Anna Fuller.

Peak and prairie; from a Colorado sketch-book online

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lifted his own as he mentioned his wife's name. Waldo Kean did not
perhaps realize that the education he was so ambitious of achieving was
begun then and there.

The shapeless old hat once off, he did not find it easy to put it on
again, and, as Mrs. Dayton leaned forward with extended hand, he stopped
to tuck the battered bundle of felt into his pocket before clasping the
bit of dainty kid she held out to him.

She was already speaking, and, strangely enough, there was something in
her voice which made him think of his mother's as it had sounded just
before it broke into that pathetic little sob.

"There is so little good in talking about what a person feels," she was
saying; "that I'm not going to try." Yes, the little break in the voice
was something he had heard but once in his life before; yet nothing
could have been less like his mother than the expressive young face
bending toward him.

The great half-civilized boy took one look at the face, and all his
self-consciousness vanished.

"I guess anybody 'd like to do you a good turn!" he declared boldly, as
he loosed the small gloved hand from the big clutch he had given it. The
charming face flushed as warmly as if it had never been complimented

"Are you going to stay in Springtown?" its owner asked.

"I'm going to the college," the young geologist answered proudly.

"Then you'd better let us have your pack," said Dayton. "We can do that
much for you! There's lots of room in back here."

Waldo hesitated; he was used to carrying his own burdens. But Dayton
had hold of the pack, and it seemed to find its own way into the buggy.

"There! That will ride nicely," said Dayton. "Now I suppose we may call
ourselves quits?" and he glanced quizzically at the boy who had clearly
missed the amiable satire of the suggestion.

The two walked on together for some time, keeping close beside the
buggy. The horses were perfectly docile now that no one seemed disposed
to fly at their heads. Waldo began to feel that he had really been
needlessly violent with them in that first encounter. He pulled out his
hat and put it on again.

They had come to the narrowest and most stupendous part of the pass, and
Waldo, now wonderfully at his ease, had broached the subject of the
Notch. He was astonished to find how conversible these new acquaintances
were. They proved much easier to talk with than his ranch neighbors whom
he had known all his life. And, better still, they knew a surprising lot
about minerals and flowers and things of that sort, that were but sticks
and stones to his small world at home.

When, at last, these very remarkable and well-informed people drove
away, and he watched their buggy disappearing down the pass, he found
himself possessed of a new and inspiring faith in the approachableness
of the great world he was about to confront. He had rather expected to
deal with it with hammer and pick, - to wrest the gold of experience from
the hardest and flintiest bedrock; and all at once he felt as if he had
struck a great "placer" with nuggets of the most agreeable description
lying about, ready to his hand!

As he reflected upon these things, the pass was opening out into a
curious, cup-shaped valley, crowded with huge hotels and diminutive
cottages of more or less fantastic architecture, clustering in the
valley, climbing the hills, perching on jutting rocks and overhanging
terraces. Waldo knew the secret of this startling outcrop of human
enterprise. He knew that here, in this populous nook, were hidden
springs of mineral waters, bubbling and sparkling up from the caverns of
the earth. He found his way to one of the springs, where he took a long,
deep draught of the tingling elixir, speculating the while, as to its
nature and source. Then on he went, refreshed and exhilarated.

A few miles of dusty highway brought him at last within the borders of
classic Springtown, classic in its significance to him, as the
elm-embowered shades of Cambridge or New Haven to the New England boy at
home. As he entered upon the broad Western Avenue, the declining sun had
nearly touched the great Peak, its long, level rays striking a perfect
glory across the boughs of the cottonwood trees shining in the height of
their yellow autumn splendor. They arched the walk he trod, and
stretched to the northward, a marvellous golden vista, as brilliant as
the promise of the future itself. There were fine residences on either
side of the avenue, finer than anything the ranch boy had ever dreamed
of, while off to the west stretched the line of mountains, transfigured
in the warm afternoon light. But all the boy could see or think of was
that golden vista, stretching before him to the very portals of the
house of learning.

And presently, along this glorified path, a man approached, and as the
two came face to face, he stopped before the boy and called him by

[Illustration: A GOLDEN VISTA.]

The whole situation was so wonderful, - so magical it seemed to Waldo in
the exaltation of the moment, - that he did not pause to consider how his
name should be known to a chance passer-by; and when the stranger went
on to give his own name, and it was the name of the college president,
the boy accepted the fact that dreams come true, and only held his head
a little higher and trod the path a little more firmly, as he walked
beside the president under the yellow cottonwoods.

"I came out to meet you," the president was saying, in a big, friendly
voice. "I heard you were coming, and I thought we might talk things over
a bit on the way."

They chatted a little of the boy's plans and resources, of the classes
he was to enter, and of what he might accomplish in his college course;
and then they came out from under the trees, and found themselves upon
the college campus. A game of football was going on there, the figures
of the players fairly irradiated in the golden light which fell aslant
the great open space, touching the scant yellowish grass into a play of
shimmering color. They stood a moment, while the president pointed out
to Waldo the different college buildings. Then: -

"I have something pleasant to tell you," his companion remarked, with a
glance at the strong eager face of the boy. "The college has just had
the gift of a scholarship."

"I'm glad of that," said Waldo, heartily, finding a cheerful omen in
the fact that the day was an auspicious one for others beside himself.

"The gift is a sort of thank-offering," he heard his new friend say;
"from a man who fell in with _you_ - up in the pass this afternoon!"

The boy's face went crimson at the words, but he only fixed his eyes the
more intently upon the football players, as if his destiny had depended
upon the outcome of the game.

"The scholarship is the largest we have;" - he heard the words
distinctly, but they struck him as coming from quite a long distance.
"It is to be called - _the Waldo Kean Scholarship!_"

The Waldo Kean Scholarship! How well that sounded! What a good,
convincing ring it had, as if it had been intended from the very
beginning of things!

He stood silent a moment, pondering it, while the president waited for
him to speak; and as he watched the field the football players seemed to
mingle and vanish from sight like shadows in a dream, while in their
place a certain tall angular form stood out, loose-jointed, somewhat
bent, yet full of character and power. All the splendor of the setting
sun centred upon that rugged vision, that yet did not bate one jot of
its homely reality.

And the boy, lifting his head with a proud gesture, and with a
straightening of the whole figure, looked the president in the face and
said: "_That is my father's name!_"

They started to cross the campus, where the football players were once
more in possession. The sun had dropped behind the Peak, and the glory
was fading from the face of the earth; but to Waldo Kean, walking side
by side with the college president, the world was alight with the rays
of a sun whose setting was yet a long way off; and the golden vista he
beheld before him was nothing less than the splendid illimitable
future, - the future of the New West, which was to be his by right of


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Online LibraryAnna FullerPeak and prairie; from a Colorado sketch-book → online text (page 19 of 19)