Over the Pass
Part 4 out of 7
You see, I rode horseback when I entered this valley for the first time
and I should like to ride out in the way I came. Just sentiment!"
"Jack!" exclaimed the doctor.
He was casting about how to express his suspicion when something electric
checked him--a current that began in Jack's measured glance. Jack was not
mentioning that his word was being questioned, but something still and
effective that came from far away out on the untrod desert was in the
room. It fell on the nerves of the ambassador from the court of complex
civilization like a sudden hush on a city's traffic. Jack broke the
silence by asking, in a tone of lively hospitality:
"You will join me at luncheon?"
"I should like to," answered the doctor, "but I can catch a train on the
other trunk line that will give me a few more hours with my sister. And
what shall I wire your father? Have you any suggestion?"
"Why, that he will be able to judge for himself in a few days how near
cured I am."
"You will wire him the date of your arrival?"
"Jack," said the doctor at the door, "that remark of yours about the
analysis of brain tissue and of thought put a truth very happily. Come
and see me and let me know how you get on. Good-by!"
He took his departure thoughtfully, rather than with a sense of
triumph over the success of a two-thousand-mile mission in the name of
"GOOD-BY, LITTLE RIVERS!"
It was the thing thrilling him with the ardor of a soldier preparing for
a siege that sent Jack to the Ewolds' later in the morning. He had come
determined to finish the speech that he had called up to Mary from the
canyon. As he crossed the cement bridge, Ignacio appeared on the path and
took his position there obdurately, instead of standing to one side with
a nod, as usual, to let the caller pass.
"Senorita Ewold is not at home!" he announced, before Jack had spoken.
"Not even in the garden?"
"But she will be back soon?"
"I do not think so."
Ignacio's face was as blank as a wall, but knowingly, authoritatively
blank. His brown eyes glistened with cold assurance. He seemed to have
become the interpreter of a message in keeping with Mary's flight from
the pass and her withdrawal from the porch when she had seen Jack
approaching. Here was a new barrier which did not permit even banter
across the crest. She must know that he was going, for the news of his
approaching departure had already spread through the town. She had chosen
not to see him again, even for a farewell.
For a little time he stood in thought, while Ignacio remained steadfast
on the path, watchful, perhaps, for the devil in Senor Don't Care to
appear. Suddenly Jack's features glowed with action; he took a step as if
he would sweep by Ignacio on into the garden. But the impulse instantly
passed. He stopped, his face drawn as it had been when he fell limp
against the hedge stricken by the horror of his seeming brutality to
Pedro Nogales, and turned away into the street with a mask of smiles for
the greetings and regrets of the friends whom he met.
Worth twenty millions or twenty cents, he was still Jack to Little
Rivers; still the knight who had come over the range to vanquish Pete
Leddy; still a fellow-rancher in the full freemasonry of calloused
hands; still the joyous teller of stories. The thought of losing him set
tendrils in the ranchers' hearts twitching in sympathy with tendrils in
his own, which he found rooted very deep now that he must tear them out.
That afternoon at the appointed hour for his departure every man, woman,
and child had assembled at the end of the main street, where it broke
into the desert trail. The principal found an excuse for dismissing
school an hour earlier than usual. That is, everyone was present except
Mary. The Doge came, if a little late, to fulfil his function as chosen
spokesman for all in bidding Jack Godspeed on his journey.
"Senor Don't Care, you are a part of the history of Little Rivers!" he
said, airily. "You have brought us something which we lacked in our
singularly peaceful beginning. Without romance, sir, no community is
complete. I have found you a felicitous disputant whom I shall miss; for
you leave me to provide the arguments on both sides of a subject on the
same evening. Our people have found you a neighbor of infinite resources
of humor and cheer. We wish you a pleasant trail. We wish you warm
sunshine when the weather is chill and shade when the weather is hot, and
that you shall ever travel with a singing heart, while old age never
overtakes the fancy of youth."
Every one of the familiar faces grouped around the fine, cultured old
face of the Doge expressed the thoughts to which he had given form.
"May your arguments be as thick as fireflies, O Doge!" Jack answered,
"everyone bearing a torch to illumine the outer darkness of ignorance!
May every happy thought I have for Little Rivers spring up in a
date-tree wonderful! Then, before the year is out, you will have a
forest of date-trees stretching from foothills to foothills, across the
"And one more about the giant with the little voice and the dwarf with
the big voice and the cat with the stripes down her back!" cried Belvy
Smith, spokeswoman for the children. "Are they just going on forever
having adventures and us never knowing about them?"
"No. I have been holding back the last story," Jack said. "Both the giant
and the dwarf were getting old, as you all know, and they were pretty
badly battered up from their continual warfare. Why, the scar which the
giant got on his forehead in their last battle was so big that if the
dwarf had had it there would have been no top left to his head. After the
cat had lost that precious black tip to her tail she became more and more
thoughtful. She made up her mind to retire and reform and have a
permanent home. And you know what a gift she had for planning out things
and how clever she was about getting her own way. Now she sat in a hedge
corner thinking and thinking and looking at the stubby end of her tail,
and suddenly she cried, 'Eureka!' And what do you think she did? She went
to a paint shop and had her left ear painted yellow and her right ear
painted green. So, now you can see her any day sunning herself on the
steps of the cottage where the giant and the dwarf live in peace.
Whenever they have an inclination to quarrel she jumps between them and
wiggles the yellow ear at the giant and the green ear at the dwarf, which
fusses them both so that they promise to be good and rush off to get her
a saucer of milk."
"A green ear and a yellow ear! What a funny looking cat she must be!"
"So she says to herself between purrs," concluded Jack. "But she is a
philosopher and knows that she would look still funnier if she had lost
her ears as Jag Ear has. Good-by, children! Good-by, everybody! Good-by,
Jack gave P.D. a signal and the crowd broke into a cheer, which was
punctuated by the music of Jag Ear's bells as his burrohood got in
motion. The Doge, who had brought his horse, mounted.
"I will ride a little distance with you," he said.
He appeared like a man who had a great deal on his mind and yet was at a
loss for words. There was the unprecedented situation of silence between
the two exponents of persiflage in Little Rivers.
"I--" he began, and paused as if the subject were too big for him and it
were better not to begin at all. Then he drew rein.
"Luck, Jack!" he said, simply, and there was something like pity
in his tone.
"And Mary--you will say good-by to her and thank her!" said Jack.
"I think you may meet her," answered the Doge. "She went away early
taking her luncheon, before she knew that you were going."
So Ignacio had been acting on his own authority! The thrill of the news
singing in Jack's veins was too overwhelming for him to notice the
challenge and apprehension in the Doge's glance. The Doge saw the glow of
a thousand happy, eager thoughts in Jack's face. He hesitated again on
the brink of speech, before, with a toss of his leonine head as if he
were veritably leaving fate's affairs to fate, he turned to go; and Jack
mechanically touched P.D.'s rein, while he gazed toward the pass. P.D.
had not gone many steps when Jack heard the same sonorous call that had
greeted him that first night when he stopped before the door of the
Ewolds; the call of a great, infectious fellowship between men:
"Luck, Sir Chaps! I defy you to wear your spurs up the Avenue! Give my
love to that new Campanile in Babylon, the Metropolitan tower! Get it in
the mist! Get it under the sun! Kiss your hand to golden Diana, huntress
of Manhattan's winds! Say ahoy to old Farragut! And on gray days have a
look for me at the new Sorollas in the Museum! Luck, Sir Chaps!"
"Good crops and a generous mail, O Doge!"
Jack rode fast, in the gladness of a hope this side of the pass and in
the face of shadows on the other side which he did not attempt to define.
To Firio he seemed to have grown taller and older.
"LUCK, JACK, LUCK!"
Apprehensively he watched the end of the ribbon running under P.D.'s
hoofs for the sight of a horsewoman breaking free of the foothills. The
momentary fear which rode with him was that Mary might be returning
earlier than usual. If they met on the road--why, the road was without
imagination and, in keeping with her new attitude toward him, she might
pass him by with a nod. But at the top of the pass imagination would be
supreme. There they had first met; there they had found their first
thought in common in the ozone which had meant life to them both.
He did not look up at the sky changes. As he climbed the winding path
worn by moccasined feet before the Persians marched to Thermopylae, his
mind was too occupied making pictures of its own in glowing anticipation
to have any interest in outside pictures. This path was narrow. Here, at
least, she must pause; and she must listen. Every turn which showed
another empty stretch ahead sent his spirits soaring. Then he saw a pony
with an empty side-saddle on the shelf. A few steps more and he saw Mary.
She was seated with the defile at her back, her hands clasped over her
knee. In this position, as in every position which she naturally took,
she had a pliant and personal grace. The welter of light of the low sun
was ablaze in her face. Her profile had a luminous wistfulness. Her
lashes were half closed, at once retaining the vision of the panorama at
her feet as a thing of atmospheric enjoyment and shutting it out from the
intimacy of her thoughts. And more enveloping than the light was the
silence which held her in a spell as still as the rocks themselves,
waiting on time's dispensation where time was nothing. Yet the soft
movement of her bosom with her even breaths triumphed in a life supreme
and palpitant over all that dead world.
Thus he drank her in before the crunch of a stone under his heel warned
her of his presence and set her breaths going and coming in quick gusts
as she wheeled around, half rising and then dropping back to a position
as still as before, with a trace of new dignity in her grace, while her
starkness of inquiry gradually changed to stoicism.
"Mary, I came upon you very suddenly," he said.
"Yes"--a bare, echoing monosyllable.
He stepped to one side to let Firio and his little cavalcade pass. All
the while she continued to look at him through the screen of her
half-closed lashes in a way that set her repose and charm apart as
something precious and cold and baffling. Now he realized that he had
made a breach in the barrier of their old relations only to find himself
in a garden whose flowers fell to ashes at his touch. He saw the light
that enveloped her as an armor far less vulnerable than any wall, and the
splendor of her was growing in his eyes.
Jag Ear's bells with their warm and merry notes became a faint tinkle
that was lost in the depths of the defile. The two were alone on the spot
where the Eternal Painter had introduced them so simply as Jack and
Mary, and where he, as the easy traveller, had listened to her plead for
his own life. It was his turn to plead. She was not to be won by fighting
Leddys or tearing up pine-trees by their roots. That armor was without a
joint; a lance would bend like so much tin against its plates, and yet
there must be some alchemy that would make it melt as a mist before the
sun. It was tenanted by a being all sentiency, which saw him through her
visor as a passer-by in a gallery. But one in armor does not fly from
passers-by as she had flown while he was climbing up the canyon wall with
his pine-tree branch.
"I have learned now to look over any kind of a precipice without getting
dizzy," she announced, quietly.
He was not the Jack who had come over the ledge in the energy of his
passion yesterday to find her gone. He had turned gentle and was smiling
with craved permission for a respite from her evident severity as he
dropped to a half-lying posture near her. Overhead, the Eternal Painter
was throwing in the smoky purple of a false thunderhead, sweeping it away
with the promise of a downpour, rolling in piles of silver clouds and
drawing them out into filmy fingers melting into a luminous blue.
"One can never tire of this," he said, tentatively.
"To me it is all!" she answered, in an absorption with the scene that
made him as inconsequential as the rocks around her.
"And you never long for cities, with their swift currents and busy
eddies?" he asked.
"Cities are life, the life of humanity, and I am human. I--" The
unfinished sentence sank into the silence of things inexpressible or
which it was purposeless to express.
Her voice suggested the tinkle of Jag Ear's bells floating away into
space. If a precipitate were taken from her forehead, in keeping with
Jack's suggestion to Dr. Bennington, it would have been mercury, which is
so tangible to the eye and intangible to the touch. Press it and it
breaks into little globules, only to be shaken together in a coherent
whole. If there is joy or pain in the breaking, either one must be
glittering and immeasurable.
"But Little Rivers is best," she added after a time, speaking not to him,
but devoutly to the oasis of green.
In the crystal air Little Rivers seemed so near that one could touch the
roofs of the houses with the fingertips of an extended arm, and yet so
diminutive in the spacious bosom of the plateau that it might be set in
the palm of the hand.
Jack was as one afraid of his own power of speech. A misplaced word might
send her away as oblivious of him as a globule of mercury rolling free
from the grasp. Here was a Mary unfathomed of all his hazards of study,
undreamed of in all his flights of fancy.
"It is my last view," he began. "I have said all my good-bys in town. I
Covertly, fearfully, he watched the effect of the news. At least now
she would look around at him. He would no longer have to talk to a
profile and to the golden mist of the horizon about the greatest thing
of his life. But there was no sign of surprise; not even an inclination
of her head.
"Yes," she told the horizon; and after a little silence added: "The time
has come to play another part?"
She asked the question of the horizon, without any trace of the old
banter over the wall. She asked it in confirmation of a commonplace.
"I know that you have always thought of me as playing a part. But I am
not my own master. I must go. I--"
"Back to your millions!" She finished the sentence for him.
"Then you--you knew! You knew!" But his exclamation of astonishment did
not move her to a glance in his direction or even a tremor.
"Yes," she went on. "Father told me about your millions last night. He
has known from the first who you were."
"And he told no one else in Little Rivers? He never mentioned it to me or
even to you before!"
"Why should he when you did not mention it yourself? His omission was
natural delicacy, in keeping with your own attitude. Isn't it part of the
custom of Little Rivers that pasts melt into the desert? There is no
standard except the conduct of the present!"
And all this speech was in a monotone of quiet explanation.
"He did not even tell you until last night! Until after our meeting on
the other side of the pass! It is strange! strange!" he repeated in the
insistence of wonder.
He saw the lashes part a little, then quiver and close as she lifted
her gaze from the horizon rim to the vortex of the sun. Then she
"He likes a joke," she said. "Probably he enjoyed his knowledge of your
secret and wanted to see if I would guess the truth before you were
through playing your part."
"But the part was not a part!" he said, with the emphasis of fire
creeping along a fuse. "It was real. I do not want to leave Little
"Not in your present enthusiasm," she returned with a warning inflection
of literalness, when he would have welcomed satire, anger, or any
reprisal of words as something live and warm; something on which his mind
could lay definite hold.
In her impersonal calm she was subjecting him to an exquisite torture. He
was a man flayed past all endurance, flayed by a love that fed on the
revelation of a mystery in her being superbly in control. The riot of all
the colors of the sky spoke from his eyes as he sprang to his feet. He
became as intense as in the supreme moment in the _arroyo_; as reckless
as when he walked across the store toward a gun-muzzle. Only hers were
this time the set, still features. His were lighted with all the strength
of him and all the faith of him.
"A part!" he cried. "Yes, a part--a sovereign and true part which I shall
ever play! I was going that day we first met, going before the legate of
the millions came to me. Why did I stay? Because I could not go when I
saw that you wanted to turn me out of the garden!"
His quivering words were spoken to a profile of bronze, over which
flickered a smile as she answered with a prompting and disinterested
"You said it was to make callouses on your hands. But that must have been
persiflage. The truth is that you imagined a challenger. You wanted to
win a victory!" she answered.
"It was for you that I calloused my hands!"
"Time will make them soft!"
She was half teasing now, but teasing through the visor, not over the
"And if I sought victory I saw that I was being beaten while I made a
profession of you, not of gardening! Yes, of you! I could confess it to
all the world and its ridicule!"
"Jack, you are dramatic!"
If she would only once look at him! If he could only speak into her eyes!
If her breaths did not come and go so regularly!
"Why did I take to the trail after Pedro Nogales struck at me with his
knife? Because I saw the look on your face when you saw that I had broken
his arm. I had not meant to break his arm--yet I know that I might have
done worse but for you! I did not mean to kill Leddy--yet there was
something in me which might have killed him but for you!"
"I am glad to have prevented murder!" she answered almost harshly.
A shadow of horror, as if in recollection of the scene in the _arroyo_
and beside the hedge, passed over her face.
"Yes, I understand! I understand!" he said. "And you must hear why this
terrible impulse rose in me."
"You know? You know?" he repeated.
"About the millions," she corrected herself, hastily. "Go on, Jack, if
you wish!" Urgency crept into her tone, the urgency of wishing to have
done with a scene which she was bearing with the fortitude of
"It was the millions that sent me out here with a message, when I did
not much care about anything, and their message was: 'We do not want to
see you again if you are to be forever a weakling. Get strong, for our
power is to the strong! Get strong, or do not come back!'"
For the first time since he had begun his story she looked fairly at him.
It was as if the armor had melted with sympathy and pity and she, in the
pride of the poverty of Little Rivers, was armed with a Samaritan
kindliness. For a second only he saw her thus, before she looked away to
the horizon and he saw that she was again in armor.
"And I craved strength! It was my one way to make good. I rode the
solitudes, following the seasons, getting strength. I rejoiced in the tan
of my arm and the movement of my own muscles. I learned to love the feel
of a rifle-stock against my shoulder, the touch of the trigger to my
finger's end. I would shoot at the cactus in the moonlight--oh, that is
difficult, shooting by moonlight!--and I gloried in my increasing
accuracy--I, the weakling of libraries and galleries and sunny verandas
of tourist resorts! Afraid at first of a precipice's edge, I came to
enjoy looking over into abysses and in spending a whole day climbing down
into their depths, while Firio waited in camp. And at times I would cry
out: 'Millions, I am strong! I am not afraid of you! I am not afraid of
anything!' In the days when I knew I could never be acceptable as their
master I knew I was in no danger of ever having to face them. When I had
grown strong, less than ever did I want to face them. I know not why, but
I saw shadows; I looked into another kind of depths--mental
depths--which held a message that I feared. So I procrastinated, staying
on in the air which had given me red blood. But that was cowardly, and
that day I came over the pass I was making my last ride in the kingdom of
irresponsibility. I was going home!
"When you asked me not to face Leddy I simply had to refuse. I had just
as soon as not that Leddy would shoot at me, because I wanted to see if
he would. Yes, I was strong. I had conquered. And if Leddy hit me, why, I
did not have to go back to battle with the shadows--the obsession of
shadows which had grown in my mind as my strength grew. When I was
smiling in Leddy's muzzle, as they say I did, I was just smiling
exultantly at the millions that had called me a weakling, and saying,
like some boaster, 'Could you do this, millions?' I--I--well, Mary, I--I
have told you what I never was quite able to tell myself before."
"Thank you, Jack!" she answered, and all the particles of sunlight that
bathed her seemed to reflect her quiet gladness as something detached,
permeating, and transcendent.
"When Leddy challenged me I wanted to fight," he went on. "I wanted to
see how cool I, the weakling whom the millions scorned, could be in
battle. After Leddy's shot in the _arroyo_ I found that strength had
discovered something else in me--something that had lain dormant in
boyhood and had not awakened to any consciousness of itself in the five
years on the desert--something of which all my boyhood training made me
no less afraid than of the shadows, born of the blood, born of the very
strength I had won. It seemed to run counter to books and gardens and
peace itself--a lawless, devil-like creature! Yes, I gloried in the fact
that I could kill Leddy. It was an intoxication to hold a steady bead on
him. And you saw and felt that in me--yes, I tell you everything as a man
must when he comes to a woman offering himself, his all, with his angels,
his devils, and his dreams!"
He paused trembling, as before a judge. She turned quickly, with a
sudden, winsome vivacity, the glow of a great satisfaction in her eyes
and smiling a comradeship which made her old attitude over the wall a
thing of dross and yet far more intimate. Her hand went out to meet his.
"Jack, we have had good times together," she said. "We were never
mawkish; we were just good citizens of Little Rivers, weren't we? And,
Jack, every mortal of us is partly what he is born and the rest is what
he can do to bend inheritance to his will. But we can never quite
transform our inheritance and if we stifle it, some day it will break
loose. The first thing is to face what seems born in us, and you have
made a good beginning."
She gave his hands a nervous, earnest clasp and withdrew hers as she
rose. So they stood facing each other, she in the panoply of good will,
he with his heart on his sleeve. The swiftly changing pictures of the
Eternal Painter in his evening orgy seemed to fill the air with the music
of a symphony in its last measures, and her very breaths and smiles to be
keeping time with its irresistible movement toward the finale.
"I must be starting back, Jack," she said.
"And, Mary, I must learn how to master the millions. Oh, I have not the
courage of the little dwarf pine in the canyon! Mary, Mary, I calloused
my hands for you! I want to master the millions for you! I would give you
the freedom of Little Rivers and all the cities of the world!"
"No, Jack! This is my side of the pass. I shall be very happy here."
"Then I will stay in Little Rivers! I will leave the millions to the
shadows! I will stay on ranch-making, fortune-making. Mary, I love you! I
There was no staying the flame of his feeling. He seized her hands; he
drew her to him. But her hands were cold; they were shivering.
"Jack! No, no! It is not in the blood!" she cried in the face of some
mocking phantom, her calmness gone and her words rocking with the tumult
"In the blood, Mary? What do you mean? What do you know that I don't
know? Do you know those shadows that I cannot understand better than
I?" he pleaded; and he was thinking of the Doge's look of pity and
challenge and of the meeting long ago in Florence as the hazy filaments
of a mystery.
"No, I should not have said that. What do I know? Little--nothing that
will help! I know what is in me, as I know what is in you. I am afraid of
myself--afraid of you!"
"Mary, I will fight all the shadows!" He drew her close to him
resistlessly in his might.
"Jack, you will not use your strength against me! Jack!"
He saw her eyes in a mist of pain and reproach as he released her. And
now she threw back her head; she was smiling in the philosophy of garden
nonsense as she cried:
"Good-by, Jack! Luck against the dinosaur! Don't press him too hard
when he is turning a sharp corner. Remember he has a long reach with
his old paleozoic tail. Luck!" with a laugh through her tears; a laugh
with tremulous cheer in it and yet with the ring of a key in the lock
of a gate.
Unsteadily he bent over and taking her hands in his pressed his
lips to them.
"Yes, luck!" he repeated, and half staggering turned toward the defile.
"Luck!" she called after him when he was out of sight. "Luck!" she called
to the silence of the pass.
Three days with the trail and the Eternal Painter mocking him, when the
singing of Spanish verses that go click with the beat of horse-hoofs in
the sand sounded hollow as the refrain of vain memories, and from the
steps of a Pullman he had a final glimpse of Firio's mournful face, with
its dark eyes shining in the light of the station lamp. Firio had in his
hand a paper, a sort of will and testament given him at the last minute,
which made him master in fee simple of the ranch where he had been
servant, with the provision that the Doge of Little Rivers might store
his overflow of books there forever.
HE FINDS HIMSELF
LABELLED AND SHIPPED
Behold Jack clad in the habiliments of conventional civilization taken
from the stock of ready-made suitings in an El Paso store! They were of
the Moscowitz and Guggenheim type, the very latest and nattiest, as
advertised in popular prints. The dealer said that no gentleman could be
well dressed without them. He wanted to complete the transformation with
a cream-colored Fedora or a brown derby.
"I'll wait on the thirty-third degree a little longer," said Jack,
fondling the flat-brimmed cowpuncher model of affectionate predilection.
Swinging on a hook on the sleeper with the sway of the train, its company
was soothing to him all the way across the continent.
The time was March, that season of the northern year when winter growing
stale has a gritty, sticky taste and the relief of spring seems yet far
away. After the desert air the steam heat was stifling and nauseating.
Jack's head was a barrel about to burst its hoops; his skin drying like a
mummy's; his muscles in a starchy misery from lack of exercise. He felt
boxed up, an express package labelled and shipped. When he crawled into
his berth at night it was with a sense of giving himself up to
asphyxiation at the whim of strange gods.
If you have ever come back to town after six months in the woods, six
months far from the hysteria of tittering electric bells, the brassy
honk-honk of automobiles, the clang of surface cars and the screech of
their wheels on the rails, multiply your period of absence by ten, add a
certain amount of desert temperament, and you will vaguely understand how
the red corpuscles were raising rebellion in Jack's artery walls on the
morning of his journey's end. From the ferryboat on the dull-green bosom
of the river he first renewed his memory of the spectral and forbidding
abysses and pinnacles of New York. Here time is everything; here man has
done his mightiest in contriving masses to imitate the architectural
chaos of genesis. A mantle of chill, smoky mist formed the dome of
heaven, in which a pale, suffused, yellowish spot alone bespoke the
existence of a sun in the universe.
In keeping with his promise to Dr. Bennington he had wired to his father,
naming his train; and in a few minutes Wingfield, Sr. and Wingfield, Jr.
would meet for the first time in five years. Jack was conscious of a
faster beating of his heart and a feeling of awesome expectancy as the
crowd debouched from the ferryboat. At the exit to the street a big
limousine was waiting. The gilt initials on the door left no doubt for
whom it had been sent. But there was no one to meet him, no one after his
long absence except a chauffeur and a footman, who glanced at Jack
sharply. After the exchange of a corroborative nod between them the
"If you please, Mr. Wingfield," he said, taking Jack's suit case.
"What would Jim Galway think of me now!" thought Jack. He put his head
inside the car cautiously. "Another box!" he thought, this time aloud.
"You have the check for it, sir?" asked the footman, thinking that Jack
was using the English of the mother island for trunk.
"No. That's all my baggage."
In the tapering, cut-glass vase between the two front window-panels of
the "box" was a rose--a symbol of the luxury of the twenty millions,
evidently put there regularly every morning by direction of their master.
Its freshness and color appealed to Jack. He took it out and pressed it
to his nostrils.
"Just needs the morning sun and the dew to be perfect," he said to the
amazed attendants; "and I will walk if you will take the suit case to
He kept the rose, which he twirled in his fingers as he sauntered across
town, now pausing at curb corners to glance back in thoughtful survey,
now looking aloft at the peaks of Broadway which lay beyond the foothills
of the river-front avenues.
"All to me what the desert is to other folks!" he mused; "desert, without
any cacti or mesquite! All the trails cross one another in a maze. A
boxed-up desert--boxes and boxes piled on top of one another! Everybody
in harness and attached by an invisible, unbreakable, inelastic leash to
a box, whither he bears his honey or goes to nurse his broken wings!--so
it seems to me and very headachy!"
At Madison Square he was at the base of the range itself; and halting on
the corner of Twenty-third Street and the Avenue he was a statue as aloof
as the statue of Farragut from his surroundings. Salt sea spray ever
whispers in the atmosphere around the old sailor. How St. Gaudens
created it and keeps it there in the heart of New York is his secret.
Possibly the sculptor put some of his soul into it as young Michael
Angelo did into his young David.
It is a great thing to put some of your soul into a thing, whether it is
driving a nail or moulding a piece of clay into life. There are men who
pause before the old Admiral and see the cutwater of men-of-war's bows
and hear the singing of the signal halyards as they rise with the command
to close in. Perhaps the Eternal Painter had put a little of his soul
into the heart of Jack; for some busy marchers of the Avenue trail as
they glanced at him saw the free desert and heard hoof-beats in the sand.
Others seeing a tanned Westerner kissing his hand to Diana of Madison
Square Garden probably thought him mad. Next, performing another
sentimental errand for the Doge of Little Rivers, his gaze rose along the
column of the Metropolitan tower. Its heights were half shrouded in mist,
through which glowed the gold of the lantern.
"Oh, bully! bully!" he thought. "The only sun in sight a manufactured
one, shining on top of a manufactured mountain! It is a big business
building a mountain; only, when God Almighty scattered so many ready-made
ones about, why take the trouble?" he concluded. "Or so it seems to me,"
he added, sadly, in due appreciation of the utterly reactionary mood of a
man who has been boxed up for a week.
Now he turned toward a quarter which he had, thus far, kept out of the
compass of observation. He looked up the jagged range of Broadway where,
over a terra-cotta pile, floated a crimson flag with "John Wingfield" in
big, white letters.
"My mountain! My box! My millions!" he breathed half audibly.
How the people whom he passed, their faces speaking city keenness of
ambition, must envy his position! How little reason they had to envy him,
he thought, as he walked around the great building and saw his name
glaring at him in gilt letters over the plate-glass windows and on all
the delivery wagons, open-mouthed for the packages being wheeled out
under the long glass awning.
"A whole block now! Yes, the doctor was right. It must be thirty instead
of twenty millions!" he concluded, as his vision swept the straight-line,
window-checkered mass of the twelve stories. "And I do wish we had a
tower! If one could go up on top of a tower and look out over the range
now and then and breathe deep, it would help."
When he entered the main door he paused in a maze, gazing at the acreage
of counters manned by clerks and the aisles swarming with shoppers under
the glare of the big, electric globes, and listening to the babble of
shrill talk, the calls of the elevator boys, the coughing of the
pneumatic tubes and the clang of the elevator doors. It was all like some
devilishly complicated dream from which he would never awake. He must
have a little time in order to orient himself before he could think
rationally. The roar of the train still obsessed him; the air in the
store seemed more stifling than that of the sleeper.
So he decided that, rather than be shot up into The Presence by the
elevator, he would gradually scale the heights. Ascending stairway after
stairway, he ranged back and forth over the floors, a stranger in his
own wonderland. When he reached the eleventh floor, with only one more to
the offices, the whole atmosphere seemed suddenly to turn rare with
expectancy; a rustle to run through all the goods on the counters; the
very Paris gowns among which he was standing to be called to martial
"The boss!" he heard one of the model girls say.
Turning to follow her nod toward the stairway, Jack saw, two-thirds of
the way up the broad flight, a man past middle age, in dark gray suit and
neutral tie, rubbing his palms together as he surveyed a stratum of his
principality. The sight of him to Jack was like the touch of a myriad
electric needles that pricked sharply, without exhilaration.
"The boss is likely to run up that way any time of the day," said the
model girl to a customer; "and what he don't see don't count!"
"Not much older; not much changed!" thought Jack; and his realization of
the disinterestedness of his observation tipped the needles with acid.
In the sharpness of the master's button-counting survey there was swift
finality; and his impressions completed, analyzed, docketed for
reference, he ran on up the flight with light step, still rubbing the
palms of his hands in the unctuously well-contained and appreciative
sense of his power. To Jack he was a fascinating, grand, distant figure,
this of his own father, yet mortally near.
If the model girl had had the same keenness of observation for what is
borne in the face as for what is worn on the back, she could not have
failed to note the strong family resemblance between the young man
standing near her and the man who had paused on the stairway. This
glimpse of his father's mastery of every detail of that organization
which he had built, this glimpse of cool, self-centered authority, only
reminded Jack of his own ignorance and flightiness in view of all that
would be expected of him. He knew less than one of the cash girls about
how to run the store. A duel with Leddy was a simple matter beside this
battle he had to wage.
He mounted the last flight of stairs into an area of glass-paneled doors,
behind which the creative business of the great concern was conducted.
Out of one marked "Private," closing it softly and stepping softly, came
a round-shouldered, stooping man of middle age, with the apprehensive and
palliating manner of a long-service private secretary who has many things
to remember and many persons to appease with explanations. It was evident
that Peter Mortimer had just come from The Presence. At sight of Jack he
drew back in a surprise that broke into a beaming delight which played
over his tired and wrinkled features in ecstasy.
"Jack! Jack! You did it! You did it!" he cried.
"Peter!" Jack seized the secretary's hands and swung them back and forth.
"You've got a grip of iron! And tanned--my, how you're tanned! You did
it, Jack, you did it! It hardly seems credible, when I think of the last
time I saw you."
It was then that the secretary had seen a Jack with his eyes moist; a
Jack pasty-faced, hollow-cheeked; and, in what was a revolutionary
outburst for a unit in the offices, Peter Mortimer had put his arm around
the boy in a cry for the success of the Odyssey for health which the
heir was about to begin. And Mortimer's words were sweet, while the words
of the farewell from the other side of the glass-paneled door marked
"Private" were acrid with the disappointed hopes of the speaker.
"You have always been a weakling, Jack, and I have had little to say
about your rearing. Go out to the desert and stay--stay till you are
strong!" declared the voice of strength, as if glad to be freed of the
sight of weakness in its own image.
"Father did not come to meet me?" Jack observed questioningly now
"He was very busy--he did not feel certain about the nature of your
telegram--he--" and Mortimer's impulses withdrew into the shell of the
professional private secretary.
"I wired that he should see for himself if I were well. So he shall!"
said Jack, turning toward the door.
"Yes--that will be all right--yes, there is no one with him!"
Mortimer, in the very instinct of long practice, was about to go in to
announce the visitor, but paused. As Jack entered, whatever else may have
been in his eyes, there was no moisture.
IN THE CITADEL OF THE MILLIONS
John Wingfield, Sr. sat at a mahogany table without a single drawer, in
the centre of a large room with bare, green-tinted walls. His oculist had
said that green was the best color for the eyes. Beside the green
blotting-pad in front of him was a pile of papers. These would either be
disposed of in the course of the day or, if any waited on the morrow's
decision, would be taken away by Peter Mortimer overnight. When he rose
to go home it was always with a clear desk; a habit, a belief of his
singularly well-ordered mind in the mastery of the teeming detail that
throbbed under the thin soles of his soft kid shoes. On the other side of
the pad was the telephone, and beyond it the supreme implements of his
will, a row of pearl-topped push-buttons.
The story of John Wingfield, Sr.'s rise and career, as the lieutenants of
the offices and the battalions of the shopping floors knew it, was not
the story, perhaps, as Dr. Bennington or Peter Mortimer knew it; but,
then, doctors and private secretaries are supposed to hold their secrets.
There was little out of the commonplace in the world's accepted version.
You may hear its like from the moneyed host at his dinner table in New
York or as he shows you over the acres of his country estate, enthusing
with a personal narrative of conquest which is to him unique. John
Wingfield, Sr. makes history for us in the type of woman whom he
married and the type of son she bore him.
He was the son of a New England country clergyman, to whom working his
way through college in order to practise a profession made no appeal.
Birth and boyhood in poverty had taught him, from want of money, the
power of money. He sought the centre of the market-place. At sixteen he
was a clerk, marked by his industry not less than by his engaging
manners, on six dollars a week in the little store that was the site of
his present triumph. Of course he became a partner and then owner. It was
his frequent remark, when he turned reminiscent, that if he could only
get as good clerks as he was in his day he would soon have a monopoly of
supplying New York and its environs with all it ate and wore and needed
to furnish its houses; which raises the point that possibly such an
equality of high standards in efficiency might make all clerks employers.
The steady flame of his egoism was fanned with his Successes. Without
real intimates or friends, he had an effective magnetism in making others
do his bidding. It had hardly occurred to him that his discovery of the
principle of never doing anything yourself that you can win others to do
for you and never failing, when you have a minute to spare, to do a thing
yourself when you can do it better than any assistant, was already a
practice with leaders in trade and industry before the Pharaohs.
Life had been to him a ladder which he ascended without any glances to
right or left or at the rung that he had left behind. The adaptable
processes of his mind kept pace with his rise. He made himself at home
in each higher stratum of atmosphere. His marriage, delayed until he was
forty and already a man of power, was still another upward step. Alice
Jamison brought him capital and position. The world was puzzled why she
should have accepted him; but this stroke of success he now considered as
the vital error of a career which, otherwise, had been flawlessly
planned. Yet he could flatter his egoism with the thought that it was
less a fault of judgment than of the uncertainty of feminine temperament,
which could not be measured by logic.
New York saw little of Mrs. Wingfield after Jack's birth. Her friends
knew her as a creature all life and light before her marriage; they
realized that the life and light had passed out of her soon after the boy
came; and thenceforth they saw and heard little of her. She had given
herself up to the insistent possessorship and company of her son. Those
who met her when travelling reported how frail she was and how
Jack was fourteen when his mother died. He was brought home and sent to
school in America; and two-years later Dr. Bennington announced that the
slender youngster, who had been so completely estranged from the affairs
of the store, must matriculate in the ozone of high altitudes instead of
in college, if his life were to be saved. Whether Jack were riding over
the _mesas_ of Arizona or playing in a villa garden in Florence, John
Wingfield, Sr.'s outlook on life was the same. It was the obsession of
self in his affairs. After the eclipse of his egoism the deluge. The very
thought that anyone should succeed him was a shock reminding him of
growing age in the midst of the full possession of his faculties, while
he felt no diminution of his ambition.
"I am getting better," came the occasional message from that stranger
son. And the father kept on playing the tune of accruing millions on the
push-buttons. His decision to send Dr. Bennington to Arizona came
suddenly, just after he had turned sixty-three. He had had an attack of
grip at the same time that his attention had been acutely called to the
demoralization of another great business institution whose head had died
without issue, leaving his affairs in the hands of trustees.
Two days of confinement in his room with a high pulse had brought
reflection and the development of atavism. What if the institution built
as a monument to himself should also pass! What if the name of Wingfield,
his name, should no longer float twelve stories high over his building!
He foresaw the promise of companionship of a restless and ghastly
apparition in the future.
But he recovered rapidly from his illness and his mental processes were
as keen and prehensile as ever. Checking off one against the other, with
customary shrewdness, he had a number of doctors go over him, and all
agreed that he was good for twenty years yet. Twenty years! Why, Jack
would be middle-aged by that time! Twenty years was the difference
between forty-three and sixty-three. Since he was forty-three he had
quintupled his fortune. He would at least double it again. He was not
old; he was young; he was an exceptional man who had taken good care of
himself. The threescore and ten heresy could not apply to him.
Bennington's telegram irritated him with its lack of precision. Fifteen
hundred dollars and expenses to send an expert to Arizona and in
return this unbusinesslike report: "You will see Jack for yourself. He
In the full enjoyment of health, observing every nice rule for
longevity, his slumber sweet, his appetite good, John Wingfield, Sr.
had less interest in John Wingfield, Jr. than he had when his bones
were aching with the grip. Jack's telegram from Chicago announcing the
train by which he would arrive aroused an old resentment, which dated
far back to Jack's childhood and to a frail woman who had been proof
against her husband's will.
Did this home-coming mean a son who could learn the business; a strong,
shrewd, cool-headed son? A son who could be such an adjutant as only one
who is of your own flesh and blood can be in the full pursuit of the same
family interest as yourself? If Jack were well, would not Bennington have
said so? Would he not have emphasized it? This was human nature as John
Wingfield, Sr. knew it; human nature which never missed a chance to
ingratiate itself by announcing success in the service of a man of power.
The spirit of his farewell message to Jack, which said that strength
might return but bade weakness to remain away, and the injured pride of
seeing a presentment of wounded egoism in the features of a sickly boy,
which had kept him from going to Arizona, were again dominant. Yet that
morning he had a pressing sense of distraction. Even Mortimer noticed it
as something unusual and amazing. He kept reverting to Jack's history
between flashes of apprehension and he was angry with himself over his
inability to concentrate his mind. Concentration was his god. He could
turn from lace-buyer to floor-walker with the quickness of the swing of
an electric switch. Concentrate and he was oblivious to everything but
the subject in hand. He was in one of the moments of apprehension, half
staring at the buttons on the desk rather than at the papers, when he
heard the door open without warning and looked up to see a lean, sturdy
height filling the doorway and the light from the window full on a
bronzed and serene face.
More than ever was Jack like David come over the hills in his incarnation
of sleeping energy. Instead of a sling he carried the rose. Into the
abode of the nicely governed rules of longevity came the atmosphere of
some invasive spirit that would make the stake of life the foam on the
crest of a charge in a splendid moment; the spirit of Senor Don't Care
pausing inquiringly, almost apologetically, as some soldier in dusty
khaki might if he had marched into a study unawares.
Jack was waiting, waiting and smiling, for his father to speak. In a
swift survey, his features transfixed at first with astonishment, then
glowing with pride, the father half rose from his chair, as if in an
impulse to embrace the prodigal. But he paused. He felt that something
under his control was getting out of his control. He felt that he had
been tricked. The boy must have been well for a long time. Yes! But he
was well! That was the vital point. He was well, and magnificent in
The father made another movement; and still Jack was waiting, inquiring
yet not advancing. And John Wingfield, Sr. wished that he had gone to
the station; he wished that he had paid a visit to Arizona. This thought
working in his mind supplied Jack's attitude with an aspect which made
the father hesitate and then drop back into his chair, confused and
uncertain for the first time in his own office.
"Well, Jack, you--you surely do look cured!" he said awkwardly. "You see,
I--I was a little surprised to see you at the office. I sent the
limousine for you, thinking you would want to go straight to the house
and wash off the dust of travel. Didn't you connect?"
"Yes, thank you, father--and when you didn't meet me--"
"I--I was very busy. I meant to, but something interrupted--I--" The
father stopped, confounded by his own hesitation.
"Of course," said Jack. He spoke deferentially, understandingly. "I know
how busy you always are."
Yet the tone was such to John Wingfield, Sr.'s ears that he eyed Jack
cautiously, sharply, in the expectancy that almost any kind of
undisciplined force might break loose from this muscular giant whom he
was trying to reconcile with the Jack whom he had last seen.
"I thought I'd stretch my legs, so I came over to the store to see how it
had grown," said Jack. "I don't interrupt--for a moment?"
He sat down on the chair opposite his father's and laid his faded
cowpuncher hat and the rose on the desk. They looked odd in the company
of the pushbuttons and the pile of papers in that neutral-toned room
which was chilling in its monotony of color. And though Jack was almost
boyishly penitent, in the manner of one who comes before parental
authority after he has been in mischief, still John Wingfield, Sr.
could not escape the dead weight of an impression that he was speaking to
a stranger and not to his own flesh and blood. He wished now that he had
shown affection on Jack's entrance. He had a desire to grip the brown
hand that was on the edge of the desk fingering the rose stem; but the
lateness of the demonstration, its futility in making up for his previous
neglect, and some subtle influence radiating from Jack's person,
restrained him. It was apparent that Jack might sit on in silence
indefinitely; in a desert silence.
"Well, Jack, I hear you had a ranch," said the father, with a faint
effort at jocularity.
"Yes, and a great crop of alfalfa," answered Jack, happily.
"And it seems that all the time you were away you have never used your
allowance, so it has just been piling up for you."
"I didn't need it. I had quite sufficient from the income of my
"Yes--your mother--I had forgotten!"
"Naturally, I preferred to use that, when I was of so little service to
you unless I got strong, as you said," Jack said, very quietly.
Now came another silence, the silence of luminous, unsounded depths
concealing that in the mind which has never been spoken or even taken
form. Jack's garden of words had dried up, as his ranch would dry up for
want of water. He rose to go, groping for something that should express
proper contrition for wasted years, but it refused to come. He picked up
the rose and the hat, while the father regarded him with stony wonder
which said: "Are you mine, or are you not? What is the nature of this
new strength? On what will it turn?"
For Jack's features had set with a strange firmness and his eyes, looking
into his father's, had a steady light. It seemed as if he might stalk out
of the office forever, and nothing could stop him. But suddenly he
flashed his smile; he had looked about searching for a talisman and found
it in the rose, which set his garden of words abloom again.
"This room is so bare it must be lonely for you," he said. "Wouldn't it
be a good idea to cheer it up a bit? To have this rose in a vase on your
table where you could see it, instead of riding about in an empty
"Why, there is a whole cold storage booth full of them down on the first
floor!" said the father.
"Yes, I saw them in their icy prison under the electric light bulbs. The
beads of water on them were like tears of longing to get out for the joy
of their swan song under a woman's smiles or beside a sick bed," said
Jack, in the glow of real enthusiasm.
"Good line for the ad writer!" his father exclaimed, instinctively. "You
always did have fanciful ideas, Jack."
"Yes, I suppose I have!" he said, with some surprise and very
thoughtfully. "I suppose that I was born with them and never weeded
"No doubt!" and the father frowned.
Surveying the broad shoulders before him, he was thinking how nothing but
aimlessness and fantasies and everything out of harmony with the career
to come had been encouraged in the son. But he saw soberness coming into
Jack's eyes and with it the pressure of a certain resoluteness of
purpose. And now Jack spoke again, a trifle sadly, as if guessing his
"It will be a case of weeding for me in the future, won't it?" he asked
wanly, as he rose. "I am full of foolish ideas that are just bound to run
away with me."
"Jack! Jack!" John Wingfield, Sr. put his hands out to the shoulders
of his son and gripped them strongly, and for a second let his own
weight half rest on that sturdy column which he sensed under the grip.
His pale face, the paleness of the type that never tans, flushed.
"Jack, come!" he said.
He permitted himself something like real dramatic feeling as he signalled
his son to follow him out of the office and led the way to a corner of
one of the balconies where, under the light from the glass roof of the
great central court, he could see down the tiers of floors to the jewelry
counter which sparkled at the bottom of the well.
"Look! look!" he exclaimed, rubbing his palms together with a peculiar
crisp sound. "All selling my goods! All built from the little store where
I began as a clerk!"
"It's--it's immense!" gasped Jack; and he felt a dizziness and confusion
in gazing at this kind of an abyss.
"And it's only beginning! It's to go on growing and growing! You see why
I wanted you to be strong, Jack; why it would not do to be weak if you
had all this responsibility."
This was a form of apology for his farewell to Jack, but the message was
the same: He had not wanted a son who should be of his life and heart and
ever his in faults and illnesses. This was the recognizable one of the
shadows between them now recalled. He had wanted a fresh physical machine
into which he could blow the breath of his own masterful being and instil
the cunning of his experience. He saw in this straight, clean-limbed
youth at his side the hope of Jack's babyhood fulfilled, in the
projection of his own ego as a living thing after he himself was gone.
"And it is to go on growing and growing, in my name and your name--John
Jack was swallowing spasmodically; he moistened his lips; he grasped the
balcony railing so tight that his knuckles were white knobs on the bronze
back of his hand. The father in his enthusiasm hardly noticed this.
"What couldn't I have done," he added, "if I had had all this to begin
with! All that you will have to begin with!"
Jack managed a smile, rather thin and wavering.
"Yes, I am going to try my best."
"All I ask! You have me for a teacher and I know one or two little
things!" said the father, fairly grinning in the transmission of his
joke. "Now, you must be short on clothes," he added; "so you can get
something ready-made downstairs while you have some making at
"Don't you buy your clothes, your best clothes, I mean, in your own
store?" Jack asked. It was his first question in getting acquainted with
his future property.
"No. We cater to a little bigger class of trade--one of the many twists
of the business," was the answer. "And now we'll meet at dinner, shall
we, and have a good long talk," he concluded, closing the interview and
turning to the door, his mind snapping back to the matter he was about to
take up when he had been interrupted with more eagerness than ever, now
that his egoism thrilled with a still greater purpose.
"I--I left my hat on your desk," Jack explained, as he followed his
father into the office.
"Well, you don't want to be carrying packages about," said John
Wingfield, Sr. "That is hardly the fashion in New York, though John
Wingfield's son can make it so if he wants to. I'll have that
flat-brimmed western one sent up to the house and you can fit out with
another when you go downstairs for clothes. That is, I suppose you will
want to keep this as a memento, eh?" and he held out the cowpuncher,
sweeping it with a sardonic glance.
"No," Jack answered decisively, out of the impulse that came with the
sight of the veteran companion that had shielded him from the sun on
the trail. It was good to have any kind of an impulse after his
giddiness on the balcony at sight of all the phantasmagoria of detail
that he must master.
If he were to be equal to this future there must be an end of temptation.
He must shake himself free of the last clinging bit of chrysalis of the
old life. His amazed father saw the child of the desert, where convention
is made by your fancy and the supply of water in your canteen, go to the
window and raise the sash. Leaning out, he let the hat drop into
Broadway, with his eyes just over the line of the ledge while he watched
it fall, dipping and gliding, to the feet of a messenger boy, who picked
it up, waved it gleefully aloft before putting it over his cap, and with
mock strides of grandeur went his way.
"That gave him a lot of pleasure--and a remarkably quick system for
delivering goods, wasn't it?" said Jack, cheerfully.
"Yes, I should say so!" assented his father, returning to his seat.
"Dinner at seven!" he called before the door closed; and as his finger
sought one of the push-buttons it rested for a moment on the metal edge
of the socket, his head bowed, while an indefinable emotion, mixed of
prophecy and recollection, must have fluttered through the routine
channels of his vigorous mind.
"BUT WITH YOU, 'YES, SIR'"
As Jack came out of the office, Mortimer appeared from an adjoining room
in furtive, mouselike curiosity.
"Not much damage done!" said Jack, in happy relief from the ordeal. "I am
without a hat, but I have the rose." He held it up before Mortimer's
worn, kindly face that had been so genuine in welcome. "Yes, I must have
kept it to decorate you, Peter!"
Ineffectually, in timorous confusion, the old secretary protested while
Jack fastened it in his buttonhole.
"And you are going to help me, aren't you, Peter?" Jack went on,
seriously. "You are going to hold up a finger of warning when I get off
the course. I am to be practical, matter-of-fact; there's to be an end to
all fantastic ideas."
An end to all fantastic ideas! But it was hardly according to the gospel
of the matter-of-fact to take Burleigh, the fitter, out to luncheon. Jack
might excuse himself on the ground that he had not yet begun his
apprenticeship and had several hours of freedom before his first lesson
at dinner. This ecstasy of a recess, perhaps, made him lay aside the
derby, which the clerk said was very becoming, and choose a softer
head-covering with a bit of feather in the band, which the clerk, with
positive enthusiasm, said was still more becoming. At all events, it was
easy on his temples, while the derby was stiff and binding and conducive
to a certain depression of spirits.
Burleigh, the fitter, was almost as old as Mortimer. He rose to the
exceptional situation, his eyes lighting as he surveyed the form to be
clothed with a professional gratification unsurpassed by that of Dr.
Bennington in plotting Jack's chest with a stethoscope.
"Yes, sir, we will have that dinner-jacket ready to-night, sir, depend
upon it--and couldn't I show you something in cheviots?"
Jack broke another precedent. A Wingfield, he decided to patronize
the Wingfield store, because he saw how supremely happy every order
"You can do it as well as Thompson's?" he asked.
"With you, yes, sir--though Thompson is a great expert on round
shoulders. But with you, yes, sir!"
When the business of measuring was over, while Burleigh peered triumphant
over the pile of cloths from which the masterpieces were to be fashioned,
Jack said that he had a ripping appetite and he did not see why he and
Burleigh should not appease their hunger in company. Burleigh gasped;
then he grinned in abandoned delight and slipped off his shiny coat and
little tailor's apron that bristled with pins.
They went to a restaurant of reputation, which Jack said was in keeping
with the occasion when a man changed his habits from Arizona simplicity
to urban multiplicity of courses. And what did Burleigh like? Burleigh
admitted that if he were a plutocrat he would have caviar at least once a
day; and caviar appeared in a little glass cup set in the midst of
cracked ice, flanked by crisp toast. After caviar came other things to
Burleigh's taste. He was having such an awesomely grand feast that he
was tongue-tied; but Jack could never eat in silence until he had
forgotten how to tell stories. So he told Burleigh stories of the trail
and of life in Little Rivers in a way that reflected the desert sunshine
in Burleigh's eyes. Burleigh thought that he would like to live in Little
Rivers. Almost anyone might after hearing Jack's description, in the joy
of its call to himself.
"Now, if you would trust me," said Burleigh, when they left the
restaurant, "I should like to send out for some cloths not in stock for a
couple of suits. And couldn't I make you up three or four fancy
waistcoats, with a little color in them--the right color to go with the
cloth? You can carry a little color--decidedly, yes."
"Yes, I rather like color," said Jack, succumbing to temptation, though
he felt that the heir to great responsibilities ought to dress in the
most neutral of tones.
"And I should like to select the ties to go with the suits and a few
shirts, just to carry out my scheme--a kind of professional triumph for
me, you see. May I?"
"Go ahead!" said Jack.
"And you can depend on your evening suit to be up in time. But I am going
to rush a little broader braid on those ready-made trousers--you can
carry that, too," Burleigh concluded.
When they parted Jack turned into Fifth Avenue. Before he had gone a
block the bulky eminence of a Fifth Avenue stage awakened his
imagination. How could anybody think of confinement in a taxicab when he
might ride in the elephant's howdah of that top platform, enjoying mortal
superiority over surrounding humanity? Jack hung the howdah with silken
streamers and set a mahout's turban on the head of the man on the seat in
front of him, while the glistening semi-oval tops of the limousines
floating in the mist of the rising grade from Madison Square to
Forty-second Street, swarmed and halted in a kind of blind, cramped _pas
de quatre_ from cross street to cross street, amid the breaking surge of
"Such a throbbing of machine motion," he thought, "that I don't see
how anybody can have an emotion of his own without bumping into
It was a scene of another age and world to him, puzzling, overpowering,
dismal, mocking him with a sense of loneliness that he had never felt on
the desert. Could he ever catch up with this procession which had all the
time been moving on in the five years of his absence? Could he learn to
talk and think in the regulated manner of the traffic rules of
convention? The few chums of his brief home school-days were long away
from the fellowship of academies; they had settled in their grooves, with
established intimacies. If he found his own flock he could claim
admission to the fold only with the golden key of his millions, rather
than by the password of kindred understanding.
The tripping, finely-clad women, human flower of all the maelstrom of
urban toil, in their detachment seemed only to bring up a visualized
picture of Mary. What would he not like to do for her! He wished that he
could pick up the Waldorf and set it on the other side of the street as
a proof of the overmastering desire that possessed him whenever she was
in his mind.
And the Doge! He was the wisest man in the world. With a nod of
well-considered and easy generosity Jack presented him with the new
Public Library. And then all the people on the sidewalks vanished and
the buildings melted away into sunswept levels, and the Avenue was a
trail down which Mary came on her pony in the resplendent sufficiency of
"Great heavens!" he warned himself. "And I am to take my first lesson in
running the business this evening! What perfect lunacy comes from
mistaking the top of a Fifth Avenue stage for a howdah!"
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
How thankful he was that the old brick corner mansion in Madison Avenue,
with age alone to recommend its architecture of the seventies--let it
stand for what it was--had not been replaced by one of stone freshly
polished each year! The butler who opened the door was new and stiffer
than the one of the old days; but he saw that the broad hall, with the
stairs running across the rear in their second flight, was little more
changed than the exterior.
Five years since he had left that hall! He was in the thrall of
anticipation incident to seeing old associations with the eyes of
manhood. The butler made to take his hat, but Jack, oblivious of the
attention, went on to the doorway of the drawing-room, his look centering
on a portrait that faced the door. In this place of honor he saw a
Gainsborough. He uttered a note of pained surprise.
"There used to be another portrait here. Where is it?" he demanded.
The butler, who had heard that the son of the house was an invalid, had
not recovered from his astonishment at the appearance of health of the
"Upstairs, sir," he answered. "When Mr. Wingfield got this prize last
Though the butler had spoken hardly a dozen words, he became conscious
of something atmospheric that made him stop in the confusion of one
who finds that he has been garrulous with an explanation that does
"Please take this upstairs and bring back the other," said Jack.
"Yes, sir. You will be going to your room, sir, and while--" The butler
had a feeling of a troublesome future between two masters.
"Now, please!" said Jack, settling into a chair to wait.
The Gainsborough countess, with her sweeping plumes, her rich, fleshy,
soft tones, her charming affectation, which gave you, after the art
interest, no more human interest in her than in a draped model, was
carried upstairs and back came the picture that it had displaced. The
frame still bore at the bottom the title "Portrait of a Lady," under
which it had been exhibited at the Salon many years ago. It was by a
young artist, young then, named Sargent. He had the courage of his
method, this youngster, no less than Hals, who also worked his wonders
with little paint when this suited his genius best. The gauze of the gown
where it blended with the background at the edge of the line of arm was
so thin, seemingly made by a single brush-stroke, that it almost showed
A purpose in that gauze: The thinness of transparency of character! The
eyes of the portrait alone seemed deep. They were lambent and dark,
looking straight ahead inquiringly, yet in the knowledge that no answer
to the Great Riddle could change the course of her steps in the blind
alley of a life whose tenement walls were lighted with her radiance. You
could see through the gown, through the flesh of that frail figure, so
lacking in sensuousness yet so glowing with a quiet fire, to the soul
itself. She seemed of such a delicate, chaste fragility that she could be
shattered by a single harsh touch. There would be no outcry except the
tinkle of the fragments. The feelings of anyone who witnessed the
breaking and heard the tinkle would be a criterion of his place in the
wide margin between nerveless barbarism and sensitive gentility.
"I give! I give! I give!" was her message.
For a long time, he had no measure of it, Jack sat studying the portrait,
set clear in many scenes of memory in review. It had been a face as
changeful as the travels, ever full of quick lights and quick shadows. He
had had flashes of it as it was in the portrait in its very triumph of
resignation. He had known it laughing with stories of fancy which she
told him; sympathetic in tutorial illumination as she gave him lessons
and brought out the meaning of a line of poetry or a painting; beset by
the restlessness which meant another period of travel; intense as fire
itself, gripping his hands in hers in a defiance of possession; in moods
when both its sadness and its playfulness said, "I don't care!" and
again, fleeing from his presence to hide her tears.
It was with the new sight of man's maturity and soberness that he now saw
his mother, feeling the intangible and indestructible feminine majesty of
her; feeling her fragility which had brought forth her living soul in its
beauty and impressionableness as a link with the cause of his Odyssey;
believing that she was rejoicing in his strength and understanding
gloriously that it had only brought him nearer to her.
After he had been to his room to dress he returned to the same chair and
settled into the same reverie that was sounding depths of his being that
he had never suspected. He was mutely asking her help, asking the support
of her frail, feminine courage for his masculine courage in the battle
before him; and little tremors of nervous determination were running
through him, when he heard his father's footstep and became conscious of
his father's presence in the doorway.
There was a moment, not of hesitation but of completing a thought, before
he looked up and rose to his feet. In that moment, John Wingfield, Sr.
had his own shock over the change in the room. The muscles of his face
twitched in irritation, as if his wife's very frailty were baffling
invulnerability. Straightening his features into a mask, his eyes still
spoke his emotion in a kind of stare of resentment at the picture.
Then he saw his son's shoulders rising above his own and looked into
his son's eyes to see them smiling. Long isolated by his power from
clashes of will under the roof of his store or his house, the father
had a sense of the rippling flash of steel blades. A word might start a
havoc of whirling, burning sentences, confusing and stifling as a
desert sandstorm; or it might bring a single killing flash out of
Thus the two were facing each other in a silence oppressive to both,
which neither knew how to break, when relief came in the butler's
announcement of dinner. Indeed, by such small, objective interruptions do
dynamic inner impulses hang that this little thing may have suppressed
The father was the first to speak. He hoped that a first day in New York
had brought Jack a good appetite; certainly, he could see that the store
had given him a wonderful fit for a rush order.
BY RIGHT OF ANCESTRY
There were to be no stories of Little Rivers at dinner; no questions
asked about desert life. This chapter of Jack's career was a past rung of
the ladder to John Wingfield, Sr. who was ever looking up to the rungs
above. The magnetism and charm with which he won men to his service now
turned to the immediate problem of his son, whom he was to refashion
according to his ideas.
"Are you ready to settle down?" he asked, half fearful lest that scene in
the drawing-room might have wrought a change of purpose.
In answer he was seeing another Jack; a Jack relaxed, amiable,
"If you have the patience," said Jack. "You know, father, I haven't a
cash-register mind. I'm starting out on a new trail and I am likely to go
lame at times. But I mean to be game."
He looked very frankly and earnestly into his father's eyes.
"Wild oats sown! My boy, after all!" thought the father. "Respected his
mother! Well, didn't I respect mine? Of course--and let him! It is good
principles. It is right. He has health; that is better than schooling."
In place of the shock of the son's will against his, he was feeling it as
a force which might yet act in unison with his. He expanded with the
pride of the fortune-builder. He told how a city within a city is created
and run; of tentacles of investment and enterprise stretching beyond the
store in illimitable ambition; how the ball of success, once it was set
rolling, gathered bulk of its own momentum and ever needed closer
watching to keep it clear of obstacles.
"And I am to stand on top like a gymnast on a sphere or be rolled under,"
thought Jack. "And I'll have cloth of gold breeches and a balancing pole
tipped with jewels; but--but--"
"A good listener, and that is a lot!" thought the father, happily.
Jack had interrupted neither with questions nor vagaries. He was gravely
attentive, marveling over this story of a man's labor and triumph.
"And the way to learn the business is not from talks by me," said his
father, finally. "You cannot begin at the top."
"No! no!" said Jack, aghast. "The top would be quite too insecure, too
dizzy to start with."
"Right!" the father exclaimed, decidedly. "You must learn each department
of itself, and then how it works in with the others. It will be drudgery,
but it is best--right at the bottom!"
"Yes, father, where there is no danger of a fall."
"You will be put on an apprentice salary of ten dollars a week."
"And I'll try to earn it."
"Of course, you understand that the ten is a charge against the store.
That's business. But as for a private allowance, you are John Wingfield's
"I think I have enough of my own for the present," Jack put in.
"As you wish. But if you need more, say the word. And you shall name the
department where you are to begin. Did you get any idea of which you'd
choose from looking the store over to-day?"
"That's very considerate of you!" Jack answered. He was relieved and
pleased and made his choice quickly, though he mentioned it half timidly
as if he feared that it might be ridiculous, so uncertain was he about
the rules of apprenticeship.
"You see I have been used to the open air and I'd like a little time in
which to acclimatize myself in New York. Now, all those big wagons that
bring the goods in and the little wagons that take them out--there is an
out-of-door aspect to the delivery service. Is that an important branch
"Very--getting the goods to the customer--very!"
"Then I'll start with that and sort of a roving commission to look over
the other departments."
"Good! We will consider it settled. And, Jack, every man's labor that you
can save and retain efficiency--that is the trick! Organization and
ideas, that's what makes the employer and so makes success. Why, Jack, if
you could cut down the working costs in the delivery department or
improve the service at the present cost, why--" John Wingfield, Sr.
rubbed the palms of his hands together delightedly.
Everything was going finely--so far. He added that proviso of _so far_
"Besides, Jack," he went on, changing to another subject that was equally
vital to his ego, "this name of Wingfield is something to work for. I was
the son of a poor New England clergyman, but there is family back of it;
good blood, good blood! I was not the first John Wingfield and you shall
not be the last!"
He rose from the table, bidding the servant to bring the coffee to the
drawing-room. With the same light, quick step that he ascended the
flights in the store, he led the way downstairs, his face alive with the
dramatic anticipation that it had worn when he took Jack out of the
office to look down from the balcony of the court.
"Ah, we have something besides the store, Jack!" he was saying, in the
very exultation of the pride of possession, as he went to the opposite
side of the mantel from the mother's portrait and turned on the reflector
over a picture.
Jack saw a buccaneer under the brush of the gold and the shadows of
Spain; a robust, ready figure on fighting edge, who seemed to say, "After
you, sir; and, then, pardon me, but it's your finish, sir!"
"It's a Velasquez!" Jack exclaimed.
"And you knew that at a glance!" said his father.
"Not many Velasquezes in America," said the father, thinking,
incidentally, that his son would not have to pay the dealers a heavy toll
for an art education, while he revelled in a surprise that he was
evidently holding back.
"Or many better Velasquezes than this, anywhere," added Jack. "What
mastery! What a gift from heaven that was vouchsafed to a human being to
paint like that!"
He was in a spell, held no less by the painter's art than by the subject.
"Absolutely a certified Velasquez, bought from the estate of Count
Galting," continued his father. "I paid a cool two hundred and fifty
thousand for it. And that isn't all, Jack, that isn't all that you are
going to drudge for as an apprentice in the delivery department. I know
what I am talking about. I wasn't fooled by any of the genealogists who
manufacture ancestors. I had it all looked up by four experts, checking
one off against another."
"Yes," answered Jack, absently. He had hardly heard his father's words.
In fervent scrutiny he was leaning forward, his weight on the ball of the
foot, the attitude of the man in the picture.
"And who do you think he is--who?" pursued John Wingfield, Sr.
"A man who fought face to face with the enemy; a man whom men followed!
Velasquez caught all that!" answered Jack.
"That old fellow was a great man in his day--a great Englishman--and his
name was John Wingfield! He was your ancestor and mine!"
After a quick breath of awakening comprehension Jack took a step nearer
the portrait, all his faculties in the throe of beaming inquiry of Senor
Don't Care and desert freedom, in the self-same, alert readiness of pose
as the figure he was facing.
"They say I resemble him!" The father repeated that phrase which he had
used in benignant satisfaction to many a guest, but now seeing with
greedy eyes a likeness between his son and the ancestor deeper than mere
resemblance of feature, he added: "But you--you, Jack, you're the dead
spit of him!"
"Yes," said Jack, as if he either were not surprised or were too
engrossed to be interested. To the buccaneer's "After you, sir; and,
then, your finish, sir!" he seemed to be saying, in the fully-lived
spirit of imagination: "A good epitaph, sir! I'll see that it is written
on your tombstone!"
The father, singularly affected by the mutual and enjoyed challenge that
he was witnessing, half expected to see a sword leap out of the scabbard
of the canvas and another from Jack's side.
"If he had lived in our day," said the father, "he would have built
himself a great place; he would have been the head of a great
institution, just as I am."
"Two centuries is a long way to fetch a comparison," answered Jack,
hazily, out of a corner of his brain still reserved for conversation,
while all the rest of it was centered elsewhere. "He might have been a
cow-puncher, a revolutionist, or an aviator. Certainly, he would never
have been a camp-follower."
"At all events, a man of power. It's in the blood!"
"It's in the blood!" Jack repeated, with a sort of staring, lingering
emphasis. He was hearing Mary's protest on the pass; her final,
mysterious reason for sending him away; her "It's not in the blood!"
There could be no connection between this and the ancestor; yet, in the
stirred depths of his nature, probing the inheritance in his veins, her
hurt cry had come echoing to his ears.
"Why, I would have paid double the price rather than not have got that
picture!" the father went on. "There is a good deal of talk about family
trees in this town and a strong tendency in some quarters for second
generations of wealth to feel a little superiority over the first
generation. Here I come along with an ancestor eight generations back,
painted by Velasquez. I tell you it was something of a sensation when I
exhibited him in the store!"
"You--you--" and Jack glanced at his father perplexedly; "you exhibited
him in the store!" he said.
"Why, yes, as a great Velasquez I had just bought. I didn't advertise him
as my ancestor, of course. Still, the fact got around; yes, the fact got
While Jack studied the picture, his father studied Jack, whose face and
whose manner of blissful challenge to all comers in the unconcern of easy
fatality and ready blade seemed to grow more and more like that of the
first John Wingfield. At length, Jack passed over to the other side of
the mantel and turned on the reflector over the portrait of his mother;
and, in turn, standing silently before her all his militancy was gone and
in its place came the dreamy softness with which he would watch the
Eternal Painter cloud-rolling on the horizon. And he was like her not in
features, not in the color of hair or eyes, but in a peculiar
sensitiveness, distinguished no less by a fatalism of its own kind than
was the cheery aggressiveness of the buccaneer.
"Yes, father," he said, "that old ruffian forebear of ours could swear
and could kill. But he had the virtue of truth. He could not act or live
a lie. And I guess something else--how supremely gentle he could be
before a woman like her. Velasquez brought out a joyous devil and Sargent
brought out a soul!"
John Wingfield, Sr., who stood by the grate, was drumming nervously on
the mantel. The drumming ceased. The fingers rested rigid and white on
the dark wood. Alive to another manifestation of the lurking force in
his son, he hastened to change the subject.
"I had almost forgotten that you always had a taste for art, Jack."
"Yes, from her;" which was hardly changing the subject.
"As for the first John Wingfield, you may be sure that I wanted to know
everything there was to know about the old fellow," said the father. "So
I set a lot of bookworms looking up the archives of the English and
Spanish governments and digging around in the libraries after material.
Then I had it all put together in proper shape by a literary sharp."
"You have that!" cried Jack. "You have the framework from which you can
build the whole story of him--the story of how he fought and how
Velasquez came to paint him? Oh, I want to read it!" With an unexplored
land between gilt-tooled covers under his arm he went upstairs early, in
the transport of wanderlust that had sent him away over the sand from
Little Rivers. _Si, si_, Firio, outward bound, camp under the stars! If
Senor Don't Care's desert journeys were over--and he had no thought but
that they were--there was no ban on travelling in fancy over sea trails
in the ancestor's company.
Jack was with the buccaneer when he boarded the enemy at the head of his
men; with him before the Board of Admiralty when, a young captain of
twenty-two, he refused to lie to save his skin; with him when, in answer
to the scolding of Elizabeth, then an old woman, he said: "It is glorious
for one who fought so hard for Your Majesty to have the recognition even
of Your Majesty's chiding in answer to the protest of the Spanish
ambassador," which won Elizabeth's reversal of the Admiralty's decision;
with him when, in a later change of fortune, he went to the court of
Spain for once on a mission which required a sheathed blade; with him
when the dark eye of Velasquez, who painted men and women of his time
while his colleagues were painting Madonnas, glowed with a discoverer's
joy at sight of this fair-haired type of the enemy, whom he led away to
More than once was there mention of the fact that this terrible fighter
was gentle with women and fonder of the company of children than of
statesmen or courtiers. He had married the daughter of a great merchant,
a delicate type of beauty; the last to fascinate a buccaneer, according
to the gossips of the time. Rumor had it that he had taken her for the
wherewithal to pay the enormous debts contracted in his latest exploit.
To disprove this he went to sea in a temper with a frigate and came back
laden with the treasure of half a dozen galleons, to find that his wife
had died at the birth of a son. He promised himself to settle down for
good; but the fog of London choked lungs used to soft airs; he heard the
call of the sun and was away again to seek adventure in the broiling
reaches of the Caribbean. A man of restless, wild spirit, breathing
inconsistencies incomprehensible to the conventions of Whitehall! And his
son had turned a Cromwellian, who, in poverty, sought refuge in America
when Charles II. came to the throne; and from him, in the vicissitudes of
five generations, the poor clergyman was descended.
Thus ran the tale in its completeness. The end of the ancestor's career
had been in keeping with its character and course. He had been spared
the slow decay of faculties in armchair reminiscence. He had gone down in
his ship without striking his colors, fighting the Spaniards one to
three. When Jack closed the cover on the last page tenderly and in
enraptured understanding, it was past midnight.
The spaciousness of the sea under clouds of battle smoke had melted into
the spaciousness of the desert under the Eternal Painter's canopy. Then
four walls of a bedroom in Madison Avenue materialized, shutting out the
horizon; a carpet in place of sand formed the floor; and in place of a
blanket roll was a canopied bed upon which a servant had laid out a suit
of pajamas. In the impulse of a desire to look into the face of the first
John Wingfield in the light of all he now knew, Jack went downstairs, and
in the silence of the house drank in the portrait again.
"You splendid old devil, you!" he breathed, understandingly. "How should
you like to start out delivering goods with me in the morning?"
JACK GETS A RAISE
The next morning Jack went down town with his father in the limousine.
About an hour later, after he had been introduced to the head of the
delivery division, he was on his way up town beside a driver of one of
the wagons on the Harlem route. He was in the uniform of the Wingfield
light cavalry, having obtained a cap with embroidered initials on the
front. The driver was like to burst from inward mirth, and Jack was
regarding the prospect with veritable juvenile zest.
At dinner that evening John Wingfield, Jr. narrated his experiences of
the day to John Wingfield, Sr. with the simplicity and verisimilitude
that always make for both realism and true comedy.
"But, Jack, you took me too literally! It is hardly in keeping with your
"Why, I thought that the only way to know the whole business was to
play every part. Didn't you ever deliver packages in person in your
"I can't say that I did!" the father admitted wryly.
"Then it seems to me that you missed one of the most entertaining and
instructive features," Jack continued. "You cannot imagine the majestic
feminine disdain with which you may be informed that a five-cent bar of
soap should be delivered at the back door instead of the front door. The
most indignant example was a red-haired woman who was doing her own work
in a flat. She fairly blazed. She wanted to know if I didn't know what
dumb-waiters were for."
"And what did you say?" the father asked wearily; for the ninth John
Wingfield had a limited sense of humor.
"Oh, I try, however irritating the circumstances, to be most courtly, for
the honor of the store," said Jack. "I told her that I was very sorry and
I would speak to you in person about the mistake."
"You mean that you admitted who you were?"
"Oh, no! The red-haired woman laughed and took the package in at the
front door," Jack responded. Anybody in Little Rivers would have
understood just how he looked and smiled and why it was that the
red-haired woman laughed.
"Jack--now, really, Jack, this is not quite dignified!" expostulated the
father. "What do you think your ancestor would say to it?"
"I suspect that he would have made an even more ingratiating bow to the
lady than I could," said Jack, thoughtfully. "They had the grand manner
better developed in his day than in ours."
In the ensuing weeks John Wingfield, Sr. dwelt in a kind of infernal
wonder about his son. He was cheered when some friend of his world who
had met Jack in the garb of his caste, as fitted by Burleigh, would say:
"Fine, strapping son you have there, Wingfield!" He was abashed and
dumfounded when Jack announced that he had taken Mamie Devore, who sold
culinary utensils in the basement, out to luncheon with her "steady
company," Joe Mathewson, driver of one of the warehouse trucks.
"They were a little awed at first," Jack explained, "but they soon
became natural. I don't know anything pleasanter than making people feel
perfectly natural, do you? You see, Joe and Mamie are very real, father,
and most businesslike; an ambitious, upstanding pair. They're going to
have two thousand dollars saved before they marry.
"'I don't believe that a woman ought to work out after she's married,'
was the way Joe put it. And Mamie, with her eyes fairly devouring him,
snapped back: 'No, she'd have enough to do looking after you, you big
"Mamie is a wiry little thing and Joe is a heavyweight, with a hand
almost as big as a baseball mit. That's partly why their practical
romance is so fascinating. Why, it's wonderful the stories that are
playing themselves out in that big store, father! Well, you see Joe is on
a stint--two thousand before he gets Mamie. He had been making money on
the side nights in boxing bouts. But Mamie stopped the fighting. She said
she was not going to have a husband with the tip of his nose driven up
between his eyes like a bull-dog's. And what do you imagine they are
going to do with the two thousand? Buy a farm! Isn't that corking!"
John Wingfield, Sr. shrugged his shoulders, but did not express his
feelings with any remark. It seemed to him that Jack must have been born
without a sense of proportion.
With the breaking of spring, when gardens were beginning to sprout, Jack
broadened his study to the trails of Westchester, Long Island, and New
Jersey, coursed by the big automobile vans of the suburban delivery. To
the people of the store, whose streets he traversed at will in
unremitting wonder over its varied activities, he had brought something
of the same sensation that he had to an Arizona town. He came to know the
employees by name, even as he had his neighbors in Little Rivers. He
nodded to the clerks as he passed down an aisle. They watched for his
coming and brightened with his approach and met his smile with their
smiles. In their idle moments he would stop and talk of the desert.
Although he was learning to like the store as a community of human beings
its business was as the works of a watch, when all he knew was how to
tell the time by the face. But he tried hard to learn; tried until his
head was dizzy with a whirl of dissociated facts, which he knew ought to
be associated, and under the call of his utter restlessness would
disappear altogether for two or three days.
"Relieving the pressure! It's a safety-valve so I shan't blow up," he
explained to his father, sadly.
"Take your time," said John Wingfield, Sr., having in mind a recent talk
with Dr. Bennington.
Jack listened faithfully to his father's clear-cut lessons. He asked
questions which only made his father sigh; for they had little to do with
the economy of working costs. All his suggestions were extravagant; they
would contribute to the joy of the employees, but not to profit. And
other questions made his father frown in devising answers which were in
the nature of explanations. Born of his rambling and humanly observant
relations with every department, they led into the very heart of things
in that mighty organization. There were times when it was hard for him
to control his indignation. There were trails leading to the room with
the glass-paneled door marked "Private" which he half feared to pursue.
Thus, between father and son remained that indefinable chasm of thought
and habit which filial duty or politeness could not bridge. No stories of
the desert were ever told at home, though it was so easy to tell them to
Burleigh or Mathewson, those contrasts in a pale fitter of clothes and a
herculean rustler of dry-goods boxes. But echoes of the tales came to the
father through his assistants. He had the feeling of some stranger spirit
in his own likeness moving there in the streets of his city under the
talisman of a consanguinity that was nominal. One day he put an inquiry
to the general manager concretely, though in a way to avoid the
appearance of asking another's opinion about his own son.
"He has your gift of winning men to him. There is no denying his
popularity with the force," said the general manager, who was a diplomat.
The same question was put to Peter Mortimer.
"We all love him. I think a lot of people in the store would march out to
the desert after him," said Mortimer, with real rejoicing in his candor
and courage. Indeed, of late he had been developing cheer as well as
courage, imbibing both, perhaps, from the roses in the vase on his
employer's desk. Jack had ordered a fresh bunch put there every day; and
when employees were sick packages of grapes and bunches of flowers came
to them, in Little Rivers fashion, with J.W. on the card, as if they had
come from the head of the firm himself.
"Maybe Jack will soften the old man a little," ran a whisper from
basement to roof. For the battalions called him "Jack," rather than "Mr.
Wingfield," just as Little Rivers had.
"The boy's good nature isn't making him too familiar with the employees?"
was a second question which the father had asked both the general manager
"No. That is the surprising thing--the gift of being friendly without
being familiar," answered the manager.
"He's got a kind of self-respect that induces respect in others,"
John Wingfield, Sr. was the proprietor of the store, but the human world
of the store began to feel a kind of proprietorship in Jack, while its
guardian interest in helping him in his mistakes was common enough to be
And the callouses were gone from his hands. There was no longer a
dividing line between tan and white on his forehead. No outward symbol of
the desert clung to his person except the moments of the far vision of
distances in his eyes. Superficially, on the Avenue he would have been
taken for one of his caste.
But tossing a cowpuncher hat out of a window into Broadway was easier
than tossing a thing out of mind. He sat up nights to write to Mary.
Letter after letter he poured out as a diary of his experiences in his
new world, letters breathing a pupil's hope of learning and all that
pupil's sorry vagaries. No answer ever came, not even to the most
appealing ones about his most adventurous conflicts with the dinosaur.
He felt the chagrin of the army of unpublished novelists who lay their
hearts bare on the stone slab of the dissectors in a publisher's
office. He might as well have thrown all he wrote into the
waste-basket so far as any result was concerned; yet he kept on
writing as if it were his glorious duty to report to her as his
superior. But he found a more responsive correspondent in Jim Galway;
and this was the letter he received:
"The whole valley is not yet sprouting with dates as you said it would
from your thinking of us. Maybe we didn't use the right seed. Your ranch
is still called Jack's ranch, and Firio is doing his best and about the
best I ever knew in an Indian. But as you always said, Indians are mostly
human, like the rest of us, barring a sort of born twist in their
intellect for which they aren't responsible. You see, Jack, a lot of your
sayings still live with us, though you are gone.
"Well, Firio keeps your P.D. exercised and won't let anybody but himself
ride him. He says you will need him. For you can't budge the stubborn
little cuss. He declares you're coming back. When we tell him you're
worth twenty millions and he's plumb full of primitive foolishness and
general ignorance of the outside world, he says, '_Si_, he will come
back!' like some heathen oracle that's strong on repetition and weak on
"Of course you know about the new addition to our citizenship, John
Prather, that double of yours that you didn't happen to meet. And I
might mention that by this time, after we've seen so much of him, we
agree with the Doge that he doesn't look a bit like you. Well, he's
making a fine ranch across the road from you, but hiring all his work
done, which ain't exactly according to Little Rivers custom, as you
will remember. The Doge sets a lot by him, though I can't see how
there's much in common between them. This fellow's not full of all that
kind of scholastic persiflage that you are, Jack. He's so all-fired
practical his joints would crack if he wasn't so oily; and he's up to
old man Lefferts' pretty often.
"He goes to Phoenix a good deal. When I was there the other day I heard
he was circulating around among the politicians in his quiet way, and I
saw him and Pete Leddy hobnobbing together. I didn't like that. But when
I told the Doge of it he said he guessed there wasn't much real
hobnobbing. The Doge is certainly strong for Prather. Another thing I
heard was that, after all, old man Lefferts' two partners aren't dead,
and Prather's been hunting them up.
"Come to think of it, I didn't tell you that Pete Leddy and some of the
gang have been back in town. Of course we have every confidence in the
Doge, he's been so fair to this community. Still, some of us can't help
having our private suspicions, considering what a lot we have at stake.
And four or five of us was talking the other night, when suddenly we all
agreed how you'd shine in any trouble, and if there was going to be
any--not that there is--we wished you were here.
"Well, Jack, the pass hasn't changed and the sunsets are just as grand as
ever and the air just as free. The pass won't have changed and the
sunsets will be doing business at the old stand when the antiquaries are
digging up the remote civilization of Little Rivers and putting it in a
high scale because they ran across a pot of Mrs. Galway's jam in the
ruins--the same hifalutin compliment being your own when you were
nursing your wound, as you will remember.
"Here's wishing you luck from the whole town, way out here in nowhere.
"As ever yours,
"James R. Galway.
"P.S. Belvy Smith wants to know if you won't write just one story. I told
her you were too busy for such nonsense now. But she refuses to believe
it. She says being busy doesn't matter to you. She says the stories just
pop out. So I transmit her request. J.R.G."
"P.D. waiting!" breathed Jack. "No changing Firio! He is like the pass. I
wonder how Wrath of God and Jag Ear are!"
He wrote a story for Belvy. He wrote to Firio in resolute assertion that
he would never require the services of P.D. again, when he knew that
Back to Full Books