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poor. Because, they don't know anything about being independent; they
want to be governed by their things. A poor person isn't cut off from
society because he hasn't money, but because he doesn't know how to
deal with high things, not having practised amongst them. It isn't
because society people have lots of money that they stick together, but
because all of them know what to do with the little forks and spoons.

"It is like the dearest, jolliest kind of game to me, to be with these
people, and say just what they say, and like what they like, and act as
they act - and that's the difference between me and them; it's not a
game to them, it's deadly earnest. They think they're LIVING!

"Do you think I could play at this so long that one day I'd imagine I
was doing what God had expected of me when he sent me to you, Brick?
Could I stay out in the big world until I'd think of the cove as a
cramped little pocket in the wilderness with two pennies jingling at
the bottom of it named Brick and Bill? If I thought there was any
danger of that, I'd start home in the morning!

"We are in a Kansas City hotel where all the feathers are in ladies'
hats and bonnets instead of in the gentlemen's hair. To get to our
rooms you go to a dark little door and push something that makes a bell
ring, and then you step into a dugout on pulleys, that shoots up in the
air so quick it makes you feel a part of you has fallen out and got
lost. The dugout doesn't slow up for the third story, it just stops
THAT QUICK - they call it an 'elevator' and it certainly does elevate!
You step out in a dim trail where there are dusky kinds of lights,
although it may be the middle of the day, and you follow the trail over
a narrow yellow desert, turn to your right and keep going till you
reach a door with your number on it. When you are in your room, you
see the things that are considered more important than the people.

"There's an entire room set apart for the sole purpose of bathing! - and
the room with the bed in it is separate from the sitting-room. You can
go in one and stay a while, and go in another and stay a while, and
then go in the third - and you have a different feeling for each room
that you're in. I'd rather see everything at once, as I can in my
cabin. And that bed! If my little bed at home could be brought here
and set up beside this hotel wonder, the very walls would cry out....
I wish I could sleep in my little bed tonight, and hear the wind
howling over the mountain.

"The dining-room is the finest thing I ever saw; I doubt if the kings
and queens of old times ever ate in richer surroundings. There are rows
of immense mirrors along the wall and gold borders - and then the
tables! I wonder what would happen if anybody should spread newspapers
on one of these wonderful tables and use them for a tablecloth? At
home, we can just reach out and take what we want off the stove, and
help our plates without rising. It's so different here! After you've
worried over crooked lists of things to eat that you've never heard of,
and have hurried to select so the waiter won't have to lose any time,
the waiter goes away. And when he puts something before you, you don't
know what to call it, because it's been so long, you've forgotten its
name on that awful pasteboard. But there's something pleasant when
you've finished, in just getting up and walking away, not caring who
cleans up the dishes!

"I've been to the opera-house, but it wasn't an opera, it was a play.
That house - I wish you could see it! - the inside, I mean, for outside
it looks like it needs washing. The chairs - well, if you sent that
stool of ours to a university you couldn't train it up to look anything
like those opera-chairs. And the dresses - the diamonds.... Everything
was perfectly lovely except what we had come to see, and my party
thought it was too funny for anything; but it wasn't funny to me. The
story they acted was all about a young couple fooling their parents and
getting married without father and mother knowing, and a baby brought
in at the last that nobody would claim though it was said to be
somebody's that shouldn't have had one - the audience just screamed with
laughter over that; I thought they never would quiet down. Out in The
big world, babies and old fathers and mothers seem to be jokes. The
star of the evening was a married actress with 'Miss' before her name.
You could hear every word she spoke, but the others didn't seem to try
to make themselves plain - I guess that's why they aren't stars, too.

"I've lived more during the last week than I had the previous
fifty-one. We must have been to everything there is, except a church.
Yesterday was Sunday, and I asked Mrs. Sellimer about it, but she said
people didn't go to church any more.

"Maybe you wonder why I don't tell you about our crowd, but I guess
it's because I feel as if they didn't matter. I wouldn't say that to
anybody in the world but to you, Brick and Bill, and if I hadn't
promised to write you every single thing, I wouldn't even tell you,
because they are so good to me. It sounds untrue to them, doesn't it?
But you won't tell anybody, because you've nobody to tell! And
besides, they could be different in a minute if they wanted to be; it
isn't as if they were helpless.

"Miss Sellimer is witty and talented, and from the way she treats me, I
know she has a tender heart. And her mother is a perfect wonder of a
manager, and never makes mistakes except such as happen to be the fad
of the hour. And Mr. Edgerton Compton could be splendid, for he seems
to know everything, and when we travel with him, or go to the parks and
all that, people do just as he says, as if he were a prince; he has a
magnificent way of showering money on porters and waiters and cabmen
that is dazzling; and he holds himself perfectly WITHOUT TRYING, and
dresses so that you are glad you're with him in a crowd; he knows what
to do ALL the time about EVERYTHING. But there he stops. I mean, he
isn't trying to do anything that matters. Neither are any of the rest.

"What they are working at now, is all they expect to work at as long as
they live - and it takes awfully hard work to keep up with their set.
They call it 'keeping in the swim,' and let me tell you what it reminds
me of - a strong young steer out in a 'tank,' using all the strength he
has just to keep on top of the water, instead of swimming to shore and
going somewhere. Society people don't go anywhere; they use all their
energy staying right where they are; and if one of them loses grip and
goes under - GOODNESS!

"I know what Mrs. Sellimer has set her heart on, because she has
already begun instructing me in her ideals. She wants her daughter to
marry a rich man, and Mr. Edgerton Compton isn't rich, he only looks
like he is. Mrs. Sellimer feels that she's terribly poor, herself;
it's the kind of poverty that has all it wants to eat and wear, but
hasn't as many horses and servants as it wants. It's just as hard on
her as it would be on you if the bacon gave out and you couldn't go for
more. Annabel - that's Miss Sellimer - likes Mr. Compton very, very
much, but she feels like her mother about marrying a rich man, and I
don't think he has much chance. One trouble is that he thinks he must
marry a rich girl, so they just go on, loving each other, and looking
about for 'chances.'

"I feel like I oughtn't to be wasting my time telling about my friends
when there are all these wonderful lights and carpets and decorations
and conveniences, so much more interesting. Whenever you want hot
water, instead of bringing a bucketful from the spring and building a
fire and sitting down to watch it simmer, you just turn a handle and
out it comes, smoking; and whenever you want ice-water, you touch a
button and give a boy ten cents.

"The funny thing to me is that Annabel and Mr. Compton both think they
HAVE to marry somebody rich, or not marry at all. They really don't
know they COULD marry each other, because imagining they would be
unable to keep the wolf from the door. That's because they can't
imagine themselves living behind anything but a door on one of the
'best streets.' We know, don't we, Brick and Bill, that it takes
mighty little to keep the coyote from the dugout! And there's
something else we know that these people haven't dreampt of - that
there's happiness and love in many and many a dugout. I don't know
what's behind the doors on the 'best streets.'

"We are not going straight on to Chicago. A gentleman has invited the
Sellimers, which of course includes me, to a house-party in the country
not far from Kansas City. He is a very rich man of middle age, so they
tell me, a widower, who is interested in our sex and particularly in
Annabel Sellimer. Mr. Edgerton Compton isn't invited. You see, he's a
sort of rival - a poor rival. This middle-aged man has known the
Sellimers a long time, and he has been trying to win Annabel for a year
or two. If it hadn't been for Mr. Compton she'd have married HIS HOUSE
before now, I gather. The house is said to be immense, in a splendid
estate near the river. I am all excitement when I think of going there
for ten days. There are to be fifty guests and the other forty-nine
are invited as a means of getting Annabel under his roof. Won't I feel
like a little girl in an old English novel! The best of it is that
nobody will bother ME - I'm too poor to be looked at a second time, I
mean, what THEY call poor. Sometimes I laugh when I'm alone, for I
feel like I'm a gold mine filled with rich ore that nobody has
discovered. Remember the 'fool's gold' we used to see among the granite
mountains? I think the gold that lies on the surface must always be
fool's gold. The name of the country-house we are to visit is the same
as that of the man who owns it - "

Wilfred Compton held the letter closer to the light.

Brick Willock spoke impatiently: "No use to stare at that there
word - we couldn't make it out. I guess she got it wrong, first, then
wrote it over. Just go ahead."

Bill suggested, "I think the first letter is an 'S.'"

Wilfred scrutinized the name closely.

"Besides," said Willock, "we knows none of them high people, the name
wouldn't be nothing to us - and her next letter will likely have it
more'n once."

Wilfred resumed the letter: "I must tell you good-by, now, for
Annabel's maid has come to help me dress for dinner, and it takes
longer than it did to do up the washing, at the cove; and is more
tiresome. But I like it. I like these fine, soft, beautiful things.
I like the big world, and I would like to live in it forever and ever,
if you could bring the dugout and be near enough for me to run in, any
time of the day. I wish I could run in this minute and tell you the
thousands and thousands of things I'll never have time to write.

"Your loving, adoring, half-homesick, half-bewildered, somewhat dizzy
little girl,


"P. S. Nobody has been able to tell from word or look of mine that I
have ever been surprised at a single thing I have heard or seen. You
may be quite sure of that."

"I bet you!" cried Willock admiringly. "NOW, what do you think of it?"

"She won't be there long," remarked Bill, waving his arm, "till she
finds out what I learned long ago - that there's nothing to it. If you
want to cultivate a liking for a dugout, just live a while in the open."

"I don't know as to that," Willock said. "I sorter doubts if Lahoma
will ever care for dugouts again, except as she stays on the outside of
'em, and gets to romancing. A mouthful of real ice-cream spoils your
taste everlasting for frozen starch and raw eggs."

"Lahoma is a real person," declared Bill, "and a dugout is grounded and
bedded in a real thing - this very solid and very real old earth, if you
ask to know what I mean."

"Lord, _I_ knows what you mean," retorted Willock. "You've lived in a
hole in the ground most of your life, and are pretty near ripe to be
laid away in another one, smaller I grant you, but dark and deep,
according. We'll never get Lahoma back the same as when we let her
flutter forth hunting a green twig over the face of the waters. She
may bring back the first few leaves she finds, but a time's going to
come...." He broke off abruptly, his eyes wide and troubled, as if
already viewing the dismal prospect.

"Maybe I AM old," Bill grudgingly conceded, "but I don't set up to be
no Noah's ark."

"Oh," cried Willock, his sudden sense of future loss causing him to
speak with unwonted irony, "maybe you're just a Shem, or Ham or that
other kind of Fat - What's the matter, Wilfred? Can't you let go of
that letter?"

"I've made out the name of that widower who's paying court to my old
sweetheart," he said, "but it's one I never heard of before; that's why
it looked so strange - it's Gledware."

Willock uttered a sharp exclamation. "Let me see it." He started up
abruptly, and bent over the page.

"What of it?" asked Bill in surprise. Willock had uttered words to
which the dugout was unaccustomed.

"That's what it is," Willock growled; "it's Gledware!" His face had
grown strangely dark and forbidding, and Wilfred, who had never
imagined it could be altered by such an expression, handed him the
letter with a sense of uneasiness.

"What of it?" reiterated Bill. "Suppose it IS Gledware; who is HE?"

"Do you know such a man?" Wilfred demanded.

"Out with it!" cried Bill, growing wrathful as the other glowered at
the fire. "What's come over you? Look here, Brick Willock, Lahoma is
your cousin, but I claim my share in that little girl and I ask you
sharp and flat - "

"Oh you go to - !" cried Willock fiercely. "All of you."

Wilfred said lightly, "Red Feather has already gone there, perhaps."

"Eh?" Willock wheeled about as if roused to fresh uneasiness. The
Indian chief had glided from the room, as silent and as unobtrusive as
a shadow.

Willock sank on the bench beside Bill Atkins and said harshly, "Where's
my pipe?"

"Don't you ask ME where your pipe is," snapped Bill. "Yonder it is in
the comer where you dropped it."

Willock picked it up, and slowly recovered himself. "You see," he
observed apologetically, "I need Lahoma about, to keep me tame. I was
wondering the other day if I could swear if I wanted to. I guess I
could. And if put to it, I guess I could take up my old life and not
be very awkward about it, either - I used to be a tax-collector, and of
course got rubbed up against many people that didn't want to pay. That
there Gledware - well! maybe it isn't this one Lahoma writes about, but
the one I knew is just about middle age, and he's a widower, all right,
or the next thing to it - I didn't like Gledware. That was all. I hate
for Lahoma to be throwed with anybody of the name - but I guess it's all
right. Lahoma ain't going to let nobody get on her off-side, when the
wind's blowing."

Bill inquired anxiously, "Did that Gledware you knew, live near Kansas

"He lived over in Indian Territory, last time I heard of him. But he
was a roving devil - he might be anywhere. Only - he wasn't rich; why,
he didn't have nothing on earth except a little - yes, except a little."

"Then he can't be the owner of a big estate," remarked Wilfred, with

"I don't know that. Folks goes into the Territory, and somehow they
contrives to come out loaded down. But I hope to the Almighty it's a
different Gledware!"

"Lahoma can hold her own," Bill remarked confidently. "You just wait
till her next letter comes, and see if she ain't flying her colors as
gallant as when she sailed out of the cove."

Wilfred reflected that his invitation to remain had been sincere; there
was nothing to hurry him back to the Oklahoma country - he would, at
least, stay until the next letter came. His interest in Lahoma was of
course vague and dreamy, founded rather on the fancies of a
thousand-and-one-nights than upon the actual interview of a brief hour.
But the remarkable change that had taken possession of Willock at the
mention of Gledware's name, had impressed the young man profoundly. In
that moment, all the geniality and kindliness of the huge fellow had
vanished, and the great whiskered face had looked so wild and
dangerous, the giant fists had doubled so threateningly, that long
after the brow smoothed and the muscles relaxed, it was impossible to
forget the ferocious picture.

"That's what I'll do," Wilfred declared, settling back in his seat,
"I'll wait until that next letter comes."



While waiting for Lahoma's letter, Wilfred Compton spent his days in
ceaseless activity, his evenings in dreamy musings. Over on the North
Fork of Red River - which was still regarded as Red River proper, and
therefore the dividing line between Texas and Indian Territory - he
renewed his acquaintance with the boys of Old Man Walker's ranch.
Henry Woodson, the cow-puncher, still known as Mizzoo was one of the
old gang who greeted Wilfred with extravagant joy which shaded away to
easy and picturesque melancholy in lamenting the passing of the good
old days.

"These is the days of fences," complained Mizzoo, as Wilfred, in answer
to his invitation, rode forth with him to view the changes. "Time was,
our cattle was bounded on the south by nothing but the south wind, and
on the north by nothing but the north wind; but these unmitigated
settlers has spiled the cattle business. I'm looking for the old man
to sell out and quit. Why, look at all the little towns that has
sprung up so confusing and handy that you don't know which to choose to
liquor up. They comes like a thief in the night, and in the morning
they're equipped to rob you. I can't keep no change by me - I've asked
the old man to hold back my wages till the end of the year. But I'm
calculating to make something out of these very misfortunes. You know
I always was sort of thrifty - yes, as they GOT to be a settled county
round us, it'll needs call for a sheriff, and if all signs don't fail,
I'll get the job this week. Then there'll be no more riding of the
line for old Mizzoo."

Wilfred rode with him to Mangum, and other villages, with names and
without, and he tingled to the spirit of the bounding West. There
might be only a few dugouts, some dingy tents and a building or so of
undressed pine, but each hamlet felt in itself the possibilities of a
city, and had its spaces in the glaring sands or the dead sagebrush
which it called "the Square" and "Main Street" and possibly "the park."
The air quivered with expectations of a railroad, maybe two or three,
and each cluster of hovels expected to find itself in a short time
constituted the county-seat, with a gleaming steel road at its back

This spirit of optimism was but a reflection of the miraculous growth
of the new country of which Greer County, though owned by Texas, felt
itself, in a sense, an integral part. Eight years before, Indian
Territory was the hunting-ground of the Indian, and whosoever attempted
to settle within its limits was driven forth by the soldiers. It was
then a land of dim twilight, full of mystery and wildness, with vast
stretches of thirsty plains and bleak mountains around which the
storms, unbroken by forests, shrieked in the "straight winds" of many
days, or whined the threat of the deadly tornado. And suddenly it
became a land of high noon, garish and crude, but wide-awake and
striving with all the tireless energy of young blood.

Scarcely had the Oklahoma country been taken possession of before the
settlers began agitating the question of an organized territory, and
too impatient to wait for Congress to act, held their own convention at
Guthrie and divided the land into counties. Congress made them wait
five months - an age in the new country - before approving the Organic
Act. The district, which a short time before had been the Unassigned
Lands, became the counties of Logan, Oklahoma, Cleveland, Canadian,
Kingfisher and Payne. To these was added Beaver County which in Brick
Willock's day had been called "No-Man's Land," and which the
law-abiding citizens, uniting against bandits and highwaymen, had
sought to organize as Cimmaron Territory.

Then came the rivalry between Guthrie and Oklahoma City for the
capital, adding picturesqueness to territorial history, and offering
incitement to many a small village to make itself the county-seat of
its county. The growth of the new country advanced by leaps and
bounds. In 1891, the 868,414 acres of the surplus lands of the Iowa,
Sac, Fox and the Pottawatomie-Shawnee reservations formed the new
counties of Lincoln and Pottawatomie and increased the extent of some
of the old ones. The next year, 3,500,562 acres belonging to the
Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians were taken to increase several of the
older counties, and to from the new ones of honest old American
names - Blame, Custer, Washita, Dewey, Roger Mills, Beckham and Ellis.
In the year following, the Cherokee strip was opened for a settlement
together with the surplus lands of the Pawnee and Tonhawa - 5,698,140
acres; besides increasing other counties, this land furnished forth the
new counties of Alfalfa, Garfield, Grant, Harper, Major, Woods,
Woodward, Pawnee, Kay and Noble. At the time of Wilfred's visit to
Brick Willock, the winter of 1894-5, the opening of the Kickapoo
reservation was already a near certainty; while the vast extent of
Greer County itself, so long in dispute between Texas and the United
States, would in all likelihood be added to the swelling territory of

The territory, so young but so dauntless, was already agitating the
question of statehood - not only so, but of single statehood, meaning
thereby the prospective engulfment and assimilation of Indian
Territory, that all the land from Texas to Kansas, Missouri and
Arkansas might be called by the one name - Oklahoma; a name to stand
forever as a symbol of the marvelously swift and permanent growth of a
white people, in spite of its Choctaw significance - "Red People."

Although Wilfred had stayed close to his farm, near Oklahoma City, he
had kept alive to the rush and swing of the western life; and now that
he had leisure to ride with Mizzoo among the bustling camps, and view
the giant strides made from day to day by the smallest towns, he was
more than ever filled with the exultation of one who takes part in
world-movements. He began to view the hurrying crowds that overran the
sidewalks, with a sense of close kinship - these people came from all
points of the Union, but they were his people. A year ago, six months
ago, they might have been New Yorkers, Californians, Oregonians, but
now all were westerners like himself, and though they believed
themselves Texans the name made as little difference as that between
"Red River" and "Prairie Dog Fork" - in spirit, they were Oklahomans.

If Wilfred had not been a simple visitor, he would have had no time for
thought; but now he could look on the life of which he had for a few
years been a part, and study it as related to the future. It was as if
his boyhood and youth had not been passed in Chicago - the West had
blotted out the past as it ever does with relentless hand, - and every
thought-channel led toward the light of the future. Lahoma's letter had
revived the picture of other days, of another existence, without
rousing one wish to return.

The only desire it had stirred in his breast was that of seeing Lahoma
again, of taking her by the hand to lead her, not back to the old
civilization, but to the new. As he lay awake at night in the log
cabin that had been Lahoma's, his brain for a long time every night was
busy with thoughts of that new civilization, and he was stirred with
ambition to take part, so that when single statehood or double
statehood was achieved, he would be a recognized factor in its
transformation from a loosely-bound territory.

He began to think, too, of moving his residence to Oklahoma City, where
he would be closer to men of affairs - great men of great enterprises.
His farm, of course, would be managed under his superintendence - unless
Oklahoma City should be generous enough to spread out and surround it,
and lap it up, town-lot after town-lot, till not a red clod was
left.... And if a girl like Lahoma - for surely she had not
changed! - if she, little Lahoma.... And the longing grew on him to see
Annabel Sellimer and Lahoma together, that he might study the girl he
had once loved with the girl he might love tomorrow. He almost made up
his mind to take a brief trip to Chicago, on quitting the cove; perhaps

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Online LibraryJ. Breckenridge EllisLahoma → online text (page 10 of 17)