Henry Herbert Knibbs.

Jim Waring of Sonora-Town Tang of Life online

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"Well, I'm goin' to - before ma comes. Dog-gone it! You know how it is
tryin' to explain things to a woman. Wimmin don't understand them kind
of things."

"I don't know about that, Lorry."

Lorry nodded. "I tell you, dad - you kind of set a pace for me. And I
figure I don't want folks to say: 'There goes Jim Waring's boy.' If
they're goin' to say anything, I want it to be: 'There goes Lorry
Waring.'"

Waring knew that kind of pride if he knew anything. He was proud of his
son. And Waring's most difficult task was to keep from influencing him
in any way. He wanted the boy to feel free to do as he thought best.

"You were in that fight at Sterling," said Waring, gesturing toward the
south.

"But that was different," said Lorry. "Them coyotes was pluggin' at us,
and we just nacherally had to let 'em have it. And besides we was
workin' for the law."

"I understand there wasn't any law in Sterling About that time."

"Well, we made some," asserted Lorry.

"And that's just what this war means. It's being fought to make law."

"Then I'm for the law every time, big or little. I seen enough of that
other thing."

"Think it over, Lorry. Remember, you're free to do as you want to. I
have made my offer. Then there is your mother - and the girl. It looks as
though you had your hands full."

"You bet! Business and war and - and Dorothy is a right big order. I'm
gettin' a headache thinkin' of it!"

Waring rose. "I'm going to turn in. I have to live pretty close to the
clock these days."

"See you in the mornin'," said Lorry, giving his hand. "Good-night,
dad."

"Good-night, boy."




CHAPTER XXXV


_The High Trail_


Black-edged against the silvery light of early dawn the rim of the world
lay dotted with far buttes and faint ranges fading into the spaces of
the north and south. The light deepened and spread to a great crimson
pool, tideless round the bases of magic citadels and mighty towers.
Golden minarets thrust their slender, fiery shafts athwart the wide
pathway of the ascending sun. The ruddy glow palpitated like a live
ember naked to the wind. The nearer buttes grew boldly beautiful. Slowly
their molten outlines hardened to rigid bronze. Like ancient castles of
some forgotten land, isolated in the vast mesa, empty of life, they
seemed to await the coming of a host that would reshape their fallen
arches and their wind-worn towers to old-time splendor, and perfect
their imageries.

But the marching sun knew no such sentiment. Pitilessly he pierced their
enchanted walls, discovering their pretense, burning away their shadowy
glory, baring them for what they were - masses of jumbled rock and
splintered spires; rain-gutted wraiths of clay, volcanic rock, the
tumbled malpais and the tufa of the land.

Black shadows shifted. That which had been the high-arched entrance to
a mighty fortress was now a shallow hollow in a hill. Here and there on
the western slope of the mounds cattle grazed in the chill morning air.
Enchantments of the dawn reshaped themselves to local landmarks.

From his window Lorry could discern the distant peak of Mount Baldy
glimmering above the purple sea of forest. Not far below the peak lay
the viewless level of the Blue Mesa. The trail ran just below that patch
of quaking asp.

The hills had never seemed so beautiful, nor had the still mesas,
carpeted with the brown stubble of the close-cropped bunch-grass.

Arizona was his country - his home. And yet he had heard folk say that
Arizona was a desert, But then such folk had been interested chiefly in
guide-posts of the highways or the Overland dining-car menu.

And he had been offered a fair holding in this land - twenty thousand
acres under fence on a long-term lease; a half-interest in the cattle
and their increase. He would be his own man, with a voice in the
management and sale of the stock. A year or two and he could afford to
marry - if Dorothy would have him. He thought she would. And to keep in
good health she must always live in the West. What better land than
Arizona, on the high mesa where the air was clean and clear; where the
keen August rains refreshed the sunburned grasses; where the light
snows of winter fell but to vanish in the retrieving sun? If Dorothy
loved this land, why should she leave it? Surely health meant more to
her than the streets and homes of the East?

And Lorry had asked nothing of fortune save a chance to make good. And
fortune had been more than kind to him. He realized that it was through
no deliberate effort of his own that he had acquired the opportunity
which offered. Why not take advantage of it? It would give him prestige
with Bronson. A good living, a good home for her. Such luck didn't come
to a man's door every day.

He had slept soundly that night, despite his intent to reason with
himself. It was morning, and he had made no decision - or so he thought.
There was the question of enlisting. Many of his friends had already
gone. Older men were now riding the ranges. Even the clerk in the
general store at Stacey's had volunteered. And Lorry had considered him
anything but physically competent to "make a fight." But it wasn't all
in making a fight. It was setting an example of loyalty and
unselfishness to those fellows who needed such an impulse to stir them
to action. Lorry thought clearly. And because he thought clearly and for
himself, he realized that he, as an individual soldier in the Great War,
would amount to little; but he knew that his going would affect others;
that the mere news of his having gone would react as a sort of endless
chain reaching to no one knew what sequestered home.

And this, he argued, was his real value: the spirit ever more potent
than the flesh. Why, he had heard men joke about this war! It was a long
way from home. What difference did it make to them if those people over
there were being starved, outraged, murdered? That was their own
lookout. Friends of his had said that they were willing to fight to a
finish if America were threatened with invasion, but that could never
happen. America was the biggest and richest country in the world. She
attended to her own business and asked nothing but that the other
nations do likewise.

And those countries over there were attending to their own business. If
our ships were blown up, it was our own fault. We had been warned.
Anyway, the men who owned those ships were out to make money and willing
to take a chance. It wasn't our business to mix in. We had troubles
enough at home. As Lorry pondered the shallow truths a great light came
to him. "_Troubles enough at home_," that was it! America had already
been invaded, yet men slumbered in fancied security. He had been at
Sterling -

Lorry could hear Ramon stirring about in the kitchen. The rhythmically
muffled sound suggested the mixing of flapjacks. Lorry could smell the
thin, appetizing fragrance of coffee.

With characteristic abruptness, he made his decision, but with no
spoken word, no gesture, no emotion. He saw a long day's work before
him. He would tackle it like a workman.

And immediately he felt buoyantly himself again. The matter was settled.

He washed vigorously. The cold water brought a ruddy glow to his face.
He whistled as he strode to the kitchen. He slapped the gentle-eyed
Ramon on the shoulder. Pancake batter hissed as it slopped over on the
stove.

"Cheer up, amigo!" he cried! "Had a good look at the sun this mornin'?"

"No, señor. I have made the breakfast, si."

"Well, she's out there, shinin' right down on Arizona."

"The señora?" queried Ramon, puzzled.

"No; the sun. Don't a mornin' like this make you feel like jumpin' clean
out of your boots and over the fence?"

"Not until I have made the flapcake, Señor Lorry."

"Well, go the limit. Guess I'll roust out dad."

* * * * *

Bud Shoop scowled, perspired, and swore. Bondsman, close to Shoop's
chair, blinked and lay very still. His master was evidently beyond any
proffer of sympathy or advice. Yet he had had no argument with any one
lately. And he had eaten a good breakfast. Bondsman knew that. Whatever
the trouble might be, his master had not consulted him about it. It was
evidently a matter that dogs could not understand, and hence, very
grave. Bondsman licked his chops nervously. He wanted to go out and lie
in the sunshine, but he could not do that while his master suffered such
tribulation of soul. His place was close to his master now, if ever.

Around Shoop were scattered pieces of paper; bits of letters written and
torn up.

"It's a dam' sight worse resignin' than makin' out my application - and
that was bad enough," growled Shoop. "But I got to do this personal.
This here pen is like a rabbit gone loco. Now, here I set like a bag of
beans, tryin' to tell John Torrance why I'm quittin' this here job
without makin' him think I'm glad to quit - which I am, and I ain't. It's
like tryin' to split a flea's ear with a axe; it can't be did without
mashin' the flea. Now, if John was here I could tell him in three jumps.
The man that invented writin' must 'a' been tongue-tied or had sore
throat some time when he wanted to talk awful bad. My langwidge ain't
broke to pull no city rig - or no hearse. She's got to have the road and
plenty room to sidestep.

"Now, how would I say it if John were here? Would I start off with 'Dear
John' or 'Dear Old Friend'? I reckon not. I'd just say: 'John, I'm goin'
to quit. I tried to do by you what I said I would. I got a chanct to
bust into the State House, and I got a good reason for bustin' in. I
been nominated for Senator, and I got to live up to the name. I'm
a-goin' to run for Senator - and mebby I'll keep on when I get started,
and end up somewhere in Mexico. I can't jine the reg'lars account of my
physical expansibility and my aige, so I got to do my fightin' to home.
I'm willin' to stick by this job if you say the word. Mebby some folks
would be dissap'inted, but I can stand that if they can. What do you
reckon I better do?'

"Now, that's what I'd say if John was here. Why in tarnation can't I say
it on paper? Lemme see."

Bud filled a sheet with his large, outdoor script. When he had finished,
he tucked the letter in an envelope hurriedly. He might reconsider his
attempt if he re-read the letter.

He was carefully directing the envelope when Lorry strode in.

'"Bout time you showed up," said Shoop.

Lorry dropped his hat on the floor and pulled up a chair. He was a bit
nervous. Preamble would make him more so. He spoke up quickly.

"Bud, I want to resign."

"Uh-uh. You tired of this job?"

"Nope; I like it."

"Want more pay?"

"No; I get all I'm worth."

"Ain't you feelin' well?"

"Bully! I'm going to enlist."

"Might 'a' knowed it," said Bud, leaning back and gazing at the newly
addressed envelope on his desk. "Got your reports all in?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, seem' you're quittin' for the best reason I know, I'm right glad.
You done your work like I expected. Your mother knows you're goin' to
jine the army?"

"I told her yesterday. I've been at the ranch."

"Uh-uh. How's your dad?"

"He ain't so spry. But he is better."

"Uh-uh. That young Mexican stayin' at the ranch with him?"

"You couldn't chase Ramon away with a gun."

"Uh-uh. Well, Lorry, I just been sweatin' out a letter tellin' John
Torrance that I've quit. I'm goin' to run for State Senator."

"I knew they would land you. Everybody knew it."

"So we're both leavin' the Service. And we're leavin' a mighty good job;
mebby not such big pay, but a man's job, that has been the makin' of
some no-account boys. For no fella can work for the Service without
settin' up and ridin' straight. Now, when I was a young buster chasin'
cow-tails over the country I kind of thought the Forestry Service was a
joke. It ain't. It's a mighty big thing. You're leaving it with a clean
record. Mebby some day you'll want to get back in it. Were you goin' on
up?"

"I figured to straighten up things at the cabin."

"All right. When you come down you can get your check. Give my regards
to Bronson and the little missy."

"You bet I will!"

Bud rose and proffered his hand. Lorry, rather embarrassed, shook hands
and turned to go. "See you later," he said.

"I was going over to Stacey," said Shoop. "Mebby I'll be out when you
get back. But your check'll be here all right. You sure look like you
was walkin' on sunshine this mawnin'. Gosh, what a whoopin' fine place
this here world is when you are young - and - kind of slim! Now, Bondsman
and me - we was young onct. When it comes to bein' young or State
Senator - you can have the politics and give me back my ridin' legs.
You're ridin' the High Trail these days.

"If I could just set a hoss onct, with twenty years under my hide, and
look down on this here country, and the sage a-smellin' like it used to
and the sunshine a-creepin' across my back easy and warm, with a sniff
of the timber comin' down the mawnin' breeze; and 'way off the cattle
a-lookin' no bigger'n flies on a office map - why, I wouldn't trade that
there seat in the saddle for a million in gold. But I reckon I would 'a'
done it, them days. Sometimes I set back and say 'Arizona' just to
myself. I'm a-lovin' that name. Accordin' to law, I'm livin' single, and
if I ain't married to Arizona, she's my best gal, speakin' general.
'Course, a little lady give me a watch onct. And say, boy, if she sets a
lot of store by you - why, you - why, git out of this here office afore I
make a dam' fool of myself!"

And the genial Bud waved his arm, blustering and swearing heartily.

Bondsman leaped up. A ridge of hair rose along his neck. For some
unknown reason his master had ordered Lorry to leave the office - and at
once. But Lorry was gone, and Bud was patting the big Airedale. It was
all right. Nothing was going to happen. And wasn't it about time for the
stage to arrive?

Bondsman trotted to the doorway, gazed up and down the street, and came
back to Shoop. The stage had arrived, and Bondsman was telling Shoop so
by the manner in which he waited for his master to follow him into the
sunlight. Bud grinned.

"You're tellin' me the stage is in - and I got a letter to send."

Bud picked up his hat. Bondsman had already preceded him to the doorway,
and stood waiting. His attitude expressed the extreme patience of age,
but that the matter should be attended to without unreasonable delay.
Shoop sighed heavily.

"That there dog bosses me around somethin' scandalous."

Halfway across the Blue Mesa, Dorothy met her ranger man. She had been
watching the trail. Lorry dismounted and walked with her to the cabin.
Bronson was glad to see him. They chatted for a while. Lorry would have
spoken of his father's offer - of his plans, of many things he wished
Bronson to know, yet he could not speak of these things until he had
talked with Dorothy. He would see Bronson again. Meanwhile -

A little later Lorry went to his cabin to take stock of the implements
and make his final report. He swept the cabin, picked up the loose odds
and ends, closed the battered piano gently, and sat down to think.

He had made his decision, and yet - he had seen Dorothy again; touched
her hand, talked with her, and watched her brown eyes while he talked.
The Great War seemed very far away. And here he was at home. This was
his country. But he had set his face toward the High Trail. He could not
turn back.

Dorothy stood in the doorway, her finger at her lips. Bronson was busy
writing. Lorry rose and stepped out. He stooped and lifted her to Gray
Leg. She sat sideways in the saddle as he led the pony across the mesa
to the veritable rim of the world.

Far below lay the open country, veiled by the soft haze of distance. He
gave her his hand, and she slipped to the ground and stood beside him.
For the first time the tremendous sweep of space appalled her. She drew
close to him and touched his arm.

"What is it, Lorry?"

"You said - once - that you would wait for me."

"Yes. And now you are here, I'll never be lonesome again."

"Were you lonesome?"

"A little. I had never really waited - like that - before."

He frowned and gazed into the distances. It had been easy to
decide - when alone. Then he faced her, his gray eyes clear and
untroubled.

"I'm going to enlist," he said simply.

She had hoped that he would. She wanted to think that of him. And yet,
now that he had spoken, now that he was actually going - Her eyes grew
big. She wanted to say that she was glad. Her lips trembled.

He held out his arms. She felt their warm strength round her. On the
instant she thought of begging him not to go. But his eyes were shining
with a high purpose, that shamed her momentary indecision. She pressed
her cheek to his.

"I will wait for you," she whispered, and her face was wet with tears of
happiness.

She was no longer the little mother and he her boy, for in that moment
he became to her the man strength of the race, his arms her refuge and
his eyes her courage for the coming years.


THE END










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Online LibraryHenry Herbert KnibbsJim Waring of Sonora-Town Tang of Life → online text (page 20 of 20)