The Sky Pilot
Part 2 out of 3
"Not she. She can make her own dresses, moccasins and leggings.
She can cook and wash--that is, when she feels in the mood. And
she knows all about the birds and beasts and flowers and that sort
of thing, but--education! Why, she is hardly civilized!"
"What a shame!" I said. "How old is she?"
"Oh, a mere child; fourteen or fifteen, I imagine; but a woman in
"And what does her father say to all this? Can he control her?"
"Control!" said The Duke, in utter astonishment. "Why, bless your
soul, nothing in heaven or earth could control HER. Wait till you
see her stand with her proud little head thrown back, giving orders
to Joe, and you will never again connect the idea of control with
Gwen. She might be a princess for the pride of her. I've seen
some, too, in my day, but none to touch her for sheer, imperial
pride, little Lucifer that she is."
"And how does her father stand her nonsense?" I asked, for I
confess I was not much taken with the picture The Duke had drawn.
"Her father simply follows behind her and adores, as do all things
that come near her, down, or up, perhaps, to her two dogs--Wolf and
Loo--for either of which she would readily die if need be. Still,"
he added, after a pause, "it IS a shame, as you say. She ought to
know something of the refinements of civilization, to which, after
all, she belongs, and from which none of us can hope to escape."
The Duke was silent for a few moments, and then added, with some
hesitation: "Then, too, she is quite a pagan; never saw a prayer-
book, you know."
And so it came about, chiefly through The Duke's influence, I
imagine, that I was engaged by the Old Timer to go up to his ranch
every week and teach his daughter something of the elementaries of
a lady's education.
My introduction was ominous of the many things I was to suffer of
that same young maiden before I had finished my course with her.
The Old Timer had given careful directions as to the trail that
would lead me to the canyon where he was to meet me. Up the Swan
went the trail, winding ever downward into deeper and narrower
coulees and up to higher open sunlit slopes, till suddenly it
settled into a valley which began with great width and narrowed to
a canyon whose rocky sides were dressed out with shrubs and
trailing vines and wet with trickling rivulets from the numerous
springs that oozed and gushed from the black, glistening rocks.
This canyon was an eerie place of which ghostly tales were told
from the old Blackfeet times. And to this day no Blackfoot will
dare to pass through this black-walled, oozy, glistening canyon
after the moon has passed the western lip. But in the warm light
of broad day the canyon was a good enough place; cool and sweet,
and I lingered through, waiting for the Old Timer, who failed to
appear till the shadows began to darken its western black sides.
Out of the mouth of the canyon the trail climbed to a wide stretch
of prairie that swept up over soft hills to the left and down to
the bright gleaming waters of the Devil's Lake on the right. In
the sunlight the lake lay like a gem radiant with many colors, the
far side black in the shadow of the crowding pines, then in the
middle deep, blue and purple, and nearer, many shades of emerald
that ran quite to the white, sandy beach. Right in front stood the
ranch buildings, upon a slight rising ground and surrounded by a
sturdy palisade of upright pointed poles. This was the castle of
the princess. I rode up to the open gate, then turned and stood to
look down upon the marvellous lake shining and shimmering with its
many radiant colors. Suddenly there was an awful roar, my pony
shot round upon his hind legs after his beastly cayuse manner,
deposited me sitting upon the ground and fled down the trail,
pursued by two huge dogs that brushed past me as I fell. I was
aroused from my amazement by a peal of laughter, shrill but full of
music. Turning, I saw my pupil, as I guessed, standing at the head
of a most beautiful pinto (spotted) pony with a heavy cattle quirt
in her hand. I scrambled to my feet and said, somewhat angrily, I
"What are you laughing at? Why don't you call back your dogs?
They will chase my pony beyond all reach."
She lifted her little head, shook back her masses of brown-red
hair, looked at me as if I were quite beneath contempt and said:
"No, they will kill him."
"Then," said I, for I was very angry, "I will kill them," pulling
at the revolver in my belt.
"Then," she said, and for the first time I noticed her eyes blue-
black, with gray rims, "I will kill you," and she whipped out an
ugly-looking revolver. From her face I had no doubt that she would
not hesitate to do as she had said. I changed my tactics, for I
was anxious about my pony, and said, with my best smile:
"Can't you call them back? Won't they obey you?"
Her face changed in a moment.
"Is it your pony? Do you love him very much?"
"Dearly!" I said, persuading myself of a sudden affection for the
cranky little brute.
She sprang upon her pinto and set off down the trail. The pony
was now coursing up and down the slopes, doubling like a hare,
instinctively avoiding the canyon where he would be cornered. He
was mad with terror at the huge brutes that were silently but with
awful and sure swiftness running him down.
The girl on the pinto whistled shrilly, and called to her dogs:
"Down, Wolf! Back, Loo!" but, running low, with long, stretched
bodies, they heeded not, but sped on, ever gaining upon the pony
that now circled toward the pinto. As they drew near in their
circling, the girl urged her pinto to meet them, loosening her
lariat as she went. As the pony neared the pinto he slackened his
speed; immediately the nearer dog gathered herself in two short
jumps and sprang for the pony's throat. But, even as she sprang,
the lariat whirled round the girl's head and fell swift and sure
about the dog's neck, and next moment she lay choking upon the
prairie. Her mate paused, looked back, and gave up the chase. But
dire vengeance overtook them, for, like one possessed, the girl
fell upon them with her quirt and beat them one after the other
till, in pity for the brutes, I interposed.
"They shall do as I say or I shall kill them! I shall kill them!"
she cried, raging and stamping.
"Better shoot them," I suggested, pulling out my pistol.
Immediately she flung herself upon the one that moaned and whined
at her feet, crying:
"If you dare! If you dare!" Then she burst into passionate
sobbing. "You bad Loo! You bad, dear old Loo! But you WERE bad--
you KNOW you were bad!" and so she went on with her arms about
Loo's neck till Loo, whining and quivering with love and delight,
threatened to go quite mad, and Wolf, standing majestically near,
broke into short howls of impatience for his turn of caressing.
They made a strange group, those three wild things, equally fierce
and passionate in hate and in love.
Suddenly the girl remembered me, and standing up she said, half
"They always obey ME. They are MINE, but they kill any strange
thing that comes in through the gate. They are allowed to."
"It is a pleasant whim."
"I mean, isn't that dangerous to strangers?"
"Oh, no one ever comes alone, except The Duke. And they keep off
"The Duke comes, does he?"
"Yes!" and her eyes lit up. "He is my friend. He calls me his
'princess,' and he teaches me to talk and tells me stories--oh,
I looked in wonder at her face, so gentle, so girlish, and tried to
think back to the picture of the girl who a few moments before had
so coolly threatened to shoot me and had so furiously beaten her
I kept her talking of The Duke as we walked back to the gate,
watching her face the while. It was not beautiful; it was too
thin, and the mouth was too large. But the teeth were good, and
the eyes, blue-black with gray rims, looked straight at you; true
eyes and brave, whether in love or in war. Her hair was her glory.
Red it was, in spite of Hi's denial, but of such marvellous,
indescribable shade that in certain lights, as she rode over the
prairie, it streamed behind her like a purple banner. A most
confusing and bewildering color, but quite in keeping with the
nature of the owner.
She gave her pinto to Joe and, standing at the door, welcomed me
with a dignity and graciousness that made me think that The Duke
was not far wrong when he named her "Princess."
The door opened upon the main or living room. It was a long,
apartment, with low ceiling and walls of hewn logs chinked and
plastered and all beautifully whitewashed and clean. The tables,
chairs and benches were all home-made. On the floor were
magnificent skins of wolf, bear, musk ox and mountain goat. The
walls were decorated with heads and horns of deer and mountain
sheep, eagles' wings and a beautiful breast of a loon, which Gwen
had shot and of which she was very proud. At one end of the room a
huge stone fireplace stood radiant in its summer decorations of
ferns and grasses and wild-flowers. At the other end a door opened
into another room, smaller and richly furnished with relics of
Everything was clean and well kept. Every nook, shelf and corner
was decked with flowers and ferns from the canyon.
A strange house it was, full of curious contrasts, but it fitted
this quaint child that welcomed me with such gracious courtesy.
GWEN'S FIRST PRAYERS
It was with hesitation, almost with fear, that I began with Gwen;
but even had I been able to foresee the endless series of
exasperations through which she was destined to conduct me, still
would I have undertaken my task. For the child, with all her
wilfulness, her tempers and her pride, made me, as she did all
others, her willing slave.
Her lessons went on, brilliantly or not at all, according to her
sweet will. She learned to read with extraordinary rapidity, for
she was eager to know more of that great world of which The Duke
had told her such thrilling tales. Writing she abhorred. She had
no one to write to. Why should she cramp her fingers over these
crooked little marks? But she mastered with hardly a struggle the
mysteries of figures, for she would have to sell her cattle, and
"dad doesn't know when they are cheating." Her ideas of education
were purely utilitarian, and what did not appear immediately useful
she refused to trifle with. And so all through the following long
winter she vexed my righteous soul with her wilfulness and pride.
An appeal to her father was idle. She would wind her long, thin
arms about his neck and let her waving red hair float over him
until the old man was quite helpless to exert authority. The Duke
could do most with her. To please him she would struggle with her
crooked letters for an hour at a time, but even his influence and
authority had its limits.
"Must I?" she said one day, in answer to a demand of his for more
faithful study; "must I?" And throwing up her proud little head,
and shaking back with a trick she had her streaming red hair, she
looked straight at him from her blue-gray eyes and asked the
monosyllabic question, "Why?" And The Duke looked back at her with
his slight smile for a few moments and then said in cold, even
"I really don't know why," and turned his back on her. Immediately
she sprang at him, shook him by the arm, and, quivering with
"You are not to speak to me like that, and you are not to turn your
back that way!"
"What a little princess it is," he said admiringly, "and what a
time she will give herself some day!" Then he added, smiling
sadly: "Was I rude, Gwen? Then I am sorry." Her rage was gone,
and she looked as if she could have held him by the feet. As it
was, too proud to show her feelings, she just looked at him with
softening eyes, and then sat down to the work she had refused.
This was after the advent of The Pilot at Swan Creek, and, as The
Duke rode home with me that night, after long musing he said with
hesitation: "She ought to have some religion, poor child; she will
grow up a perfect little devil. The Pilot might be of service if
you could bring him up. Women need that sort of thing; it refines,
"Would she have him?" I asked.
"Question," he replied, doubtfully. "You might suggest it."
Which I did, introducing somewhat clumsily, I fear, The Duke's
"The Duke says he is to make me good!" she cried. "I won't have
him, I hate him and you too!" And for that day she disdained all
lessons, and when The Duke next appeared she greeted him with the
exclamation, "I won't have your old Pilot, and I don't want to be
good, and--and--you think he's no good yourself," at which the Duke
opened his eyes.
"How do you know? I never said so!"
"You laughed at him to dad one day."
"Did I?" said The Duke, gravely. "Then I hasten to assure, you
that I have changed my mind. He is a good, brave man."
"He falls off his horse," she said, with contempt.
"I rather think he sticks on now," replied The Duke, repressing a
"Besides," she went on, "he's just a kid; Bill said so."
"Well, he might be more ancient," acknowledged The Duke, "but in
that he is steadily improving."
"Anyway," with an air of finality, "he is not to come here."
But he did come, and under her own escort, one threatening August
"I found him in the creek," she announced, with defiant
shamefacedness, marching in The Pilot half drowned.
"I think I could have crossed," he said, apologetically, "for Louis
was getting on his feet again."
"No, you wouldn't," she protested. "You would have been down into
the canyon by now, and you ought to be thankful."
"So I am," he hastened to say, "very! But," he added, unwilling to
give up his contention, "I have crossed the Swan before."
"Not when it was in flood."
"Yes, when it was in flood, higher than now."
"Not where the banks are rocky."
"No-o!" he hesitated.
"There, then, you WOULD have been drowned but for my lariat!" she
To this he doubtfully assented.
They were much alike, in high temper, in enthusiasm, in vivid
imagination, and in sensitive feeling. When the Old Timer came in
Gwen triumphantly introduced The Pilot as having been rescued from
a watery grave by her lariat, and again they fought out the
possibilities of drowning and of escape till Gwen almost lost her
temper, and was appeased only by the most profuse expressions of
gratitude on the part of The Pilot for her timely assistance. The
Old Timer was perplexed. He was afraid to offend Gwen and yet
unwilling to be cordial to her guest. The Pilot was quick to feel
this, and, soon after tea, rose to go. Gwen's disappointment
showed in her face.
"Ask him to stay, dad," she said, in a whisper. But the half-
hearted invitation acted like a spur, and The Pilot was determined
to set off.
"There's a bad storm coming," she said; "and besides," she added,
triumphantly "you can't cross the Swan."
This settled it, and the most earnest prayers of the Old Timer
could not have held him back.
We all went down to see him cross, Gwen leading her pinto. The
Swan was far over its banks, and in the middle running swift and
strong. Louis snorted, refused and finally plunged. Bravely he
swam, till the swift-running water struck him, and over he went on
his side, throwing his rider into the water. But The Pilot kept
his head, and, holding by the stirrups, paddled along by Louis'
side. When they were half-way across Louis saw that he had no
chance of making the landing; so, like a sensible horse, he turned
and made for the shore. Here, too, the banks were high, and the
pony began to grow discouraged.
"Let him float down further!" shrieked Gwen, in anxious excitement;
and, urging her pinto down the bank, she coaxed the struggling pony
down the stream till opposite a shelf of rock level with the high
water. Then she threw her lariat, and, catching Louis about the
neck and the horn of his saddle, she held taut, till, half drowned,
he scrambled up the bank, dragging The Pilot with him.
"Oh, I'm so glad!" she said, almost tearfully. "You see, you
couldn't get across."
The Pilot staggered to his feet, took a step toward her, gasped
"I can!" and pitched headlong. With a little cry she flew to him,
and turned him over on his back. In a few moments he revived, sat
up, and looked about stupidly.
"Where's Louis?" he said, with his face toward the swollen stream.
"Safe enough," she answered; "but you must come in, the rain is
just going to pour."
But The Pilot seemed possessed.
"No, I'm going across," he said, rising.
Gwen was greatly distressed.
"But your poor horse," she said, cleverly changing her ground; "he
is quite tired out."
The Old Timer now joined earnestly in urging him to stay till the
storm was past. So, with a final look at the stream, The Pilot
turned toward the house.
Of course I knew what would happen. Before the evening was over he
had captured the household. The moment he appeared with dry things
on he ran to the organ, that had stood for ten years closed and
silent, opened it and began to play. As he played and sang song
after song, the Old Timer's eyes began to glisten under his shaggy
brows. But when he dropped into the exquisite Irish melody, "Oft
in the Stilly Night," the old man drew a hard breath and groaned
out to me:
"It was her mother's song," and from that time The Pilot had him
fast. It was easy to pass to the old hymn, "Nearer, My God, to
Thee," and then The Pilot said simply, "May we have prayers?" He
looked at Gwen, but she gazed blankly at him and then at her
"What does he say, dad?"
It was pitiful to see the old man's face grow slowly red under the
deep tan, as he said:
"You may, sir. There's been none here for many years, and the
worse for us." He rose slowly, went into the inner room and
returned with a Bible.
"It's her mother's," he said, in a voice deep with emotion. "I put
it in her trunk the day I laid her out yonder under the pines."
The Pilot, without looking at him, rose and reverently took the
book in both his hands and said gently:
"It was a sad day for you, but for her--" He paused. "You did not
grudge it to her?"
"Not now, but then, yes! I wanted her, we needed her." The Old
Timer's tears were flowing.
The Pilot put his hand caressingly upon the old man's shoulder as
if he had been his father, and said in his clear, sweet voice,
"Some day you will go to her."
Upon this scene poor Gwen gazed with eyes wide open with amazement
and a kind of fear. She had never seen her father weep since the
awful day that she could never forget, when he had knelt in dumb
agony beside the bed on which her mother lay white and still; nor
would he heed her till, climbing up, she tried to make her mother
waken and hear her cries. Then he had caught her up in his arms,
pressing her with tears and great sobs to his heart. To-night she
seemed to feel that something was wrong. She went and stood by her
father, and, stroking his gray hair kindly, she said:
"What is he saying, daddy? Is he making you cry?" She looked at
The Pilot defiantly.
"No, no, child," said the old man, hastily, "sit here and listen."
And while the storm raved outside we three sat listening to that
ancient story of love ineffable. And, as the words fell like
sweet music upon our ears, the old man sat with eyes that looked
far away, while the child listened with devouring eagerness.
"Is it a fairy tale, daddy?" she asked, as The Pilot paused. "It
isn't true, is it?" and her voice had a pleading note hard for the
old man to bear.
"Yes, yes, my child," said he, brokenly. "God forgive me!"
"Of course it's true," said The Pilot, quickly. "I'll read it all
to you to-morrow. It's a beautiful story!"
"No," she said, imperiously, "to-night. Read it now! Go on!" she
said, stamping her foot, "don't you hear me?"
The Pilot gazed in surprise at her, and then turning to the old
The Old Timer simply nodded and the reading went on. Those were
not my best days, and the faith of my childhood was not as it had
been; but, as The Pilot carried us through those matchless scenes
of self-forgetting love and service the rapt wonder in the child's
face as she listened, the appeal in her voice as, now to her
father, and now to me, she cried: "Is THAT true, too? Is it ALL
true?" made it impossible for me to hesitate in my answer. And I
was glad to find it easy to give my firm adherence to the truth of
all that tale of wonder. And, as more and more it grew upon The
Pilot that the story he was reading, so old to him and to all he
had ever met, was new to one in that listening group, his face
began to glow and his eyes to blaze, and he saw and showed me
things that night I had never seen before, nor have I seen them
since. The great figure of the Gospels lived, moved before our
eyes. We saw Him bend to touch the blind, we heard Him speak His
marvellous teaching, we felt the throbbing excitement of the crowds
that pressed against Him.
Suddenly The Pilot stopped, turned over the leaves and began again:
"And He led them out as far as to Bethany. And He lifted up His
hands and blessed them. And it came to pass as He blessed them He
was parted from them and a cloud received Him out of their sight."
There was silence for some minutes, then Gwen said:
"Where did He go?"
"Up into Heaven," answered The Pilot, simply.
"That's where mother is," she said to her father, who nodded in
"Does He know?" she asked. The old man looked distressed.
"Of course He does," said The Pilot, "and she sees Him all the
"Oh, daddy!" she cried, "isn't that good?"
But the old man only hid his face in his hands and groaned.
"Yes," went on The Pilot, "and He sees us, too, and hears us speak,
and knows our thoughts."
Again the look of wonder and fear came into her eyes, but she said
no word. The experiences of the evening had made the world new to
her. It could never be the same to her again. It gave me a queer
feeling to see her, when we three kneeled to pray, stand helplessly
looking on, not knowing what to do, then sink beside her father,
and, winding her arms about his neck, cling to him as the words of
prayer were spoken into the ear of Him whom no man can see, but who
we believe is near to all that call upon Him.
Those were Gwen's first "prayers," and in them Gwen's part was
small, for fear and wonder filled her heart; but the day was to
come, and all too soon, when she should have to pour out her soul
with strong crying and tears. That day came and passed, but the
story of it is not to be told here.
Gwen was undoubtedly wild and, as The Sky Pilot said, wilful and
wicked. Even Bronco Bill and Hi Kendal would say so, without, of
course, abating one jot of their admiration for her. For fourteen
years she had lived chiefly with wild things. The cattle on the
range, wild as deer, the coyotes, the jack-rabbits and the timber
wolves were her mates and her instructors. From these she learned
her wild ways. The rolling prairie of the Foothill country was
her home. She loved it and all things that moved upon it with
passionate love, the only kind she was capable of. And all summer
long she spent her days riding up and down the range alone, or with
her father, or with Joe, or, best of all, with The Duke, her hero
and her friend. So she grew up strong, wholesome and self-reliant,
fearing nothing alive and as untamed as a yearling range colt.
She was not beautiful. The winds and sun had left her no complexion
to speak of, but the glory of her red hair, gold-red, with purple
sheen, nothing could tarnish. Her eyes, too, deep blue with rims of
gray, that flashed with the glint of steel or shone with melting
light as of the stars, according to her mood--those Irish, warm,
deep eyes of hers were worth a man's looking at.
Of course, all spoiled her. Ponka and her son Joe grovelled in
abjectest adoration, while her father and all who came within touch
of her simply did her will. Even The Duke, who loved her better
than anything else, yielded lazy, admiring homage to his Little
Princess, and certainly, when she stood straight up with her proud
little gold-crowned head thrown back, flashing forth wrath or
issuing imperious commands, she looked a princess, all of her.
It was a great day and a good day for her when she fished The Sky
Pilot out of the Swan and brought him home, and the night of Gwen's
first "prayers," when she heard for the first time the story of the
Man of Nazareth, was the best of all her nights up to that time.
All through the winter, under The Pilot's guidance, she, with her
father, the Old Timer, listening near, went over and over that
story so old now to many, but ever becoming new, till a whole new
world of mysterious Powers and Presences lay open to her imagination
and became the home of great realities. She was rich in imagination
and, when The Pilot read Bunyan's immortal poem, her mother's old
"Pilgrim's Progress," she moved and lived beside the hero of that
tale, backing him up in his fights and consumed with anxiety over
his many impending perils, till she had him safely across the river
and delivered into the charge of the shining ones.
The Pilot himself, too, was a new and wholesome experience. He was
the first thing she had yet encountered that refused submission,
and the first human being that had failed to fall down and worship.
There was something in him that would not ALWAYS yield, and,
indeed, her pride and her imperious tempers he met with surprise
and sometimes with a pity that verged toward contempt. With this
she was not well pleased and not infrequently she broke forth upon
him. One of these outbursts is stamped upon my mind, not only
because of its unusual violence, but chiefly because of the events
which followed. The original cause of her rage was some trifling
misdeed of the unfortunate Joe; but when I came upon the scene it
was The Pilot who was occupying her attention. The expression of
surprise and pity on his face appeared to stir her up.
"How dare you look at me like that?" she cried.
"How very extraordinary that you can't keep hold of yourself
better!" he answered.
"I can!" she stamped, "and I shall do as I like!"
"It is a great pity," he said, with provoking calm, "and besides,
it is weak and silly." His words were unfortunate.
"Weak!" she gasped, when her breath came back to her. "Weak!"
"Yes," he said, "very weak and childish."
Then she could have cheerfully put him to a slow and cruel death.
When she had recovered a little she cried vehemently:
"I'm not weak! I'm strong! I'm stronger than you are! I'm strong
I do not suppose she meant the insinuation; at any rate The Pilot
ignored it and went on.
"You're not strong enough to keep your temper down." And then, as
she had no reply ready, he went on, "And really, Gwen, it is not
right. You must not go on in this way."
Again his words were unfortunate.
"MUST NOT!" she cried, adding an inch to her height. "Who says
"God!" was the simple, short answer.
She was greatly taken back, and gave a quick glance over her
shoulder as if to see Him, who would dare to say MUST NOT to her;
but, recovering, she answered sullenly:
"I don't care!"
"Don't care for God?" The Pilot's voice was quiet and solemn, but
something in his manner angered her, and she blazed forth again.
"I don't care for anyone, and I SHALL do as I like."
The Pilot looked at her sadly for a moment, and then said slowly:
"Some day, Gwen, you will not be able to do as you like."
I remember well the settled defiance in her tone and manner as she
took a step nearer him and answered in a voice trembling with
"Listen! I have always done as I like, and I shall do as I like
till I die!" And she rushed forth from the house and down toward
the canyon, her refuge from all disturbing things, and chiefly from
I could not shake off the impression her words made upon me.
"Pretty direct, that," I said to The Pilot, as we rode away. "The
declaration may be philosophically correct, but it rings uncommonly
like a challenge to the Almighty. Throws down the gauntlet, so to
But The Pilot only said, "Don't! How can you?"
Within a week her challenge was accepted, and how fiercely and how
gallantly did she struggle to make it good!
It was The Duke that brought me the news, and as he told me the
story his gay, careless self-command for once was gone. For in the
gloom of the canyon where he overtook me I could see his face
gleaming out ghastly white, and even his iron nerve could not keep
the tremor from his voice.
"I've just sent up the doctor," was his answer to my greeting. "I
looked for you last night, couldn't find you, and so rode off to
"What's up?" I said, with fear in my heart, for no light thing
moved The Duke.
"Haven't you heard? It's Gwen," he said, and the next minute or
two he gave to Jingo, who was indulging in a series of unexpected
plunges. When Jingo was brought down, The Duke was master of
himself and told his tale with careful self-control.
Gwen, on her father's buckskin bronco, had gone with The Duke to
the big plain above the cut-bank where Joe was herding the cattle.
The day was hot and a storm was in the air. They found Joe riding
up and down, singing to keep the cattle quiet, but having a hard
time to hold the bunch from breaking. While The Duke was riding
around the far side of the bunch, a cry from Gwen arrested his
attention. Joe was in trouble. His horse, a half-broken cayuse,
had stumbled into a badger-hole and had bolted, leaving Joe to the
mercy of the cattle. At once they began to sniff suspiciously at
this phenomenon, a man on foot, and to follow cautiously on his
track. Joe kept his head and walked slowly out, till all at once a
young cow began to bawl and to paw the ground. In another minute
one, and then another of the cattle began to toss their heads and
bunch and bellow till the whole herd of two hundred were after Joe.
Then Joe lost his head and ran. Immediately the whole herd broke
into a thundering gallop with heads and tails aloft and horns
rattling like the loading of a regiment of rifles.
"Two more minutes," said The Duke, "would have done for Joe, for I
could never have reached him; but, in spite of my most frantic
warnings and signalings, right into the face of that mad,
bellowing, thundering mass of steers rode that little girl. Nerve!
I have some myself, but I couldn't have done it. She swung her
horse round Joe and sailed out with him, with the herd bellowing at
the tail of her bronco. I've seen some cavalry things in my day,
but for sheer cool bravery nothing touches that."
"How did it end? Did they run them down?" I asked, with terror at
such a result.
"No, they crowded her toward the cut-bank, and she was edging them
off and was almost past, when they came to a place where the bank
bit in, and her iron-mouthed brute wouldn't swerve, but went
pounding on, broke through, plunged; she couldn't spring free
because of Joe, and pitched headlong over the bank, while the
cattle went thundering past. I flung myself off Jingo and slid
down somehow into the sand, thirty feet below. Here was Joe safe
enough, but the bronco lay with a broken leg, and half under him
was Gwen. She hardly knew she was hurt, but waved her hand to me
and cried out, 'Wasn't that a race? I couldn't swing this hard-
headed brute. Get me out.' But even as she spoke the light faded
from her eyes, she stretched out her hands to me, saying faintly,
'Oh, Duke,' and lay back white and still. We put a bullet into the
buckskin's head, and carried her home in our jackets, and there she
lies without a sound from her poor, white lips."
The Duke was badly cut up. I had never seen him show any sign of
grief before, but as he finished the story he stood ghastly and
shaking. He read my surprise in my face and said:
"Look here, old chap, don't think me quite a fool. You can't know
what that little girl has done for me these years. Her trust in
me--it is extraordinary how utterly she trusts me--somehow held me
up to my best and back from perdition. It is the one bright spot
in my life in this blessed country. Everyone else thinks me a
pleasant or unpleasant kind of fiend."
I protested rather faintly.
"Oh, don't worry your conscience," he answered, with a slight
return of his old smile, "a fuller knowledge would only justify the
opinion." Then, after a pause, he added: "But if Gwen goes, I must
pull out, I could not stand it."
As we rode up, the doctor came out.
"Well, what do you think?" asked The Duke.
"Can't say yet," replied the old doctor, gruff with long army
practice, "bad enough. Good night."
But The Duke's hand fell upon his shoulder with a grip that must
have got to the bone, and in a husky voice he asked:
"Will she live?"
The doctor squirmed, but could not shake off that crushing grip.
"Here, you young tiger, let go! What do you think I am made of?"
he cried, angrily. "I didn't suppose I was coming to a bear's den,
or I should have brought a gun."
It was only by the most complete apology that The Duke could
mollify the old doctor sufficiently to get his opinion.
"No, she will not die! Great bit of stuff! Better she should die,
perhaps! But can't say yet for two weeks. Now remember," he added
sharply, looking into The Duke's woe-stricken face, "her spirits
must be kept up. I have lied most fully and cheerfully to them
inside; you must do the same," and the doctor strode away, calling
"Joe! Here, Joe! Where is he gone? Joe, I say! Extraordinary
selection Providence makes at times; we could have spared that lazy
half-breed with pleasure! Joe! Oh, here you are! Where in
thunder--" But here the doctor stopped abruptly. The agony in the
dark face before him was too much even for the bluff doctor.
Straight and stiff Joe stood by the horse's head till the doctor
had mounted, then with a great effort he said:
"Little miss, she go dead?"
"Dead!" called out the doctor, glancing at the open window. "Why,
bless your old copper carcass, no! Gwen will show you yet how to
rope a steer."
Joe took a step nearer, and lowering his tone said:
"You speak me true? Me man, Me no papoose." The piercing black
eyes searched the doctor's face. The doctor hesitated a moment,
and then, with an air of great candor, said cheerily:
"That's all right, Joe. Miss Gwen will cut circles round your old
cayuse yet. But remember," and the doctor was very impressive,
"you must make her laugh every day."
Joe folded his arms across his breast and stood like a statue till
the doctor rode away; then turning to us he grunted out:
"Him good man, eh?"
"Good man," answered The Duke, adding, "but remember, Joe, what he
told you to do. Must make her laugh every day."
Poor Joe! Humor was not his forte, and his attempt in this
direction in the weeks that followed would have been humorous were
they not so pathetic. How I did my part I cannot tell. Those
weeks are to me now like the memory of an ugly nightmare. The
ghostly old man moving out and in of his little daughter's room
in useless, dumb agony; Ponka's woe-stricken Indian face; Joe's
extraordinary and unusual but loyal attempts at fun-making
grotesquely sad, and The Duke's unvarying and invincible
cheeriness; these furnish light and shade for the picture my
memory brings me of Gwen in those days.
For the first two weeks she was simply heroic. She bore her pain
without a groan, submitted to the imprisonment which was harder
than pain with angelic patience. Joe, The Duke and I carried out
our instructions with careful exactness to the letter. She never
doubted, and we never let her doubt but that in a few weeks she
would be on the pinto's back again and after the cattle. She made
us pass our word for this till it seemed as if she must have read
the falsehoods on our brows.
"To lie cheerfully with her eyes upon one's face calls for more
than I possess," said The Duke one day. "The doctor should supply
us tonics. It is an arduous task."
And she believed us absolutely, and made plans for the fall "round-
up," and for hunts and rides till one's heart grew sick. As to the
ethical problem involved, I decline to express an opinion, but we
had no need to wait for our punishment. Her trust in us, her eager
and confident expectation of the return of her happy, free, outdoor
life; these brought to us, who knew how vain they were, their own
adequate punishment for every false assurance we gave. And how
bright and brave she was those first days! How resolute to get
back to the world of air and light outside!
But she had need of all her brightness and courage and resolution
before she was done with her long fight.
Gwen's hope and bright courage, in spite of all her pain, were
wonderful to witness. But all this cheery hope and courage and
patience snuffed out as a candle, leaving noisome darkness to
settle down in that sick-room from the day of the doctor's
The verdict was clear and final. The old doctor, who loved Gwen as
his own, was inclined to hope against hope, but Fawcett, the clever
young doctor from the distant town, was positive in his opinion.
The scene is clear to me now, after many years. We three stood in
the outer room; The Duke and her father were with Gwen. So earnest
was the discussion that none of us heard the door open just as
young Fawcett was saying in incisive tones:
"No! I can see no hope. The child can never walk again."
There was a cry behind us.
"What! Never walk again! It's a lie!" There stood the Old Timer,
white, fierce, shaking.
"Hush!" said the old doctor, pointing at the open door. He was too
late. Even as he spoke, there came from the inner room a wild,
unearthly cry as of some dying thing and, as we stood gazing at one
another with awe-stricken faces, we heard Gwen's voice as in quick,
"Daddy! daddy! come! What do they say? Tell me, daddy. It is not
true! It is not true! Look at me, daddy!"
She pulled up her father's haggard face from the bed.
"Oh, daddy, daddy, you know it's true. Never walk again!"
She turned with a pitiful cry to The Duke, who stood white and
stiff with arms drawn tight across his breast on the other side of
"Oh, Duke, did you hear them? You told me to be brave, and I tried
not to cry when they hurt me. But I can't be brave! Can I, Duke?
Oh, Duke! Never to ride again!"
She stretched out her hands to him. But The Duke, leaning over her
and holding her hands fast in his, could only say brokenly over and
over: "Don't, Gwen! Don't, Gwen dear!"
But the pitiful, pleading voice went on.
"Oh, Duke! Must I always lie here? Must, I? Why must I?"
"God knows," answered The Duke bitterly, under his breath, "I
She caught at the word.
"Does He?" she cried, eagerly. Then she paused suddenly, turned to
me and said: "Do you remember he said some day I could not do as I
I was puzzled.
"The Pilot," she cried, impatiently, "don't you remember? And I
said I should do as I liked till I died."
I nodded my head and said: "But you know you didn't mean it."
"But I did, and I do," she cried, with passionate vehemence, "and I
will do as I like! I will not lie here! I will ride! I will! I
will! I will!" and she struggled up, clenched her fists, and sank
back faint and weak. It was not a pleasant sight, but gruesome.
Her rage against that Unseen Omnipotence was so defiant and so
Those were dreadful weeks to Gwen and to all about her. The
constant pain could not break her proud spirit; she shed no tears;
but she fretted and chafed and grew more imperiously exacting every
day. Ponka and Joe she drove like a slave master, and even her
father, when he could not understand her wishes, she impatiently
banished from her room. Only The Duke could please or bring her
any cheer, and even The Duke began to feel that the day was not far
off when he, too, would fail, and the thought made him despair.
Her pain was hard to bear, but harder than the pain was her longing
for the open air and the free, flower-strewn, breeze-swept prairie.
But most pitiful of all were the days when, in her utter weariness
and uncontrollable unrest, she would pray to be taken down into the
"Oh, it is so cool and shady," she would plead, "and the flowers up
in the rocks and the vines and things are all so lovely. I am
always better there. I know I should be better," till The Duke
would be distracted and would come to me and wonder what the end
One day, when the strain had been more terrible than usual, The
Duke rode down to me and said:
"Look here, this thing can't go on. Where is The Pilot gone? Why
doesn't he stay where he belongs? I wish to Heaven he would get
through with his absurd rambling."
"He's gone where he was sent," I replied shortly. "You don't set
much store by him when he does come round. He is gone on an
exploring trip through the Dog Lake country. He'll be back by the
end of next week."
"I say, bring him up, for Heaven's sake," said The Duke, "he may be
of some use, and anyway it will be a new face for her, poor child."
Then he added, rather penitently: "I fear this thing is getting on
to my nerves. She almost drove me out to-day. Don't lay it up
against me, old chap."
It was a new thing to hear The Duke confess his need of any man,
much less penitence for a fault. I felt my eyes growing dim, but I
"You be hanged! I'll bring The Pilot up when he comes."
It was wonderful how we had all come to confide in The Pilot during
his year of missionary work among us. Somehow the cowboy's name of
"Sky Pilot" seemed to express better than anything else the place
he held with us. Certain it is, that when, in their dark hours,
any of the fellows felt in need of help to strike the "upward
trail," they went to The Pilot; and so the name first given in
chaff came to be the name that expressed most truly the deep and
tender feeling these rough, big-hearted men cherished for him.
When The Pilot came home I carefully prepared him for his trial,
telling all that Gwen had suffered and striving to make him feel
how desperate was her case when even The Duke had to confess
himself beaten. He did not seem sufficiently impressed. Then I
pictured for him all her fierce wilfulness and her fretful humors,
her impatience with those who loved her and were wearing out their
souls and bodies for her. "In short," I concluded, "she doesn't
care a rush for anything in heaven or earth, and will yield to
neither man nor God."
The Pilot's eyes had been kindling as I talked, but he only
"What could you expect?"
"Well, I do think she might show some signs of gratitude and some
gentleness towards those ready to die for her."
"Oh, you do!" said he, with high scorn. "You all combine to ruin
her temper and disposition with foolish flattery and weak yielding
to her whims, right or wrong; you smile at her imperious pride and
encourage her wilfulness, and then not only wonder at the results,
but blame her, poor child, for all. Oh, you are a fine lot, The
Duke and all of you!"
He had a most exasperating ability for putting one in the wrong,
and I could only think of the proper and sufficient reply long
after the opportunity for making it had passed. I wondered what
The Duke would say to this doctrine. All the following day, which
was Sunday, I could see that Gwen was on The Pilot's mind. He was
struggling with the problem of pain.
Monday morning found us on the way to the Old Timer's ranch. And
what a morning it was! How beautiful our world seemed! About us
rolled the round-topped, velvet hills, brown and yellow or faintly
green, spreading out behind us to the broad prairie, and before,
clambering up and up to meet the purple bases of the great
mountains that lay their mighty length along the horizon and thrust
up white, sunlit peaks into the blue sky. On the hillsides and
down in the sheltering hollows we could see the bunches of cattle
and horses feeding upon the rich grasses. High above, the sky,
cloudless and blue, arched its great kindly roof from prairie to
mountain peaks, and over all, above, below, upon prairie, hillsides
and mountains, the sun poured his floods of radiant yellow light.
As we followed the trail that wound up and into the heart of these
rounded hills and ever nearer to the purple mountains, the morning
breeze swept down to meet us, bearing a thousand scents, and
filling us with its own fresh life. One can know the quickening
joyousness of these Foothill breezes only after he has drunk with
wide-open mouth, deep and full of them.
Through all this mingling beauty of sunlit hills and shady hollows
and purple, snow-peaked mountains, we rode with hardly a word,
every minute adding to our heart-filling delight, but ever with the
thought of the little room where, shut in from all this outside
glory, lay Gwen, heart-sore with fretting and longing. This must
have been in The Pilot's mind, for he suddenly held up his horse
and burst out:
"Poor Gwen, how she loves all this!--it is her very life. How can
she help fretting the heart out of her? To see this no more!" He
flung himself off his bronco and said, as if thinking aloud: "It is
too awful! Oh, it is cruel! I don't wonder at her! God help me,
what can I say to her?"
He threw himself down upon the grass and turned over on his face.
After a few minutes he appealed to me, and his face was sorely
"How can one go to her? It seems to me sheerest mockery to speak
of patience and submission to a wild young thing from whom all this
is suddenly snatched forever--and this was very life to her, too,
Then he sprang up and we rode hard for an hour, till we came to the
mouth of the canyon. Here the trail grew difficult and we came to
a walk. As we went down into the cool depths the spirit of the
canyon came to meet us and took The Pilot in its grip. He rode in
front, feasting his eyes on all the wonders in that storehouse of
beauty. Trees of many kinds deepened the shadows of the canyon.
Over us waved the big elms that grew up here and there out of the
bottom, and around their feet clustered low cedars and hemlocks and
balsams, while the sturdy, rugged oaks and delicate, trembling
poplars clung to the rocky sides and clambered up and out to the
canyon's sunny lips. Back of all, the great black rocks, decked
with mossy bits and clinging things, glistened cool and moist
between the parting trees. From many an oozy nook the dainty
clematis and columbine shook out their bells, and, lower down, from
beds of many-colored moss the late wind-flower and maiden-hair and
tiny violet lifted up brave, sweet faces. And through the canyon
the Little Swan sang its song to rocks and flowers and overhanging
trees, a song of many tones, deep-booming where it took its first
sheer plunge, gay-chattering where it threw itself down the ragged
rocks, and soft-murmuring where it lingered about the roots of the
loving, listening elms. A cool, sweet, soothing place it was, with
all its shades and sounds and silences, and, lest it should be sad
to any, the sharp, quick sunbeams danced and laughed down through
all its leaves upon mosses, flowers and rocks. No wonder that The
Pilot, drawing a deep breath as he touched the prairie sod again,
"That does me good. It is better at times even than the sunny
hills. This was Gwen's best spot."
I saw that the canyon had done its work with him. His face was
strong and calm as the hills on a summer morning, and with this
face he looked in upon Gwen. It was one of her bad days and one of
her bad moods, but like a summer breeze he burst into the little
"Oh, Gwen!" he cried, without a word of greeting, much less of
Commiseration, "we have had such a ride!" And he spread out the
sunlit, round-topped hills before her, till I could feel their very
breezes in my face. This The Duke had never dared to do, fearing
to grieve her with pictures of what she should look upon no more.
But, as The Pilot talked, before she knew, Gwen was out again upon
her beloved hills, breathing their fresh, sunny air, filling her
heart with their multitudinous delights, till her eyes grew bright
and the lines of fretting smoothed out of her face and she forgot
her pain. Then, before she could remember, he had her down into
the canyon, feasting her heart with its airs and sights and sounds.
The black, glistening rocks, tricked out with moss and trailing
vines, the great elms and low green cedars, the oaks and shivering
poplars, the clematis and columbine hanging from the rocky nooks,
and the violets and maiden-hair deep bedded in their mosses. All
this and far more he showed her with a touch so light as not to
shake the morning dew from bell or leaf or frond, and with a voice
so soft and full of music as to fill our hearts with the canyon's
mingling sounds, and, as I looked upon her face, I said to myself:
"Dear old Pilot! for this I shall always love you well." As poor
Gwen listened, the rapture of it drew the big tears down her
cheeks--alas! no longer brown, but white, and for that day at least
the dull, dead weariness was lifted from her heart.
THE CANYON FLOWERS
The Pilot's first visit to Gwen had been a triumph. But none knew
better than he that the fight was still to come, for deep in Gwen's
heart were thoughts whose pain made her forget all other.
"Was it God let me fall?" she asked abruptly one day, and The Pilot
knew the fight was on; but he only answered, looking fearlessly
into her eyes:
"Yes, Gwen dear."
"Why did He let me fall?" and her voice was very deliberate.
"I don't know, Gwen dear," said The Pilot steadily. "He knows."
"And does He know I shall never ride again? Does He know how long
the days are, and the nights when I can't sleep? Does He know?"
"Yes, Gwen dear," said The Pilot, and the tears were standing in
his eyes, though his voice was still steady enough.
"Are you sure He knows?" The voice was painfully intense.
"Listen to me, Gwen," began The Pilot, in great distress, but she
cut him short.
"Are you quite sure He knows? Answer me!" she cried, with her old
"Yes, Gwen, He knows all about you."
"Then what do you think of Him, just because He's big and strong,
treating a little girl that way?" Then she added, viciously: "I
hate Him! I don't care! I hate Him!"
But The Pilot did not wince. I wondered how he would solve that
problem that was puzzling, not only Gwen, but her father and The
Duke, and all of us--the WHY of human pain.
"Gwen," said The Pilot, as if changing the subject, "did it hurt to
put on the plaster jacket?"
"You just bet!" said Gwen, lapsing in her English, as The Duke was
not present; "it was worse than anything--awful! They had to
straighten me out, you know," and she shuddered at the memory of
"What a pity your father or The Duke was not here!" said The Pilot,
"Why, they were both here!"
"What a cruel shame!" burst out The Pilot. "Don't they care for
you any more?"
"Of course they do," said Gwen, indignantly.
"Why didn't they stop the doctors from hurting you so cruelly?"
"Why, they let the doctors. It is going to help me to sit up and
perhaps to walk about a little," answered Gwen, with blue-gray eyes
"Oh," said The Pilot, "it was very mean to stand by and see you
hurt like that."
"Why, you silly," replied Owen, impatiently, "they want my back to
get straight and strong."
"Oh, then they didn't do it just for fun or for nothing?" said The
Gwen gazed at him in amazed and speechless wrath, and he went on:
"I mean they love you though they let you be hurt; or rather they
let the doctors hurt you BECAUSE they loved you and wanted to make
Gwen kept her eyes fixed with curious earnestness upon his face
till the light began to dawn.
"Do you mean," she began slowly, "that though God let me fall, He
The Pilot nodded; he could not trust his voice.
"I wonder if that can be true," she said, as if to herself; and
soon we said good-by and came away--The Pilot, limp and voiceless,
but I triumphant, for I began to see a little light for Gwen.
But the fight was by no means over; indeed, it was hardly well
begun. For when the autumn came, with its misty, purple days, most
glorious of all days in the cattle country, the old restlessness
came back and the fierce refusal of her lot. Then came the day of
the round-up. Why should she have to stay while all went after the
cattle? The Duke would have remained, but she impatiently sent him
away. She was weary and heart-sick, and, worst of all, she began
to feel that most terrible of burdens, the burden of her life to
others. I was much relieved when The Pilot came in fresh and
bright, waving a bunch of wild-flowers in his hand.
"I thought they were all gone," he cried. "Where do you think I
found them? Right down by the big elm root," and, though he saw by
the settled gloom of her face that the storm was coming, he went
bravely on picturing the canyon in all the splendor of its autumn
dress. But the spell would not work. Her heart was out on the
sloping hills, where the cattle were bunching and crowding with
tossing heads and rattling horns, and it was in a voice very bitter
and impatient that she cried:
"Oh, I am sick of all this! I want to ride! I want to see the
cattle and the men and--and--and all the things outside." The
Pilot was cowboy enough to know the longing that tugged at her
heart for one wild race after the calves or steers, but he could
"Wait, Gwen. Try to be patient."
"I am patient; at least I have been patient for two whole months,
and it's no use, and I don't believe God cares one bit!"
"Yes, He does, Gwen, more than any of us," replied The Pilot,
"No, He does not care," she answered, with angry emphasis, and The
Pilot made no reply.
"Perhaps," she went on, hesitatingly, "He's angry because I said I
didn't care for Him, you remember? That was very wicked. But
don't you think I'm punished nearly enough now? You made me very
angry, and I didn't really mean it."
Poor Gwen! God had grown to be very real to her during these weeks
of pain, and very terrible. The Pilot looked down a moment into
the blue-gray eyes, grown so big and so pitiful, and hurriedly
dropping on his knees beside the bed he said, in a very unsteady
"Oh, Gwen, Gwen, He's not like that. Don't you remember how Jesus
was with the poor sick people? That's what He's like."
"Could Jesus make me well?"
"Then why doesn't He?" she asked; and there was no impatience now,
but only trembling anxiety as she went on in a timid voice: "I
asked Him to, over and over, and said I would wait two months, and
now it's more than three. Are you quite sure He hears now?" She
raised herself on her elbow and gazed searchingly into The Pilot's
face. I was glad it was not into mine. As she uttered the words,
"Are you quite sure?" one felt that things were in the balance. I
could not help looking at The Pilot with intense anxiety. What
would he answer? The Pilot gazed out of the window upon the hills
for a few moments. How long the silence seemed! Then, turning,
looked into the eyes that searched his so steadily and answered
"Yes, Gwen, I am quite sure!" Then, with quick inspiration, he got
her mother's Bible and said: "Now, Gwen, try to see it as I read."
But, before he read, with the true artist's instinct he created the
proper atmosphere. By a few vivid words he made us feel the
pathetic loneliness of the Man of Sorrows in His last sad days.
Then he read that masterpiece of all tragic picturing, the story of
Gethsemane. And as he read we saw it all. The garden and the
trees and the sorrow-stricken Man alone with His mysterious agony.
We heard the prayer so pathetically submissive and then, for
answer, the rabble and the traitor.
Gwen was far too quick to need explanation, and The Pilot only
said, "You see, Gwen, God gave nothing but the best--to His own Son
only the best."
"The best? They took Him away, didn't they?" She knew the story
"Yes, but listen." He turned the leaves rapidly and read: "'We see
Jesus for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor.'
That is how He got His Kingdom."
Gwen listened silent but unconvinced, and then said slowly:
"But how can this be best for me? I am no use to anyone. It can't
be best to just lie here and make them all wait on me, and--and--I
did want to help daddy--and--oh--I know they will get tired of me!
They are getting tired already--I--I--can't help being hateful."
She was by this time sobbing as I had never heard her before--deep,
passionate sobs. Then again the Pilot had an inspiration.
"Now, Gwen," he said severely, "you know we're not as mean as that,
and that you are just talking nonsense, every word. Now I'm going
to smooth out your red hair and tell you a story."
"It's NOT red," she cried, between her sobs. This was her sore
"It is red, as red can be; a beautiful, shining purple RED," said
The Pilot emphatically, beginning to brush.
"Purple!" cried Gwen, scornfully.
"Yes, I've seen it in the sun, purple. Haven't you?" said The
Pilot, appealing to me. "And my story is about the canyon, our
canyon, your canyon, down there."
"Is it true?" asked Gwen, already soothed by the cool, quick-moving
"True? It's as true as--as--" he glanced round the room, "as the
Pilgrim's Progress." This was satisfactory, and the story went on.
"At first there were no canyons, but only the broad, open prairie.
One day the Master of the Prairie, walking out over his great
lawns, where were only grasses, asked the Prairie, 'Where are your
flowers?' and the Prairie said, 'Master, I have no seeds.' Then he
spoke to the birds, and they carried seeds of every kind of flower
and strewed them far and wide, and soon the Prairie bloomed with
crocuses and roses and buffalo beans and the yellow crowfoot and
the wild sunflowers and the red lilies all the summer long. Then
the Master came and was well pleased; but he missed the flowers he
loved best of all, and he said to the Prairie: 'Where are the
clematis and the columbine, the sweet violets and wind flowers, and
all the ferns and flowering shrubs?' And again he spoke to the
birds, and again they carried all the seeds and strewed them far
and wide. But, again, when the Master came, he could not find the
flowers he loved best of all, and he said: 'Where are those, my
sweetest flowers?' and the Prairie cried sorrowfully: 'Oh, Master,
I cannot keep the flowers, for the winds sweep fiercely, and the
sun beats upon my breast, and they wither up and fly away.' Then
the Master spoke to the Lightning, and with one swift blow the
Lightning cleft the Prairie to the heart. And the Prairie rocked
and groaned in agony, and for many a day moaned bitterly over its
black, jagged, gaping wound. But the Little Swan poured its waters
through the cleft, and carried down deep black mould, and once more
the birds carried seeds and strewed them in the canyon. And after
a long time the rough rocks were decked out with soft mosses and
trailing vines, and all the nooks were hung with clematis and
columbine, and great elms lifted their huge tops high up into the
sunlight, and down about their feet clustered the low cedars and
balsams, and everywhere the violets and wind-flower and maiden-hair
grew and bloomed, till the canyon became the Masters place for rest
and peace and joy."
The quaint tale was ended, and Gwen lay quiet for some moments,
then said gently:
"Yes! The canyon flowers are much the best. Tell me what it
Then The Pilot read to her: "The fruits--I'll read 'flowers'--
of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness,
goodness, faith, meekness, self-control, and some of these grow
only in the canyon."
"Which are the canyon flowers?" asked Gwen softly, and The Pilot
"Gentleness, meekness, self-control; but though the others, love,
joy, peace, bloom in the open, yet never with so rich a bloom and
so sweet a perfume as in the canyon."
For a long time Gwen lay quite still, and then said wistfully,
while her lip trembled:
"There are no flowers in my canyon, but only ragged rocks."
"Some day they will bloom, Gwen dear; He will find them, and we,
too, shall see them."
Then he said good-by and took me away. He had done his work that
We rode through the big gate, down the sloping hill, past the
smiling, twinkling little lake, and down again out of the broad
sunshine into the shadows and soft lights of the canyon. As we
followed the trail that wound among the elms and cedars, the very
air was full of gentle stillness; and as we moved we seemed to feel
the touch of loving hands that lingered while they left us, and
every flower and tree and vine and shrub and the soft mosses and
the deep-bedded ferns whispered, as we passed, of love and peace
To The Duke it was all a wonder, for as the days shortened outside
they brightened inside; and every day, and more and more Gwen's
room became the brightest spot in all the house, and when he asked
"What did you do to the Little Princess, and what's all this about
the canyon and its flowers?" The Pilot said, looking wistfully
into The Duke's eyes:
"The fruits of the Spirit are love, peace, long-suffering,
gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control, and some of
these are found only in the canyon," and The Duke, standing up
straight, handsome and strong, looked back at The Pilot and said,
putting out his hand:
"Do you know, I believe you're right."
"Yes, I'm quite sure," answered The Pilot, simply. Then, holding
The Duke's hand as long as one man dare hold another's, he added:
"When you come to your canyon, remember."
"When I come!" said The Duke, and a quick spasm of pain passed over
his handsome face--"God help me, it's not too far away now." Then
he smiled again his old, sweet smile, and said:
"Yes, you are all right, for, of all flowers I have seen, none are
fairer or sweeter than those that are waving in Gwen's Canyon."
The Pilot had set his heart upon the building of a church in the
Swan Creek district, partly because he was human and wished to set
a mark of remembrance upon the country, but more because he held
the sensible opinion, that a congregation, as a man, must have a
home if it is to stay.
All through the summer he kept setting this as an object at once
desirable and possible to achieve. But few were found to agree
Little Mrs. Muir was of the few, and she was not to be despised,
but her influence was neutralized by the solid immobility of her
husband. He had never done anything sudden in his life. Every
resolve was the result of a long process of mind, and every act of
importance had to be previewed from all possible points. An honest
man, strongly religious, and a great admirer of The Pilot, but
slow-moving as a glacier, although with plenty of fire in him deep
"He's soond at the hairt, ma man Robbie," his wife said to The
Pilot, who was fuming and fretting at the blocking of his plans,
"but he's terrible deleeberate. Bide ye a bit, laddie. He'll come
"But meantime the summer's going and nothing will be done," was The
Pilot's distressed and impatient answer.
So a meeting was called to discuss the question of building a
church, with the result that the five men and three women present
decided that for the present nothing could be done. This was
really Robbie's opinion, though he refused to do or say anything
but grunt, as The Pilot said to me afterwards, in a rage. It is
true, Williams, the storekeeper just come from "across the line,"
did all the talking, but no one paid much attention to his fluent
fatuities except as they represented the unexpressed mind of the
dour, exasperating little Scotchman, who sat silent but for an "ay"
now and then, so expressive and conclusive that everyone knew what
he meant, and that discussion was at an end. The schoolhouse was
quite sufficient for the present; the people were too few and too
poor and they were getting on well under the leadership of their
present minister. These were the arguments which Robbie's "ay"
stamped as quite unanswerable.
It was a sore blow to The Pilot, who had set his heart upon a
church, and neither Mrs; Muir's "hoots" at her husband's slowness
nor her promises that she "wad mak him hear it" could bring comfort
or relieve his gloom.
In this state of mind he rode up with me to pay our weekly visit to
the little girl shut up in her lonely house among the hills.
It had become The Pilot's custom during these weeks to turn for
cheer to that little room, and seldom was he disappointed. She was
so bright, so brave, so cheery, and so full of fun, that gloom
faded from her presence as mist before the sun, and impatience was
shamed into content.
Gwen's bright face--it was almost always bright now--and her bright
welcome did something for The Pilot, but the feeling of failure was
upon him, and failure to his enthusiastic nature was worse than
pain. Not that he confessed either to failure or gloom; he was far
too true a man for that; but Gwen felt his depression in spite of
all his brave attempts at brightness, and insisted that he was ill,
appealing to me.
"Oh, it's only his church," I said, proceeding to give her an
account of Robbie Muir's silent, solid inertness, and how he had
blocked The Pilot's scheme.
"What a shame!" cried Gwen, indignantly. "What a bad man he must
The Pilot smiled. "No, indeed," he answered; "why, he's the best
man in the place, but I wish he would say or do something. If he
would only get mad and swear I think I should feel happier."
Gwen looked quite mystified.
"You see, he sits there in solemn silence looking so tremendously
wise that most men feel foolish if they speak, while as for doing
anything the idea appears preposterous, in the face of his
"I can't bear him!" cried Gwen. "I should like to stick pins in
"I wish some one would," answered The Pilot. "It would make him
seem more human if he could be made to jump."
"Try again," said Gwen, "and get someone to make him jump."
"It would be easier to build the church," said The Pilot, gloomily.
"I could make him jump," said Gwen, viciously, "and I WILL," she
added, after a pause.
"You!" answered The Pilot, opening his eyes. "How?"
"I'll find some way," she replied, resolutely.
And so she did, for when the next meeting was called to consult as
to the building of a church, the congregation, chiefly of farmers
and their wives, with Williams, the storekeeper, were greatly
surprised to see Bronco Bill, Hi, and half a dozen ranchers and
cowboys walk in at intervals and solemnly seat themselves. Robbie
looked at them with surprise and a little suspicion. In church
matters he had no dealings with the Samaritans from the hills, and
while, in their unregenerate condition, they might be regarded as
suitable objects of missionary effort, as to their having any part
in the direction, much less control, of the church policy--from
such a notion Robbie was delivered by his loyal adherence to the
scriptural injunction that he should not cast pearls before swine.
The Pilot, though surprised to see Bill and the cattle men, was
none the less delighted, and faced the meeting with more confidence.
He stated the question for discussion: Should a church building be
erected this summer in Swan Creek? and he put his case well. He
showed the need of a church for the sake of the congregation, for
the sake of the men in the district, the families growing up, the
incoming settlers, and for the sake of the country and its future.
He called upon all who loved their church and their country to unite
in this effort. It was an enthusiastic appeal and all the women and
some of the men were at once upon his side.
Then followed dead, solemn silence. Robbie was content to wait
till the effect of the speech should be dissipated in smaller talk.
Then he gravely said:
"The kirk wad be a gran' thing, nae doot, an' they wad a'
dootless"--with a suspicious glance toward Bill--"rejoice in its
erection. But we maun be cautious, an' I wad like to enquire hoo
much money a kirk cud be built for, and whaur the money wad come
The Pilot was ready with his answer. The cost would be $1,200.
The Church Building Fund would contribute $200, the people could
give $300 in labor, and the remaining $700 he thought could be
raised in the district in two years' time.
"Ay," said Robbie, and the tone and manner were sufficient to
drench any enthusiasm with the chilliest of water. So much was
this the case that the chairman, Williams, seemed quite justified
"It is quite evident that the opinion of the meeting is adverse to
any attempt to load the community with a debt of one thousand
dollars," and he proceeded with a very complete statement of the
many and various objections to any attempt at building a church
this year. The people were very few, they were dispersed over a
large area, they were not interested sufficiently, they were all
spending money and making little in return; he supposed, therefore,
that the meeting might adjourn.
Robbie sat silent and expressionless in spite of his little wife's
anxious whispers and nudges. The Pilot looked the picture of woe,
and was on the point of bursting forth, when the meeting was
startled by Bill.
"Say, boys! they hain't much stuck on their shop, heh?" The low,
drawling voice was perfectly distinct and arresting.
"Hain't got no use for it, seemingly," was the answer from the dark
"Old Scotchie takes his religion out in prayin', I guess," drawled
in Bill, "but wants to sponge for his plant."
This reference to Robbie's proposal to use the school moved the
youngsters to tittering and made the little Scotchman squirm, for
he prided himself upon his independence.
"There ain't $700 in the hull blanked outfit." This was a
stranger's voice, and again Robbie squirmed, for he rather prided
himself also on his ability to pay his way.
"No good!" said another emphatic voice. "A blanked lot o' psalm-
"Order, order!" cried the chairman.
"Old Windbag there don't see any show for swipin' the collection,
with Scotchie round," said Hi, with a following ripple of quiet
laughter, for Williams' reputation was none too secure.
Robbie was in a most uncomfortable state of mind. So unusually
stirred was he that for the first time in his history he made a
"I move we adjourn, Mr. Chairman," he said, in a voice which
actually vibrated with emotion.
"Different here! eh, boys?" drawled Bill.
"You bet," said Hi, in huge delight. "The meetin' ain't out yit."
"Ye can bide till mor-r-nin'," said Robbie, angrily. "A'm gaen
hame," beginning to put on his coat.
"Seems as if he orter give the password," drawled Bill.
"Right you are, pardner," said Hi, springing to the door and
waiting in delighted expectation for his friend's lead.
Robbie looked at the door, then at his wife, hesitated a moment, I
have no doubt wishing her home. Then Bill stood up and began to
"Mr. Chairman, I hain't been called on for any remarks--"
"Go on!" yelled his friends from the dark corner. "Hear! hear!"
"An' I didn't feel as if this war hardly my game, though The Pilot
ain't mean about invitin' a feller on Sunday afternoons. But them
as runs the shop don't seem to want us fellers round too much."
Robbie was gazing keenly at Bill, and here shook his head,
muttering angrily: "Hoots, nonsense! ye're welcome eneuch."
"But," went on Bill, slowly, "I guess I've been on the wrong track.
I've been a-cherishin' the opinion" ["Hear! hear!" yelled his
admirers], "cherishin' the opinion," repeated Bill, "that these
fellers," pointing to Robbie, "was stuck on religion, which I ain't
much myself, and reely consarned about the blocking ov the devil,
which The Pilot says can't be did without a regular Gospel factory.
O' course, it tain't any biznis ov mine, but if us fellers was
reely only sot on anything condoocin'," ["Hear! hear!" yelled Hi,
in ecstasy], "condoocin'," repeated Bill slowly and with relish,
"to the good ov the Order" (Bill was a brotherhood man), "I b'lieve
I know whar five hundred dollars mebbe cud per'aps be got."
"You bet your sox," yelled the strange voice, in chorus with other
shouts of approval.
"O' course, I ain't no bettin' man," went on Bill, insinuatingly,
"as a regular thing, but I'd gamble a few jist here on this pint;
if the boys was stuck on anythin' costin' about seven hundred
dollars, it seems to me likely they'd git it in about two days,
Here Robbie grunted out an "ay" of such fulness of contemptuous
unbelief that Bill paused, and, looking over Robbie's head, he
drawled out, even more slowly and mildly:
"I ain't much given to bettin', as I remarked before, but, if a man
shakes money at me on that proposition, I'd accommodate him to a
limited extent." ["Hear! hear! Bully boy!" yelled Hi again, from
the door.] "Not bein' too bold, I cherish the opinion" [again
yells of approval from the corner], "that even for this here Gospel
plant, seein' The Pilot's rather sot onto it, I b'lieve the boys
could find five hundred dollars inside ov a month, if perhaps these
fellers cud wiggle the rest out ov their pants."
Then Robbie was in great wrath and, stung by the taunting, drawling
voice beyond all self-command, he broke out suddenly:
"Ye'll no can mak that guid, I doot."
"D'ye mean I ain't prepared to back it up?"
"Ay," said Robbie, grimly.
'Tain't likely I'll be called on; I guess $500 is safe enough,"
drawled Bill, cunningly drawing him on. Then Robbie bit.
"Oo ay!" said he, in a voice of quiet contempt, "the twa hunner
wull be here and 'twull wait ye long eneuch, I'se warrant ye."
Then Bill nailed him.
"I hain't got my card case on my person," he said, with a slight
"Left it on the pianner," suggested Hi, who was in a state of great
hilarity at Bill's success in drawing the Scottie.
"But," Bill proceeded, recovering himself, and with increasing
suavity, "if some gentleman would mark down the date of the almanac
I cherish the opinion" [cheers from the corner] "that in one month
from to-day there will be five hundred dollars lookin' round for
two hundred on that there desk mebbe, or p'raps you would incline
to two fifty," he drawled, in his most winning tone to Robbie, who
was growing more impatient every moment.
"Nae matter tae me. Ye're haverin' like a daft loon, ony way."
"You will make a memento of this slight transaction, boys, and
per'aps the schoolmaster will write it down," said Bill.
It was all carefully taken down, and amid much enthusiastic
confusion the ranchers and their gang carried Bill off to Old
Latour's to "licker up," while Robbie, in deep wrath but in dour
silence, went off through the dark with his little wife following
some paces behind him. His chief grievance, however, was against
the chairman for "allooin' sic a disorderly pack o' loons tae
disturb respectable fowk," for he could not hide the fact that he
had been made to break through his accustomed defence line of
immovable silence. I suggested, conversing with him next day upon
the matter, that Bill was probably only chaffing.
"Ay," said Robbie, in great disgust, "the daft eejut, he wad mak a
fule o' onything or onybuddie."
That was the sorest point with poor Robbie. Bill had not only cast
doubts upon his religious sincerity, which the little man could not
endure, but he had also held him up to the ridicule of the
community, which was painful to his pride. But when he understood,
some days later, that Bill was taking steps to back up his offer
and had been heard to declare that "he'd make them pious ducks take
water if he had to put up a year's pay," Robbie went quietly to
work to make good his part of the bargain. For his Scotch pride
would not suffer him to refuse a challenge from such a quarter.
The next day everyone was talking of Bill's bluffing the church
people, and there was much quiet chuckling over the discomfiture of
Robbie Muir and his party.
The Pilot was equally distressed and bewildered, for Bill's
conduct, so very unusual, had only one explanation--the usual one
for any folly in that country.
"I wish he had waited till after the meeting to go to Latour's. He
spoiled the last chance I had. There's no use now," he said,
"But he may do something," I suggested.
"Oh, fiddle!" said The Pilot, contemptuously. "He was only giving
Muir 'a song and dance,' as he would say. The whole thing is off."
But when I told Gwen the story of the night's proceedings, she went
into raptures over Bill's grave speech and his success in drawing
the canny Scotchman.
"Oh, lovely! dear old Bill and his 'cherished opinion.' Isn't he
just lovely? Now he'll do something."
"No, that stupid Scottie." This was her name for the immovable
"Not he, I'm afraid. Of course Bill was just bluffing him. But it
was good sport."
"Oh, lovely! I knew he'd do something."
"Who? Scottie?" I asked, for her pronouns were perplexing.
"No!" she cried, "Bill! He promised he would, you know," she
"So you were at the bottom of it?" I said, amazed.
"Oh, dear! Oh, dear!" she kept crying, shrieking with laughter over
Bill's cherishing opinions and desires. "I shall be ill. Dear old
Bill. He said he'd 'try to get a move on to him.'"
Before I left that day, Bill himself came to the Old Timer's ranch,
inquiring in a casual way "if the 'boss' was in."
"Oh, Bill!" called out Gwen, "come in here at once; I want you."
After some delay and some shuffling with hat and spurs, Bill
lounged in and set his lank form upon the extreme end of a bench at
the door, trying to look unconcerned as he remarked: "Gittin' cold.
Shouldn't wonder if we'd have a little snow."
"Oh, come here," cried Gwen, impatiently, holding out her hand.
"Come here and shake hands."
Bill hesitated, spat out into the other room his quid of tobacco,
and swayed awkwardly across the room toward the bed, and, taking
Gwen's hand, he shook it up and down, and hurriedly said:
"Fine day, ma'am; hope I see you quite well."
"No; you don't," cried Gwen, laughing immoderately, but keeping
hold of Bill's hand, to his great confusion. "I'm not well a bit,
but I'm a great deal better since hearing of your meeting, Bill."
To this Bill made no reply, being entirely engrossed in getting his
hard, bony, brown hand out of the grasp of the white, clinging
"Oh, Bill," went on Gwen, "it was delightful! How did you do it?"
But Bill, who had by this time got back to his seat at the door,
pretended ignorance of any achievement calling for remark. He
"hadn't done nothin' more out ov the way than usual."
"Oh, don't talk nonsense!" cried Gwen, impatiently. "Tell me how
you got Scottie to lay you two hundred and fifty dollars."
"Oh, that!" said Bill, in great surprise; "that ain't nuthin' much.
Scottie riz slick enough."
"But how did you get him?" persisted Gwen. "Tell me, Bill," she
added, in her most coaxing voice.
"Well," said Bill, "it was easy as rollin' off a log. I made the
remark as how the boys ginerally put up for what they wanted
without no fuss, and that if they was sot on havin' a Gospel shack
I cherished the opinion"--here Gwen went off into a smothered
shriek, which made Bill pause and look at her in alarm.
"Go on," she gasped.
"I cherished the opinion," drawled on Bill, while Gwen stuck her
handkerchief into her mouth, "that mebbe they'd put up for it the
seven hundred dollars, and, even as it was, seein' as The Pilot
appeared to be sot on to it, if them fellers would find two hundred
and fifty I cher--" another shriek from Gwen cut him suddenly
"It's the rheumaticks, mebbe," said Bill, anxiously. "Terrible bad
weather for 'em. I get 'em myself."
"No, no," said Gwen, wiping away her tears and subduing her
laughter. "Go on, Bill."
"There ain't no more," said Bill. "He bit, and the master here put
"Yes, it's here right enough," I said, "but I don't suppose you
mean to follow it up, do you?"
"You don't, eh? Well, I am not responsible for your supposin', but
them that is familiar with Bronco Bill generally expects him to
back up his undertakin's."
"But how in the world can you get five hundred dollars from the
cowboys for a church?"
"I hain't done the arithmetic yet, but it's safe enough. You see,
it ain't the church altogether, it's the reputation of the boys."
"I'll help, Bill," said Gwen.
Bill nodded his head slowly and said: "Proud to have you," trying
hard to look enthusiastic.
"You don't think I can," said Gwen. Bill protested against such an
imputation. "But I can. I'll get daddy and The Duke, too."
"Good line!" said Bill, slapping his knee.
"And I'll give all my money, too, but it isn't very much," she
"Much!" said Bill, "if the rest of the fellows play up to that lead
there won't be any trouble about that five hundred."
Gwen was silent for some time, then said with an air of resolve:
"I'll give my pinto!"
"Nonsense!" I exclaimed, while Bill declared "there warn't no
"Yes. I'll give the Pinto!" said Gwen, decidedly. "I'll not need
him any more," her lips quivered, and Bill coughed and spat into
the next room, "and besides, I want to give something I like. And
Bill will sell him for me!"
"Well," said Bill, slowly, "now come to think, it'll be purty hard
to sell that there pinto." Gwen began to exclaim indignantly, and
Bill hurried on to say, "Not but what he ain't a good leetle horse
for his weight, good leetle horse, but for cattle--"
"Why, Bill, there isn't a better cattle horse anywhere!"
"Yes, that's so," assented Bill. "That's so, if you've got the
rider, but put one of them rangers on to him and it wouldn't be no
fair show." Bill was growing more convinced every moment that the
pinto wouldn't sell to any advantage. "Ye see," he explained
carefully and cunningly, "he ain't a horse you could yank round and
slam into a bunch of steers regardless."
Gwen shuddered. "Oh, I wouldn't think of selling him to any of
those cowboys." Bill crossed his legs and hitched round
uncomfortably on his bench. "I mean one of those rough fellows
that don't know how to treat a horse." Bill nodded, looking
relieved. "I thought that some one like you, Bill, who knew how to
handle a horse--"
Gwen paused, and then added: "I'll ask The Duke."
"No call for that," said Bill, hastily, "not but what The Dook
ain't all right as a jedge of a horse, but The Dook ain't got the
connection, it ain't his line." Bill hesitated. "But, if you are
real sot on to sellin' that pinto, come to think I guess I could
find a sale for him, though, of course, I think perhaps the figger
won't be high."
And so it was arranged that the pinto should be sold and that Bill
should have the selling of it.
It was characteristic of Gwen that she would not take farewell of
the pony on whose back she had spent so many hours of freedom and
delight. When once she gave him up she refused to allow her heart
to cling to him any more.
It was characteristic, too, of Bill that he led off the pinto after
night had fallen, so that "his pardner" might be saved the pain of
"This here's rather a new game for me, but when my pardner," here
he jerked his head towards Gwen's window, "calls for trumps, I'm
blanked if I don't throw my highest, if it costs a leg."
Bill's method of conducting the sale of the pinto was eminently
successful as a financial operation, but there are those in the
Swan Creek country who have never been able to fathom the mystery
attaching to the affair. It was at the fall round-up, the beef
round-up, as it is called, which this year ended at the Ashley
Ranch. There were representatives from all the ranches and some
cattle-men from across the line. The hospitality of the Ashley
Ranch was up to its own lofty standard, and, after supper, the men
were in a state of high exhilaration. The Hon. Fred and his wife,
Lady Charlotte, gave themselves to the duties of their position as
hosts for the day with a heartiness and grace beyond praise. After
supper the men gathered round the big fire, which was piled up
before the long, low shed, which stood open in front. It was a
scene of such wild and picturesque interest as can only be
witnessed in the western ranching country. About the fire, most of
them wearing "shaps" and all of them wide, hard-brimmed cowboy
hats, the men grouped themselves, some reclining upon skins thrown
upon the ground, some standing, some sitting, smoking, laughing,
chatting, all in highest spirits and humor. They had just got
through with their season of arduous and, at times, dangerous toil.
Their minds were full of their long, hard rides, their wild and
varying experiences with mad cattle and bucking broncos, their
anxious watchings through hot nights, when a breath of wind or a
coyote's howl might set the herd off in a frantic stampede, their
wolf hunts and badger fights and all the marvellous adventures that
fill up a cowboy's summer. Now these were all behind them.
To-night they were free men and of independent means, for their
season's pay was in their pockets. The day's excitement, too, was
still in their blood, and they were ready for anything.
Bill, as king of the bronco-busters, moved about with the slow,
careless indifference of a man sure of his position and sure of his
ability to maintain it.
He spoke seldom and slowly, was not as ready-witted as his partner,
Hi Kendal, but in act he was swift and sure, and "in trouble" he
could be counted on. He was, as they said, "a white man; white to
the back," which was understood to sum up the true cattle man's
"Hello, Bill," said a friend, "where's Hi? Hain't seen him
"Well, don't jest know. He was going to bring up my pinto."
"Your pinto? What pinto's that? You hain't got no pinto!"
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