Conclusion





In her career as the wife of a Western rancher, Eleanor Redfield had been

called upon to entertain many strange guests, and she made no very

determined objection when her husband telephoned that he was bringing Lize

as well as Lee Virginia to stay at Elk Lodge for a few days. The

revelation of the true relation between the two women had (as Lize put it)

made a "whole lot of difference" to Mrs. Redfield. It naturally cleared

the daughter of some part of her handicap, and it had also made the

mother's attitude less objectionable.



Furthermore, the loyalty of Eliza to Ross, her bravery in defending him

from attack, and the love and courage which enabled her to rise from a

sick-bed and go to the mountains, ready and insistent on taking his place

as nurse--all these were not the traits of a commonplace personality. "I

begin to think I've been unjust to Mrs. Wetherford," she admitted to her

husband.



She had seen Lize but once, and that was in the distorting atmosphere of

the restaurant, and she remembered her only as a lumpy, scowling,

loud-voiced creature with blowsy hair and a watchful eye. She was

profoundly surprised, therefore, when Lee Virginia introduced a

quiet-spoken, rather sad-faced elderly woman as her mother.



"I'm glad to see you, Mrs. Wetherford," Eleanor said, with the courtesy

which was instinctive with her.



"I'm mightily obliged for the chance to come," replied Lize. "I told

Reddy--I mean the Supervisor--that you didn't want no old-timer like me,

but he said 'Come along,' and Lee she fixed me out, and here I am." She

uttered this with a touch of her well-known self-depreciation, but she was

by no interpretation sordid or common.



She did, indeed, show Lee's care, and her manner, while manifestly formed

upon Lee's instructions, was never ludicrous. She was frankly curious

about the house and its pretty things, and swore softly in her surprise

and pleasure. "Think of an old cow-boss like me living up to these

jimmy-cracks!" As they went to their room together, she made a confession:

"The thing that scares me worst is eating. I've et at the Alma times

enough, but to handle a fork here with El'nor Redfield lookin' on! Great

peter! ain't there some way of takin' my meals out in the barn? I wouldn't

mind you and Ross and Reddy--it's the missis."



Ross had not yet arrived at the cabin, but Redfield had warned Lee not to

expect him till after dark. "He probably slept late, and, besides, there

are always delays on the trail. But don't worry. Swenson will ride to the

top of the divide with him, and if it seems necessary will come all the

way."



This feeling of anxiety helped to steady Lize, and she got through the

meal very well. She was unwontedly silent, and a little sad as well as

constrained. She could see that Lee fitted in with these surroundings,

that she was at home with shining silver and dainty dishes, and she said

to herself: "I could have been something like her if I'd had any sort o'

raisin', but it's too late now. But oh, Lord! wouldn't Ed like to see her

now!"



It was not yet dark when they came out on the veranda to meet the doctor,

who had come to meet Ross, and Lee's anxiety led her to say: "Can't we go

up to the cabin and wait for him there?"



"I was about to propose that," replied Redfield. "Shall we walk?"



Lee was instant in her desire to be off, but Lize said: "I never was much

on foot and now I'm hoof-bound. You go along, and I'll sit on the porch

here and watch."



So Lee, the doctor, and Redfield went off together across the meadow

toward the little cabin which had been built for the workmen while putting

in the dam. It was hardly a mile away, and yet it stood at the mouth of a

mighty gorge, out of which the water sprang white with speed.



But Lee had no mind for the scenery, though her eyes were lifted to the

meadow's wall, down which the ranger was expected to ride. It looked

frightfully steep, and whenever she thought of him descending that trail,

worn and perhaps ill, her heart ached with anxiety. But Redfield rambled

on comfortably, explaining the situation to the doctor, who, being a most

unimaginative person, appeared to take it all as a matter of course.



At the cabin itself Lee transferred her interest to the supper which had

been prepared for the ranger, and she went about the room trying to make

it a little more comfortable for him. It was a bare little place, hardly

more than a camp (as was proper), and she devoutly prayed that he was not

to be sick therein, for it stood in a cold and gloomy place, close under

the shadow of a great wall of rock.



As it grew dark she lighted a lamp and placed it outside the window in

order that its light might catch the ranger's eye, and this indeed it did,

for almost instantly a pistol-shot echoed from the hillside, far above,

signalling his approach.



"There he is!" she exclaimed, in swift rebound to ecstasy. "Hear him

shout?"



His voice could indeed be heard, though faintly, and so they waited while

the darkness deepened and the voice of the stream rose like an exhalation,

increasing in violence as the night fell.



At last they could hear the sound of his horse's feet upon the rocks, and

with girlish impulse Lee raised a musical cry--an invitation as well as a

joyous signal.



To this the ranger made vocal answer, and they could soon see him moving

athwart the hillsides, zigzagging in the trailer's fashion, dropping down

with incredible swiftness. He was alone, and leading his horse, but his

celerity of movement and the tones of his voice denoted confidence and

health.



The doctor laughed as he said: "I don't think a very sick man could come

down a mountain like that."



"Oh, he isn't sick yet," said Redfield. "What we are afraid of is a

possible development."



The ranger, as he came rushing down the final slope, found his knees

weakened as much by excitement as by weariness. To hear Lee's clear voice

down there, to know that she was waiting for him, was to feel himself the

luckiest of men. Escaping contagion and being on his way to a larger

position were as nothing compared to the lure of that girlish halloo. He

saw the lamp shine afar, but he could not distinguish the girl's form till

he emerged from the clump of pine-trees which hid the bottom of the trail.

Then they all shouted together, and Redfield, turning to Lee, warningly

said:



"Now, my dear girl, you and I must not interfere with the doctor. We will

start back to the house at once."



"Not yet--not till we've seen him and talked with him," she pleaded.



"I don't think there's a particle of danger," said the doctor, "but

perhaps you'd better not wait."



Cavanagh came up with shining eyes and heavy breath. "I made it--but oh,

I'm tired! I never was tired like this before in my life." He looked at

her as he spoke. "But I'm feeling fine."



"This is Doctor French, Ross."



"How are you doctor? I'm not shaking hands these days."



"Well see about that," replied the physician.



"I met the sheriff on the way, Mr. Supervisor, and I gave him the story

Dunn told me, and I made a request that the reward for the information be

paid to Dunn's widow."



"I'll see to that," responded Redfield. "And now we'll leave you to the

tender mercies of the doctor."



"I made some coffee for you, and you'll find some supper under a napkin on

the table," explained Lee.



"Thank you."



"I'm sorry it isn't better. It's only cold chicken and sandwiches--"



"Only cold chicken!" he laughed. "My chief anxiety is lest it should not

prove a whole chicken. I'm hungry as a coyote!"



"Well, now, good-night," said Redfield. "Doctor, you'll report as you go

by?"



"Yes; expect me in half an hour or so."



And so Lee walked away with Redfield, almost entirely relieved of her

care. "He can't be ill, can he?" she asked.



"I don't see how he can. His life has made him as clean and strong as an

oak-tree on a windy slope. He is all right, and very happy. Your being

there to meet him was very sweet to him, I could see that. If it should

turn out that you should be the one to keep him here and in the Forest

Service I shall be very grateful to you."



She did not reply to this, but walked along in silence by his side,

feeling very small, very humble, but very content.



Lize was on the veranda. "Did he get through?"



"He's all right so far," returned Redfield, cheerily. "We left the doctor

about to fly at him. We'll have a report soon."



They had hardly finished telling of how the ranger had descended the hill

when the doctor arrived. "He hasn't a trace of it," was his report. "All

he needs is sleep. I cut him off from his entire over-the-range outfit,

and there's no reason why he should not come down to breakfast with you in

the morning."



Mrs. Redfield thanked the doctor as fervently as if he had conferred a

personal favor upon her, and the girl echoed her grateful words.



"Oh, that's all right," the doctor replied, in true Western fashion; "I'll

do as much more for you any time." And he rode away, leaving at least one

person too happy to sleep.



* * * * *



The same person was on the veranda next morning when Cavanagh, dressed in

the Supervisor's best suit of gray cassimere, came striding across the

lawn--too impatient of the winding drive to follow it. As he came, his

face glowing with recovered health, Lee thought him the god of the

morning, and went to meet him unashamed, and he took her to his arms and

kissed her quite as he had promised himself to do.



"Now I know that I am delivered!" he exclaimed, and together they

entered upon the building of a home in the New West.





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