you think became of him?"
"I could never make up my mind. All sorts of rumors come to us concerning
him. As a matter of fact, the State authorities sympathized with the
cattle-barons, and my own opinion is that your father was permitted to
escape. He was afterward seen in Texas, and later it was reported that he
had been killed there."
The girl sat still, listening to the tireless whir of the machine, and
looking out at the purpling range with tear-mist eyes. At last she said:
"I shall never think of my father as a bad man, he was always so gentle to
"You need not condemn him, my dear young lady. First of all, it's not fair
to bring him (as he was in those days) forward into these piping times of
dairy cows and alfalfa. The people of the Forks--some of them, at
least--consider him a traitor, and regard you as the daughter of a
renegade, but what does it matter? Each year sees the Old West diminish,
and already, in the work of the Forest Service, law and order advance.
Notwithstanding all the shouting of herders and the beating to death of
sheep, no hostile shot has ever been fired within the bounds of a National
Forest. In the work of the forest rangers lies the hope of ultimate peace
and order over all the public lands."
The girl fell silent again, her mind filled with larger conceptions of
life than her judgment had hitherto been called upon to meet. She knew
that Redfield was right, and yet that world of the past--the world of the
swift herdsman and his trampling, long-horned, half-wild kine still
appealed to her imagination. The West of her girlhood seemed heroic in
memory; even the quiet account of it to which she had just listened could
not conceal its epic largeness of movement. The part which troubled her
most was her father's treachery to his neighbors. That he should fight,
that he should kill men in honorable warfare, she could understand; but
not his recreancy, his desertion of her mother and herself.
She came back to dwell at last on the action of that slim young soldier
who had calmly ridden through the infuriated mob. She remembered that she
had thrilled even then at the vague and impersonal power which he
represented. To her childish mind he seemed to bear a charm, like the
heroes of her story-books--something which made him invulnerable.
After a long pause Redfield spoke again. "The memory of your father will
make life for a time a bit hard for you in Roaring Fork--perhaps your
mother's advice is sound. Why not come to Sulphur City, which is almost
entirely of the new spirit?"
"If I can get my mother to come, too, I will be glad to do so, for I hate
the Fork; but I will not leave her there, sick and alone."
"Much depends upon the doctor's examination to-morrow."
They had topped the divide now between the Fork and Sulphur Creek Basin,
and the green fields, the alfalfa meadows, and the painted farm-houses
thickened beneath them. Strange how significant all these signs were now.
A few days ago they had appeared doubtful improvements, now they
represented the oncoming dominion of the East. They meant cleanliness and
decent speech, good bread and sweet butter. Ultimately houses with hot
water in their bath-rooms and pianos in their parlors would displace the
shack, the hitching-pole, and the dog-run, and in those days Edward
Wetherford would be forgotten.
Redfield swept through the town, then turned up the stream directly toward
the high wall of the range, which was ragged and abrupt at this point.
They passed several charming farm-houses, and the western sky grew ever
more glorious with its plum-color and saffron, and the range reasserted
its mastery over the girl. At last they came to the very jaws of the
canon; and there, in a deep natural grove of lofty cottonwood-trees,
Redfield passed before a high rustic gate which marked the beginning of
his estate. The driveway was of gravel, and the intermingling of
transplanted shrubs and pine-trees showed the care of the professional
The house was far from being a castle; indeed, it was very like a house in
Bryn-Mawr, except that it was built entirely of half-hewn logs, with a
wide projecting roof. Giant hydrangeas and other flowering shrubs bordered
the drive, and on the rustic terrace a lady in white was waiting.
Redfield slowed down, and scrambled ungracefully out; but his voice was
charming as he said: "Eleanor, this it Miss Wetherford. She was on the
point of getting the blues, so I brought her away," he explained.
Mrs. Redfield, quite as urban as the house, was a slim little woman of
delicate habit, very far from the ordinary conception of a rancher's wife.
Her manner was politely considerate, but not heatedly cordial (the visitor
was not precisely hers), and though she warmed a little after looking into
Virginia's face, she could not by any stretch of phrase be called
"Are you tired? would you like to lie down before dinner?" she asked.
"Oh no, indeed. Nothing ever tires me," Virginia responded, with a smile.
"You look like one in perfect health," continued her hostess, in the
envious tone of one who knew all too well what ill-health meant. "Let me
show you to your room."
The house was not precisely the palace the cowboy had reported it to be,
but it was charmingly decorated, and the furnishings were tasteful. To the
girl it was as if she had been transported with instant magic from the
horrible little cow-town back to the home of one of her dearest friends in
Chester. She was at once exalted and humbly grateful.
"We dine at seven," Mrs. Redfield was saying, "so you can take a cup of
tea without spoiling your dinner. Will you venture it?"
"If you please."
"Very well; come down soon, and I'll have it ready. Mr. Redfield, I'm
sure, will want some."
Virginia's heart was dancing with delight of this home as she came down
the stairs a little later. She found Mr. Redfield at the farther end of a
long sitting-room, whose dim light was as restful (after the glare of the
tawny plains) as the voice of her hostess was to her ears, which still
ached with the noise of profane and vulgar speech.
Redfield heard her coming and met her half-way, and with stately ceremony
showed her a seat. "I fear you will need something stronger than tea after
my exhausting conversation."
"I hope, Hugh, you were not in one of your talking moods?"
"I was, Eleanor. I talked incessantly, barring an occasional jolt of the
"You poor thing!" This to Virginia. "Truly you deserve a two hours' rest
before dinner, for our dinner is always a talk-fest, and to-night, with
Senator Bridges here, it will be a convention."
He turned to Virginia. "We were talking old times 'before the war,' and
you know it never tires veterans to run over their ancient campaigns--does
it, Lee Virginia?"
As they talked Mrs. Redfield studied the girl with increasing interest and
favor, and soon got at her point of view. She even secured a little more
of her story, which matched fairly well with the account her husband had
given. Her prejudices were swept away, and she treated her young guest as
one well-born and well-educated woman treats another.
At last she said: "We dress for dinner, but any frock you have will do. We
are not ironclad in our rules. There will be some neighbors in, but it
isn't in any sense a 'party.'"
Lee Virginia went to her room, borne high upon a new conception of the
possibilities of the West. It was glorious to think that one could enjoy
the refinement, the comfort of the East at the same time that one dwelt
within the inspiring shadow of the range. She caught some prophetic hint
in all this of the future age when each of these foot-hills would be
peopled by those to whom cleanliness of mind and grace of body were
habitual. Standing on the little balcony which filled the front of her
windows, she looked away at the towering heights, smoky purple against a
sky of burning gold, and her eyes expanded like those of the young eagle
when about to launch himself upon the sunset wind.
The roar of a waterfall came to her ears, and afar on the sage-green
carpet of the lower mesa a horseman was galloping swiftly. Far to the left
of this smoothly sculptured table-land a band of cattle fed, while under
her eyes, formal as a suburban home, lay a garden of old-fashioned English
flowers. It was a singular and moving union of the old and new--the East
and the West.
On her table and on the pretty bookshelves she found several of the latest
volumes of poetry and essays, and the bed, with its dainty covering and
ample spread, testified quite as plainly of taste and comfort. Her hands
were a-tremble as she put on the bright muslin gown which was all she had
for evening wear. She felt very much like the school-girl again, and after
she had done her best to look nice, she took a seat in the little rocker,
with intent to compose herself for her meeting with strangers. "I wish we
were dining without visitors," she said, as she heard a carriage drive up.
A little later a galloping horse entered the yard and stopped at the
"It all sounds like a play," she said to herself, forgetting for the
moment that she was miles away from a town and in a lonely ranch-house
under the very shadows of the mountains.
She heard voices in the hall, and among them one with a very English
accent--one that sounded precisely like those she had heard on the stage.
It was the voice of a man, big, hearty, with that thick, throaty gurgle
which is so suggestive of London that one is certain to find a tweed suit
and riding-breeches associated with it.
At last she dared wait no longer, and taking courage from necessity,
descended the stairs--a pleasant picture of vigorous yet somewhat subdued
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