"How was that?" asked Dennis. Mrs. Flynn began to clear the table very slowly.
"Well, this is the way of it," and Murphy told the story of his first meeting with Jim. "I've seen him in action, you see," he concluded, "and I'd be sorry for Fleckenstein if he crosses the Boss's path."
"Jim'll never trouble himself to kick the jackal!" said Uncle Denny.
"Huh! You don't know that boy. There was a look in his eye this morning—God help Fleckenstein if he meets the Big Boss—but he'll avoid the Boss like poison."
Uncle Denny shook his head. "What kind is Fleckenstein?"
"What kind of a man would be countenancing a letter like that?" Then Murphy laughed. "The first time I ever saw Fleckenstein he was riding in the stage that ran west from Cabillo. Bill Evans was driving and Fleckenstein got to knocking this country and telling about the real folks back East. Bill stood it for an hour, then he turned round and said: 'Why, damn your soul, we make better men than you in this country out of binding wire! What do you say to that?' And Fleckenstein shut up."
Uncle Denny chuckled. "Have a cigar? Is Jim making any headway in this 'silent campaign' I'm hearing about?"
"Thanks," said Murphy. "Well, he is and he ain't. He's got a great personality and everybody who gets his number will eat sand for him. He made a great speech at Cabillo, time of the Hearing. He said the dam was his thumb-print—kind of like the mounds the Injuns left, I guess. People are kind of coupling that speech up now with him when they meet him and they are beginning to have their doubts about his dishonesty. But I don't believe he can get his other idea across on the farmers and rough-necks in time to lick Fleckenstein."
"And what is his other idea?" asked Dennis.
Murphy smoked and stared into space for a time before he answered. "I can best tell you that by giving you an incident. I went with Ames and the Boss while he called on a farmer named Marshall. Marshall is a bright man and no drinker. He has been loud in his howls about the Boss being incompetent and kicking about the farmer having to pay the building charges. Marshall was cleaning his buckboard and the Boss, sort of easy like, picks up a brush and starts to brush the cushion.
"'My father used to make me sweep the chicken coop,' says the Boss. 'We were too poor to keep a horse. If I couldn't build a dam better than I used to sweep that coop, I'd deserve all you folks say about me.'
"He says this so sort of sad like that Marshall can't help laughing, and he starts in telling how he used to sojer when he was a kid. And once started, with the Boss looking like his heart would melt out of his eyes, Marshall kept it up till the whole of his life lay before the Boss like an illustrated Sunday Supplement.
"'You've had great experiences,' says the Boss. 'I've not had much experience in dealing with men as you have. I'm wondering if you would help me get this idea across with the folks round here. I want them to see this; that America has never made a more magnificent experiment to see if us folks can handle our own big business and pay a debt contracted by ourselves. I'd like to see this done, Marshall,' he says sad like, 'as a sort of last legacy of the New England spirit, for we old New Englanders are going, Marshall, same as the buffalo and the Indian.'
"Something about the way he said it sort of made your eyes sting and Marshall says, rough-like, 'I'll think it over and I'd just as soon tell what you said to the neighbors,' Then, while the Boss went up to the house to get a drink of water, Marshall says to us, 'He's got a good shaped head. I wouldn't a made so many fool cracks about him if I'd known he could be so sort of friendly and decent.'"
During this recital, Mrs. Flynn had drawn near and now with eyes on Murphy she was absently polishing the teaspoons with the dustcloth.
"Why don't you send some of those folks to me?" she cried. "I'd tell 'em a thing or two about the Big Boss. There's a letter over there now on the desk from the German government, asking him questions and offering him a job. Incompetent!"
"How do you know what's in the letter, Mrs. Flynn?" asked Uncle Denny, with a wink at Murphy.
"Because I read it," returned Mrs. Flynn, with shameless candor. "Somebody's got to keep track of the respects that's paid that poor boy or nobody'd ever know it. God knows I hate the Dutch, but they know a good man when they hear of one better than the Americans. And I wish you two'd get out of here while I set the table for dinner."
The two men laughed and got their hats. "I'll meet you at the office shortly," said Uncle Denny. "I've a call to make."
Pen was sitting on the doorstep when Uncle Denny came up. She was looking very tired and her cheeks were flushed. She rose and led him away from the tent.
"Sara is very sick, Uncle Denny. I've given him some morphine, but he'll be coming out of it soon. Will you telephone from the office for the doctor?"
"Is it the same old pain?" asked Dennis.
"Yes, only worse. I—I am to blame, in a way. He has been growing worse lately and any excitement is dreadful for him. And then, I struck him, Uncle Denny! I shall never forgive myself for that. And yet, this morning he laughed at it. He said he never had thought so much of me as he had for that slap."
Uncle Denny nodded. "He's deserved it a hundred times, Penny! That never made him worse. But this is no place for him. When I go back to New York, you and he must go with me."
"Yes, I have felt the same way, about the excitement here. We'll go when you say, Uncle Denny."
"Is the doctor here a good one?"
"Splendid! A Johns Hopkins man here for his health."
"What else can I do?" asked Uncle Denny. "Shall I come in and sit with him?"
"No; ask Mrs. Flynn to come over after dinner. You go out and see the dam and be proud of your boy."
"And of me girl," said Uncle Denny. He had been standing with his hat in his hand and now he bent and kissed Pen's cheek.
"Erin go bragh!" said Pen. "Uncle Denny, I'm tired! I feel as if I were running on one cylinder and three punctured tires. I have to talk that way after my close association with Bill Evans!"
Uncle Denny had a delightful trip over the Project with Murphy. He dined with the upper mess so that Mrs. Flynn could devote herself to Pen. After eating, he started down the great road to the tower foot to meet Murphy.
Before he came to the tower, however, he came on a group of men hovering over the canyon edge. Uncle Denny gave an exclamation of pity. A mule with a pack on its back had slipped off the road and hung far below by the rope halter that had caught around a projecting rock. The hombre who had been driving the mule had gone for ropes.
"See how still he keeps, the old cuss," said Jack Henderson gently. "A horse would have kicked himself to death long ago. That mule knows just what's holding him. A mule forgets more in a minute than a horse knows in a year."
Uncle Denny almost wept. The mule pressed his helpless forelegs against the wall and except that he panted with fright and that his ears moved back and forth as he listened for his hombre's voice, he was motionless. His liquid eyes were fastened on the group above with an appeal that touched every man there.
"What can you do for the poor brute!" cried Uncle Denny.
"Wait till the hombre gets back," said Henderson. "If he can hang on that long, we can save him. Nothing like this happens to a mule very often. You can't get a mule to try a trail that isn't wide enough for his pack. They can reason, the old fools! Bill Evans' auto shoved this fellow over. The steering gear broke."
At this moment a panting hombre arrived with two coils of rope. The men hastily fastened one rope under the Mexican's arms. He seized the other and they lowered him into the canyon. He talked to the mule in soft Spanish all the way down and the great beast began to answer him with deep groans. With infinite care, the hombre cut the packs loose and they went crashing into the river bed. Still the mule did not move. His driver carefully made the rope fast round the mule. The waiting men then drew the little Mexican up, and when he was safe all hands, including Uncle Denny, drew the mule up. When the big gray reached the road, he tried each leg with a gentle shake, walked over to the inside edge of the road and lifted his voice in a bray that shook the heavens.
The men laughed and patted him. "When I was in the Verde river country one spring, years ago," said Henderson, in his tender, singing voice, "I had a mule train up in the hills. They was none of them broke and they wouldn't cross the river till I took off my clothes and swam with 'em, one at a time. It was fearful cold. The water was just melted snow and I was some mad. But I finally got all but one across. He was a big gray like this. I was so cold and so hungry and so mad, I tied his head up a tree and swam off and left him to die.
"I made camp across the river and two or three times in the night I woke up and thought of that old gray mule. I was still sore at him, but I made up my mind I wouldn't go off and leave him to starve to death, that I'd shoot him in the morning. But in the morning I got to looking at him and I was afraid a shot from across the river would just wound him. I wouldn't risk my gun again in the water, so I takes off my clothes, takes my knife in my teeth and," Henderson's voice was very sweet as he scratched the mule's ear, "and swims back to cut his throat. When I got up to him I cussed him out good. And I says, 'I'll give you one more chance. Either you swim or I cut your throat.' I untied him and that old gray walked down to the water's edge and you'd ought to see him hustle in and swim! He'd reasoned out I was a man of my word!"
Jim had come up in time to hear the story and when Henderson had finished he said: "I've always claimed it was the mules that built the government dams. What would we have done with our fearful trails and distance and heavy freight without the mule? Some day when I get time, I'll write a rhapsody on the mule."
The men laughed and made way for the doctor on his horse. But the doctor stopped and spoke very gravely to Uncle Denny.
"Mrs. Saradokis wants you. Her husband is very low."
SARA GOES ON A JOURNEY
"Love is the speaking voice of the Great Hunger. Happy the human who has found one great love. All nature speaks in him profoundly."
MUSINGS OF THE ELEPHANT.
Jim started up the road but Mr. Dennis stopped long enough to say, "Oughtn't you to be there, doctor?"
The doctor nodded. "I'll be back as soon as I can. They've just brought an hombre with a crushed leg into the hospital. Mrs. Flynn knows what to do and so does his wife. He may go any time."
Uncle Denny panted after Jim, but before they reached the tent house, Mrs. Flynn stopped them on the trail.
"It's all over," she said. "I've taken Mrs. Penelope over to our house. I'll take charge up here."
"You don't mean Saradokis is dead?" cried Uncle Denny.
"He is, God rest his poor wicked soul!"
Jim stood white and rigid. "Did I hasten this with my scene last night, I wonder!" he asked huskily.
Mrs. Flynn shook her head. "The doctor told me a month ago not to go out of reach of the tent house. That this was liable to come any time. He came out of the morphine near noon, held Mrs. Pen's hand and said she had slapped a lot of the bitterness out of his heart last night. Then he went to sleep and never woke up. Mr. Dennis, you go to Mrs. Penelope. Boss, you go and do the telegraphing that's necessary."
It was supper time before Jim could leave the business of the dam and get up to his house. He and Uncle Denny had finished supper when Pen came out of Mrs. Flynn's room. She was white and spent, but she had not been crying.
"Still," she said, "I want you to persuade Uncle Denny not to go back East with me and poor Sara. I am perfectly well and quite able to make the trip alone. Uncle Denny is needed here."
"It's not to be thought of!" cried Dennis. "When the first shock is over I'm looking for you to go to pieces and I propose to be on the job."
"Uncle Denny," said Pen quietly, "I shall not go to pieces. I feel the tragedy of Sara's life very deeply and I am very sad over it all. But I'm not a widow. I'm a nurse and friend whose job is over. It will be a pitiful journey to take Sara back to his father. But I shall be with dear Aunt Mary in New York. I shall get no rest unless I know that you are with Jim in this critical moment of his career."
The two men looked at each other uncertainly. Suddenly Pen's voice shook: "Oh, don't make me argue!"
Jim spoke slowly: "We never have regretted doing what Pen told us to, Uncle Denny. It looks heartless, but I guess we'll have to obey."
"Me soul in me is like a whirling Dervish," said Uncle Denny, "with both of you needing me so. You'll have to decide betwixt you."
"Then Uncle Denny will stay here and we will take you over for the five o'clock morning train, Pen. Mrs. Flynn has packed your trunk and poor Sara is ready for his last trip. When shall we look for your return, little Penelope?"
Pen looked a little bewildered. "Why, there is no excuse for my coming back. I shall stay with your mother until I get rested and then I must find something to do."
Uncle Denny jumped up and stood with his back to the fireplace while Jim leaned on the back of Pen's chair.
"Listen to me, children," said Dennis. "Of what use is it to beat about the bush and refuse to speak what's in the heart of each of us? How can we pretend that poor Sara's death is not God's own relief to him and us? We can weep, as Pen says, over the tragedy of his life, but not that he is gone. Your talk of going to work is nonsense, me sweet Pen. After a few months you will marry Jim and have the happiness you have earned so dearly."
Jim did not move. Pen's pale face turned scarlet. "Oh, Uncle Denny," she cried, "don't talk to me of marriage! I love Jim dearly, but now this is all over I have left only a deadly fear of marriage!"
"Pen! Pen!" exclaimed Uncle Denny. "What do you know of marriage? For every unhappy marriage we hear of there are three of such sweet companionship that its sharers hide it from the world as if 'twere too sacred for the common gaze. The perfect friendship is between man and woman and when you add to that the sacrament of body and soul, you have the only heaven humans may know on earth. And 'tis enough. 'Tis full compensation for all the ills of life."
"Jane Ames has been talking to me that way lately," said Pen, her eyes full of tears. "But you nor she never really had your dreams destroyed as I have." She paused and went on as if half to herself: "And yet nothing has come into my life so revivifying and wholesome as Oscar and Jane's finding each other after all these years. Perhaps there is something in marriage I don't know. Jane says there is. But—Oh, I am so tired!"
Jim moved round to Uncle Denny's side. "It's good of Uncle Denny to plead for me, isn't it, Penny? But you are in no state now to listen to him or me, either. Go back to mother, and don't work, but play. You've forgotten how to play. I remember that long ago when Uncle Denny wanted mother to marry him he told her that marrying him would give me my chance to play, that I couldn't come to my full strength without play. Grown-ups need play, too, little Pen. Go back for a while and rest and take up your tennis again and go to Coney Island with mother. Go and play, Penny. And some day I'll come back and play with you."
Pen gave a little sigh. Suddenly her tense nerves relaxed and she settled back in her chair with a little color in her cheeks.
Uncle Denny cleared his throat. "Tell Mrs. Flynn to fetch her some tea and toast, me boy. Then she must go to bed for a few hours."
The automobile, with Henderson at the wheel, was at the door before dawn. Jim had sent poor Sara on before midnight. Uncle Denny put Pen and Jim into the tonneau, then climbed up beside Henderson and the machine shot swiftly out on the great road.
Pen did not speak for some time and Jim did not disturb her. She looked back at the Elephant as long as she could discern the great meditative form in the starlight. Then, after they had gotten into the hills and were winging like night birds up the mountain road, Jim felt a cold little hand slip into his lean, warm paw.
Jim's heart gave a thud. He leaned forward to look into Pen's face. It was dim in the starlight, but he saw that she smiled slightly. Jim leaned back, feeling as if he could overturn worlds with this thrill in his veins.
The great road curled like a hair among the dim black mountain tops. The machine flew lightly. Uncle Denny and Henderson talked quietly, and at last, under cover of their speech and the whirr of the engine, Pen began to talk softly to Jim.
"I am hoping that in the years to come I can remember Sara as a college boy, so full of life and ambition! He was a beautiful boy, Still, wasn't he?"
"Yes, little Pen, I loved him very much, then."
"Life was unfair to him to give him a greater burden than he was designed to bear," said Pen. "I shall miss the care of him. I am going to miss the demands he made on my best spiritual effort. I'm going to sag like a fiddle string released. If only he has gone on now to a better chance! Poor, poor tortured Sara!"
Jim rubbed the little twitching fingers and Pen leaned against his shoulder softly as though she needed his nearness to steady her. She went on a little brokenly:
"'Envy and calumny and hate and pain And that unrest which men miscall delight Can touch him not and torture not again——'
"I guess I won't get over the scarring, Still. I'm so tired."
"You've the priceless gift of youth, dear Penny," said Jim softly. "Go and play, sweetheart."
There was a long silence. Dawn was marching on the mountain tops. Penelope watched the silver glory of the star-studded sky and she said in a steadier tone:
"'Life like a dome of many colored glass Stains the white radiance of Eternity Until death tramples it to fragments——'"
A sudden scarlet revealed itself on a far peak. It was like a marvelous translucent ruby, set in a silver mist.
Uncle Denny turned. "Henderson says we are right on the railroad."
"We are," replied Jim, "and yonder is the train."
The automobile drew into the station with the train and Uncle Denny, with Henderson, helped embark poor Sara on his last ride, while Jim put Pen aboard the train. Pen followed Jim back onto the train platform. Jim shook hands with her and stood on the lower step waiting for the train to start. His face in the dawn light was very wistful. Suddenly Pen's lips quivered. Just as the train began to move, "Jim!" she whispered. And she leaned over and caught his face between her hands and kissed him quickly on the lips. Then she slipped into the coach. Jim dropped off the train and stood staring unseeingly at Uncle Denny and Henderson. A to-hee sang its morning song from a nearby cactus:
"O yahee! O yahai! Sweet as arrow weed in spring!"
"Put your hat on, me boy," said Uncle Denny, who had not seen the little episode, "and come on." He led the way to the machine and climbed in beside Jim. "Well, Still, she's gone!"
Jim turned and looked at his Uncle Denny. "She's not gone for long. When I have finished the Project fight I shall go after her."
"Did she agree?" asked Uncle Denny eagerly.
"No," said Jim serenely. "She's in the frame of mind that's to be expected after the life she's lived with Sara. She is afraid of everything. After the election, I shall go to her. She and I have missed enough of each other."
Dennis brought his fist down on his knee. "Then that's settled right, thank God!" he said to the dawn at large.
The next day Mrs. Ames came up to the dam. She was inconsolable that she had not been sent for, to help Pen and Mrs. Flynn's air of superiority was not soothing. Uncle Denny took to Mrs. Ames at once.
"I've done nothing but gad for Mr. Manning, lately," she said.
"How are things going?" asked Mrs. Flynn. "Has Bill Evans got all the money yet?"
"Eh? What's this?" exclaimed Uncle Denny.
"Mrs. Pen thought it would do a lot of good if we could get the farmers' wives to working against Fleckenstein," said Jane. "I've been calling on a lot of them. Bill Evans takes me in his auto."
"Who pays Bill?" asked Uncle Denny. "Ames?"
"He does not, though he honestly offered to," said Jane. "This is a woman's job. Mrs. Flynn is paying for it. And don't you tell Mr. Manning. So far he hasn't asked any questions. Oscar says he's too worried over other things."
"Bless us!" cried Uncle Denny. "That won't do! You must let me straighten it up."
Mrs. Flynn rapped on the table with the dripping mixing spoon with which she had followed Jane in from the kitchen. "Michael Dennis! You will not! What's me money for if it ain't for him? Ain't he all I've got in the wide world and you grutch me that? God knows I never thought I'd come to this to be told I couldn't do for him! If God lets me live to spare my life I hope to spend every cent I've got back on the Boss."
Uncle Denny nodded. "All right! You're a good woman, Mrs. Flynn. How is your campaign going, Mrs. Ames?"
Jane shook her head. "You never know which way a woman will jump. If only Fleckenstein can be beaten, it will be Mr. Manning's personality that beats him, and after that he can do whatever he wants to with the valley. But the election is only a little way off and I'm scared to death. I've talked and visited until I'm ashamed of myself. And there's only one woman in the valley I'm sure of."
"Who is she?" asked Uncle Denny.
"That's Mrs. Cady, a rich widow who lives near Cabillo. She's the terror of the valley. She's a scold and she holds half the mortgages in the county. She stopped Mr. Manning a while ago and asked what he meant by running one of the canals the way it was. Then, just because he's always nice to a woman, Mr. Manning stands and lets her explain his business to him for half an hour. When she got through he thanked her and said it was always wise to trust a woman's intuition. She thought she'd taught him a real valuable lesson and she said he was the only man she ever saw that knew good advice when he got it. Well, when I went round to her the other day and told her what Mr. Manning was up against, she flew round like a wet hen. I've heard she threatened to foreclose on anyone that voted for Fleckenstein."
Uncle Denny chuckled. "And the boy thinks he has no friends!"
The fight into which Jim had thrown himself was an intangible one. He knew that he could not save his job for himself, but he believed that if he could defeat Fleckenstein, he would have made the farmers assume a responsibility for the Project that would never be lost.
Uncle Denny did not tell Jim that he knew that every day lessened Jim's term of office on the dam. He asked no embarrassing questions. One day, as they stood looking at the dam slowly emerging from the river bed to lie in the utter beauty of strength at the Elephant's feet, Jim said:
"I wonder if another man will love the dam as I have. There is not a stone in it that I don't know and care for."
But Uncle Denny only nodded and said in reply, "A man must love the thing he creates whether it's a dam or a child." But his heart ached within him.
The Department of Agriculture had responded immediately and half a dozen experts already were at work on the Project. The older farmers resented any suggestions that were made regarding their methods, but little by little the newcomers were turning to the experts, and Jim believed that even in a year scientific farming would be a settled fact on the Project.
Every moment that Jim could spare from hastening the work on the dam he spent in the valley with the farmers. He did not harangue. He had come to realize that deep within us all dwells a hunger of the soul on which, when roused, the world wings forward. So he induced these men to talk to him and listened, wondering at the deeps he touched. He did not realize that often they were ashamed to show him narrowness or selfishness when through his wistful silence they glimpsed his unsatisfied visioning. Nothing in life is so contagious as a great dream.
As far as the Project was concerned, the story of Jim's alleged interview with Freet made little impression, after all. Insinuations and accusations had appeared so often about the engineers of the dam in the local papers that they had ceased to be a sensation. In the East, though, Jim knew the story would leave its permanent imprint. Murphy interviewed Fleckenstein and never would tell what he and the politician said to each other. But the threat of the letter never was carried out. Fleckenstein continued a vigorous campaign, however. Money and whiskey flowed freely and Fleckenstein saw every man that Jim saw.
Uncle Denny was only temporarily dismayed by Jim's refusal to allow him to work openly against Fleckenstein. Mrs. Ames, having come to the end of her talking capacity, he hired Bill Evans and his machine for the remaining six weeks of the campaign. Bill was quite willing to let the hogs go hungry while he and his machine were in demand.
Uncle Denny said: "A twenty-mile ride in Bill's tonneau is better as a flesh reducer than ten hours in a Turkish bath. It is the truth when I tell folks I'm riding for me health."
Uncle Denny made himself newsgetter-in-chief for Jim. He scoured the valley for reports on the state of mind of every water user and business man on the Project. Oscar and Murphy, when not with Jim, devoted themselves to Uncle Denny. Both the men were frankly giving all their time to the Project these days.
The weeks sped by all too rapidly. One evening Uncle Denny called a conference at Jim's house. Jim, coming home from the office at ten o'clock that night, found Murphy and Henderson and Oscar awaiting him with Uncle Denny as master of ceremonies.
"Me boy," said Uncle Denny, "there's going to be a landslide for Fleckenstein."
Jim nodded. "I think so. Well, anyhow, I've made one or two friends below who'll remember after I'm gone some of the things I've wanted for the Project."
Uncle Denny, standing before the grate, looked at Jim in a troubled way. The Big Boss, as he loved to call Jim, was looking very tired.
"Well," said Murphy, "Fleckenstein can't make much trouble for a year. Even after he takes his seat it will take time to start things even with the money from the Trust. And in the meantime the Big Boss will be able to put up a great counter-irritant out here if what he's done the last few weeks is any sample."
Jim lighted his pipe and leaned back in his chair. "I won't be here, boys," he said. "This is confidential. I have been asked for my resignation and it takes effect the day after election."
There was utter silence in the room for a moment, then Henderson leaned forward and spat past Uncle Denny into the grate.
"Hell's fire!" he said gently.
"How long have you known this, Boss?" asked Murphy.
"Nearly three months," answered Jim.
"Pen told me," said Dennis. "Suma-theek told her."
Jim looked up in astonishment, then he shook his head. "I'm sorry Pen has that to bother her, too."
Murphy jumped to his feet. "And you have known this three months and never told us! Is that any way to treat your friends? Do you suppose we want to lie by and see you licked off this dam like a yellow cur? It's no use for you to ask this to be kept quiet, Boss. I won't do it."
Jim rose and pointed his pipe at Murphy. "Murphy, if you try to use this confidential talk to raise sentiment for me, I'll fire you!"
"You can't fire my friendship!" shouted Murphy. "You can have my job any time you want it!"
Here Oscar Ames spoke for the first time. "When's Mrs. Penelope coming back?"
"Don't you get her out here," said Jim. "She can do no good and she needs peace and quiet."
THE END OF THE SILENT CAMPAIGN
"The dream in them of a greater good lifts humans from the level of brutes. Take this dream from them and they are like quenched comets."
MUSINGS OF THE ELEPHANT.
It was Oscar's turn to get to his feet. "Manning," he said, "ain't you learned your lesson yet? Who was it kicked me out of the dirty political scrape I was getting into and made me see straight? Huh? Who was it? Well, it was my wife. And who woke my wife up? It was Mrs. Pen, wasn't it? And who, by your own admission, showed you things you'd been seeing crooked all your life? Huh? 'Twas Mrs. Pen, wasn't it? You're as moss-bound in lots of ways as a farmer. Now I've learned my lesson. I'm willing to admit that women folks has got intuitions that beat our fine ideas all hollow. She may not do us any good. But I want to know what she thinks about things. I'll be yelling votes for women next. Gimme her address. I'm going to send her a night message they'll have to use an adding machine to count the words in."
"What can be done in a week?" asked Jim, with his first show of irritation. "I won't have her bothered, I tell you."
"Still Jim," said Uncle Denny, "do you suppose she's thought of anything else but the situation out here, excepting, of course, poor Sara? And Pen's Irish! Even long distance fighting has charms for her."
Henderson looked at Jim's dark circled eyes and his compressed lips. "Go to bed, Boss," he said in his tender voice. "See if you can't get some sleep. You have done your best. Is there anyone in the valley you ain't seen yet?"
"Two or three," said Jim.
"See them," said Henderson. "We are going to put up a fight to keep you here, Mr. Manning."
Jim started for his bedroom door, then he came back and said slowly: "I don't want you fellows to misunderstand me. I'm the least important item in this matter. I admit that it's crucifying me to leave the dam, but there is no doubt they can find a better man than I am for the job. I woke up too late. You folks must keep on in one last fight against Fleckenstein. For Fleckenstein stands for repudiation. Repudiation means the undermining of the basic principle of the Reclamation Service. And the loss of that principle means the loss of the Projects as a great working ideal for America. It was that principle that was the real kernel of the New England dream in this country. We've got to work not so much for equality in freedom as for equality in responsibility to the nation. Don't waste a moment on keeping me here. Make one last effort to defeat Fleckenstein."
Then Jim went into his room and closed the door.
When he had gone, Murphy said in a low voice: "It's too late to lick Fleckenstein. Are we going to lie down on the Boss losing his job, boys?"
"Not till I've beaten the face off Fleckenstein," said Henderson, softly.
"I want to get in touch with Mrs. Pen," said Oscar Ames.
"Aw, forget it, Ames!" said Murphy. "I don't doubt she's a smart girl, but this is no suffragette meeting."
"Don't try to start anything," said Oscar. "Wait till you're married for thirty years like me and maybe you'll have learned a thing or two."
"Don't quarrel, boys," said Uncle Denny. "Me heart is like lead within me. How can I think of Jim as anywhere but with the Service?"
"If he goes, I go," said Henderson. "The only reason I stayed up on the Makon was because of him. What's the matter with the wooden heads in this country? I'd like to be fool killer for a year."
Murphy was chewing his cigar. "You'd have to commit suicide if you was," he said. "I've tried everything against Fleckenstein except the one way to swing votes in America and that's with whiskey or dollars. Under the circumstance we can't use either. I'm going to turn in. I'm at the end of my rope."
Henderson followed Murphy to the door. Oscar Ames forgot to lower his voice. He squared his big shoulders and shouted: "You blame quitters! I ain't ashamed to ask women for ideas if you are. The women got me into this fight and I'll bet they get me out."
He nodded belligerently at Uncle Denny and strode out into the night. Uncle Denny, left alone in the living room, stood long on the hearthrug, talking to himself and now and again shaking his head despondently.
"I mind how after he found himself, he was always making trails in front of the old fireplace in the brownstone front. I mind how he first heard of the Reclamation Service. 'How'd you like that, Uncle Denny,' he said, 'James Manning, U.S.R.S.' What'll he do now, poor lad?
"Thank God his father's dead, for if he felt worse than I do he'd kill himself. No! No! I'll not say that! He'd have felt like meself that 'twas worth all the sorrow to hear Still put his idea ahead of himself as he did tonight. That's the test of a man's sincerity. And in her heart, his mother'll be glad. She's always worried lest he get killed on one of his dams, bless her heart."
Uncle Denny moved about the room, closing the door and putting away the cigars. He picked Jim's hat off the floor and patted it softly as he hung it up.
"What'll he do now, poor boy?" he murmured. Then he turned out the light and went to bed.
Jim received a message the next morning, saying that a certain Herr Gluck would reach the dam that afternoon.
"And who is he?" asked Uncle Denny.
"He's an engineer the German government is sending over to see some of the stunts I've been doing on the dam," said Jim. "I'll show him round, then I'll turn him over to you for the hour before supper. I want to see old Miguel, who is coming up to the dam."
"I'm itching to lay hands on him. Does he speak English?"
Jim laughed. "Better than I do. He's written me a couple of times."
Jim brought Herr Gluck in over the great road. The German was full of enthusiasm. "Blasted from solid rock! How not like America! This was built for the future! How did you come to do it?"
Jim smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
"You belong not to this country," Herr Gluck went on, "you belong to the old world where they build for their descendants."
Jim thoroughly enjoyed the long afternoon on the dam with the German. Herr Gluck's questions were searching and invigorating. They took Jim out of himself and he showed Herr Gluck a scientific knowledge and enthusiasm that few people were fitted to appreciate.
At five o'clock Jim took Herr Gluck up to his house and turned him over to Uncle Denny. The rotund, flaxen-haired German and the rotund, gray-haired Irishman took stock of each other. Uncle Denny moved two chairs before the open door.
Herr Gluck sat down. "Himmel! What beauty!" he exclaimed, as the faint lavender distances with the far mountains flashing sunset gold met his gaze. "Not strange that Mr. Manning has enthusiasm."
Uncle Denny sighed in a relieved way as if he had catalogued the newcomer.
"They say," said Dennis, "that a man must close his soul to the Big Country or else he will become great or go mad. And do you think me boy has done good work here, Herr Gluck?"
The German made some extraordinary rings of smoke and nodded his head slowly. "He has done some daring things well that may not be great in themselves, but they show imagination. That is the point. He has imagination. Many are the engineers who are accurate, who are trustworthy, but imagination, creative ability, no! You observe the shape of his head, his jaw, his hands—the dreamer, urged into action. And the impudence of his sand-cement idea! In my country we dare make our concrete only very rich. He shows me this afternoon that diluted rightly with sand, cement can be made stronger." Herr Gluck chuckled delightedly.
Uncle Denny almost purred. "He was so as a lad. He was captain of his school football teams because he could think of more wild tactics than all the rest of them put together. And always got away with them, looking sad and never an unnecessary word."
Herr Gluck nodded. "He is so valuable here that I think it not possible I get him to come to Germany yet?"
Michael Dennis got red in the face and took a long breath. "But they don't appreciate him here. He's been asked to resign in a few days now."
The German's round eyes grew rounder. "Nein! And why? Has he got into foolishness? He is young, they must remember."
"It's a long tale," said Uncle Denny, "but I'll tell it to you," and he plunged into the story of the Project.
Herr Gluck listened breathlessly.
"And so you see," Dennis ended, "that for all he has done he feels he's failed, for everything the dam has stood for in his mind has come to naught. And that's a bad feeling for a man as young as Jim. He'll never readjust himself, Jim won't. He can get another job but his life's big dream will have gone to smash. His inspiration will be gone. And what will he do then, poor boy?"
"But it's impossible," persisted Herr Gluck. "He's a valuable man. It is not possible they would dismiss him. Some day when he is older he will do great things your country can't afford to lose. What is the matter with your Head of the Service?"
"Impossible!" snorted Uncle Denny. "Impossible! The word is not in the vocabulary of the American politician. The Director is all right, a fine clean fellow. But he can't help himself. It's either Jim or the Project to be smirched. They won't be satisfied, the politicians, till they get the Service attached to the Spoils system. What do they care for scientific achievement? Soul of me soul! I'd like to be Secretary of the Interior for fifteen minutes. I'd discharge everyone in the Department, ending with meself."
Herr Gluck was visibly excited. "I tell you it is not possible! He's a great engineer in the making? They cannot know it or they would not so do."
Uncle Denny lost patience. "I'm telling you it is so! Don't you know that nothing is impossible to ignorant men?" he shouted. "Didn't ignorance crucify Christ? Didn't the ignorant make Galileo deny his world was round? Didn't ignorance burn Joan of Arc at the stake? Every advance the world has made has been with bloody footsteps. Don't we always kill the man in the vanguard and use his body as a bridge to cross the gulf of our own fear and ignorance? I tell you, I fear ignorance!"
Herr Gluck rose and shook his plump fist in Uncle Denny's face. "Those are days gone by in my country," he roared. "They may be true in this raw land or in besotted Ireland, but in the Fatherland we worship brain. Do not include the Fatherland in your recriminations! Once in a while you accomplish great things in your foolish country here with its hysteria and frothing and bubbling. But come to my country if you would see the quiet patient advance of noble science with scientists revered like kings."
"There were colleges in Ireland," shouted Uncle Denny, "when your ancestors were wearing fur breech clouts and using cairns for books!"
Jim came slowly up the trail and Uncle Denny and Herr Gluck sat down a little sheepishly. Herr Gluck did not waste any time in preliminaries as Jim came in the door.
"Your Uncle tells me of the trouble here on the dam," he said. "My government is undertaking some great work which I will describe to you. We will make you a formal offer if you will it consider."
Jim sat down in the doorway, pulled off his hat and looked up into the German's face. Herr Gluck concisely and clearly outlined the work. Jim listened intently, then as Herr Gluck finished and waited for Jim's answer, the young engineer looked away.
He saw the Elephant dominating the river and desert, guarding and waiting—for what? Jim wondered. He saw the far road that he had built, winding into the dim mountains. For a long time he sat battling with himself in the flood of emotion that rose within him. It really had come, he realized, with Herr Gluck's offer. He actually was to turn his work over to another man to finish. The two older men watched him intently.
Finally Jim said: "The New England stock in this country is disappearing, Herr Gluck. Perhaps we are no longer needed. At any rate we haven't been strong enough to stay. This dam has been more than a dam to me. It has meant something like, 'Anglo-Saxons; their mark; by Jim Manning.' Some other man will finish the dam quite as well as I, but I don't think he will have my dream about it."
Herr Gluck leaned forward and said: "We all are Teutons, one family. That is why we always have quarreled. But we understand each other. Come to Germany and build for other Teutons, since they will not have you here."
"An expatriate! Poor dad!" muttered Jim. Then he said, in his quiet drawl, "I'll come, but you'll be getting only half a man."
The German looked away. He was a scientist, yet he was of a nation that had produced Goethe as well as Weismann and his heart was quick to respond to truth, shot with the rainbow tints of vision.
"I know!" he said. "I know! Man needs the impulse of national pride and honor behind his mind. There are those that claim that they achieve for human kind and not for their own race alone. But I doubt it. After all, Goethe spoke for Deutschland, Darwin spoke for England. Therefrom came their greatness. And yet if they will not have you here, dear friend—Ach Himmel, I cannot urge thee! Come if thou wilt!"
Herr Gluck broke off abruptly to turn to Uncle Denny. "Who is the highest authority in this Service?"
"The Secretary of the Interior," said Uncle Denny. "Come, we must eat supper or Mrs. Flynn will be using force on us."
Jim took Herr Gluck over to the midnight train. The German was very quiet, but Jim was even more so. As Jim left him Herr Gluck said: "Keep a good heart, dear friend. I shall say a few truths myself before I have finished."
Jim shook hands heartily. "There is nothing to be done, Herr Gluck, but I'm grateful for your sympathy. You will hear from me about the new work," and he drove off in the darkness, leaving Herr Gluck in the hands of the ranchers Marshall and Miguel, who had spent the afternoon and evening at the dam, and were going to Cabillo by train.
Jim had received no answer from the Secretary of the Interior to his last letter. He was a little puzzled and hurt. There had been one flashing look pass between himself and the Secretary at the May hearing that had stayed with Jim as though it had declared a friendship that needed neither words nor personal association to give it permanence. Jim had counted on that friendship, not to save him his job, but to save his idea. No answer had come to his letter. Jim believed that the story of the interview with Freet had finally destroyed the Secretary's faith in his integrity.
Pen had written a long letter jointly to Jim and Uncle Denny some two weeks after leaving the dam. It was the first word they had had except through telegrams. Sara's will had been read. He had left Pen all his property, which was enough to yield a living income for her. Pen enclosed a copy of the note Sara had left her with his papers.
"You have always felt bitter at my stinginess. But I knew that I could not live long and I wanted to repay you for your care of me. I did not spend an unnecessary cent nor did I let you. I have been ugly but it didn't matter to you. I knew you didn't care for me and so I didn't try to be decent."
Uncle Denny shook his head over this note. "No human soul but has its white side, and there you are! I hope I'll never sit in judgment on another human being."
"Has she any comment on Sara's note?" asked Jim, who was resting on the couch while Uncle Denny read the letter to him.
Uncle Denny looked on the reverse side of the sheet. Pen had written: "This touches me very much. But when I consider the sources of poor Sara's money I can't bear to touch it. I am arranging to give it to the home for paralytic children. I hope that both of you will approve of my doing so."
The two men stared at each other and Jim said nothing. He was consumed by such a longing for Pen that he scarcely dared speak her name. But Uncle Denny nodded complacently and said:
"You can always bet on Pen!"
The day after Herr Gluck's visit there was to be a political rally of the Fleckenstein forces at Cabillo. To the great relief of Dennis and his two henchmen, Jim made no move to attend the meeting. The first concrete pouring on the last section of the foundation was to be made that day and Jim was engrossed with it. Fleckenstein was late in getting to the meeting. This, too, was better luck than the three conspirators had hoped for. The meeting was made up almost entirely of farmers who wanted to hear Fleckenstein's last statement of his pledges.
Before the chairman called the meeting to order, Oscar Ames mounted the platform and asked permission to say a few words while the audience waited for Fleckenstein. Oscar then put forth the great effort of his life.
He squared his great shoulders and threw back his tawny head.
"Fellow citizens, there is a great disgrace coming onto this community. You all know the Project engineer, James Manning. Well, there ain't been anyone who's fought him harder or made him more trouble till lately than I have. But lately, fellow citizens, I've got to know him. I tell you right now that he's the smartest fellow that ever come into these parts. He's got some ideas that I'm not smart enough myself to understand, but I do know enough to realize that if he gets a chance to carry them out he'll make this Project the center of America!"
Oscar paused and someone called, "Go it, Oscar! Throw her in to low and you'll make it!"
"Well, fellow citizens, Fleckenstein and his crowd and all the rest of us, helping with kicks, have worked it so that Jim Manning has been asked to resign. They tell him that he's so unpopular here that the Service can't afford to keep him. Understand that? In other words, we farmers are such fools that we can't appreciate a good man just because his ideas differ from ours. But we can go crazy over a man like Fleckenstein because he'll take the trouble to jolly us. Fellow citizens, I ask you, are you going to sit by while the man that would make this Project into a valley empire is kicked out?"
Oscar stood for a moment glaring at his grinning hearers. Murphy climbed up beside him and shoved him aside.
"Down with the Irish!" yelled someone.
"You never paid me the fifty dollars you ran up for whiskey in my saloon, Henry," replied Murphy.
There was a roar of laughter and Murphy followed it quickly. "You all know me. I was in the saloon business in this valley for twenty years. But not one of you can say I wasn't on the straight all that time. The nearest I ever come to doing a man dirt was up in the dam. I was running a saloon just off the Reserve and Big Boss Manning jumped me and made me clean out my own joint. I was mad and I went up to the Greek there, who since is dead, for I heard the Greek was backed by Big Money with which he backed Fleckenstein to do the Service. Says I to myself, I'll help the Greek to do Manning.
"But the Greek cursed me out as I'll stand from no man. Then they took me to Manning and he treated me like a gentleman and asked me for my word of honor to keep off the Project. I know men. And I saw that the fellow I'd set out to do was a real man, carrying a load that was too big for the likes of me to sabez and that it made him sad and lonely. I was sick of the saloon business, anyhow, and when I got his number, I was proud to have been licked by him. Do you get me? Proud! And I says, I'm his friend for life and I'll just keep an eye on the pikers who are trying to do him.
"And I have. You know me, boys. You know that after the priest and the doctor it's the saloonkeeper that knows a man's number. Let me tell you that Fleckenstein is a crook. He'll steal anything from a woman's honor to a water power site. He's playing you folks for suckers. He's having everything his own way. Charlie Ives is the only fellow who's had the nerve to run against Fleckenstein and he's a dead one.
"And now Fleckenstein has done the Big Boss. He's made monkeys of you farmers. He's got you to roasting Manning till you've ruined him. And they ain't one of us fit to black his boots. This Project is his life's blood to him. There isn't anything he would[n't] sacrifice to its welfare. And you're throwing him out. Ain't a man's sacrifice worth anything to you? Will you take his best and give him the Judas kiss in return? Are ye hogs or men?"
There was an angry buzz in the room. Just as Uncle Denny started upon the platform, a tall lank farmer whom the man next him had been nudging violently, rose.
"My name's Marshall," he said, "and my friend Miguel here says I gotta get up and say the few things he and I agreed on last night. I'm mighty sick of hearing us farmers called fools. And now even the women folks have begun it. When our wives won't give us any peace maybe it's time we reformed our judgments. I'm willing to say that I think I've been mistaken about Manning. He came over to my place for the first time a few weeks back. I never talked with him before or got a good look at him. Boys, a man don't get the look that that young fella has on his face unless he's full of ideas that folks will kick him for. I felt kind of worked up about him then, but I didn't do anything.
"Last night I rode down to Cabillo with a Dutchman, some big bug who'd been up at the dam. I'd just been up there with Miguel. He told us that Jim Manning is attracting notice in the old country by the work he's doing on this dam. And he roasted us as samples of fat cattle who'd let a man like Manning go. At least that's what I made out, for he was so mad he talked Dutch a lot. Miguel and I made up our minds then that we'd got in wrong. What has this fellow Fleckenstein ever done for us? Is he going to get us branded over the country as a bunch that'll jump an honest debt? It looks to me as if Manning had done more for us than we knew. I'm willing to give Manning a new chance. I move we turn this meeting into a Manning meeting and I move we send a petition to the Secretary of the Interior to keep Manning on the job."
THE THUMB PRINT
"I have been buffeted by the ages until I dominate the desert. So do the ages buffet one another until they produce a dominating man."
MUSINGS OF THE ELEPHANT.
Uncle Denny was on the platform before Marshall had ceased speaking.
"Friends, Mr. Marshall has said the thing we had in mind to present to this meeting. It was to be me share to ask you for a petition. 'Twill be the pride of Still Jim's life that the request came from a farmer and not from me. If all here will sign and if every man here will make himself responsible for the signatures of his neighbors, the thing can be done in a few days and we will wire the matter to the Secretary of the Interior. Friends, I'd rather see the tide turn for Jim than to see Home Rule in Ireland!"
The tide had turned. One of those marvelous changes of sentiment that sometimes sweep a community began in the wild applause that greeted the tender little closing of Uncle Denny's speech. When Fleckenstein arrived an hour late, he found an empty hall. His audience had dispersed to scour the valleys for signatures for Jim.
Uncle Denny came home to the dam, tired but with the first ray of hope in his heart that he had had for a long time. The petition might not influence the authorities and yet the sentiment it raised might defeat Fleckenstein at the last. At any rate, it was something to work for these last hard days of Jim's regime.
Jim had seen the last farmer and was devoting the final days of his stay on the dam to urging the work forward that he might leave as full a record behind him as his broken term permitted. Wrapped in his work and his grief, Jim did not hear of the existence of the petition. Henderson had spread word among the workmen of Jim's intended departure. No one cared to speak of the matter to Jim. Something in his stern, sad young face forbade it. But there was not a man on the job from associate engineer to mule driver who did not throw himself into his work with an abandon of energy that drove the work forward with unbelievable rapidity. All that his men could do to help Jim's record was to be done.
For three days before the election Henderson scarcely slept. He tried to be on all three shifts. "I even eat my meals from a nose bag," he told Uncle Denny sadly.
"And what's a nose bag?" asked Uncle Denny.
"A nose bag is the thing you tie on a horse for him to get his grub from. Also it's the long yellow bag the cook puts the night shift's lunch in. But I'd starve if 'twould keep the Boss on the job. I'd even drink one of Babe's cocktails."
Henderson waited for Uncle Denny's "Go ahead with the story," then he began sadly:
"Algernon Dove was Babe's real name. He was an English remittance-man here in the early days. The Smithsonian folks came down here and wanted to get someone to go out with them to collect desert specimens, rattlers, Gila monsters, hydrophobia skunks and such trash. Babe and Alkali Ike, his running mate, went with them. They took a good outfit, the Smithsonian folks did, and in one wagon they took a barrel of alcohol and dumped the reptiles into it as fast as they found them. They got a good bunch, little by little, snakes and horned toads and hydrophobia skunks. In about two weeks they was ready to come back. Then they noticed the bad smell."
Henderson paused. "What was the matter?" asked Uncle Denny.
"Babe and Ike had been drinking the alcohol, day by day," he answered in his musical voice. "The barrel just did 'em two weeks. Just because I talk foolish talk, Mr. Dennis, ain't a sign that I don't feel bad. I don't want the Boss to speak to me or I'll cry."
The day of the election was a long one for Jim. He packed his trunk and his personal papers and Mrs. Flynn began to wrap the legs of the chairs in newspapers. Her tears threatened to reduce each wrapping to pulp before she completed it. In the afternoon, Jim started for a last tour of the dam. He covered the work slowly, looking his last at the details over which he had toiled and dreamed so long. He walked slowly up from the lower town. The men who passed him glanced away as if they would not intrude on his trouble.
The work on the dam was going forward as though life and death depended on the amount accomplished by this particular shift. Jim was inexpressibly touched by this display of the men's good will, but he could think of no way to show his feeling.
Just at sunset he climbed the Elephant's back. But he was not to have this last call alone. Old Suma-theek was sitting on the edge of the crater, his fine face turned hawklike toward the distance. Jim nodded to his friend, then sat down in his favorite spot where, far across the canyon, he could see the flag, rippling before the office.
After a time, the old Indian came over to sit beside him. He followed Jim's gaze and said softly:
"That flag it heap pretty but wherever Injun see it he see sorrow and death for Injun."
Jim answered slowly: "Perhaps we're being paid for what we've done to you, Suma-theek. The white tribe that made the flag is going, just as we have made you go. The flag will always look the same, but the dream it was made to tell will go."
"Who sabez the way of the Great Spirit? He make you go. He make Injun go. He make nigger and Chinamans stay. Perhaps they right, you and Injun wrong. Who sabez?"
"I'd like to have finished my dam," Jim muttered. "Somehow we are inadequate. I woke up too late." And suddenly a deeper significance came to him of Pen's verse—
"Too late for love, too late for joy; Too late! Too late! You loitered on the road too long, You trifled at the gate——"
"When you old like Suma-theek," said the Indian, "you sabez then nothing matter except man make his tribe live. Have children or die! That the Great Spirit's law for tribes."
Jim said no more. The daily miracle of the sunset was taking place. An early snow had capped the far mountain peaks and these now flashed an unearthly silver radiance against the crimson heavens. Old Jezebel wandered remotely, a black scratch across a desert of blood red. Distance indefinable, beauty indescribable, once more these quickened Jim's pulse. Almost, almost he seemed to catch the key to the Master Dream and then—the scarlet glow changed to purple, and night began its march across the sands.
Jim made his way down the trail and up to his house. Waiting at his door were three of his workmen. They were young fellows, fresh shaved and wearing white collars. Jim invited them in and they followed awkwardly. They took the cigars he offered and then shifted uneasily while Jim stood on the hearth rug regarding them with his wistful smile. He was not so very many years older than they.
"Boss," finally began one of the men, "us fellows heard a few days ago that you were going to leave. We wanted to do something to show we liked you and what a—d—doggone shame it is you're going and—and we didn't have time to buy anything, but we made up a purse. Every rough-neck on the job contributes, Boss; they wanted to. Here's about two hundred dollars. We'd like to have you buy something you can remember us by."
The spokesman stopped, perspiring and breathless. His two companions came forward and one of them laid on the table a cigar box which, when opened, showed a pile of bills and coins. Jim's face worked.
"Boys," said Jim huskily, "boys—I'm no speaker! What can I say to you except that this kindness takes away some of the sting of going. I'll buy something I can take with me wherever I go."
"Don't try to say nothing, Boss," said the spokesman. "I know what it is. I laid awake all night fixing up what I just said."
"It was a darned good speech," replied Jim. "Don't forget me, boys. When you finish the dam remember it was my pipe dream to have finished it with you."
The three shook hands with Jim and made for the door. Jim stood staring at the money, smiling but with wet eyes, when Bill Evans' automobile exploded up to the house. Uncle Denny was sitting in the tonneau with two other men. Jim walked slowly out to the road. One of the men was the Secretary of the Interior; the other, a slender, keen-faced young man, was his private secretary. Jim's face was white in the dusk.
"Well, young man," said the Secretary, "you have been having some strenuous times since the Hearing. And for a man reputed to be unpopular, you have some good friends."
Bill Evans, almost bursting with importance, undid the binding wire that fastened the door of the tonneau and the Secretary arose.
"If you had telegraphed me, Mr. Secretary," Jim began with a reproachful glance at Uncle Denny.
"On me soul, Jimmy," said Uncle Denny, "I didn't know. I went over with Bill to meet someone else and——"
The Secretary laughed as he followed Jim. As Jim held open the door he said: "I didn't want to wire you, Mr. Manning. I wanted to find you on the ground, steeped in your iniquities. You have nice quarters," he added, sitting down comfortably before the grate fire. Then his eye fell on the cigar box full of money. "Ah, is that a part of the loot I hear you've been getting?"
Jim looked at the Secretary uncertainly. He was a large man with the keen blue eyes and the firm mouth in a smooth-shaven face that Jim remembered was like a fine set mask. Jim got nothing from staring into his distinguished guest's quiet eyes.
"This is a gift from the workmen on the dam," said Jim. "I am to buy something to remember them by. There are about two hundred dollars there, they tell me."
The Secretary nodded. "I am glad to hear that the men like you, Mr. Manning. What have you—Come in, madam!" The Secretary nodded to Mrs. Flynn, who had paused in the door with a tray load of dishes. She paused and looked uncertainly at Jim.
"Supper for four tonight, Mrs. Flynn," said Jim. "We have the Secretary of the Interior with us."
"My heavens!" gasped Mrs. Flynn. "God knows I never meant to intrude."
The Secretary laughed so richly and so heartily that all but Mrs. Flynn joined him. She gave the group of men a look of utter scorn, and said:
"I suppose if the Lord and the twelve disciples had dropped in unexpected, you men would think it funny and me with me legs all wrapped up in newspapers!" Then she bolted for the kitchen.
The Secretary wiped his eyes. "I hope I haven't seriously upset your household," he said to Jim.
Jim shook his head. "Your coming will be one of the great events of her life. Supper will be late but it will be well worth eating."
"Then," said the Secretary, "let us continue our private hearing. What have you been trying to do here on the dam, Mr. Manning?"
Jim stood on the hearth rug and glanced at each of the three men seated before him, his gaze finally resting on the Secretary's face.
"At first," he said, "I merely wanted to build the dam. I called it the Thumb-print that I would leave on the map, that should be emblematic of the old trail-making Puritan. But by a persistent indifference to their prejudices and to their personal wishes and welfare, I antagonized all the farmers on the Project."
Jim paused, hesitated and then went on. "The woman whom I shall one day marry pointed out to me that my attitude here was typical of the general attitude of the so-called Old Stock here in America. She said that I was willing to build the dam but unwilling to sacrifice time or effort to administering it, to showing the farmer how to handle the fine, essentially democratic, idea that was in the Reclamation idea. She said that we had formed the government in America and left it to others to administer and that of this we were dying."
Jim stopped and the Secretary said, "She seems intelligent, this young woman."
Jim's smile was flashing and tender as he said, "She is!" Then he went on, "You wrote me that the human element was the important matter here on the dam. This—friend—of——" Jim hesitated for a name for Pen.
"—of your heart," suggested the Secretary.
"Thank you," replied Jim gravely, "—of my heart said that I was doing only half a man's part and that that was what was losing me my job. So I have been trying to enlarge my Thumb-print. I want to leave it not only in concrete but in the idea that the Project shall embody the rebirth of the old New England ideal of equality not in freedom alone, but in responsibility. I hoped I might make every individual here feel responsible for the building of the dam, for the payment of the debt, and for the development of the Project for the best good of every human being on it."
Jim stopped, and the Secretary said, "Well?"
Again Jim's wistful smile. "I woke too late to get my idea across. My successor comes tomorrow."
The Secretary shook his head. "I had no idea you were to leave so soon, though I will admit that after I read of your interview with Freet I rather lost interest in your doings. You know, I suppose, that Freet was asked for his resignation at the same time you were? Last week, however, just before we started on a tour of the Projects, a young lady called on me. She was very good looking and my secretary is not ah—impervious—to externals, so he allowed her quite a long interview with me."
The Secretary's eyes twinkled and young Allen laughed. "You see, that the Secretary took note of her personal appearance himself!"
Jim's face was flushed and amazed. The Secretary went on: "This young lady told me the details of the Freet visit and a good many other details that I'll not take time to mention. She was so clear and cool, yet so in earnest that I decided that I would leave my party at Cabillo and come on up for a talk with you, incognito, as it were, before they got here. To cap the climax, at Chicago I had a most remarkable telegram from a man named Gluck. I knew that a German engineer was looking over our Projects."
The Secretary smiled at the helpless expression on Jim's face. "Gluck, in about a thousand words, for which I hope his government will pay, told me that I was an enfeebled idiot or what amounted to that to let an engineering treasure like you leave the dam. I liked you, Mr. Manning, when I saw you at Washington. I thought, then, though, that you were on the wrong track and I hoped you could be lured onto the right one. I admit that I was much disappointed with your answer to my first letter and delighted with your second. I might have known that a woman had had her hand in so radical a change!" The Secretary's smile was very human as he said this.
"I don't know that I agree with you in your feeling of sadness about the going of the Old Stock. I am an enthusiast over the Melting Pot idea myself. But whatever the motive power within you, I heartily endorse your ideals for the Projects. But I am still not convinced that you are the man for your job, in spite of your engineering ability. Engineering ability is not rare. A great many engineers could build a dam. But a man to do the work you have outlined must have several rare qualities and not the least among these is the capacity for making many friends easily, of getting his ideas to the other man."
Jim's jaw set a little, but he answered frankly, "I know it, Mr. Secretary, and that is just what I lack."
This was too much for Uncle Denny. "Mr. Secretary, those that know Jim are bound to him by ribs of steel. They——"
"Uncle Denny! Uncle Denny!" interrupted Jim, sadly, "even your faithful love cannot make a popular man of me! You must not try to influence the Secretary by your personal prejudice!"
Uncle Denny, with obvious effort, closed his lips, then opened them to say, "Still! Still! You break me old heart!"
The Secretary looked from the handsome old Irishman to the tall young engineer, whose face was too sad for his years and something a little misty softened the Secretary's keen blue eyes.
"You agree with me, Mr. Manning," he said gently, "that the capacity you seem to lack is essential for so heavy a task as you have outlined. It is a great pity to lose you to the Service, yet I cannot see how you can bring the Project to its best. I am considering how it will be possible to find men who have your engineering ability, your idealism, and this last rare, marvelous capacity for popularity."
Jim flushed under his tan. For the first time he spoke tensely. "Mr. Secretary, it's crucifying me to think I've fallen down on this."
"Don't let it break you," said the Secretary, looking at Jim with eyes that had looked long and understandingly on human nature. "Make up your mind to turn your forces into other channels. I want you to understand my position, Mr. Manning. Personally, I would do anything for you, for I like you. I hope always to count you as a friend. But as Secretary of the Interior, I must be a man of iron, always looking ahead to the future of our country. I dare not let myself show partiality here, lest our children's children suffer from my weakness."
Jim answered steadily, "Do you suppose I would hold my job as a favor, Mr. Secretary?"
"I know you wouldn't," replied the Secretary. "That is why I took the trouble to come to you personally. I told you that I was proud to feel myself your friend. And if you have lost, you have lost as a man must prefer to lose, Mr. Manning, in full flight, with the heat of battle thick upon you and not dragging out your days in a slow paralysis of futile endeavor."
"I thank you, Mr. Secretary," said Jim huskily.
"Can I put supper on now, Mr. Dennis?" asked Mrs. Flynn, in a stage whisper.
"You may," said the Secretary emphatically. "I don't like to seem impatient, Mrs. Flynn, but I'm famished."
Mrs. Flynn beamed, though eyes and nose were red from weeping. "I'll have it on in three minutes, your honor. Just hold your hand on your stomach, that always helps me, your honor. Boss," in another stage whisper, "I laid a clean shirt on your bed for you and you had better ask his honor if he don't want to wash up."
The Secretary was charmed. He rose with alacrity. "Mrs. Flynn, if you ever leave Mr. Manning, come straight to me. You are a woman after my own heart."
Mrs. Flynn curtseyed with the sugar bowl in her hand. "I thank you, your honor, but if God lets me live to spare my life, I'll never leave the Big Boss. He's my family! I'd rather rub my hand over that silky brown head of his than over a king's. God knows when I'll see him next, though——" and Mrs. Flynn's face worked and she dashed from the room.
After the wonderful supper which Mrs. Flynn at last produced, Jim exerted himself, with Uncle Denny's help, to entertain the Secretary. Young Mr. Allen went to call on the cement engineer, who was an old friend. It was not difficult to amuse the Secretary. He was as interested in details of the life on the Project as a boy of fifteen. Uncle Denny sent him into peals of laughter with an Irish version of Henderson's stories, and Jim's story of Iron Skull moved him deeply.
It was drawing toward nine o'clock when once more Bill Evans' rattle of gasolene artillery sounded before the door. A familiar voice called,
"Good-night, Bill!" and Penelope came into the room.
The men jumped to their feet and Uncle Denny hurried to take her bag. Jim did not seem able to speak. Pen shook hands with the Secretary.
"You are here, Mr. Secretary," she said. "I'm so glad!"
"So am I," said the Secretary, smiling appreciatively at Pen. In her traveling suit of brown, with her shining hair and her great eyes brilliant while her color came and went, Pen was very beautiful. She turned from the Secretary to Jim and shook hands with him, with deepening flush.
"Hello, Still!" she said.
"Hello, Penelope!" replied Jim.
"Pen!" cried Uncle Denny breathlessly. "What's the news? As I promised, I've not been near the telephone, nor have I said a word here, though it's most suffocated me."
"Fleckenstein is defeated," said Pen.
"Oh, thank God for that!" cried Jim.
"How did it happen?" asked the Secretary.
Uncle Denny began to walk the floor. Pen answered. "A week ago, Mr. Secretary, a farmer named Marshall at a Fleckenstein meeting suggested that a petition be sent you to keep Mr. Manning here."
Uncle Denny interrupted. "Mrs. Saradokis here already had telegraphed us to do that same thing, Mr. Secretary, but we were glad to have the farmers get the same idea."
"That isn't important, Uncle Denny," said Pen. "Marshall himself wrote the petition. The farmers' wives caught the idea as eagerly as their husbands and you will find in many cases the signatures of whole families. Of course no man was going to petition for Mr. Manning, and then vote for Fleckenstein. So he was defeated. Here is the petition, Mr. Secretary."
Pen drew from her suitcase a fold of legal cap papers which she opened and passed to the Secretary. Her voice vibrated as she said: "It is signed by nearly every farmer on the Project, Mr. Secretary. Even the Mexicans wanted Jim to stay."
The Secretary put on his glasses and unfolded the numerous sheets. He looked them through very deliberately, then without a word, passed them to Jim.
The petition was a short one: "We the undersigned residents of the Cabillo Project petition that James Manning be retained as engineer in charge of the Project. We ask this because we like him and trust him and believe he will do more than any other man could do for the farmers' good. Signed——"
There was no sound in the room save the crackling of the papers as Jim's trembling fingers turned them. He was white to the lips. The Secretary looked from Jim to Pen, who was standing with close-clasped fingers, her deep eyes shining as she watched Jim. From Pen he looked at Uncle Denny, who was walking round and round the dining room table as though on a wager. Then the Secretary looked back at Jim.
"This petition pleases me greatly, Mr. Manning, and it will please the Director. He has grieved very much over the seeming necessity of letting you go. Of course this petition disproves all our statements about your capacity for making friends and for making your friends get your ideas." The Secretary chuckled. "Mrs. Flynn can remove the newspapers from all her legs tomorrow!"
Jim could not speak. He looked from face to face and his lips moved, but only his wistful smile came forth.
"Mr. Dennis," said the Secretary, "supposing you and I have a quiet smoke here while the Project engineer allows this young lady to take him out and explain to him how she came here."
"Mr. Secretary, you must have a drop of Irish blood in you!" cried Uncle Denny.
He pushed Pen and Jim toward the door. And Jim took Pen's hand and went out into the night.
They walked silently under the stars to the edge of the canyon and stood there looking across at the black outline of the Elephant.
"I went down to see the Secretary in Washington," said Pen, "and he was very kind, but I couldn't move him from his decision about your dismissal. Then when I wired Oscar about the petition, I decided that I was going to be in at the finish and present it to the Secretary myself. We came up from Cabillo on the same train. I made Bill drop me at the Hendersons' because I wanted to surprise you. Good old Bill! He went down to Cabillo and brought the petition up to me."
Jim held Pen's hand close in his own. "I can't seem to understand it all," he said. "I don't deserve it. Think of the farmers doing this! Aren't they a fine lot of fellows, though! Gee, Penny, there is going to be some great team work on this Project from now on! The water power trust won't be able to get in here with a hydraulic ram! What can they do with a prosperous and responsible group of farmers like these!"
"Jim," cried Penelope, "there is no limit to what I want you to do! This is just the beginning. After you have finished here, you must go to other Projects and after that, you must go to Congress and it will be war to the knife all the time. It's a wonderful future you are going to have, Still Jim."
Jim laughed happily. "And where will you be all this time, Penny? I understand that you are quite, quite through with marriage, and it will be very improper for you to keep on taking such an active interest in a bachelor's affairs. And yet this bachelor just can't go on without you!"
Pen answered evasively. "That's open to discussion. Jimmy, some day, you will buy back the old house at Exham."
"It would never be the same, with dad gone," said Jim.
"Even if your father were alive, Jimmy, it couldn't be the same," answered Pen. "It's just that the thought of the old house will always renew your old instincts, Still. You can't return Exham's old sweet days to it. But Exham has done its work, I believe, out here on this Project."
Pen's smile was very sweet in the starlight. Jim put both his hands on her shoulders.
"Do you love me, dear?" he asked.
Pen looked up into his eyes long and earnestly.
"I always have, Still Jim," she said.
"Do you want to know how I love you? Oh, sweetheart, I have so little to offer you!" he went on, brokenly, without waiting for Pen's answer, "except abiding love and passionate love and adoring love! And you are so very beautiful, Penelope. I've hungered for you for a long, long time, dear. Bitter, bitter nights and days up on the Makon and hopeless nights and days here on the Cabillo." His hands tightened on her shoulders. "Did you come back to me, sweetheart?"
"Still," whispered Pen, "I missed you so! I had to come back."
Then Jim drew Pen to him and folded her close in his strong arms and laid his lips to hers in a long kiss.
And the flag fluttered lightly behind them and the desert wind whispered above their heads:
"O yahee! O yahai! Sweet as arrow weed in spring!"
* * * * *
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Cry in the Wilderness, A. By Mary E. Waller.
Cry of Youth, A. By Cynthia Lombardi.
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Curious Quest, The. By E. Phillips Oppenheim.
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Depot Master, The. By Joseph C. Lincoln.
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Everyman's Land. By C. N. & A. M. Williamson.
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Fairfax and His Pride. By Marie Van Vorst.
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Fighting Chance, The. By Robert W. Chambers.
Fighting Fool, The. By Dane Coolidge.
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Find the Woman. By Arthur Somers Roche.
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Forbidden Trail, The. By Honore Willsie.
Forfeit, The. By Ridgwell Cullum.
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From Now On. By Frank L. Packard.
Fur Bringers, The. By Hulbert Footner.
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Gloved Hand, The. By Burton E. Stevenson.
God's Country and the Woman. By James Oliver Curwood.
God's Good Man. By Marie Corelli.
Going Some. By Rex Beach.
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