Two On The Veranda





REDFIELD met his young guest in dinner-coat, looking extremely urban, and

presented his "friend and neighbor, Mr. Enderby."



Enderby turned out to be the owner of the voice with the English accent

which Lee Virginia had heard in the hall, but he was very nice, and a

moment later Mrs. Redfield entered with Mrs. Enderby, a large lady with a

smiling face. Then a voice she knew spoke from behind her: "I don't need a

presentation. Miss Wetherford and I have already met."



She turned to meet Ross Cavanagh, the young ranger.



"How did you get here?" she asked, in wonder.



"I rode across the hills; it's not far."



He too was in evening dress, and as she stared at him in surprise he

laughingly protested. "Please don't scrutinize this coat too closely. It's

the only one I've owned for ten years, and this is the only house in which

I'd dare to wear it."



Bridges (who turned out to be a State senator) was a farmer-like elderly

man wearing a badly fitting serge suit. He was markedly Western; so was

his wife, who looked rather uneasy and hot.



It was all delightfully exciting to Lee Virginia, and to be taken in to

dinner by the transfigured ranger completed her appreciation of the

charming home and its refined hostess.



Redfield shone as host, presenting an admirable mixture of clubman and

Western rancher. His natural sense of humor, sharpened by twenty years of

plains life, was Western. His manner, his habits of dress, of dining, of

taking wine, were uncorruptedly Manhattan. Enderby, large, high-colored,

was naturally a bit of what we know as the "haw-haw type" of Englishman--a

thoroughly good fellow, kindly, tolerant, brave, and generous, who could

not possibly change his spots. He had failed utterly to acquire the

American idiom, and his attempts at cowboy slang were often

amusing--especially to Redfield, who prided himself on being quite

undistinguishable in a cow-camp.



Virginia and Ross, being the only young folk at the table, were seated

together, and Enderby remarked privately: "Ross, you're in luck."



"I know I am," he replied, heartily.



He was (as Redfield had said) highly susceptible, made so by his solitary

life in the mountains, and to be seated close beside this maid of the

valley stirred his blood to the danger-point. It was only by an effort of

the will that he kept in touch with Redfield's remarks.



"Enderby never can grow accustomed to his democratic neighbors," Redfield

was saying. "He's been here six years, and yet when one of his cowboy

friends tells him to 'go to hell' he's surprised and a bit offended."



"Oh, it isn't that," explained Mrs. Enderby; "it's to have your maids say

'All right' when you ask them to remove the soup. It's a bit shocking also

to have your cook or housemaid going about the house singing some wretched

ditty. What was that one, Charley, that Irma Maud sang till we were nearly

wild (Irma Maud was my chambermaid). What was it? Something about 'Tixey

Ann.'"



"Oh, I know it perfectly!" exclaimed Enderby. "'If you want to make a

niggah feel good--'"



"No, no; that's another one."



Redfield interposed. "You wouldn't have them go about in sullen stealth,

would you? Think how song lightens their drudgery."



"Ah yes; but if it drives the family out-of-doors?"



"It shouldn't. You should take it all as a part of the happy world of

democracy wherein even the maid-servant sings at her toil."



"But our democratic neighbors are all the time coming to look round the

place. We've no privacy whatever. On Sunday afternoon they drive through

the grounds in procession; you'd think our place a public park and we the

keepers."



In all this banter Virginia was given the English viewpoint as to Western

manners and conditions. She perceived that the Enderbys, notwithstanding

their heavy-set prejudices, were persons of discernment and right feeling.

It certainly was impertinent of the neighbors to ride through the grounds

as if they were public, and Mrs. Enderby was justified in resenting it.



Ross turned to her. "Enderby is the kind of Englishman who wants to adapt

himself to new conditions, but can't."



"You don't seem like an Englishman at all."



"Well, I was caught young, and, besides, I'm really Irish--on my father's

side."



"Oh, that's different!" she exclaimed, as though that somehow brought him

nearer to her own people.



"It is, isn't it?" he laughingly agreed. "But Enderby--I suppose his

pedigree goes back to Cedric and his swineherds. You can't change that

kind."



"I hadn't the least thought of seeing you here. How did you happen to

come?"



"Redfield telephoned me at the mill, and I came at once. I haven't been

here since May, and I just thought I'd take a half a day off. Luckily, my

understudy was with me. I left him 'on the job.'"



He did not tell her that she was the principal reason for this sudden

descent upon Elk Lodge, and no one but Redfield knew the killing ride he

had taken in order to be in at the beginning of the dinner. The girl's

face and voice, especially her voice, had been with him night and day as

he went about his solitary duties. Her life problem had come to fill his

mind to a disturbing degree, and he was eager to know more of her and of

her struggle against the vice and vulgarity of the Forks.



"How is your mother?" he asked, a few minutes later.



"Not at all well. Mr. Redfield is to take the doctor back with us

to-morrow." The ecstasy died out of her face, and the flexible lips

drooped with troubled musing. "I am afraid she suffers more than she will

admit."



"She needs a rest and change. She should get away from her seat at that

cash-register, and return to the open air. A touch of camp-life would help

her. She sticks too close to her work."



"I know she does, but she won't let me relieve her, even for an hour. It

isn't because she doesn't trust me; she says it's because she doesn't want

me sitting there--so--publicly. She doesn't oppose my housekeeping any

more--"



"You certainly have made the old hotel into a place of miraculous

neatness."



She flushed with pleasure. "I have done something, but not as I'd like to

do. I really think if mother wishes to sell she could do so now to much

better advantage."



"I've no doubt of it. Really, I'm not being funny, Miss Wetherford, when I

say you've done something heroic. It's no easy thing to come into a place

like that and make it habitable. It shows immense courage and

self-reliance on your part. It's precisely the kind of work this whole

country needs."



His praise, sincere and generous, repaid her for all she had gone through.

It was a great pleasure to hear her small self praised for courage and

self-reliance by one whose daily work was heroic. All things conspired to

make a conquest of her heart, for the ranger bore himself with grace, and

dealt with his silver deftly. His face, seen from the side, was older and

sterner than she had thought it, but it was very attractive in line.



She said: "Mr. Redfield and I were talking of 'the war' to-day--I mean our

'cattle-man's invasion'--and I learned that you were the sergeant who came

for the prisoners."



He smiled. "Yes; I was serving in the regular army at that time."



"You must have been very young?"



"I was--a kid."



"That was a brave thing to do."



"Not at all. I was a soldier under orders of the commander of the post. I

dared not disobey."



She would not have it so. "But you knew that you were going into danger?"



"To be honest about it, I did; but I relied on my blue coat to protect

me."



"It was a terrible time. I was only a child, but I can remember how wild

the men all seemed when you drove up and leaped out of the wagon. I didn't

realize that my father's life depended on your coming, but we all knew it

was brave of you."



"I think I was born a soldier. What I like about my present job is its

definiteness. I have my written instructions, and there's no need to argue

anything. I carry out my orders. But I beg pardon, I'm not going to talk

'shop' to you. I want you to tell me about yourself. I hope you are not to

return to the East, for if you do not I shall be able to see you

occasionally."



Here Redfield appealed to the ranger. "Ross, you're all sorts of a

reactionary. What do you say to this? Senator Bridges is opposed to all

Federal interference with State forests and State game."



The forester's eyes lit up. "But are they State forests and State game?

What makes them so? They are lands which the whole people purchased and

which the whole people defended."



"Heah! heah!" cheered Enderby.



Bridges bristled with anger, and went off into a long harangue on States

rights and the dangers of centralization, to which Enderby replied: "Bosh!

the whole trouble with your bally Government is its lack of cohesion. If I

had my way, I'd wipe out the Senate and put a strong man like Roosevelt at

the head of the executive. You're such blooming asses over here; you don't

know enough to keep a really big man in your presidential chair. This

fussing about every four years to put in some oily corporation lawyer is

bloody rot. Here's Roosevelt gets in the midst of a lot of the finest kind

of reforms, y' know, and directly you go and turn him out! Then if you get

a bad man, you've to wait four years till you can fetch him a whack. Why

not arrange it so you can pitch your President out the minute he goes

wrong? I say your old rag of a Constitution is a ball-and-chain on your

national leg. England is immeasurably better off so far as that goes."



Ross turned to Virginia, leaving the political discussion to go on over

his head. "I was back in the Old Island a couple of years ago, and you've

no idea how small it seemed to me. It surely is a 'right little, tight

little island.' I couldn't help wondering whether the men in Parliament

were as important as they seemed to think they were, and whether England

is not really an empty shell of empire, a memory of what it once was. I

couldn't settle down there, someway. I was homesick for the mountains in a

month. But what scared me most was the pauper population of the old

place--one in every thirty-seven must be helped. I came back to the States

gladly. 'I guess I'm an American,' I said to my sisters."



To Lee Virginia all this talk of "the curse of democracy" and "the decay

of empire" was unexciting, but when Cavanagh told of the sheepmen's

advance across the dead-line on Deer Creek, and of the threats of the

cattle-owners, she was better able to follow the discussion. Bridges was

heartily on the side of law and order, for he wished to boom the State

(being a heavy owner in a town-site), but he objected to Redfield's ideas

of "bottling up the resources of the State."



"We're not," retorted Redfield; "we're merely defending them against those

who would monopolize them. We believe in their fullest use, but we see no

reason for giving away the resources when the country needs the revenue."



Mrs. Redfield rose as soon as the coffee came on. "You gentlemen seem bent

upon discussing matters of no interest to us," she said, "so we'll leave

you to fight it out alone. I'm sure you'll all agree with Hugh in the end.

Like General Grant, he's a very obstinate man."



No sooner were they seated in the big living-room than Mrs. Enderby began

to relate comical stories of her household. Her cats had fits and ran up

the wall. Her dogs were forever getting quilled by reason of foolish

attacks upon porcupines, or else they came home so reminiscent of skunks

that they all but smothered the cook. "Invariably they return from

encounters of this kind just as we are sitting at dinner," she explained.

"Furthermore, Enderby's ditches are habitually getting clogged, and

overflowing the lawn and filling the cellar, and he stands in terror of

his cowboys. When I think of all these irruptions and distractions,

England's order and routine seem heavenly; but Charley finds all this

amusing, more's the pity, and leaves me to set things in order. Most

ludicrous of all, to me, is his habitual claim that the ranch is paying. I

tell him there's an error in his bookkeeping somewhere, but he assures me

that his receipts exceeded his expenditures last year--which is quite too

incredible. You've no idea how high wages are and how little we raise."



"Oh yes, I have," laughed Mrs. Redfield, "and my cat had a fit too. Hugh

says it's the high altitude. I tell him it's melancholia."



Cavanagh showed himself. "I hear so much laughter I'm coming in, we're all

so insufferably political out here. And, besides, I came to see the

ladies, and I can only stay a few minutes longer."



"You're not going back to-night!" exclaimed his hostess.



"I must be on my own precinct by daylight," he replied; "the Supervisor

has an eye on me."



Mrs. Redfield explained to Lee Virginia. "He rode fifty miles over the

mountains--"



"Thirty," corrected Ross. "But what does that matter when I'm in the

company of such charming ladies?" he added, gallantly.



"And now he's going to ride all the way back to-night!"



"Think of that," gasped Mrs. Enderby, "and no moon!"



"How can you find your way?" asked Mrs. Bridges, to whom this was a

mortally dangersome journey.



"Oh, it's quite simple. If you don't bump against a tree or fall into the

creek you may be quite sure you're on the trail," laughed Ross.



Mrs. Redfield knew the true reason for his coming, and was not at all

pleased, "for with all Lee's personal charm," she said to her husband,

"she is socially beneath Ross Cavanagh, even in a State where social

barriers are few."



"Come out on the veranda," suggested Cavanagh, "and I'll show you the

hills I must climb."



Lee accepted innocently; but as the young people left the room Mrs.

Enderby looked at her hostess with significant glance. "There's the lady

Ross rode down to meet. Who is she?"



"Her mother is that dreadful old creature that keeps the Wetherford Hotel

in Roaring Fork."



"No!" exclaimed Mrs. Enderby.



"Yes; Lee Virginia is Lize Wetherford's daughter."



"But the girl is charming."



"I cannot understand it. Hugh came home a week or so ago full of her

praise--" And at this point her voice dropped lower and the other drew

closer.



Outside, the young people stood in silence. There was no moon, and the

mountains rose darkly, a sheer wall at the end of the garden, their tops

cutting into the starry sky with a dull edge, over which a dim white cone

peered.



"That snow-peak is Wolftooth, and thirty miles from here, and at the head

of my 'beat,'" said the ranger, after a pause, as they leaned against the

railing and looked away to the south. "I go up that ridge which you see

faintly at the left of the main canon, and through that deep notch which

is above timber-line."



The girl's eyes widened with awe of the big, silent, dark world he

indicated. "Aren't you afraid to start out on such a trip alone--I mean,

don't you dread it?"



"I'll be sorry to start back, yes, but not because of the dark. I've

enjoyed my visit here so much it will be hard to say good-night."



"It seems strange to me that you should prefer this wild country to

England."



"Do you like the East better than the West?"



"In some ways; but then, you see, I was born out here."



"So was I--I mean to say I was regenerated out here. The truth is I was a

good deal of a scapegrace when I left England. I was always for hunting

and horses, and naturally I came directly to the wild West country, and

here I've been ever since. I've had my turn at each phase of

it--cow-puncher, soldier, Rough-rider, and finally forest ranger. I reckon

I've found my job at last."



"Do you like it so much?"



"At the present time I am perfectly contented. I'm associated now with a

country that will never yield to the plough--yes, I like my work. I love

the forests and the streams. I wish I might show them to you. You don't

know how beautiful they are. The most beautiful parks in the world are

commonplace to what I can show you. My only sorrow is to think of them

given over to the sawmill. Perhaps you and your mother will come up some

time, and let me show you my lakes and streams. There are waters so lovely

they make the heart ache. Hugh is planning to come up soon; perhaps you

and Mrs. Redfield will come with him."



"I'd like it above everything," she responded, fervently. Then her voice

changed: "But all depends on my mother's health."



It hurt him to hear her call Eliza Wetherford mother. He wanted to forget

her origin for the moment. He was not in love with her--far from it! But

she was so alluring, and the proprietress of the Wetherford House was not

nice, and that made one doubt the daughter.



She broke the silence. "It seems dreadfully dark and mysterious up there."

She indicated his path.



"It isn't as bad as it looks. There is a good trail, and my pony knows it

as well as I do. I enjoy riding by night."



"But there are bears and other wild things, are there not?"



"Not as many as I wish there were."



"Why do you say that?"



"I hate to see all the wild life killed off. Some day all these forests

will have game refuges like the Yellowstone National Park. They are coming

each year to have greater and greater value to the people of the plains.

They are playgrounds, like the Alps. Campers are coming into my valley

every day, and, while they increase the danger of fires, I welcome them.

They are all advocates of the forest. As one man said: 'The mountains

supplement the plains. They give color and charm to the otherwise

monotonous West.' I confess I couldn't live on the prairies--not even on

the plains--if out of sight of the mountains. If I should ever settle down

to a home it would be in a canon like this, with a great peak at my front

door."



"It is beautiful," the girl said, in the tone of sadness with which we

confront the perfect night, the perfect flower, the flawless landscape.

"It is both grand and peaceful."



This tone of sadness pleased him. It showed her depth of perception, and

he reflected that she had not uttered a vacuous or silly phrase since

their first meeting. "She is capable of great development," he thought.

Aloud he said: "You are a strange mingling of East and West. Do you

realize it?"



"In what way?" she asked, feeling something ardent in his tone.



"You typify to me at this moment this whole State. You fill me with

enthusiasm for its future. Here you are, derived from the lawless West,

yet taking on the culture and restraint of the East so readily that you

seem not in the least related to--"



He checked himself at this point, and she said: "My mother is not as rough

as she seems, Mr. Cavanagh."



"She must be more of the woman than appears, or she could not have borne

such a daughter. But do you feel your relationship to her? Tell me

honestly, for you interest me."



"I didn't at first, but I do now. I begin to understand her, and, besides,

I feel in myself certain things that are in her, though I think I am more

like the Wetherfords. My father's family home was in Maryland."



Ross could have talked on all night, so alluring was the girl's dimly-seen

yet warmly-felt figure at his side, but a sense of danger and a knowledge

that he should be riding led him at last to say: "It is getting chill, we

must go in; but before we do so, let me say how much I've enjoyed seeing

you again. I hope the doctor will make favorable report on your mother's

case. You'll write me the result of the examination, won't you?"



"If you wish me to."



"I shall be most anxious to know."



They were standing very near to each other at the moment, and the ranger,

made very sensitive to woman's charm by his lonely life, shook with

newly-created love of her. A suspicion, a hope that beneath her cultivated

manner lay the passionate nature of her mother gave an added force to his

desire. He was sorely tempted to touch her, to test her; but her sweet

voice, a little sad and perfectly unconscious of evil, calmed him. She

said:



"I hope to persuade my mother to leave the Forks. All the best people

there are against us. Some of them have been very cruel to her and to me,

and, besides, I despise and fear the men who come to our table."



"You must not exchange words with them," he all but commanded. "Beware of

Gregg; he is a vile lot; do not trust him for an instant. Do not permit

any of those loafers to talk with you, for if you do they will go away to

defame you. I know them. They are unspeakably vile. It makes me angry to

think that Gregg and his like have the right to speak to you every day

while I can only see you at long intervals."



His heat betrayed the sense of proprietorship which he had begun to feel,

in spite of his resolution. But the girl only perceived his solicitation,

his friendly interest, and she answered: "I keep away from them all I

can."



"You are right to distrust them," he replied, grimly. "Because old Sam has

money, he thinks he can do as he pleases. You must be especially careful

of him."



"The worst is when I go on the street; but if mother does not sell the

business, I shall be obliged to stay in the Fork, no matter how I hate

it."



"I wish my station were not so far away," he mused, darkly. "But I'll ride

down as often as my duties will permit, and you must let me know how

things go. And if any of those fellows persecute you, you'll tell me,

won't you? I wish you'd look upon me as your big brother. Will you do

that?" His voice entreated, and as she remained silent, he continued:

"Roaring Fork is one of the worst towns in the State, and a girl like you

needs some one as a protector. I don't know just how to put it so that you

will not misunderstand me, but, you see, I protect the forest, the

streams, and the game; I help the settler in time of trouble; I am a kind

of all-round big brother to everybody who needs help in the forest. In

fact, I'm paid for protecting things that can't protect themselves, and

so"--here he tried to lend his voice the accent of humor--"why shouldn't I

be the protector of a girl like you, alone--worse than alone--in this

little cow-town?"



She remained dumb at one or two points where he clearly hoped for a word,

and she was unable to thank him when he had finished. In this silence a

curious constriction came into his throat. It was almost as if he had put

his passion into definite words, and as the light fell upon her he

perceived that her bosom was heaving with deep emotion.



"I am lonely," she faltered out at last--"horribly lonely; and I know

now how people feel toward my mother, and it hurts me--it all hurts me;

but I'm going to stay and help her--" She paused to recover her voice.

"And you do seem different! I--I--trust you!"



"I'm glad you understand me, and you will let me know if I can help you,

won't you?"



"Yes," she answered, simply.



"Good-night," he said, extending his hand.



She placed her palm to his quite frankly, but the touch of it made further

speech at the moment impossible.



They went in with such tell-tale faces that even Redfield wondered what

had passed between them.



Excusing himself almost at once, Cavanagh left the room, and when he

looked in, a few moments later, he was clothed in the ranger's dusty green

uniform, booted and spurred for his long, hard ride. Mrs. Redfield

followed him into the hall and out on the door-stone to say: "Ross, you

must be careful. This girl is very alluring in herself, but her mother,

you know, is impossible."



"You're needlessly alarmed, as usual," he smilingly replied. "She

interests me--that's patent; but beyond that, why--nonsense! Good-night."



Nevertheless, despite his protestations, he went away up the trail with

his mind so filled with Lee Virginia's appealing face and form that he

would certainly have ridden over a precipice had it not been for his

experienced pony, who had fortunately but one aim, and that was to cross

the range safely and to reach the home pasture at the earliest moment.



Now that he was looking back upon three hours more of Lee's society,

Cavanagh was ready to admit that he had left his range and ridden hard and

far with that one purpose in mind. He had been hungry for the sight of

her, and now that he had touched her hand and looked upon her again he was

a little surprised and deeply disturbed to find himself hungrier than

before.





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