Presley's room in the ranch house of Los Muertos was in the
second story of the building. It was a corner room; one of its
windows facing the south, the other the east. Its appointments
were of the simplest. In one angle was the small white painted
iron bed, covered with a white counterpane. The walls were hung
with a white paper figured with knots of pale green leaves, very
gay and bright. There was a straw matting on the floor. White
muslin half-curtains hung in the windows, upon the sills of which
certain plants bearing pink waxen flowers of which Presley did
not know the name, grew in oblong green boxes. The walls were
unadorned, save by two pictures, one a reproduction of the
"Reading from Homer," the other a charcoal drawing of the Mission
of San Juan de Guadalajara, which Presley had made himself. By
the east window stood the plainest of deal tables, innocent of
any cloth or covering, such as might have been used in a kitchen.
It was Presley's work table, and was invariably littered with
papers, half-finished manuscripts, drafts of poems, notebooks,
pens, half-smoked cigarettes, and the like. Near at hand, upon a
shelf, were his books. There were but two chairs in the room--
the straight backed wooden chair, that stood in front of the
table, angular, upright, and in which it was impossible to take
one's ease, and the long comfortable wicker steamer chair,
stretching its length in front of the south window. Presley was
immensely fond of this room. It amused and interested him to
maintain its air of rigorous simplicity and freshness. He
abhorred cluttered bric-a-brac and meaningless objets d'art.
Once in so often he submitted his room to a vigorous inspection;
setting it to rights, removing everything but the essentials, the
few ornaments which, in a way, were part of his life.
His writing had by this time undergone a complete change. The
notes for his great Song of the West, the epic poem he once had
hoped to write he had flung aside, together with all the abortive
attempts at its beginning. Also he had torn up a great quantity
of "fugitive" verses, preserving only a certain half-finished
poem, that he called "The Toilers." This poem was a comment upon
the social fabric, and had been inspired by the sight of a
painting he had seen in Cedarquist's art gallery. He had written
all but the last verse.
On the day that he had overheard the conversation between Dyke
and Caraher, in the latter's saloon, which had acquainted him
with the monstrous injustice of the increased tariff, Presley had
returned to Los Muertos, white and trembling, roused to a pitch
of exaltation, the like of which he had never known in all his
life. His wrath was little short of even Caraher's. He too "saw
red"; a mighty spirit of revolt heaved tumultuous within him. It
did not seem possible that this outrage could go on much longer.
The oppression was incredible; the plain story of it set down in
truthful statement of fact would not be believed by the outside
He went up to his little room and paced the floor with clenched
fists and burning face, till at last, the repression of his
contending thoughts all but suffocated him, and he flung himself
before his table and began to write. For a time, his pen seemed
to travel of itself; words came to him without searching, shaping
themselves into phrases,--the phrases building themselves up to
great, forcible sentences, full of eloquence, of fire, of
passion. As his prose grew more exalted, it passed easily into
the domain of poetry. Soon the cadence of his paragraphs settled
to an ordered beat and rhythm, and in the end Presley had thrust
aside his journal and was once more writing verse.
He picked up his incomplete poem of "The Toilers," read it
hastily a couple of times to catch its swing, then the Idea of
the last verse--the Idea for which he so long had sought in vain--
abruptly springing to his brain, wrote it off without so much as
replenishing his pen with ink. He added still another verse,
bringing the poem to a definite close, resuming its entire
conception, and ending with a single majestic thought, simple,
noble, dignified, absolutely convincing.
Presley laid down his pen and leaned back in his chair, with the
certainty that for one moment he had touched untrod heights. His
hands were cold, his head on fire, his heart leaping tumultuous
in his breast.
Now at last, he had achieved. He saw why he had never grasped
the inspiration for his vast, vague, impersonal Song of the West.
At the time when he sought for it, his convictions had not been
aroused; he had not then cared for the People. His sympathies
had not been touched. Small wonder that he had missed it. Now
he was of the People; he had been stirred to his lowest depths.
His earnestness was almost a frenzy. He believed, and so to him
all things were possible at once .
Then the artist in him reasserted itself. He became more
interested in his poem, as such, than in the cause that had
inspired it. He went over it again, retouching it carefully,
changing a word here and there, and improving its rhythm. For
the moment, he forgot the People, forgot his rage, his agitation
of the previous hour, he remembered only that he had written a
Then doubt intruded. After all, was it so great? Did not its
sublimity overpass a little the bounds of the ridiculous? Had he
seen true? Had he failed again? He re-read the poem carefully;
and it seemed all at once to lose force.
By now, Presley could not tell whether what he had written was
true poetry or doggerel. He distrusted profoundly his own
judgment. He must have the opinion of some one else, some one
competent to judge. He could not wait; to-morrow would not do.
He must know to a certainty before he could rest that night.
He made a careful copy of what he had written, and putting on his
hat and laced boots, went down stairs and out upon the lawn,
crossing over to the stables. He found Phelps there, washing
down the buckboard.
"Do you know where Vanamee is to-day?" he asked the latter.
Phelps put his chin in the air.
"Ask me something easy," he responded. "He might be at
Guadalajara, or he might be up at Osterman's, or he might be a
hundred miles away from either place. I know where he ought to
be, Mr. Presley, but that ain't saying where the crazy gesabe is.
He ought to be range-riding over east of Four, at the head waters
of Mission Creek."
"I'll try for him there, at all events," answered Presley. "If
you see Harran when he comes in, tell him I may not be back in
time for supper."
Presley found the pony in the corral, cinched the saddle upon
him, and went off over the Lower Road, going eastward at a brisk
At Hooven's he called a "How do you do" to Minna, whom he saw
lying in a slat hammock under the mammoth live oak, her foot in
bandages; and then galloped on over the bridge across the
irrigating ditch, wondering vaguely what would become of such a
pretty girl as Minna, and if in the end she would marry the
Portuguese foreman in charge of the ditching-gang. He told
himself that he hoped she would, and that speedily. There was no
lack of comment as to Minna Hooven about the ranches. Certainly
she was a good girl, but she was seen at all hours here and there
about Bonneville and Guadalajara, skylarking with the Portuguese
farm hands of Quien Sabe and Los Muertos. She was very pretty;
the men made fools of themselves over her. Presley hoped they
would not end by making a fool of her.
Just beyond the irrigating ditch, Presley left the Lower Road,
and following a trail that branched off southeasterly from this
point, held on across the Fourth Division of the ranch, keeping
the Mission Creek on his left. A few miles farther on, he went
through a gate in a barbed wire fence, and at once engaged
himself in a system of little arroyos and low rolling hills, that
steadily lifted and increased in size as he proceeded. This
higher ground was the advance guard of the Sierra foothills, and
served as the stock range for Los Muertos. The hills were huge
rolling hummocks of bare ground, covered only by wild oats. At
long intervals, were isolated live oaks. In the canyons and
arroyos, the chaparral and manzanita grew in dark olive-green
thickets. The ground was honey-combed with gopher-holes, and the
gophers themselves were everywhere. Occasionally a jack rabbit
bounded across the open, from one growth of chaparral to another,
taking long leaps, his ears erect. High overhead, a hawk or two
swung at anchor, and once, with a startling rush of wings, a
covey of quail flushed from the brush at the side of the trail.
On the hillsides, in thinly scattered groups were the cattle,
grazing deliberately, working slowly toward the water-holes for
their evening drink, the horses keeping to themselves, the colts
nuzzling at their mothers' bellies, whisking their tails,
stamping their unshod feet. But once in a remoter field,
solitary, magnificent, enormous, the short hair curling tight
upon his forehead, his small red eyes twinkling, his vast neck
heavy with muscles, Presley came upon the monarch, the king, the
great Durham bull, maintaining his lonely state, unapproachable,
Presley found the one-time shepherd by a water-hole, in a far
distant corner of the range. He had made his simple camp for the
night. His blue-grey army blanket lay spread under a live oak,
his horse grazed near at hand. He himself sat on his heels
before a little fire of dead manzanita roots, cooking his coffee
and bacon. Never had Presley conceived so keen an impression of
loneliness as his crouching figure presented. The bald, bare
landscape widened about him to infinity. Vanamee was a spot in
it all, a tiny dot, a single atom of human organisation, floating
endlessly on the ocean of an illimitable nature.
The two friends ate together, and Vanamee, having snared a brace
of quails, dressed and then roasted them on a sharpened stick.
After eating, they drank great refreshing draughts from the
water-hole. Then, at length, Presley having lit his cigarette,
and Vanamee his pipe, the former said:
"Vanamee, I have been writing again."
Vanamee turned his lean ascetic face toward him, his black eyes
"I know," he said, "your journal."
"No, this is a poem. You remember, I told you about it once.
'The Toilers,' I called it."
"Oh, verse! Well, I am glad you have gone back to it. It is
your natural vehicle."
"You remember the poem?" asked Presley. "It was unfinished."
"Yes, I remember it. There was better promise in it than
anything you ever wrote. Now, I suppose, you have finished it."
Without reply, Presley brought it from out the breast pocket of
his shooting coat. The moment seemed propitious. The stillness
of the vast, bare hills was profound. The sun was setting in a
cloudless brazier of red light; a golden dust pervaded all the
landscape. Presley read his poem aloud. When he had finished,
his friend looked at him.
"What have you been doing lately?" he demanded. Presley,
wondering, told of his various comings and goings.
"I don't mean that," returned the other. "Something has happened
to you, something has aroused you. I am right, am I not? Yes,
I thought so. In this poem of yours, you have not been trying to
make a sounding piece of literature. You wrote it under
tremendous stress. Its very imperfections show that. It is
better than a mere rhyme. It is an Utterance--a Message. It is
Truth. You have come back to the primal heart of things, and you
have seen clearly. Yes, it is a great poem."
"Thank you," exclaimed Presley fervidly. "I had begun to
"Now," observed Vanamee, "I presume you will rush it into print.
To have formulated a great thought, simply to have accomplished,
is not enough."
"I think I am sincere," objected Presley. "If it is good it will
do good to others. You said yourself it was a Message. If it
has any value, I do not think it would be right to keep it back
from even a very small and most indifferent public."
"Don't publish it in the magazines at all events," Vanamee
answered. "Your inspiration has come from the People. Then let
it go straight to the People--not the literary readers of the
monthly periodicals, the rich, who would only be indirectly
interested. If you must publish it, let it be in the daily
press. Don't interrupt. I know what you will say. It will be
that the daily press is common, is vulgar, is undignified; and I
tell you that such a poem as this of yours, called as it is, 'The
Toilers,' must be read by the Toilers. It must be common; it
must be vulgarised. You must not stand upon your dignity with
the People, if you are to reach them."
"That is true, I suppose," Presley admitted, "but I can't get rid
of the idea that it would be throwing my poem away. The great
magazine gives me such--a--background; gives me such weight."
"Gives you such weight, gives you such background. Is it
yourself you think of? You helper of the helpless. Is that your
sincerity? You must sink yourself; must forget yourself and your
own desire of fame, of admitted success. It is your poem, your
message, that must prevail,--not you, who wrote it. You preach a
doctrine of abnegation, of self-obliteration, and you sign your
name to your words as high on the tablets as you can reach, so
that all the world may see, not the poem, but the poet. Presley,
there are many like you. The social reformer writes a book on
the iniquity of the possession of land, and out of the proceeds,
buys a corner lot. The economist who laments the hardships of
the poor, allows himself to grow rich upon the sale of his book."
But Presley would hear no further.
"No," he cried, "I know I am sincere, and to prove it to you, I
will publish my poem, as you say, in the daily press, and I will
accept no money for it."
They talked on for about an hour, while the evening wore away.
Presley very soon noticed that Vanamee was again preoccupied.
More than ever of late, his silence, his brooding had increased.
By and by he rose abruptly, turning his head to the north, in the
direction of the Mission church of San Juan.
"I think," he said to Presley, "that I must be going."
"Going? Where to at this time of night?"
"Off there." Vanamee made an uncertain gesture toward the north.
"Good-bye," and without another word he disappeared in the grey
of the twilight. Presley was left alone wondering. He found his
horse, and, tightening the girths, mounted and rode home under
the sheen of the stars, thoughtful, his head bowed. Before he
went to bed that night he sent "The Toilers" to the Sunday Editor
of a daily newspaper in San Francisco.
Upon leaving Presley, Vanamee, his thumbs hooked into his empty
cartridge belt, strode swiftly down from the hills of the Los
Muertos stock-range and on through the silent town of
Guadalajara. His lean, swarthy face, with its hollow cheeks,
fine, black, pointed beard, and sad eyes, was set to the
northward. As was his custom, he was bareheaded, and the
rapidity of his stride made a breeze in his long, black hair. He
knew where he was going. He knew what he must live through that
Again, the deathless grief that never slept leaped out of the
shadows, and fastened upon his shoulders. It was scourging him
back to that scene of a vanished happiness, a dead romance, a
perished idyl,--the Mission garden in the shade of the venerable
But, besides this, other influences tugged at his heart. There
was a mystery in the garden. In that spot the night was not
always empty, the darkness not always silent. Something far off
stirred and listened to his cry, at times drawing nearer to him.
At first this presence had been a matter for terror; but of late,
as he felt it gradually drawing nearer, the terror had at long
intervals given place to a feeling of an almost ineffable
sweetness. But distrusting his own senses, unwilling to submit
himself to such torturing, uncertain happiness, averse to the
terrible confusion of spirit that followed upon a night spent in
the garden, Vanamee had tried to keep away from the place.
However, when the sorrow of his life reassailed him, and the
thoughts and recollections of Angele brought the ache into his
heart, and the tears to his eyes, the temptation to return to the
garden invariably gripped him close. There were times when he
could not resist. Of themselves, his footsteps turned in that
direction. It was almost as if he himself had been called.
Guadalajara was silent, dark. Not even in Solotari's was there a
light. The town was asleep. Only the inevitable guitar hummed
from an unseen 'dobe. Vanamee pushed on. The smell of the
fields and open country, and a distant scent of flowers that he
knew well, came to his nostrils, as he emerged from the town by
way of the road that led on towards the Mission through Quien
Sabe. On either side of him lay the brown earth, silently
nurturing the implanted seed. Two days before it had rained
copiously, and the soil, still moist, disengaged a pungent aroma
Vanamee, following the road, passed through the collection of
buildings of Annixter's home ranch. Everything slept. At
intervals, the aer-motor on the artesian well creaked audibly, as
it turned in a languid breeze from the northeast. A cat, hunting
field-mice, crept from the shadow of the gigantic barn and paused
uncertainly in the open, the tip of her tail twitching. From
within the barn itself came the sound of the friction of a heavy
body and a stir of hoofs, as one of the dozing cows lay down with
a long breath.
Vanamee left the ranch house behind him and proceeded on his way.
Beyond him, to the right of the road, he could make out the
higher ground in the Mission enclosure, and the watching tower of
the Mission itself. The minutes passed. He went steadily
forward. Then abruptly he paused, his head in the air, eye and
ear alert. To that strange sixth sense of his, responsive as the
leaves of the sensitive plant, had suddenly come the impression
of a human being near at hand. He had neither seen nor heard,
but for all that he stopped an instant in his tracks; then, the
sensation confirmed, went on again with slow steps, advancing
At last, his swiftly roving eyes lighted upon an object, just
darker than the grey-brown of the night-ridden land. It was at
some distance from the roadside. Vanamee approached it
cautiously, leaving the road, treading carefully upon the moist
clods of earth underfoot. Twenty paces distant, he halted.
Annixter was there, seated upon a round, white rock, his back
towards him. He was leaning forward, his elbows on his knees,
his chin in his hands. He did not move. Silent, motionless, he
gazed out upon the flat, sombre land.
It was the night wherein the master of Quien Sabe wrought out his
salvation, struggling with Self from dusk to dawn. At the moment
when Vanamee came upon him, the turmoil within him had only
begun. The heart of the man had not yet wakened. The night was
young, the dawn far distant, and all around him the fields of
upturned clods lay bare and brown, empty of all life, unbroken by
a single green shoot.
For a moment, the life-circles of these two men, of so widely
differing characters, touched each other, there in the silence of
the night under the stars. Then silently Vanamee withdrew, going
on his way, wondering at the trouble that, like himself, drove
this hardheaded man of affairs, untroubled by dreams, out into
the night to brood over an empty land.
Then speedily he forgot all else. The material world drew off
from him. Reality dwindled to a point and vanished like the
vanishing of a star at moonrise. Earthly things dissolved and
disappeared, as a strange, unnamed essence flowed in upon him. A
new atmosphere for him pervaded his surroundings. He entered the
world of the Vision, of the Legend, of the Miracle, where all
things were possible. He stood at the gate of the Mission
Above him rose the ancient tower of the Mission church. Through
the arches at its summit, where swung the Spanish queen's bells,
he saw the slow-burning stars. The silent bats, with flickering
wings, threw their dancing shadows on the pallid surface of the
Not the faintest chirring of a cricket broke the silence. The
bees were asleep. In the grasses, in the trees, deep in the
calix of punka flower and magnolia bloom, the gnats, the
caterpillars, the beetles, all the microscopic, multitudinous
life of the daytime drowsed and dozed. Not even the minute
scuffling of a lizard over the warm, worn pavement of the
colonnade disturbed the infinite repose, the profound stillness.
Only within the garden, the intermittent trickling of the
fountain made itself heard, flowing steadily, marking off the
lapse of seconds, the progress of hours, the cycle of years, the
inevitable march of centuries.
At one time, the doorway before which Vanamee now stood had been
hermetically closed. But he, himself, had long since changed
that. He stood before it for a moment, steeping himself in the
mystery and romance of the place, then raising he latch, pushed
open the gate, entered, and closed it softly behind him. He was
in the cloister garden.
The stars were out, strewn thick and close in the deep blue of
the sky, the milky way glowing like a silver veil. Ursa Major
wheeled gigantic in the north. The great nebula in Orion was a
whorl of shimmering star dust. Venus flamed a lambent disk of
pale saffron, low over the horizon. From edge to edge of the
world marched the constellations, like the progress of emperors,
and from the innumerable glory of their courses a mysterious
sheen of diaphanous light disengaged itself, expanding over all
the earth, serene, infinite, majestic.
The little garden revealed itself but dimly beneath the brooding
light, only half emerging from the shadow. The polished surfaces
of the leaves of the pear trees winked faintly back the reflected
light as the trees just stirred in the uncertain breeze. A
blurred shield of silver marked the ripples of the fountain.
Under the flood of dull blue lustre, the gravelled walks lay
vague amid the grasses, like webs of white satin on the bed of a
lake. Against the eastern wall the headstones of the graves, an
indistinct procession of grey cowls ranged themselves.
Vanamee crossed the garden, pausing to kiss the turf upon
Angele's grave. Then he approached the line of pear trees, and
laid himself down in their shadow, his chin propped upon his
hands, his eyes wandering over the expanse of the little valley
that stretched away from the foot of the hill upon which the
Mission was built.
Once again he summoned the Vision. Once again he conjured up the
Illusion. Once again, tortured with doubt, racked with a
deathless grief, he craved an Answer of the night. Once again,
mystic that he was, he sent his mind out from him across the
enchanted sea of the Supernatural. Hope, of what he did not
know, roused up within him. Surely, on such a night as this, the
hallucination must define itself. Surely, the Manifestation must
His eyes closed, his will girding itself to a supreme effort, his
senses exalted to a state of pleasing numbness, he called upon
Angele to come to him, his voiceless cry penetrating far out into
that sea of faint, ephemeral light that floated tideless over the
little valley beneath him. Then motionless, prone upon the
ground, he waited.
Months had passed since that first night when, at length, an
Answer had come to Vanamee. At first, startled out of all
composure, troubled and stirred to his lowest depths, because of
the very thing for which he sought, he resolved never again to
put his strange powers to the test. But for all that, he had
come a second night to the garden, and a third, and a fourth. At
last, his visits were habitual. Night after night he was there,
surrendering himself to the influences of the place, gradually
convinced that something did actually answer when he called. His
faith increased as the winter grew into spring. As the spring
advanced and the nights became shorter, it crystallised into
certainty. Would he have her again, his love, long dead? Would
she come to him once more out of the grave, out of the night? He
could not tell; he could only hope. All that he knew was that
his cry found an answer, that his outstretched hands, groping in
the darkness, met the touch of other fingers. Patiently he
waited. The nights became warmer as the spring drew on. The
stars shone clearer. The nights seemed brighter. For nearly a
month after the occasion of his first answer nothing new
occurred. Some nights it failed him entirely; upon others it was
Then, at last, the most subtle, the barest of perceptible changes
began. His groping mind far-off there, wandering like a lost
bird over the valley, touched upon some thing again. touched and
held it and this time drew it a single step closer to him. His
heart beating, the blood surging in his temples, he watched with
the eyes of his imagination, this gradual approach. What was
coming to him? Who was coming to him? Shrouded in the obscurity
of the night, whose was the face now turned towards his? Whose
the footsteps that with such infinite slowness drew nearer to
where he waited? He did not dare to say.
His mind went back many years to that time before the tragedy of
Angele's death, before the mystery of the Other. He waited then
as he waited now. But then he had not waited in vain. Then, as
now, he had seemed to feel her approach, seemed to feel her
drawing nearer and nearer to their rendezvous. Now, what would
happen? He did not know. He waited. He waited, hoping all
things. He waited, believing all things. He waited, enduring
all things. He trusted in the Vision.
Meanwhile, as spring advanced, the flowers in the Seed ranch
began to come to life. Over the five hundred acres whereon the
flowers were planted, the widening growth of vines and bushes
spread like the waves of a green sea. Then, timidly, colours of
the faintest tints began to appear. Under the moonlight, Vanamee
saw them expanding, delicate pink, faint blue, tenderest
variations of lavender and yellow, white shimmering with
reflections of gold, all subdued and pallid in the moonlight.
By degrees, the night became impregnated with the perfume of the
flowers. Illusive at first, evanescent as filaments of gossamer;
then as the buds opened, emphasising itself, breathing deeper,
stronger. An exquisite mingling of many odours passed
continually over the Mission, from the garden of the Seed ranch,
meeting and blending with the aroma of its magnolia buds and
As the colours of the flowers of the Seed ranch deepened, and as
their odours penetrated deeper and more distinctly, as the
starlight of each succeeding night grew brighter and the air
became warmer, the illusion defined itself. By imperceptible
degrees, as Vanamee waited under the shadows of the pear trees,
the Answer grew nearer and nearer. He saw nothing but the
distant glimmer of the flowers. He heard nothing but the drip of
the fountain. Nothing moved about him but the invisible, slow-
passing breaths of perfume; yet he felt the approach of the
It came first to about the middle of the Seed ranch itself, some
half a mile away, where the violets grew; shrinking, timid
flowers, hiding close to the ground. Then it passed forward
beyond the violets, and drew nearer and stood amid the
mignonette, hardier blooms that dared look heavenward from out
the leaves. A few nights later it left the mignonette behind,
and advanced into the beds of white iris that pushed more boldly
forth from the earth, their waxen petals claiming the attention.
It advanced then a long step into the proud, challenging beauty
of the carnations and roses; and at last, after many nights,
Vanamee felt that it paused, as if trembling at its hardihood,
full in the superb glory of the royal lilies themselves, that
grew on the extreme border of the Seed ranch nearest to him.
After this, there was a certain long wait. Then, upon a dark
midnight, it advanced again. Vanamee could scarcely repress a
cry. Now, the illusion emerged from the flowers. It stood, not
distant, but unseen, almost at the base of the hill upon whose
crest he waited, in a depression of the ground where the shadows
lay thickest. It was nearly within earshot.
The nights passed. The spring grew warmer. In the daytime
intermittent rains freshened all the earth. The flowers of the
Seed ranch grew rapidly. Bud after bud burst forth, while those
already opened expanded to full maturity. The colour of the Seed
One night, after hours of waiting, Vanamee felt upon his cheek
the touch of a prolonged puff of warm wind, breathing across the
little valley from out the east. It reached the Mission garden
and stirred the branches of the pear trees. It seemed veritably
to be compounded of the very essence of the flowers. Never had
the aroma been so sweet, so pervasive. It passed and faded,
leaving in its wake an absolute silence. Then, at length, the
silence of the night, that silence to which Vanamee had so long
appealed, was broken by a tiny sound. Alert, half-risen from the
ground, he listened; for now, at length, he heard something. The
sound repeated itself. It came from near at hand, from the thick
shadow at the foot of the hill. What it was, he could not tell,
but it did not belong to a single one of the infinite similar
noises of the place with which he was so familiar. It was
neither the rustle of a leaf, the snap of a parted twig, the
drone of an insect, the dropping of a magnolia blossom. It was a
vibration merely, faint, elusive, impossible of definition; a
minute notch in the fine, keen edge of stillness.
Again the nights passed. The summer stars became brighter. The
warmth increased. The flowers of the Seed ranch grew still more.
The five hundred acres of the ranch were carpeted with them.
At length, upon a certain midnight, a new light began to spread
in the sky. The thin scimitar of the moon rose, veiled and dim
behind the earth-mists. The light increased. Distant objects,
until now hidden, came into view, and as the radiance brightened,
Vanamee, looking down upon the little valley, saw a spectacle of
incomparable beauty. All the buds of the Seed ranch had opened.
The faint tints of the flowers had deepened, had asserted
themselves. They challenged the eye. Pink became a royal red.
Blue rose into purple. Yellow flamed into orange. Orange glowed
golden and brilliant. The earth disappeared under great bands
and fields of resplendent colour. Then, at length, the moon
abruptly soared zenithward from out the veiling mist, passing
from one filmy haze to another. For a moment there was a gleam
of a golden light, and Vanamee, his eyes searching the shade at
the foot of the hill, felt his heart suddenly leap, and then hang
poised, refusing to beat. In that instant of passing light,
something had caught his eye. Something that moved, down there,
half in and half out of the shadow, at the hill's foot. It had
come and gone in an instant. The haze once more screened the
moonlight. The shade again engulfed the vision. What was it he
had seen? He did not know. So brief had been that movement, the
drowsy brain had not been quick enough to interpret the cipher
message of the eye. Now it was gone. But something had been
there. He had seen it. Was it the lifting of a strand of hair,
the wave of a white hand, the flutter of a garment's edge? He
could not tell, but it did not belong to any of those sights
which he had seen so often in that place. It was neither the
glancing of a moth's wing, the nodding of a wind-touched blossom,
nor the noiseless flitting of a bat. It was a gleam merely,
faint, elusive, impossible of definition, an intangible
agitation, in the vast, dim blur of the darkness.
And that was all. Until now no single real thing had occurred,
nothing that Vanamee could reduce to terms of actuality, nothing
he could put into words. The manifestation, when not
recognisable to that strange sixth sense of his, appealed only to
the most refined, the most delicate perception of eye and ear.
It was all ephemeral, filmy, dreamy, the mystic forming of the
Vision--the invisible developing a concrete nucleus, the
starlight coagulating, the radiance of the flowers thickening to
something actual; perfume, the most delicious fragrance, becoming
a tangible presence.
But into that garden the serpent intruded. Though cradled in the
slow rhythm of the dream, lulled by this beauty of a summer's
night, heavy with the scent of flowers, the silence broken only
by a rippling fountain, the darkness illuminated by a world of
radiant blossoms, Vanamee could not forget the tragedy of the
Other; that terror of many years ago,--that prowler of the night,
that strange, fearful figure with the unseen face, swooping in
there from out the darkness, gone in an instant, yet leaving
behind the trail and trace of death and of pollution.
Never had Vanamee seen this more clearly than when leaving
Presley on the stock range of Los Muertos, he had come across to
the Mission garden by way of the Quien Sabe ranch.
It was the same night in which Annixter out-watched the stars,
coming, at last, to himself.
As the hours passed, the two men, far apart, ignoring each other,
waited for the Manifestation,--Annixter on the ranch, Vanamee in
Prone upon his face, under the pear trees, his forehead buried in
the hollow of his arm, Vanamee lay motionless. For the last
time, raising his head, he sent his voiceless cry out into the
night across the multi-coloured levels of the little valley,
calling upon the miracle, summoning the darkness to give Angele
back to him, resigning himself to the hallucination. He bowed
his head upon his arm again and waited. The minutes passed. The
fountain dripped steadily. Over the hills a haze of saffron
light foretold the rising of the full moon. Nothing stirred.
The silence was profound.
Then, abruptly, Vanamee's right hand shut tight upon his wrist.
There--there it was. It began again, his invocation was
answered. Far off there, the ripple formed again upon the still,
black pool of the night. No sound, no sight; vibration merely,
appreciable by some sublimated faculty of the mind as yet
unnamed. Rigid, his nerves taut, motionless, prone on the
ground, he waited.
It advanced with infinite slowness. Now it passed through the
beds of violets, now through the mignonette. A moment later, and
he knew it stood among the white iris. Then it left those
behind. It was in the splendour of the red roses and carnations.
It passed like a moving star into the superb abundance, the
imperial opulence of the royal lilies. It was advancing slowly,
but there was no pause. He held his breath, not daring to raise
his head. It passed beyond the limits of the Seed ranch, and
entered the shade at the foot of the hill below him. Would it
come farther than this? Here it had always stopped hitherto,
stopped for a moment, and then, in spite of his efforts, had
slipped from his grasp and faded back into the night. But now he
wondered if he had been willing to put forth his utmost strength,
after all. Had there not always been an element of dread in the
thought of beholding the mystery face to face? Had he not even
allowed the Vision to dissolve, the Answer to recede into the
obscurity whence it came?
But never a night had been so beautiful as this. It was the full
period of the spring. The air was a veritable caress. The
infinite repose of the little garden, sleeping under the night,
was delicious beyond expression. It was a tiny corner of the
world, shut off, discreet, distilling romance, a garden of
dreams, of enchantments.
Below, in the little valley, the resplendent colourations of the
million flowers, roses, lilies, hyacinths, carnations, violets,
glowed like incandescence in the golden light of the rising moon.
The air was thick with the perfume, heavy with it, clogged with
it. The sweetness filled the very mouth. The throat choked with
it. Overhead wheeled the illimitable procession of the
constellations. Underfoot, the earth was asleep. The very
flowers were dreaming. A cathedral hush overlay all the land,
and a sense of benediction brooded low,--a divine kindliness
manifesting itself in beauty, in peace, in absolute repose.
It was a time for visions. It was the hour when dreams come
true, and lying deep in the grasses beneath the pear trees,
Vanamee, dizzied with mysticism, reaching up and out toward the
supernatural, felt, as it were, his mind begin to rise upward
from out his body. He passed into a state of being the like of
which he had not known before. He felt that his imagination was
reshaping itself, preparing to receive an impression never
experienced until now. His body felt light to him, then it
dwindled, vanished. He saw with new eyes, heard with new ears,
felt with a new heart.
"Come to me," he murmured.
Then slowly he felt the advance of the Vision. It was
approaching. Every instant it drew gradually nearer. At last,
he was to see. It had left the shadow at the base of the hill;
it was on the hill itself. Slowly, steadily, it ascended the
slope; just below him there, he heard a faint stirring. The
grasses rustled under the touch of a foot. The leaves of the
bushes murmured, as a hand brushed against them; a slender twig
creaked. The sounds of approach were more distinct. They came
nearer. They reached the top of the hill. They were within
Vanamee, trembling, kept his head buried in his arm. The sounds,
at length, paused definitely. The Vision could come no nearer.
He raised his head and looked.
The moon had risen. Its great shield of gold stood over the
eastern horizon. Within six feet of Vanamee, clear and distinct,
against the disk of the moon, stood the figure of a young girl.
She was dressed in a gown of scarlet silk, with flowing sleeves,
such as Japanese wear, embroidered with flowers and figures of
birds worked in gold threads. On either side of her face, making
three-cornered her round, white forehead, hung the soft masses of
her hair of gold. Her hands hung limply at her sides. But from
between her parted lips--lips of almost an Egyptian fulness--her
breath came slow and regular, and her eyes, heavy lidded,
slanting upwards toward the temples, perplexing, oriental, were
closed. She was asleep.
From out this life of flowers, this world of colour, this
atmosphere oppressive with perfume, this darkness clogged and
cloyed, and thickened with sweet odours, she came to him. She
came to him from out of the flowers, the smell of the roses in
her hair of gold, the aroma and the imperial red of the
carnations in her lips, the whiteness of the lilies, the perfume
of the lilies, and the lilies' slender, balancing grace in her
neck. Her hands disengaged the scent of the heliotrope. The
folds of her scarlet gown gave off the enervating smell of
poppies. Her feet were redolent of hyacinth. She stood before
him, a Vision realised--a dream come true. She emerged from out
the invisible. He beheld her, a figure of gold and pale
vermilion, redolent of perfume, poised motionless in the faint
saffron sheen of the new-risen moon. She, a creation of sleep,
was herself asleep. She, a dream, was herself dreaming.
Called forth from out the darkness, from the grip of the earth,
the embrace of the grave, from out the memory of corruption, she
rose into light and life, divinely pure. Across that white
forehead was no smudge, no trace of an earthly pollution--no mark
of a terrestrial dishonour. He saw in her the same beauty of
untainted innocence he had known in his youth. Years had made no
difference with her. She was still young. It was the old purity
that returned, the deathless beauty, the ever-renascent life, the
eternal consecrated and immortal youth. For a few seconds, she
stood there before him, and he, upon the ground at her feet,
looked up at her, spellbound. Then, slowly she withdrew. Still
asleep, her eyelids closed, she turned from him, descending the
slope. She was gone.
Vanamee started up, coming, as it were, to himself, looking
wildly about him. Sarria was there.
"I saw her," said the priest. "It was Angele, the little girl,
your Angele's daughter. She is like her mother."
But Vanamee scarcely heard. He walked as if in a trance, pushing
by Sarria, going forth from the garden. Angele or Angele's
daughter, it was all one with him. It was She. Death was
overcome. The grave vanquished. Life, ever-renewed, alone
existed. Time was naught; change was naught; all things were
immortal but evil; all things eternal but grief.
Suddenly, the dawn came; the east burned roseate toward the
zenith. Vanamee walked on, he knew not where. The dawn grew
brighter. At length, he paused upon the crest of a hill
overlooking the ranchos, and cast his eye below him to the
southward. Then, suddenly flinging up his arms, he uttered a
There it was. The Wheat! The Wheat! In the night it had come
up. It was there, everywhere, from margin to margin of the
horizon. The earth, long empty, teemed with green life. Once
more the pendulum of the seasons swung in its mighty arc, from
death back to life. Life out of death, eternity rising from out
dissolution. There was the lesson. Angele was not the symbol,
but the proof of immortality. The seed dying, rotting and
corrupting in the earth; rising again in life unconquerable, and
in immaculate purity,--Angele dying as she gave birth to her
little daughter, life springing from her death,--the pure,
unconquerable, coming forth from the defiled. Why had he not had
the knowledge of God? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not
quickened except it die. So the seed had died. So died Angele.
And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall
be, but bare grain. It may chance of wheat, or of some other
grain. The wheat called forth from out the darkness, from out
the grip of the earth, of the grave, from out corruption, rose
triumphant into light and life. So Angele, so life, so also the
resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption. It is
raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonour. It is raised
in glory. It is sown in weakness. It is raised in power. Death
was swallowed up in Victory.
The sun rose. The night was over. The glory of the terrestrial
was one, and the glory of the celestial was another. Then, as
the glory of sun banished the lesser glory of moon and stars,
Vanamee, from his mountain top, beholding the eternal green life
of the growing Wheat, bursting its bonds, and in his heart
exulting in his triumph over the grave, flung out his arms with a
"Oh, Death, where is thy sting? Oh, Grave, where is thy