THE SHEEP CAMP

He was very tall, this stranger who seemed to have risen out of the
gulch as if by magic. He was broad of shoulder, and his curly gray hair
grew fully three inches long. So did his gray imperial, and above it was
a gray moustache, with curly ends. His corduroy trousers were tucked
into the tops of high boots, and his shirt was open at the throat, with
a dark blue silk handkerchief knotted around it. Over one shoulder he
carried a pickaxe, and his other hand held a bunch of wild flowers.

He smiled down at Polly’s startled face, and shifted the wild flowers,
so he could catch hold of Jinks’ bridle, and steady him.

“Well, girl, where did you come from?” he demanded, in a deep, mellow
voice.

“Virginia,” answered Polly, mechanically.

“Have you now? Pretty long ride, wasn’t it?” His blue eyes twinkled with
appreciation.

[Illustration: “Where Did You Come From?” He Demanded]

“I just heard the ponies when they crossed the bridge. Where’s the
rest?”

“They rode on. The deer frightened Jinks, and he began to back with me,
and rear. Here they come.”

“Hello, Mr. Sandy,” cried Jean when she was within hearing. “So that’s
why you deserted us, Polly.”

“I thought he was Zed,” laughed Polly, flushing a little. “He seemed to
come up out of the gulch so suddenly. And—and—”

“Go on, finish it,” said Sandy, with relish. “And I looked rough enough
to be most anybody, even old Zed. Well, well, let’s look this bunch
over, Jeanie. I haven’t seen so many Eastern rosebuds in many a day.
When will you be over home? My wife’s getting mighty anxious to see
these girls from Calvert.”

“They must learn to ride well first.”

“Ride well? Don’t they ride well. Seems to me they look pretty well set
up in their saddles. You’d better come over this week.”

“What are you doing way over here?” asked Jean.

“Blessed if I know yet myself, Jean.” He took off his broad-brimmed hat,
and pushed back his gray curls doubtfully. “Bought out Zed’s claim down
here in the gulch some time ago, more from sentiment than anything.
Seemed too bad to see his shack and belongings taken up by strangers who
wouldn’t know how much Zed thought of it all. And once in a while I ride
over, and look around. It’s a mighty pretty spot he chose. Ever been
down?”

“No, I haven’t. We hardly ever ride this way. It’s generally down
towards town, along the old Topnotch road.”

“Where are you bound for now?”

“Over to where the boys are with the sheep. I wanted the girls to see
the herder’s wagon, and how he lives. So I hardly think we had better
stop to-day, but don’t be surprised if you find our trail around there
before the week is up.”

“Come along any time. You’ll find a queer lot of things down here one
way and another. Zed was a friend of mine, and I used to see a good deal
of him about twenty years ago and more, when we and Wyoming were kind of
young together. Zed was terribly well informed. There’s a lot of his
books down there yet. Go in the old shack and look at them, girls, when
you come over. The door’s always unlocked. You can’t miss the way if you
follow the path from the bridge here. It leads up to the door.”

“Isn’t he nice,” exclaimed Polly, as they rode on. “He looks like the
pictures of the old-time scouts, doesn’t he?”

“He was an old-time scout himself, and he’s never got over it,” laughed
Jean. “Father says he’s a regular tenderfoot at ranching even now. But I
love the Alameda place where he lives. It’s more like a mountain lodge,
girls, and he’s planted flowers everywhere. He built it before he went
back east after Miss Diantha, and carted rose slips and flower seeds all
the way from Cheyenne and even from Omaha. Every time he’d go south with
a bunch of cattle, father says, he’d bring back something for her to
make her western home more like the one she had left. We’ll go over
there next week. How do you stand the riding to-day? Is it easier?”

“I wish I could sit on a pillow, that’s all,” said Ted, frankly.

“You’ll be used to it in a few days, and not notice it at all. Polly,
how are you? Is Jinks behaving himself now?”

“Oh, yes, indeed,” cried Polly, looking back over her shoulder. “It was
the deer frightened him. Girls, did I tell you, I saw a real deer back
at the bridge. Brown, with a regular Molly Cottontail like a rabbit. You
know what I mean, Miss Jean.”

“There are lots of them in the foothills around here. We don’t see them
near home except when father finds his early vegetables nipped, but I
often find their hoof prints down by the creek where they go to drink at
night. Now comes a good level stretch, girls. Try and let the ponies out
a little.”

“They don’t go a bit like the horses down East, do they?” Sue said. “I
mean at home the horses on the river drive seem to either trot or buckle
under, and their feet look bunched.”

“It’s because they have a shorter stride, and seem to go quicker,” Jean
replied. “Now then, hang on, girls, and hold with your knees for your
first gallop.”

Ginger, Jean’s pony, took the lead, and as he went by, the other ponies
took his tracks. Before them spread the tableland in long sweeps of
undulating range. The gray green of sage brush blended into distant
waves of purple distance.

“See that line of hills yonder,” said Peggie, as they drew rein at last.
She leaned forward in the saddle, and pointed to the hazy distances
northwest, where the clouds seemed to trail their gray shadows along the
hilltops. “From here the ground gets higher and more broken, doesn’t it,
Jeanie? That’s Bear Lodge yonder. It looks as if it were part of the
sky. The sheep are just about a mile from here. We can soon see the camp
now.”

“Why is it so far from the ranch?” asked Polly.

“They travel about hunting the best feed. One spot lasts only a little
while, and they keep traveling. Father says some herders will start
their flocks in the spring, clear from the coast, and drive through the
summer as far east as Idaho and Wyoming. They feed and fatten, and by
the time they reach the market they are fat and ready to shear or kill.
I like the sheep raising better than the cattle.”

“There’s a dog,” exclaimed Ted suddenly, pointing to the ridge before
them, and sure enough a dog stood on it, head up, and staring.

“It’s Siwash,” gasped Peggie, out of breath after her gallop. “And he
knows us, Jean, I declare.”

Siwash came to meet them in very friendly fashion. He was large and
shaggy, with beautifully pointed ears, and a splendid ruff around his
head.

“He used to be a puppy over at the ranch,” Jean explained. “You should
have seen Peggie trying to raise the litter after the mother was killed
in a wolf fight three winters ago. Mrs. Sandy has one of them now, and
Siwash and his brother are here. Look, girls, yonder’s the camp.”

“Why, the wagon looks like a prairie schooner,” cried Ruth. It did, too,
just like the pictures of the old-time wagons the pioneers crossed the
plains in. It stood off to one side, with a cook-stove near it,
conveniently set up. There was no tent. The herder did not notice them
until they were near. He had a lamb on his lap, feeding it.

“Don’t stop, Randy,” Jean called. “We just rode over to look at the
camp. The boys got home yesterday. I think they’ll be over soon to see
you. What’s the matter with the little one?”

“Its mother won’t claim it,” Randy said, grinning, somewhat shy at
finding himself the center of attention.

The girls slipped off their mounts, and hobbled them under Jean’s
direction. It was their first attempt, but even Peggie said they had
caught on to the trick of it very well.

Then they took a look around the camp. Not that there was much to see.
Only the far-reached mass of sheep, their heads bent low to crop the
grass, and only their backs visible like a lot of gray rocks. And as
they munched, they moved forward, ever so little at a time, but still
steadily forward.

“May we look in your wagon too, Randy?” asked Jean. “I want to show the
girls how completely it is fitted up for a movable camp home.”

“Sure,” Randy told them, cheerfully. “Walk right in.”

“The door is up here in front, girls.” Jean led the way, and the girls
climbed up in front. There was canvas stretched over bows to make a
roof, and in the back end a window was cut. It was quite comfortable,
with its bunk, and cupboard, and boxes. Randy had colored pictures
tacked up here and there, and some old magazines lay in one corner on
top of a pair of gray blankets.

“It makes me think of a gypsy wagon,” Polly said. “I saw one of them
once at a camp up near Richmond. Aunt Evelyn lives there, you know,
girls, and grandfather took me to visit her when I was about ten. The
wagon was like this, only inside it was hung with yellow silk curtains,
and lace over it.”

“These seats lift up like lockers,” said Peggie. “In the winter, they
have a stove in here too, and it’s cosy, but pretty lonely. Sometimes
there’s months and months when the herders never see a human being.”

“The boys are sure to ride over soon, Randy,” Jean promised when they
were ready to leave on the home journey. “I’ll tell them to bring some
stuff to read.”

“I’m out of baking powder, too,” Randy remarked, casually. “Can’t make
decent pancakes without baking powder.”

“All right, I’ll remember,” laughed Jean, and they rode away.

“I should think he’d be terribly lonesome,” Ted said.

[Illustration: They Never Forgot That Picture]

“Guess he is. Some herders get so they talk to the sheep, and I think
all of them talk to their dogs. Maybe that’s why sheepdogs seem to know
more than others.”

The girls were rather quiet on the ride back. They never forgot that
picture, the lonely wagon, and far-reaching stone-gray masses of
nibbling sheep, and Randy with the lamb on his lap, nursing it as
tenderly as any baby. Day after day, for weeks at a time, he never saw
any human being, nothing alive but Siwash and the other dog, and the
sheep. Still he looked cheery, and contented, they thought, remembering
Randy’s face, tanned and sunburnt to a brick red, and his close-shut
mouth that had smiled down at the deserted lamb.

“It is much better for him here than if he were thirty or fifty miles
out in the hills as some of the herders are,” said Jean. “I mustn’t
forget to send over his baking powder.”

They arrived at the ranch about noon, and after dinner, Peggie agreed to
show them her room and its treasures.

“It used to be Jeanie’s too, but now she’s away from home, I have it all
to myself.”

It was the smaller bedroom at the large cabin. There were three all
told, opening off the main sitting room. Peggie’s looked southeast over
the valley. There was no plaster on the walls. There were just plain
boards nailed on the uprights evenly. The ceiling was of boards too. At
the small windows Peggie had hung short, pretty curtains of
cream-colored cheese-cloth hemstitched by her own self. There was a deal
table placed at a good angle near the best window light, and it served
as a desk as well.

“Neil made that for me,” Peggie said with pride. “He can carve out of
wood beautifully. It shuts up and locks, and I can put books along the
top.”

“What books do you like, Peggie?” asked Polly, trying to read the
titles.

“I like tales of travel, true tales I mean, and stories about children
that live in the cities down East.”

“How funny that is. And we always want to read stories of girls who live
’way out West.”

“Neil made me my chairs too, and the washstand. He had to be careful
about the chairs, but the stand is made of two soap boxes nailed
together, and the top one has three partitions in it. I use it for a
kind of bureau too. And the flounce is made from an old bed-quilt cover
mother didn’t want any more. I ripped it up, and took out the lining,
and made it all myself.”

“It’s dandy, Peggie,” Ruth exclaimed. “I think your pelts are the best
of all though, and the Indian things.”

“The pelts should be put away in the summer time, but I like to see them
around. They’re mostly gray wolf, and wild cat. Archie and Neil caught
enough ’coons one year to make mother a whole coat, didn’t they, Jeanie?
They were so proud over it that they wanted her to wear it all the
time.”

“This skirt of doeskin belonged to Sally Lost Moon, girls,” said Jean,
lifting down a beautifully fringed and beaded garment from the wall.
“She beaded it herself when she was a girl. Feel how soft it is, like
chamois skin. She told us she had moccasins to match, and a little short
jacket.”

“How long it must have taken her to make it.”

“Yes, but when it was done, she had a spring suit that would last years,
and always be in style in the hunting lands. Where is your skirt that
Archie burnt for you, Peg?”

Peggie smiled, and found it, a little riding skirt of buckskin, fringed
around the bottom, branded all over its surface with strange signs and
symbols.

“Those are the brands of every outfit we know up here,” Jean told them.
“Isn’t it a queer idea? Here is our brand, see—Cross and bar. This is
Sandy’s, Double A.”

The girls thought it the most unique kind of ornamentation they had ever
seen. The deep-toned brown of the burnt brands showed up richly against
the cream of the buckskin.

“Mail for the girls,” called Don’s voice outside the window. “Peters
brought it on his way east.”

“Jimmy Peters from Deercroft?” asked Jean, catching the letters.
“Where’s he bound for?”

“Home,” replied Don, and went on.

“He’s one of the boys we saw at the station the day we came. I like him
because he’s trying hard to get ahead. Sandy’s helping him.”

“He says the Bishop’s riding this way; says they’re going to meet him
Saturday up past Badger Lake, and ride back with him. Mother thinks
he’ll be here Sunday perhaps.”

“Is that the real Bishop?” asked Polly, eagerly.

“Indeed, we think he’s very real,” laughed Jean. “Wait till you see him.
Let’s see who gets letters. Two for Polly, one for Sue and Ruth,
post-cards for Isabel—oh, what a lot of them—and Ted too.”

“They’re mostly from the girls at the Hall,” Ted cried. “Isn’t that nice
of them to remember us right away. I love to be missed, don’t you, Miss
Jean?”

Polly had opened her letters, and was skimming them over. All at once
she gave a quick exclamation.

“Girls,” she cried. “Who do you think is coming?”

“Miss Calvert,” Ruth said, soberly.

“Aunty Welcome,” Sue put in.

“You’ll never guess,” Polly declared delightedly. “And he won’t be so
very far away from us, about ninety miles. He’s come up to dig for bones
and things for the Museum, you know.”

“But, Polly, please, we don’t know!” protested Ted. “Tell us, can’t
you?”

“Dr. Penrhyn Smith, our blessed old smuggler from Lost Island.
Grandfather says here that the Doctor starts the first of next week. He
says he will follow the trail of the dinosaur to the Jurassic Beds.”

“Last time he was hunting a polypus,” said Ruth.

“A dinosaur is an animal ninety feet long,” Sue added, thoughtfully.
“Once they found one as small as a bantam.”

“Susan Randolph Warner,” exclaimed Polly, “you behave. We must respect
any dinosaur, no matter what its size, if it brings the Doctor this way.
He told grandfather he’d look in at us some day to be sure we were all
right.”

“Sandy would love to meet him,” Jean said. “And so would father, and all
of us.”

“I wonder where on earth the Jurassic Beds are,” Ruth meditated.

“At last,” cried Isabel, happily, “there’s one thing Grandma doesn’t
know.”

“Well, Grandma’ll find out,” Ruth retorted, decidedly, “if I have to dig
with the Doctor after prehistoric bones and things.”

Peggie was listening eagerly, the suit of buckskin half slipping from
her lap, her chin on her hand.

“I know where there are old bones, great big ones, and they’re not
cattle or buffaloes, either. They look like spools joined together.”

“Vertebræ,” Polly suggested. “Where, Peggie?”

“Don and I found them once long ago when we were hunting down in Lost
Chance Gully.”

“Wouldn’t it be queer,” Jean said, dreamily, her hands clasped behind
her head, “wouldn’t it be queer, girls, if poor old Zed spent his life
hunting for gold, and something better than gold lay under his feet.
We’ll go over and take a look at it, and then write to your Doctor Man,
Polly.”

“Dear me,” exclaimed Ted, in her comical way, “I was just beginning to
feel vacationized, and now maybe we’ll be following a mission before we
know it, and have to pitch in and work hard digging out old bones
seventeen million years old. Polly, you’re always starting something.”

But Polly only laughed.

“What would be the good of starting things if I didn’t have you girls to
fall back on when it comes to finishing up,” she said.

“Leave it to Polly to make you feel all comfy and willing,” Sue put in.
“Never mind, Polly, we will stick by you even if you take to shaking up
Jurassic Beds, won’t we, girls?”

And the whole Ranch Club said “Aye.”

“The best rainbow trout we get around here are in Lost Chance Gulch,”
remarked Mrs. Murray, the following morning at the breakfast table, and
she looked up in surprise as a ripple of mirth went round the table.

“It isn’t anything, motherie,” Jean said, “only that we were all
thinking of the Gulch, and then you spoke of it. Do you want some of the
trout to-day?”

“It would make a fine mess for supper, Jeanie.”

“Then we’ll go over and get some. I think we’d better take the surrey,
girls, instead of riding. We can drive up pretty close to the cabin, and
it will be easier.”

About an hour later, they started off, with a well-filled lunch basket,
and smaller ones for trout.

“I hope we’ll catch more prehistoric bones than fish,” said Sue,
happily.

“That’s right, hoodoo us from the start,” Ted protested. “Hunt for your
old bones. I shall fish diligently.”

It was pleasant riding in the old surrey, with Peanuts and Clip going at
a lively pace over the road. They had to take a different route from the
riding trail in order to find a way down into the gulch, but an hour’s
journey brought them to the cabin where old Zed had lived and died.
Through the deep gulch ran the creek, over rocks, and half-sunken trees
here and there. Cottonwoods grew in the cool stretch of land between the
high walls on either side of limestone, and blue shale, and sandstone.
You could trace the course of the creek by the cottonwoods, and already
their seeds had spread air-planes of down, and were turned into wind
travelers.

As the land struck sharply into the towering palisades of rock, the
pines grew thickly wherever they could find a foothold. Down in the
gulch the bright sunlight never struck with full force. Both its heat
and radiance were tempered by the green gloom of the spruces, and the
great ferns that grew everywhere.

The door of the little low cabin was unlocked, and the girls entered it
with curious feelings of respect, almost as if it had been a shrine.

There were three windows, and many shelves around the one room. A rock
fireplace was built into the wall. There was an old pipe on the shelf
above it, and a Bible bound in calf, the back stitched in place where it
had been torn. Polly opened it, and read aloud the inscription on the
fly leaf.

“Zeddidiah Reed, from his grandmother, Comfort Annabel Reed, on his
twentieth birthday.”

“What a darling name,” exclaimed Isabel, “Comfort Annabel! Can’t you see
her, girls, with a little lace cap on, and silk half mitts.”

“Silk half mitts. What would a pioneer’s wife be doing with silk half
mitts,” said Ruth, teasingly. “That’s like the miner in Arizona, whose
Boston cousin sent him fur ear muffs for a Christmas present.”

“No squabbling allowed down here,” protested Polly, seriously. “Here are
all his books, girls. Wasn’t he careful of them? Here’s a pickaxe, too.”

“That’s an old-time poll pick,” said Jean, examining it. “You don’t find
them any more. We’d better take it for investigations while we’re on the
hunt for bones.”

“These upturned rocks that seem to stand on end,” Ruth said, when they
left the cabin and started along the bed of the creek, “look like
Stonehenge, or the rocks in the Garden of the Gods, don’t they, Miss
Jean?”

“I think they may have come from the same era, or system,” answered
Jean. “It is in the limestone, I know, that the remains of mammals were
first discovered.”

“Sandstone and shales,” Ruth said. “It’s all the same age, but the
systems are different.”

“How do you know so much about it?” asked Ted, suspiciously. “Have you
been looking it up while we slept, grandma?”

“I love rocks,” Ruth replied, with her slow, whimsical smile, and little
uplift of her chin as she looked through her glasses at them. “I think
they are the first primer of the world, where we get our A B C’s, don’t
you, Miss Jean?”

“Oh, won’t the Doctor have a good time prowling around with Ruth,” Polly
exclaimed. She clambered ahead of the rest, trying to keep up with
Peggie, who went like a mountain goat from rock to rock, and up the
steep inclines.

“How about trout?” called Sue. “Who said trout?”

“We’ll have time on our way back. How far is it, Peg?” called Miss
Murray.

“Most there now,” came back Peggie’s voice far up among the rocks.

At last they caught up with her. It was directly under a great,
beetle-browed crag, with mats of ferns overhanging from its edges like
lace. There had been a wash-out, or some sort of natural force that had
carried away with it a mass of the hillside at this point. The great
roots were exposed, with earth clinging to them still, and vegetation
trying to get a foothold. But Peggie did not stop. As soon as she caught
sight of the girls coming through the undergrowth towards her, she
turned and dipped into the cavernous mouth of the great earth opening.

“This is what I meant looked like big bone spools,” she told them. “Don
and I found them.”

Not a word did any of the others speak, but stood in the great opening,
and stared at Peggie’s find. Still imbedded in the earth and rock they
were, but they certainly were bones, and most gigantic bones at that.
Polly and Ruth went up, and examined them closely, and so did Miss
Murray.

“It isn’t a dinosaur,” Ruth said, judiciously. “It’s a something else.”

“I should say it was,” cried Sue. “If that’s only part of its backbone,
I should not like to have had it chase me over the range. I think it’s a
cave bear.”

“That is certainly a section of vertebræ, Polly,” Jean said. “How
strange it is to stand and think how many years ago it was alive.”

“They are very valuable,” Polly replied.

“Leave it to Polly to find the red silk thread that leads to the pot of
gold,” laughed Ted. “I know that’s a mixed-up metaphor, but who cares.
Let’s go back and fish now, with peaceful minds, and send word to the
Doctor that we have a specimen worth thousands.”

“We?” Sue repeated. “Goose! This belongs to Chief Sandy, and Peggie gets
the reward for finding it. Isn’t that so, Miss Jean?”

Jean laughed, but said nothing. It really seemed so strange and unreal
to her that she could not think directly what the end would be. She had
known, of course, that Wyoming was the only known haunt of the
prehistoric dinosaur in America, and had been duly proud of it. Also,
she had always rather objected to New York walking away with the best
specimen found, but Jean was State proud, as her mother said, and
believed that the spoils belonged to the original owners on a strict
basis of equity.

“We’ll ride over to the Alameda to-morrow, girls,” she said, “and tell
Mrs. Sandy and the Chief, as Sue calls him. That’s a splendid name for
him too, by the way, Sue. He is the Chief, and we’ll call him that.”

“Chief Scout,” suggested Polly.

“Yes. It will please him, too. Now let’s go back to the creek, and start
our trouting.”

But Polly hesitated.

“I wish I could send the Doctor just a little piece of the bone, so he’d
know for sure.”

“Send him some of the rock around it, and just a splinter,” suggested
Ruth.

It was hard knocking pieces off, but they finally got a small bit of the
blue shale, and a piece of the smaller bone, only a splinter, but enough
to show an expert eye what was there.

Then back they climbed down the steep walls into the gulch again, and
rested for a while in the cabin, as it had been a long and tiresome
climb through the underbrush, and over the high rocks. Polly took a
pail, and went after water, clear and cold from the spring they could
hear falling back of the cabin. Old Zed had chosen his home site with an
eye to comfort and convenience. After a good rest, and something to eat
from the lunch basket, they started out to try their luck for the first
time as trouters.

Peggie was chief instructor now, and enjoyed her office thoroughly. She
showed the girls how to select their flies from the store Don had put in
the baskets for them.

“I heard him talking about the flies, and I thought he meant real ones
for bait,” said Isabel soberly, as she adjusted a neat little red
snapper of a fly. “I haven’t as much respect for trout as I had if
they’re taken in by these things.”

“You’ll respect them when you eat them,” said Peggie. “Come ’way out on
the rocks the way I do, just as far as you can. Why don’t you take off
your shoes and stockings, Polly? You may get a wetting before we’re
through. I always do. Sue, don’t stand still. You have to troll, and
move up-stream. Look at me.”

The girls watched her as she cast in, and played the fly lightly,
choosing the best spots, and making her way from rock to rock up-stream
slowly. Pretty soon they were deep into the delicious art of trolling,
and each one at once developed individual taste in the proper way to
catch trout. Polly was a regular gamester, like Peggie. With Ted
following her, she chose the sun-dappled spots where the water was
rather quiet, to cast in. Finally, Jean drew out the first trout, and
they all went back to take a look at it, for, as Ruth said, in her dry
way, it was a good idea always to know what you were fishing for, and
how it looked.

After that, the basket began to grow heavier. Ruth and Jean took turns
carrying it, slung in sportsmanlike fashion over their shoulders by a
strap, and Peggie and Polly proved the best fishers. Ted and Sue were
too fond of the rough water, although they also landed several trout.

After a time they went back to the cabin, and took the lunch basket out
on the rustic log-bench Zed had made in front of his spring. It seemed
as though a lunch had never tasted better than that one, Polly declared,
and the conversation was a lively mixture of rainbow-trout tactics and
the right way to dig out a possible dinosaur from its antediluvian
resting place.

“Do you suppose it has been there since the flood?” asked Ruth,
earnestly.

“Now, Ruth, I object,” protested Ted, eating her last cucumber and
lettuce sandwich with relish. “Of course it’s been here since the flood,
and long before. Let’s ask the Doctor when he comes when it is correct
to hold a birthday anniversary for a dinosaur.”

“What mystic law,
Oh, Dinosaur,
Has cast you at our very door?”

said Polly, slowly picking out her rhyme, and Ted picked it up joyously.

“Give us thy paw,
Dear Dinosaur,
We’ll give it a friendly rub,—”

“Rub?” queried Ruth.

“I want it to rhyme with club. Now, you’ve knocked it all out of my
head, and it’s so hard for me to get an inspiration.” Ted retired into a
melancholy reverie, and kept repeating under her breath,
“Rub-tub-club-dub-hub.”

“Time to go, girls,” Jean said. “Wait a minute. Let’s gather some wild
flowers, and put in a tumbler on old Zed’s table.”

It was a beautiful tribute they left to the old man’s memory, wild
roses, and ferns, and wild convolvulus mingling with the rich dark green
of spruce boughs over the mantel. The only sounds in the gulch were the
songs of birds, and the falling water. It was so beautiful and quiet,
the girls could hardly bear to break the charm by leaving, but the sun
was slipping westward, and it was a long trip back.

“We’ll ride over to the ranch to-morrow, and tell the Chief,” said Jean,
and on that promise they went back, each in her own way building a
day-dream out of the bones of the gulch treasure.

Mrs. Murray did not think it wise to take the long ride the following
day.

“Better rest up a wee bit, or you’ll be tired out before you’ve played,”
she told them. “Jeanie had better get out the tent, and see if it needs
any mending, if you’re going camping. I think there’s a rent on one
side.”

“We can’t all mend tents,” said Ruth, when the tent was carried out of
the shed, and unfolded. “Suppose Miss Jean and I mend this, and the rest
write home letters. I heard Archie say he had to drive to Deercroft in
the morning, so that would be a good chance to send them off. Sue, you
put in a post-card for Annie May, will you? I promised her we’d send
one.”

“I think that Isabel ought to take our pictures with her kodak, and then
we’d send them in, and have them printed on post-cards, and let them be
scattered among all interested and loving friends,” said Polly.

“Oh, wait, girls, and I’ll do it,” cried Isabel. “The light is fine this
morning.”

So away she went after her kodak, and the morning was spent taking
snap-shots. Isabel was photographer in chief, and she was especially
good on composition, and getting attractive backgrounds.

Don led Jinks out, and three of the girls mounted him, and were taken
with heads up, all laughing. Then Peggie was persuaded to put on her
buckskin suit and sombrero, and with a rifle in her hand she made a
splendid picture of a ranch girl. Then Prometheus was led forth, and
obligingly stood up and begged with his head coaxingly on one side.

“Just as if he was begging for the Bishop’s dinner, the rogue,” said
Peggie.

Sally Lost Moon, after much explaining and pleading, finally came out of
the cook-house, and was stationed where the buttes loomed up behind her,
and everything looked unsettled and primeval, Isabel said impressively.
Then just as all was set, Isabel levelled the camera, and Sally turned
and ran as if a bear were at her heels.

“Shoot, shoot,” was all she would say, and shook her head vigorously.
“No shoot me; no shoot me!”

“Oh, Sally, please,” begged Polly. “Look, I’ll give you my silver
bracelet if you’ll let us take you.”

She drew off the bracelet from her own wrist, and Sally looked at it
longingly, jingling its silver bangles happily. Finally, she put it on
her wrist, and went out to try again.

“I’ll stand near, Sally,” called Mrs. Murray encouragingly, and so,
surrounded by reserve force, Sally faced the camera for the first time
in her life.

“Won’t it be fun to show her a real picture of herself?” laughed Polly,
when it was over.

“I don’t know whether it will or not,” Jean answered. “The Indians are
so suspicious and superstitious that they are easily scared. She might
think you were making bad medicine for her. Two years ago, some tourists
took snap-shots of some Shoshone babies, and the squaws grabbed the
camera, and smashed it. They said the white women were drawing out the
spirits, and shutting them up in the black box to carry away with them.”

“Oooo!” cried Sue, “‘An’ the gobble’uns will get you if you don’t watch
out!’”

“Now, all of you group around Miss Jean, and look happy,” ordered
Isabel, so the last picture of all was the group, and a jolly, care-free
lot of vacationers they looked, too.

“Let’s go down for a swim, then back to dinner, then write all our
letters this afternoon,” Polly suggested, and they carried out this
programme for the day.

It was worth resting up for, they all declared the next morning, when
Peggie called them before five. Breakfast was ready by the time they
were dressed, and a little past six, they were all in the saddle, ready
for their long ride overland to the Alameda ranch. It was quite an
imposing cavalcade that started out, two by two at first, and then
Indian file as the road narrowed in places. This time they rode due
west, along the river road, through willows and tall cottonwoods.

After about four miles, Jean led the way up a rocky defile, and they
struck an irregular ridge of tableland. Here the rocks began to assume
all kinds of queer, fantastic shapes, and Peggie told the names of them,
as they came to each—Jumping Rabbit, Columbus, Praying Chief, Sleeping
Bear, Double Towers, and so on.

“We used to take a lunch when we were little, and come here to play for
a day in the summer,” Jean said. “See those rocks away over yonder?
Don’t they resemble some wonderful eastern city? They look like the
cliff cities of Arizona and New Mexico, too.”

“Maybe they have been, sometime,” Polly exclaimed, reining up a minute
to take a good look at the strange sight. “It’s like discovering a dead
petrified city, isn’t it?”

“I wish you had the time and money too, girls, to visit the Yellowstone
this trip. If the vacation were longer, we could take the time, and
drive across country to it. Father took us that way once. I remember
when we came to the great Absoraka Range, with forty snow-capped peaks,
like a tremendous wall from north to south. It makes you feel so little
just to look at those wonders.”

There was silence for a minute, then Ruth said, soberly:

“I heard a story once in church, and I never forgot it. Our rector at
Queen’s Ferry told it. It was about two very old mountains that wakened
once in a thousand years, and wished each other good-morning. And they
would say it this way.

“‘Good-morning, brother, how goes the world?’

“‘Well, brother, well,’ the other mountain would say, and after a time
they would fall happily to sleep. But one day they wakened, and one
mountain noticed a lot of little specks running around the ground at his
base, so when his brother greeted him, he was disturbed, and said:

“‘I cannot say if it goes well or not, brother. There are a lot of
little ants or some kind of insects running around me. They seem to be
building things of little pieces of trees. And they fight, and make a
lot of useless noise. I do not like them.’

“‘Never mind,’ said the other one. ‘They are bothering me too, but let
us go to sleep and maybe they will be gone when we wake.’

“And it went on like that for ever so long, thousands of years, and
every time the mountains wakened, they were troubled by the little
specks that were always building and fighting, and making a noise. Then
one morning the mountains awakened, and all was very quiet and happy.

“‘Good-morning, brother, how goes the world?’ said one, and the other
was so glad to be able to answer:

“‘Well, brother, well. All those little fretful specks they call people
have gone from the face of the earth, and the world is at peace with God
again.’ That’s all, but doesn’t it make you respect the everlasting
hills, Miss Jean?”

“Indeed it does, Ruth,” Jean replied. “That is a lovely story. I think
that Mrs. Sandy would enjoy it, too. Be careful when you come to the
terraces here. Keep the ponies close to the side of the bluff.”

They had come to great natural terraces of rock and sandstone,
graduating down from the trail, far to the river bed below; and here the
quiet river that flowed past the ranch had turned into a turbulent,
dashing torrent between narrow bluffs. From the road, they could not see
it, but the sound of its rushing came booming up to them. All at once
Ted cried out:

“Oh, there’s a cat in that tree, Miss Jean. Here, kitty, kitty, kitty!”

“Never mind calling it, Ted,” laughed Jean. “That’s a bobcat. There it
goes now. Did you see its tail? They’ll hardly ever hurt any one unless
attacked first, although the boys watch for them at night, if they have
to go up through the piney trails. I think we’ll see some deer when we
start down the next hill. They are usually out in numbers here. Don’t
talk, because they can scent us and hear us very far off.”

Quietly, the little band rode on, eyes on the alert for the turn in the
road, and view of the deer, and they were rewarded by such a sight as
they had never seen before. Below them stretched beautiful fertile
fields. A mountain cascade in the distance fell like a gorgeous,
captured cloud, so filmy and pearly white it looked. And down in the
grazing ground was a herd of deer. The girls watched them for some time,
delighted at the gentle beauty of the does and little ones, and the
stately buck, who every now and then would rear up his many pronged
horns, and listen, nose to the wind.

“I don’t think they will mind us, if we ride on, girls,” Jean said, but
the deer had a different opinion. As soon as they caught sight of the
ponies and riders, they were off over the fields and into the forest.

It was nearly ten when they reached the Alameda ranch. Peggie and Polly
rode ahead of the rest, and let out a clear, gay shout when they came in
sight of it. It lay in the valley far below, in a nest of trees.

“How did they ever find enough trees in one spot to make it so pretty?”
asked Ruth.

“Sandy planted them there years ago, before he went East after his
bride,” Jean told her. “He used to call it his Honeymoon Lodge in those
days. How glad Mrs. Sandy will be to see us.”

And she was, too, more full of pure gladness than she had been in years,
she told the girls. They found her down at the corral with Sandy
himself, both of them busy with some calves. They heard the shouts from
far off, and Mrs. Sandy hurried to meet them.

The first thing that startled the girls was her marked resemblance to
the old oil painting at Calvert Hall. There was the same happy, inviting
face, surrounded by little bobbing curls, and though the curls were gray
now, you hardly noticed it, they formed so pretty a frame to the sweet,
pink-tinted face.

“I’ve been looking for you every day, dears,” she said, kissing each one
of the girls, as they slipped from their ponies to greet her. “And this
is Isabel Lee, Phil Lee’s daughter. You have your father’s mouth and
chin, dear. I knew him well. What did you say, Jeanie—Sue Warner? The
Warners of Colebrook? Bless my heart, I have danced at many of your
grandmother’s parties there, Sue. Ruth, and Edwina, I’m sure I’ve met
some of your families too, for you both look familiar to me, although
Sandy would declare it was the rose-colored glasses of memory I was
using.” Tears sparkled on her lashes as she turned last of all to Polly.
“Oh, my dear,” she said, tenderly, “do the lilies still bloom as fair at
Glenwood as they did forty years ago? They were gold-colored with ruby
hearts.”

Polly nodded her head eagerly.

“Uncle Peter told me you loved them. There’s just Uncle Peter and
grandfather left now of the ones who can remember you at our place.
Mandy and Aunty Welcome are both pretty young, you know.”

“I know,” laughed Mrs. Sandy. “Welcome must be about forty-five, isn’t
she? And Mandy I don’t remember at all.”

“I’ll look after your horses, Jeanie,” Mr. MacDowell said. “You won’t do
anything now but talk Queen’s Ferry, and it’s a bully thing that Mrs.
MacDowell can at last.”

They went slowly up to the home that Sandy had built so many years ago
for the home-coming of his bride. It was prettier than the other ranch
houses the girls had seen, more like a bungalow. There was a deep
foundation of gray rocks, and the porch was built on columns of the rock
too, and crimson ramblers grew all over it just as they did South. There
was a piano in the big living-room, and everywhere an indefinable touch
of something that seemed alien to this great, happy-go-lucky new land: a
quiet elegance and air of repose, something that made the girls think at
once of the atmosphere of Calvert Hall.

“We have lots to tell you, dear,” exclaimed Peggie, reaching up to give
Mrs. Sandy a hearty bear hug. “We’ve discovered something in old Zed’s
gulch, and we’ve got a new name for Sandy.”

“The Chief,” Ted added.

“Hail to the Chief!” began Polly, merrily. “Doesn’t it suit him?”

“It will please him greatly,” said Mrs. Sandy, proudly, and when the
girls saw how her face brightened at his name, they began to understand
somewhat, one very good reason why Diantha Calvert had come out West to
be a rancher’s wife.

There were so many things to see that day, the time passed before they
realized it. Ted and Sue rambled around with the Chief, as they called
him, at his heels from the corral to the wagon sheds and back again,
while the other girls stayed with Mrs. Sandy, and listened as she told
stories of the early days.

“Were you never afraid at all?” asked Ruth.

“Dear, what would you think of an Old Dominion girl who dared to be
afraid? Besides, the Indians trusted Sandy. He never betrayed their
confidence, nor misled them. Many times he acted as peacemaker between
them and the army, trying to make the way free from war for them, and
trying to make them understand how resistless the march of progress was.
Many of the settlers had been murdered, and their places burned, but we
were not molested, even by the Sioux. I can remember one day, I was
alone here. Sandy had been south at Fort Washakie for several weeks. It
was early spring, and the kitchen door was open. I was making bread, I
know, and had just opened the oven door to take out the loaves when I
heard a step on the doorsill, and saw a shadow on the floor.”

“Indians?” exclaimed Polly.

“Yes. It was an Indian. He stood looking around for a minute, and I
didn’t act frightened at all. I thought he might have a message from
Sandy for me. Then he grunted, and held out his hand for the bread.
There were about eight loaves in all. I held them out to him, and he
took every single one. And he gave me this in exchange.”

She went over to an old dresser and took from a drawer a belt, beaded
richly, with elk teeth dangling in short fringes from it.

“Isn’t it lovely,” the girls cried. “Why did he do it?”

“Because he was hungry, I think. We never knew. But if I had refused him
the bread, or cried out, or done anything that was not friendly, he
might have killed me. I don’t know, I may be wrong,” she went on,
gently, with a happy, faraway look on her sweet old face, “but I’ve
found it a truth, children; if you give kindness, you receive kindness,
if you give love, you get love in return, even with savages. It is the
brotherliness of humanity that is the most ancient law of all. It is the
law of the human pack, as Sandy says.”

“Oh, girls, pack!” exclaimed Polly suddenly. “That makes me think of
animals. We’re forgetting about the bones.”

“Bones? What does the child mean?” said Mrs. Sandy.

Then they coaxed her down to where the Chief sat explaining to Ted and
Sue the difference between the Sioux and the Crows. And they told of the
find down in Zed’s gulch. Sandy listened with steady, unblinking eyes,
and brows drawn together a little.

“It must be some bear skeleton, dear,” Mrs. Sandy said. “Or maybe a
buffalo, don’t you think so, Sandy?”

“Not if it’s embedded in the rock, lass. Show me how big it is, Peggie.”

And obediently Peggie measured off on the bar-post the height of the
bones as close as she could guess at it.

“If it is a dinosaur, or anything like it, Chief,” Ted said, “it must be
about ten million years old.”

“Don’t talk so, child, it sounds downright reckless,” hushed gentle Mrs.
Sandy, just as Miss Calvert herself might have done. “Was it a monster
of the deep before the flood, Sandy, dear, like the leviathan?”

“Now you’ve got me, Di,” cried the big old fellow, merrily. “How can I
say for sure? When they find a toad or a frog asleep in the middle of a
rock cliff, do they wake him up, and ask if he was one of the identical
brood that plagued Pharaoh? There’s things that lie close hidden in the
grand, still dawn of creation, and we small humanlings cannot hope to
pierce the veil, or to understand the how and the why of it. But if
there is a monster of the deep or of the plains either, that’s hiding
away in old Zed’s gulch, we’ll haul him out, girls, and find out what
he’s worth. I doubt not that he’d enjoy a sniff of fresh air at that,
eh, Polly?”

Polly leaned forward, her brown eyes sparkling.

“Then I had better send word to the Doctor to come and see what it is,”
she said. “I dug up a piece of the bone to-day, and sent it to him, and
some of the rock around it.”

“Good. I’ll ride over on Monday to look at it. You had better come too,
to show me where it lies.”

They gladly promised to meet him at the gulch on Monday, and after
another look around the ranch, they were ready for home. The Chief was
more proud of his horses than anything else. He had raised a special
breed from the pure bred wild horses of the plains, and crossed it with
pure Arab.

“And they’re the finest bred horses in America to-day,” he declared.
“When you come over next time, I’ll take you up and show you them. None
of these high-hipped Indian pony animals, with joints like soup bones—”

“Sandy, boy!” protested Mrs. Sandy.

Sandy’s gray eyes twinkled at the motherly reproof in her tone. It was
plain to be seen he was her big boy.

“Well, an’ they do look like it, too, Di—but forgive me. Come and see my
beauties, when you can.”

“Could we ride them?” asked Polly.

“I doubt it, Polly. Never a saddle have they borne on their backs. When
I came West forty years ago, I looked about me, and I saw three things
that made me worship in my soul the Maker of things, an eagle in its
flight, a mountain at sunrise, and a wild horse. I couldn’t catch the
eagle, and I couldn’t snare the sunrise, but I have some of the horses
for my own, and it rests my eyes to look at them.”

“Oh, girls, we have time, and we may not get over again,” began Isabel,
pleadingly, but it was so late that Jean said no. They would be over
before it was time to go back East, surely. So they all kissed Mrs.
Sandy good-bye, and only Polly caught the words that she said, as she
kissed Jean.

“Is Honoria well?”

“Very well,” said Jean.

“Did she send me any message, Jeanie, dear?”

The tears came in Jean’s eyes.

“No, ma’am, none.”

Mrs. Sandy sighed, and smiled.

“Ah, well, in His good time,” she said. “We must bide it. Good-bye,
dear.”

And all the way home Polly pondered.

“They’re going to open up the old Beaver Creek schoolhouse Sunday for
services,” said Don, that night at supper. “Jimmie Peters went over, and
cleaned it up, and the Bishop will be here Sunday sure.”

“Why don’t they have a real chapel?” asked Isabel.

“There are only about nine people inside of thirty miles who would
come,” said Mr. Murray.

“But nine would be enough,” exclaimed Polly. “The whole Church started
with only twelve.”

“Polly, that’s very true,” Jean said, earnestly. “I had not thought of
that myself.”

“If the nine were strong, and really wanted a chapel, they could have
it. Just as you told us about that priest who traveled through the
wilderness to hold services for the Indians, and when they drove him
away, he went up on the great rock, and held them anyway, and after a
time the Indians came near. If people knew for sure that services would
be held every single Sunday at the schoolhouse, wouldn’t they come?”

“I think they would,” said Peggie. “I’m sure they would. Polly, you’re a
missionary.”

“Let’s speak to the Bishop about it,” said Ruth. “We could call it our
mission, girls, and send things out West from Trinity Church for it.”

“Land o’ rest, lassie, don’t you think you’ve started enough to look
after,” exclaimed Mrs. Murray, smilingly. “What with disturbing the
remains of poor animals that have lain in peace since before the flood,
and riling Sandy all up over it, don’t you think you can rest a bit?”

“Oh, but we love to start things, Mrs. Murray, dear, and finish them
too, which is something, you know. I’m going to ask the Bishop if it
could happen. Is he very dignified, and stately? Our Bishop is. At
Confirmation when he stands in the chancel, with his beautiful silvery
hair, and splendid old face, it seems to me,” Polly said softly, “as if
I can almost see behind him the long wonderful procession back to the
very first Apostles.”

“But do you remember, dear,” answered Mrs. Murray, “that those same
Apostles were chosen by their Master for the fight when they were young
men, and strong. So it is to-day with the fields where they need
husbandmen who can stand the heat and labor of the day. Our Bishop—God
hold up his hands!—is still young, and he can outride any man in four
counties, when it comes to endurance. They say that when he passes a
herd, all the cattle nod their heads in greeting, but that is only a
saying among the lads on the range. They think he’s a fair wonderful
man.”

So it was no wonder the girls looked forward to Sunday. Every day they
went for a good long ride with Jean or Peggie. Sometimes it was to
Picture Rocks, sometimes over to the Indian graves, sometimes to the
battlefield where Crazy Horse had made one of his last stands against
the white troops. The first Sunday they spent very quietly. Mr. Murray
read prayers after breakfast, and Jean played the hymns on the little
cottage organ in the living room at the main cabin. It gave the girls a
realization of what the kingdom of home meant out in the wilderness,
this gathering of the little Murray clan about the father; the boys,
tall and brawny, leading in the responses, the girls carrying the
singing.

“Have you always done that?” asked Sue, later in the day. “I think it’s
splendid, to hold service even by yourself.”

“We have to if we want service, and what’s the difference? I think if
you were all alone, and still worshiped God, and held his day sacred, it
would be just the same as if you had gone to church,” said Peggie,
sensibly. “As long, of course, as there was no church to go to. We
always do.”

There was much trout fishing that week, too. Ted and Sue learned to cast
and play for the speckled beauties as warily as any of the rest, and
many a delicious feast they had when they came back with a good catch.
There was very little fishing along the river, and the fish were
plentiful. Polly and Ruth found one quiet, dark pool below the rapids
where they seemed to love to bask in the dappled water.

Evenings they would sit and listen to Mr. Murray tell stories of the
early days; of times when the little, hard-earned bunches of cattle
would be found butchered by some marauding band of unfriendly Indians;
and sometimes of stolen horses, snatched away by young braves on the
path for plunder.

One day the Chief, as they always called him now, drove over from the
Alameda ranch, and stayed through the afternoon and evening at the
Murrays’, and then the girls heard wonderful tales of the old trails and
scouts. Once Polly turned with eager flushed face to Mrs. Sandy, and
asked impulsively:

“How could you leave Queen’s Ferry and come ’way out here when it was so
wild?”

The faintest bit of a blush rose to Diantha’s cheeks, and she said:

“He asked me to, child.”

“Do you know,” Polly said later, when the girls were by themselves in
the old cabin, “sometimes I just want to ask her right out why there is
any trouble between dear old Miss Calvert and herself. They make such a
darling pair of sisters, don’t you know, girls?”

“Better not lift the sacred veil of family secrets, Polly,” Isabel
replied, solemnly. “You never can tell what sort of a skeleton will pop
out at you and do a war dance.”

“There simply couldn’t be a skeleton there,” insisted Polly. “Two quiet,
dear, well-bred old ladies from Virginia, who won’t speak to each other!
Why, I don’t think it’s Christianlike, and here Miss Honoria trots off
to Trinity every Sunday and is Chairman of the which and t’other
committees, and Mrs. Sandy is the Lord’s right hand out here, Mrs.
Murray declares. Surely, it isn’t right for them to scrap and fall out
just like we girls do.”

“Ask her about it, Polly; you won’t be happy until you find out,” said
Ruth placidly, and Polly smiled and said nothing more, but she made up
her mind then that she certainly would ask, the first quiet chance she
got.

The very last day of that week, Archie rode over after the mail, and
there was a letter from the Doctor in answer to Polly’s. He had been
greatly interested in the news of her discovery, he wrote. As near as he
could figure it out, off hand, the ranch valley, and range to the north
where the gulch lay, belonged to the same sandstone drift he had
proposed working in about two hundred miles west.

“How can it be the same?” asked Sue. “Two hundred miles!”

“If he says so, it must be so,” Polly replied, decidedly. “He says the
bone is apparently the same character and formation as other fossils
found up here, and he will come up himself next week, and take a look at
it.”

“What’s that noise?” asked Ted suddenly, going to the open door, and
listening. There was no light inside, but out of doors the stars shone
clearly. They listened, almost holding their breath to hear the far-off
sound of music. It was some one singing far up on the road, and all at
once Polly whispered:

“Maybe it’s that herder coming after his baking powder.”

They all laughed, and then listened again. Nights were their one time
now for consultation and conclave, and they usually enjoyed a good talk
after they reached the little guest cabin.

“It sounds like somebody singing hymns,” Ruth said. “They hear it too,
over at the other house. I can see lights moving.”

Just then the door opened in the home cabin, and Jean came out.

“Girls,” she called clearly. “Here comes our Bishop. That’s Jimmie
singing to let us know they’re near.”

Then they caught the melody, and words too, as the two horsemen rounded
the last bend in the road around old Topnotch, and came down the valley.
Clear and full, Jimmie’s voice sounded as he sang,

“Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land,
I am weak, but Thou art mighty,
Hold me in Thy powerful hand.”

“That’s Jimmie’s favorite,” Jean said, softly. “He used to herd for
father a few years ago, and you could hear him singing nights as he rode
round the cattle. He’s with the Big Bow outfit now, and they call him
the singing cowboy.”

“Where did he learn it all?” asked Polly. “He sings as if he just knew
the right way to.”

“He used to be a choir boy in Denver. I don’t know what we’d do up here
without him. He always rides over to meet the Bishop, and looks after
everything for him.”

“Isn’t it queer?” Ruth said, all at once. “People aren’t very different
any more than birds or animals are. Here you find a cowboy singing hymns
and canticles, and with all the East and South to choose from, Miss
Diantha married a Westerner who was a scout and rancher. Wouldn’t it be
queer if some day we find out we really are all brothers and sisters in
one family?”

“Ruth, pay attention. You’re dipping into social economy, and that
doesn’t come until you reach college,” laughed Jean.

When the Bishop and Jimmie rode up, all were out to greet them, and he
did seem strange to the girls, this young Bishop with the round, hearty
voice, and quick laugh, who swung from his saddle as easily as Jimmie
himself, and shook hands with them all. When he came into the low-ceiled
living room, he had to stoop a little, or surely his head would have
touched the lintel. Tall he was, and young, and broad-shouldered, with
one of the kindliest and noblest faces that the girls had ever seen,
they thought, as he smiled down on them that first night.

“And you’ve ridden far, too, sir,” said Mrs. Murray, bustling about to
prepare supper for the travelers. “We thought maybe you and Jimmie’d
stay up at Dickerman’s ranch over night.”

“I wanted to get home, Mrs. Murray,” said the Bishop. “When I strike any
point within fifty miles of the Crossbar, I feel the homing instinct
strongly. You make it so very pleasant for me here.”

Jimmie stood over in the corner, his hands clasped behind him, a
slender, curly-haired lad, with eyes like a collie’s, and the way they
looked at the Bishop told the girls Jimmie’s opinion of him plainer than
words could do.

The next morning they were up early, and after prayers they started out
for the little schoolhouse where services were to be held. It was the
same one the Murray children had attended when they were small, but now
only Peggie took the long ride over the hills.

“And you’re not a bit afraid?” asked Isabel, as the miles stretched out
before them. “Isn’t it lonely in the winter?”

“Oh, yes, a little bit, but you don’t mind it after a while,” said
Peggie cheerfully. “This year it’s closed because there aren’t enough
children to carry the expenses. We’ve had such good times here. One
Christmas, when Jeanie taught us, we wanted Santa Claus and a Christmas
tree so much, and she said we could have one. So we all went out, and
picked out our tree, and one of the Dickerman boys cut it down, and we
pulled it back ourselves.”

“Like bringing in the Yule log, wasn’t it?” said Polly.

“Yes. We had such fun trimming it, and there was a Santa Claus too.”

“Where will you go to school this year?”

“I don’t know. There isn’t any place now, unless I go down to Deercroft
and board, and mother doesn’t want me to do that.”

“Why don’t you come back with us to Calvert?” asked Polly. “You’re old
enough. Crullers started when she was twelve. Oh, Peggie, why don’t you
try to? It would be lovely.”

Peggie said nothing for a minute, but rode along, her face bowed a
little, her eyes full of longing.

“I’d like to go,” she said finally, “but I don’t think it’s my turn yet.
The boys come first, and then when they’re through college, they’ll help
me.”

No more was said then, but the thought remained with Polly, and, as the
Admiral always said, once a really good and interesting thought had
taken root in Polly’s mind, it was almost certain to grow and bear
fruit.

The little schoolhouse stood at the fork of the river, a rough log
cabin, with some spruces growing back of it. What impressed the girls
was the instinctive sense of holiness that seemed to enfold the whole
place. The horses were hobbled, and a few minutes later Mr. and Mrs.
Murray arrived in the surrey. They had stopped at one point in the
journey, and turned off towards an out-of-the-way ranch, to pick up some
neighbors, Sam Brumell and his two sisters.

“Not that they’re church folks, ’cause they’re not,” Mrs. Murray had
said, in her bright, cheery way, “but I know it does ’Lisbeth Brumell a
pile of good just to feel she has touched the Hand of the Father again
in the dark, and it won’t hurt Sam any to listen to the Words of Life,
either, nor poor blind Emily, so we’ll just stop and gather them in,
father.”

There were others who wanted to be gathered in too, that day. Strangest
of all, to the girls, was the group of cowboys, friends and “pardners”
of Jimmie’s from the Big Bow outfit, who had ridden over twenty miles to
do honor to Jimmie and his Missionary Bishop. And there were several
families from outlying ranches, some with children. Mr. and Mrs. Sandy
arrived last of all, because as Sandy explained later, Diantha had
stopped to pick all her roses for the altar.

Jimmie had prepared the way as best he could. The desk was pushed back
against the blackboard, and covered with a fair linen cloth, and the
Bishop’s beautiful Cross stood on it, with the white roses on either
side. There was no organ, but Jimmie and the Murray children led the
singing, as they were familiar with the canticles and responses, and the
girls joined in. The sermon was not at all like a sermon. It was the
warmest, tenderest, best kind of a talk. The tall young Bishop stepped
down from the little platform that had served as chancel, and talked
directly to them, calling them by name.

“I hear,” he said, “there has never been a Confirmation here at the
Forks. Then we’ll have one in the spring. There are plenty of children
to gather for this, and grown people too. Donald and Margaret Murray,
James here, and the Dickerman twins—”

’Lisbeth Brumell rose determindedly in her seat at this point. She was a
little woman, with a sad, tired face, the face of a woman who had found
the wilderness too hard to bear.

“I know it ain’t right for me to speak up during service,” she said,
brokenly, “but I only wanted to say you can count me in too, Bishop,
when you round up the lot.”

“Well, I’m glad poor ’Lisbeth got that off her mind,” said Mrs. Murray,
thoughtfully, after they had returned home. “She’s always wanted a staff
to lean on, and it will make her daily grind easier.”

“What’s the matter with her, Mrs. Murray?” asked Isabel.

“Lonesomeness, most likely. She made up her mind to be lonesome all her
life, and she was a terribly disappointed girl.”

“How?”

“She didn’t marry the lad she wanted to. He went over Thunder Ridge
twenty-two years ago, in the big blizzard, with fourteen hundred cattle.
I’m glad she’s going to find rest at last.”

“Girls, girls,” exclaimed Polly, her eyes bright with excitement, when
they started for a walk after dinner that night. “Grandfather was saying
not long ago that people were getting tired of churches, and out here—”

“They’re all ready and waiting for the round-up,” finished Ted, shortly,
but fervently. “I’ll never forget to-day, or the cowboy’s voice when he
sang the ‘Inflammatus’ without any accompaniment.” And Ted began to sing
it softly.

“When Thou comest, when Thou comest to the judgment,
Lord, remember now Thy people—”

“What’s that about the Shepherd and Bishop of souls?” asked Sue.

“You’re all of you sentimental,” Ruth interposed soberly. “All you need
to do is to remember that little schoolhouse at the Forks when you get
back home, and do something for it. If it’s not going to be used for a
school any more, it could be turned into a chapel, and services held
there regularly.”

“Who’d read them?”

“I think father would, or Jimmie, or maybe Sandy, if they could be
appointed lay readers,” said Peggie. “I think so.”

“Polly, you’ve started something else,” laughed Isabel, but Polly only
smiled. She was too happy to talk.

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