At seven o'clock, in the bedroom of his ranch house, in the
white-painted iron bedstead with its blue-grey army blankets and
red counterpane, Annixter was still asleep, his face red, his
mouth open, his stiff yellow hair in wild disorder. On the
wooden chair at the bed-head, stood the kerosene lamp, by the
light of which he had been reading the previous evening. Beside
it was a paper bag of dried prunes, and the limp volume of
"Copperfield," the place marked by a slip of paper torn from the
edge of the bag.
Annixter slept soundly, making great work of the business, unable
to take even his rest gracefully. His eyes were shut so tight
that the skin at their angles was drawn into puckers. Under his
pillow, his two hands were doubled up into fists. At intervals,
he gritted his teeth ferociously, while, from time to time, the
abrupt sound of his snoring dominated the brisk ticking of the
alarm clock that hung from the brass knob of the bed-post, within
six inches of his ear.
But immediately after seven, this clock sprung its alarm with the
abruptness of an explosion, and within the second, Annixter had
hurled the bed-clothes from him and flung himself up to a sitting
posture on the edge of the bed, panting and gasping, blinking at
the light, rubbing his head, dazed and bewildered, stupefied at
the hideous suddenness with which he had been wrenched from his
His first act was to take down the alarm clock and stifle its
prolonged whirring under the pillows and blankets. But when this
had been done, he continued to sit stupidly on the edge of the
bed, curling his toes away from the cold of the floor; his half-
shut eyes, heavy with sleep, fixed and vacant, closing and
opening by turns. For upwards of three minutes he alternately
dozed and woke, his head and the whole upper half of his body
sagging abruptly sideways from moment to moment. But at length,
coming more to himself, he straightened up, ran his fingers
through his hair, and with a prodigious yawn, murmured vaguely:
"Oh, Lord! Oh-h, Lord!"
He stretched three or four times, twisting about in his place,
curling and uncurling his toes, muttering from time to time
between two yawns:
"Oh, Lord! Oh, Lord!"
He stared about the room, collecting his thoughts, readjusting
himself for the day's work.
The room was barren, the walls of tongue-and-groove sheathing--
alternate brown and yellow boards--like the walls of a stable,
were adorned with two or three unframed lithographs, the
Christmas "souvenirs" of weekly periodicals, fastened with great
wire nails; a bunch of herbs or flowers, lamentably withered and
grey with dust, was affixed to the mirror over the black walnut
washstand by the window, and a yellowed photograph of Annixter's
combined harvester--himself and his men in a group before it--
hung close at hand. On the floor, at the bedside and before the
bureau, were two oval rag-carpet rugs. In the corners of the
room were muddy boots, a McClellan saddle, a surveyor's transit,
an empty coal-hod and a box of iron bolts and nuts. On the wall
over the bed, in a gilt frame, was Annixter's college diploma,
while on the bureau, amid a litter of hair-brushes, dirty
collars, driving gloves, cigars and the like, stood a broken
machine for loading shells.
It was essentially a man's room, rugged, uncouth, virile, full of
the odours of tobacco, of leather, of rusty iron; the bare floor
hollowed by the grind of hob-nailed boots, the walls marred by
the friction of heavy things of metal. Strangely enough,
Annixter's clothes were disposed of on the single chair with the
precision of an old maid. Thus he had placed them the night
before; the boots set carefully side by side, the trousers, with
the overalls still upon them, neatly folded upon the seat of the
chair, the coat hanging from its back.
The Quien Sabe ranch house was a six-room affair, all on one
floor. By no excess of charity could it have been called a home.
Annixter was a wealthy man; he could have furnished his dwelling
with quite as much elegance as that of Magnus Derrick. As it
was, however, he considered his house merely as a place to eat,
to sleep, to change his clothes in; as a shelter from the rain,
an office where business was transacted--nothing more.
When he was sufficiently awake, Annixter thrust his feet into a
pair of wicker slippers, and shuffled across the office adjoining
his bedroom, to the bathroom just beyond, and stood under the icy
shower a few minutes, his teeth chattering, fulminating oaths at
the coldness of the water. Still shivering, he hurried into his
clothes, and, having pushed the button of the electric bell to
announce that he was ready for breakfast, immediately plunged
into the business of the day. While he was thus occupied, the
butcher's cart from Bonneville drove into the yard with the day's
supply of meat. This cart also brought the Bonneville paper and
the mail of the previous night. In the bundle of correspondence
that the butcher handed to Annixter that morning, was a telegram
from Osterman, at that time on his second trip to Los Angeles.
"Flotation of company in this district assured. Have secured
services of desirable party. Am now in position to sell you your
share stock, as per original plan."
Annixter grunted as he tore the despatch into strips.
"Well," he muttered, "that part is settled, then."
He made a little pile of the torn strips on the top of the
unlighted stove, and burned them carefully, scowling down into
the flicker of fire, thoughtful and preoccupied.
He knew very well what Osterman referred to by "Flotation of
company," and also who was the "desirable party" he spoke of.
Under protest, as he was particular to declare, and after
interminable argument, Annixter had allowed himself to be
reconciled with Osterman, and to be persuaded to reenter the
proposed political "deal." A committee had been formed to
finance the affair--Osterman, old Broderson, Annixter himself,
and, with reservations, hardly more than a looker-on, Harran
Derrick. Of this committee, Osterman was considered chairman.
Magnus Derrick had formally and definitely refused his adherence
to the scheme. He was trying to steer a middle course. His
position was difficult, anomalous. If freight rates were cut
through the efforts of the members of the committee, he could not
very well avoid taking advantage of the new schedule. He would
be the gainer, though sharing neither the risk nor the expense.
But, meanwhile, the days were passing; the primary elections were
drawing nearer. The committee could not afford to wait, and by
way of a beginning, Osterman had gone to Los Angeles, fortified
by a large sum of money--a purse to which Annixter, Broderson and
himself had contributed. He had put himself in touch with
Disbrow, the political man of the Denver, Pueblo and Mojave road,
and had had two interviews with him. The telegram that Annixter
received that morning was to say that Disbrow had been bought
over, and would adopt Parrell as the D., P. and M. candidate for
Railroad Commissioner from the third district.
One of the cooks brought up Annixter's breakfast that morning,
and he went through it hastily, reading his mail at the same time
and glancing over the pages of the "Mercury," Genslinger's paper.
The "Mercury," Annixter was persuaded, received a subsidy from
the Pacific and Southwestern Railroad, and was hardly better than
the mouthpiece by which Shelgrim and the General Office spoke to
ranchers about Bonneville.
An editorial in that morning's issue said:
"It would not be surprising to the well-informed, if the long-
deferred re-grade of the value of the railroad sections included
in the Los Muertos, Quien Sabe, Osterman and Broderson properties
was made before the first of the year. Naturally, the tenants of
these lands feel an interest in the price which the railroad will
put upon its holdings, and it is rumoured they expect the land
will be offered to them for two dollars and fifty cents per acre.
It needs no seventh daughter of a seventh daughter to foresee
that these gentlemen will be disappointed."
"Rot!" vociferated Annixter to himself as he finished. He rolled
the paper into a wad and hurled it from him.
"Rot! rot! What does Genslinger know about it? I stand on my
agreement with the P. and S. W.--from two fifty to five dollars
an acre--there it is in black and white. The road is obligated.
And my improvements! I made the land valuable by improving it,
irrigating it, draining it, and cultivating it. Talk to me. I
The most abiding impression that Genslinger's editorial made upon
him was, that possibly the "Mercury" was not subsidised by the
corporation after all. If it was; Genslinger would not have been
led into making his mistake as to the value of the land. He
would have known that the railroad was under contract to sell at
two dollars and a half an acre, and not only this, but that when
the land was put upon the market, it was to be offered to the
present holders first of all. Annixter called to mind the
explicit terms of the agreement between himself and the railroad,
and dismissed the matter from his mind. He lit a cigar, put on
his hat and went out.
The morning was fine, the air nimble, brisk. On the summit of
the skeleton-like tower of the artesian well, the windmill was
turning steadily in a breeze from the southwest. The water in
the irrigating ditch was well up. There was no cloud in the sky.
Far off to the east and west, the bulwarks of the valley, the
Coast Range and the foothills of the Sierras stood out, pale
amethyst against the delicate pink and white sheen of the
horizon. The sunlight was a veritable flood, crystal, limpid,
sparkling, setting a feeling of gayety in the air, stirring up an
effervescence in the blood, a tumult of exuberance in the veins.
But on his way to the barns, Annixter was obliged to pass by the
open door of the dairy-house. Hilma Tree was inside, singing at
her work; her voice of a velvety huskiness, more of the chest
than of the throat, mingling with the liquid dashing of the milk
in the vats and churns, and the clear, sonorous clinking of the
cans and pans. Annixter turned into the dairy-house, pausing on
the threshold, looking about him. Hilma stood bathed from head
to foot in the torrent of sunlight that poured in upon her from
the three wide-open windows. She was charming, delicious,
radiant of youth, of health, of well-being. Into her eyes, wide
open, brown, rimmed with their fine, thin line of intense black
lashes, the sun set a diamond flash; the same golden light glowed
all around her thick, moist hair, lambent, beautiful, a sheen of
almost metallic lustre, and reflected itself upon her wet lips,
moving with the words of her singing. The whiteness of her skin
under the caress of this hale, vigorous morning light was
dazzling, pure, of a fineness beyond words. Beneath the sweet
modulation of her chin, the reflected light from the burnished
copper vessel she was carrying set a vibration of pale gold.
Overlaying the flush of rose in her cheeks, seen only when she
stood against the sunlight, was a faint sheen of down, a lustrous
floss, delicate as the pollen of a flower, or the impalpable
powder of a moth's wing. She was moving to and fro about her
work, alert, joyous, robust; and from all the fine, full
amplitude of her figure, from her thick white neck, sloping
downward to her shoulders, from the deep, feminine swell of her
breast, the vigorous maturity of her hips, there was disengaged a
vibrant note of gayety, of exuberant animal life, sane, honest,
strong. She wore a skirt of plain blue calico and a shirtwaist
of pink linen, clean, trim; while her sleeves turned back to her
shoulders, showed her large, white arms, wet with milk, redolent
and fragrant with milk, glowing and resplendent in the early
On the threshold, Annixter took off his hat.
"Good morning, Miss Hilma."
Hilma, who had set down the copper can on top of the vat, turned
"Oh, good morning, sir;" and, unconsciously, she made a little
gesture of salutation with her hand, raising it part way toward
her head, as a man would have done.
"Well," began Annixter vaguely, "how are you getting along down
"Oh, very fine. To-day, there is not so much to do. We drew the
whey hours ago, and now we are just done putting the curd to
press. I have been cleaning. See my pans. Wouldn't they do for
mirrors, sir? And the copper things. I have scrubbed and
scrubbed. Oh, you can look into the tiniest corners, everywhere,
you won't find so much as the littlest speck of dirt or grease.
I love clean things, and this room is my own particular place.
Here I can do just as I please, and that is, to keep the cement
floor, and the vats, and the churns and the separators, and
especially the cans and coppers, clean; clean, and to see that
the milk is pure, oh, so that a little baby could drink it; and
to have the air always sweet, and the sun--oh, lots and lots of
sun, morning, noon and afternoon, so that everything shines. You
know, I never see the sun set that it don't make me a little sad;
yes, always, just a little. Isn't it funny? I should want it to
be day all the time. And when the day is gloomy and dark, I am
just as sad as if a very good friend of mine had left me. Would
you believe it? Just until within a few years, when I was a big
girl, sixteen and over, mamma had to sit by my bed every night
before I could go to sleep. I was afraid in the dark. Sometimes
I am now. Just imagine, and now I am nineteen--a young lady."
"You were, hey?" observed Annixter, for the sake of saying
something. "Afraid in the dark? What of--ghosts?"
"N-no; I don't know what. I wanted the light, I wanted----" She
drew a deep breath, turning towards the window and spreading her
pink finger-tips to the light. "Oh, the sun. I love the sun.
See, put your hand there--here on the top of the vat--like that.
Isn't it warm? Isn't it fine? And don't you love to see it
coming in like that through the windows, floods of it; and all
the little dust in it shining? Where there is lots of sunlight,
I think the people must be very good. It's only wicked people
that love the dark. And the wicked things are always done and
planned in the dark, I think. Perhaps, too, that's why I hate
things that are mysterious--things that I can't see, that happen
in the dark." She wrinkled her nose with a little expression of
aversion. "I hate a mystery. Maybe that's why I am afraid in
the dark--or was. I shouldn't like to think that anything could
happen around me that I couldn't see or understand or explain."
She ran on from subject to subject, positively garrulous, talking
in her low-pitched voice of velvety huskiness for the mere
enjoyment of putting her ideas into speech, innocently assuming
that they were quite as interesting to others as to herself. She
was yet a great child, ignoring the fact that she had ever grown
up, taking a child's interest in her immediate surroundings,
direct, straightforward, plain. While speaking, she continued
about her work, rinsing out the cans with a mixture of hot water
and soda, scouring them bright, and piling them in the sunlight
on top of the vat.
Obliquely, and from between his narrowed lids, Annixter
scrutinised her from time to time, more and more won over by her
adorable freshness, her clean, fine youth. The clumsiness that
he usually experienced in the presence of women was wearing off.
Hilma Tree's direct simplicity put him at his ease. He began to
wonder if he dared to kiss Hilma, and if he did dare, how she
would take it. A spark of suspicion flickered up in his mind.
Did not her manner imply, vaguely, an invitation? One never
could tell with feemales. That was why she was talking so much,
no doubt, holding him there, affording the opportunity. Aha!
She had best look out, or he would take her at her word.
"Oh, I had forgotten," suddenly exclaimed Hilma, "the very thing
I wanted to show you--the new press. You remember I asked for
one last month? This is it. See, this is how it works. Here is
where the curds go; look. And this cover is screwed down like
this, and then you work the lever this way." She grasped the
lever in both hands, throwing her weight upon it, her smooth,
bare arm swelling round and firm with the effort, one slim foot,
in its low shoe set off with the bright, steel buckle, braced
against the wall.
"My, but that takes strength," she panted, looking up at him and
smiling. "But isn't it a fine press? Just what we needed."
"And," Annixter cleared his throat, "and where do you keep the
cheeses and the butter?" He thought it very likely that these
were in the cellar of the dairy.
"In the cellar," answered Hilma. "Down here, see?" She raised
the flap of the cellar door at the end of the room. "Would you
like to see? Come down; I'll show you."
She went before him down into the cool obscurity underneath,
redolent of new cheese and fresh butter. Annixter followed, a
certain excitement beginning to gain upon him. He was almost
sure now that Hilma wanted him to kiss her. At all events, one
could but try. But, as yet, he was not absolutely sure. Suppose
he had been mistaken in her; suppose she should consider herself
insulted and freeze him with an icy stare. Annixter winced at
the very thought of it. Better let the whole business go, and
get to work. He was wasting half the morning. Yet, if she did
want to give him the opportunity of kissing her, and he failed to
take advantage of it, what a ninny she would think him; she would
despise him for being afraid. He afraid! He, Annixter, afraid
of a fool, feemale girl. Why, he owed it to himself as a man to
go as far as he could. He told himself that that goat Osterman
would have kissed Hilma Tree weeks ago. To test his state of
mind, he imagined himself as having decided to kiss her, after
all, and at once was surprised to experience a poignant qualm of
excitement, his heart beating heavily, his breath coming short.
At the same time, his courage remained with him. He was not
afraid to try. He felt a greater respect for himself because of
this. His self-assurance hardened within him, and as Hilma
turned to him, asking him to taste a cut from one of the ripe
cheeses, he suddenly stepped close to her, throwing an arm about
her shoulders, advancing his head.
But at the last second, he bungled, hesitated; Hilma shrank from
him, supple as a young reed; Annixter clutched harshly at her
arm, and trod his full weight upon one of her slender feet, his
cheek and chin barely touching the delicate pink lobe of one of
her ears, his lips brushing merely a fold of her shirt waist
between neck and shoulder. The thing was a failure, and at once
he realised that nothing had been further from Hilma's mind than
the idea of his kissing her.
She started back from him abruptly, her hands nervously clasped
against her breast, drawing in her breath sharply and holding it
with a little, tremulous catch of the throat that sent a
quivering vibration the length of her smooth, white neck. Her
eyes opened wide with a childlike look, more of astonishment than
anger. She was surprised, out of all measure, discountenanced,
taken all aback, and when she found her breath, gave voice to a
great "Oh" of dismay and distress.
For an instant, Annixter stood awkwardly in his place,
ridiculous, clumsy, murmuring over and over again:
"Well--well--that's all right--who's going to hurt you? You
needn't be afraid--who's going to hurt you--that's all right."
Then, suddenly, with a quick, indefinite gesture of one arm, he
"Good-bye, I--I'm sorry."
He turned away, striding up the stairs, crossing the dairy-room,
and regained the open air, raging and furious. He turned toward
the barns, clapping his hat upon his head, muttering the while
under his breath:
"Oh, you goat! You beastly fool pip. Good Lord, what an ass
you've made of yourself now!"
Suddenly he resolved to put Hilma Tree out of his thoughts. The
matter was interfering with his work. This kind of thing was
sure not earning any money. He shook himself as though freeing
his shoulders of an irksome burden, and turned his entire
attention to the work nearest at hand.
The prolonged rattle of the shinglers' hammers upon the roof of
the big barn attracted him, and, crossing over between the ranch
house and the artesian well, he stood for some time absorbed in
the contemplation of the vast building, amused and interested
with the confusion of sounds--the clatter of hammers, the
cadenced scrape of saws, and the rhythmic shuffle of planes--that
issued from the gang of carpenters who were at that moment
putting the finishing touches upon the roof and rows of stalls.
A boy and two men were busy hanging the great sliding door at the
south end, while the painters--come down from Bonneville early
that morning--were engaged in adjusting the spray and force
engine, by means of which Annixter had insisted upon painting the
vast surfaces of the barn, condemning the use of brushes and pots
for such work as old-fashioned and out-of-date.
He called to one of the foremen, to ask when the barn would be
entirely finished, and was told that at the end of the week the
hay and stock could be installed.
"And a precious long time you've been at it, too," Annixter
"Well, you know the rain----"
"Oh, rot the rain! I work in the rain. You and your unions make
"But, Mr. Annixter, we couldn't have begun painting in the rain.
The job would have been spoiled."
"Hoh, yes, spoiled. That's all very well. Maybe it would, and
then, again, maybe it wouldn't."
But when the foreman had left him, Annixter could not forbear a
growl of satisfaction. It could not be denied that the barn was
superb, monumental even. Almost any one of the other barns in
the county could be swung, bird-cage fashion, inside of it, with
room to spare. In every sense, the barn was precisely what
Annixter had hoped of it. In his pleasure over the success of
his idea, even Hilma for the moment was forgotten.
"And, now," murmured Annixter, "I'll give that dance in it. I'll
make 'em sit up."
It occurred to him that he had better set about sending out the
invitations for the affair. He was puzzled to decide just how
the thing should be managed, and resolved that it might be as
well to consult Magnus and Mrs. Derrick.
"I want to talk of this telegram of the goat's with Magnus,
anyhow," he said to himself reflectively, "and there's things I
got to do in Bonneville before the first of the month."
He turned about on his heel with a last look at the barn, and set
off toward the stable. He had decided to have his horse saddled
and ride over to Bonneville by way of Los Muertos. He would make
a day of it, would see Magnus, Harran, old Broderson and some of
the business men of Bonneville.
A few moments later, he rode out of the barn and the stable-yard,
a fresh cigar between his teeth, his hat slanted over his face
against the rays of the sun, as yet low in the east. He crossed
the irrigating ditch and gained the trail--the short cut over
into Los Muertos, by way of Hooven's. It led south and west into
the low ground overgrown by grey-green willows by Broderson
Creek, at this time of the rainy season a stream of considerable
volume, farther on dipping sharply to pass underneath the Long
Trestle of the railroad. On the other side of the right of way,
Annixter was obliged to open the gate in Derrick's line fence.
He managed this without dismounting, swearing at the horse the
while, and spurring him continually. But once inside the gate he
cantered forward briskly.
This part of Los Muertos was Hooven's holding, some five hundred
acres enclosed between the irrigating ditch and Broderson Creek,
and half the way across, Annixter came up with Hooven himself,
busily at work replacing a broken washer in his seeder. Upon one
of the horses hitched to the machine, her hands gripped tightly
upon the harness of the collar, Hilda, his little daughter, with
her small, hob-nailed boots and boy's canvas overalls, sat,
exalted and petrified with ecstasy and excitement, her eyes wide
opened, her hair in a tangle.
"Hello, Bismarck," said Annixter, drawing up beside him. "What
are you doing here? I thought the Governor was going to manage
without his tenants this year."
"Ach, Meest'r Ennixter," cried the other, straightening up.
"Ach, dat's you, eh? Ach, you bedt he doand menege mitout me.
Me, I gotta stay. I talk der straighd talk mit der Governor. I
fix 'em. Ach, you bedt. Sieben yahr I hef bei der rench ge-
stopped; yais, sir. Efery oder sohn-of-a-guhn bei der plaice ged
der sach bud me. Eh? Wat you tink von dose ting?"
"I think that's a crazy-looking monkey-wrench you've got there,"
observed Annixter, glancing at the instrument in Hooven's hand.
"Ach, dot wrainch," returned Hooven. "Soh! Wail, I tell you
dose ting now whair I got 'em. Say, you see dot wrainch. Dat's
not Emericen wrainch at alle. I got 'em at Gravelotte der day we
licked der stuffun oudt der Frainch, ach, you bedt. Me, I pelong
to der Wurtemberg redgimend, dot dey use to suppord der batterie
von der Brince von Hohenlohe. Alle der day we lay down bei der
stomach in der feildt behindt der batterie, und der schells von
der Frainch cennon hef eggsblode--ach, donnerwetter!--I tink
efery schell eggsblode bei der beckside my neck. Und dat go on
der whole day, noddun else, noddun aber der Frainch schell, b-r-
r, b-r-r b-r-r, b-r-am, und der smoag, und unzer batterie, dat go
off slow, steady, yoost like der glock, eins, zwei, boom! eins,
zwei, boom! yoost like der glock, ofer und ofer again, alle der
day. Den vhen der night come dey say we hev der great victorie
made. I doand know. Vhat do I see von der bettle? Noddun. Den
we gedt oop und maerch und maerch alle night, und in der morgen
we hear dose cennon egain, hell oaf der way, far-off, I doand
know vhair. Budt, nef'r mindt. Bretty qnick, ach, Gott--" his
face flamed scarlet, "Ach, du lieber Gott! Bretty zoon, dere
wass der Kaiser, glose bei, und Fritz, Unzer Fritz. Bei Gott,
den I go grazy, und yell, ach, you bedt, der whole redgimend:
'Hoch der Kaiser! Hoch der Vaterland!' Und der dears come to der
eyes, I doand know because vhy, und der mens gry und shaike der
hend, und der whole redgimend maerch off like dat, fairy broudt,
bei Gott, der head oop high, und sing 'Die Wacht am Rhein.' Dot
"And the monkey-wrench?"
"Ach, I pick 'um oop vhen der batterie go. Der cennoniers hef
forgedt und leaf 'um. I carry 'um in der sack. I tink I use 'um
vhen I gedt home in der business. I was maker von vagons in
Carlsruhe, und I nef'r gedt home again. Vhen der war hef godt
over, I go beck to Ulm und gedt marriet, und den I gedt demn sick
von der armie. Vhen I gedt der release, I clair oudt, you bedt.
I come to Emerica. First, New Yor-ruk; den Milwaukee; den
Sbringfieldt-Illinoy; den Galifornie, und heir I stay."
"And the Fatherland? Ever want to go back?"
"Wail, I tell you dose ting, Meest'r Ennixter. Alle-ways, I tink
a lot oaf Shairmany, und der Kaiser, und nef'r I forgedt
Gravelotte. Budt, say, I tell you dose ting. Vhair der wife is,
und der kinder--der leedle girl Hilda--dere is der vaterland.
Eh? Emerica, dat's my gountry now, und dere," he pointed behind
him to the house under the mammoth oak tree on the Lower Road,
"dat's my home. Dat's goot enough Vaterland for me."
Annixter gathered up the reins, about to go on.
"So you like America, do you, Bismarck?" he said. "Who do you
"Emerica? I doand know," returned the other, insistently.
"Dat's my home yonder. Dat's my Vaterland. Alle von we
Shairmens yoost like dot. Shairmany, dot's hell oaf some fine
plaice, sure. Budt der Vaterland iss vhair der home und der wife
und kinder iss. Eh? Yes? Voad? Ach, no. Me, I nef'r voad.
I doand bodder der haid mit dose ting. I maig der wheat grow,
und ged der braid fur der wife und Hilda, dot's all. Dot's me;
"Good-bye," commented Annixter, moving off.
Hooven, the washer replaced, turned to his work again, starting
up the horses. The seeder advanced, whirring.
"Ach, Hilda, leedle girl," he cried, "hold tight bei der shdrap
on. Hey mule! Hoop! Gedt oop, you."
Annixter cantered on. In a few moments, he had crossed Broderson
Creek and had entered upon the Home ranch of Los Muertos. Ahead
of him, but so far off that the greater portion of its bulk was
below the horizon, he could see the Derricks' home, a roof or two
between the dull green of cypress and eucalyptus. Nothing else
was in sight. The brown earth, smooth, unbroken, was as a
limitless, mud-coloured ocean. The silence was profound.
Then, at length, Annixter's searching eye made out a blur on the
horizon to the northward; the blur concentrated itself to a
speck; the speck grew by steady degrees to a spot, slowly moving,
a note of dull colour, barely darker than the land, but an inky
black silhouette as it topped a low rise of ground and stood for
a moment outlined against the pale blue of the sky. Annixter
turned his horse from the road and rode across the ranch land to
meet this new object of interest. As the spot grew larger, it
resolved itself into constituents, a collection of units; its
shape grew irregular, fragmentary. A disintegrated, nebulous
confusion advanced toward Annixter, preceded, as he discovered on
nearer approach, by a medley of faint sounds. Now it was no
longer a spot, but a column, a column that moved, accompanied by
spots. As Annixter lessened the distance, these spots resolved
themselves into buggies or men on horseback that kept pace with
the advancing column. There were horses in the column itself.
At first glance, it appeared as if there were nothing else, a
riderless squadron tramping steadily over the upturned plough
land of the ranch. But it drew nearer. The horses were in
lines, six abreast, harnessed to machines. The noise increased,
defined itself. There was a shout or two; occasionally a horse
blew through his nostrils with a prolonged, vibrating snort. The
click and clink of metal work was incessant, the machines
throwing off a continual rattle of wheels and cogs and clashing
springs. The column approached nearer; was close at hand. The
noises mingled to a subdued uproar, a bewildering confusion; the
impact of innumerable hoofs was a veritable rumble. Machine
after machine appeared; and Annixter, drawing to one side,
remained for nearly ten minutes watching and interested, while,
like an array of chariots--clattering, jostling, creaking,
clashing, an interminable procession, machine succeeding machine,
six-horse team succeeding six-horse team--bustling, hurried--
Magnus Derrick's thirty-three grain drills, each with its eight
hoes, went clamouring past, like an advance of military, seeding
the ten thousand acres of the great ranch; fecundating the living
soil; implanting deep in the dark womb of the Earth the germ of
life, the sustenance of a whole world, the food of an entire
When the drills had passed, Annixter turned and rode back to the
Lower Road, over the land now thick with seed. He did not wonder
that the seeding on Los Muertos seemed to be hastily conducted.
Magnus and Harran Derrick had not yet been able to make up the
time lost at the beginning of the season, when they had waited so
long for the ploughs to arrive. They had been behindhand all the
time. On Annixter's ranch, the land had not only been harrowed,
as well as seeded, but in some cases, cross-harrowed as well.
The labour of putting in the vast crop was over. Now there was
nothing to do but wait, while the seed silently germinated;
nothing to do but watch for the wheat to come up.
When Annixter reached the ranch house of Los Muertos, under the
shade of the cypress and eucalyptus trees, he found Mrs. Derrick
on the porch, seated in a long wicker chair. She had been
washing her hair, and the light brown locks that yet retained so
much of their brightness, were carefully spread in the sun over
the back of her chair. Annixter could not but remark that,
spite of her more than fifty years, Annie Derrick was yet rather
pretty. Her eyes were still those of a young girl, just touched
with an uncertain expression of innocence and inquiry, but as her
glance fell upon him, he found that that expression changed to
one of uneasiness, of distrust, almost of aversion.
The night before this, after Magnus and his wife had gone to bed,
they had lain awake for hours, staring up into the dark, talking,
talking. Magnus had not long been able to keep from his wife the
news of the coalition that was forming against the railroad, nor
the fact that this coalition was determined to gain its ends by
any means at its command. He had told her of Osterman's scheme
of a fraudulent election to seat a Board of Railroad
Commissioners, who should be nominees of the farming interests.
Magnus and his wife had talked this matter over and over again;
and the same discussion, begun immediately after supper the
evening before, had lasted till far into the night.
At once, Annie Derrick had been seized with a sudden terror lest
Magnus, after all, should allow himself to be persuaded; should
yield to the pressure that was every day growing stronger. None
better than she knew the iron integrity of her husband's
character. None better than she remembered how his dearest
ambition, that of political preferment, had been thwarted by his
refusal to truckle, to connive, to compromise with his ideas of
right. Now, at last, there seemed to be a change. Long
continued oppression, petty tyranny, injustice and extortion had
driven him to exasperation. S. Behrman's insults still rankled.
He seemed nearly ready to countenance Osterman's scheme. The
very fact that he was willing to talk of it to her so often and
at such great length, was proof positive that it occupied his
mind. The pity of it, the tragedy of it! He, Magnus, the
"Governor," who had been so staunch, so rigidly upright, so loyal
to his convictions, so bitter in his denunciation of the New
Politics, so scathing in his attacks on bribery and corruption in
high places; was it possible that now, at last, he could be
brought to withhold his condemnation of the devious intrigues of
the unscrupulous, going on there under his very eyes? That
Magnus should not command Harran to refrain from all intercourse
with the conspirators, had been a matter of vast surprise to Mrs.
Derrick. Time was when Magnus would have forbidden his son to so
much as recognise a dishonourable man.
But besides all this, Derrick's wife trembled at the thought of
her husband and son engaging in so desperate a grapple with the
railroad--that great monster, iron-hearted, relentless,
infinitely powerful. Always it had issued triumphant from the
fight; always S. Behrman, the Corporation's champion, remained
upon the field as victor, placid, unperturbed, unassailable. But
now a more terrible struggle than any hitherto loomed menacing
over the rim of the future; money was to be spent like water;
personal reputations were to be hazarded in the issue; failure
meant ruin in all directions, financial ruin, moral ruin, ruin of
prestige, ruin of character. Success, to her mind, was almost
impossible. Annie Derrick feared the railroad. At night, when
everything else was still, the distant roar of passing trains
echoed across Los Muertos, from Guadalajara, from Bonneville, or
from the Long Trestle, straight into her heart. At such moments
she saw very plainly the galloping terror of steam and steel,
with its single eye, cyclopean, red, shooting from horizon to
horizon, symbol of a vast power, huge and terrible; the leviathan
with tentacles of steel, to oppose which meant to be ground to
instant destruction beneath the clashing wheels. No, it was
better to submit, to resign oneself to the inevitable. She
obliterated herself, shrinking from the harshness of the world,
striving, with vain hands, to draw her husband back with her.
Just before Annixter's arrival, she had been sitting, thoughtful,
in her long chair, an open volume of poems turned down upon her
lap, her glance losing itself in the immensity of Los Muertos
that, from the edge of the lawn close by, unrolled itself,
gigantic, toward the far, southern horizon, wrinkled and serrated
after the season's ploughing. The earth, hitherto grey with
dust, was now upturned and brown. As far as the eye could reach,
it was empty of all life, bare, mournful, absolutely still; and,
as she looked, there seemed to her morbid imagination--diseased
and disturbed with long brooding, sick with the monotony of
repeated sensation--to be disengaged from all this immensity, a
sense of a vast oppression, formless, disquieting. The terror of
sheer bigness grew slowly in her mind; loneliness beyond words
gradually enveloped her. She was lost in all these limitless
reaches of space. Had she been abandoned in mid-ocean, in an
open boat, her terror could hardly have been greater. She felt
vividly that certain uncongeniality which, when all is said,
forever remains between humanity and the earth which supports it.
She recognised the colossal indifference of nature, not hostile,
even kindly and friendly, so long as the human ant-swarm was
submissive, working with it, hurrying along at its side in the
mysterious march of the centuries. Let, however, the insect
rebel, strive to make head against the power of this nature, and
at once it became relentless, a gigantic engine, a vast power,
huge, terrible; a leviathan with a heart of steel, knowing no
compunction, no forgiveness, no tolerance; crushing out the human
atom with sound less calm, the agony of destruction sending never
a jar, never the faintest tremour through all that prodigious
mechanism of wheels and cogs.
Such thoughts as these did not take shape distinctly in her mind.
She could not have told herself exactly what it was that
disquieted her. She only received the vague sensation of these
things, as it were a breath of wind upon her face, confused,
troublous, an indefinite sense of hostility in the air.
The sound of hoofs grinding upon the gravel of the driveway
brought her to herself again, and, withdrawing her gaze from the
empty plain of Los Muertos, she saw young Annixter stopping his
horse by the carriage steps. But the sight of him only diverted
her mind to the other trouble. She could not but regard him with
aversion. He was one of the conspirators, was one of the leaders
in the battle that impended; no doubt, he had come to make a
fresh attempt to win over Magnus to the unholy alliance.
However, there was little trace of enmity in her greeting. Her
hair was still spread, like a broad patch of back, and she made
that her excuse for not getting up. In answer to Annixter's
embarrassed inquiry after Magnus, she sent the Chinese cook to
call him from the office; and Annixter, after tying his horse to
the ring driven into the trunk of one of the eucalyptus trees,
came up to the porch, and, taking off his hat, sat down upon the
"Is Harran anywhere about?" he asked. "I'd like to see Harran,
"No," said Mrs. Derrick, "Harran went to Bonneville early this
She glanced toward Annixter nervously, without turning her head,
lest she should disturb her outspread hair.
"What is it you want to see Mr. Derrick about?" she inquired
hastily. "Is it about this plan to elect a Railroad Commission?
Magnus does not approve of it," she declared with energy. "He
told me so last night."
Annixter moved about awkwardly where he sat, smoothing down with
his hand the one stiff lock of yellow hair that persistently
stood up from his crown like an Indian's scalp-lock. At once his
suspicions were all aroused. Ah! this feemale woman was trying
to get a hold on him, trying to involve him in a petticoat mess,
trying to cajole him. Upon the instant, he became very crafty;
an excess of prudence promptly congealed his natural impulses.
In an actual spasm of caution, he scarcely trusted himself to
speak, terrified lest he should commit himself to something. He
glanced about apprehensively, praying that Magnus might join them
speedily, relieving the tension.
"I came to see about giving a dance in my new barn," he answered,
scowling into the depths of his hat, as though reading from notes
he had concealed there. "I wanted to ask how I should send out
the invites. I thought of just putting an ad. in the 'Mercury.'"
But as he spoke, Presley had come up behind Annixter in time to
get the drift of the conversation, and now observed:
"That's nonsense, Buck. You're not giving a public ball. You
must send out invitations."
"Hello, Presley, you there?" exclaimed Annixter, turning round.
The two shook hands.
"Send out invitations?" repeated Annixter uneasily. "Why must
"Because that's the only way to do."
"It is, is it?" answered Annixter, perplexed and troubled. No
other man of his acquaintance could have so contradicted Annixter
without provoking a quarrel upon the instant. Why the young
rancher, irascible, obstinate, belligerent, should invariably
defer to the poet, was an inconsistency never to be explained.
It was with great surprise that Mrs. Derrick heard him continue:
"Well, I suppose you know what you're talking about, Pres. Must
have written invites, hey?"
"Why, what an ass you are, Buck," observed Presley calmly.
"Before you get through with it, you will probably insult three-
fourths of the people you intend to invite, and have about a
hundred quarrels on your hands, and a lawsuit or two."
However, before Annixter could reply, Magnus came out on the
porch, erect, grave, freshly shaven. Without realising what he
was doing, Annixter instinctively rose to his feet. It was as
though Magnus was a commander-in-chief of an unseen army, and he
a subaltern. There was some little conversation as to the
proposed dance, and then Annixter found an excuse for drawing the
Governor aside. Mrs. Derrick watched the two with eyes full of
poignant anxiety, as they slowly paced the length of the gravel
driveway to the road gate, and stood there, leaning upon it,
talking earnestly; Magnus tall, thin-lipped, impassive, one hand
in the breast of his frock coat, his head bare, his keen, blue
eyes fixed upon Annixter's face. Annixter came at once to the
"I got a wire from Osterman this morning, Governor, and, well--
we've got Disbrow. That means that the Denver, Pueblo and Mojave
is back of us. There's half the fight won, first off."
"Osterman bribed him, I suppose," observed Magnus.
Annixter raised a shoulder vexatiously.
"You've got to pay for what you get," he returned. "You don't
get something for nothing, I guess. Governor," he went on, "I
don't see how you can stay out of this business much longer. You
see how it will be. We're going to win, and I don't see how you
can feel that it's right of you to let us do all the work and
stand all the expense. There's never been a movement of any
importance that went on around you that you weren't the leader in
it. All Tulare County, all the San Joaquin, for that matter,
knows you. They want a leader, and they are looking to you. I
know how you feel about politics nowadays. But, Governor,
standards have changed since your time; everybody plays the game
now as we are playing it--the most honourable men. You can't
play it any other way, and, pshaw! if the right wins out in the
end, that's the main thing. We want you in this thing, and we
want you bad. You've been chewing on this affair now a long
time. Have you made up your mind? Do you come in? I tell you
what, you've got to look at these things in a large way. You've
got to judge by results. Well, now, what do you think? Do you
Magnus's glance left Annixter's face, and for an instant sought
the ground. His frown lowered, but now it was in perplexity,
rather than in anger. His mind was troubled, harassed with a
But one of Magnus's strongest instincts, one of his keenest
desires, was to be, if only for a short time, the master. To
control men had ever been his ambition; submission of any kind,
his greatest horror. His energy stirred within him, goaded by
the lash of his anger, his sense of indignity, of insult. Oh for
one moment to be able to strike back, to crush his enemy, to
defeat the railroad, hold the Corporation in the grip of his
fist, put down S. Behrman, rehabilitate himself, regain his self-
respect. To be once more powerful, to command, to dominate. His
thin lips pressed themselves together; the nostrils of his
prominent hawk-like nose dilated, his erect, commanding figure
stiffened unconsciously. For a moment, he saw himself
controlling the situation, the foremost figure in his State,
feared, respected, thousands of men beneath him, his ambition at
length gratified; his career, once apparently brought to naught,
completed; success a palpable achievement. What if this were his
chance, after all, come at last after all these years. His
chance! The instincts of the old-time gambler, the most
redoubtable poker player of El Dorado County, stirred at the
word. Chance! To know it when it came, to recognise it as it
passed fleet as a wind-flurry, grip at it, catch at it, blind,
reckless, staking all upon the hazard of the issue, that was
genius. Was this his Chance? All of a sudden, it seemed to him
that it was. But his honour! His cherished, lifelong integrity,
the unstained purity of his principles? At this late date, were
they to be sacrificed? Could he now go counter to all the firm
built fabric of his character? How, afterward, could he bear to
look Harran and Lyman in the face? And, yet--and, yet--back
swung the pendulum--to neglect his Chance meant failure; a life
begun in promise, and ended in obscurity, perhaps in financial
ruin, poverty even. To seize it meant achievement, fame,
influence, prestige, possibly great wealth.
"I am so sorry to interrupt," said Mrs. Derrick, as she came up.
"I hope Mr. Annixter will excuse me, but I want Magnus to open
the safe for me. I have lost the combination, and I must have
some money. Phelps is going into town, and I want him to pay
some bills for me. Can't you come right away, Magnus? Phelps is
ready and waiting."
Annixter struck his heel into the ground with a suppressed oath.
Always these fool feemale women came between him and his plans,
mixing themselves up in his affairs. Magnus had been on the very
point of saying something, perhaps committing himself to some
course of action, and, at precisely the wrong moment, his wife
had cut in. The opportunity was lost. The three returned toward
the ranch house; but before saying good-bye, Annixter had secured
from Magnus a promise to the effect that, before coming to a
definite decision in the matter under discussion, he would talk
further with him.
Presley met him at the porch. He was going into town with
Phelps, and proposed to Annixter that he should accompany them.
"I want to go over and see old Broderson," Annixter objected.
But Presley informed him that Broderson had gone to Bonneville
earlier in the morning. He had seen him go past in his
buckboard. The three men set off, Phelps and Annixter on
horseback, Presley on his bicycle.
When they had gone, Mrs. Derrick sought out her husband in the
office of the ranch house. She was at her prettiest that
morning, her cheeks flushed with excitement, her innocent, wide-
open eyes almost girlish. She had fastened her hair, still
moist, with a black ribbon tied at the back of her head, and the
soft mass of light brown reached to below her waist, making her
look very young.
"What was it he was saying to you just now," she exclaimed, as
she came through the gate in the green-painted wire railing of
the office. "What was Mr. Annixter saying? I know. He was
trying to get you to join him, trying to persuade you to be
dishonest, wasn't that it? Tell me, Magnus, wasn't that it?"
His wife drew close to him, putting a hand on his shoulder.
"But you won't, will you? You won't listen to him again; you
won't so much as allow him--anybody--to even suppose you would
lend yourself to bribery? Oh, Magnus, I don't know what has come
over you these last few weeks. Why, before this, you would have
been insulted if any one thought you would even consider anything
like dishonesty. Magnus, it would break my heart if you joined
Mr. Annixter and Mr. Osterman. Why, you couldn't be the same man
to me afterward; you, who have kept yourself so clean till now.
And the boys; what would Lyman say, and Harran, and every one who
knows you and respects you, if you lowered yourself to be just a
For a moment, Derrick leaned his head upon his hand, avoiding her
gaze. At length, he said, drawing a deep breath: "I am troubled,
Annie. These are the evil days. I have much upon my mind."
"Evil days or not," she insisted, "promise me this one thing,
that you will not join Mr. Annixter's scheme."
She had taken his hand in both of hers and was looking into his
face, her pretty eyes full of pleading.
"Promise me," she repeated; "give me your word. Whatever
happens, let me always be able to be proud of you, as I always
have been. Give me your word. I know you never seriously
thought of joining Mr. Annixter, but I am so nervous and
frightened sometimes. Just to relieve my mind, Magnus, give me
"Why--you are right," he answered. "No, I never thought
seriously of it. Only for a moment, I was ambitious to be--I
don't know what--what I had hoped to be once--well, that is over
now. Annie, your husband is a disappointed man."
"Give me your word," she insisted. "We can talk about other
Again Magnus wavered, about to yield to his better instincts and
to the entreaties of his wife. He began to see how perilously
far he had gone in this business. He was drifting closer to it
every hour. Already he was entangled, already his foot was
caught in the mesh that was being spun. Sharply he recoiled.
Again all his instincts of honesty revolted. No, whatever
happened, he would preserve his integrity. His wife was right.
Always she had influenced his better side. At that moment,
Magnus's repugnance of the proposed political campaign was at its
pitch of intensity. He wondered how he had ever allowed himself
to so much as entertain the idea of joining with the others.
Now, he would wrench free, would, in a single instant of power,
clear himself of all compromising relations. He turned to his
wife. Upon his lips trembled the promise she implored. But
suddenly there came to his mind the recollection of his new-made
pledge to Annixter. He had given his word that before arriving
at a decision he would have a last interview with him. To
Magnus, his given word was sacred. Though now he wanted to, he
could not as yet draw back, could not promise his wife that he
would decide to do right. The matter must be delayed a few days
Lamely, he explained this to her. Annie Derrick made but little
response when he had done. She kissed his forehead and went out
of the room, uneasy, depressed, her mind thronging with vague
fears, leaving Magnus before his office desk, his head in his
hands, thoughtful, gloomy, assaulted by forebodings.
Meanwhile, Annixter, Phelps, and Presley continued on their way
toward Bonneville. In a short time they had turned into the
County Road by the great watering-tank, and proceeded onward in
the shade of the interminable line of poplar trees, the wind-
break that stretched along the roadside bordering the Broderson
ranch. But as they drew near to Caraher's saloon and grocery,
about half a mile outside of Bonneville, they recognised Harran's
horse tied to the railing in front of it. Annixter left the
others and went in to see Harran.
"Harran," he said, when the two had sat down on either side of
one of the small tables, "you've got to make up your mind one way
or another pretty soon. What are you going to do? Are you going
to stand by and see the rest of the Committee spending money by
the bucketful in this thing and keep your hands in your pockets?
If we win, you'll benefit just as much as the rest of us. I
suppose you've got some money of your own--you have, haven't you?
You are your father's manager, aren't you?"
Disconcerted at Annixter's directness, Harran stammered an
"It's hard to know just what to do. It's a mean position for me,
Buck. I want to help you others, but I do want to play fair. I
don't know how to play any other way. I should like to have a
line from the Governor as to how to act, but there's no getting a
word out of him these days. He seems to want to let me decide
for myself ."
"Well, look here," put in Annixter. "Suppose you keep out of the
thing till it's all over, and then share and share alike with the
Committee on campaign expenses."
Harran fell thoughtful, his hands in his pockets, frowning
moodily at the toe of his boot. There was a silence. Then:
"I don't like to go it blind," he hazarded. "I'm sort of sharing
the responsibility of what you do, then. I'm a silent partner.
And, then--I don't want to have any difficulties with the
Governor. We've always got along well together. He wouldn't
like it, you know, if I did anything like that."
"Say," exclaimed Annixter abruptly, "if the Governor says he will
keep his hands off, and that you can do as you please, will you
come in? For God's sake, let us ranchers act together for once.
Let's stand in with each other in one fight."
Without knowing it, Annixter had touched the right spring.
"I don't know but what you're right," Harran murmured vaguely.
His sense of discouragement, that feeling of what's-the-use, was
never more oppressive. All fair means had been tried. The wheat
grower was at last with his back to the wall. If he chose his
own means of fighting, the responsibility must rest upon his
enemies, not on himself.
"It's the only way to accomplish anything," he continued,
"standing in with each other . . . well, . . . go ahead and see
what you can do. If the Governor is willing, I'll come in for my
share of the campaign fund."
"That's some sense," exclaimed Annixter, shaking him by the hand.
"Half the fight is over already. We've got Disbrow you know; and
the next thing is to get hold of some of those rotten San
Francisco bosses. Osterman will----" But Harran interrupted him,
making a quick gesture with his hand.
"Don't tell me about it," he said. "I don't want to know what
you and Osterman are going to do. If I did, I shouldn't come
Yet, for all this, before they said good-bye Annixter had
obtained Harran's promise that he would attend the next meeting
of the Committee, when Osterman should return from Los Angeles
and make his report. Harran went on toward Los Muertos.
Annixter mounted and rode into Bonneville.
Bonneville was very lively at all times. It was a little city of
some twenty or thirty thousand inhabitants, where, as yet, the
city hall, the high school building, and the opera house were
objects of civic pride. It was well governed, beautifully clean,
full of the energy and strenuous young life of a new city. An
air of the briskest activity pervaded its streets and sidewalks.
The business portion of the town, centring about Main Street, was
always crowded. Annixter, arriving at the Post Office, found
himself involved in a scene of swiftly shifting sights and
sounds. Saddle horses, farm wagons--the inevitable Studebakers--
buggies grey with the dust of country roads, buckboards with
squashes and grocery packages stowed under the seat, two-wheeled
sulkies and training carts, were hitched to the gnawed railings
and zinc-sheathed telegraph poles along the curb. Here and
there, on the edge of the sidewalk, were bicycles, wedged into
bicycle racks painted with cigar advertisements. Upon the
asphalt sidewalk itself, soft and sticky with the morning's heat,
was a continuous movement. Men with large stomachs, wearing
linen coats but no vests, laboured ponderously up and down.
Girls in lawn skirts, shirt waists, and garden hats, went to and
fro, invariably in couples, coming in and out of the drug store,
the grocery store, and haberdasher's, or lingering in front of
the Post Office, which was on a corner under the I.O.O.F. hall.
Young men, in shirt sleeves, with brown, wicker cuff-protectors
over their forearms, and pencils behind their ears, bustled in
front of the grocery store, anxious and preoccupied. A very old
man, a Mexican, in ragged white trousers and bare feet, sat on a
horse-block in front of the barber shop, holding a horse by a
rope around its neck. A Chinaman went by, teetering under the
weight of his market baskets slung on a pole across his
shoulders. In the neighbourhood of the hotel, the Yosemite
House, travelling salesmen, drummers for jewelry firms of San
Francisco, commercial agents, insurance men, well- dressed,
metropolitan, debonair, stood about cracking jokes, or hurried in
and out of the flapping white doors of the Yosemite barroom. The
Yosemite 'bus and City 'bus passed up the street, on the way from
the morning train, each with its two or three passengers. A very
narrow wagon, belonging to the Cole & Colemore Harvester Works,
went by, loaded with long strips of iron that made a horrible din
as they jarred over the unevenness of the pavement. The electric
car line, the city's boast, did a brisk business, its cars
whirring from end to end of the street, with a jangling of bells
and a moaning plaint of gearing. On the stone bulkheads of the
grass plat around the new City Hall, the usual loafers sat,
chewing tobacco, swapping stories. In the park were the
inevitable array of nursemaids, skylarking couples, and ragged
little boys. A single policeman, in grey coat and helmet, friend
and acquaintance of every man and woman in the town, stood by the
park entrance, leaning an elbow on the fence post, twirling his
But in the centre of the best business block of the street was a
three-story building of rough brown stone, set off with plate
glass windows and gold-lettered signs. One of these latter read,
"Pacific and Southwestern Railroad, Freight and Passenger
Office," while another much smaller, beneath the windows of the
second story bore the inscription, "P. and S. W. Land Office."
Annixter hitched his horse to the iron post in front of this
building, and tramped up to the second floor, letting himself
into an office where a couple of clerks and bookkeepers sat at
work behind a high wire screen. One of these latter recognised
him and came forward.
"Hello," said Annixter abruptly, scowling the while. "Is your
boss in? Is Ruggles in?"
The bookkeeper led Annixter to the private office in an adjoining
room, ushering him through a door, on the frosted glass of which
was painted the name, "Cyrus Blakelee Ruggles." Inside, a man in
a frock coat, shoestring necktie, and Stetson hat, sat writing at
a roller-top desk. Over this desk was a vast map of the railroad
holdings in the country about Bonneville and Guadalajara, the
alternate sections belonging to the Corporation accurately
Ruggles was cordial in his welcome of Annixter. He had a way of
fiddling with his pencil continually while he talked, scribbling
vague lines and fragments of words and names on stray bits of
paper, and no sooner had Annixter sat down than he had begun to
write, in full-bellied script, ann ann all over his blotting pad.
"I want to see about those lands of mine--I mean of yours--of the
railroad's," Annixter commenced at once. "I want to know when I
can buy. I'm sick of fooling along like this."
"Well, Mr. Annixter," observed Ruggles, writing a great L before
the ann, and finishing it off with a flourishing D. "The lands"--
he crossed out one of the N's and noted the effect with a hasty
glance--"the lands are practically yours. You have an option on
them indefinitely, and, as it is, you don't have to pay the
"Rot your option! I want to own them," Annixter declared. "What
have you people got to gain by putting off selling them to us.
Here this thing has dragged along for over eight years. When I
came in on Quien Sabe, the understanding was that the lands--your
alternate sections--were to be conveyed to me within a few
"The land had not been patented to us then," answered Ruggles.
"Well, it has been now, I guess," retorted Annixter.
"I'm sure I couldn't tell you, Mr. Annixter."
Annixter crossed his legs weariedly.
"Oh, what's the good of lying, Ruggles? You know better than to
talk that way to me."
Ruggles's face flushed on the instant, but he checked his answer
and laughed instead.
"Oh, if you know so much about it--" he observed.
"Well, when are you going to sell to me?"
"I'm only acting for the General Office, Mr. Annixter," returned
Ruggles. "Whenever the Directors are ready to take that matter
up, I'll be only too glad to put it through for you."
"As if you didn't know. Look here, you're not talking to old
Broderson. Wake up, Ruggles. What's all this talk in
Genslinger's rag about the grading of the value of our lands this
winter and an advance in the price?"
Ruggles spread out his hands with a deprecatory gesture.
"I don't own the 'Mercury,'" he said.
"Well, your company does."
"If it does, I don't know anything about it."
"Oh, rot! As if you and Genslinger and S. Behrman didn't run the
whole show down here. Come on, let's have it, Ruggles. What
does S. Behrman pay Genslinger for inserting that three-inch ad.
of the P. and S. W. in his paper? Ten thousand a year, hey?"
"Oh, why not a hundred thousand and be done with it?" returned
the other, willing to take it as a joke.
Instead of replying, Annixter drew his check-book from his inside
"Let me take that fountain pen of yours," he said. Holding the
book on his knee he wrote out a check, tore it carefully from the
stub, and laid it on the desk in front of Ruggles.
"What's this?" asked Ruggles.
"Three-fourths payment for the sections of railroad land included
in my ranch, based on a valuation of two dollars and a half per
acre. You can have the balance in sixty-day notes."
Ruggles shook his head, drawing hastily back from the check as
though it carried contamination.
"I can't touch it," he declared. "I've no authority to sell to
"I don't understand you people," exclaimed Annixter. "I offered
to buy of you the same way four years ago and you sang the same
song. Why, it isn't business. You lose the interest on your
money. Seven per cent. of that capital for four years--you can
figure it out. It's big money."
"Well, then, I don't see why you're so keen on parting with it.
You can get seven per cent. the same as us."
"I want to own my own land," returned Annixter. "I want to feel
that every lump of dirt inside my fence is my personal property.
Why, the very house I live in now--the ranch house--stands on
"But, you've an option"
"I tell you I don't want your cursed option. I want ownership;
and it's the same with Magnus Derrick and old Broderson and
Osterman and all the ranchers of the county. We want to own our
land, want to feel we can do as we blame please with it. Suppose
I should want to sell Quien Sabe. I can't sell it as a whole
till I've bought of you. I can't give anybody a clear title.
The land has doubled in value ten times over again since I came
in on it and improved it. It's worth easily twenty an acre now.
But I can't take advantage of that rise in value so long as you
won't sell, so long as I don't own it. You're blocking me."
"But, according to you, the railroad can't take advantage of the
rise in any case. According to you, you can sell for twenty
dollars, but we can only get two and a half."
"Who made it worth twenty?" cried Annixter. "I've improved it up
to that figure. Genslinger seems to have that idea in his nut,
too. Do you people think you can hold that land, untaxed, for
speculative purposes until it goes up to thirty dollars and then
sell out to some one else--sell it over our heads? You and
Genslinger weren't in office when those contracts were drawn.
You ask your boss, you ask S. Behrman, he knows. The General
Office is pledged to sell to us in preference to any one else,
for two and a half."
"Well," observed Ruggles decidedly, tapping the end of his pencil
on his desk and leaning forward to emphasise his words, "we're
not selling now. That's said and signed, Mr. Annixter."
"Why not? Come, spit it out. What's the bunco game this time?"
"Because we're not ready. Here's your check."
"You won't take it?"
"I'll make it a cash payment, money down--the whole of it--
payable to Cyrus Blakelee Ruggles, for the P. and S. W."
"Third and last time."
"Oh, go to the devil!"
"I don't like your tone, Mr. Annixter," returned Ruggles,
flushing angrily. "I don't give a curse whether you like it or
not," retorted Annixter, rising and thrusting the check into his
pocket, "but never you mind, Mr. Ruggles, you and S. Behrman and
Genslinger and Shelgrim and the whole gang of thieves of you--
you'll wake this State of California up some of these days by
going just one little bit too far, and there'll be an election of
Railroad Commissioners of, by, and for the people, that'll get a
twist of you, my bunco-steering friend--you and your backers and
cappers and swindlers and thimble-riggers, and smash you, lock,
stock, and barrel. That's my tip to you and be damned to you,
Mr. Cyrus Blackleg Ruggles."
Annixter stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind him,
and Ruggles, trembling with anger, turned to his desk and to the
blotting pad written all over with the words lands, twenty
dollars, two and a half, option, and, over and over again, with
great swelling curves and flourishes, railroad, railroad,
But as Annixter passed into the outside office, on the other side
of the wire partition he noted the figure of a man at the counter
in conversation with one of the clerks. There was something
familiar to Annixter's eye about the man's heavy built frame, his
great shoulders and massive back, and as he spoke to the clerk in
a tremendous, rumbling voice, Annixter promptly recognised Dyke.
There was a meeting. Annixter liked Dyke, as did every one else
in and about Bonneville. He paused now to shake hands with the
discharged engineer and to ask about his little daughter, Sidney,
to whom he knew Dyke was devotedly attached.
"Smartest little tad in Tulare County," asserted Dyke. "She's
getting prettier every day, Mr. Annixter. There's a little tad
that was just born to be a lady. Can recite the whole of 'Snow
Bound' without ever stopping. You don't believe that, maybe,
hey? Well, it's true. She'll be just old enough to enter the
Seminary up at Marysville next winter, and if my hop business
pays two per cent. on the investment, there's where she's going
"How's it coming on?" inquired Annixter.
"The hop ranch? Prime. I've about got the land in shape, and
I've engaged a foreman who knows all about hops. I've been in
luck. Everybody will go into the business next year when they
see hops go to a dollar, and they'll overstock the market and
bust the price. But I'm going to get the cream of it now. I say
two per cent. Why, Lord love you, it will pay a good deal more
than that. It's got to. It's cost more than I figured to start
the thing, so, perhaps, I may have to borrow somewheres; but then
on such a sure game as this--and I do want to make something out
of that little tad of mine."
"Through here?" inquired Annixter, making ready to move off.
"In just a minute," answered Dyke. "Wait for me and I'll walk
down the street with you."
Annixter grumbled that he was in a hurry, but waited,
nevertheless, while Dyke again approached the clerk.
"I shall want some empty cars of you people this fall," he
explained. "I'm a hop-raiser now, and I just want to make sure
what your rates on hops are. I've been told, but I want to make
sure. Savvy?" There was a long delay while the clerk consulted
the tariff schedules, and Annixter fretted impatiently. Dyke,
growing uneasy, leaned heavily on his elbows, watching the clerk
anxiously. If the tariff was exorbitant, he saw his plans
brought to naught, his money jeopardised, the little tad, Sidney,
deprived of her education. He began to blame himself that he had
not long before determined definitely what the railroad would
charge for moving his hops. He told himself he was not much of a
business man; that he managed carelessly.
"Two cents," suddenly announced the clerk with a certain surly
"Two cents a pound?"
"Yes, two cents a pound--that's in car-load lots, of course. I
won't give you that rate on smaller consignments."
"Yes, car-load lots, of course . . . two cents. Well, all
He turned away with a great sigh of relief.
"He sure did have me scared for a minute," he said to Annixter,
as the two went down to the street, "fiddling and fussing so
long. Two cents is all right, though. Seems fair to me. That
fiddling of his was all put on. I know 'em, these railroad
heelers. He knew I was a discharged employee first off, and he
played the game just to make me seem small because I had to ask
favours of him. I don't suppose the General Office tips its
slavees off to act like swine, but there's the feeling through
the whole herd of them. 'Ye got to come to us. We let ye live
only so long as we choose, and what are ye going to do about it?
If ye don't like it, git out.'"
Annixter and the engineer descended to the street and had a drink
at the Yosemite bar, and Annixter went into the General Store
while Dyke bought a little pair of red slippers for Sidney.
Before the salesman had wrapped them up, Dyke slipped a dime into
the toe of each with a wink at Annixter.
"Let the little tad find 'em there," he said behind his hand in a
hoarse whisper. "That'll be one on Sid."
"Where to now?" demanded Annixter as they regained the street.
"I'm going down to the Post Office and then pull out for the
ranch. Going my way?"
Dyke hesitated in some confusion, tugging at the ends of his fine
"No, no. I guess I'll leave you here. I've got--got other
things to do up the street. So long."
The two separated, and Annixter hurried through the crowd to the
Post Office, but the mail that had come in on that morning's
train was unusually heavy. It was nearly half an hour before it
was distributed. Naturally enough, Annixter placed all the blame
of the delay upon the railroad, and delivered himself of some
pointed remarks in the midst of the waiting crowd. He was
irritated to the last degree when he finally emerged upon the
sidewalk again, cramming his mail into his pockets. One cause of
his bad temper was the fact that in the bundle of Quien Sabe
letters was one to Hilma Tree in a man's handwriting.
"Huh!" Annixter had growled to himself, "that pip Delaney. Seems
now that I'm to act as go-between for 'em. Well, maybe that
feemale girl gets this letter, and then, again, maybe she don't."
But suddenly his attention was diverted. Directly opposite the
Post Office, upon the corner of the street, stood quite the best
business building of which Bonneville could boast. It was built
of Colusa granite, very solid, ornate, imposing. Upon the heavy
plate of the window of its main floor, in gold and red letters,
one read the words: "Loan and Savings Bank of Tulare County." It
was of this bank that S. Behrman was president. At the street
entrance of the building was a curved sign of polished brass,
fixed upon the angle of the masonry; this sign bore the name, "S.
Behrman," and under it in smaller letters were the words, "Real
As Annixter's glance fell upon this building, he was surprised to
see Dyke standing upon the curb in front of it, apparently
reading from a newspaper that he held in his hand. But Annixter
promptly discovered that he was not reading at all. From time to
time the former engineer shot a swift glance out of the corner of
his eye up and down the street. Annixter jumped at a conclusion.
An idea suddenly occurred to him. Dyke was watching to see if he
was observed--was waiting an opportunity when no one who knew him
should be in sight. Annixter stepped back a little, getting a
telegraph pole somewhat between him and the other. Very
interested, he watched what was going on. Pretty soon Dyke
thrust the paper into his pocket and sauntered slowly to the
windows of a stationery store, next the street entrance of S.
Behrman's offices. For a few seconds he stood there, his back
turned, seemingly absorbed in the display, but eyeing the street
narrowly nevertheless; then he turned around, gave a last look
about and stepped swiftly into the doorway by the great brass
sign. He disappeared. Annixter came from behind the telegraph
pole with a flush of actual shame upon his face. There had been
something so slinking, so mean, in the movements and manner of
this great, burly honest fellow of an engineer, that he could not
help but feel ashamed for him. Circumstances were such that a
simple business transaction was to Dyke almost culpable, a
degradation, a thing to be concealed.
"Borrowing money of S. Behrman," commented Annixter, "mortgaging
your little homestead to the railroad, putting your neck in the
halter. Poor fool! The pity of it. Good Lord, your hops must
pay you big, now, old man."
Annixter lunched at the Yosemite Hotel, and then later on, toward
the middle of the afternoon, rode out of the town at a canter by
the way of the Upper Road that paralleled the railroad tracks and
that ran diametrically straight between Bonneville and
Guadalajara. About half-way between the two places he overtook
Father Sarria trudging back to San Juan, his long cassock
powdered with dust. He had a wicker crate in one hand, and in
the other, in a small square valise, the materials for the Holy
Sacrament. Since early morning the priest had covered nearly
fifteen miles on foot, in order to administer Extreme Unction to
a moribund good-for-nothing, a greaser, half Indian, half
Portuguese, who lived in a remote corner of Osterman's stock
range, at the head of a canon there. But he had returned by way
of Bonneville to get a crate that had come for him from San
Diego. He had been notified of its arrival the day before.
Annixter pulled up and passed the time of day with the priest.
"I don't often get up your way," he said, slowing down his horse
to accommodate Sarria's deliberate plodding. Sarria wiped the
perspiration from his smooth, shiny face .
"You? Well, with you it is different," he answered. "But there
are a great many Catholics in the county--some on your ranch.
And so few come to the Mission. At High Mass on Sundays, there
are a few--Mexicans and Spaniards from Guadalajara mostly; but
weekdays, for matins, vespers, and the like, I often say the
offices to an empty church--'the voice of one crying in the
wilderness.' You Americans are not good churchmen. Sundays you
sleep--you read the newspapers."
"Well, there's Vanamee," observed Annixter. "I suppose he's
there early and late."
Sarria made a sharp movement of interest.
"Ah, Vanamee--a strange lad; a wonderful character, for all that.
If there were only more like him. I am troubled about him. You
know I am a very owl at night. I come and go about the Mission
at all hours. Within the week, three times I have seen Vanamee
in the little garden by the Mission, and at the dead of night.
He had come without asking for me. He did not see me. It was
strange. Once, when I had got up at dawn to ring for early
matins, I saw him stealing away out of the garden. He must have
been there all the night. He is acting queerly. He is pale; his
cheeks are more sunken than ever. There is something wrong with
him. I can't make it out. It is a mystery. Suppose you ask
"Not I. I've enough to bother myself about. Vanamee is crazy in
the head. Some morning he will turn up missing again, and drop
out of sight for another three years. Best let him alone,
Sarria. He's a crank. How is that greaser of yours up on
Osterman's stock range?"
"Ah, the poor fellow--the poor fellow," returned the other, the
tears coming to his eyes. "He died this morning--as you might
say, in my arms, painfully, but in the faith, in the faith. A
"A lazy, cattle-stealing, knife-in-his-boot Dago."
"You misjudge him. A really good fellow on better acquaintance."
Annixter grunted scornfully. Sarria's kindness and good-will
toward the most outrageous reprobates of the ranches was
proverbial. He practically supported some half-dozen families
that lived in forgotten cabins, lost and all but inaccessible, in
the far corners of stock range and canyon. This particular
greaser was the laziest, the dirtiest, the most worthless of the
lot. But in Sarria's mind, the lout was an object of affection,
sincere, unquestioning. Thrice a week the priest, with a basket
of provisions--cold ham, a bottle of wine, olives, loaves of
bread, even a chicken or two--toiled over the interminable
stretch of country between the Mission and his cabin. Of late,
during the rascal's sickness, these visits had been almost daily.
Hardly once did the priest leave the bedside that he did not slip
a half-dollar into the palm of his wife or oldest daughter. And
this was but one case out of many.
His kindliness toward animals was the same. A horde of mange-
corroded curs lived off his bounty, wolfish, ungrateful, often
marking him with their teeth, yet never knowing the meaning of a
harsh word. A burro, over-fed, lazy, incorrigible, browsed on
the hill back of the Mission, obstinately refusing to be
harnessed to Sarria's little cart, squealing and biting whenever
the attempt was made; and the priest suffered him, submitting to
his humour, inventing excuses for him, alleging that the burro
was foundered, or was in need of shoes, or was feeble from
extreme age. The two peacocks, magnificent, proud, cold-hearted,
resenting all familiarity, he served with the timorous,
apologetic affection of a queen's lady-in-waiting, resigned to
their disdain, happy if only they condescended to enjoy the grain
he spread for them.
At the Long Trestle, Annixter and the priest left the road and
took the trail that crossed Broderson Creek by the clumps of
grey-green willows and led across Quien Sabe to the ranch house,
and to the Mission farther on. They were obliged to proceed in
single file here, and Annixter, who had allowed the priest to go
in front, promptly took notice of the wicker basket he carried.
Upon his inquiry, Sarria became confused. "It was a basket that
he had had sent down to him from the city."
"Well, I know--but what's in it?"
"Why--I'm sure--ah, poultry--a chicken or two."
"Yes, yes, that's it, a fancy breed." At the ranch house, where
they arrived toward five o'clock, Annixter insisted that the
priest should stop long enough for a glass of sherry. Sarria
left the basket and his small black valise at the foot of the
porch steps, and sat down in a rocker on the porch itself,
fanning himself with his broad-brimmed hat, and shaking the dust
from his cassock. Annixter brought out the decanter of sherry
and glasses, and the two drank to each other's health.
But as the priest set down his glass, wiping his lips with a
murmur of satisfaction, the decrepit Irish setter that had
attached himself to Annixter's house came out from underneath the
porch, and nosed vigorously about the wicker basket. He upset
it. The little peg holding down the cover slipped, the basket
fell sideways, opening as it fell, and a cock, his head enclosed
in a little chamois bag such as are used for gold watches,
struggled blindly out into the open air. A second, similarly
hooded, followed. The pair, stupefied in their headgear, stood
rigid and bewildered in their tracks, clucking uneasily. Their
tails were closely sheared. Their legs, thickly muscled, and
extraordinarily long, were furnished with enormous cruel-looking
spurs. The breed was unmistakable. Annixter looked once at the
pair, then shouted with laughter.
"'Poultry'--'a chicken or two'--'fancy breed'--ho! yes, I should
think so. Game cocks! Fighting cocks! Oh, you old rat! You'll
be a dry nurse to a burro, and keep a hospital for infirm
puppies, but you will fight game cocks. Oh, Lord! Why, Sarria,
this is as good a grind as I ever heard. There's the Spanish
cropping out, after all."
Speechless with chagrin, the priest bundled the cocks into the
basket and catching up the valise, took himself abruptly away,
almost running till he had put himself out of hearing of
Annixter's raillery. And even ten minutes later, when Annixter,
still chuckling, stood upon the porch steps, he saw the priest,
far in the distance, climbing the slope of the high ground, in
the direction of the Mission, still hurrying on at a great pace,
his cassock flapping behind him, his head bent; to Annixter's
notion the very picture of discomfiture and confusion.
As Annixter turned about to reenter the house, he found himself
almost face to face with Hilma Tree. She was just going in at
the doorway, and a great flame of the sunset, shooting in under
the eaves of the porch, enveloped her from her head, with its
thick, moist hair that hung low over her neck, to her slim feet,
setting a golden flash in the little steel buckles of her low
shoes. She had come to set the table for Annixter's supper.
Taken all aback by the suddenness of the encounter, Annixter
ejaculated an abrupt and senseless, "Excuse me." But Hilma,
without raising her eyes, passed on unmoved into the dining-room,
leaving Annixter trying to find his breath, and fumbling with the
brim of his hat, that he was surprised to find he had taken from
his head. Resolutely, and taking a quick advantage of his
opportunity, he followed her into the dining-room.
"I see that dog has turned up," he announced with brisk
cheerfulness. "That Irish setter I was asking about."
Hilma, a swift, pink flush deepening the delicate rose of her
cheeks, did not reply, except by nodding her head. She flung the
table-cloth out from under her arms across the table, spreading
it smooth, with quick little caresses of her hands. There was a
moment's silence. Then Annixter said:
"Here's a letter for you." He laid it down on the table near
her, and Hilma picked it up. "And see here, Miss Hilma,"
Annixter continued, "about that--this morning--I suppose you
think I am a first-class mucker. If it will do any good to
apologise, why, I will. I want to be friends with you. I made a
bad mistake, and started in the wrong way. I don't know much
about women people. I want you to forget about that--this
morning, and not think I am a galoot and a mucker. Will you do
it? Will you be friends with me?"
Hilma set the plate and coffee cup by Annixter's place before
answering, and Annixter repeated his question. Then she drew a
deep, quick breath, the flush in her cheeks returning.
"I think it was--it was so wrong of you," she murmured. "Oh!
you don't know how it hurt me. I cried--oh, for an hour."
"Well, that's just it," returned Annixter vaguely, moving his
head uneasily. "I didn't know what kind of a girl you were--I
mean, I made a mistake. I thought it didn't make much
difference. I thought all feemales were about alike."
"I hope you know now," murmured Hilma ruefully. "I've paid
enough to have you find out. I cried--you don't know. Why, it
hurt me worse than anything I can remember. I hope you know
"Well, I do know now," he exclaimed.
"It wasn't so much that you tried to do--what you did," answered
Hilma, the single deep swell from her waist to her throat rising
and falling in her emotion. "It was that you thought that you
could--that anybody could that wanted to--that I held myself so
cheap. Oh!" she cried, with a sudden sobbing catch in her
throat, "I never can forget it, and you don't know what it means
to a girl."
"Well, that's just what I do want," he repeated. "I want you to
forget it and have us be good friends."
In his embarrassment, Annixter could think of no other words. He
kept reiterating again and again during the pauses of the
"I want you to forget it. Will you? Will you forget it--that--
this morning, and have us be good friends?"
He could see that her trouble was keen. He was astonished that
the matter should be so grave in her estimation. After all, what
was it that a girl should be kissed? But he wanted to regain his
"Will you forget it, Miss Hilma? I want you to like me."
She took a clean napkin from the sideboard drawer and laid it
down by the plate.
"I--I do want you to like me," persisted Annixter. "I want you
to forget all about this business and like me."
Hilma was silent. Annixter saw the tears in her eyes.
"How about that? Will you forget it? Will you--will--will you
She shook her head.
"No," she said.
"No what? You won't like me? Is that it?"
Hilma, blinking at the napkin through her tears, nodded to say,
Yes, that was it. Annixter hesitated a moment, frowning,
harassed and perplexed.
"You don't like me at all, hey?"
At length Hilma found her speech. In her low voice, lower and
more velvety than ever, she said:
"No--I don't like you at all."
Then, as the tears suddenly overpowered her, she dashed a hand
across her eyes, and ran from the room and out of doors.
Annixter stood for a moment thoughtful, his protruding lower lip
thrust out, his hands in his pocket.
"I suppose she'll quit now," he muttered. "Suppose she'll leave
the ranch--if she hates me like that. Well, she can go--that's
all--she can go. Fool feemale girl," he muttered between his
teeth, "petticoat mess."
He was about to sit down to his supper when his eye fell upon the
Irish setter, on his haunches in the doorway. There was an
expectant, ingratiating look on the dog's face. No doubt, he
suspected it was time for eating.
"Get out--you!" roared Annixter in a tempest of wrath.
The dog slunk back, his tail shut down close, his ears drooping,
but instead of running away, he lay down and rolled supinely upon
his back, the very image of submission, tame, abject, disgusting.
It was the one thing to drive Annixter to a fury. He kicked the
dog off the porch in a rolling explosion of oaths, and flung
himself down to his seat before the table, fuming and panting.
"Damn the dog and the girl and the whole rotten business--and
now," he exclaimed, as a sudden fancied qualm arose in his
stomach, "now, it's all made me sick. Might have known it. Oh,
it only lacked that to wind up the whole day. Let her go, I
don't care, and the sooner the better."
He countermanded the supper and went to bed before it was dark,
lighting his lamp, on the chair near the head of the bed, and
opening his "Copperfield" at the place marked by the strip of
paper torn from the bag of prunes. For upward of an hour he read
the novel, methodically swallowing one prune every time he
reached the bottom of a page. About nine o'clock he blew out the
lamp and, punching up his pillow, settled himself for the night.
Then, as his mind relaxed in that strange, hypnotic condition
that comes just before sleep, a series of pictures of the day's
doings passed before his imagination like the roll of a
First, it was Hilma Tree, as he had seen her in the dairy-house--
charming, delicious, radiant of youth, her thick, white neck with
its pale amber shadows under the chin; her wide, open eyes rimmed
with fine, black lashes; the deep swell of her breast and hips,
the delicate, lustrous floss on her cheek, impalpable as the
pollen of a flower. He saw her standing there in the
scintillating light of the morning, her smooth arms wet with
milk, redolent and fragrant of milk, her whole, desirable figure
moving in the golden glory of the sun, steeped in a lambent
flame, saturated with it, glowing with it, joyous as the dawn
Then it was Los Muertos and Hooven, the sordid little Dutchman,
grimed with the soil he worked in, yet vividly remembering a
period of military glory, exciting himself with recollections of
Gravelotte and the Kaiser, but contented now in the country of
his adoption, defining the Fatherland as the place where wife and
children lived. Then came the ranch house of Los Muertos, under
the grove of cypress and eucalyptus, with its smooth, gravelled
driveway and well-groomed lawns; Mrs. Derrick with her wide-
opened eyes, that so easily took on a look of uneasiness, of
innocence, of anxious inquiry, her face still pretty, her brown
hair that still retained so much of its brightness spread over
her chair back, drying in the sun; Magnus, erect as an officer of
cavalry, smooth-shaven, grey, thin-lipped, imposing, with his
hawk-like nose and forward-curling grey hair; Presley with his
dark face, delicate mouth and sensitive, loose lips, in corduroys
and laced boots, smoking cigarettes--an interesting figure,
suggestive of a mixed origin, morbid, excitable, melancholy,
brooding upon things that had no names. Then it was Bonneville,
with the gayety and confusion of Main Street, the whirring
electric cars, the zinc-sheathed telegraph poles, the buckboards
with squashes stowed under the seats; Ruggles in frock coat,
Stetson hat and shoe-string necktie, writing abstractedly upon
his blotting pad; Dyke, the engineer, big-boned. Powerful, deep-
voiced, good-natured, with his fine blonde beard and massive
arms, rehearsing the praises of his little daughter Sidney,
guided only by the one ambition that she should be educated at a
seminary, slipping a dime into the toe of her diminutive slipper,
then, later, overwhelmed with shame, slinking into S. Behrman's
office to mortgage his homestead to the heeler of the corporation
that had discharged him. By suggestion, Annixter saw S. Behrman,
too, fat, with a vast stomach, the check and neck meeting to form
a great, tremulous jowl, the roll of fat over his collar,
sprinkled with sparse, stiff hairs; saw his brown, round-topped
hat of varnished straw, the linen vest stamped with innumerable
interlocked horseshoes, the heavy watch chain, clinking against
the pearl vest buttons; invariably placid, unruffled, never
losing his temper, serene, unassailable, enthroned.
Then, at the end of all, it was the ranch again, seen in a last
brief glance before he had gone to bed; the fecundated earth,
calm at last, nursing the emplanted germ of life, ruddy with the
sunset, the horizons purple, the small clamour of the day lapsing
into quiet, the great, still twilight, building itself, dome-
like, toward the zenith. The barn fowls were roosting in the
trees near the stable, the horses crunching their fodder in the
stalls, the day's work ceasing by slow degrees; and the priest,
the Spanish churchman, Father Sarria, relic of a departed regime,
kindly, benign, believing in all goodness, a lover of his fellows
and of dumb animals, yet, for all that, hurrying away in
confusion and discomfiture, carrying in one hand the vessels of
the Holy Communion and in the other a basket of game cocks.