A Matter Of Millinery

It was three o'clock of a fine, clear, golden afternoon as they said

good-by to McFarlane and started eastward, as if for a little drive.

Berrie held the reins in spite of Wayland's protestations. "These

bronchos are only about half busted," she said. "They need watching. I

know them better than you do." Therefore he submitted, well knowing that

she was entirely competent and fully informed.

Mrs. McFarlane, while looking back at her husband, sadly exclaimed: "I

feel like a coward running away like this."

"Forget it, mother," commanded her daughter, cheerily. "Just imagine

we're off for a short vacation. I'm for going clear through to Chicago.

So long as we must go, let's go whooping. Father's better off without


Her voice was gay, her eyes shining, and Wayland saw her as she had been

that first day in the coach--the care-free, laughing girl. The trouble

they were fleeing from was less real to her than the happiness toward

which she rode.

Her hand on the reins, her foot on the brake, brought back her

confidence; but Wayland did not feel so sure of his part in the

adventure. She seemed so unalterably a part of this life, so fitted to

this landscape, that the thought of transplanting her to the East brought

uneasiness and question. Could such a creature of the open air be content

with the walls of a city?

For several miles the road ran over the level floor of the valley, and

she urged the team to full speed. "I don't want to meet anybody if I can

help it. Once we reach the old stage route the chances of being scouted

are few. Nobody uses that road since the broad-gauge reached Cragg's."

Mrs. McFarlane could not rid herself of the resentment with which she

suffered this enforced departure; but she had small opportunity to

protest, for the wagon bumped and clattered over the stony stretches with

a motion which confused as well as silenced her. It was all so

humiliating, so unlike the position which she had imagined herself to

have attained in the eyes of her neighbors. Furthermore, she was going

away without a trunk, with only one small bag for herself and

Berrie--running away like a criminal from an intangible foe. However, she

was somewhat comforted by the gaiety of the young people before her. They

were indeed jocund as jaybirds. With the resiliency of youth they had

accepted the situation, and were making the best of it.

"Here comes somebody," called Berrie, pulling her ponies to a walk.

"Throw a blanket over that valise." She was chuckling as if it were all a

good joke. "It's old Jake Proudfoot. I can smell him. Now hang on. I'm

going to pass him on the jump."

Wayland, who was riding with his hat in his hand because he could not

make it cover his bump, held it up as if to keep the wind from his face,

and so defeated the round-eyed, owl-like stare of the inquisitive

rancher, who brought his team to a full stop in order to peer after them,

muttering in a stupor of resentment and surprise.

"He'll worry himself sick over us," predicted Berrie. "He'll wonder where

we're going and what was under that blanket till the end of summer. He is

as curious as a fool hen."

A few minutes more and they were at the fork in the way, and, leaving the

trail to Cragg's, the girl pulled into the grass-grown, less-traveled

trail to the south, which entered the timber at this point and began to

climb with steady grade. Letting the reins fall slack, she turned to her

mother with reassuring words. "There! Now we're safe. We won't meet

anybody on this road except possibly a mover's outfit. We're in the

forest again," she added.

For two hours they crawled slowly upward, with a roaring stream on one

side and the pine-covered slopes on the other. Jays and camp-birds called

from the trees. Water-robins fluttered from rock to rock in the foaming

flood. Squirrels and minute chipmunks raced across the fallen tree-trunks

or clattered from great boulders, and in the peace and order and beauty

of the forest they all recovered a serener outlook on the noisome tumult

they were leaving behind them. Invisible as well as inaudible, the

serpent of slander lost its terror.

Once, as they paused to rest the horses, Wayland said: "It is hard to

realize that down in that ethereal valley people like old Jake and Mrs.

Belden have their dwelling-place."

This moved Mrs. McFarlane to admit that it might all turn out a blessing

in disguise. "Mr. McFarlane may resign and move to Denver, as I've long

wanted him to do."

"I wish he would," exclaimed Berrie, fervently. "It's time you had a

rest. Daddy will hate to quit under fire, but he'd better do it."

Peak by peak the Bear Tooth Range rose behind them, while before them the

smooth, grassy slopes of the pass told that they were nearing

timber-line. The air was chill, the sun was hidden by old Solidor, and

the stream had diminished to a silent rill winding among sear grass and

yellowed willows. The valley behind them was vague with mist. The

southern boundary of the forest was in sight.

At last the topmost looming crags of the Continental Divide cut the

sky-line, and then in the smooth hollow between two rounded grassy

summits Berrie halted, and they all silently contemplated the two worlds.

To the west and north lay an endless spread of mountains, wave on wave,

snow-lined, savage, sullen in the dying light; while to the east and

southeast the foot-hills faded into the plain, whose dim cities,

insubstantial as flecks in a veil of violet mist, were hardly

distinguishable without the aid of glasses.

To the girl there was something splendid, something heroical in that

majestic, menacing landscape to the west. In one of its folds she had

begun her life. In another she had grown to womanhood and self-confident

power. The rough men, the coarse, ungainly women of that land seemed less

hateful now that she was leaving them, perhaps forever, and a confused

memory of the many splendid dawns and purple sunsets she had loved filled

her thought.

Wayland, divining some part of what was moving in her mind, cheerily

remarked, "Yes, it's a splendid place for a summer vacation, but a stern

place in winter-time, and for a lifelong residence it is not inspiring."

Mrs. McFarlane agreed with him in this estimate. "It is terribly

lonesome in there at times. I've had enough of it. I'm ready for the

comforts of civilization."

Berrie turned in her seat, and was about to take up the reins when

Wayland asserted himself. "Wait a moment. Here's where my dominion

begins. Here's where you change seats with me. I am the driver now."

She looked at him with questioning, smiling glance. "Can you drive? It's

all the way down-hill--and steep?"

"If I can't I'll ask your aid. I'm old enough to remember the family

carriage. I've even driven a four-in-hand."

She surrendered her seat doubtfully, and smiled to see him take up the

reins as if he were starting a four-horse coach. He proved adequate and

careful, and she was proud of him as, with foot on the brake and the

bronchos well in hand, he swung down the long looping road to the

railway. She was pleased, too, by his care of the weary animals, easing

them down the steepest slopes and sending them along on the comparatively

level spots.

Their descent was rapid, but it was long after dark before they reached

Flume, which lay up the valley to the right. It was a poor little

decaying mining-town set against the hillside, and had but one hotel, a

sun-warped and sagging pine building just above the station.

"Not much like the Profile House," said Wayland, as he drew up to the

porch. "But I see no choice."

"There isn't any," Berrie assured him.

"Well, now," he went on, "I am in command of this expedition. From this

on I lead this outfit. When it comes to hotels, railways, and the like o'

that, I'm head ranger."

Mrs. McFarlane, tired, hungry, and a little dismayed, accepted his

control gladly; but Berrie could not at once slip aside her

responsibility. "Tell the hostler--"

"Not a word!" commanded Norcross; and the girl with a smile submitted to

his guidance, and thereafter his efficiency, his self-possession, his

tact delighted her. He persuaded the sullen landlady to get them supper.

He secured the best rooms in the house, and arranged for the care of the

team, and when they were all seated around the dim, fly-specked oil-lamp

at the end of the crumby dining-room table he discovered such a gay and

confident mien that the women looked at each other in surprise.

Berrie was correspondingly less masculine. In drawing off her buckskin

driving-gloves she had put away the cowgirl, and was silent, a little sad

even, in the midst of her enjoyment of his dictatorship. And when he

said, "If my father reaches Denver in time I want you to meet him," she

looked the dismay she felt.

"I'll do it--but I'm scared of him."

"You needn't be. I'll see him first and draw his fire."

Mrs. McFarlane interposed. "We must do a little shopping first. We can't

meet your father as we are."

"Very well. I'll go with you if you'll let me. I'm a great little

shopper. I have infallible taste, so my sisters say. If it's a case of

buying new hats, for instance, I'm the final authority with them." This

amused Berrie, but her mother took it seriously.

"Of course, I'm anxious to have my daughter make the best possible


"Very well. It is arranged. We get in, I find, about noon. We'll go

straight to the biggest shop in town. If we work with speed we'll be able

to lunch with my father. He'll be at the Palmer House at one."

Berrie said nothing, either in acceptance or rejection of his plan. Her

mind was concerned with new conceptions, new relationships, and when in

the hall he took her face between his hands and said, "Cheer up! All is

not lost," she put her arms about his neck and laid her cheek against his

breast to hide her tears. "Oh, Wayland! I'm such an idiot in the city.

I'm afraid your father will despise me."

What he said was not very cogent, and not in the least literary, but it

was reassuring and lover-like, and when he turned her over to her mother

she was composed, though unwontedly grave.

She woke to a new life next morning--a life of compliance, of following,

of dependence upon the judgment of another. She stood in silence while

her lover paid the bills, bought the tickets, and telegraphed their

coming to his father. She acquiesced when he prevented her mother from

telephoning to the ranch. She complied when he countermanded her order to

have the team sent back at once. His judgment ruled, and she enjoyed her

sudden freedom from responsibility. It was novel, and it was very sweet

to think that she was being cared for as she had cared for and shielded

him in the world of the trail.

In the little railway-coach, which held a score of passengers, she found

herself among some Eastern travelers who had taken the trip up the Valley

of the Flume in the full belief that they were piercing the heart of the

Rocky Mountains! It amused Wayland almost as much as it amused Berrie

when one man said to his wife:

"Well, I'm glad we've seen the Rockies."

"He really believes it!" exclaimed Norcross.

After an hour's ride Wayland tactfully withdrew, leaving mother and

daughter to discuss clothes undisturbed by his presence.

"We must look our best, honey," said Mrs. McFarlane. "We will go right to

Mme. Crosby at Battle's, and she'll fit us out. I wish we had more time;

but we haven't, so we must do the best we can."

"I want Wayland to choose my hat and traveling-suit," replied Berrie.

"Of course. But you've got to have a lot of other things besides." And

they bent to the joyous work of making out a list of goods to be

purchased as soon as they reached Chicago.

Wayland came back with a Denver paper in his hand and a look of disgust

on his face. "It's all in here--at least, the outlines of it."

Berrie took the journal, and there read the details of Settle's assault

upon the foreman. "The fight arose from a remark concerning the Forest

Supervisor's daughter. Ranger Settle resented the gossip, and fell upon

the other man, beating him with the butt of his revolver. Friends of the

foreman claim that the ranger is a drunken bully, and should have been

discharged long ago. The Supervisor for some mysterious reason retains

this man, although he is an incompetent. It is also claimed that

McFarlane put a man on the roll without examination." The Supervisor was

the protagonist of the play, which was plainly political. The attack upon

him was bitter and unjust, and Mrs. McFarlane again declared her

intention of returning to help him in his fight. However, Wayland again

proved to her that her presence would only embarrass the Supervisor. "You

would not aid him in the slightest degree. Nash and Landon are with him,

and will refute all these charges."

This newspaper story took the light out of their day and the smile from

Berrie's lips, and the women entered the city silent and distressed in

spite of the efforts of their young guide. The nearer the girl came to

the ordeal of facing the elder Norcross, the more she feared the outcome;

but Wayland kept his air of easy confidence, and drove them directly to

the shopping center, believing that under the influence of hats and

gloves they would regain their customary cheer.

In this he was largely justified. They had a delightful hour trying on

millinery and coats and gloves. The forewoman, who knew Mrs. McFarlane,

gladly accepted her commission, and, while suspecting the tender

relationship between the girl and the man, she was tactful enough to

conceal her suspicion. "The gentleman is right; you carry simple things

best," she remarked to Berrie, thus showing her own good judgment.

"Smartly tailored gray or blue suits are your style."

Silent, blushing, tousled by the hands of her decorators, Berrie

permitted hats to be perched on her head and jackets buttoned and

unbuttoned about her shoulders till she felt like a worn clothes-horse.

Wayland beamed with delight, but she was far less satisfied than he; and

when at last selection was made, she still had her doubts, not of the

clothes, but of her ability to wear them. They seemed so alien to her, so

restrictive and enslaving.

"You're an easy fitter," said the saleswoman. "But"--here she lowered her

voice--"you need a new corset. This old one is out of date. Nobody is

wearing hips now."

Thereupon Berrie meekly permitted herself to be led away to a

torture-room. Wayland waited patiently, and when she reappeared all

traces of Bear Tooth Forest had vanished. In a neat tailored suit and a

very "chic" hat, with shoes, gloves, and stockings to match, she was so

transformed, so charmingly girlish in her self-conscious glory, that he

was tempted to embrace her in the presence of the saleswoman. But he

didn't. He merely said: "I see the governor's finish! Let's go to lunch.

You are stunning!"

"I don't know myself," responded Berrie. "The only thing that feels

natural is my hand. They cinched me so tight I can't eat a thing, and my

shoes hurt." She laughed as she said this, for her use of the vernacular

was conscious. "I'm a fraud. Your father will spot my brand first shot.

Look at my face--red as a saddle!"

"Don't let that trouble you. This is the time of year when tan is

fashionable. Don't you be afraid of the governor. Just smile at him, give

him your grip, and he'll melt."

"I'm the one to melt. I'm beginning now."

"I know how you feel, but you'll get used to the conventional

boiler-plate and all the rest of it. We all groan and growl when we come

back to it each autumn; but it's a part of being civilized, and we


Notwithstanding his confident advice, Wayland led the two silent and

inwardly dismayed women into the showy cafe of the hotel with some degree

of personal apprehension concerning the approaching interview with his

father. Of course, he did not permit this to appear in the slightest

degree. On the contrary, he gaily ordered a choice lunch, and did his

best to keep his companions from sinking into deeper depression.

It pleased him to observe the admiring glances which were turned upon

Berrie, whose hat became her mightily, and, leaning over, he said in a

low voice to Mrs. McFarlane: "Who is the lovely young lady opposite?

Won't you introduce me?"

This rejoiced the mother almost as much as it pleased the daughter, and

she answered, "She looks like one of the Radburns of Lexington, but I

think she's from Louisville."

This little play being over, he said, "Now, while our order is coming

I'll run out to the desk and see if the governor has come in or not."

A Martinet Of The Rockies A Matter Of Taste facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail