THE LONG TRAIL

As Ruth was fond of quoting, “The quicker ’tis done, the better ’tis
done.” Polly watched for a good opportunity when Jean was alone, and
broached the subject without waiting.

“Peggie go to Calvert?” exclaimed Jean, in surprise. “Why, Polly, what
made you think of such a thing?”

“I wanted her. We all want her to be one of us this year. It would do
her good, and she would be with you, Miss Murray dear.”

“But the cost—”

“Let the dinosaur pay for it,” said Polly, hastily. “Of course I know
she couldn’t go unless something did happen to open the way for her, but
this will, won’t it? The Chief told her to-day she was to have a third
of whatever he received, because she is the true discoverer.”

“But you and the other girls are the promoters.”

Polly flushed quickly.

“Oh, we don’t want anything. All we did was to encourage Peggie.”

“I think you were what you are so fond of, the gift-bringers of
opportunity. It is very dear and thoughtful of you, anyway, and I will
promise to talk it over with father and mother soon. That is what you
want me to do, isn’t it?”

Polly reached up, and gave her a quick, forcible hug, and kissed her
cheek, for answer. Jean watched her as she went down the creek path to
join the other girls at the swimming pool. Someway the thought would not
be banished, and she found herself considering it seriously. Peggie a
Calvert girl? Peggie, her little, wild ranch girl, to turn into one of
Miss Calvert’s pupils, at a “select academy for young ladies,” as the
fall circulars always said. Jean caught herself laughing softly at the
picture. Still, after all, she decided, it depended on Peggie.

Every day found the Chief and the Doctor over in the gulch, planning and
exploring. The girls did not accompany them. They felt that their share
in the labor was accomplished. It only remained to see results. So they
spent the last of the week having a good time on the ranch, and riding
around, bareheaded, merry, and just “full of fun,” as Mrs. Murray said,
comfortably.

“Land o’ rest, let them enjoy themselves while they can,” she would say,
standing at the low doorway, to watch them at play down in the lower
field below the corral. Don and Peggie were giving an exhibition of
trick-riding and Ted and Polly were trying to imitate them. “I wish
sometimes that I could turn loose hosts of young ones like these out
here in our beautiful land, and let them find the world as young as they
are. Yes, I know what Doctor Smith said, that that lot of bones yonder
had been there maybe ten million years. I don’t pretend to know those
things. Maybe the world was made in six days, and maybe it was made in
sixty million. The Lord knows, and that suffices. I never did hold with
this promiscuous poking after what doesn’t concern us. First thing we
know, an airship will bump an angel down, and then there’ll be more
excitement. The world is young still, bless it, and it’s fresh and green
and very beautiful, and I do love to see young things playing on it,
whether it’s lambs, or children, or rabbits. They’re a wonderful lot
alike.”

Jean listened, sitting on the lower step of the little porch, sewing on
a new dress for Peggie, that she needed for camping. It was a strong,
tan khaki, like the other girls wore, with a divided skirt, and middy
blouse. Someway, as she heard what her mother said, it seemed like the
propitious moment for Peggie, and she unfolded Polly’s plan.

Mrs. Murray listened in silence, her plain, motherly face a little bit
sad, though the smile did not leave her lips. Jean waited a minute when
she had finished, before she asked:

“Could you let her go, mother dear?”

“She’s but a bairn yet, Jeanie, lass.”

“She’s twelve, mother. I could take care of her.”

“She’s needing good schooling since they closed ours over at the Forks.
I’d have to let her go to town anyway this fall, and then she’d be with
strangers. You’d write often, wouldn’t you, Jeanie, and let me know just
how she took to it all?”

“Twice a week regularly, mother,” Jean promised.

“And you don’t think it would be harming her any, being with girls of
her own age that have all they want. We’re only plain people, Jean,
lass.”

“Oh, mother, the girls at Calvert are not what the world calls wealthy.
They seem so to us because we have so little in a way. We are rich in
land and stock, and love, but very little real cash. It’s only a
different scale of values, dear. What difference does it make whether
father gives one of us a yearling or a new pony for a birthday gift, and
down yonder, the Admiral gives Polly a new camera, or a necklace. It all
comes to the same thing. Peggie will hold her own among them all, dear,
and they will love her too. She is old enough to start in the first
year. If she does realize her hopes from the discovery in old Zed’s
gulch, I should let her go.”

Mrs. Murray sighed thoughtfully.

“I’ll ask father about it, Jeanie, to-night,” she said, finally, and
Jean knew the fight was won already, for whatever her mother advocated,
Mr. Murray unhesitatingly accepted.

Monday morning, even before the first long amber rays of sunlight
pierced the clouds over towards Bear Lodge, the girls were up and
dressed. The sheep wagon was ready, well-provisioned, and made
comfortable as could be for the trip. Behind it was the grub wagon,
loaded with the tents, stove, bedding, and heavier camp supplies. Mr.
Murray drove this wagon, and Jean or her mother took turns at the sheep
cart. It was quite a formidable pack-train that went slowly out by the
valley trail at sunrise. Sally Lost Moon stood in the doorway, with the
sheepdogs around her, waving good-bye with her apron till they passed
out of sight, and Don, too, waved a last salute. Archie and Neil were at
work up beyond the buttes, and they could not see them.

First came the sheep wagon, then a line of ponies and girl scouts, as
the Chief would have dubbed them. They looked it too, in their trim
khaki suits, and lightweight felt hats with turned-back brims. Every
brim bore the class pin of Calvert, the big C on a shield of deep
maroon, with silver quarterings.

They took the straight road west from the ranch, instead of turning off
over the bridge, or north towards the gulch.

“Isn’t this the way we go to the Alameda?” asked Sue.

“We pass the MacDowells’ place on our way to the mountains,” said
Peggie. “Father said we would let out a hail at them but we’d best not
stop, for it delays us. We want to reach a good place to camp to-night.”

“Does he know where he’s going?” asked Ted, interestedly. “I mean, does
he know all the roads and trails ahead?”

“I guess he does,” laughed Peggie. “He’s traveled them often enough.
Every year some of us go camping, you see, and we like to go over the
same trail.”

“Shall we meet bears?” asked Isabel, thoughtfully, but without any sign
of pleasurable anticipation.

“I hope so,” Peggie said, very cheerfully. “I like bear meat. I never
had a chance to shoot any, but Don did last year. He’s got the pelt now,
up in his room. You didn’t see his room, did you, girls? It’s the garret
over the main cabin. You have to climb up a ladder to get to it, and
even Don can’t stand upright, but he’s got all his pet things up there.”

“I’m finding out the queerest thing about life,” Isabel said, in a low
voice to Ruth. “The less you have, the more you love it.”

Ruth laughed, and nodded her head.

“I found that out long ago. I just had to.”

Isabel said no more. She was too busy thinking. The idea of a big boy
like Don being satisfied with an attic room, and of a girl like Peggie
being perfectly happy away out here in the hill country, puzzled her.
She felt that these two had found the secret of contentment someway.
Riding slowly along the up grade behind Peggie now, she caught herself
remembering an old fairy tale that had perplexed her when she was a
little girl, one about a king who sought the Land of Heart’s Content. He
had traveled to the kingdom of Yesterday first, and had found it to be
the Land of Heart’s Regret. Then he had gone to the far country of
To-morrow, and had found that it was the Land of Heart’s Desire. So,
finally, weary and travel-worn, he returned home, and found there in his
own land of To-day, the Heart’s Content he longed for. Isabel wondered
if perhaps the secret of happiness at the little Crossbar ranch was that
the Murrays had all found the land of Heart’s Content.

Up and up they rode, after passing Sandy’s ranch, a little speck far
below in the broad valley, then along a great tableland, covered with
scattered spruce, like little watch-towers. Once they saw an eagle
winging its course southward. It looked like a hawk at that distance.
Mr. Murray pointed out to them its nest in the top of a great old pine,
nearly dead, with only a few scattered branches towards the top that
showed green.

Every once in a while a gray squirrel or young rabbit would stand still
to watch their approach, then scud away into the underbrush in sudden
alarm. Sometimes they caught sight of deer, and the girls wondered at
their tameness.

“They’ve not been hunted much up this way,” Jean told them. “And you’re
not allowed to kill any that have no horns, so that protects the does
and the young. The open season lasts only from September fifteenth to
November fifteenth.”

When the shadows pointed north, a stop was made at the first brook they
came to, and lunch was spread.

“Oh, how good everything does taste!” exclaimed Polly.

“Wait till you’ve had bacon and corn cakes every morning for nearly a
week,” laughed Jean. “Father used to have an old herder working for him,
and he would say, ‘Bacon and corn cakes is the staff of existence for
any man in the open.’”

“I know what I’d love to do,” Polly exclaimed. “I’d like to start off
with a wagon like this, one that you could live in like gypsies, and
just go and go, and take any road you liked best, until you were tired
out.”

“But, goose, don’t you know that you’d never be tired?” said Jean. “We
are all gypsies at heart when it comes to the love of the open.”

“But I should like to chase summer,” went on Polly. “Just keep following
the trail of summer in a gypsy wagon. Yes, and I think one could, too.
Girls, let’s take a gypsy-wagon cruise next year.”

“Over the world, and under the world,
And back at the last to you,”

quoted Ruth.

“Now, girls, girls, fill up good, for we’ve a long stretch ahead, and no
lagging behind,” called out Mr. Murray, going over to look after the
ponies. “We want to make the Soup Bowl to-night.”

“What is the Soup Bowl?” asked Ted, as they all helped to pack up the
dishes after they had washed them in the brook.

“A place up in the hills that is sheltered, and has good feeding ground
for the horses,” Jean told her. “We’re to camp there to-night.”

Steadily ahead they went, with the wall of the mountains fronting them.
Not a break could they see in it, but Mr. Murray held as steadily to his
trail as a sailor does to his course, and the wall grew ever nearer.

“I can’t get used to the trees here,” said Ruth once. “There doesn’t
seem to be anything worth speaking of as you go higher excepting these
funny, straight, skinny-looking pines.”

“The trees grow smaller as you go higher,” Jean answered. “Even these
slender lodge-pole pines are shorter towards the heights. You can tell
the spruce, girls, because it looks blue at a distance. And both the
hemlock and Alpine fir love the banks of the trout brooks up here in the
hills. Oh, to-morrow we’ll get splendid trout.”

Once, as they rode, they came to a hilltop that overlooked the country
for miles and miles. Far away to the south, Peggie pointed out
Deercroft, just a little clump of match boxes, it looked, at that
distance. They could see homesteads too, here and there far below them,
and now and then a ranch.

“You can tell the difference if you look carefully,” Jean told them.
“Wait a minute. I have my field glasses.” She stopped the team, and
reached back into the locker for them, and the girls enjoyed looking
through them in turn. “The ranches all have corrals. And the homesteads
always have gardens. Do you see the difference?”

Once, as they passed along the road, they came to a river crossing, the
water cold and swift. Fording it was an old man with a thin, sunburnt
face, and long, sandy moustache. He was mounted on a calico broncho,
with a high Mexican saddle, and dressed in dingy yellow, with an old
felt hat tilted over his eyes. He turned in midstream to shade his eyes,
and look back at the camping-out cavalcade, and Mr. Murray let out a
long hail at him. He answered with a wave of his hand, and rode on.

“That’s Dave Penfield,” he told the girls, “best scout in Wyoming, not
barring out Sandy himself. He’s over seventy now, and when the President
himself came to the Big Horn country to hunt, if they didn’t look up old
Dave to steer him to the right spots. Dave said he didn’t mind a bit.
Always had heard the President was a very respectable and sociable sort
of man. That’s Dave all over.”

Sometimes wonderful black ravens swung lazily and majestically out of
the woods, or a brilliant orange tanager would flash out of the green
gloom across their path like a vivid bit of flame. The girls cried out
at the beauty of the mountain flowers, too. It seemed as though the
rougher the rocks became and the wilder the scenery, the more delicately
beautiful the flowers were.

“It is that way as far as you can go up the mountains,” Jean told them.
“Even at the highest altitudes they find tiny flowers growing. Eleven
thousand feet is what we call timber line, and after you pass that, you
will find these tiny flowers.”

“What is the tree that trembles all the time?” asked Ruth. “I read some
place that it grows out here.”

“Not as far north as we are. It is in Colorado. The aspen, you mean. It
is a very beautiful tree. They say it trembles because it is the wood
the Cross was made of. Oh, girls, look—there goes a goat.”

Just for a moment they caught a glimpse of him, a fleeing shadow along
the line of rocks far above their heads.

“By jiminetty, mother,” exclaimed Mr. Murray, drawing rein, regretfully,
“I wish I’d had my rifle ready for those horns.”

“I wouldn’t shoot like that, if I were you, Rob,” said his wife,
placidly. “Don’t it say in the Book that the hills are a refuge for the
wild goat? Do you suppose it was intended for that refuge to be
invaded?”

“But, mother,” protested Mr. Murray, boyishly, “did you get a good sight
at his horns? I’d have made old Sandy’s eyes shine if I’d taken those
back to him.”

Just a little before sunset, they reached the camping place. High up in
the hills it was, with a little lake, shut in by masses of fir and
spruce. They came to an open space overlooking it from the easterly
side, and were glad enough to slip from the saddles, and unpack for the
night. All about them, blending into the sky itself it seemed, were
distant ranges. A flock of frightened water birds flew up from the tall
reeds near the water edge, and off to the south Peggie pointed out some
wild ducks flying to the pond.

“I’ll build the fire for you, mother,” Mr. Murray said, “and leave you
to get supper, while the girls help me put up the tents and gather
spruce boughs for the beds.”

“Ruth, Isabel,” Polly called, as she stood up on a rock overlooking the
camping place. “Just come up here and see how glorious it all is. There
are some rocks over there that look like a great castle piled up against
the sunset.

“The splendour falls on castle walls,
And snowy summits old in story,
The long light shakes across the lakes,
And the wild cataract leaps in glory.”

Ruth stopped short, breathless from her climb up to the rock.

“I forget the rest, something about the horns of Elfland and the purple
glens replying,” she said. “Isn’t it beautiful, Polly?”

[Illustration: “Isn’t it Beautiful, Polly?”]

Ted and Sue were busily unpacking bedding and tents, and refused to
notice the sunset until the practical things were attended to. Peggie
and her father looked after the horses. There was not much to do.
Saddles and bridles slipped off, they were led down to drink, then
hobbled, and left to munch the sweet, rich grass. The team horses had an
extra feed of oats besides. By the time the girls had watched the sun
tinge the last rim of the mountains with gold, smoke was curling up from
the camp stove, and there was fresh water on to boil. It was a study in
camp economy to watch Mrs. Murray make everything comfortable.

“Well, you see, child,” she said, when Isabel spoke of the ease with
which it was all done, “we’ve camped out every summer since the children
were old enough to enjoy it, and it’s second nature now. Don’t you want
to cut the ham?”

“I want to do anything to help,” Isabel said, heartily, so when the
others came down they found Lady Vanitas with a big apron tied around
her armpits, slicing ham deftly for the crowd.

There were two tents, and in front of each was a wide projecting canvas
roof besides, so that it seemed almost like an extra room. Mr. Murray
said he would take a blanket, and sleep in the sheep wagon, as he would
be more likely to hear the horses if they got into trouble. Mrs. Murray
took the younger ones under her wing, Peggie, Sue and Ted; and Jean
shared the other tent with Polly, Ruth and Isabel. There were no cots,
but each one had a fine bed of fresh cut spruce boughs and blankets
thrown over them.

After supper, some helped clean up the remains, and the rest gathered
firewood with Mr. Murray for a good blaze to keep off any inquisitive
wanderers of the night. When it finally started up, on the shore of the
lake, it was a brilliant spectacle. The flames sent out great flickering
banners that were reflected in the dark waters, the sparks flew up and
crackled, and the spruce sent out a rich, pungent fragrance.

“I never saw any one swing an axe as fast as Mr. Murray,” said Ted,
admiringly. “It just seems to throw itself at the tree, and every time
it lands in the same place.”

“They say up home he’s the best wood-cutter around,” Peggie replied,
proudly. Dearly did she love her tall, strong-limbed father. “We’d
better get a good pile for the night, to keep the fire going.”

So they worked, bearing wood and getting ready for the night, and when
all was done, there was no protest to an early turning in.

“What’s that queer smell?” asked Isabel, as she lay down on her couch of
spruce.

“That’s just the piney smell,” answered Polly, sleepily. “It’s very,
very healthful, Aunty Welcome says. We ought to get a lot of pine
needles and make pillows of them to take back home.”

“It doesn’t smell like pine,” Isabel insisted.

“Now, Isabel,” protested Ruth, already half asleep. “Don’t be fussy.”

“I’m not,” said poor Isabel, catching her breath, then she began to
sneeze. “I’m not fus-u-s-u-s-u-s-y-choo! choo! choo!”

“The train’s starting,” called Sue from the next tent. “All aboard!”

“I think you’re all horrid,” said Isabel, sitting up. “And I don’t
believe it is the piney smell at all. Oh, ker-choo!”

“Well, for the land o’ rest, what does ail the child,” exclaimed Mrs.
Murray, coming to the tent entrance in her nightgown.

“She can’t stand the piney smell,” began Ruth.

“Piney smell? That’s snuff,” laughed Mrs. Murray, sniffing suspiciously
around Isabel’s bed. “I did have a box of it in case we met a bear. Ever
since a brown bear waddled up to my back door one morning and stole some
fresh pies, I’ve had snuff by me in case of emergency. You can always
make a bear run with a good dash of snuff in his face. And somehow, the
box must have got mixed up in the blankets, and come uncovered. You poor
child. I’ll give you a fresh pair.”

Everybody laughed except Isabel; all she could do was sneeze. But
finally they got settled down for the night. Only once Polly started to
giggle.

“Now what?” demanded Isabel.

“It rhymes with Isabel.”

“What does?”

“Piney smell.”

“If I didn’t need my pillow, I’d throw it at you, Polly,” Isabel said,
drowsily. “Go to sleep.”

So at last peace settled down over the little camp, and only the
flickering firelight moved, except when Mr. Murray would rouse to put on
fresh wood, and take a look around to see that all was well.

“Let’s call this Camp Expectancy,” said Polly, the next morning, when
they were ready to move on. “It is our first base of action in a way,
and we ought to name every camp so as to remember it.”

So Camp Expectancy it was, and the next one they found was so delightful
that they decided it must be called Camp Delight. And the last camp was
Camp Regret. Three nights they spent here, in the great, silent
mountains. And three days of fishing in the clear mountain streams, and
enjoying the freshly-cooked trout afterwards. Every day they had game of
some sort, but no bear showed up, and the girls were secretly just as
well pleased. These were happy, restful days. At first the constant
riding in the saddle tired them in spite of their long practice, but the
three days rest at Camp Regret fitted them for the home trip.

“Oh, dear,” sighed Ted. “It’s just an aggravation staying such a little
while. I wish I were grown up. I think I’d take up a government claim,
and settle out here.”

“We’d welcome you,” Mr. Murray said heartily. “If ever a beautiful,
healthy State needed good settlers it’s our Wyoming.”

“And we’d come and visit you every summer, Ted,” promised Sue, happily.
“Wouldn’t it be fun?”

“It sounds like fun, but you’d find out there was work to be done before
you got through,” laughed Mr. Murray. “There’s a lot of Easterners come
out and take up claims, and think that’s the end of it. Free land, and
plenty of game. Then they find out the difference when they have to
prove up their land, and work it, and pay for irrigation. But it’s a
great hopper. It sure sifts the grain from the chaff. Only the people
with hope and grit and good intentions stick to their claims, and win
out.”

Once, away up in the timber belt, they came on a nester and his family,
building their first house. All the family were helping. There was the
wife up on a ladder, helping fit cross beams, and two boys were sawing
planks. Even a little three-year-old girl had her apron full of nails,
holding them up for her father to take what he needed.

“Coming along, eh, neighbor?” said Mr. Murray, and the stalwart young
homesteader smiled cheerfully.

“We’ll raise the pine tree on the chimney the first of September, God
willing!”

“That’s the spirit that’s making our western states grow like their own
pines,” said the old rancher, as they drove on, after a good drink of
fresh water at the spring near the new home. “The pioneer days are still
with us, mother, and for those who love the land of promise, the pillar
of fire and the cloud wait on the border to lead them forward. By
jiminetty, it makes the blood stir, even in my old veins, to hear that
hammer and saw in the woods.”

Another time they met a sheepman from Idaho, driving his flocks eastward
towards the fall markets. It was a strange sight. Hundreds of sheep
grazing as they went, with the dogs skirting the bunch, and the
grave-eyed, unsmiling herders staring at the campers.

“When did you start, friend?” called out Mr. Murray.

“Last of May,” came back the answer. “We’re going easy. They’ll be good
and fat by fall.”

“Isn’t that funny,” exclaimed Polly, when they drove on. “Four months to
go a few hundred miles.”

“They camp out when they come to a good feeding ground, and let the
flocks get all they want. Then by fall when they reach the market, or
where they weigh up, they are in fine condition and the sheepman has
saved his freightage on them. That’s the way they used to bring up
cattle over the Long Trail from Texas.”

At one homestead, with evenly irrigated fields all around it in a pretty
valley, there were two young girls out with a yoke of oxen, working over
their alfalfa crop. They turned and waved to the Murrays and the girls.

“That is Nell Wilson and her sister,” said Mrs. Murray. “They came from
Illinois last year, and took up a claim. The sister was real poorly, I
heard, but she’s picked up all right, and they’re doing well. Sandy went
over in the spring to see that they got along all right.”

“Are they all alone?” asked Ruth, wonderingly. “They look so young.”

“Oh, they’re both in the twenties. Yes, they’re alone. Nell was a
stenographer, I believe, and Grace, the sister, tried one thing after
another. Then they took what money they had, and came out here. A family
called Jimpson had taken that section, and couldn’t seem to make it pay.
They put in a lot of good farm implements too, and had the oxen, and a
horse, but they didn’t have any luck, they said. Well, I always contend
there’s no luck like pluck, and the Wilson girls came along, and bought
them out for a song, and they’ve had luck, but not without steady,
faithful work. Archie’s been over helping them now and then, and he says
Nell’s a dear girl.”

Polly looked up quickly at Jean, and saw that she was smiling, and she
wondered, for Polly sensed a story or a romance miles off, as the
Admiral said. Jean saw the eager inquiry in her glance, and nodded her
head.

“They are to be married when Archie finishes college,” she said.

“Oh, I’m glad,” cried Polly, and all the girls turned in their saddles,
and sent out a cheer back to the two in the field. “They’ll wonder what
that’s for, but we know,” she added, merrily.

Sunday they did not break camp at all, but stayed at their first
stopping place, Camp Expectancy, on the banks of the big lake. Mr.
Murray read service for them, and the girls enjoyed singing the old
familiar canticles out there in the green world. Monday night, just at
moonrise, the tired travelers turned down the road that led past old
Topnotch, and were glad enough to see the light in the cabin window, and
hear the dogs barking.

Sally Lost Moon stood in the doorway holding up a lamp, and smiling
broadly at them, and Archie and Neil took the ponies, while Don helped
unload.

“They’ve started digging over in the gulch,” Don found a chance to tell
Peggie. “Dr. Smith lives in Zed’s old shack now, and they say more
workmen are coming, and they’ll be there all summer.”

“Oh, Don, just after our old skeleton,” exclaimed Peggie. “Do you
remember how we laughed when we found it, and wondered what sort of a
bear had bones like that?”

“It would be there yet if Polly hadn’t known better.”

“I know it,” Peggie agreed. “The other girls say she’s the best starter
of things they ever saw. They say if I do go back east with them, I am
to belong to their outing club too. Polly’s the president. Won’t that be
fun?”

Don was very busy with the girth strap on Jinks, and she could not see
his face, but his voice sounded muffled and unwilling.

“It won’t be fun for us. Won’t you miss us, Peg?”

“Of course I will, goosie,” cried Peggie, “but it will help mother to
have me away, and I can get through school faster, Jean says, this way.”

“But you’ll stay down East there and teach, if you do.”

“No, I won’t, Don,” Peggie said, lovingly. “I’ll come home, sure. I love
Wyoming.”

The following day they all rode over to the gulch for the last time. The
Doctor was in his element, bossing a gang of workmen, and they met two
other famous men.

“What on earth did the Doctor call them, girls?” said Sue, on their way
back. “Paleo—paleo—”

“Paleontologists,” corrected Ruth, firmly. “Swallow first, and take a
deep breath, and you can say it, Sue.”

“Bone diggers,” added Ted, irreverently.

“More than that, Ted,” Jean interposed. “The other word is long, and
difficult to remember, but it means a lot. It comes from three Greek
words, and means a discourse on ancient life or beings on the earth.
That is more than bone digging, isn’t it?”

“I’m sorry,” Ted said, penitently. “But I know I’ll never remember the
other word.”

“Yes, you will, young lady,” cried Jean, laughingly, “because the very
first time you need discipline this term, I shall have you write it
fifty times.”

“Help, help!” called Ted, woefully, but the girls only laughed too.

Their vacation was up on Friday. Wednesday Mrs. Sandy had invited them
all over to the Alameda to dinner, and for a visit. They went in the
surrey, for horseback riding was beginning to feel pretty tiresome.

“Such a tanned lot of young savages,” exclaimed Miss Honoria, when she
saw them. “I declare, Polly, what will Welcome say when she sees your
freckles?”

“Just look at Lady Vanitas, and her tanned face and arms. That comes
from trouting without a hat. But we’re all glad to be tanned. Nobody
will believe we have had a wonderful vacation in the sunshine and open
air unless we can show tan.”

It was all fully arranged that day about the return trip. Jean was to
accompany the girls back, and Peggie would go when Miss Honoria
returned. Nothing was said definitely about what the precious skeleton
represented in a monetary way, but from the smile on Mrs. Sandy’s face
when it was spoken of, and Peggie’s bubbling happiness, the girls knew
that all trouble in that line had been wiped away. The greatest surprise
of all was when the Doctor came down to the home ranch, Thursday
afternoon. He looked in the best of health, and was fairly radiant over
the dinosaurus.

“I have maintained for years that the Jurassic drift took in this
section,” he said, happy as a boy with a new toy. “And this confirms me
positively. Polly, as a relief to my conscience, I wish to hand over
some of the spoils to the club that had sense enough to know prehistoric
bones when it saw them. Here is one hundred, and I knew you’d like it in
gold. Girls always do. Five twenty-dollar gold pieces, one for each of
you, and you shall be honorary members anyway of my own private
geological society when I start it.”

“Oh, Doctor Smith,” cried Polly, flushing warmly at the unexpectedness
of the gift. “We don’t deserve this.”

“Don’t you? Wouldn’t the dinosaurus be lying right in its rocky tomb
this minute if it hadn’t been for your discernment? You take it, child,
and add it with my best thanks and good wishes to the general fund of
the Polly Page Club.”

“Girls,” said Polly, later, when she broke the glad news to the rest.
“Let’s take a stateroom on the train from Chicago to Washington. We
deserve that much, anyway, and it was hard sleeping all the way on the
seats.”

“Hear, hear!” cried the girls, gaily.

The start was to be an early one, but even before breakfast, Friday
morning, a solemn and regretful procession wended its way from the guest
cabin down to the corral, and each girl took mournful leave of her pony.

“Jinks is crying, I know he is,” said Polly. “See him droop his precious
head. I wish I could take him back with me.”

“Don’t we all wish the same about our ponies?” Ted exclaimed. “Where can
I ever find another horse like Calico Bill. He’s salmon-pink and brown
and white, and his eyes are so expressive.”

The ponies did seem to know that something wrong was going on, for they
lifted their heads, and whinnied wistfully as the two teams drove away
over the road southward. The two older boys stood with Mrs. Murray,
waving, and beside them was Sally too, stolid, and bright-eyed, watching
them out of sight.

“Four weeks of solid fun,” said Ruth, as she leaned back. “Hasn’t it
been just splendid, girls?”

“You’ve blazed a good trail for others to follow, too,” Jean replied.
“Better a suit-case and a khaki dress than white ruffles and a parasol,
girls, on a board walk, if you’re out for health and a good time.”

“And a dinosaurus,” added Polly.

At the railroad station in Deercroft, they saw Jimmy.

“Thought I’d ride down to say good-bye,” he said, shaking hands with
each. “Don’t forget what you promised about our mission, will you? They
say we can have the old Fork schoolhouse to use if we want it, and we’re
going to try to buy it in, and make a chapel out of it. I hope you’ll
help out.”

“We will, truly, we will,” the girls promised.

“Here she comes through the cut,” called out Don, holding the ponies.
“Good-bye all!”

Mr. Murray held Jean close in his arms.

“God bless you, my lass,” he said, gently. “Take good care of Peggie for
us this winter. Good-bye, girls. Come again when you’re up this way.”

Jimmie had sprung to his own saddle, and his black pony was doing a
waltz step all its own when the train pulled in. He swung his hat off in
one last salute, and let the bridle slacken, and the last the girls saw
of him, he was going like a rocket down the road towards the town,
singing at the top of his lungs, his old favorite,

“Guide me, Oh, Thou great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land!”

Polly leaned back from the window, her eyes wet with tears.

“Isn’t it a darling land?” she said, warmly.

“It’s Heart’s Content to us who love it,” Jean replied, and the girls
knew well what she meant.

Continue Reading

A DAY AT THE ALAMEDA

The next day they rode over again to the Alameda ranch to see the
Chief’s horses of which he was so proud. By this time, as Ted said, they
were so accustomed to riding horseback that it seemed queer to walk
around.

“Ted, that sounds for all the world like some old sailor who didn’t like
dry land,” said Sue. “Anybody’d think, to hear you, that you were born
and bred on a ranch.”

“Wish I had been,” Ted flung back over her shoulder, as she rode past.
“Peggie, will you change places with me? You go back to school, and let
me stay here.”

“Have to ask mother that,” Peggie replied, shaking her head.

“Have you asked her, yet, really, Peggie?” said Polly, who was next to
her in the file of horses. But Peggie shook her head.

“Not yet. I mustn’t. It isn’t my turn. Don comes next.”

But Polly made up her mind privately, to ask Jean. If the skeleton
turned out to be worth anything, the Doctor would be the first to
purchase it for the Institute at Washington, and Peggie was the finder,
so the money would be hers and the Chief’s, as it was his property. The
Admiral always said that Polly was the most rapid builder of air castles
he had ever known, but that never disconcerted nor discouraged Polly.

It was the first time since their arrival at the ranch that Jean had let
them ride without her, but with the extra harvesters that week, she felt
she must help her mother. Sally Lost Moon was willing, but slow and a
poor cook.

“Peggie knows the way over as well if not better than I do,” Jean had
said, that morning. “Take the trip easily, girls. I think you’ll be all
right.”

Peggie and Polly rode together, and the other girls behind them. It was
a merry cavalcade of demoiselles, as Mrs. Sandy put it, that trotted up
to the Alameda that morning. After they had turned the ponies into the
corral, the whole day lay before them. They went far up the back road
with Sandy himself, first of all, about a mile, until they came to the
horse range. Carefully selected, it was, out of all the land he owned,
chosen for shelter and good water and grass. Here he had built a great
corral in the center, with feed-sheds for winter. Here grazed fifty
beautiful mares, horses that had never felt a saddle touch their glossy
arched backs.

“What do you think of them?” asked the Chief, proudly, as he rested one
foot on a fence rail, and looked at the lot with loving eyes. “They are
my special hobby, girls. I always liked a fine horse even when I was a
youngster, but I never saw any to compare with my beauties over yonder.
I keep weeding them out, and breaking in the ones that don’t seem fit
for the royal family, as it were. They all know me, too. Watch.” He put
his fingers to his lips and blew a shrill, far-reaching whistle. Every
neck lifted at the call, heads were turned towards him, and some
whinnied anxiously. Then one broke into a run, and the rest followed.

“Oh, oh, just look at them come,” cried Polly, enthusiastically. “See
their manes float on the wind, and how light they are.”

“Many a time I’ve come across a drove of them feeding on a good plain,
and have watched until my own horse would give the alarm to them, and
off they’d all go like that. It was hard catching them, and hard
breaking them afterwards, but those that did, got horses with the speed
of the wind in their hoofs, and the strength of the hills in their
muscles. The desert breed is the only one that matches it, I’m
thinking.”

“Who takes care of them?” asked Ted.

“The boys. I’ve five of them. I used to try to do it all myself, but
they fare better and so do I, if I keep away. Besides, there’s plenty to
be doing down at the home ranch. Over yonder, a few miles more, are the
cattle, and some more of the boys. There’s about five hundred head. I
used to have a larger herd, in the old Texan trail days, but there are
few real ranches left now. They’re all stockmen and farmers. I’ve got
some of the last long-horned steers in the county, now, out yonder, and
when I settled here, they were all Texans. I sold some youngsters to a
farmer in Iowa, I remember, for yoke work, and he wrote back after he’d
got them home, that he didn’t know what to do, because their horns were
so wide he couldn’t get them into the barn. ‘Widen your barn door, you
nester,’ I wrote him. ‘Don’t cut the horns. Cut the barn.’ And he did
too.” The Chief laughed heartily over the recollection, and they all
went back to where Mrs. Sandy was watching for them on the broad, cosy
porch.

“Do just what you want to, girls,” she told them. “Go where you feel
like going, and play that it is home for a day. Ted, I saw you looking
longingly at the collection of hunting knives and guns in the long
dining-room. Why don’t you take the girls in to see them? They are all
trophies of Sandy’s Indian campaigns,” she added with pride.

There seemed to be no kitchen to speak of, in sight. The long sunny room
at the back of the house was a great living-room and dining-room too.
There was a huge rock fireplace that reached clear up to the rafters,
and the walls were decorated with all sorts of treasures of the Chief.
On one side were specimens of Indian beadwork. There were hunting bags
made of leather with beautifully-beaded fronts, the beads woven in
solidly in threads instead of being fastened to the cloth or leather.
There were hunting jackets, heavily fringed and beaded richly, with elk
teeth and eagle feathers, and bear claws fastened to them ornamentally.

“Here is the headdress of old Red Buck, a Sioux Chief,” Sandy told them.
He held it up so they could see that it was as tall as he was, a great
cascade of eagle feathers. “The day I saw him in battle, he wore nothing
but this, and another strip about his waist, but he was so heavily
painted that he looked fully dressed. The others turned their war ponies
about, and ran at the finish, when they saw the cavalry closing in on
them, but he stood his ground, and stood yelling defiance at us, and
shooting arrows until a bullet caught him, and he fell back from his
pony.”

“What did the pony do?” asked Polly.

“Stood over his master, with lowered head, and whinnied to him. We found
the two of them that way, and I stopped to take the headdress. He was a
brave old lad, that redskin. I honor him for standing his ground alone
with a whole troop of United States cavalry swooping down on him. That
elk head up yonder is the biggest ever shot in our section. He used to
come down and fairly taunt us early settlers with his royal kingship of
these hills and valleys. I got him one moonlight night up at Ghost Lake,
about seven miles above here, after nearly a week’s stalking.”

“Aren’t the moccasins pretty?” Isabel exclaimed, quick to notice
anything fanciful. There must have been twenty or thirty pairs dangling
from the wall on nails.

“Those there,” said the Chief smiling, “belong to my wife. They are her
special reward of merit from the women folks in the tribes, twenty or
thirty years ago, and more, I guess. Some of them were given to me
before we were married. They’d come around and find me building this
cabin, and I’d tell them just what it was for, and they’d go away and
think about it. Then after a time, one would return, and bring me
something for a peace offering to my bride. Mostly they brought
moccasins, and they are certainly worked fine, those honeymoon
slippers.”

“Isn’t this a papoose case?” asked Ruth.

“Yes. An Indian girl named Laughing Flower left that here one day. Her
baby was pretty sick, I guess, and she didn’t like the way the old women
and medicine men fussed over it, so she brought it over here to Diantha.
It couldn’t walk, and they had told her at the camp it never would, that
it was bewitched, and all that sort of nonsense. When I came home I
found Di sitting in front of the fire there, with the little brown thing
on her lap. She’d loosened its clothes, and bathed it, and rubbed its
limbs with sweet-oil, and hung the papoose case up on the wall. After a
week, Laughing Flower went back, and her boy could walk. Little two year
old he was, with eyes like coffee beans. That’s why they loved Diantha,
I guess, and let us stay here in the valley. We always treated them
decent.”

“Now, tell us about all these guns, please,” begged Sue. “I didn’t know
there were so many kinds.”

“Didn’t you? I’ve used everything from an old flint lock that belonged
to Zed, down to this lightweight Winchester. These breech-loaders came
in use along in the Indian wars, when I was a little lad about five, I
guess. Here’s a carbine that went through the Civil War. It belonged to
an old pard I had, back in my first days here; Tennessee Clayborne, he
was called, but mostly Tennessee. He was with Custer to the finish.”

The Chief was silent after that, whistling softly to himself as he
fingered the old gun lovingly.

“I wish I could shoot,” said Polly. “Not to kill anything but just to
hit something.”

“Do you? Well, I shouldn’t wonder if that could be gratified.” Sandy
lifted down a lightweight Winchester. “We’ll go out, and see which one
has the steadiest hand, and surest eye.”

“Polly has, I’m sure,” said Isabel. “I don’t want to shoot, please. I
don’t like even to touch anything that will go off.”

So out they went, and the Chief put up a piece of paper on a tree near
the wagon-sheds, not a very big piece either.

“Now, you girl sharpshooters,” he laughed, stepping back, “let’s see
what sort of scouts you’d make.”

Ted tried her luck first, and came within an inch of the paper, then Sue
shot, and clipped the bark a couple of inches below the mark. Polly was
laughing and eager, and managed to take a corner off the white square,
but it was Ruth, quiet, steady-handed Grandma, as the girls called her,
with spectacles and all, who lifted the rifle to her shoulder, aimed and
sighted slowly, and put her bullet where it should go.

“There’s one place where you can’t trust to luck,” said Sandy. “That’s
when you’re leveling a gun. You’ve got to think and figure too. Ruth’s
got a calculating eye, I should say. We had one little shaver with us,
in the Shoshone uprising, with only one eye, and he could pick off any
brave’s topknot you’d prefer. We’ll throw some pieces of wood into the
creek, and see if you can hit them on the go. That’s good practice.”

“Peggie, you didn’t try,” called Polly, as Peggie came around the corner
of the house.

“I went over to the cook-shack to see Fun.”

“Fun?”

“Ah Fun, the cook. He came from California with Sandy a long time ago.
His name is Ah Fun, and he never smiles. Isn’t that queer? I always go
over and speak to him.”

“Oh, I want to see him too,” Polly said, so after the target practice, a
formal call was paid to the cook-cabin, and there they found Ah Fun, a
thin old Chinaman, with a face so yellow it looked like a dry maple
leaf.

“Better not let the Doctor see him,” said Ruth, in her comical way,
without a smile, when they came away. “He’ll gather him up for a fossil
specimen sure as shooting.”

The girls strolled down towards the corral, for it was getting late, and
the ride lay before them. Polly had lingered before a picture that hung
over the old chest of drawers in Mrs. Sandy’s bedroom. It was a portrait
of Miss Honoria, taken in the seventies, a wreath of flowers on her
head, and a low-necked dress with a fichu of white Spanish lace about
her shoulders. Very girlish and lovely it looked. Mrs. Sandy lingered
too.

“Does she look at all like that now?” she asked, softly. “That was my
favorite picture.”

Polly felt a sudden impulse, and spoke on the spur of it.

“No, she doesn’t look at all that way. She’s quite old looking, and very
gray, and she hardly ever smiles. Mrs. Sandy, please forgive me, but
what is the trouble?”

“Trouble, dear child?” A little flush stole to Diantha’s cheek, and she
bent over to smooth the linen pillow shams, already without a wrinkle.
“What can you mean?”

“I don’t know how to explain it,” Polly went on, “but I have always
wished I had a sister all my very own, and here you have one, and—and—”

“And what, Polly?”

“And you never see each other, or write, or anything. Was it—was the
trouble so bad as all that? I don’t see how anything could ever be that
way with sisters.”

“Don’t you, dear? Perhaps you will some day.” Diantha paused, and
thought for a minute. They could hear the laughter of the girls mingling
with the Chief’s deep bass down at the corral as they got the ponies
ready for the home trip. “It is so far back now that only in the hearts
of a few old families lie the pain and the rancor of the old war days.
My father, Colonel Calvert, never forgave the North. He believed the
government should have purchased the slaves and then freed them under
special act of Congress, and forbidden slave-holding thereafter. But he
held it as unnatural and unlawful for brother to lift hand against
brother, or to take away property rights without restitution. This is
all so far back that you cannot get even the shadow of its intensity,
and I am glad you cannot, but my childhood days were filled with it.
Honoria has all the Calvert pride, but I am afraid I had not, for,
dearie, I married a Northerner, and love him better than all of
Virginia, and so—” she made a hopeless little gesture with her slim,
pretty hands, “so Honoria has never forgiven me, nor will she accept
Sandy, no, not after thirty-five years. Honoria is very consistent.” She
finished with a sigh.

“Polly, are you ready to go?” called Peggie outside.

“Coming,” said Polly. She reached over, and put her arms around Mrs.
Sandy’s throat, and pressed her cheek to hers. “I’m sorry for both of
you, dear Mrs. Sandy,” she whispered. “Have you tried writing to her?”

“She never replies to my letters. I am afraid there’s nothing that can
be done, Polly child.”

“I know what I’d do,” said Polly, resolutely, as she reached for her
hat. “I’d just get on a train, and go down home, and go straight up to
the Hall, and when I saw her, I’d hug her before she knew what was
happening, and I’d shake her too, a little bit, and kiss her, and say,
‘Hello, Honoria.’ That’s what I’d do.”

Mrs. Sandy laughed heartily at the mental picture of her accosting the
stately Honoria in such a fashion after thirty-five years, but Polly was
serious in her intent.

“It would settle the whole thing, Mrs. Sandy, dear, I am sure it would,
and grandfather and I’d be delighted to have you and the Chief at
Glenwood with us too.”

“Oh, Polly, do you realize what the trip would cost? Sandy would have to
sell off some of his thoroughbreds, wouldn’t he?”

“Why not take the money that will come from the bones in Zed’s gulch,
and make it a second honeymoon trip?” asked Polly. “Don’t laugh at me,
please. I know it’s only another air-castle, but let’s keep hoping.”

“All right, child,” promised Mrs. Sandy, as she kissed her good-bye.
“I’ll keep hoping.”

Polly did not tell the girls that she had learned what the secret
trouble was between the two sisters. Someway, she could not. It seemed
such a personal, tender secret that, after all, concerned only the two,
and Sandy himself. Dear, stalwart, dauntless Chief Sandy! Polly wondered
whether Miss Honoria knew him well. It did not seem as if any one who
had met him, and come under the spell of that genial, generous spirit,
could fail to sense its charm and worth. She could almost shut her eyes,
and imagine him going up the broad stone steps at the Hall, and bowing
over Miss Honoria’s hand. No, come to think of it, he wouldn’t bow, not
the Chief. He was no courtly Southerner like the Admiral. More likely he
would smile that broad sunny smile of his that seemed to take in all
creation, and gripping Honoria’s hand in his, he would probably kiss her
willy-nilly, in brotherly fashion, and say:

“Well, sister, how goes the world?”

Then what would the mistress of the Hall do? Polly smiled to herself.
Would she faint, or would she gasp and laugh, or would she order the
Northern invader from the sacred precincts of Calvert Hall? What would
she do? Polly could hardly wait to find out. Someway, she decided,
someway, it must be arranged for the meeting to happen.

“Does any one feel like taking a camping trip next week?” asked Mr.
Murray, Monday night. “I won’t have the time to spare now girls, but if
mother says so, we’ll start out a week from to-day, with a good team,
and go camping.”

“Why, father, you’ll have to take more than one team, won’t you?” said
Mrs. Murray. “I’ll leave Sally to cook for the boys, and go too.”

“Couldn’t we ride horseback?” Polly put in.

“I was figuring on a grub wagon that would take the tents too, and then
fix up that old sheep wagon, for the girls to ride in. We can put four
cross seats in that, mother, and the boxes and cupboards would come in
handy. I’m afraid they’d get tired out riding.”

“If we did, we could hitch the ponies on behind, and get into the wagon,
the way the pack-trains do. We’d love to ride, wouldn’t we, girls?”

“Listen to them,” exclaimed Jean. “Wouldn’t you think, to hear them
talk, that they’d been in a saddle since they could walk. I’d let them
ride, father. We’ll have the fun of teasing them after a good
twenty-mile jolt over the mountain roads.”

“Monday then, and an early start. Archie and Neil will look after
things, and it will do us good too, won’t it, mother?”

“The biggest lad of the lot,” said Mrs. Murray, tenderly, as she watched
the tall, angular figure start off down towards the sheds. “He’ll enjoy
it vastly.”

“It seems too wonderful to be true,” said Isabel, in her fervent way.
“Will we be right in the mountains, then, Miss Jean?”

“‘In the heart of the ancient woods,’” quoted Jean, blithely. “Have you
ever slept out of doors on a bed of spruce boughs, with nothing around
you but the mountains and the sky? Mother says it comes the nearest to
feeling the everlasting arms around one of anything in this life that
she’s found.”

“You’re rocked in Mother Nature’s cradle, bairnies, then,” smiled Mrs.
Murray. “Just like all her younglings of the wilds. And good it is for
you, too. I feel the summer’s missed its best reward when we fail to
have our little camp outing after the haying.”

“I used to think they never bothered over hay on ranches,” said Ted,
suddenly. “I thought they just let all the cattle out to range.”

“So they did in the old range days, when it was free. But we small
ranchers have to take care of ourselves a good deal.”

“I don’t understand this,” exclaimed Polly, who had been reading over
her last letter from the Admiral. “Grandfather says here that he did
think he might get out this way, but business keeps him near Washington
all summer, so he is sending the Doctor under safe convoy. What is that,
‘safe convoy’?”

“Special delivery, receipt guaranteed,” spoke up Don, who was making a
cage for a couple of ’coons he had caught.

“That letter was mailed a week ago, Polly,” Ruth said. “And you know the
Doctor will be here by Wednesday.”

“But under ‘safe convoy,’” repeated Polly. “Grandfather never uses too
many words. What does he mean by that ‘convoy.’ A convoy is a ship that
conducts another ship, isn’t it?”

“Right-O,” sang out Ted, teasingly. “I think he will come straight
through by express. And you told Jimmie to be on the watch for him
around Deercroft, to make him feel at home, and the Chief is to meet him
Wednesday.”

“Maybe it doesn’t mean anything, but I ‘s’pects it strongly,’” Polly
replied, using Aunty Welcome’s favorite phrase of incredulity. “I don’t
believe he is coming alone, but whom could he bring way out here?”

“Let’s ride down and meet him too,” Jean said. “I’m very anxious to meet
this wonderful Doctor of yours, anyway. We could take the surrey, and
Peggie or I will drive. Then he will have a double surprise to find you
girls waiting as well as the Chief.”

“Oh, could we?” cried the girls together.

So it happened that unconsciously they planned a participation in the
Doctor’s surprise. Wednesday morning they all packed into the surrey,
and drove away over the mountain road to Deercroft. They were early, and
Jean put the horses up at the local livery stable, while they walked
around and saw what they could of the town.

“It isn’t one bit like what I expected to see,” Ruth declared. “Here are
electric lights, paved streets, and everything orderly and shipshape.”

“Well, what did you expect?” asked Peggie, wonderingly.

“I don’t know exactly. A Western town always seems to mean just a row of
frame houses, and a lot of saloons—”

“We haven’t any,” said Peggie, simply. “The women voted no license.”

“I told you this was the girl State, didn’t I?” Jean added, merrily. “We
keep it swept clean.”

“Grandfather always says that girls don’t have to consider such things,”
said Polly, thoughtfully.

“He wouldn’t if he lived out here. Our girls study their political
economy and civil government, and it trains them for the issues they
will meet later. Hark, that’s the express. I hear it whistle. Let’s
hurry.”

“There’s the Chief, and Mrs. Sandy too, at the station,” said Sue, who
was ahead. “They are waving to us.”

“How are you, chickens?” called Mrs. Sandy cheerily to them, as they
came to the platform. “I had to do some town shopping, so we killed two
birds with one stone. Looks like we might have a thunder shower, doesn’t
it?”

“That’s blowing to the north, Di,” the Chief put in, placidly. “You can
see its shiny lining now.”

The express came swinging down the track, and stopped. Few passengers
got off at Deercroft, so it was not hard to find the Doctor. Third coach
to the last, they saw him, as the porter put the stool down for him to
alight. He turned at their quick call, and waved his hand, but all his
attention was centered on some one who was coming down the steps, some
one rather tall, and dressed in silver gray, even to the long gray veil
that was draped about her hat.

And suddenly, in one flash of recognition, the girls knew the Doctor’s
surprise.

But Mrs. Sandy did not. There she stood, smiling happily at the pleasure
of the girls, supremely unconscious and unprepared. She saw the tall,
slender, stately old lady behind the figure of the Doctor, but did not
associate her with him, not until the girls surrounded both, and were
kissed and shaken by the hand. It was Polly who put her arm around the
figure in gray, and led her where Mrs. Sandy stood, her Chief beside
her.

“Here she is, Miss Honoria,” Polly said, with shining eyes that filled
with quick tears as the two faced each other after more than thirty-five
years. Honoria held out both hands. Her voice trembled with emotion.

“Sister,” was all she could say, “sister, I had to come, too.”

Mrs. Sandy opened her arms, and took the stately figure close to her
heart, sobbing happily.

“Let’s get the horses,” said Ted in an inspired moment, and deftly she
diverted attention from the main group, leading the way over to the
stable with the Doctor, the girls all following.

The Doctor looked like a boy who had achieved some long-cherished
ambition. He kept taking off his traveling cap, and smiling around from
face to face, then putting the cap on again and adjusting his
eyeglasses.

“God bless my heart, but this is a glorious reunion, isn’t it, girls?”
he said.

“Wait until you see the skeleton, the—the bones, the fossil remains,”
said Polly.

“Polly, I think that was all hatched up by you, as a wise and clever
scheme to drag me into this part of Wyoming,” he replied.

“But I sent you a specimen—”

“I’ll wait until I see where you took the specimen from.”

“Wasn’t it a good specimen?”

“Fine, undoubtedly. So was the surrounding rock.” The Doctor laughed
heartily at the puzzled expression on Polly’s face. “If it is exactly as
represented, we’ll give you a degree, Polly, an honorary degree, if we
have to invent one to fit the occasion. We can’t call you a Fellow
Geologist, can we? This will necessitate Congress striking off a special
bronze medal for a new sisterhood of geologists. How would that do?”

“It is a very large skeleton, I think,” Polly answered. “And truly,
Doctor, we girls have nothing to do with it. Peggie Murray found it long
ago. We are only the—the—”

“Promoters of the science,” finished the Doctor. “I see. Dear, dear,
what a tanned lot of young Indians you are. Isn’t it a splendid country?
I felt several inches taller as soon as I breathed the air of this
altitude.”

Jean said the team was ready to start now, so they all climbed in, and
drove back to the station.

“This is my first experience with a three-seated surrey behind a pair of
bronchos,” exclaimed the Doctor. “They use them on the tourist
expeditions through the National Park, though, come to think of it. Have
you been over there yet?”

“Not this time,” said Ruth, frankly. “We haven’t money enough. But we’re
having a perfectly splendid time at the ranch, and next week we’re going
camping.”

“Just for a few days to give them a taste of it,” Jean added over her
shoulder. “We start back for Virginia on our fourth week.”

“You, too, Miss Jean?” asked Polly. She had not expected that Miss
Murray would go back with them.

“Isn’t this a personally-conducted tour?” asked Jean, smiling. “Of
course, I shall see you safe and sound at home.”

When they drove up to the station, there sat Mrs. Sandy and Miss Calvert
holding each other’s hands, and talking in low tones, making up for the
silence of all the years.

Sandy had a quiet, comprehensive, half-humorous smile on his face, and
as he shook hands with the Doctor, he said in an undertone:

“Lee has surrendered.”

The Doctor nodded his head in quick appreciation.

“It’s high time,” he answered. But the girls held bravely to the
traditions of Calvert Hall. Never by smile or look or word did they show
that they knew of the reconciliation. Not then. Not until the drive home
was finished, and they had waved a temporary good-bye to the MacDowells
and the Doctor and Miss Calvert at the creek crossing, did they dare to
give vent to their feelings, but when they finally reached their own
private quarters, Ted tossed her cap high in the air, and Polly began to
dance a Virginia reel with Sue.

“Well, they’ve made it up, that’s sure,” said Ruth, meditatively, “but
what puzzles me is, what the trouble was in the first place.”

“I know,” cried Polly, pausing to take breath. “I’ve known for days. And
I couldn’t tell. But as long as it’s all over, I will. Let’s sit down in
front of the fire, and comb our hair and talk.”

The nights had been cool ever since their arrival, and a few blazing
spruce knots just took the shiver off, as Sue said, so they sat around
its blaze now, clad in kimonos, combing out their hair, as girls love to
do, and talking. And the old love-tale of Diantha Calvert and her
Northern sweetheart gained a fresh tenderness and charm, told there in
the dancing firelight. When Polly had finished, there was a long
silence, while blue eyes and gray eyes and brown stared dreamily at the
fire. Then Ruth said softly:

“‘Many waters cannot quench love.’”

“Did you hear what Mrs. Sandy said, when I asked her if she was
surprised?” Polly reached over and gave a big log a friendly poke so
that it rolled over and became a blazing ledge. “She said, with _such_ a
look, you know, all glad and proud and kind of relieved too: ‘No, honey,
not very much. I always knew it would happen some day. Love will bring
to us that which is ours if we trust.’ Isn’t that beautiful to remember?
Love will bring to us that which is ours, if we trust.”

“Well, I’m trusting that those bones will turn out to be a perfect and
well-preserved dinosaur,” proclaimed Sue, rising, “and it’s getting
late.”

They left the cabin-door open now, with the screen door fastened, and
long after the rest were asleep, Ruth lay wide awake thinking. A head
raised cautiously from Polly’s pillow.

“Ruth, are you asleep?”

“No,” came back a whisper.

“Aren’t you glad for poor dear old Honoria?”

“So glad I can’t sleep. Think of them to-night, talking and making up
for thirty-five years of lonesomeness.”

“Bet a cookie she’d never have thought of coming out here if we hadn’t
blazed the way. Good-night.”

Ruth’s whisper came back softly, and there was silence in the
guest-cabin.

It had been arranged with the Chief that the girls were to wait at the
Crossbar until they heard from him, and not attempt making the trip over
to the gulch unless they were sure he and the Doctor would be there to
meet them.

It was hard being patient, but after their morning dip down at the
swimming place, Jean kept them busy getting the sheep wagon ready for
the camping trip. They took clean papers, and tacked them evenly inside
the cupboards and lockers under the seats, and made a regular inventory
of everything they would need. Ruth took charge of this, and would check
off each article as it went into the wagon.

The heavy things, such as tents, bedding, cooking utensils, and so on,
were to follow in what Don called the grub wagon.

Sally Lost Moon was to stay at the ranch and do the cooking and
housework for the boys, and it had been decided to let the girls ride
their ponies. When one of them grew tired, she could ride in the wagon.
The girls were delighted at this prospect. Of all the outdoor pleasures
they had enjoyed at the ranch, the riding came first of all. There was
something so exhilarating and healthful about it. The trouting was good
sport and plenty of fun, and the long tramps they took nearly every day
out to the Indian graves, or over old Topnotch’s twisted trails, or far
down along the river to the lower rapids, each held a special enjoyment
all its own, but there was something so novel and exciting about the
pony riding that it excelled all other sports.

Polly had been delighted too, the first time that Jinks whinnied to her,
and showed plainly he felt on friendly terms. By the third week, all of
the ponies were quite willing to respond to the petting and overtures of
friendship that had been lavished on them.

“I do really believe they all know us by now,” Ted had declared, that
morning. “Don let me help rub Shoofly down yesterday morning, and he
understood everything I said to him.”

“Who, Don?” queried Sue, in a muffled tone, as she knelt by a locker,
and dug down under towels and mosquito netting to be sure that she had
not packed the kodak at the very bottom.

“No, goose. The pony. I wish I could take him back home. I shall miss
him so, and the riding, and oh—I don’t know what to call it—the wideness
of everything.”

“Glorious expanse, she means, Sue,” Isabel explained. “Where did you
pack my hand mirror?”

“It is not packed, Lady Vanitas,” retorted Sue, firmly. “We are to wash
at pools and river brinks, and other handy wet spots en route, and
you’ll just have to peek over at yourself like Narcissus when you want
to see how you look.”

“Don’t you worry, Isabel,” Polly called cheerily. “I saw Peggie drop a
three-cornered looking glass in the box with the dishes. We’ll nail it
up on a tree. Oh, girls, I wish we had some lightweight rifles, not to
shoot with—”

“Not shoot with?” repeated Ted, indignantly. “For what, then?”

“Practice and defence,” replied Polly. “We won’t want to stay around the
camp every minute, and if we stray off any distance, some wild animal
might appear, and where would we be?”

“‘Algy met a bear,
The bear was bulgy.
And the bulge was Algy,’”

quoted Sue solemnly.

“Sue, I’m surprised,” laughed Polly. “Wouldn’t I love to see Miss
Calvert’s face if she heard that.”

“She would laugh, too—now.” Sue made a significant pause. “Here they
come. I heard the wheels on the bridge over the creek.”

So then they all left the sheep wagon, and their camp outfitting, to go
and greet the visitors from the Alameda. There was a tinge of color in
Miss Honoria’s delicate cheeks, and she looked around at her girls with
a happy smile that spoke volumes.

“I wanted her to rest after her long journey,” Mrs. Sandy said,
tenderly, “but she said she’d rather come over. Sister, you’d better sit
up on the stoop where it’s cool.”

Honoria smiled proudly, and obeyed.

“She has mothered me every minute since I arrived, Mrs. Murray,” she
exclaimed. “And the girls all know well how self-reliant I am.”

“Don’t you love to be mothered, though?” asked Polly, eagerly. “I do.”

“We all do,” declared Mrs. Sandy. “And the oldest ones are always the
ones that need it most.”

“Who wants to ride with me?” called out the Chief. “Room for three
here.”

Isabel, Jean, and Ruth took advantage of the surrey, but the rest of the
girls were glad to wait while Don saddled up the ponies for them.

“The Doctor left us at the Forks back yonder,” said Sandy, driving on
with a salute to the group up on the low stoop. “He’s riding too. Said
he never sat in a vehicle when he could get a saddle and anything
beneath it with four legs. The Fork trail is a good short cut to the
Gulch, and he can’t miss the way. We’ll find him sitting on old Zed’s
doorstep just like a forest foundling.”

The girls laughed heartily at the picture. It was a splendid day. The
wind rippled the leaves of the cottonwoods along the river, and sent
their bits of down sailing away into the air. The far-off mountain range
to the northwest seemed incredibly near, and for once its trailing robes
of violet and gray were laid aside. Every peak stood out distinctly.
Down in the valley Archie was hammering at a new bar gate, and every
blow seemed to rouse a hundred echoes from old Topnotch’s crags and
precipices.

“We haven’t brought anything to dig with,” said Ruth, in her quiet, dry
way. “There are some old picks at the shack, I think. We can use those
if the Doctor wants us to help him.”

“Old-time poll picks, those are,” the Chief explained. “Zed used to go
around, digging one prospecting hole after another. It’s a wonder he
never found the skeleton himself.”

“I think it must have been covered up until the big storm,” Peggie
called from her saddle. “Don and I have been down through the valley
lots and lots of times, and we’d never noticed that great ledge of rock
before. We would surely have seen it.”

It was past noon when they finally reached the gulch, and just as the
Chief had predicted, they found the Doctor sitting on the doorstep,
smoking his short brier-wood very peacefully, and reading from a pocket
edition of some favorite author. It was characteristic of him to be so
occupied just on the brink of a discovery.

Peggie led the way up to the cavern, and all, even Sandy himself,
followed after her. The horses were hobbled in Zed’s little clearing,
and the surrey team was hitched to a tree. Behind Peggie trod the
Doctor, then Polly and Jean, last of all, the Chief, and his three
scouts, as he called them. It was an important and solemn occasion, and
even the irrepressible Ted and Sue walked soberly, and refrained from
any giggles. They all realized fully just what the discovery would mean
if it turned out to be authentic and valuable. The Murrays were far from
being even well-to-do. There were too many mouths to feed, too many
school bills to cover. And to Peggie belonged the credit of first
discovery. Some share of the reward must be hers too, they knew.

“If any old deer or buffalo has dared to crawl ’way into that cave to
die,” said Polly, as they all paused to rest at one place, “I shall give
up all hope of founding the Sisters of the Geological Society, Doctor.”

“I think it’s a tidy little mastodon myself,” Ted remarked. “Nobody’s
asked me what my opinion is, but I’m sure it’s a mastodon.”

“Mastodons are very ordinary, Ted,” Ruth said. “They’ve been found even
in New York State.”

“Truly? Dead ones?” cried Ted, and they all laughed at her earnestness.

“What other kind do you suppose, Edwina?” asked the Doctor, severely. “A
mastodon was dug up at Newburg, along in the forties.”

But here Peggie started ahead once more, so conversation was checked.
Only once the Doctor spoke.

“It will be difficult getting it out.”

That gave Polly courage. Surely, unless there was good ground for hope,
he would not have said that. The Doctor was very quiet, very
non-committal, she knew. She could hardly wait to get to the cave, and
watch him. She was sure she could tell right away, whether or not there
was hope, just from the expression of his face.

“There it is,” said Peggie finally, with a little throb of happy pride
in her tone, as she stopped short and pointed to the great jaw-like
opening a few yards away. “It’s inside there.”

Instead of going into the cave at once, as the girls expected him to do,
the Doctor paused at the opening to look at the rock formation of the
ledge.

“It is limestone, isn’t it?” asked Polly. “And it is certainly blue.
They call this other kind of rock that crumbles, shale.”

“It’s good stuff,” the Doctor said approvingly. “Very good stuff. Now,
let us go in and look at Exhibit A.”

There was no need of a light. The cave, as the girls called it, was
really nothing but the great space left under the ledge by the tearing
away of a mass of the earth. Peggie scrambled over the rough ground
until she came to the precious bones, then stopped.

“There they are!” she cried.

Every one was wonderfully silent now. The Doctor’s face was grave too,
but behind his eyeglasses his gray eyes looked keen and bright. He laid
his cap to one side, and sat down deliberately beside the remains. And
he “handled them, and dandled them,” as Polly said afterwards, as
happily and contentedly as a mother with a brand-new baby.

“Want a pick Doctor?” called Sandy. “I can give you a hand too, if you
want to dig.”

“I wouldn’t disturb it for worlds,” returned the Doctor, “I want some of
my colleagues to see it, just like that. I believe we’ve struck into the
perfect Jurassic drift, unsuspected in this section entirely.”

“But what is it?” asked Polly, anxiously.

“Just what you said it was, Polly, child. A part of the vertebræ of a
dinosaurus, I feel sure. It is not a ninety-foot one, by any means, but
if we can judge from this section here, it must be at least thirty to
thirty-five feet long—long enough to justify a good leap in the dark if
you saw one coming at you.”

“How long has it been there, do you suppose?” asked Sue, in an awed
tone. It seemed so wonderful to think that the discovery was really
authentic. All along, they had half-questioned it, except Ruth and
Polly.

“Sue, we don’t know,” returned the Doctor, musingly, as he took a
penknife out of his pocket, and scraped at the bone. “We’re trying to
find out just such things as that, we old chaps who prowl around the
face of the earth, and try to win Mother Nature’s confidence. It may be
ten million years ago, some say ten thousand. When we start and figure
how long it takes for the Colorado River to eat its way through even an
inch deeper in the Grand Canyon, we begin to realize how many years it
must have taken for it to cut down all the way from the top.”

“It makes me feel dizzy,” said Ted, emphatically.

“It has made wiser heads than yours feel dizzy, child,” returned the
Doctor, gently. “And we are only children that He holds in His hand.
When I begin to feel pretty good, and well satisfied with myself, I go
away quietly, and read over that chapter in Job that has more geological
data in it than anything I know of.”

“I know,” said Polly. “‘Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of
the earth?’”

“Exactly. Where were we? It takes all the conceit out of me when I
consider a bit. Mr. MacDowell, this gulch belongs to you, doesn’t it?”

“I’m sorry to say it does,” said the Chief, fervently. “I just wish that
poor old Zed were here to claim his own. He put all his love into this
old strip of land for years, and it never opened its heart to him.”

“Purpose in all things,” protested the old Doctor, cheerily. “Maybe he
would have buried the cash receipts in a tin can, for all we know. You
have a better use for them. I want to send a telegram as soon as we can
get to a station. We’ll get some more authority on the remains than my
own, and then come to terms. How’s that? In the meantime, let’s go back
to dinner, for I am starved.”

In the ride back, the Doctor and Ruth went ahead, for Ruth was fairly
bursting with questions she wanted to ask. Polly and Peggie were last of
all. Sue had changed places with Ruth, and was in the surrey, letting
Ruth ride her pony.

“Sandy says I’m to have a third of whatever he gets,” Peggie said, her
cheeks pink with excitement. “He says one third goes to me for finding
it, and one third to Mrs. Sandy, and one third for him.”

“Oh, Peg, I’m so glad for you,” cried Polly, joyfully. “Will you come to
school with us? Will you, Peggie? We’d take you into our club, and have
the best times.”

Peggie smiled radiantly.

“I will if mother says so,” she promised.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

CROSSBAR RANCH

The barking of dogs sounded down in the valley, and a door opened,
letting out a pathway of lamplight.

“That’s mother—there’s mother now,” cried Jean, and she sent out a long,
clear call of happy greeting that was answered by the lamp, raised and
lowered as a welcoming signal.

“Guess she’ll be glad to see us coming home,” Mr. Murray said. “She’s
anxious to meet you after reading of you in Jeanie’s letters.”

“Just the same as we want to know all of Miss Murray’s family,” Ruth
replied, eagerly. “You don’t know how we’ve coaxed her over and over to
tell us about them and the ranch.”

“You’ll have to wait for daylight to get an idea of the place. Whoa,
there, Peanuts.”

“Peanuts! Is that its name?” Sue asked.

“It sure is. Because of the most inordinate longing and yearning and
hankering after peanuts that ever a horse had.”

Mr. Murray laughed, as he got out, and lifted down the girls. Jean was
already in her mother’s arms, and trying to introduce the new guests at
the same time.

“Well, come in, do, all of you, where the light is, and I can see you to
tell you all apart,” exclaimed Mrs. Murray, happily. “Father, you and
Don put the girls’ trunks down in the cabin there.”

“We didn’t bring any, Mrs. Murray,” said Polly. “Only our suit-cases.”

“They know this is not a summer resort, mother,” Jean put in. “I told
them just to bring what they would need for roughing it.”

“’Tis more convenient traveling that way, I suppose. And what a journey
you have had.” All the while Mrs. Murray talked she was bustling about
the great kitchen, preparing supper for them. “Now, sit up, and eat, for
you must be hungry. Jeanie, child, you may sit here in father’s place.”

Such a supper as the girls enjoyed that first night at the ranch! Brook
trout that Don had caught that morning early, baked potatoes, and graham
bread, and glasses of milk that were half filled with cream.

“You mustn’t eat too heartily, going to bed,” Mrs. Murray told them,
“but to-morrow you can make up for it. I shall mother every one of you
while you’re here.”

“We’ll be good,” Polly promised, and the others chimed in willingly
enough.

“Where are you going to put us all to sleep, motherie?” asked Jean.

“And well may you ask me that, Jeanie,” laughed her mother, with the
light burr to her speech giving it a delightful softness. “We have but
three beds here in the main house, you must know, girls. There is the
large bunkhouse for the men down below the corral, and the two cabins,
as we call them. One was our first house here, when father and I took up
the claim over thirty years back, and the other the boys built for
themselves. So after talking it over, we thought it would be best to
give you the home cabin, and then you’ll be by yourselves, and can have
as good a time as you like. If you’re timid the first few nights, Jeanie
or myself will stay with you.”

“Oh, we won’t be timid, Mrs. Murray,” protested Ted, with quick mental
visions of royal good times in the cabin. “We’ll be ever so good. I
think that’s a dandy plan, girls.”

“And so do we,” chorused the rest.

“Then gather up your belongings, and follow me,” called Jeanie, picking
up a lantern that stood by the door. “Is there a light there, motherie?”

“Yes, child, on the table in the large room. Good-night, bairnies. And
that’s all you are, too,” she smiled, “despite your height and weight.
Just a peck of bairnies to be happy and enjoy life while you may. God
bless you all.”

“Look out for the two steps as you go into the cabin,” Peggie called
last of all, and they followed Jean out into the night. It was bright
with moonlight. Every shadow was distinct and black, and for a minute
they stood and looked about, at the near-by buttes, rising bluffs of
rock and sandstone, back of the ranch, that blended into the shadowy
foothills beyond; and these again, led upward against the clear night
sky, until one could see far, far away, outlines of ranges where Bear
Lodge lay.

“We will take long trips on horseback as soon as you learn how to ride
well, and can stand the saddles,” Jean told them. “Father said he would
give us a few days of camping before it was time to go back, and it is
much better to ride than to take the wagons or surrey.”

“Indeed we will ride just as soon as we are allowed to,” declared Polly,
fervently. “I wouldn’t dare to go back home, unless I could ride, after
all the nice things that grandfather said about you, Miss Jean. It will
be the first thing he asks me, I’m sure—whether I can ride or not.”

“It won’t take very long. The ponies are all well broken, and used to
the youngsters riding them. Peggie is in the saddle half the time in the
summer, between here and Mrs. Sandy’s, and up with the boys and father
on the sheep range.”

There was the flash of a moving lantern down at the corral. They could
hear Don whistling as he moved around, looking after the ponies. From
some place up in the hills there came a strange, appealing cry at
intervals. Isabel stopped to listen.

“Is it a wild animal, Miss Murray?” she asked, doubtfully.

“Why, Isabel, I’m surprised. Don’t you know a mountain lion when you
hear one?” Ted exclaimed, reproachfully.

“It’s only a hoot owl, Isabel,” Jean said, merrily. “There’s nothing to
hurt you at all up here, unless you go farther West. There used to be a
great deal of game, but they have gone farther West towards the
mountains, and into the national reserve. We hardly ever see anything
here except a stray bobcat, or a deer. Even the brown bears keep away
unless they are hungry.”

“B-r-r-r-r,” shivered Isabel. “Don’t let’s talk any more about them.
There might be a hungry one around some place.”

“If you like, I will sleep down here with you,” Jean said, when they
came to the two-room log cabin, “but it is truly safe, girls. You can
shut the door, and drop this bar across it. See?” She set the light down
on the floor, and showed them how to fasten the door with a broad bar of
wood, “just like the pictures of Davy Crockett keeping out the wolves,”
as Polly said.

“And when they broke the bar, he put his own arm through and kept them
out. We’ll take turns being the bars if we have to, Miss Murray.”

“Then good-night all, and sleep well, and be sure and remember what you
dream. Dreams in a new place are sure to come true, they say.” Jean
kissed each sweet, upturned, girlish face, and went back to the house.

“Well, girls!” exclaimed Polly, once they were alone. She raised the
lamp from the table, and looked about.

The cabin consisted of two long, low ceiled rooms, and yet, no ceilings
of plaster, but only the natural wood for an interior; and soft and rich
in tone it looked too. The foundation of the cabin was of rocks, and the
roof projected far over in front, forming the top of the porch.
Over-shadowing it were some spruces. So much they had seen as they had
entered it. But the interior was best of all. There was a huge rock
fireplace, screened with great spruce boughs. Above it was a hanging
shelf of wood. Before each of the four windows was a rough wooden seat,
covered over with Indian blankets, and on the floor were a few rugs.

“Girls, what a fine idea this is,” exclaimed Sue, standing where she
could take in the whole interior. “Do you know this furniture is mostly
homemade of just rough, barked wood. Look at this lovely big center
table, and the chairs to match.”

“Maybe this is the first wedding outfit,” Polly suggested. “Wasn’t it
Daniel Boone who set the style in honeymoon settler furniture?”

“How, Polly?” asked Ruth.

“He just went out and took the wood as he found it, and made furniture
out of it, that’s all, and put pelts around for rugs. How pungent and
sweet those spruce boughs do smell. Ruth, you be monitor of the light,
won’t you, please, dear? I’m going to bed this minute. I just can’t keep
awake. Do you feel the motion of the train even now? I do. Just as if we
were going and going all the time.”

So Ruth put out the lamp, and they all went to bed, tired from the long
journey overland, and happy in their new quarters.

“It is just as if we were real settlers, and had finally reached a
resting place,” Isabel said sleepily.

“I wish that hoot owl would turn settler, and find his resting place,”
grumbled Ted. “He sounds so awfully lost.”

But almost as she said it, she drifted away to dreamland, and the first
night in Wyoming had begun.

Polly was the first to awake the following morning. She heard the oddest
sound right under her window, a sharp cry of “Come back, come back, come
back!”

Then came Mrs. Murray’s voice, hushed, but agitated.

“Get away from there! Shoo, with you, shoo!”

Polly jumped up from her cot, and looked out. A flock of speckled guinea
hens fluttered away from a waving apron, and vanished behind the old
blacksmith shop. It was early morning. Polly dressed quietly, and went
out, leaving the rest of the girls sleeping, for she knew how tired they
were after the long overland journey.

Once outdoors, she stood still, and looked around her. The Murray ranch
lay in a pleasant valley, with foothills and buttes surrounding it.
Polly’s first thought was, where could the trees be? Excepting for the
cottonwoods that fringed the creek bed, and the spruces rising
spire-like in every place they could find a foothold, there seemed to a
Virginia-bred girl, to be a dearth of trees. The ranch was built facing
the south, and almost backed into the buttes at the north for shelter.
The main log cabin was only one story high, but broad and long, and
home-like looking. A hammock swung under its porch shelter, and there
were some flower borders around it, with geraniums and mignonette
growing in them, and some pansies, but precious little else. Just across
the valley rose a mountain. Patches of pines covered its sides, with
here and there the white line of the wagon road showing around the
slopes. Straggling away from the main cabin were various buildings, all
low, and built also of logs. Farther back, under the shelter of the
shelving sandstone butte, was the corral, a round enclosure of rails,
and ponies within. Down in the valley where the creek wound in and out,
were some sheep, their heads bent down as they grazed, their backs
stone-gray like rocks.

Eastward, the sun was just showing above the hills, and everywhere was
heard the songs of birds.

Polly hesitated between the main house, and the corral, but the call of
the ponies was too strong to be resisted, and she went down to the
corral. When Don and Jean came down from the kitchen, they found her
perched up on the topmost rail, at one side, talking to the ponies, and
trying to coax them to her.

“We thought you were still asleep,” Jean said. “Good-morning.”

“Good-morning,” answered Polly, happily. “The rest are. I wanted to get
up and take a look out. Oh, Miss Murray, isn’t that pony over there a
dear, the one with the white nose? He’s the only one that notices me,
and when I call him, he lays back his ears, and shakes his head.”

Don went into the corral, and threw a halter over the pony’s head.

“This is Jinks,” he told her. “Used to be called High Jinks, but we cut
it short to Jinks. Don’t you want to ride him?”

It was a temptation. Polly looked longingly at the pony, but someway, it
did not seem loyal to the others to start the fun before they were
ready.

“No, thank you, Don, I think I’ll wait,” she said. “But could I have
that one to ride, when we start?”

“Guess so,” responded Don, in his stolid way. When he talked he got off
each sentence first, and rested before he took up the next. “Father said
he was going to let each of you have the use of the same pony all the
time you stayed; then you’d get used to the pony, and the pony’d get
used to you. He has five safe ones picked out, and Jinks is one of
them.”

“Well, I’d love to have Jinks unless one of the other girls wants him
too.”

“Finding’s keeping,” said Don, placidly. “I’ll put your brand on him,
Miss Polly.”

“Father’s gone to Deercroft after the boys,” Jean said, as they walked
back to the house. “Archie and Neil, you know. He is very glad to have
them home to help him too. It’s hard to get good ranchmen on these
smaller places, for they are nearly all snapped up by the large outfits.
Oh, Polly, look here.” She stopped short, and pointed off at the
mountain. “Can you see that great wooden cross way up there on the rock
ledge, half way up the mountain. That is where the first church service
was held here in Uwanda Valley. It was before father took up the claim
even, when the Shoshones still wandered freely over these ranges. Now,
they are all gathered into the same reservations with the Arapahoes. It
seems strange, when they have always been hereditary foes, that now they
have to settle down, and live in peace side by side as Uncle Sam’s good
children.”

“But how did the cross come there?” asked Polly, eagerly, shading her
eyes so that she might see it plainly. “It looks like a bare pine tree
with a piece nailed across it.”

“That is just what it is. The Indians were encamped in the valley here,
where the water was good and hunting fine, and one of our missionaries
traveled on horseback over seventy miles to reach them. They wouldn’t
allow him down in the camp, not even to enter it. So he went up the
mountain to that rock ledge, where he could overlook them; put on his
vestments, and read the service. Before he was half through, ever so
many of the Indians had stolen gradually nearer and nearer until they
were close to him. He stayed here after that nearly a week, as their
guest, and always held the service on the same spot. They grew very fond
of him, and when they left the valley, they erected that cross in memory
of him.”

Just then Sue and Ted came out of the cabin, and joined them.

“Good-morning. Ruth’s waiting to button Isabel’s waist,” Sue explained.

“Button what waist? Is she daring to dress up out here? Wait till I find
out.” Polly sped back to the cabin, and found Isabel just slipping on a
fresh white blouse.

“Young lady, where’s your khaki skirt and blouse? If we are to ‘rough
it,’ and not have a stack of washing, we must be careful. Put on that
middy blouse, and come along.”

Isabel obeyed, but a bit ruefully. She stood before the little oblong
mirror that hung on a nail above the washstand, and fluffed out her hair
with her side-combs, while Ruth and Polly watched her, laughingly.

“I declare, Lady Vanitas, I do truly believe you’d stop to fix your hair
if you were going to telephone,” said Polly. “Can’t you smell
breakfast?”

“Did you all rest well, girls?” asked Mrs. Murray, smiling up at them
from the kitchen table as they entered. “It’s only six now. I thought
you’d be so tired you’d sleep late, but even Jeanie was out a little
past five herself. Peggie, you may dish the porridge, and bring in the
cream.”

Porridge. That sounded solid and Scotch, thought the girls, and they
enjoyed it too, with plenty of cream, and fresh berries, and eggs. It
was very pleasant in the long, low, ceiled kitchen. In the summer time,
the cooking at the ranch was done at what they called the cook-house, a
cabin half rock, half logs apart from the main house. This left the
kitchen free from the warmth of the fire, and all its windows were open.
The interior was unplastered. Here and there on the walls hung a pair of
antlers, and over the fireplace was a pair of long, sword-like horns
from a Rocky Mountain goat. On a homemade rack along one side of the
room were several rifles, and one long, old-fashioned musket.

“That was father’s,” Jean explained, when the girls were examining the
guns after breakfast. “He was in several of the Indian campaigns out
here, along with Sandy MacDowell. Wait until you visit over at the
Alameda ranch, and hear them talk together. Now, come out to the
cook-house and meet Sally. She’s very anxious to see you all.”

“Who’s Sally?” asked Sue.

“Sally is Sally Lost Moon, mother’s standby on the work question. Sally
wandered here years ago in a blizzard. She had lost her way somehow,
trying to get over to Deercroft. She is a half-breed Shoshone squaw who
worked at different camps as cook, until she came to us. If you want to
hear all the old Indian legends of this part of the world, you want to
start Sally talking when she has her supper work all finished, and is
sitting out on the stoop resting.”

The girls trooped after Jean, as she led the way to the cook-house.
Inside, they found Sally Lost Moon, and were formally introduced to her.
She was very “blank” as Ted remarked afterwards, but scrutinized each
young face with shrewd intent, and a curious, set smile, and shook hands
deliberately with each one.

“Can she talk if she really feels like it?” asked Ruth interestedly,
when they left her.

“Indeed she can,” returned Jean. “She is always very dignified with
strangers. She has two little granddaughters at one of the mission
schools, and sometimes they come out in vacation time to see her with
their mother. Each time they bring Sally a gift, and she never uses it.
She has everything that they have brought her sacredly put away. And
she’s so proud that they belong to the Church, and are being educated.
Nearly all the Indian women are that way. It is the men who sit back,
and regret the days before the white men came and took away their
hunting grounds.”

Peggie joined them, and said that Don was anxious for the girls to meet
Prometheus. They went down past the corral, to the wagon sheds, and
there they found Prometheus Bound, as Jean said. He was the most
cheerful looking bear, with a way of holding his jaws open as if he were
smiling, like a panting dog, and he sat up on his hind legs obligingly,
and shook hands with each girl.

“What kind of a bear is he?” asked Polly. “I can’t tell the difference
between the Rocky Mountain bears.”

“You would if you thought about it,” Don told her. “There’s four that we
have up this way, Cinnamon, Silvertip, Grizzly and Common Brown bear.
That’s what old Pro is, just a common brown Johnny bear. I got him when
he was a cub. Some folks up at the Sweetwater ranch were out hunting,
and they killed the mother, and right after it I found this little
shaver trotting around looking for his mother, so I caught him, and
brought him down home, and Peg helped me bring him up. He can dance, and
walk on a pole, and play ’possum, and say his prayers, and do lots of
tricks. We used to have him in the shed back of the house, but mother
sent him down here after he’d eaten up the bishop’s Sunday dinner.”

“Poor old boy.” Sue sympathized with Prometheus, as she always did with
a dumb animal. “I’d love to take you home with me.”

“I’d like to see your mother’s face when you appeared in Queen’s Ferry
leading him,” laughed Ted gayly. “It would be worse than the tame crabs
you caught at Lost Island last summer, Sue.”

“Oh, I don’t know, now. I think he’d make a very nice pet,” returned Sue
reflectively.

“Let’s get Sue away from Prometheus right this minute, girls,” exclaimed
Polly, “or he will surely go back home with us. Miss Murray, are there
any real Indians around here nowadays?”

Jean slipped one arm around Polly’s waist, and they strolled up the
narrow winding path that led to the buttes of sandstone back of the
corral.

“We’ll go up to Council Rock, and there I can tell you about them,” she
said. “And after that, we’ll have the first riding lesson.”

“Where’s Council Rock?” Ruth asked.

“It’s a great flat rock about half a mile up the trail, where the
Indians used to meet under a flag of truce, and parley with the
settlers, and hunters years ago. At one time, I believe it was the only
neutral spot in this whole valley. That was long before Custer’s raid,
back when they were trying to push the railroad through. Don’t you girls
know anything at all about it?”

“Not a blessed thing,” the girls all chimed in.

“Then you must. For though our Wyoming is only one of the girl states as
yet, she has been as great a heroine in her struggle for statehood and
protection as any of the first colonies, I think. And if you are to love
her and appreciate her, you must understand some of her history as
well.”

The trail led upward from the valley over the buttes, winding in and out
between rocks that formed natural buttresses and fortifications. Only
the scrub pines and low spruces found a foothold on them, but the
crevices were filled with mosses and stray flowers. Finally, they came
to a small plateau, or stretch of tableland, and on its brink,
overlooking the ranch and valley, was Council Rock. It was an immense,
natural formation of stone, and as the girls stood there, they could
almost see the circle of chiefs sitting around it, listening in stolid
mistrust to the parleyings of their white brothers.

“There are steps in the rock on this side, girls,” Jean said, showing
them how the stones had been hewn into stairs at one side. “Father has
said he did not doubt that at some far-off age, the Indians offered
sacrifices here to the Sun god. That was the highest worship up here in
our corner of the State, the worship of the Sun god. They used to hold
the great ceremonial here each year, over on Sundance Mountain. Isn’t
that odd? Think how at almost the same time, nations were worshiping the
Sun god in Persia, and Japan, and Peru, and here.”

“I think it was better than praying to three-faced images and totem
poles,” said Ruth, in her grave, unsmiling way. “I suppose the sun
seemed warm and good to them, and they thought it made the world
beautiful.”

“‘And the Sun of Righteousness shall rise with healing in His wings,’”
quoted Jean, softly. “It is a beautiful thought, Ruth. Let us sit down
here like the old-time chiefs, and talk of our Wyoming.”

“Why do they call it that, Miss Murray?” asked Isabel. “I always like to
know about names.”

“Do you? This name is a rather sad one. After the massacre of 1866, it
was called Wyoming, in memory of the terrible massacre of settlers in
the old Wyoming valley in Pennsylvania. The first white explorer who
found us, was the Chevalier de la Verendrye, back in the early part of
the eighteenth century. He took up fur trading with the natives, and
lived eleven years among them. Later came John Colter—”

“He discovered the Yellowstone,” put in Ruth, “and then the trappers and
traders all came up here. We had that, girls, in Irving’s story about
Captain Bonneville, don’t you remember?”

“And the first white settlement was at Fort Laramie,” went on Jean,
dreamily. Her chin was uplifted. She looked off over the valley with its
winding creek bed, fringed with cottonwoods, and almost forgot the
girls. Dearly had she always loved the story of Wyoming’s upward fight
to statehood. “Then a few more settlements were made. But it was always
hard and dangerous, because there was no protection from the Indians,
and no guarded line of travel. Sandy loves to tell stories of the old
Bonzeman trail, and Conner’s march in which he participated, back in
’65. But finally the needs became so urgent that the railroad decided to
push through an overland route following the old trail.”

“What did the Indians say to that?” asked Sue, eagerly.

“They said little, but waited. Up this way, there were Sioux, and
Arapahoes. South were the Cheyennes, and west the friendly Crows. They
called them Upserokas, then, ‘from the land of the crows.’ And in 1866,
these tribes all met at Laramie to hold a council with the government
commission about the road. They seemed to be acting in good faith, and
willing for the country to be opened up. Forts were established, and
posts here and there, but in December of that same year, without
warning, the Indians decoyed three officers and over seventy men into
ambush, and killed them. And for years after that, it is one long story
of brave men trying to hold point after point against odds, with long
delays in government relief, until finally General Grant ordered the
forts demolished for lack of troops to keep them up. Think of that,
girls.”

“But there was Custer,” Polly broke in.

“Indeed there was, Polly,” agreed Jean, warmly. “You want to hear Sandy
tell of Custer. He was one of his scouts. Custer gave his heart to
Wyoming, and his life. I think that Sandy always feels he was most
unjustly treated by fate because he did not go with Custer on his last
journey, when the Sioux killed the entire command on Little Big Horn
River.”

“All of them?” asked Ted, in almost a whisper, her gray eyes wide and
startled.

“All, dear. So you see why Wyoming seems to me like the girl state. She
is so young and so willing and eager, and she has suffered greatly. We
who have been born here, and know her, realize her growth in the past
twenty years. There, I see Don waving to us from the corral, now. Who
wants to ride?”

“Riding skirts, girls, first,” Polly cried, and away they went down the
path to the cabin to change for the first ride. It had been Jean’s first
warning to them, the riding skirts. Out west, side saddles were a thing
of the past, she told the girls. There must be divided skirts, made very
much like their regular outing skirts of khaki, but giving perfect
freedom in the saddle.

“I must remember and show you my buckskin skirt that Archie made for me
when I was about your age,” she had said. “It was my first riding skirt,
and I felt like a real squaw in it.”

Don had five ponies ready for them when they returned to the corral, and
Jean’s own broncho besides. Saddled and bridled they waited, and Mrs.
Murray came down from the main cabin to see the first try-out. Even
Sally watched them from her cook-house, and smiled in her stolid,
close-lipped way as Polly and Ted took the lead, and mounted their
ponies.

Isabel and Ruth hesitated, but Sue followed the others, and Jean last of
all, on Ginger.

“We named him that for two reasons,” she said, as they rode down the
trail towards the creek. “He’s the color of ginger, and he has a temper
that is gingery too.” She turned in her saddle to see if the last two
girls were mounted safely. Very stiffly and anxiously they both sat in
the saddles, Isabel with her back stiff as a poker, Ruth precise and
resolute, her knees gripping the pony’s sides as though she had been on
a pony express. “Don’t be afraid, girls,” she called to them. “They
won’t bolt or kick a bit. Let them take the trail, and they’ll follow
after the rest like sheep. Just hold them up a bit when you come to a
steep incline, that’s all.”

“Don gave me a quirt,” said Polly, holding up the short braided whip.

“You’d better not wave it over Jinks’ head, young lady,” Jean laughed.
“He objects strongly to violent persuasion of any sort. Just be content
to jog along easily for a while.”

“Oh, where’s Peggie?” asked Sue suddenly. “I thought she was coming with
us.”

“She started out long ago, goose,” Ted told her. “I saw something go
‘sky-hooting’ along this road right after breakfast, and at first I
thought it must be a deer, or an Indian, but I saw Peggie’s pigtails
flying, and knew it was just she. Does she always ride that way, Miss
Murray?”

Jean laughed, and her eyes grew tender.

“I think she does. She rides to school all winter on that pony. Father
gave it to her when she was about eight, for her very own, and she talks
to it as though it understood everything. I presume it would seem
strange to you girls to have the birthday presents we two have been
accustomed to. Sometimes father gives us a pony, sometimes a yearling,
or even a calf of our own, and we help look after them ourselves. He
says that one of the finest ways to teach yourself self-reliance and
responsibility is to have a living creature dependent on you. Take the
turn to your left, Polly, where you come to the fork in the road over
the bridge.”

Polly was leading, or rather Jinks was leading. He had a most
authoritative way of throwing up his nose, and jerking the bridle as he
went along, and a reckless swing to his gait that was enchanting, Polly
thought. She only wished the Admiral might have seen her then. Down the
road from the ranch, and over the plank bridge at the creek, they went.
On the other side, at the fork, Jean told them one road led over the way
they had come from Deercroft, and the other one led due west towards the
Alameda ranch, where Mrs. Sandy lived.

“It is too far to go to-day, girls, when you are not used to riding, but
we can try it in a few days, I think. Elspeth has gone over there now,
to let them know you came yesterday.”

“I wonder, Miss Murray,” called back Polly over her shoulder, “why it
was that Miss Calvert didn’t send any message to Miss Diantha by us.”

“I don’t know anything about it, Polly, any more than you do,” said
Jean, simply. “Mother knows what the trouble is between the two sisters,
because Mrs. Sandy told her herself, but we don’t know. Mother has that
way always. Sometimes father will tell what he thinks is a great piece
of news, and mother will say very gently, ‘Land o’ rest, David, I knew
that six months ago. You mustn’t go ’round telling all you hear.’ Mrs.
Sandy had always told Peggie and me about her stately sister at the old
Southern home in Queen’s Ferry, and when I gave up the school over at
Beaver Ford and told her I wanted to get into an upper class school, or
preparatory for college, she said that she would write to her sister in
my behalf at Calvert Hall, and, well—I got the appointment.”

“But Miss Calvert never talks about her, and she didn’t send her love by
us,” put in Isabel, decidedly. “Has she lived out West here long, Miss
Murray?”

“Before father took up his claim. I really am not sure how long it is. I
know that Sandy was born East, but did most of his fighting out here,
and then he went back home, and married Miss Diantha. Perhaps, before
you go back home, you may find out all about it.”

“Oh, girls, look,” cried Polly, turning around eagerly. They had come to
a turn in the road, skirting the base of the mountain. On one side was
the sheer, precipitous cliff, with straight trunks of pines and spruce
rising like ship masts higher and higher, until the tops were lost to
sight. Below were the pines too, and the ground grew more and more
rugged, as they rode upward. Far beneath them lay the valley, and in the
distance was the ranch, its buildings and corrals looking almost like
toys. Ahead the wagon road wound around the face of the mountain, and
disappeared.

“We call this the Delectable Mountain,” Jean told them, as they all
halted, to look at the gorgeous panorama outspread before them. “Mother
named it years ago. It was a long and weary trip for her out here. They
came by wagon from Iowa, the nearest shipping point. Mother has often
told us of the long trip, and how kind people were at the ranches they
passed along the route, but how very few there were. Father had taken up
the claim, and then had sent for her to bring the goods on, and he met
her. And she says that when, at last, after days and days of travel,
they finally came around this curve of the old trail, and the valley lay
before her, she just looked and looked at it, and smiled. ‘Davy, it’s
the Delectable Mountain, isn’t it, dear heart, and yonder lies our
Promised Land.’ That is what she said, girls. I think it was, too.”

The girls were silent. It was about eleven, and the sunlight flooded the
valley with its golden glow. About it, the mountains grouped
shelteringly. For miles and miles, in all the vast view, the only spot
of human life was the ranch. And for the moment there came to the girls,
even in their own careless pleasure, a realization of what that long
journey had meant to the bride of thirty years ago, and what simple
heroism there lay in the story of the valley home.

“How brave she was,” said Ruth, gently. “What did she do when the
Indians came around?”

“She gave them bread,” Jean replied, smiling. “Mother doesn’t believe
much in bullets. Now, ride along, girls. We’ll go as far as the spring
cave for this morning, then back home to dinner, and you’ll have done
very well. I think even the Admiral would say that much.”

They kept on for another three quarters of a mile, until the road
broadened out, and there, at the side, was a spring tumbling and
trickling out of the rocky ledge. A granite cup was tucked into one of
the crevices, and they all dismounted, and had a good drink, then rode
back to the ranch with keen appetites for one of Mrs. Murray’s famous
dinners.

That first day at the ranch seemed the longest of the stay, when the
girls looked back to it afterwards. There were so many things to see and
talk about, so much ground to cover.

“It is sure to be like this for the first few days,” Mrs. Murray told
them, smilingly. “It is the same with my own bairns when they come home
for the summer vacation. They are like a lot of sheep for a while,
following me around, and dodging at their father’s heels the same way.
You must not try to do too much at first, or you’ll do nothing at all.”

“If I learn how to saddle a pony to-day, I’ll feel I’ve done well,”
sighed Sue. “I’ve tried to do it four times so far, and Don laughs at
me. When I tried to put the halter around his neck, I got hold of the
wrong end of the rope, and it was upside down. But I’m going right back,
and try it over.”

The girls laughed as she sped back to the corral. They were sitting out
of doors after supper, some on the broad low stoop, some in the hammock.
Mr. Murray had arrived from Deercroft about sunset with his two big
boys, as he called them. Two stalwart Westerners they were, with their
mother’s steady gray eyes, and the close-lipped smile of their father.

“I thought they were just boys from the way Miss Jean talked of them,”
protested Polly, as she looked after the two striding away to the house
with their suit-cases. “They’re grown up.”

“Archie is twenty-three, and Neil a year older,” explained Jean. “But
still they seem like boys, don’t they, mother dear?”

“They’re growing fast, Jeanie,” was all Mrs. Murray would say.

“We won’t see them much after to-morrow,” went on Jean. “Help is scarce
out here, and they have to help father with his haying. Ours is not a
big ranch, you know, girls. We’re only a home ranch, so we hardly depend
on the range at all for feed. It used to be a case of everybody turn out
the cattle to graze, and then have the two big round-ups, spring and
fall, but now everything has gone into sheep, as the cow-men say. Father
sold off his stock about seven years ago, and went in for sheep, as soon
as the trouble had quieted down.”

“What trouble?” asked Polly. “I didn’t know there was any trouble out
West here excepting from Indians long ago.”

“Didn’t you?” Jean smiled. “You should have lived here during the range
trouble. The range used to be free for all, girls, but the cattlemen
said when the sheep grazed on it, they didn’t leave enough for a
grasshopper to perch on. So they tried to drive them out. And you know
the old riddle. When an irresistible body meets an immovable body, what
is the result?”

“General and inevitable smash-up,” Ted said.

“Exactly. In this case, after thousands of sheep had been killed and
many men too; after the wells had been poisoned, and all the State
turned into a boiling kettle of trouble; all at once, Uncle Sam stepped
in, and homesteaded the land. That meant the loss of the range in a way,
although up here in our corner, we haven’t had much trouble, have we,
mother?”

“It’s a blessing we haven’t,” declared Mrs. Murray fervently. “Between
the Indians, the long winters, the range troubles, and the loneliness
out here, I’m thinking we’re as much pioneers and good pilgrims as those
that landed on the rock at Cape Cod. If it hadn’t been for the children,
I’d have grieved, but there’s no time for grieving with a brood of
bairns growing up around you.”

“It must be nice to belong to a large family,” Polly said, wistfully.
“Especially if they looked alike like yours do, Mrs. Murray. It must be
like having a lot of little selves around you.”

“Isn’t that just like Polly,” cried Ted. “Now, I’ve got two brothers,
and they’re not a bit like me. Mother says I am a good deal more like
the one boy in the family. Oh, look, girls!”

“It’s only Don,” Jean said, rising to get a better view. “He’s riding
Scamp. That’s his own pony. He broke him himself, and taught him tricks.
They say he’d make a good polo pony, but Don wouldn’t sell him for any
price.”

The girls rose to get a good look as Don flashed by on the calico pony.
Down went his hat on the earth, and he swung round in an oval, leaned
far over sideways, and caught up the hat. Then once again, and this
time, it was the handkerchief from his throat that went fluttering into
the dust, and as he came back, he seemed to almost slip out of the
saddle, as he caught it up.

Then he took the rope that hung at the saddle-bow, and sent it twirling
far out in ever widening circles and ovals.

“Don’t catch me, Don,” Peggie called merrily, as she ran up from the
corral.

“I could if I wanted to,” Don shouted back.

“Eh, lad,” his father said. “Hold up a bit, and to-morrow Archie and
Neil will help you show off.”

“It must be splendid to watch you roping cattle,” Polly said. “I’d like
to see that.”

“You’ll see that over at Sandy’s,” Mr. Murray promised. “Sandy’s the
only one of us old timers who sticks to tradition. His place is the same
to-day as it was twenty years ago. He has the only long-horned Texan
steers in the county, I think. When I put sheep in here at the Crossbar,
Sandy said he wouldn’t depend for a living on any herd of huckle-backed
lambies for all the country east of the Mississippi. He’s very set in
his opinions and habits, Sandy is.”

“Father,” interrupted Jean. “Do you remember the day the timber fire got
in the Pine Ridge stretch, and the cattle stampeded?”

“I didn’t know you had timber fires up here,” Ruth exclaimed seriously.
“There doesn’t seem to be much timber to burn.”

“Which makes what there is more precious, child,” laughed Mr. Murray.
“Anyhow, it’s true. We don’t have them as a usual thing, but now and
then they’ll start in spring and fall when the dry leaves and underbrush
are like excelsior for blazing up over nothing. This one on Pine Ridge
happened about eight or nine years ago. The lads were home then, but our
Jeanie was at school down at Laramie, taking her Normal course. Somehow
a fire started off yonder on the Pine Ridge range, southwest of here,
just behind old Topnotch Mountain. Archie saw the smoke pouring up, and
called out to me. I had the herd grazing around the shoulder of
Topnotch. The leader was a fine old chap. He knew more about herding
than any steer I ever saw, but he didn’t know a thing about timber
fires. This one was jumping from dry brush and grass straight for spruce
clumps, and scrub pine, and while the ranch wasn’t in danger, the herd
was, because that leader stampeded the wrong way, and all the rest after
him. Instead of making for the valley and home, he went on a dead run
straight for a line of buttes, and a drop of two hundred feet down over
the rocks.”

“Like enough you and Archie would have gone over with the cattle, too,
father,” interposed Mrs. Murray, placidly.

“Oh, how did you stop them?” broke in Ted, anxiously.

“Archie did the neatest bit of rope play I ever saw. He raced alongside
on his pony, and slung the rope fair around the old lad’s horns, and
turned him. Stop him? Indeed, and he never stopped till he reached the
home valley, but it turned him in the right direction. Sandy always
reminds me that is a rare bit of telling, but I saw it happen. Now,
girls, early to bed with you all, if it’s trolling you’ll be to-morrow
early.”

“What’s trolling?” asked Polly. “A troll’s a kind of gnome, isn’t it?”

“Not in Wyoming. Up here you troll for trout.”

“I thought you trailed for them,” said Sue. “Don’t you trail the bait
along on the top of the water, and kind of skip it?”

“There was a boy used to come and play with Stoney,” Polly added. “A
little colored boy from down the river, and he said he knew how to lie
down on the bank, and reach under, and grab the trout.”

“Now, Polly, if you develop into a teller of trout tales, you’ll be
worse than Don. Listen.” Jean rose from the hammock. “First of all, you
must fish up-stream. No standing still, and waiting for the fish to
bite. You must learn how to hunt the best spots, and then to cast well.
Trout lie with heads pointed up-stream, and hunt the shadowy nooks.
Peggie and Don are our best catchers.”

“It’s all in the way you cast and troll,” spoke up Peggie, half shyly.
“You mustn’t throw out heavily, or you scare them away, and you must
draw the fly very, very lightly along. Don’s caught them with worms, but
I like the flies best. We’ll go fishing to-morrow.”

“Not so soon,” protested Jean. “They want to get up early, and take a
ride before breakfast to-morrow, and you’ll need a good misty morning
for successful fishing. Did you ride all the way over to Sandy’s, Peg?”

Peggie nodded happily, and smiled.

“Mrs. Sandy says she’s glad they got here all safe and sound, and she
wants us all to ride over as soon as we can.”

“Next week we will ride over,” Jean said. “I want you to be accustomed
to the saddle, girls, first. We will ride every day, somewhere around
home here, and there are a good many interesting things to see. There
are Indian graves up in the hills, and the Picture Rocks down the river;
plenty to keep you busy.”

“We’d better go to bed,” cried Polly, rising. “We want to be up with the
chickens to-morrow, and make the most of every day we’re here.”

“If you rise early, you will be in time for a dip with Peggie and me. We
go in about five. Did you bring your suits?”

“Yes, they did, but if I hadn’t told them to do so, not one would have
remembered,” Ruth said, soberly.

“Oh, listen a minute,” Peggie cautioned. “Sally is singing the chant of
the new moon.”

In the hush that followed, they heard the old squaw’s low tremulous
tones, over and over, singing the same strange minor notes, quavering
and simple, that seemed to hold the spirit of the night and the spell of
these far reaches of distant hills and mountain ranges, in their melody.
Overhead, the new moon showed in the sky, silver and slender against the
amber afterglow of the sunset. Out on a patch of ground between the
ranch house and the cook-cabin stood the old Indian woman, lifting up
her arms every now and then as she sang, or rather, grunted the chant.

“What does she mean?” whispered Isabel. “I can’t understand a word she
says.”

“Neither does anybody else,” replied Jean. “Mother thinks it is part of
some old invocation to the moon, or a prayer for fair weather.
Sometimes, when she is in the humor, Sally will sit and tell us old
tales that she used to hear when she was a child in the Shoshone camps.
That was before the government compelled the tribe to give up their
roaming life, and settle down on the reservation at Fort Washakie.”

“What a queer name, Miss Jean!”

“It is in honor of the great Chief Washakie, Polly. He was the best
friend the whites had out here, and was always loyal.”

They did not disturb Sally Lost Moon, but called good-night to Mr.
Murray and the boys, and went over to the lodge.

“If you need more blankets, call out,” Jean said as she bade them
good-night.

“All right,” answered Polly. “Let’s not light a lamp, girls. I almost
wish we were in a tent.”

“I wish we were going to sleep right on Council Rock,” Ruth declared.
“I’d like to lie on my back, and look up at the stars and feel the earth
go ’round. Doesn’t this all make you want to fit into the same tune? I
mean, doesn’t it make you want to match the wilds, and be an Indian or a
ranch girl, or anyone who really belongs here. I feel as though Virginia
must be over on some star.”

“You’re sentimental, grandma,” Sue said, happily. “And that’s what
you’re always calling the rest of us. I’m really surprised at you, Ruth,
wanting to lie down and look at the stars and watch the world go ’round.
That’s like Polly. Virginia isn’t on a star. It’s right down back of
Topnotch there.”

“Yes, and what kind of an Indian would you make with pigtails, and
spectacles, goose?” added Polly.

“I don’t care,” sighed Ruth. “I feel that way. I think I’d like to live
out here.”

“There you are! And Peggie said to-day, she thought she’d like to live
down East,” laughed Polly. “It’s like Aunty Welcome tells about flies on
a window. All those on the outside want to get in, and all on the inside
want to get out.”

“But have you seen Peggie’s room yet?” asked Ruth, in self-defense.

“Not yet. Why?”

“Just wait.” Very mysteriously. “I wouldn’t spoil the surprise for you
by telling about it. I only wish I had one like it. She didn’t even
realize how different it was from other girls’ rooms until I told her
about it. It’s full of—no, I won’t tell. You will see it to-morrow.”

“Oh, please, Ruth, please,” they all begged.

“I shall put my shoes right back on,” protested Ted. “I feel put upon.”

“Let’s wait till morning,” Polly decided. “Peggie will be in bed now,
anyway. I don’t believe Ruth got more than a peep at it herself.”

“I didn’t,” said Ruth meekly. “It was through the window too, while
Peggie was in there after something. All I could see were horns and
pelts, and baskets, and that sort of thing, but she says she has ever so
many things she has collected.”

“I like Peggie,” Isabel said suddenly, in her precise way. “She has the
deepest dimples I ever saw.”

“Sally Lost Moon calls them smile holes,” said Polly. “Isn’t that dear,
girls? Smile holes.”

“Oh, listen a minute,” interrupted Sue who was near the open door. Up
from the corral came the Murray boys, singing together. They could not
catch the words, but the swinging, happy lilt carried on the night air.
The last line they heard clearly.

“Will you ride,
Oh, will you ride,
Say, will you ride the trail with me?”

It died away as they went into the main cabin, just as the new moon
slipped behind Topnotch’s shoulder.

“Will you ride,” started up Ted.

“Oh, will you ride,” Sue caught it up, and the rest finished it, Polly
beating time with the heel of her shoe on the side of her cot.

“Say, will you ride the trail with me?”

“Ranch taps, girls,” Ruth reminded them. “Up early for a swim, you
know.”

“Will you ride,” began Ted, gaily, but a well-aimed pillow from Polly
cut off the tantalizing strain, for all the world like a young rooster’s
crow, and they went quietly to sleep.

The long night’s quiet rest left the girls refreshed and bright. When
Peggie and Jean came over to the lodge at five, they were up and
dressed, ready for the run down to the creek for a morning dip.

“You’ll find it very different from sea bathing, girls,” Jean told them.
“The water does not have the same buoyancy, but it gives one a feeling
of exhilaration all the same. This place has been our swimming hole for
years.”

“I should think so, by the beaten path to it,” remarked Ruth. “You can’t
lose your way, can you?”

The little path led down to the creek, and along its winding course
until it turned a bend, and slipped into rapids around a rough, old
butte that the children at the ranch had named Thunder Cloud, years
before. Here the creek bed was full of rocks, as if, Polly said, years
before, some giant had thrown them down there like a handful of pebbles.
A little farther on, the creek broadened and deepened, and there lay the
swimming hole.

“There are no rocks in it, here,” said Elspeth. “It’s only up to my
shoulders at the center, excepting in early spring, when the snows melt,
and then it’s a regular torrent through the whole valley.”

Ted and Sue waded out into midstream carefully. They had dressed in
bathing suits up at the cabin, and even putting them on again had
brought back the old joyous times at Lost Island last summer.

The water felt cool, but not chilling. Isabel and Ruth splashed about in
the shore shallows experimentally, but Polly stood on a rock, and looked
around her at the gorgeous scenery. The sun was well up in the heavens,
but over everything there still clung the soft, hazy mist of a midsummer
dawn. The distant mountains looked as if they had folded violet and
pearl cloaks about them. The summits were veiled in straying, ever
changing cloud wreaths. Even the near-by buttes of sandstone and shale,
rugged and bare as they were, took on a certain beauty of their own in
that tender, mellowing light. The bottom of the creek looked golden too,
and the water was full of shimmering, shining ripples, as the girls
splashed into it, with merry cries.

“I wish there was a long stretch of sandy beach, don’t you, girls?” said
Isabel, as she hesitated, a mermaid without a resting place. “This shore
is so rocky.”

“Rocky,” exclaimed Sue, floundering around vigorously. “Call this rocky
after Maine. These rocks are pebbles.”

“Do you expect a Wyoming swimming hole to be a seaside sun-bath?” called
out Ted. “Come on in, Polly. It’s splendid.”

“This used to be the old fording place, mother says, for westbound
cattle bunches years ago,” said Jean, as she stopped a few minutes after
a spurt up the river and back. “Some of the settlers went this way too.
They named it Thunder Ford, so we called the old butte yonder Thunder
Cloud. There used to be a chief of that name. I can just remember seeing
him once when I was a little girl. I rode up to Sundance with father,
and they had a sheriff’s sale of Indian ponies.”

“Oh, tell us about it,” Polly begged at once, wading towards her. “We
can hear you.”

“There wasn’t anything to tell. The Indians were in debt, I guess, and
had to sell their ponies, some of them anyway, to settle. They showed
them off first, and many cowboys had ridden in from outlying ranches to
watch the fun. Each Indian would mount his pony, and try to put it
through all kinds of tricks, with the cowboys shouting at them, and
urging them on. There’s a little square of green grass in the center of
the town. At least, it’s supposed to be green, but it was pretty well
sun-dried and brown. Father and I stood there, and watched the racing,
and I noticed the old Indian next to me. He was very tall and homely,
with a broad band tied around his head, and one big eagle’s feather
slipped through. Then he wore an old army shirt, and fringed buckskin
‘chaps,’ and last of all, there was a heavy government blanket half
trailing from his waist; and mind, girls, this was in July.”

“Maybe he felt that he had to wear it as long as the government had
given it to him,” suggested Isabel, thoughtfully.

“Maybe he did. He watched the race with his arms folded, and when father
spoke to him, he wouldn’t even glance at him. But I said I couldn’t see,
and all at once, he lifted me up in his arms, where I could get a good
view of the street and the ponies, and held me there. And afterwards,
when we were buying things at the general store, we found out he was old
Chief Thunder Cloud who used to be with Sitting Bull years ago.”

“Can we get any bead work, or baskets around here, Miss Jean?” asked
Polly, as the remembrance of Mrs. Yates’ commission occurred to her.

“You can buy them at any of the reservations. When the bishop comes, we
will ask him.”

“When will he be here?” questioned Polly, with interest.

“Any time. He usually stops over night at our ranch on his way north. It
is different being a bishop out here from what it means in the eastern
or even middle states. Here he is a pioneer missionary. Do you know,
girls, that he even has jurisdiction over the reservations, at least the
Shoshone one?”

“He’s tall, and kind of young, and rides a horse like a soldier,” put in
Peggie. “And he looks like a soldier. That’s why all the ranchers and
cowboys like him, I guess.”

“I’m getting cold,” Isabel exclaimed, shivering.

“I should think you would,” declared Ted, “standing there with the water
up to your ankles. Isabel, I sigh to think what would ever become of you
in a deep swimming tank. You’d cling to the side like an anemone.”

“All out now,” Jean called. “And we’d better run to keep up the
circulation. Next time we’ll bring down the swimming suits, and kimonos,
and dress here. It’s too long a trip in wet clothes.”

Up the path they went, dripping wet, and radiant with health and
happiness.

“Hurry up and dress, girls,” Jean said, as they came to the guest cabin.
“After breakfast, we’ll ride over the other way towards the sheep range,
and you’ll have a chance to look them over.”

“Oh, look down there at Don,” cried Peggie, suddenly, and the next
minute she was flying as fast as her feet could carry her towards the
corral.

“Head him off, Peg, head him off,” shouted Don. “Not that way, over
here. Oh, suffering cats, look at that!”

“He’s making a bee line for the bars, Don; I can’t stop him,” Peggie
cried.

A flying streak of gray darted madly across the bare, brown earth of the
corral. Headlong after it raced Don, waving his arms and whooping
shrilly.

“What on earth—” began Ruth, but Sue, Ted and Polly were already on the
way to the corral also, and Jean was laughing.

“It’s Don’s timber cub,” she said to Ruth and Isabel. “He’s loose.”

Don caught at a coiled rope that hung on a saddle on the fence, just
where he had left it before saddling up for the ride. The streak of gray
made for the open passage like an escaped fleck of quicksilver, and Don
set his teeth, and threw out on a chance.

“I got him,” he called, as the rope circled out through the air, and
drew taut and snug over something. “He’s a dandy little cub. I brought
him in last week. Two months old. From Badger Hole Creek. The herders
said the mother was shot when she was hanging around the sheep one night
nearly two weeks ago. This little shaver must have been trying to find
her ever since. I’m going to tame him.”

Tenderly he bent over the palpitating little form, and loosened the
rope. The wolf cub looked like a shaggy, big-headed little Spitz dog,
with a very pointed nose. It tried to burrow down in Don’s coat sleeve,
and he trotted it back to its new home, a cage he had fashioned for it
in the shade of the wagon shed.

“What’s his name, Don?” asked Sue, eagerly.

“Kink,” grinned back Don. “Suits him, doesn’t it? I’ll have him tamed in
a month, but he’s pretty shy now.”

“Breakfast,” called Mrs. Murray from the back door of the house, and
they hurried back to the cabin to dress.

“Put on your riding skirts,” warned Jean. When they had finished eating,
there was no delay about the start. Don had the five ponies saddled in a
few minutes, and this time it was easier mounting, but it was still hard
to get accustomed to the movement of the ponies.

“I feel as if I were going to tumble off any minute,” Ruth declared.

“You should ride the funny little burros down in Colorado if you want a
good jogging,” Jean said. “Last summer mother was pretty well tired out
after the shearing and shipping and all that, so after the extra helpers
had gone, I took her down for a little trip to the Springs, and we had a
good time. It was her first vacation in thirty years. I don’t like to
ride burros at all. The best horses for these roads are the
cross-breeds, half Indian pony, half easterner, like ours.”

“Oh, aren’t we going on Topnotch to-day?” asked Ted, as they took the
opposite turn at the creek crossing.

“No. We’re bound for the north this time. It’s a good ride, and easy for
you, and you’ll get used to the saddle.”

After they had passed the valley and lower buttes, great, rolling
tablelands came in view, their jagged bluffs fringed with scrub-pine and
spruce.

“This is the open range,” Jean said. “It goes on for miles and miles to
the north, higher and higher till it blends into Bear Lodge.”

“Oh, girls, don’t you remember that place in the Bible?” exclaimed
Polly, halting to lift her head and draw in deep breaths of the clear
fine air. “I mean where it tells about the cattle on a thousand hills.
Who’d want an old, smelly, burnt sacrifice, when he could have this, and
all the cattle on them.”

The full heat of the day was still far off, and the morning calm and
hazy. The lazy, droning sound of insects came from the shadowy depths of
sage-brush on either side of the path, and High Jinks would shy every
now and then as a honey-laden bee or flippant butterfly darted by his
nose.

“Is it far?” asked Polly, after they had passed the low, sun-dried bed
of Coon Creek, and struck out across a long, open stretch of upland with
only a ragged pine here and there to break its barren monotony.

“About five miles the short way, but nearly fifteen if we had to go
around the hills west of here. Father fixed a short cut years ago when
we used to pasture our herd on the Black Pine stretch. He built a bridge
over the gulch up here. Some of the road is so overgrown now that you
have to take your time. Polly, don’t hold Jinks in if you can stand a
little gallop. He’s just ready to dance for a run.”

“I won’t hold him in—” began Polly, and she slackened her hold on the
bridle. The pony shook his head free joyously, and started off on a
helter-skelter canter that made Polly lean forward, and grip his sides
with her knees like an Indian. Her cap dropped off, and her hair tumbled
down from its pins, but she liked it. Jean and Peggie had shown her how
to adjust herself to every turn and twist of the pony, how to grip with
her knees, and lean over his neck, and stand in the stirrups when he
ran. Many things had she learned with the other girls too, in just one
day at the Crossbar, and not the least of them was to consider the
temperament and feelings of the pony she rode.

“They’re all good chums, if you only know how to treat them right,”
Peggie had said, and the girls believed it.

Peggie came after her on her pony, Twinkle, but Polly beat her, and they
both reined up short and waited for the rest. Sue had dismounted, picked
up Polly’s cap, and was bringing it.

“Twinkle isn’t quite as fast a runner as Jinks,” Peggie said loyally,
“but he has a very understanding way with him. I like a horse that
understands, don’t you? I don’t like the white patch over Jinks’ eye,
because it always looks as if he had an eyeglass on, like Mr. Cameron,
the owner of the Red Star outfit.”

By this time the rest had caught up.

“Look west, girls,” said Jean, suddenly, pointing with her quirt. “See
where the ground sinks, and there’s a fringe of timber? That’s Lost
Chance Gulch, where father built the bridge.”

“What a queer name,” exclaimed Isabel, who was ever ready to scent a
story of romance. “Who lost the chance?”

“An old trapper named Zed Reed. He built a shack down in the gulch,
father says, years and years ago, and always vowed there was gold there.
Folks said he was a little bit light headed. I can remember seeing him
come to our place. Father used to give him work now and then to feed
him. He was very tall, and had a long red beard, and curly red hair, and
he wore a coonskin cap with the tail hanging down one side. I used to
like to have him come because he could play on the fiddle. He carried it
in an inside coat pocket that he had had made specially to hold it, and
he would play the loveliest tunes on it. The people around here, and
even the Indians, called him Old Darned Coat. Isn’t that a funny name?”

“Why?” asked Polly. “I never came across so many dandy stories about
people and places.”

“This country up here is full of stories,” answered Jean, dreamily. “I
love them. They are so real, and so full of human interest. People said
that, years before, Zed had been engaged to Colette Buteau, the daughter
of the French Canadian that used to keep the old trading post on the
Dakota border at Twin Forks. She died a day or two before the wedding.
She, with her father, was killed by the Sioux. Zed was never the same
after that, and he said he would wear his wedding coat for the rest of
his life. It was a green broadcloth coat, with black velvet collar and
large silk-covered buttons, and it had big revers, and a skirt to it,
and the lining was quilted silk. I suppose it was a very wonderful coat
in those days, but Zed kept his vow, and as the years went on, and the
coat grew shabbier and shabbier, he would darn each little frayed rent
as tenderly and carefully as possible. Mother says that finally it
seemed to be all darns, and they called him Old Darned Coat. I can
remember him coming to the back door, and bowing so courteously to
mother, and saying, ‘Howdy, Mis’ Murray. Could I get just a little piece
of darning silk from you, I wonder—silk twist is best of all, and I’ll
work it out on the wood pile.’”

“Did he die?” asked Sue, her eyes wide with interest.

“Yes. Father found him in his shack, just asleep, with Colette’s picture
beside him on his fiddle, and under the two, the old darned wedding
coat. He was buried in it.”

The girls were silent as they passed the level upland. The ground was
dipping again, and patches of trees became frequent. Ted and Sue were in
the lead now, and finally, as they came in sight of Sundance Mountain in
the far distance, about forty miles off, Peggie told them why it was
called that.

“I love its name,” she said, in her odd way, half shy, half abrupt. “It
always makes me think of the days that Sandy tells us about, before even
father came here, when the Indians would send out runners from tribe to
tribe to call them to the Sun Dance, and they would all gather each year
at the mountain to hold the dance and feast for seven days, I think it
was.”

“It must have been happy for them,” Sue said, “when the land was all
their very own, I mean. Sometimes, I don’t blame them for fighting for
it. After all, it had been theirs for so long. How would we like to be
chased off, like a lot of stray cats, just because we didn’t want our
country taken from us.”

Polly reined in her pony sharply.

“Look!” she cried. “Is that the bridge, Miss Jean?”

“That is it,” Jean answered, and they urged the ponies forward.

The path made a sharp turn to the left, and instead of the tall grass of
the low ground, up here they found the earth rough, and strewn with
jagged points of rock. They had come to the end of the trail, and could
look down into the shadowy depths of Lost Chance Gulch. A bridge of logs
spanned it, with hand rails on each side, and they rode over it in
Indian file, the ponies picking their way daintily. All excepting Polly.
Jinks hesitated at the bridge, and backed away.

“Now, what does ail him?” asked Polly, but before she could answer,
something crashed through the underbrush beside her. All she saw was the
haunches of a brown doe, but Jinks did not like it a bit, and he began
to live up to his name. The rest had gone on. And all at once a figure
came out from the gloom of the gulch, such a strange looking figure,
that for the moment, as she looked at him, and he at her in equal
astonishment, she thought it must be the ghost of old Zed himself.

Continue Reading

LAWLESS DEVICES

That night Polly consulted the Admiral. Sitting opposite him in the
study after dinner, she went over her plans very carefully.

“Each of the girls can give something different. I want to have a
birthday party, grandfather dear.”

“But your birthday is in December—” began the Admiral, in faint protest.

“This will be a universal birthday party, everybody’s birthday party. We
will have very good refreshments to start with. Crullers always says the
success of anything depends on the food. And we’ll decorate the lawn and
veranda, and have music too. We won’t charge any admission at all, but
every one who comes in, will be handed a nice little silk bag, and told
to put in it as many pennies as they are years old.”

“Highway robbery,” exclaimed the Admiral. “Think how it will beggar me,
and let everybody know how old I am too.”

“Oh, no, it won’t, because we shall not tell,” Polly promised
laughingly. “Isn’t it a good idea? Nearly everybody’s over twenty, and
some are even over fifty. We’ll invite all the nice old people in
Queen’s Ferry.”

“And treat them as if it were their birthdays, I presume.”

“Oh, yes. And don’t you see, grandfather, if I give that kind of a
party, and Isabel has the strawberry lawn fête, and the others plan
other things, we’ll have quite a lot of money for the trip.”

“It’s worth something to parents and guardians and grandfathers to get
rid of you during the summer,” said the Admiral, gravely, but with
twinkling eyes. “If this is to be strictly on a business basis, I think
that item should be counted in. There should be a sympathy meeting
called amongst us to discuss that phase of it. I will give fifty dollars
towards a relief fund to send girls away on vacations, myself.”

“Will you?” Polly regarded him with interest, her head a little on one
side like a robin as she thought over the proposition. It was a tempting
one, but she remembered the code of honor at the Crossbar. “Maybe we’ll
have to appeal for help before we get through, but we want to try first,
and earn it ourselves. You understand, don’t you, grandfather dear? We
don’t want it to happen so—oh, so easily.”

The Admiral declared it was much better to take the cash outright than
to wheedle it out by birthday parties, and strawberry festivals, and
other “lawless devices,” but Polly went ahead just the same.

Every day, whenever there was a chance, the five met to talk over ways
and means. Sue wrestled with the problem for some time, and finally she
and Ted put their heads together, and decided to hold an auction.

“You can’t hold an auction unless you have something to sell,” Ruth
remonstrated.

“We’ll sell things,” the two promised, and they surely did when the time
came.

Isabel held fast to her strawberry fête, and Ruth pondered over how she
could do her share. Miss Murray had been attracted from the first of the
term to this quiet, old-fashioned girl, with the big brown eyes, and
spectacles, and serious yet whimsical way with her. She knew that while
the other girls had nice homes, and sure prospects, Ruth was dependent
on her aunt, and had to make her own way as soon as she left school.
Perhaps this bred a sort of kinship in sympathy between them. At all
events, Ruth found that nearly every day she would have a talk with
Jean.

Finally, they took Miss Calvert into their confidence, and she had a
suggestion to make at once.

“Why, Ruth, child, don’t you think you could bring the little lame Ellis
boy up in his lessons so he could take the examinations,” she said,
hopefully. “Mrs. Ellis was asking me only Sunday how she could manage
with him, and he is quite convalescent now. The doctor says his worrying
over falling behind will retard his recovery.”

Ruth’s face brightened. The little lame Ellis boy, as every one in
Queen’s Ferry called him, was the only child of Payne Ellis, the senior
warden at Trinity Church. She knew him well at church. He had been ill
with measles for several weeks, and would be certain to miss all of his
examinations.

“He wants so much to finish his grammar work this year, and start in the
fall at St. Stephen’s Military School, and if he fails, it means another
year of eighth grade work,” added Miss Calvert. “I do think you might be
able to bring him up in time, Ruth. I will speak to Mrs. Ellis to-night,
and let you know.”

The next day Ruth’s face fairly shone with satisfaction.

“Oh, girls, isn’t it good?” she said, as they were going up the broad
stairs at noon. “I’ve heard from Mrs. Ellis, and I am to give two hours
every day after school, teaching Phil. She says she will give me fifty
cents an hour. That’s six dollars a week, and there’ll be five weeks
anyway, up to the end of school. The doctor says he mustn’t attempt to
go back on account of his eyes.”

“Lucky grandma,” Sue said, emphatically. “That comes of being a walking
encyclopedia, while the rest of us must pick strawberries, and auction
off all our pet belongings. By the way, we are going to hold our
auction, Ted and I, on Saturday next. Ted has the first poster all made
for it. She hung it beside the looking glass in the hall, where no one
could possibly miss it.”

It was a hand-made poster. Ted was the artist. She had used the plain
ecru-tinted “scratch paper,” as the girls called it, that they all used
in class for scribbling. An original drawing of Sue weeping over the
sale of her treasures occupied the top space, while Ted stood on a
chair, holding out articles invitingly. Underneath it read:

AUCTION!!!

To be held on Saturday forenoon, at the residence of Miss Sue
Warner, 35 Elmwood Road. The personal belongings of Miss Warner
and Miss Edwina Moore will be sold at a great sacrifice at ten
o’clock sharp. The sale includes,

ANTIQUES! MYSTERY BOXES! BOOKS!
BEAUTIFUL POMPS AND VANITIES!
RARE CANDIES! ONE KITTEN!

Various toilette articles, and all the interesting and valuable
objects of art which made Miss Moore’s room in Calvert Hall, the
past winter, a place of diversion and envy.

“The resident girls are all coming to the sale,” Ted announced, happily,
shutting one eye, as she looked at the announcement. “I think that is
very enticing and mysterious, don’t you, Polly?”

“It’s lovely,” Polly declared, delightedly. “Let’s send out copies of it
to everybody.”

“I’ll help letter them, Ted,” Crullers said, anxiously. “I wish you’d
let me help, girls, even if I can’t be in on the fun.”

“Well, so you shall, dear,” Polly promised, and after school hours, they
all went up to Ted’s room, and made copies of the placard. It was Ted’s
first year as a resident pupil, and she had felt somewhat divided from
the others at first. Her father and mother were away from Queen’s Ferry,
at the town house in Washington, and it necessitated Ted’s occupying a
room at the Hall.

“We would have held the auction here,” Sue said, “but nobody would have
come except the girls. This way, I shall sell pink popcorn and peanuts,
while Ted is the auctioneer.”

“I don’t see what you’re going to sell,” Ruth put in, soberly. “You’ll
destroy public confidence in all of us if it’s a joke.”

“A joke. Listen to her, Ted.” Sue shook her head sadly. “Indeed it is
not a joke. We’re giving up all we dare to, aren’t we, Ted? Mother says
she has to keep a watch on everything in the house for fear it will be
auctioned off. But she’s donated a few things too, to help us out. She
made the mystery boxes.”

“Never heard of such things,” said Ruth.

“That’s the charm,” smiled back Sue. “Just you wait till Saturday. I do
hope we’ll have a good crowd.”

“We must send these to all our friends,” Polly said, and each girl took
a supply home with her.

But it remained for Crullers to spring the grand surprise of Saturday.
Not until the fateful hour of ten did the girls discover what Crullers
had done with her poster. Sue’s home was a beautiful, old-fashioned
house set far back from the main river road, and surrounded by trees.
The auction was to be held in the music room, and well-filled it was
too, by ten, with the girls from Calvert Hall, and a lot of Queen’s
Ferry girls besides, and even some of the mothers and grown sisters. But
suddenly Ruth glanced out of the broad bay window, and cried:

“Here come a lot of the choir boys, Polly. How on earth did they know
about it? Rehearsal is just over, and they’re all coming here.”

Polly hurried to the window. It was quite true. Coming innocently and
interestedly up the broad walk from the road, were about fifteen of the
older boys from St. Stephen’s.

“How did they ever find out,” she exclaimed, and then all at once, she
caught sight of Crullers’ face. It was quite red, and a little bit
frightened too.

“Polly, Polly,” she faltered, “I did it. I tacked one of the posters on
a fence near the Parish House.”

“Double penalty,” said Ted, under her breath. “First for giving us away,
second, for tacking notices on fences.”

“You cannot help it now, girls, anyway,” said Jean, smiling over the
mishap. “And boys are not so terrible, anyway. I’ll manage them. They
will probably buy up all the candy, and that will help out.”

So with dignity, and all cordial courtesy, the boys were received, and
ushered into the music room, and while their eyes fairly danced with fun
and mischief, they soon forgot all but the excitement of the sale, and
became, as Jean had prophesied, the best and most spirited bidders.

The candy sold first, boxes of fudge, and nut creams the girls had made
themselves, and nut glacés. Also, Sue did a thriving business at her
stand near the door, in popcorn and peanuts. Ted stood on a chair, and
was auctioneer, and she made a good one. Tactfully she chose things that
she knew certain girls had set their hearts on, and ran rival bidders
against each other. Even the cushions from her couch at the Hall went,
and last of all, the girls put up the historic chafing dish of the old
Hungry Six, the original club that had preceded the Vacation Club. It
was bid in by one of the Senior girls, after a spirited fight for it,
and brought three dollars and seventy-five cents.

The Mystery Boxes were bid in lively by the boys too. All were very much
interested in the small Japanese boxes. They promised so much just by
keeping closed tightly, as Polly said.

Mrs. Warner had prepared these herself, as her share in the auction, and
as one by one they were opened, the contents made the next lot go at a
still higher figure. Inside each were quaint Jap novelties, little
fortunes and mottoes on crepe paper, animals made of bamboo shoots and
wisps of tinted cotton, puzzles, tiny dishes, and trinkets, all from the
far islands of cherry blossoms.

When it was finally over, and the last buyer had passed down the walk,
the five girls gathered in the harvest at the little tea table, and
counted it over jubilantly.

“Thirty-two dollars, and twenty cents,” announced Ruth triumphantly.
“Isn’t that fine, girls?”

“Who bid in the kitten?” asked Sue.

“Crullers,” said Polly. “Fifty cents. Wish we had thought to raise a lot
of kittens, and sell them. Maybe for really trained kittens that could
do tricks, we could have charged a fancy price like they do for polo
ponies, don’t you know, girls?”

“Pocahontas was trained,” insisted Sue. “I trained her myself. She could
eat ice-cream out of a saucer without getting into it, and she could
play ball. Crullers got a bargain.”

“Shall we have the strawberry fête a week from to-day?” asked Isabel.
“That is my share, you know.”

“Won’t it cost a lot for berries and cream, Isabel?”

“All donated by the Lee family for the good of the cause. Father says it
is worth a full spring crop to see me taking an interest in outdoor
sports.”

“Instead of pomps and vanities?” queried Ted, dodging as a cushion
hurtled past her.

“Be good, please, Ted. This is strictly business. I do think that each
of the girls should bring a cake, anyway,—a very large cake—”

“How can I bring a cake when I am a resident pupil at Calvert, goose?”
Ted demanded. “I shall bring store doughnuts.”

“I tell you, Ted—coax Miss Calvert to donate a lot of Annie May’s
macaroon bars. They are delicious. I think cards will do for invitations
to that, don’t you, girls? Isabel, you write better than the rest of us.
You just write a nice little invitation announcement card—you know what
kind I mean—and I’ll make out our social list.”

“Indeed, I’m not going to do that, Ruth,” protested Polly. “It costs too
much in postage. I sent Stoney out to deliver the invitation to my
birthday party. All persons under fifty were undesirable, I told
grandfather.”

“Listen,” exclaimed Isabel suddenly. “I wonder if any one of you girls
has thought of this. Mother was talking over summer dresses with Miss
Gaskell, the dressmaker who sews for us fall and spring. I heard her
saying something about this dress for me, and that one, and it gave me
an idea. Of course, we girls won’t need much up there in the wilds, and
I said one white dress would do, and cut out the fluffy-ruffly ones—”

“You never gave up the fluffy ones, Lady Vanitas!” cried Sue.

“Yes, I did, Sue,” Isabel said, quite seriously. “And when I told mother
of my plan, she said she would help me. I asked if she would give me
half of everything I gave up—”

“What is the market value of flesh pots, Polly?” asked Ted, teasingly.

“Just you try it yourself, Ted, and you’ll be surprised. I was. Mother
says it will be twenty to thirty dollars to add to my summer outing.
It’s worth while giving up things at that rate.”

“Isabel, you’re a wonder,” Polly laughed. “I’ll try that with
grandfather to-night, and coax Aunty Welcome to tell just what it costs
to dress me. Couldn’t we all wear khaki and gunny sacks?”

“What are gunny sacks, Polly?”

“I don’t know. I heard Stoney say once that all he wore till he was ten
years old was a gunny sack, and I thought it must be awfully comfy. Say,
Ruth, did you write to the railroads to find out about summer rates?”

“Miss Murray said she’d attend to that. Don’t forget that I will have a
bunch to hand in to the treasury too, from teaching. And I’m also
getting in an extra hour taking Jack Ellis out in a wheel chair, after
his lessons.”

“If we get as far as the ranch, we’ll be all right,” Ted exclaimed. “If
we haven’t enough to come home on, all our lonely friends and relatives
will be glad to get us back at any cost.”

“But we’ll have enough—” began Ruth.

“Don’t trouble about it, girls,” Mrs. Warner spoke up, as they all
gathered at the door for a last good-bye. “We are in hearty sympathy
with you, especially since you have developed this independence. Every
ten or fifteen dollars that you raise is a good help westward, and also
strengthens your self-respect, and self-reliance. It is one of the
happiest surprises in life when we suddenly find out we can swim alone.”

“Or fly from the home nest,” added Sue.

“Well, we’re trying hard to flutter,” Polly called back merrily, as they
went down the walk. “It will be a wonderful flight—maybe.”

“But it’s the season for May bees,” answered Mrs. Warner, smiling. “Keep
up your courage, and the good fight.”

The days passed too slowly, it seemed to the girls, eager as they were
to get started westward. What had seemed only one of Polly’s balloons,
as Ruth called them, had developed into a very tangible possibility. As
Ted said, when one is afraid of anything, you must not run. You must
turn about, and hit it hard. Ted was a splendid smasher of windmills.

All Queen’s Ferry knew that five of Miss Calvert’s girls were to spend
their vacation on a ranch out in Wyoming, but it took the strawberry
festival, and Polly’s birthday party to make it understand likewise that
they were earning their own way out there. Steadily, the sum in Ruth’s
treasury mounted higher and higher. Mrs. Yates, the Senator’s wife, who
had been so kind to them the previous year, offered her help at the
birthday party, and it was gladly accepted. Polly was radiant as she
stood beside her, receiving guests, and likewise birthday donations, and
her eyes were brimful of fun as she handed back a five dollar bill to
the Senator.

“You’re not telling the truth about your age, Senator Yates,” she said,
rebukingly. “It’s only a cent a year.”

“We’ll count in something on the extra Sundays and holidays,” the
Senator returned. “I’m always doubly glad to have a birthday on a Sunday
or a holiday, and mine comes on the Fourth of July. Isn’t it worth ten
cents extra and more too, to have the same date as your country?”

“Then I ought to pay more, Polly,” whispered Crullers, as the Senator
went on. “My birthday is on Easter.”

“How can it be on Easter, goose, when that’s a movable feast?” laughed
Polly. “Crullers, you old stupid dear!”

“I think, Polly, I can give you a little chance to make some money on
your trip,” Mrs. Yates said, later. “I am anxious to buy some Indian
novelties. Marbury has his den fixed up like a tepee this year, and he
wants to make things for it, not pretty beadwork, or birch-bark
ornaments, but the real things an Indian boy would naturally have in his
tent. If you want to buy them on commission, that would help too. You
must think of every possible way.”

“Indeed, we’re very glad to,” said Polly, heartily.

And they were too. After the first struggle was over, there was a
literal charm in seeing the little treasury fund grow day by day, and in
adding to it. It was astonishing how many urgent duties the Admiral
discovered which needed to be performed.

“Upon my word, Polly, my books show up badly in this sunlight,” he would
say. “I don’t like to trust Mandy in here, or Welcome. Now if you had
the time, and felt like it, it would be worth a dollar to me to have
those books all dusted, and straightened—a whole dollar.”

The books were dusted, and Polly pocketed the dollar proudly. This gave
the rest a hint, and one day Miss Calvert found herself approached by
four determined young persons, after class. They offered to clean the
library thoroughly, they assured her they would take out all the books,
dust them, wash the glass doors, straighten everything up right, send
the rug down to old Jim, the gardener, to be beaten, and make the whole
room look like new.

“Bless my heart, girls,” exclaimed Miss Calvert, laughing in spite of
her dignity. “How did you ever guess that the cleaning of the library is
my one _bête noire_ of the springtime? I will give you each a dollar if
you can do it right.”

It was accomplished, and the four dollars added to the “main pile,” as
Ruth called the growing hoard.

Miss Murray heard from the railroads, and it was a more encouraging
outlook than she had hoped for. After the end of May, the summer rates
went into force, she found, to encourage a western exodus of “teachers,
poets, homeseekers, invalids, and all of summer’s sweethearts,” as Polly
said later. The round trip tickets from Washington out to Deercroft,
Wyoming, would be $67.50 apiece.

“And mother writes that she will board you at four dollars a head
weekly, and at that figure you must do your own laundry, and take care
of your own shack. How’s that, girls?”

“It seems too little,” Ruth answered, with her quick judgment on things
material.

“But it is not, Ruth. Board at five dollars can be had up where we are
and this is only one less. That will be twenty a week for all five.”

“We plan to stay a month,” Polly interrupted. “Do you think we can
manage it, Miss Murray?”

“How much is there in the treasury so far, Ruth?”

Ruth figured hastily.

“About two hundred and forty-six dollars, I think. Polly handed in
thirty-seven dollars from the birthday fête, and the auction brought
thirty-two, and Isabel made eighteen out of her strawberry festival,
besides what we had, and my money that isn’t all earned yet, you know.”

“It shows what you can do if you try,” Ted remarked, loftily.

“Yes, and that doesn’t include Isabel’s commission on summer clothes
from parents,” Polly added. “I think we can make it all up in time. And
if we are truly vacation seekers, we won’t bother over luxuries. I think
we could even fix up lunches of canned goods that would carry us over
the trip.”

“What about berths, Miss Murray?” asked Isabel, somewhat plaintively.
“Don’t they cost a good deal?”

“Yes, they certainly do. Five dollars, I think, it is, out to Chicago,
and we have one night on the road after that.”

“I shall not go to bed at all,” declared Ted. “I never like to sleep on
the train anyhow. I like to watch for lights in the dark out of the car
window.”

But Ruth, who had forgotten about the berth problem, glanced up at Miss
Murray in despair.

“It might be economy in the long run, girls, to take a stateroom—”

“We couldn’t possibly afford such luxuries, Miss Murray,” Polly said,
flatly. “Those things are for the nobility, not for hard-working
vacation seekers like us. We will take the ‘homeseekers special’ out
from Chicago, probably.”

“What’s that, Polly?” asked Sue, suspiciously.

“It’s a train for people who are in real earnest, and want to go some
place, and don’t care how they go as long as they get there,” pronounced
Polly, gravely.

“I’m in that class,” Ted put in, blithely. “Let’s all be jolly good
travelers, girls, and start in ‘roughing it’ from this end. Why, we’d
have a good time even if we went on a plank through the air.”

“I don’t quite approve of that picture, Ted,” laughed Miss Murray. “I
think we’ll go by the regular route. How does it seem to you, girls, to
be counting the pennies and dollars?”

“Good discipline,” Polly said, nodding her head emphatically.

It surely was. Even the Admiral, who had rather regarded the western
trip as one of Polly’s air castles, was forced to admit that she was a
good general. By the time school closed in June, there was $336.00 in
the treasury, and the girls had earned it all, practically, themselves.
What they had not earned, they had acquired through self-denial, giving
up pretty summer gowns, and hats, and “accessories,” as Isabel said,
rather mournfully—“specially those ‘accessories.’”

“But Polly, you’re giving us only these rough, straw outing sailors, and
the little caps,” Sue protested. “What shall we wear to church?”

Jean smiled at them over the top of her book. They were in the garden at
the Hall during noontime.

“The nearest church to us is thirty-five miles,” she told them. “If we
are very fortunate, we may have service once in a while from the
missionary bishop, or some of his priests, but usually father reads it
Sunday mornings for us all, and we like to hold it out of doors. You
won’t miss your hats, girls.”

“How you must love your father, Miss Murray,” Polly said later, when
they were alone. “I always hear you speak of him as though you—oh, I
don’t know,—as though you believed he always did the right thing. He
must be very nice.”

“He is splendid,” said Jean, simply. “At least we think so. And so is
mother. But you girls will love Captain Sandy, Miss Diantha’s husband.”

“Why?” asked Polly.

“Wait until you visit the Alameda ranch, and then you’ll know why.
Nobody can explain it.”

Miss Calvert knew where they were going, and Polly wondered and wondered
why she never spoke of it, never talked about her sister, or sent
messages out to her. But she did not ask questions, much as she longed
to.

Finally, after eight strenuous and industrious weeks, school closed, and
they could turn with free hearts to the journey. Each girl had followed
Miss Murray’s advice, and bought a pair of stout, high boots for rugged
walking and climbing, and a short khaki skirt, buttoning on the side,
with pockets, and bloomers of the same material.

“These are what all the girl-scouts wear, with shirtwaists, and belts,”
Jean told them. “And from now on that is what you must be, girl-scouts
and ranchers.”

Each girl took a suit-case, and Polly was rigid in her inspection rules
on the contents. Unnecessary articles were strictly tabooed. Underwear,
kimonos, one best dress apiece, toilet articles, a few favorite books,
and that was about all she permitted them.

“Land, I should suttinly say you chilluns were going to rough it,” said
Aunty Welcome, indignantly, as she looked over Polly’s outfit. “What
you-all gwine to do if a big snake gets you by yo’ hind heel?”

“Dance, Aunty,” Polly answered, merrily. “I’m sure we’d dance. Maybe
that’s how the Snake Dance first started. Don’t you wish you were going
along with us?”

“Mis’ Polly chile, I declar’, I wouldn’t go wanderin’ an’ a-mousin’
’round de face ob de earth like dat, not for de world. But it makes mah
ole heart ache when I think how mah lamb’s going away for de first time
in her natural life from her ole mammy.”

“Don’t you cry, dear,” Polly begged, putting her arms around Aunty’s
neck in a vigorous hug of sympathy. “I’ll be so careful, and I’ll
remember everything—not to climb trees, not to hunt bears, not to get
too friendly with Indians, not to—”

“Go ’long, you’s jest laughing now. Ah ain’t got a mite ob confidency in
yo’. Go ’long, chile.”

The night before they left Queen’s Ferry, Polly was feeling subdued, as
in fact she always did, after the fight was won on anything she started.
It was a beautifully clear June night. She stepped out on the broad
veranda, and hesitated. The high, white pillars seemed so tall and
strange in the bright moonlight, and the shadows seemed almost like
living things, so black and clearly outlined they lay all about. Out in
the garden, humming birds darted about the dewy flowers. She could catch
the delicate whirr of their wings. Tan, the Admiral’s big tawny-haired
setter, lay stretched out before the door, asleep. She had to step over
him on her way out to the Admiral’s chair.

“The world just seems all moonshine and roses to-night, grandfather
dear,” she said, sitting down on the cushioned seat that swung from two
heavy chains. “Aren’t they sweet?”

“Mighty sweet,” agreed the Admiral. “When you are in Wyoming, will you
think of your poor, lonely old grandfather sitting here by himself?”

“In peace and quiet, with nobody to bother him?” Polly finished up.
“Yes, sir, I will. And I’ll miss you so much.”

The Admiral leaned forward, his hand on her brown braids.

“Fifteen in November, isn’t that right? Your aunts seem to think
Glenwood’s no place for you, Polly, with an old codger like myself.
Betty wrote in to-day, and declared if I did not let you live under her
wing, or one of the other aunts’, I must get a governess for you. What
do you think of that?”

Polly regarded him thoughtfully.

“They don’t understand how happy we are, do they, dear?” she said
softly. “We never bother each other, do we? And I mind every word you
say—”

“Yes, you do,” interposed the Admiral, gruffly. “You’d persuade a
Nantucket skipper that he was off his course.”

“But wouldn’t you miss me terribly if I ever had to leave Glenwood?”
Polly rested her head against his knee, her lips pressed to the dear old
hand that had never shown her anything save kindness and sympathy in all
her life.

“Miss you? I wouldn’t stay here without you, child,” protested the
Admiral. “Do you think that Glenwood is preserved for a worn out,
retired old salt like myself? It is only a garden spot for the rearing
of my rose, Polly; remember that. Now, to bed with you, or Welcome will
scold me for keeping you out too late. If you should get into any
trouble, or need a relief expedition, remember it is always here ready
to start West.”

Polly rose, and hesitated a minute, as Aunty Welcome called her indoors.
Then she said softly:

“I sometimes think that I am the luckiest girl in the world.”

“Why?” asked the old Admiral, his eyes twinkling with merriment.
“Because you are Polly Page?”

“No, not that, dear,” replied Polly, seriously. “Because I am Polly
Page’s grandfather’s granddaughter.”

And before the Admiral could reply to that parting shot, she had run up
to bed, laughing.

When the 8:35 local for Washington left Queen’s Ferry, the morning of
the tenth of July, it carried Miss Murray and her five girl charges,
westward bound. The Admiral went down to the station to see them off,
together with Mrs. Warner, and Mrs. Lee.

“Don’t worry about them one bit, please,” Jean said, as she clasped each
of the mothers’ hands. “It is not a wild-west affair at all. Ours is a
dear, home ranch, and we will keep the girls out of any trouble.”

“I won’t worry as soon as I am sure you are really there,” Mrs. Lee
replied, “but I am afraid the trip will be wearisome without any special
privileges.”

“Never mind about special privileges for this club,” Polly declared as
she settled down in the car seat finally. “We’ll have the best time yet,
making believe we are homeseekers and land-tourists, won’t we, girls?”

“You’re crowing at the wrong end of the journey, Polly,” Jean warned,
but it surely seemed, from the first, as if the trip promised well for
all of them.

At Washington, they waited in the great, marble depot for the train to
be made up, and the girls found plenty to occupy the time. The very
first outlay in cash was for post-cards. Polly bought some even for
Aunty and Mandy and old Uncle Peter.

But it was not until they found themselves fairly settled on the train
for Chicago, and actually moving west, that they felt themselves true
travelers. As Ruth declared, it was a proud moment when the Polly Page
Ranch Club paid its own way, with money it had earned through its own
efforts. However, the fares lowered their principal so much that they
finally had decided to forego sleepers.

“Real summer tourists never take sleepers; not if they can get out of
it,” Ted said, happily, as she bolstered her suit-case up on a rack in
what they called the Tourists’ Special. Jean had the brakeman turn the
seats over, so that they could all sit together. “I think I’d be nervous
with a sleeper berth over my head, wouldn’t you, Polly?”

Polly laughed.

“Surely would.” She looked about her at all the different faces. There
were many people with children in this day coach, and they looked tired
and worn out even before the journey had fairly begun. “Like wilted
flowers,” Ruth said.

Polly watched the group across the aisle as long as she could stand it.
The mother was weary and flustered, with two toddlers bumping into
everything, and a baby crying in her arms.

“Can’t we amuse the twins?” she asked, suddenly.

“Oh, yes, if you would, thanks,” exclaimed the mother, gratefully. “Baby
is teething, and is fretful, and she won’t go to sleep.”

“How did you know they were twins?” asked Ted, when she helped Polly
trot them down to the wash-room to cool their hot little faces.

“They just looked that way,” Polly said cheerfully. “Sue, why don’t you
get that old lady a drink of water from the cooler? She’s tried twice to
go, and she can’t walk alone with the train jolting.”

Jean said nothing, but she noticed everything behind her new book. This
trip in the day coach was helping the girls in a way they hardly
realized as yet. On all sides of them were opportunities for lending
help to people less fortunate than themselves, and they responded
readily, and far more willingly than she had even dared to hope. In a
way, she had looked forward to the trip under these conditions as a test
for the girls, accustomed as they were to home comforts and utter lack
of responsibility. Not even Isabel complained, as the day wore on.

When dinner time arrived, they secured two small tables from the porter
in the forward parlor cars, for a quarter tip, and made the first raid
on their lunch baskets and boxes. These had been planned directly under
Jean’s supervision. The perishable things were to be disposed of the
first day, and the canned goods saved over for the rest of the journey.

In the beginning, space economy had been the first consideration, but
the lunches had been made very inviting nevertheless.

“It is just as easy to have a lunch look nice as not,” Jean had said,
and these were surely a success, for they were both tempting and
attractive. All sandwiches were wrapped in waxed tissue paper. Jars of
pimento cheese, and olives were opened handily, and there were plenty of
Saratoga chips to help out, and some of Aunty Welcome’s famous hermits.

“We’ll keep the fruit until breakfast,” said Miss Murray. “And we’ll
probably come to some station where we can buy chocolate, or malted
milk. It’s more fun than a dining car, isn’t it?”

“It’s like starting in to camp out, even now,” Polly declared. “And
we’ve all got our traveling duties mapped out, too. I’m to look after
the twins, and Sue has charge of the old lady. Isabel has been loaning
her fan and some magazines to a young girl who is going West for her
health. She sits in the last seat on our side, Miss Murray; you can just
see her hair as she leans back. How much more entertaining everything is
when you forget about yourself, and feel interested in what the rest of
the world is doing?”

“Are you just finding that out, Polly?” Jean asked, her gray eyes full
of amusement at Polly’s earnestness. “That is only the sweet old motto
of ‘_noblesse oblige_,’ set to modern music. We learn it with our riding
out home.”

“Oh, that makes me think of something,” Ted broke in. “Will there be
enough ponies for all of us girls, Miss Murray? I mean for us to ride
on.”

“I think there surely will be. Father has about six, besides the work
horses, and we each have our own pet pony besides. The boys broke theirs
in, I know. In Colorado they use the burros for mountain climbing, but
our roads are not so rough, at least up around Deercroft. As you travel
westward through the Big Horn country, it is very rocky and wild.”

“Doesn’t it seem queer to think we are really on the way there, girls?”
Sue sighed, contentedly. “I’m not worried over anything in the world
just at this minute except how on earth we are all to sleep on these
seats.”

“Six dollars for three berths to-night, and all double up?” Isabel
suggested reflectively.

“Now, never mind glancing over the flesh pots of Egypt, Lady Vanitas,”
Ruth retorted, placidly. “We will hand that same porter some more
quarters, and get pillows and blankets from his private cupboard—”

“Locker,” interrupted Isabel. “I heard him call it that.”

“That is a good plan, Ruth; I’d never thought of it,” Polly exclaimed.
“We haven’t six dollars to spend on berths, goose. We’re self-supporting
globe trotters now.”

When bedtime came, they watched the preparations of others interestedly.
Polly helped put the twins to bed on seats, and even hushed the baby,
while the mother got a chance to go and bathe her warm, dusty face. The
passengers were settling themselves as comfortably as they could for the
night, and good-hearted Ted slipped her pillow to the girl who had been
ill.

“I can double up my coat and make a pillow of it,” she explained, when
Sue discovered what she had done.

It was not nearly so uncomfortable as they had anticipated. As Polly
announced sleepily, “Nothing is ever so bad as you expected it to be,
anyway.” They had taken Jean’s advice, and worn pongee silk waists, that
hardly showed any creases. Before they knew it, the motion of the train
had lulled them all into good healthful slumber.

Jean stayed awake longer than the girls, thinking of the coming vacation
on the ranch, and what it would mean to them. What a surprise it would
be to Mrs. “Sandy,” when they all rode over to the Alameda ranch to
call; girls from her own home town, and Calvert Hall, Virginia. She
wondered what Peggie would think of Polly’s merry club—shy, low-voiced
Peggie, who was shy even with her own family, and only seemed to feel at
ease with dumb animals. Most of all, she thought of her mother, quiet,
and gentle like Peggie, but always the one who saw farthest ahead down
the trail, as Captain Sandy said. She had assented willingly to the
coming of the girls. Practically, it would help Jean, she knew, to have
them with her, and financially it would also benefit the ranch where
every dollar seemed like five, with the growing brood of hearty
youngsters, and never-ending expenses.

“And it will do the poor lassies a deal of good, too, Jeanie,”
she had written East, “just to be seeing how people manage to
live happily and wholesomely away out here in the hill country.
It is not best always to sit on a cushion, and sew a fine seam,
and feed upon strawberries, sugar and cream. How you always
wanted to be Curly Locks when you were a bairnie, though. And
you may be yet. But even if you should you will make a better
mother and wife, dear, for having lived here at the Crossbar
year after year. Bring your Virginia roses out West here, and
we’ll show them prairie flowers, and mountain wild-pinks that
God’s hand tends as lovingly as he does his roses.

“I kiss you good-night, daughter.

“Mother.”

Sometimes, when Jean read over those home letters, it made her more
tender towards Polly, brought up between the Admiral’s happy indulgence
and Aunty Welcome’s frantic admonitions. She looked forward with
interest and some curiosity to watching the effect of life at the
Crossbar on all of the girls, but mostly on Polly herself.

The crying of the baby across the aisle awakened Polly at dawn the next
morning. At first she could hardly think where she was, with the motion
of the train still lulling her, and her body somewhat cramped from the
night’s reclining on the seat.

The other girls were still sleeping, but she met Jean coming from the
wash-room.

“I found out from the conductor that we stop at Fort Wayne long enough
to get some cocoa and fresh fruit, if you girls want it,” Jean told her.
“We can get more in Chicago, when we change cars.”

By the time the train pulled into the Fort Wayne depot, the girls were
dressed and “freshened up,” as Ruth said, and had even helped to
“freshen up” the twins.

“Are you going ’way out to Chicago, too?” asked Sue, of the mother.

“We’re bound farther than that,” she smiled back tiredly. “We’re
homesteaders. My husband is to meet us at Omaha. His health broke down
two years ago at the wood-pulp mills down in Virginia, so he went West,
and took up a claim in Wyoming, and he’s got along so well. First he
stayed out six months, then came back home for the winter, and his
brother worked the claim. Then he went back in April. That’s a year ago.
He hasn’t even seen the baby yet, and she’s so smart! She’s got five
teeth, and can stand all by herself if you just steady her a little
bit.”

“My, won’t he be surprised,” Sue said, happily. “We’re going to Wyoming
too, just for a vacation. We go as far as Deercroft.”

“That’s northeast, isn’t it? Our place is farther along towards Cody.
Seems good to talk to somebody. I haven’t seen a soul I knew since we
left Washington. I’ve enjoyed you girls being so close to me. I like to
hear you all laughing.”

“Don’t you know any one out West here?” Polly leaned forward to say.

“Nobody except my husband and his brother Joe.”

“Aren’t women terribly brave people, Miss Murray?” Ruth said softly,
over in the far seat. “Think of her making this long trip just because
it’s the best thing to do for her husband.”

Jean smiled, and there was a dreamy look in her eyes, as she remembered
tales her own mother had told of the women who followed the long trail
West for love and duty.

“For better, for worse, Ruth,” she quoted, gently.

“Like Miss Diantha,” Ruth replied.

“Mrs. Sandy, you mean. Nobody ever calls her Miss Diantha now.”

“Don’t you suppose it would please her if we did? Maybe she still loves
Queen’s Ferry and the old Hall, Miss Murray.”

“But she loves ‘Sandy’ better, Ruth.”

“Do you know,” interrupted Isabel suddenly. “I don’t think this scenery
is so very different from ours.”

“I do,” Ted said flatly. “There are no blue mountain lines banked up
against the sky, and the earth looks kind of yellow. And where it is dry
it seems very, very dry, and where it is swampy, it is awfully swampy. I
never saw such swampy looking swamp as we passed going through these
Indiana woods.”

“Wait until we find ourselves out in the prairie lands, and the corn
fields rise around for miles and miles, and the wheat looks like a
golden ocean.”

“When will we be there, Miss Murray?”

“When you open your eyes to-morrow morning, and cross Iowa and Nebraska.
We’re cutting across Indiana now, and will reach Chicago about
eleven-twenty.”

“It all seems like a dream,” Polly exclaimed. “Isn’t it queer, the
feeling you have when things come true that you’ve always hoped might? I
love to talk to Mrs. Timony—that’s the mother of the twins, you know.”

“We didn’t know. Thank you, Polly,” murmured Sue. “Doesn’t it just suit
the twins? What are their names? I’ve been calling them Sis and Buddy
ever since we left Washington.”

“Name’s Lafayette,” explained the boy twin, soberly. “Her name’s
Columbia,” pointing a moist forefinger at his sister.

“They sort of went together,” Mrs. Timony said, peacefully. “But we do
call them Sis and Buddy ’most all the time. The baby’s name’s just
Faith.”

“I like that,” Ruth put in gravely. “I think people should be careful
how they name children. Suppose one of the twins got on a track, and you
wanted to call it away quickly. How could you say, ‘Come, Lafayette,
Lafayette, Lafayette!’ It would be run over before any one could get the
name all out. A short name is much better.”

“Maybe, but it’s something to have a name to live up to,” answered
little Mrs. Timony, smiling restfully.

“She won’t mind living out on a new three hundred and sixty acre claim,”
Miss Murray said, as they watched the little mother stroll down the
aisle, when the train halted at a station. “She will take a world of
comfort out of sentiment, girls. She will forget entirely the bother
little Buddy is, as she thinks what sort of a State Senator he’ll be
when he grows up. It’s beautiful to be built like that.”

Isabel had struck up a pleasant friendship with the invalid girl, who
was bound for Colorado, and was to change cars at Omaha. Isabel promised
to help her with her two suit-cases, when they reached Chicago, and Sue
said she would carry Isabel’s in exchange.

“Why do the little pools of water, and even the brooks, look blue and
purple along the edges?” asked Ted, who spent most of the time looking
out of the window. “They look like a gas flame.”

“We are getting into the gas country, Ted,” Jean said. “Gas and oil
wells stretch all along this northern edge of Indiana and Illinois. If
it were night, you would see the huge oil torches blazing here and there
in the darkness like the old Roman flambeaux. Wait till you see the Big
Sea Water to the north in a little while.”

“Lake Michigan?” Sue asked, eagerly. “That was what Hiawatha’s people
called it, wasn’t it? Oh, Polly, that makes me think, are you sure you
can buy those Indian baskets and things for Mrs. Yates up where we are
going?”

“Probably not around us,” Jean replied, when Polly had explained. “We
have no near-by Indian villages. You know that is all done away with
now, girls. You are coming to the new West. But Sally Lost Moon will
know about it. She is our cook at the ranch, and is an old Shoshone
squaw. Our Wyoming tribes are not as artistic as the Adirondack Indians
and the Navajos, but we may find some good bead work. It was nice of her
to offer, was it not, girls?”

“She is interested in us because she used to be a Calvert girl herself.”

“But, Polly,” protested Ted, suddenly, “she must be about forty. Maybe
she knew Miss Diantha Calvert.”

Jean laughed.

“You girls will persist in weaving a romance and a mystery about Mrs.
Sandy, and I honestly think the only trouble is her marrying a westerner
against her sister’s wishes.”

“There’s more than that,” Polly declared, over the curly tousled hair of
Columbia. “I’m going to find out.”

“You won’t from Mrs. Sandy,” Jean said. “She’s a Calvert, you must
remember, and they never tell secrets.”

“But I’ll find out from Mr. Sandy himself,” Polly returned buoyantly.

Chicago was reached and passed almost before the girls realized it.
There was the first vivid flash of the blue waters of Lake Michigan, and
its flat, rockless beaches, with bunches of willow and sand-cherry trees
here and there, and patches of the tall, sharp-pointed sword grass. Then
they slipped into the city, and there came the rush and jostle of crowds
at the changing of trains. Isabel helped her invalid girl, and Polly and
Ruth were with Mrs. Timony and the babies, and Sue and Ted helped the
excited old lady who wasn’t sure whether her son Dan lived at Keokuk or
Osceola.

“It must be Osceola,” declared Sue, finally, “because Keokuk’s the other
way.”

“Ain’t any business a-livin’ in any such outlandish place anyhow,”
declared Dan’s mother, stoutly, as she fanned herself, and smelled at a
bottle of lavender salts. “And he should have met me here too. He never
did have any consideration for his mother.”

“Didn’t you say you were going out to live with him?” asked Ted.
“Doesn’t that prove he loves his mother?”

“Well, mebbe it does. Danny’s sort of pindling in small matters, and
rises to the heights in others. You can depend on him. I guess it was
Osceola, after all. He wrote it down for me. It’s in that handbag—no,
’tain’t. It’s in that basket, or—, wait, here it is right in my
pocketbook. Osceola. Kind of a pretty name, ain’t it, now?”

“Girls, you must make haste,” called Miss Murray, and they hurried the
old lady on her journey, while all she did was talk about Danny at
Osceola, and alternately blame and praise him.

“It looks as if all Illinois were turned into corn and wheat fields,”
said Polly, that afternoon, after miles and miles of the tender green,
and beautiful, feathery corn tassels had been passed. “There’s so much
of the same thing on one place out West here, isn’t there, Miss Murray?”

“Now, girls, isn’t that just like Polly!” laughed Jean.

“But I mean it. Down in Virginia the land is in patches. A corn field
here, over there rye, and then a break of woodland. But out here it’s
all the same thing for miles and miles.”

“Polly Page,” exclaimed Ted suddenly, coming back from the water cooler
at the end of the car, “I’ve just been talking to the conductor, and he
says that we took on three coaches of real homeseekers in Chicago. I
didn’t know that. I’d love to see them.”

“There’s nothing to see, Ted, dear,” Jean told her. “If we could look in
the hearts and read the stories there, it would be worth while, but this
way you’d only see a lot of ordinary travelers.”

“Aren’t they immigrants?”

“Immigrants? Ted! How much you girls have to learn. I don’t know how I
can tell it to you in a few words, but if you had lived out in a large,
new, unsettled State, you would know that the hope of its future lies in
its blessed homeseekers. Where do they come from? Where don’t they, you
mean, Polly. They are people who really need a home, who love the open,
and the new land, and the chance of making good, as we say out West
here. It is hard for you who have lived in the old States to get that
point of view, but there lives to-day in the hearts and souls of our
western homeseekers the essence of the old pioneer spirit.”

“Are they farmers?” asked Ruth practically.

“Farmers! Oh, Ruth, listen. Father and Arch and myself were at the great
land-drawing in South Dakota, several years ago, and I wish you could
have seen the ‘nesters’ then. A little girl like my sister Peggie drew
the numbers, and I know a young girl got the best of the lot. Up in our
section even, there is one school-teacher from New York State, who is
making a success out of her homestead. Her mother and two younger
sisters are with her. Right next to her is old Rattlesnake Bill Perkins.
He used to be a scout, and then a trapper, in the old days. Now, he has
settled down, and has a sugar-beet farm, and is raising sheep too.”

“Seems to me as if out West here, you never stop to fret,” Polly
exclaimed. “When one thing changes, you just change too.”

“We have to, or be left behind in the race,” said Jean simply. “But
we’re all of us pretty wide awake, Polly. We have not had time to sleep
as much as you do when in the Old Dominion.”

It was the next day when they began to see hills, and even before the
gray and violet shadows along the western horizon took shape, the train
turned into the rolling prairie land. For miles there was not a single
tree; nothing but the limitless, billowy sea of sunburnt yellow grass,
with now and then a bleaching skull. Sometimes, they would pass a
grazing herd, with a solitary figure on horseback. If it happened to be
a boy, he would rise in the stirrups, and let out a whoop of welcome at
the train as it flashed by.

The towns seemed like villages, so small were the houses, and all of
wood, and brightly painted. “Like Noah’s Ark towns,” Ted said,
laughingly. Even the trees looked new and precise, set out along the
newly paved streets. But finally, the shadows that trailed low like
clouds took form, and here and there a cone separated itself from the
mass, only to be lost again in the blue distances.

Mr. Timony joined his family at Omaha. He was a tall, lean, sunburnt
looking man, with happy eyes, and a habit of rubbing his bare chin. The
baby seemed to know her father by instinct, and Mrs. Timony was like a
busy mother robin, showing off her brood.

The invalid girl got off at Omaha, to change for the Colorado line, and
Isabel made her promise to let them know how she progressed. At Osceola,
Sue and Ted helped their charge off the train with all her bundles and
satchels, and she landed plump into Danny’s arms. Danny turned out to be
about forty, and weighed over two hundred pounds.

“Oh, Miss Murray, aren’t real people splendid?” Ted said, finally. “I
think they’re more account than anything else. They’re books and music
and everything, all at once. I’ve had so much fun on this trip, just
getting acquainted, and being interested.”

“Have you, Ted?” Jean smiled. “That’s because you have found out what my
mother calls the brotherhood of common folks. She says that when life is
all sifted down, we’re only a lot of little children holding hands, and
we must hold tight, or the next one to us falls down.”

“An endless chain of kindness,” Ruth added.

The lamps in the tourist car were being lighted. It was their last night
on the train. Outside, the country looked bare and scorched. Ted stared
out thoughtfully. And Polly began to sing softly under her breath.

“Guide me, oh, thou great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land,
I am weak, but thou art mighty,
Hold me in thy powerful hand.”

“That should be the homeseekers’ hymn, I think,” said Isabel; “that, and
‘Lead, Kindly Light.’”

“I like ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers’ better,” said Ted. “It must take a
lot of courage and hope to come out here and start all over again.”

“Faith, most of all, Ted,” Jean put in. “Mother says she used up pecks
of mustard seed before she caught sight of the promise fulfilled. That’s
a parable, so don’t look puzzled, Sue. But to those who really love it
and believe in it, our new West is more than a promised land. It is like
a great, brooding motherland, I think.”

“The twins are crying,” broke in Polly. “Let’s put them to sleep, girls.
It’s our last chance. Come on, Buddy boy.”

Buddy trotted across the aisle sleepily, and Ruth held out her arms to
Columbia.

“That’s real neighborly, thanks,” said Mr. Timony, with his slow,
surprised smile, and he settled back for a quiet chat with the baby’s
mother.

“It’s fun being neighborly, isn’t it, Polly?” Ruth said under her
breath. Polly only looked her answer. She had had more fun being
neighborly on this trip West as a second-class tourist than ever before.
She wondered what Aunty Welcome and the Admiral would say if they could
have seen her now.

“We reach Deercroft at four forty-five,” Jean had said; but long before
the scheduled time, suit-cases were strapped and waiting, and hats
pinned in place, while the girls watched from the open windows eagerly,
as the train swung out over the broad stretches of land.

“Who was it said, ‘My heart loves wide horizons’?” Ruth asked once.
“They’re out here, aren’t they, Miss Murray? I just think we’ve caught
up with one range of hills, and we make a turn and find a lot more
waiting for us.”

Now, it was long, swinging miles of rolling land without a living thing
in sight; then suddenly they would pass a hill-slope covered with masses
of sheep, yellow and gray like time-worn rocks, and as motionless,
apparently. Then again, the train would dip into a bit of sparse
woodland, unlike the forests back in Virginia. As Polly said, the trees
out here all looked lonesome.

“They don’t seem to be friendly, or even related to each other. Each has
its own little patch of earth, and stands alone.”

“I think they are all settlers,” Ruth declared.

“How far must we travel after we reach Deercroft?” asked Ted. Jean
smiled and shook her head.

“Miles, and miles, Ted. We won’t be home before ten anyway, and perhaps
it will be later. The roads are dry and good, and father or Don will
meet us with the surrey, or maybe with two teams. It’s moonlight, too.
You don’t know how near the sky seems out here in Wyoming; the night
sky, I mean, when the moon shines, and you are driving. Here we are.”
She leaned forward suddenly, her gray eyes alight with happiness and
expectancy. The train was approaching Deercroft. Lying in the valley
below them was the little town. It looked small and barren, somehow, to
the girls, accustomed as they were to the Virginia towns with their
backgrounds of abundant verdure and foliage. But there was little time
for any fixed impression. Before they fully realized that the journey
was at an end, they were standing on the platform, and the westbound
train was giving out its final call as it slipped through the hill break
on its way to far Vancouver.

Jean marshaled her forces and the suit-cases, but before she had a
chance to look around, there was a rush of somebody right into the midst
of the little group, somebody who fairly flung herself on Jean, and held
her in a royal bear hug.

“Jeanie, Jeanie, you dear old sis. Father and Don are here too. They had
to hold the ponies. When the train came through the cut, they danced
right up in the air,” she explained, too excited to be explicit.

“Girls, this is Peggie,” Jean said, as soon as she could get in a word.
“Polly, Sue, Ruth, Isabel, and Ted, Peggie. You must pick them out for
yourself, and get acquainted.”

“I’m glad to see you,” Peggie said, smiling rather shyly at the girls.
She seemed like Jean at first sight, with her gray eyes, and quick
smile, but her hair was short and curly and brown. “Jeanie’s stopping to
say hello to Jim Handy, the station agent,” she added presently. “Let’s
go to father.” She led the way around to the far side of the small pine
depot, where two teams waited with a couple of ponies to each.

“These are Jeanie’s girl friends, father,” she said, happily. “Polly and
Sue and Ruth and Ted and Isabel.”

“How could you remember our names so soon?” Ted asked impulsively.

“I’ve known them for a long time from Jean’s letters. I know the names,
but I can’t fit them right yet.”

This made them all laugh, and Mr. Murray beamed down on the little group
with a broad smile of welcome. He was tall and broad-shouldered, with a
lean, tanned face, and eyes that twinkled out at the world from under
shaggy brows.

“We’re mighty pleased to see you up in this corner of the land,” he
said, heartily. “Where’s Jeanie, Peg? Whoa, there, Clip. Don, lad, put
the suit-cases under the seats.”

“They’re both of them talking to the boys with Jim, father,” Peggie
declared. “Jean’s holding a reception of honor.”

“She always does,” replied her father comfortably, lifting in the
baggage himself. “She has the ‘come hither’ in her eye. Like this lass.”
He smiled down on Polly’s eager, upturned face. “You needn’t blush over
it, either, for it’s nothing one can be acquiring, nor can one say
‘shall one have it, or not.’ It’s born in some. Where I came from, in
the north isles, they call it the kiss o’ the sun. Don, will you be
coming soon?”

“He’s shy of the girls, maybe,” Peggie said merrily.

But just then Jean and Don, her youngest brother, came towards them. He
was about fifteen, this tall, overgrown brother of hers, with a boyish,
tanned face, and bright blue eyes. And Jean, knowing how embarrassed he
was before this group of smiling Eastern girls, introduced him with a
general motion of her hand.

“Girls, this is Don.”

“Are you all dressed warmly enough for the drive?” asked Mr. Murray.
“There are blankets in the back of the wagons if we need them. It gets
pretty cool as we go higher into the hills after dark. Your mother put
in a lot of stuff to eat, Jeanie. She thought maybe you’d all be starved
out by the time you got here. I had hard work keeping it for you,
though. We left home about eight this morning, and Don and Peg almost
finished it.”

“Don’t you believe him, Jeanie,” Peggie protested. “We had our own
lunch.”

“Wasn’t it thoughtful and dear of mother to remember lunch?” Jean said.
“Indeed, we will enjoy it. I am the only one who brought a trunk along,
father. Can we take that with us, now?”

“I’m thinking we’ll leave it for Archie to bring up with him. He’ll be
home day after to-morrow. We’ve got all we can manage to-night for the
horses. Jeanie, you climb up beside Don, and I’ll take Peggie with me.
Let three of the young ladies go with you, and we’ll take a couple and
the suit-cases. Look after those groceries at your feet, Jeanie, or the
mother’ll be having something to say to you if you spill out her sugar
and oats.”

Laughing and calling to each other, the girls finally were packed away
safely in the two wagons, and away they went, the ponies shaking their
heads, and “sneezing,” as Peggie said, as they cut out of town into the
open country.

“We have seventeen miles ahead of us,” Jean said. “Better take off your
hats, and settle down to enjoy the drive.”

The girls took the suggestion, and, bareheaded, let the soft night
breeze blow in their faces. Deercroft lay in the valley, and the road
northward climbed the hills. Jean was busy talking to Don, not with him,
but at him, as Polly said afterwards. Nobody ever really talked with
Don, for he had nothing to say; but he was a splendid listener, and
would smile, and nod his head, until you felt that he agreed with you
perfectly. It was easy to see what close friends the two were. Polly,
Sue and Ted were in the same wagon with them, so they could laugh and
listen too.

“How fast the ponies go,” said Ruth, in the forward team.

“They know they’re homeward bound,” Mr. Murray returned. “Wait till you
see them with Archie’s hand on them. He’s broken in nearly all of them.
I suppose you’ll be riding, before many days. You will if you’re like
our girls. Has Jeanie told you of the day she rode from Pegtop Mountain
down to the ranch to give the alarm? No? I’ll wager not. She isn’t the
kind to go about telling of her doings, and praising herself. Pegtop
lies around yon knuckle.” He pointed with the whip at a jut of hillside
ahead. “You’ll see it when we turn eastward again. The sheep grazed on
that upper range those days, and we have no forest rangers up in our
corner of the state. If there’s trouble in the hills, we get out and do
our own fighting. This day in September, I know, it was dry as codfish,
in the hills. The grass was burnt low, and every twig ready for the
snapping. Somehow Pegtop caught fire on its southern slope, midway up
where the spruces commence to fringe it. And around on its other side I
had eight hundred or so sheep, and only one herder to the lot. Jeanie
was a lass of fifteen then, about like this young lady,” pointing to
Isabel. “The boys were helping me down in the valley, and she started
out for a ride over Pegtop, and found the fire creeping through the
brush. Have you ever seen one? No? First there’s the smell of it, and
you can’t seem to find out where it belongs. Then you see the thin white
streaks of smoke curl up and settle in a cloud above the spot, and you
don’t waste time then.”

“But, what could you do way out here without anything to fight fire
with, Mr. Murray?” asked Isabel.

“Do, lass? We did what we could, and no one can do more. Jeanie came
riding back. You should have seen her, riding astride and laying over
the pony’s neck like a slip of an Indian boy. Neil and myself went back
when we heard her news.”

“To stop the fire?” asked Ruth.

He shook his head.

“To save the sheep, lass. We had no time to stop the fire. We rode
straight around the crag there, and up to the hill range where the sheep
were, then drove them down into the coulee, the cut in the hills, mind,
and so to the valley.”

“And the fire just burned until it stopped of itself?” asked Ruth,
again. “Think of all the young trees, and everything.”

“Ay, and we do think too, about it,” smiled back the old rancher,
grimly. “My second lad, Archie, will be a ranger, some day. He’s swift
after that sort of thing. Jean’s glad too. She’s like her mother. I can
see my day’s work before me, and do it, but Mrs. Murray and Jeanie look
out to the hill views, I’m thinking, and they see what the next
generation will demand from us.”

“I know,” Ruth exclaimed, eagerly. “Miss Murray has told us that, too;
how each of us adds our own little part to the building of the ages, and
if it is weak, then the others suffer, more than we do, even.”

“That’s Jeanie,” he nodded his head slowly. “And it is a good builder
she is herself.”

“Girls,” called Jean from the team behind them. “When we turn to the
right next time, it’s the home road, and it used to be an old Indian
trail, didn’t it, father?”

“Sandy will be telling them all about those things,” her father replied.
“I’m a new settler when he’s about. I’ve only been here thirty years,
and he came in the days of the gold digging up in the Hills. He was a
scout with Custer, and long before. Get him well started any night, by
the camp fire or just on the doorstoop with a good pipeful of tobacco,
and it’s no sleep you’ll have for hours. He holds the stories of these
hill ranges and mountain tops in his hand, and he loves a good audience,
Sandy does.”

“Sandy? That is Miss Diantha’s husband, isn’t it?” asked Isabel.

“He is Mrs. Sandy’s husband, nowadays,” replied Mr. Murray, smilingly.
“Nobody calls her anything but that. Mother told her you’d be coming out
to us, and she will drive over next week some day. Ready for the
fording, Don?”

“Ready, dad,” answered Don, and the ponies hit the down trail with a
clattering of the swinging shafts and a thud of hoofs, as though they,
too, enjoyed what lay ahead of them.

Every one of the girls gave a gasp of admiration and quick surprise, as
the creek came in sight, winding, twisting here and there among the
rocks. Before they knew what was coming, they were deep into it, up to
the hubs, and more too.

“Oh, this is nothing,” laughed Jean, as they all called out, and held
tightly to the seats. “We’ve been through here when the water surged up
through the floor of the wagon, haven’t we, father?”

“Don’t be boasting that way, lass,” Mr. Murray called back to her, his
gray eyes full of mirth. “Or I’ll be telling of the night when Neil and
I left the wagon behind, and swam with the pony to the other side.”

“Father never likes to have me tell a bigger story than he can,” Jean
exclaimed, merrily. They came up out of the water, the ponies with
dripping flanks, and swung away again on the home road. This led more
through the valleys, and was easier to travel. Once in a while they made
a turn that brought out new vistas of beauty, quick glimpses into
gullies, and deep, low stretches that were, as Jean said, almost like
Scottish moorland. The sun vanished behind a distant range of mountains,
lying like heaped up clouds against the western sky, and as the twilight
deepened, the girls stopped their talk back and forth, for they began to
feel the fatigue of the long journey.

“If Crullers were here now, she would fall sound asleep,” Sue said,
sleepy herself.

“You will all feel sleepy until you get used to the air here,” Jean told
her. “We are at a very high altitude, and the air is dry and clear. It
will make you feel drowsy for a while.”

“It doesn’t make me feel that way, Miss Murray,” protested Polly,
quickly. “It just makes me want to get out and run, and run. I love it
all so.”

Peggie glanced at her with her quick, sideways smile of sympathy, over
her shoulder.

“I love it too,” she said. “Do you like animals?”

“Dearly,” Polly answered. “You should see my dog, old Tan, and the cats.
That is all I have, but I love them.”

“Maybe you’ll take more back home when you go,” said Peggie, seriously.
“I’ll show you how to make them like you. And I think they would like
you, and Ruth here too.”

“Why not us?” asked Ted.

“You’re too quick to move,” said Peggie, gently. “If you want animals
and birds to like you, you have to keep quiet.”

“But I’m not quiet, Peggie,” protested Polly. “You don’t know what a
flutterfly I am. That’s what my grandfather calls me, and he’s right.”

“But you don’t make a noise about it,” said Peggie. “I’ll show you what
I mean when we get home.”

It was dark when they reached the ranch, but the moon was clear and
cloudless overhead, with the stars about it like sheep, as Ruth said.
All at once Don lifted his head, and smiled, and spoke for the first
time during the long, weary drive.

“We’re home, Jeanie.”

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