The Sky Pilot
Part 3 out of 3
"Mebbe not," said Bill, slowly, "but I had the idee before you
spoke that I had."
"That so? Whar'd ye git him? Good for cattle?" The crowd began
Bill grew mysterious, and even more than usually reserved.
"Good fer cattle! Well, I ain't much on gamblin', but I've got a
leetle in my pants that says that there pinto kin outwork any
blanked bronco in this outfit, givin' him a fair show after the
The men became interested.
"Whar was he raised?"
"Whar'd ye git him? Across the line?"
"No," said Bill stoutly, "right in this here country. The Dook
there knows him."
This at once raised the pinto several points. To be known, and,
as Bill's tone indicated, favorably known by The Duke, was a
testimonial to which any horse might aspire.
"Whar'd ye git him, Bill? Don't be so blanked oncommunicatin'!"
said an impatient voice.
Bill hesitated; then, with an apparent burst of confidence, he
assumed his frankest manner and voice, and told his tale.
"Well," he said, taking a fresh chew and offering his plug to his
neighbor, who passed it on after helping himself, "ye see, it was
like this. Ye know that little Meredith gel?"
Chorus of answers: "Yes! The red-headed one. I know! She's a
daisy!--reg'lar blizzard!--lightnin' conductor!"
Bill paused, stiffened himself a little, dropped his frank air and
drawled out in cool, hard tones: "I might remark that that young
lady is, I might persoom to say, a friend of mine, which I'm
prepared to back up in my best style, and if any blanked blanked
son of a street sweeper has any remark to make, here's his time
In the pause that followed murmurs were heard extolling the many
excellences of the young lady in question, and Bill, appeased,
yielded to the requests for the continuance of his story, and, as
he described Gwen and her pinto and her work on the ranch, the men,
many of whom had had glimpses of her, gave emphatic approval in
their own way. But as he told of her rescue of Joe and of the
sudden calamity that had befallen her a great stillness fell upon
the simple, tender-hearted fellows, and they listened with their
eyes shining in the firelight with growing intentness. Then Bill
spoke of The Pilot and how he stood by her and helped her and
cheered her till they began to swear he was "all right"; "and now,"
concluded Bill, "when The Pilot is in a hole she wants to help him
"O' course," said one. "Right enough. How's she going to work
it?" said another.
"Well, he's dead set on to buildin' a meetin'-house, and them
fellows down at the Creek that does the prayin' and such don't seem
to back him up!"
"Whar's the kick, Bill?"
"Oh, they don't want to go down into their clothes and put up for
"Why, he only asked 'em for seven hundred the hull outfit, and
would give 'em two years, but they bucked--wouldn't look at it."
[Chorus of expletives descriptive of the characters and personal
appearance and belongings of the congregation of Swan Creek.]
"Were you there, Bill? What did you do?"
"Oh," said Bill, modestly, "I didn't do much. Gave 'em a little
"No! How? What? Go on, Bill."
But Bill remained silent, till under strong pressure, and, as if
making a clean breast of everything, he said:
"Well, I jest told 'em that if you boys made such a fuss about
anythin' like they did about their Gospel outfit, an' I ain't
sayin' anythin' agin it, you'd put up seven hundred without turnin'
"You're the stuff, Bill! Good man! You're talkin' now! What did
they say to that, eh, Bill?"
"Well," said Bill, slowly, "they CALLED me!"
"No! That so? An' what did you do, Bill?"
"Gave 'em a dead straight bluff!"
[Yells of enthusiastic approval.]
"Did they take you, Bill?"
"Well, I reckon they did. The master, here, put it down."
Whereupon I read the terms of Bill's bluff.
There was a chorus of very hearty approvals of Bill's course in
"not taking any water" from that variously characterized "outfit."
But the responsibility of the situation began to dawn upon them
when some one asked:
"How are you going about it, Bill?"
"Well," drawled Bill, with a touch of sarcasm in his voice,
"there's that pinto."
"Pinto be blanked!" said young Hill. "Say, boys, is that little
girl going to lose that one pony of hers to help out her friend The
Pilot? Good fellow, too, he is! We know he's the right sort."
[Chorus of, "Not by a long sight; not much; we'll put up the stuff!
"Then," went on Bill, even more slowly, "there's The Pilot; he's
going for to ante up a month's pay; 'taint much, o' course--twenty-
eight a month and grub himself. He might make it two," he added,
thoughtfully. But Bill's proposal was scorned with contemptuous
groans. "Twenty-eight a month and grub himself o' course ain't
much for a man to save money out ov to eddicate himself." Bill
continued, as if thinking aloud, "O' course he's got his mother at
home, but she can't make much more than her own livin', but she
might help him some."
This was altogether too much for the crowd. They consigned Bill
and his plans to unutterable depths of woe.
"O' course," Bill explained, "it's jest as you boys feel about it.
Mebbe I was, bein' hot, a little swift in givin' 'em the bluff."
"Not much, you wasn't! We'll see you out! That's the talk!
There's between twenty and thirty of us here."
"I should be glad to contribute thirty or forty if need be," said
The Duke, who was standing not far off, "to assist in the building
of a church. It would be a good thing, and I think the parson
should be encouraged. He's the right sort."
"I'll cover your thirty," said young Hill; and so it went from one
to another in tens and fifteens and twenties, till within half an
hour I had entered three hundred and fifty dollars in my book, with
Ashley yet to hear from, which meant fifty more. It was Bill's
hour of triumph.
"Boys," he said, with solemn emphasis, "ye're all white. But that
leetle pale-faced gel, that's what I'm thinkin' on. Won't she open
them big eyes ov hers! I cherish the opinion that this'll tickle
The men were greatly pleased with Bill and even more pleased with
themselves. Bill's picture of the "leetle gel" and her pathetically
tragic lot had gone right to their hearts and, with men of that
stamp, it was one of their few luxuries to yield to their generous
impulses. The most of them had few opportunities of lavishing love
and sympathy upon worthy objects and, when the opportunity came, all
that was best in them clamored for expression.
HOW THE PINTO SOLD
The glow of virtuous feeling following the performance of their
generous act prepared the men for a keener enjoyment than usual of
a night's sport. They had just begun to dispose themselves in
groups about the fire for poker and other games when Hi rode up
into the light and with him a stranger on Gwen's beautiful pinto
Hi was evidently half drunk and, as he swung himself of his bronco,
he saluted the company with a wave of the hand and hoped he saw
Bill, looking curiously at Hi, went up to the pinto and, taking him
by the head, led him up into the light, saying:
"See here, boys, there's that pinto of mine I was telling you
about; no flies on him, eh?"
"Hold on there! Excuse me!" said the stranger, "this here hoss
belongs to me, if paid-down money means anything in this country."
"The country's all right," said Bill in an ominously quiet voice,
"but this here pinto's another transaction, I reckon."
"The hoss is mine, I say, and what's more, I'm goin' to hold him,"
said the stranger in a loud voice.
The men began to crowd around with faces growing hard. It was
dangerous in that country to play fast and loose with horses.
"Look a-hyar, mates," said the stranger, with a Yankee drawl, "I
ain't no hoss thief, and if I hain't bought this hoss reg'lar and
paid down good money then it ain't mine--if I have it is. That's
fair, ain't it?"
At this Hi pulled himself together, and in a half-drunken tone
declared that the stranger was all right, and that he had bought
the horse fair and square, and "there's your dust," said Hi,
handing a roll to Bill. But with a quick movement Bill caught the
stranger by the leg, and, before a word could be said, he was lying
flat on the ground.
"You git off that pony," said Bill, "till this thing is settled."
There was something so terrible in Bill's manner that the man
contented himself with blustering and swearing, while Bill, turning
to Hi, said:
"Did you sell this pinto to him?"
Hi was able to acknowledge that, being offered a good price, and
knowing that his partner was always ready for a deal, he had
transferred the pinto to the stranger for forty dollars.
Bill was in distress, deep and poignant. "'Taint the horse, but
the leetle gel," he explained; but his partner's bargain was his,
and wrathful as he was, he refused to attempt to break the bargain.
At this moment the Hon. Fred, noting the unusual excitement about
the fire, came up, followed at a little distance by his wife and
"Perhaps he'll sell," he suggested.
"No," said Bill sullenly, "he's a mean cuss."
"I know him," said the Hon. Fred, "let me try him." But the
stranger declared the pinto suited him down to the ground and he
wouldn't take twice his money for him.
"Why," he protested, "that there's what I call an unusual hoss, and
down in Montana for a lady he'd fetch up to a hundred and fifty
dollars." In vain they haggled and bargained; the man was
immovable. Eighty dollars he wouldn't look at, a hundred hardly
made him hesitate. At this point Lady Charlotte came down into the
light and stood by her husband, who explained the circumstances to
her. She had already heard Bill's description of Gwen's accident
and of her part in the church-building schemes. There was silence
for a few moments as she stood looking at the beautiful pony.
"What a shame the poor child should have to part with the dear
little creature!" she said in a low tone to her husband. Then,
turning to the stranger, she said in clear, sweet tones:
"What do you ask for him?" He hesitated and then said, lifting his
hat awkwardly in salute: "I was just remarking how that pinto would
fetch one hundred and fifty dollars down into Montana. But seein'
as a lady is enquirin', I'll put him down to one hundred and
"Too much," she said promptly, "far too much, is it not, Bill?"
"Well," drawled Bill, "if 'twere a fellar as was used to ladies
he'd offer you the pinto, but he's too pizen mean even to come down
to the even hundred."
The Yankee took him up quickly. "Wall, if I were so blanked--
pardon, madam"--taking off his hat, "used to ladies as some folks
would like to think themselves, I'd buy that there pinto and make a
present of it to this here lady as stands before me." Bill twisted
"But I ain't goin' to be mean; I'll put that pinto in for the even
money for the lady if any man cares to put up the stuff."
"Well, my dear," said the Hon. Fred with a bow, "we cannot well let
that gage lie." She turned and smiled at him and the pinto was
transferred to the Ashley stables, to Bill's outspoken delight, who
declared he "couldn't have faced the music if that there pinto had
gone across the line." I confess, however, I was somewhat
surprised at the ease with which Hi escaped his wrath, and my
surprise was in no way lessened when I saw, later in the evening,
the two partners with the stranger taking a quiet drink out of the
same bottle with evident mutual admiration and delight.
"You're an A1 corker, you are! I'll be blanked if you ain't a
bird--a singin' bird--a reg'lar canary," I heard Hi say to Bill.
But Bill's only reply was a long, slow wink which passed into a
frown as he caught my eye. My suspicion was aroused that the sale
of the pinto might bear investigation, and this suspicion was
deepened when Gwen next week gave me a rapturous account of how
splendidly Bill had disposed of the pinto, showing me bills for one
hundred and fifty dollars! To my look of amazement, Gwen replied:
"You see, he must have got them bidding against each other, and
besides, Bill says pintos are going up."
Light began to dawn upon me, but I only answered that I knew they
had risen very considerably in value within a month. The extra
fifty was Bill's.
I was not present to witness the finishing of Bill's bluff, but was
told that when Bill made his way through the crowded aisle and laid
his five hundred and fifty dollars on the schoolhouse desk the look
of disgust, surprise and finally of pleasure on Robbie's face, was
worth a hundred more. But Robbie was ready and put down his two
hundred with the single remark:
"Ay! ye're no as daft as ye look," mid roars of laughter from all.
Then The Pilot, with eyes and face shining, rose and thanked them
all; but when he told of how the little girl in her lonely shack in
the hills thought so much of the church that she gave up for it her
beloved pony, her one possession, the light from his eyes glowed in
the eyes of all.
But the men from the ranches who could understand the full meaning
of her sacrifice and who also could realize the full measure of her
calamity, were stirred to their hearts' depths, so that when Bill
remarked in a very distinct undertone, "I cherish the opinion that
this here Gospel shop wouldn't be materializin' into its present
shape but for that leetle gel," there rose growls of approval in a
variety of tones and expletives that left no doubt that his opinion
was that of all.
But though The Pilot never could quite get at the true inwardness
of Bill's measures and methods, and was doubtless all the more
comfortable in mind for that, he had no doubt that while Gwen's
influence was the moving spring of action, Bill's bluff had a good
deal to do with the "materializin'" of the first church in Swan
Creek, and in this conviction, I share.
Whether the Hon. Fred ever understood the peculiar style of Bill's
financing, I do not quite know. But if he ever did come to know,
he was far too much of a man to make a fuss. Besides, I fancy the
smile on his lady's face was worth some large amount to him. At
least, so the look of proud and fond love in his eyes seemed to say
as he turned away with her from the fire the night of the pinto's
THE LADY CHARLOTTE
The night of the pinto's sale was a night momentous to Gwen, for
then it was that the Lady Charlotte's interest in her began.
Momentous, too, to the Lady Charlotte, for it was that night that
brought The Pilot into her life.
I had turned back to the fire around which the men had fallen into
groups prepared to have an hour's solid delight, for the scene was
full of wild and picturesque beauty to me, when The Duke came and
touched me on the shoulder.
"Lady Charlotte would like to see you."
"And why, pray?"
"She wants to hear about this affair of Bill's."
We went through the kitchen into the large dining-room, at one end
of which was a stone chimney and fireplace. Lady Charlotte had
declared that she did not much care what kind of a house the Hon.
Fred would build for her, but that she must have a fireplace.
She was very beautiful--tall, slight and graceful in every line.
There was a reserve and a grand air in her bearing that put people
in awe of her. This awe I shared; but as I entered the room she
welcomed me with such kindly grace that I felt quite at ease in a
"Come and sit by me," she said, drawing an armchair into the circle
about the fire. "I want you to tell us all about a great many
"You see what you're in for, Connor," said her husband. "It is a
serious business when my lady takes one in hand."
"As he knows to his cost," she said, smiling and shaking her head
at her husband.
"So I can testify," put in The Duke.
"Ah! I can't do anything with you," she replied, turning to him.
"Your most abject slave," he replied with a profound bow.
"If you only were," smiling at him--a little sadly, I thought--"I'd
keep you out of all sorts of mischief."
"Quite true, Duke," said her husband, "just look at me."
The Duke gazed at him a moment or two. "Wonderful!" he murmured,
"what a deliverance!"
"Nonsense!" broke in Lady Charlotte. "You are turning my mind away
from my purpose."
"Is it possible, do you think?" said The Duke to her husband.
"Not in the very least," he replied, "if my experience goes for
But Lady Charlotte turned her back upon them and said to me:
"Now, tell me first about Bill's encounter with that funny little
Then I told her the story of Bill's bluff in my best style,
imitating, as I have some small skill in doing, the manner and
speech of the various actors in the scene. She was greatly amused
"And Bill has really got his share ready," she cried. "It is very
clever of him."
"Yes," I replied, "but Bill is only the very humble instrument, the
moving spirit is behind."
"Oh, yes, you mean the little girl that owns the pony," she said.
"That's another thing you must tell me about."
"The Duke knows more than I," I replied, shifting the burden to
him; "my acquaintance is only of yesterday; his is lifelong."
"Why have you never told me of her?" she demanded, turning to the
"Haven't I told you of the little Meredith girl? Surely I have,"
said The Duke, hesitatingly.
"Now, you know quite well you have not, and that means you are
deeply interested. Oh, I know you well," she said, severely.
"He is the most secretive man," she went on to me, "shamefully and
The Duke smiled; then said, lazily: "Why, she's just a child. Why
should you be interested in her? No one was," he added sadly,
"till misfortune distinguished her."
Her eyes grew soft, and her gay manner changed, and she said to The
Duke gently: "Tell me of her now."
It was evidently an effort, but he began his story of Gwen from
the time he saw her first, years ago, playing in and out of her
father's rambling shack, shy and wild as a young fox. As he went
on with his tale, his voice dropped into a low, musical tone, and
he seemed as if dreaming aloud. Unconsciously he put into the tale
much of himself, revealing how great an influence the little child
had had upon him, and how empty of love his life had been in this
lonely land. Lady Charlotte listened with face intent upon him,
and even her bluff husband was conscious that something more than
usual was happening. He had never heard The Duke break through his
proud reserve before.
But when The Duke told the story of Gwen's awful fall, which he did
with great graphic power, a little red spot burned upon the Lady
Charlotte's pale cheek, and, as The Duke finished his tale with the
words, "It was her last ride," she covered her face with her hands
"Oh, Duke, it is horrible to think of! But what splendid courage!"
"Great stuff! eh, Duke?" cried the Hon. Fred, kicking a burning log
But The Duke made no reply.
"How is she now, Duke?" said Lady Charlotte. The Duke looked up as
from a dream. "Bright as the morning," he said. Then, in reply to
Lady Charlotte's look of wonder, he added:
"The Pilot did it. Connor will tell you. I don't understand it."
"Nor do I, either. But I can tell you only what I saw and heard,"
"Tell me," said Lady Charlotte very gently.
Then I told her how, one by one, we had failed to help her, and how
The Pilot had ridden up that morning through the canyon, and how he
had brought the first light and peace to her by his marvellous
pictures of the flowers and ferns and trees and all the wonderful
mysteries of that wonderful canyon.
"But that wasn't all," said the Duke quickly, as I stopped.
"No," I said slowly, "that was NOT all by a long way; but the rest
I don't understand. That's The Pilot's secret."
"Tell me what he did," said Lady Charlotte, softly, once more. "I
want to know."
"I don't think I can," I replied. "He simply read out of the
Scriptures to her and talked."
Lady Charlotte looked disappointed.
"Is that all?" she said.
"It is quite enough for Gwen," said The Duke confidently, "for
there she lies, often suffering, always longing for the hills and
the free air, but with her face radiant as the flowers of the
"I must see her," said Lady Charlotte, "and that wonderful Pilot."
"You'll be disappointed in him," said The Duke.
"Oh, I've see him and heard him, but I don't know him," she
replied. "There must be something in him that one does not see
"So I have discovered," said The Duke, and with that the subject
was dropped, but not before the Lady Charlotte made me promise to
take her to Gwen, The Duke being strangely unwilling to do this for
"You'll be disappointed," he said. "She is only a simple little
But Lady Charlotte thought differently, and, having made up her
mind upon the matter, there was nothing for it, as her husband
said, but "for all hands to surrender and the sooner the better."
And so the Lady Charlotte had her way, which, as it turned out, was
much the wisest and best.
THROUGH GWEN'S WINDOW
When I told The Pilot of Lady Charlotte's purpose to visit Gwen, he
was not too well pleased.
"What does she want with Gwen?" he said impatiently. "She will
just put notions into her head and make the child discontented."
"Why should she?" said I.
"She won't mean to, but she belongs to another world, and Gwen
cannot talk to her without getting glimpses of a life that will
make her long for what she can never have," said The Pilot.
"But suppose it is not idle curiosity in Lady Charlotte," I
"I don't say it is quite that," he answered, "but these people love
"I don't think you know Lady Charlotte," I replied. "I hardly
think from her tone the other night that she is a sensation
"At any rate," he answered, decidedly, "she is not to worry poor
I was a little surprised at his attitude, and felt that he was
unfair to Lady Charlotte, but I forbore to argue with him on the
matter. He could not bear to think of any person or thing
threatening the peace of his beloved Gwen.
The very first Saturday after my promise was given we were
surprised to see Lady Charlotte ride up to the door of our shack
in the early morning.
"You see, I am not going to let you off," she said, as I greeted
her. "And the day is so very fine for a ride."
I hastened to apologize for not going to her, and then to get out
of my difficulty, rather meanly turned toward The Pilot, and said:
"The Pilot doesn't approve of our visit."
"And why not, may I ask?" said Lady Charlotte, lifting her eyebrows.
The Pilot's face burned, partly with wrath at me, and partly with
embarrassment; for Lady Charlotte had put on her grand air. But he
stood to his guns.
"I was saying, Lady Charlotte," he said, looking straight into her
eyes, "that you and Gwen have little in common--and--and--" he
"Little in common!" said Lady Charlotte quietly. "She has suffered
The Pilot was quick to catch the note of sadness in her voice.
"Yes," he said, wondering at her tone, "she has suffered greatly."
"And," continued Lady Charlotte, "she is bright as the morning, The
Duke says." There was a look of pain in her face.
The Pilot's face lit up, and he came nearer and laid his hand
caressingly upon her beautiful horse.
"Yes, thank God!" he said quickly, "bright as the morning."
"How can that be?" she asked, looking down into his face. "Perhaps
she would tell me."
"Lady Charlotte," said The Pilot with a sudden flush, "I must ask
your pardon. I was wrong. I thought you--" he paused; "but go to
Gwen, she will tell you, and you will do her good."
"Thank you," said Lady Charlotte, putting out her hand, "and
perhaps you will come and see me, too."
The Pilot promised and stood looking after us as we rode up the
"There is something more in your Pilot than at first appears," she
said. "The Duke was quite right."
"He is a great man," I said with enthusiasm; "tender as a woman and
with the heart of a hero."
"You and Bill and The Duke seem to agree about him," she said,
Then I told her tales of The Pilot, and of his ways with the men,
till her blue eyes grew bright and her beautiful face lost its
"It is perfectly amazing," I said, finishing my story, "how these
devil-may-care rough fellows respect him, and come to him in all
sorts of trouble. I can't understand it, and yet he is just a
"No, not amazing," said Lady Charlotte slowly. "I think I
understand it. He has a true man's heart; and holds a great
purpose in it. I've seen men like that. Not clergymen, I mean,
but men with a great purpose."
Then, after a moment's thought, she added: "But you ought to care
for him better. He does not look strong."
"Strong!" I exclaimed quickly, with a queer feeling of resentment
at my heart. "He can do as much riding as any of us."
"Still," she replied, "there's something in his face that would
make his mother anxious." In spite of my repudiation of her
suggestion, I found myself for the next few minutes thinking of how
he would come exhausted and faint from his long rides, and I
resolved that he must have a rest and change.
It was one of those early September days, the best of all in the
western country, when the light falls less fiercely through a soft
haze that seems to fill the air about you, and that grows into
purple on the far hilltops. By the time we reached the canyon the
sun was riding high and pouring its rays full into all the deep
nooks where the shadows mostly lay.
There were no shadows to-day, except such as the trees cast upon
the green moss beds and the black rocks. The tops of the tall elms
were sere and rusty, but the leaves of the rugged oaks that fringed
the canyon's lips shone a rich and glossy brown. All down the
sides the poplars and delicate birches, pale yellow, but sometimes
flushing into orange and red, stood shimmering in the golden light,
while here and there the broad-spreading, feathery sumachs made
great splashes of brilliant crimson upon the yellow and gold. Down
in the bottom stood the cedars and the balsams, still green. We
stood some moments silently gazing into this tangle of interlacing
boughs and shimmering leaves, all glowing in yellow light, then
Lady Charlotte broke the silence in tones soft and reverent as if
she stood in a great cathedral.
"And this is Gwen's canyon!"
"Yes, but she never sees it now," I said, for I could never ride
through without thinking of the child to whose heart this was so
dear, but whose eyes never rested upon it. Lady Charlotte made no
reply, and we took the trail that wound down into this maze of
mingling colors and lights and shadows. Everywhere lay the fallen
leaves, brown and yellow and gold;--everywhere on our trail, on the
green mosses and among the dead ferns. And as we rode, leaves
fluttered down from the trees above silently through the tangled
boughs, and lay with the others on moss and rock and beaten trail.
The flowers were all gone; but the Little Swan sang as ever its
many-voiced song, as it flowed in pools and eddies and cascades,
with here and there a golden leaf upon its black waters. Ah! how
often in weary, dusty days these sights and sounds and silences
have come to me and brought my heart rest!
As we began to climb up into the open, I glanced at my companion's
face. The canyon had done its work with her as with all who loved
it. The touch of pride that was the habit of her face was gone,
and in its place rested the earnest wonder of a little child, while
in her eyes lay the canyon's tender glow. And with this face she
looked in upon Gwen.
And Gwen, who had been waiting for her, forgot all her nervous
fear, and with hands outstretched, cried out in welcome:
"Oh, I'm so glad! You've seen it and I know you love it! My
canyon, you know!" she went on, answering Lady Charlotte's
"Yes, dear child," said Lady Charlotte, bending over the pale face
with its halo of golden hair, "I love it." But she could get no
further, for her eyes were full of tears. Gwen gazed up into the
beautiful face, wondering at her silence, and then said gently:
"Tell me how it looks to-day! The Pilot always shows it to me. Do
you know," she added, thoughtfully, "The Pilot looks like it
himself. He makes me think of it, and--and--" she went on shyly,
"you do, too."
By this time Lady Charlotte was kneeling by the couch, smoothing
the beautiful hair and gently touching the face so pale and lined
"That is a great honor, truly," she said brightly through her
tears--"to be like your canyon and like your Pilot, too."
Gwen nodded, but she was not to be denied.
"Tell me how it looks to-day," she said. "I want to see it. Oh, I
want to see it!"
Lady Charlotte was greatly moved by the yearning in the voice, but,
controlling herself, she said gaily:
"Oh, I can't show it to you as your Pilot can, but I'll tell you
what I saw."
"Turn me where I can see," said Gwen to me, and I wheeled her
toward the window and raised her up so that she could look down the
trail toward the canyon's mouth.
"Now," she said, after the pain of the lifting had passed, "tell
Then Lady Charlotte set the canyon before her in rich and radiant
coloring, while Gwen listened, gazing down upon the trail to where
the elm tops could be seen, rusty and sere.
"Oh, it is lovely!" said Gwen, "and I see it so well. It is all
there before me when I look through my window."
But Lady Charlotte looked at her, wondering to see her bright
smile, and at last she could not help the question:
"But don't you weary to see it with your own eyes?"
"Yes," said Gwen gently, "often I want and want it, oh, so much!"
"And then, Gwen, dear, how can you bear it?" Her voice was eager
and earnest. "Tell me, Gwen. I have heard all about your canyon
flowers, but I can't understand how the fretting and the pain went
Gwen looked at her first in amazement, and then in dawning
"Have you a canyon, too?" she asked, gravely.
Lady Charlotte paused a moment, then nodded. It did appear strange
to me that she should break down her proud reserve and open her
heart to this child.
"And there are no flowers, Gwen, not one," she said rather bitterly,
"nor sun nor seeds nor soil, I fear."
"Oh, if The Pilot were here, he would tell you."
At this point, feeling that they would rather be alone, I excused
myself on the pretext of looking after the horses.
What they talked of during the next hour I never knew, but when I
returned to the room Lady Charlotte was reading slowly and with
perplexed face to Gwen out of her mother's Bible the words "for the
suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor."
"You see even for Him, suffering," Gwen said eagerly, "but I can't
explain. The Pilot will make it clear." Then the talk ended.
We had lunch with Gwen--bannocks and fresh sweet milk and
blueberries--and after an hour of gay fun we came away.
Lady Charlotte kissed her tenderly as she bade Gwen good-by.
"You must let me come again and sit at your window," she said,
smiling down upon the wan face.
"Oh, I shall watch for you. How good that will be!" cried Gwen,
delightedly. "How many come to see me! You make five." Then she
added, softly: "You will write your letter." But Lady Charlotte
shook her head.
"I can't do that, I fear," she said, "but I shall think of it."
It was a bright face that looked out upon us through the open
window as we rode down the trail. Just before we took the dip into
the canyon, I turned to wave my hand.
"Gwen's friends always wave from here," I said, wheeling my bronco.
Again and again Lady Charlotte waved her handkerchief.
"How beautiful, but how wonderful!" she said as if to herself.
"Truly, HER canyon is full of flowers."
"It is quite beyond me," I answered. "The Pilot may explain."
"Is there anything your Pilot can't do?" said Lady Charlotte.
"Try him," I ventured.
"I mean to," she replied, "but I cannot bring anyone to my canyon,
I fear," she added in an uncertain voice.
As I left her at her door she thanked me with courteous grace.
"You have done a great deal for me," she said, giving me her hand.
"It has been a beautiful, a wonderful day."
When I told the Pilot all the day's doings, he burst out:
"What a stupid and self-righteous fool I have been! I never
thought there could be any canyon in her life. How short our sight
is!" and all that night I could get almost no words from him.
That was the first of many visits to Gwen. Not a week passed but
Lady Charlotte took the trail to the Meredith ranch and spent an
hour at Gwen's window. Often The Pilot found her there. But
though they were always pleasant hours to him, he would come home
in great trouble about Lady Charlotte.
"She is perfectly charming and doing Gwen no end of good, but she
is proud as an archangel. Has had an awful break with her family
at home, and it is spoiling her life. She told me so much, but she
will allow no one to touch the affair."
But one day we met her riding toward the village. As we drew near,
she drew up her horse and held up a letter.
"Home!" she said. "I wrote it to-day, and I must get it off
The Pilot understood her at once, but he only said:
"Good!" but with such emphasis that we both laughed.
"Yes, I hope so," she said with the red beginning to show in her
cheek. "I have dropped some seed into my canyon."
"I think I see the flowers beginning to spring," said The Pilot.
She shook her head doubtfully and replied:
"I shall ride up and sit with Gwen at her window."
"Do," replied The Pilot, "the light is good there. Wonderful
things are to be seen through Gwen's window."
"Yes," said Lady Charlotte softly. "Dear Gwen!--but I fear it is
often made bright with tears."
As she spoke she wheeled her horse and cantered off, for her own
tears were not far away. I followed her in thought up the trail
winding through the round-topped hills and down through the golden
lights of the canyon and into Gwen's room. I could see the pale
face, with its golden aureole, light up and glow, as they sat
before the window while Lady Charlotte would tell her how Gwen's
Canyon looked to-day and how in her own bleak canyon there was the
sign of flowers.
HOW BILL FAVORED "HOME-GROWN INDUSTRIES"
The building of the Swan Creek Church made a sensation in the
country, and all the more that Bronco Bill was in command.
"When I put up money I stay with the game," he announced; and stay
he did, to the great benefit of the work and to the delight of The
Pilot, who was wearing his life out in trying to do several men's
work. It was Bill that organized the gangs for hauling stone for
the foundation and logs for the walls. It was Bill that assigned
the various jobs to those volunteering service. To Robbie Muir and
two stalwart Glengarry men from the Ottawa lumber region, who knew
all about the broadaxe, he gave the hewing down of the logs that
formed the walls. And when they had done, Bill declared they were
"better 'an a sawmill." It was Bill, too, that did the financing,
and his passage with Williams, the storekeeper from "the other
side" who dealt in lumber and building material, was such as
established forever Bill's reputation in finance.
With The Pilot's plans in his hands he went to Williams, seizing a
time when the store was full of men after their mail matter.
"What do you think ov them plans?" he asked innocently.
Williams was voluble with opinions and criticism and suggestions,
all of which were gratefully, even humbly received.
"Kind ov hard to figger out jest how much lumber 'll go into the
shack," said Bill; "ye see the logs makes a difference."
To Williams the thing was simplicity itself, and, after some
figuring, he handed Bill a complete statement of the amount of
lumber of all kinds that would be required.
"Now, what would that there come to?"
Williams named his figure, and then Bill entered upon negotiations.
"I aint no man to beat down prices. No, sir, I say give a man his
figger. Of course, this here aint my funeral; besides, bein' a
Gospel shop, the price naterally would be different." To this the
boys all assented and Williams looked uncomfortable.
"In fact," and Bill adopted his public tone to Hi's admiration and
joy, "this here's a public institooshun" (this was Williams' own
thunder), "condoocin' to the good of the community" (Hi slapped his
thigh and squirted half way across the store to signify his entire
approval, "and I cherish the opinion"--(delighted chuckle from Hi)--
"that public men are interested in this concern."
"That's so! Right you are!" chorused the boys gravely.
Williams agreed, but declared he had thought of all this in making
his calculation. But seeing it was a church, and the first church
and their own church, he would make a cut, which he did after more
figuring. Bill gravely took the slip of paper and put it into his
pocket without a word. By the end of the week, having in the
meantime ridden into town and interviewed the dealers there, Bill
sauntered into the store and took up his position remote from
"You'll be wanting that sheeting, won't you, next week, Bill?" said
"What sheetin' 's that?"
"Why, for the church. Aint the logs up?"
"Yes, that's so. I was just goin' to see the boys here about
gettin' it hauled," said Bill.
"Hauled!" said Williams, in amazed indignation. "Aint you goin' to
stick to your deal?"
"I generally make it my custom to stick to my deals," said Bill,
looking straight at Williams.
"Well, what about your deal with me last Monday night?" said
"Let's see. Last Monday night," said Bill, apparently thinking
back; "can't say as I remember any pertickler deal. Any ov you
No one could recall any deal.
"You don't remember getting any paper from me, I suppose?" said
"Paper! Why, I believe I've got that there paper onto my person at
this present moment," said Bill, diving into his pocket and drawing
out Williams' estimate. He spent a few moments in careful
"There ain't no deal onto this as I can see," said Bill, gravely
passing the paper to the boys, who each scrutinized it and passed
it on with a shake of the head or a remark as to the absence of any
sign of a deal. Williams changed his tone. For his part, he was
indifferent in the matter.
Then Bill made him an offer.
"Ov course, I believe in supportin' home-grown industries, and if
you can touch my figger I'd be uncommonly glad to give you the
But Bill's figure, which was quite fifty per cent. lower than
Williams' best offer, was rejected as quite impossible.
"Thought I'd make you the offer," said Bill, carelessly, "seein' as
you're institootin' the trade and the boys here 'll all be buildin'
more or less, and I believe in standin' up for local trades and
manufactures." There were nods of approval on all sides, and
Williams was forced to accept, for Bill began arranging with the
Hill brothers and Hi to make an early start on Monday. It was a
great triumph, but Bill displayed no sign of elation; he was rather
full of sympathy for Williams, and eager to help on the lumber
business as a local "institooshun."
Second in command in the church building enterprise stood Lady
Charlotte, and under her labored the Hon. Fred, The Duke, and,
indeed, all the company of the Noble Seven. Her home became the
centre of a new type of social life. With exquisite tact, and much
was needed for this kind of work, she drew the bachelors from their
lonely shacks and from their wild carousals, and gave them a taste
of the joys of a pure home-life, the first they had had since
leaving the old homes years ago. And then she made them work for
the church with such zeal and diligence that her husband and The
Duke declared that ranching had become quite an incidental interest
since the church-building had begun. But The Pilot went about with
a radiant look on his pale face, while Bill gave it forth as his
opinion, "though she was a leetle high in the action, she could hit
an uncommon gait."
With such energy did Bill push the work of construction that by the
first of December the church stood roofed, sheeted, floored and
ready for windows, doors and ceiling, so that The Pilot began to
hope that he should see the desire of his heart fulfilled--the
church of Swan Creek open for divine service on Christmas Day.
During these weeks there was more than church-building going on,
for while the days were given to the shaping of logs, and the
driving of nails and the planing of boards, the long winter
evenings were spent in talk around the fire in my shack, where The
Pilot for some months past had made his home and where Bill, since
the beginning of the church building, had come "to camp." Those
were great nights for The Pilot and Bill, and, indeed, for me, too,
and the other boys, who, after a day's work on the church, were
always brought in by Bill or The Pilot.
Great nights for us all they were. After bacon and beans and
bannocks, and occasionally potatoes, and rarely a pudding, with
coffee, rich and steaming, to wash all down, pipes would follow,
and then yarns of adventures, possible and impossible, all exciting
and wonderful, and all received with the greatest credulity.
If, however, the powers of belief were put to too great a strain by
a tale of more than ordinary marvel, Bill would follow with one of
such utter impossibility that the company would feel that the limit
had been reached, and the yarns would cease. But after the first
week most of the time was given to The Pilot, who would read to us
of the deeds of the mighty men of old, who had made and wrecked
What happy nights they were to those cowboys, who had been cast up
like driftwood upon this strange and lonely shore! Some of them
had never known what it was to have a thought beyond the work and
sport of the day. And the world into which The Pilot was ushering
them was all new and wonderful to them. Happy nights, without a
care, but that The Pilot would not get the ghastly look out of his
face, and laughed at the idea of going away till the church was
built. And, indeed, we would all have sorely missed him, and so he
HOW BILL HIT THE TRAIL
When "the crowd" was with us The Pilot read us all sorts of tales
of adventures in all lands by heroes of all ages, but when we three
sat together by our fire The Pilot would always read us tales of
the heroes of sacred story, and these delighted Bill more than
those of any of the ancient empires of the past. He had his
favorites. Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, never failed to arouse
his admiration. But Jacob was to him always "a mean cuss," and
David he could not appreciate. Most of all he admired Moses and
the Apostle Paul, whom he called "that little chap." But, when the
reading was about the One Great Man that moved majestic amid the
gospel stories, Bill made no comments; He was too high for
By and by Bill began to tell these tales to the boys, and one
night, when a quiet mood had fallen upon the company, Bill broke
"Say, Pilot, where was it that the little chap got mixed up into
"Riot!" said The Pilot.
"Yes; you remember when he stood off the whole gang from the
"Oh, yes, at Jerusalem!"
"Yes, that's the spot. Perhaps you would read that to the boys.
Good yarn! Little chap, you know, stood up and told 'em they were
all sorts of blanked thieves and cut-throats, and stood 'em off.
Played it alone, too."
Most of the boys failed to recognize the story in its new dress.
There was much interest.
"Who was the duck? Who was the gang? What was the row about?"
"The Pilot here'll tell you. If you'd kind o' give 'em a lead
before you begin, they'd catch on to the yarn better." This last
to The Pilot, who was preparing to read.
"Well, it was at Jerusalem," began The Pilot, when Bill interrupted:
"If I might remark, perhaps it might help the boys on to the trail
mebbe, if you'd tell 'em how the little chap struck his new gait."
So he designated the Apostle's conversion.
Then The Pilot introduced the Apostle with some formality to the
company, describing with such vivid touches his life and early
training, his sudden wrench from all he held dear, under the stress
of a new conviction, his magnificent enthusiasm and courage, his
tenderness and patience, that I was surprised to find myself
regarding him as a sort of hero, and the boys were all ready to
back him against any odds. As The Pilot read the story of the
Arrest at Jerusalem, stopping now and then to picture the scene, we
saw it all and were in the thick of it. The raging crowd hustling
and beating the life out of the brave little man, the sudden thrust
of the disciplined Roman guard through the mass, the rescue, the
pause on the stairway, the calm face of the little hero beckoning
for a hearing, the quieting of the frantic, frothing mob, the
fearless speech--all passed before us. The boys were thrilled.
"Good stuff, eh?"
"Ain't he a daisy?"
"Daisy! He's a whole sunflower patch!"
"Yes," drawled Bill, highly appreciating their marks of approval.
"That's what I call a partickler fine character of a man. There
ain't no manner of insecks on to him."
"You bet!" said Hi.
"I say," broke in one of the boys, who was just emerging from the
tenderfoot stage, "o' course that's in the Bible, ain't it?"
The Pilot assented.
"Well, how do you know it's true?"
The Pilot was proceeding to elaborate his argument when Bill cut in
somewhat more abruptly than was his wont.
"Look here, young feller!" Bill's voice was in the tone of
command. The man looked as he was bid. "How do you know
anything's true? How do you know The Pilot here's true when he
speaks? Can't you tell by the feel? You know by the sound of his
voice, don't you?" Bill paused and the young fellow agreed
"Well how do you know a blanked son of a she jackass when you see
him?" Again Bill paused. There was no reply.
"Well," said Bill, resuming his deliberate drawl. "I'll give you
the information without extra charge. It's by the sound he makes
when he opens his blanked jaw."
"But," went on the young skeptic, nettled at the laugh that went
round, "that don't prove anything. You know," turning to The
Pilot, "that there are heaps of people who don't believe the
The Pilot nodded.
"Some of the smartest, best-educated men are agnostics," proceeded
the young man, warming to his theme, and failing to notice the
stiffening of Bill's lank figure. "I don't know but what I am one
"That so?" said Bill, with sudden interest.
"I guess so," was the modest reply.
"Got it bad?" went on Bill, with a note of anxiety in his tone.
But the young man turned to The Pilot and tried to open a fresh
"Whatever he's got," said Bill to the others, in a mild voice,
"it's spoilin' his manners."
"Yes," went on Bill, meditatively, after the slight laugh had died,
"it's ruinin' to the judgment. He don't seem to know when he
interferes with the game. Pity, too."
Still the argument went on.
"Seems as if he ought to take somethin'," said Bill, in a voice
suspiciously mild. "What would you suggest?"
"A walk, mebbe!" said Hi, in delighted expectation.
"I hold the opinion that you have mentioned an uncommonly vallable
remedy, better'n Pain Killer almost."
Bill rose languidly.
"I say," he drawled, tapping the young fellow, "it appears to me a
little walk would perhaps be good, mebbe."
"All right, wait till I get my cap," was the unsuspecting reply.
"I don't think perhaps you won't need it, mebbe. I cherish the
opinion you'll, perhaps, be warm enough." Bill's voice had
unconsciously passed into a sterner tone. Hi was on his feet and
at the door.
"This here interview is private AND confidential," said Bill to his
"Exactly," said Hi, opening the door. At this the young fellow,
who was a strapping six-footer, but soft and flabby, drew back and
refused to go. He was too late. Bill's grip was on his collar and
out they went into the snow, and behind them Hi closed the door.
In vain the young fellow struggled to wrench himself free from the
hands that had him by the shoulder and the back of the neck. I
took it all in from the window. He might have been a boy for all
the effect his plungings had upon the long, sinewy arms that
gripped him so fiercely. After a minute's furious struggle the
young fellow stood quiet, when Bill suddenly shifted his grip from
the shoulder to the seat of his buckskin trousers. Then began a
series of evolutions before the house--up and down, forward and
back, which the unfortunate victim, with hands wildly clutching at
empty air, was quite powerless to resist till he was brought up
panting and gasping, subdued, to a standstill.
"I'll larn you agnostics and several other kinds of ticks," said
Bill, in a terrible voice, his drawl lengthening perceptibly.
"Come round here, will you, and shove your blanked second-handed
trash down our throats?" Bill paused to get words; then, bursting
out in rising wrath:
"There ain't no sootable words for sich conduct. By the livin'
Jeminy--" He suddenly swung his prisoner off his feet, lifted him
bodily, and held him over his head at arm's length. "I've a notion
"Don't! don't! for Heaven's sake!" cried the struggling wretch,
"I'll stop it! I will!"
Bill at once lowered him and set him on his feet.
"All right! Shake!" he said, holding out his hand, which the other
took with caution.
It was a remarkably sudden conversion and lasting in its effects.
There was no more agnosticism in the little group that gathered
around The Pilot for the nightly reading.
The interest in the reading kept growing night by night.
"Seems as if The Pilot was gittin' in his work," said Bill to me;
and looking at the grave, eager faces, I agreed. He was getting in
his work with Bill, too; though perhaps Bill did not know it. I
remember one night, when the others had gone, The Pilot was reading
to us the Parable of the Talents, Bill was particularly interested
in the servant who failed in his duty.
"Ornery cuss, eh?" he remarked; "and gall, too, eh? Served him
blamed well right, in my opinion!"
But when the practical bearing of the parable became clear to him,
after long silence, he said, slowly:
"Well, that there seems to indicate that it's about time for
me to get a rustle on." Then, after another silence, he said,
hesitatingly, "This here church-buildin' business now, do you think
that'll perhaps count, mebbe? I guess not, eh? 'Tain't much, o'
course, anyway." Poor Bill, he was like a child, and The Pilot
handled him with a mother's touch.
"What are you best at, Bill?"
"Bronco-bustin' and cattle," said Bill, wonderingly; "that's my
"Well, Bill, my line is preaching just now, and piloting, you
know." The Pilot's smile was like a sunbeam on a rainy day, for
there were tears in his eyes and voice. "And we have just got to
be faithful. You see what he says: 'Well done, good and FAITHFUL
servant. Thou hast been FAITHFUL.'"
Bill was puzzled.
"Faithful!" he repeated. "Does that mean with the cattle, perhaps?"
"Yes, that's just it, Bill, and with everything else that comes
And Bill never forgot that lesson, for I heard him, with a kind of
quiet enthusiasm, giving it to Hi as a great find. "Now, I call
that a fair deal," he said to his friend; "gives every man a show.
No cards up the sleeve."
"That's so," was Hi's thoughtful reply; "distributes the trumps."
Somehow Bill came to be regarded as an authority upon questions
of religion and morals. No one ever accused him of "gettin'
religion." He went about his work in his slow, quiet way, but he
was always sharing his discoveries with "the boys." And if anyone
puzzled him with subtleties he never rested till he had him face to
face with The Pilot. And so it came that these two drew to each
other with more than brotherly affection. When Bill got into
difficulty with problems that have vexed the souls of men far wiser
than he, The Pilot would either disentangle the knots or would turn
his mind to the verities that stood out sure and clear, and Bill
would be content.
"That's good enough for me," he would say, and his heart would be
HOW THE SWAN CREEK CHURCH WAS OPENED
When, near the end of the year, The Pilot fell sick, Bill nursed
him like a mother and sent him off for a rest and change to Gwen,
forbidding him to return till the church was finished and visiting
him twice a week. The love between the two was most beautiful,
and, when I find my heart grow hard and unbelieving in men and
things, I let my mind wander back to a scene that I came upon in
front of Gwen's house. These two were standing alone in the clear
moonlight, Bill with his hand upon The Pilot's shoulder, and The
Pilot with his arm around Bill's neck.
"Dear old Bill," The Pilot was saying, "dear old Bill," and the
voice was breaking into a sob. And Bill, standing stiff and
straight, looked up at the stars, coughed and swallowed hard for
some moments, and said, in a queer, croaky voice:
"Shouldn't wonder if a Chinook would blow up."
"Chinook?" laughed The Pilot, with a catch in his voice. "You dear
old humbug," and he stood watching till the lank form swayed down
into the canyon.
The day of the church opening came, as all days, however long
waited for, will come--a bright, beautiful Christmas Day. The air
was still and full of frosty light, as if arrested by a voice of
command, waiting the word to move. The hills lay under their
dazzling coverlets, asleep. Back of all, the great peaks lifted
majestic heads out of the dark forests and gazed with calm,
steadfast faces upon the white, sunlit world. To-day, as the light
filled up the cracks that wrinkled their hard faces, they seemed to
smile, as if the Christmas joy had somehow moved something in their
old, stony hearts.
The people were all there--farmers, ranchers, cowboys, wives and
children--all happy, all proud of their new church, and now all
expectant, waiting for The Pilot and the Old Timer, who were to
drive down if The Pilot was fit and were to bring Gwen if the day
was fine. As the time passed on, Bill, as master of ceremonies,
began to grow uneasy. Then Indian Joe appeared and handed a note
to Bill. He read it, grew gray in the face and passed it to me.
Looking, I saw in poor, wavering lines the words, "Dear Bill. Go
on with the opening. Sing the Psalm, you know the one, and say a
prayer, and oh, come to me quick, Bill. Your Pilot."
Bill gradually pulled himself together, announced in a strange
voice, "The Pilot can't come," handed me the Psalm, and said:
"Make them sing."
It was that grand Psalm for all hill peoples, "I to the hills will
lift mine eyes," and with wondering faces they sang the strong,
steadying words. After the Psalm was over the people sat and
waited, Bill looked at the Hon. Fred Ashley, then at Robbie Muir,
then said to me in a low voice:
"Kin you make a prayer?"
I shook my head, ashamed as I did so of my cowardice.
Again Bill paused, then said:
"The Pilot says there's got to be a prayer. Kin anyone make one?"
Again dead, solemn silence.
Then Hi, who was near the back, said, coming to his partner's help:
"What's the matter with you trying, yourself, Bill?"
The red began to come up in Bill's white face.
"'Taint in my line. But The Pilot says there's got to be a prayer,
and I'm going to stay with the game." Then, leaning on the pulpit,
"Let's pray," and began:
"God Almighty, I ain't no good at this, and perhaps you'll
understand if I don't put things right." Then a pause followed,
during which I heard some of the women beginning to sob.
"What I want to say," Bill went on, "is, we're mighty glad about
this church, which we know it's you and The Pilot that's worked it.
And we're all glad to chip in."
Then again he paused, and, looking up, I saw his hard, gray face
working and two tears stealing down his cheeks. Then he started
"But about The Pilot--I don't want to persoom--but if you don't
mind, we'd like to have him stay--in fact, don't see how we kin do
without him--look at all the boys here; he's just getting his work
in and is bringin' 'em right along, and, God Almighty, if you take
him away it might be a good thing for himself, but for us--oh,
God," the voice quivered and was silent "Amen."
Then someone, I think it must have been the Lady Charlotte, began:
"Our Father," and all joined that could join, to the end. For a
few moments Bill stood up, looking at them silently. Then, as if
remembering his duty, he said:
"This here church is open. Excuse me."
He stood at the door, gave a word of direction to Hi, who had
followed him out, and leaping on his bronco shook him out into a
The Swan Creek Church was opened. The form of service may not have
been correct, but, if great love counts for anything and appealing
faith, then all that was necessary was done.
THE PILOT'S LAST PORT
In the old times a funeral was regarded in the Swan Creek country
as a kind of solemn festivity. In those days, for the most part,
men died in their boots and were planted with much honor and loyal
libation. There was often neither shroud nor coffin, and in the
Far West many a poor fellow lies as he fell, wrapped in his own or
his comrade's blanket.
It was the manager of the X L Company's ranch that introduced
crape. The occasion was the funeral of one of the ranch cowboys,
killed by his bronco, but when the pall-bearers and mourners
appeared with bands and streamers of crape, this was voted by the
majority as "too gay." That circumstance alone was sufficient to
render that funeral famous, but it was remembered, too, as having
shocked the proprieties in another and more serious manner. No one
would be so narrow-minded as to object to the custom of the return
procession falling into a series of horse-races of the wildest
description, and ending up at Latour's in a general riot. But to
race with the corpse was considered bad form. The "corpse-driver,"
as he was called, could hardly be blamed on this occasion. His
acknowledged place was at the head of the procession, and it was a
point of honor that that place should be retained. The fault
clearly lay with the driver of the X L ranch sleigh, containing the
mourners (an innovation, by the way), who felt aggrieved that Hi
Kendal, driving the Ashley team with the pall-bearers (another
innovation), should be given the place of honor next the corpse.
The X L driver wanted to know what, in the name of all that was
black and blue, the Ashley Ranch had to do with the funeral? Whose
was that corpse, anyway? Didn't it belong to the X L ranch? Hi,
on the other hand, contended that the corpse was in charge of the
pall-bearers. "It was their duty to see it right to the grave, and
if they were not on hand, how was it goin' to get there? They
didn't expect it would git up and get there by itself, did they?
Hi didn't want no blanked mourners foolin' round that corp till it
was properly planted; after that they might git in their work."
But the X L driver could not accept this view, and at the first
opportunity slipped past Hi and his pall-bearers and took the place
next the sleigh that carried the coffin. It is possible that Hi
might have borne with this affront and loss of position with even
mind, but the jeering remarks of the mourners as they slid past
triumphantly could not be endured, and the next moment the three
teams were abreast in a race as for dear life. The corpse-driver,
having the advantage of the beaten track, soon left the other two
behind running neck and neck for second place, which was captured
finally by Hi and maintained to the grave side, in spite of many
attempts on the part of the X L's. The whole proceeding, however,
was considered quite improper, and at Latour's, that night, after
full and bibulous discussion, it was agreed that the corpse-driver
fairly distributed the blame. "For his part," he said, "he knew he
hadn't ought to make no corp git any such move on, but he wasn't
goin' to see that there corp take second place at his own funeral.
Not if he could help it. And as for the others, he thought that
the pall-bearers had a blanked sight more to do with the plantin'
than them giddy mourners."
But when they gathered at the Meredith ranch to carry out The Pilot
to his grave it was felt that the Foothill Country was called to a
new experience. They were all there. The men from the Porcupine
and from beyond the Fort, the Police with the Inspector in command,
all the farmers for twenty miles around, and of course all the
ranchers and cowboys of the Swan Creek country. There was no
effort at repression. There was no need, for in the cowboys, for
the first time in their experience, there was no heart for fun.
And as they rode up and hitched their horses to the fence, or drove
their sleighs into the yard and took off the bells, there was no
loud-voiced salutation, no guying nor chaffing, but with silent nod
they took their places in the crowd about the door or passed into
The men from the Porcupine could not quite understand the gloomy
silence. It was something unprecedented in a country where men
laughed all care to scorn and saluted death with a nod. But they
were quick to read signs, and with characteristic courtesy they
fell in with the mood they could not understand. There is no man
living so quick to feel your mood, and so ready to adapt himself to
it, as is the true Westerner.
This was the day of the cowboy's grief. To the rest of the
community The Pilot was preacher; to them he was comrade and
friend. They had been slow to admit him to their confidence, but
steadily he had won his place with them, till within the last few
months they had come to count him as of themselves. He had ridden
the range with them; he had slept in their shacks and cooked his
meals on their tin stoves; and, besides, he was Bill's chum. That
alone was enough to give him a right to all they owned. He was
theirs, and they were only beginning to take full pride in him when
he passed out from them, leaving an emptiness in their life new and
unexplained. No man in that country had ever shown concern for
them, nor had it occurred to them that any man could, till The
Pilot came. It took them long to believe that the interest he
showed in them was genuine and not simply professional. Then, too,
from a preacher they had expected chiefly pity, warning, rebuke.
The Pilot astonished them by giving them respect, admiration, and
open-hearted affection. It was months before they could get over
their suspicion that he was humbugging them. When once they did,
they gave him back without knowing it all the trust and love of
their big, generous hearts. He had made this world new to some of
them, and to all had given glimpses of the next. It was no wonder
that they stood in dumb groups about the house where the man, who
had done all this for them and had been all this to them lay dead.
There was no demonstration of grief. The Duke was in command, and
his quiet, firm voice, giving directions, helped all to self-
control. The women who were gathered in the middle room were
weeping quietly. Bill was nowhere to be seen, but near the inner
door sat Gwen in her chair, with Lady Charlotte beside her, holding
her hand. Her face, worn with long suffering, was pale, but serene
as the morning sky, and with not a trace of tears. As my eye
caught hers, she beckoned me to her.
"Where's Bill?" she said. "Bring him in."
I found him at the back of the house.
"Aren't you coming in, Bill?" I said.
"No; I guess there's plenty without me," he said, in his slow way.
"You'd better come in; the service is going to begin," I urged.
"Don't seem as if I cared for to hear anythin' much. I ain't much
used to preachin', anyway," said Bill, with careful indifference,
but he added to himself, "except his, of course."
"Come in, Bill," I urged. "It will look queer, you know," but Bill
"I guess I'll not bother," adding, after a pause: "You see, there's
them wimmin turnin' on the waterworks, and like as not they'd swamp
"That's so," said Hi, who was standing near, in silent sympathy
with his friend's grief.
I reported to Gwen, who answered in her old imperious way, "Tell
him I want him." I took Bill the message.
"Why didn't you say so before?" he said, and, starting up, he
passed into the house and took up his position behind Gwen's chair.
Opposite, and leaning against the door, stood The Duke, with a look
of quiet earnestness on his handsome face. At his side stood the
Hon. Fred Ashley, and behind him the Old Timer, looking bewildered
and woe-stricken. The Pilot had filled a large place in the old
man's life. The rest of the men stood about the room and filled
the kitchen beyond, all quiet, solemn, sad.
In Gwen's room, the one farthest in, lay The Pilot, stately and
beautiful under the magic touch of death. And as I stood and
looked down upon the quiet face I saw why Gwen shed no tear, but
carried a look of serene triumph. She had read the face aright.
The lines of weariness that had been growing so painfully clear the
last few months were smoothed out, the look of care was gone, and
in place of weariness and care, was the proud smile of victory and
peace. He had met his foe and was surprised to find his terror
The service was beautiful in its simplicity. The minister, The
Pilot's chief, had come out from town to take charge. He was
rather a little man, but sturdy and well set. His face was burnt
and seared with the suns and frosts he had braved for years. Still
in the prime of his manhood, his hair and beard were grizzled and
his face deep-lined, for the toils and cares of a pioneer
missionary's life are neither few nor light. But out of his kindly
blue eye looked the heart of a hero, and as he spoke to us we felt
the prophet's touch and caught a gleam of the prophet's fire.
"I have fought the fight," he read. The ring in his voice lifted
up all our heads, and, as he pictured to us the life of that
battered hero who had written these words, I saw Bill's eyes begin
to gleam and his lank figure straighten out its lazy angles. Then
he turned the leaves quickly and read again, "Let not your heart be
troubled . . . in my father's house are many mansions." His voice
took a lower, sweeter tone; he looked over our heads, and for a few
moments spoke of the eternal hope. Then he came back to us, and,
looking round into the faces turned so eagerly to him, talked to us
of The Pilot--how at the first he had sent him to us with fear and
trembling--he was so young--but how he had come to trust in him and
to rejoice in his work, and to hope much from his life. Now it was
all over; but he felt sure his young friend had not given his life
in vain. He paused as he looked from one to the other, till his
eyes rested on Gwen's face. I was startled, as I believe he was,
too, at the smile that parted her lips, so evidently saying: "Yes,
but how much better I know than you."
"Yes," he went on, after a pause, answering her smile, "you all
know better than I that his work among you will not pass away with
his removal, but endure while you live," and the smile on Gwen's
face grew brighter. "And now you must not grudge him his reward
and his rest . . . and his home." And Bill, nodding his head
slowly, said under his breath, "That's so."
Then they sang that hymn of the dawning glory of Immanuel's land,--
Lady Charlotte playing the organ and The Duke leading with clear,
steady voice verse after verse. When they came to the last verse
the minister made a sign and, while they waited, he read the words:
"I've wrestled on towards heaven
'Gainst storm, and wind, and tide."
And so on to that last victorious cry,--
"I hail the glory dawning
In Immanuel's Land."
For a moment it looked as if the singing could not go on, for tears
were on the minister's face and the women were beginning to sob,
but The Duke's clear, quiet voice caught up the song and steadied
them all to the end.
After the prayer they all went in and looked at The Pilot's face
and passed out, leaving behind only those that knew him best. The
Duke and the Hon. Fred stood looking down upon the quiet face.
"The country has lost a good man, Duke," said the Hon. Fred. The
Duke bowed silently. Then Lady Charlotte came and gazed a moment.
"Dear Pilot," she whispered, her tears falling fast. "Dear, dear
Pilot! Thank God for you! You have done much for me." Then she
stooped and kissed him on his cold lips and on his forehead.
Then Gwen seemed to suddenly waken as from a dream. She turned
and, looking up in a frightened way, said to Bill hurriedly:
"I want to see him again. Carry me!"
And Bill gathered her up in his arms and took her in. As they
looked down upon the dead face with its look of proud peace and
touched with the stateliness of death, Gwen's fear passed away.
But when The Duke made to cover the face, Gwen drew a sharp breath
and, clinging to Bill, said, with a sudden gasp:
"Oh, Bill, I can't bear it alone. I'm afraid alone."
She was thinking of the long, weary days of pain before her that
she must face now without The Pilot's touch and smile and voice.
"Me, too," said Bill, thinking of the days before him. He could
have said nothing better. Gwen looked in his face a moment, then
"We'll help each other," and Bill, swallowing hard, could only nod
his head in reply. Once more they looked upon The Pilot, leaning
down and lingering over him, and then Gwen said quietly:
"Take me away, Bill," and Bill carried her into the outer room.
Turning back I caught a look on The Duke's face so full of grief
that I could not help showing my amazement. He noticed and said:
"The best man I ever knew, Connor. He has done something for me
too. . . . I'd give the world to die like that."
Then he covered the face.
We sat Gwen's window, Bill, with Gwen in his arms, and I watching.
Down the sloping, snow-covered hill wound the procession of sleighs
and horsemen, without sound of voice or jingle of bell till, one by
one, they passed out of our sight and dipped down into the canyon.
But we knew every step of the winding trail and followed them in
fancy through that fairy scene of mystic wonderland. We knew how
the great elms and the poplars and the birches clinging to the
snowy sides interlaced their bare boughs into a network of
bewildering complexity, and how the cedars and balsams and spruces
stood in the bottom, their dark boughs weighted down with heavy
white mantles of snow, and how every stump and fallen log and
rotting stick was made a thing of beauty by the snow that had
fallen so gently on them in that quiet spot. And we could see the
rocks of the canyon sides gleam out black from under overhanging
snow-banks, and we could hear the song of the Swan in its many
tones, now under an icy sheet, cooing comfortably, and then
bursting out into sunlit laughter and leaping into a foaming pool,
to glide away smoothly murmuring its delight to the white banks
that curved to kiss the dark water as it fled. And where the
flowers had been, the violets and the wind-flowers and the clematis
and the columbine and all the ferns and flowering shrubs, there lay
the snow. Everywhere the snow, pure, white, and myriad-gemmed, but
every flake a flower's shroud.
Out where the canyon opened to the sunny, sloping prairie, there
they would lay The Pilot to sleep, within touch of the canyon he
loved, with all its sleeping things. And there he lies to this
time. But Spring has come many times to the canyon since that
winter day, and has called to the sleeping flowers, summoning them
forth in merry troops, and ever more and more till the canyon
ripples with them. And lives are like flowers. In dying they
abide not alone, but sow themselves and bloom again with each
returning spring, and ever more and more.
For often during the following years, as here and there I came upon
one of those that companied with us in those Foothill days, I would
catch a glimpse in word and deed and look of him we called, first
in jest, but afterwards with true and tender feeling we were not
ashamed to own, our Sky Pilot.
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