To dream of rabbits, foretells favorable turns in conditions,and you will be more pleased with your gains than formerly.To see white rabbits, denotes faithfulness in love, to the married or single.To see rabbits frolicing about, denotes that children... Read more of Rabbit at My Dreams.caInformational Site Network Informational
   Home - Science Fiction Stories - Western Stories

A Matter Of Millinery

From: The Forester's Daughter

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."

Next: The Private Car

Previous: The Summons

Add to Informational Site Network

Viewed 517