"No, thank you, Miss Allen, I think I'm in good hands."
Enoch rose to open the door for Diana. "Thank you, Judge," she said, "Good night!"
"Diana," said Enoch, under cover of the conversation at the table, "before we start to-morrow, will you give me half an hour alone with you?"
There was pain and determination both in Enoch's voice. Diana glanced at him a little anxiously as she answered, "Yes, I will, Enoch."
"Good night, Diana," and Enoch retired to his bunk, where he lay wide awake long after the card game was ended and the room in darkness save for the dull glow of the fire.
He made no attempt the next day to obtain the half hour Diana had promised him. He helped Jonas with their meager preparations for the trip, then took a gun and started along the trail which led up the Ferry canyon to the desert. But he had not gone a hundred yards, when Diana called.
"Wait a moment, Judge! I'll go with you."
She joined him shortly with her gun and game bag. "We'll have Na-che cook us a day's supply of meat before we start," she said. "The hunting is apt to be poor on the trail we're to take home."
Enoch nodded but said nothing. Something of the old grim look was in his eyes again. He paused at the point where the canyon gave place to the desert. Here a gnarled mesquite tree and an old half-buried log beneath it, offered mute evidence of a gigantic flooding of the river.
"Let's sit here for a little while, Diana," he said.
They put their guns against the mesquite tree and sat down facing the distant river.
"Diana," Enoch began abruptly, "in spite of what your father and John Seaton believed and wanted me to believe, the things that the Brown papers said about my mother are true. Only, Brown did not tell all. He did not give the details of her death. I suppose even Luigi hesitated to tell that because I almost beat him to death the last time he tried it.
"Seaton and I never talked much about the matter. He tried to ferret out facts, but had no luck. By the time I was seventeen or eighteen I realized that no man with a mother like mine had a right to marry. But I missed the friendship of women, I suppose, for when I was perhaps eighteen or nineteen I made a discovery. I found that somewhere in my heart I was carrying the image of a girl, a slender girl, with braids of light brown hair wrapped round her head, a girl with the largest, most intelligent, most tender gray eyes in the world, and a lovely curving mouth, with deep corners. I named her Lucy, because I'd been reading Wordsworth and I began to keep a diary to her. I've kept it ever since.
"You can have no idea, how real, how vivid, how vital a part of my life Lucy became to me. She was in the very deepest truth my better self, for years. And then this summer, a miracle occurred! Lucy walked into my office! Beauty, serenity, intelligence, sweetness, gaiety, and gallantry—these were Lucy's in the flesh as I could not even dream for Lucy of the spirit. Only in one particular though had I made an actual error. Her name was not Lucy, it was Diana! Diana! the little girl of Bright Angel who had entered my turbulent boyish heart, all unknown to me, never to leave it! . . . Diana! Lucy! I love you and God help me, I must not marry!"
Enoch, his nails cutting deep into his palms turned from the river, at which he had been staring steadily while speaking, to Diana. Her eyes which had been fastened on Enoch's profile, now gazed deep into his, pain speaking to pain, agony to agony.
"If," Enoch went on, huskily, "there is no probability of your growing to care for me, then I think our friendship can endure. I can crowd back the lover and be merely your friend. But if you might grow to care, even ever so little, then, I think at the thought of your pain, my heart would break. So, I thought before it is too late—"
Suddenly Diana's lips which had grown white, trembled a little. "It is too late!" she whispered. "It is too late!" and she put her slender, sunburned hands over her face.
"Don't! Oh, don't!" groaned Enoch. He took her hands down, gently. Diana's eyes were dry. Her cheeks were burning. Enoch looked at her steadily, his breath coming a little quickly, then he rose and with both her hands in his lifted her to her feet.
"Do you love me, Diana?" he whispered.
She looked up into his eyes. "Yes, Enoch! Oh, yes!" she answered, brokenly.
"How much do you love me, dear?" he persisted.
She smiled with a tragic beauty in droop of lips and anguish of eyes. "With all there is in me to give to love, Enoch."
"Then," said Enoch, "this at least may be mine," and he laid his lips to hers.
When he lifted his head, he smoothed her hair back from her face. "Remember, I am not deceiving myself, Diana," he said huskily. "I have acted like a selfish, unprincipled brute. If I had not, in Washington, let you see that I cared, you would have escaped all this."
"I did not want to escape it, Enoch," she said, smiling again while her lips quivered. "Yet I thought I would have strength enough to go away, without permitting you to tell me about it. But I was not strong enough. However," stepping away from Enoch, "now we both understand, and I'll go home. And we must never see each other again, Enoch."
"Never see each other again!" he repeated. Then his voice deepened. "Go about our day's work year after year, without even a memory to ease the gnawing pain. God, Diana, do you think we are machines to be driven at will?"
Diana drew a long breath and her voice was very steady as she answered. "Don't let's lose our grip on ourselves, Enoch. It only makes a hard situation harder. Now that we understand each other, let us kiss the cross, and go on."
Enoch, arms folded on his chest, great head bowed, walked up and down under the trees slowly for a moment. When he paused before her, it was to speak with his customary calm and decision, though his eyes smoldered.
"Diana, I want to take the trip with you, just as we planned, and go down Bright Angel with your father and you. I want those few days in the desert with you to carry me through the rest of my life. You need not fear, dear, that for one moment I will lose grip on myself."
Diana looked at him as if she never had seen him before. She looked at the gaunt, strong features, the massive chin, the sensitive, firm mouth, the lines of self-control and purposefulness around eyes and lips, and over all the deep-seated sadness that made Enoch's face unforgettable. Slowly she turned from him to the desert, and after a moment, as if she had gathered strength from the far horizon, she answered him, still with the little note of steadiness in her voice:
"I think we'll have to have those last few days, together, Enoch."
Enoch heaved a deep sigh then smiled, brilliantly. "And now," he said, "I dare not go back to camp without at least discharging my gun, do you?"
"No, Judge!" replied Diana, picking up her gun, with a little laugh.
"Don't call me Judge, when we're alone!" protested Enoch.
Diana with something sweeter than tenderness shining in her great eyes, touched his hand softly with hers.
"No, dear!" she whispered.
Enoch looked at her, drew a deep breath, then put his gun across his arm and followed Diana to the yucca thicket where quail was to be found. They were very silent during the hour of hunting. They bagged a pair of cottontails and a number of quail, and when they did speak, it was only regarding the hunt or the preparations for the coming exodus. They reached camp, just before dinner, Diana disappearing into the tent, and Enoch tramping prosaically and wearily into the cabin to throw himself down on his bunk. He had not yet recovered from the last days in the Canyon.
"You shouldn't have tackled that tramp this morning, Judge," said Milton. "You should have saved yourself for this afternoon."
"You saw who his side pardner was, didn't you?" asked Curly.
"Yes," replied Milton, grinning.
"Then why make foolish comments?"
"I am a fool!" agreed Milton.
"Judge," asked Curly, "how about you and me having our conflab right after dinner?"
"That will suit me," replied Enoch, "if you can drag yourself from Agnew and poker that long."
"I'll make a superhuman effort," returned Curly.
The conference, which took place under the cedar near the Ida, did not last long.
"Curly," said Enoch, lighting his pipe, "I haven't made up my mind yet, whether I want you to give me the information about Fowler and Brown or not."
"What's the difficulty?" demanded Curly.
"Well, there's a number of personal reasons that I don't like to go into. But I've a suggestion to make. You say you're trying to get money together with which to retain a lawyer and carry out a campaign, so you aren't in a hurry, anyway. Now you write down in a letter all that you know about the two men, and send the letter to me, I'll treat it as absolutely confidential, and will return the material to you without reading it if I decide not to use it."
Curly puffed thoughtfully at his cigarette. "That's fair enough, Judge. As you say there's no great hurry and I always get het up, anyhow, when I talk about it. I'd better put it down in cool black and white. Where can I reach you?"
"No. 814 Blank Avenue, Washington, D. C.," replied Enoch.
Curly pulled an old note book out of his hip pocket and set down the address:
"All right, Judge, you'll hear from me sometime in the next few weeks. I'll go back now and polish Agnew off."
And he hurried away, leaving Enoch to smoke his pipe thoughtfully as he stared at the Ida.
LOVE IN THE DESERT
"While I was teaching my boy obedience, I would teach him his next great obligation, service. So only could his manhood be a full one."—Enoch's Diary.
Shortly after two o'clock, Diana announced that she was ready to start. But the good-bys consumed considerable time and it was nearly three before they were really on their way. Enoch's eyes were a little dim as he shook hands with Milton.
"Curly has my address, Milton," he said, "drop me a line once in a while. I shall be more deeply interested in your success than you can realize."
"I'll do it, Judge, and when I get back East, I'll look you up. You're a good sport, old man!"
"You're more than that, Milton! Good-by!" and Enoch hurried out in response to Jonas' call.
They were finally mounted and permitted to go. Na-che rode first, leading a pack mule, Jonas second, leading two mules, Diana followed, Enoch bringing up the rear. Much to Jonas' satisfaction, Enoch had been obliged to abandon the overalls and flannel shirt which he had worn into the Canyon. Even the tweed suit was too ragged and shrunk to be used again. So he was clad in the corduroy riding breeches and coat that Jonas had brought. But John Red Sun's boots were still doing notable service and the soft hat, faded and shapeless, was pulled down over his eyes in comfort if not in beauty.
There was a vague trail to the spring which lay southwest of the Ferry. It led through the familiar country of fissures and draws that made travel slow and heavy. The trail rose, very gradually, wound around a number of multi-colored peaks and paused at last at the foot of a smooth-faced, purple butte. Here grew a cottonwood, sheltering from sun and sand a lava bowl, eroded by time and by the tiny stream of water that dripped into it gently. There was little or no view from the spring, for peaks and buttes closely hemmed it in. The November shadows deepened early on the strange, winding, almost subterranean trail, and although when they reached the cottonwood, it was not sundown, they made camp at once. Diana's tent was set up in the sand to the right of the spring. Enoch collected a meager supply of wood and before five o'clock supper had been prepared and eaten.
For a time, after this was done, Enoch and Diana sat before the tiny eye of fire, listening to the subdued chatter with which Jonas and Na-che cleared up the meal.
Suddenly, Enoch said, "Diana, how brilliant the stars are, to-night! Why can't we climb to the top of the butte for a little while? I feel smothered here. It's far worse than the river bottom."
"Aren't you too tired?" asked Diana.
"Not too tired for as short a climb as that, unless you are feeling done up!"
"I!" laughed Diana. "Why, Na-che will vouch for it that I've never had such a lazy trip before! Na-che, the Judge and I are going up the butte. Just keep a little glow of fire for us, will you, so that we can locate the camp easily."
"Yes, Diana, and don't be frightened if you hear noises. I'm going to teach Jonas a Navajo song."
"We'll try not to be," replied Diana, laughing as she rose.
It was an ascent of several hundred feet, but easily made and the view from the top more than repaid them for the effort. In all his desert nights, Enoch never had seen the stars so vivid. For miles about them the shadowy peaks and chasms were discernible. And Diana's face was delicately clear cut as she seated herself on a block of stone and looked up at him.
"Diana," said Enoch, abruptly, "you make me wish that I were a poet, instead of a politician."
"But you aren't a politician!" protested Diana. "You shall not malign yourself so."
"A pleasant comment on our American politics!" exclaimed Enoch. "Well, whatever I am, words fail me utterly when I try to describe the appeal of your beauty."
"Enoch," there was a note of protest in Diana's voice, "you aren't going to make love to me on this trip, are you?"
Enoch's voice expressed entire astonishment. "Why certainly I am, Diana!"
"You'll make it very hard for me!" sighed Diana.
Enoch knelt in the sand before her and lifted her hands against his cheek.
"Sweetheart," he said softly, his great voice, rich and mellow although it hardly rose above a whisper, "my only sweetheart, not for all the love in the world would I make it hard for you. Not for all your love would I even attempt to leave you with one memory that is not all that is sweet and noble. Only in these days I want you to learn all there is in my heart, as I must learn all that is in yours. For, after that, Diana, we must never see each other again."
Diana freed one of her hands and brushed the tumbled hair from Enoch's forehead.
"Do you realize," he said, quietly, "that in all the years of my memory no woman has caressed me so? I am starved, Diana, for just such a gentle touch as that."
"Then you shall be starved no more, dearest. Sit down in the sand before me and lean your head against my knee. There!" as Enoch turned and obeyed her. "Now we can both look out at the stars and I can smooth your hair. What a mass of it you have, Enoch! And you must have been a real carrot top when you were a little boy."
"I was an ugly brat," said Enoch, comfortably. "A red-headed, freckled-faced, awkward brat! And unhappy and disagreeable as I was ugly."
"It seems so unfair!" Diana smoothed the broad forehead, tenderly. "I had such a happy childhood. I didn't go to school until I was twelve. Until then I lived the life of a little Indian, out of doors, taking the trail trips with dad or geologizing with mother. I don't know how many horses and dogs I had. Their number was limited only by what mother and father felt they could afford to feed."
"There was nothing unfair in your having had all the joy that could be crammed into your childhood," protested Enoch. "Nature and circumstance were helping to make you what you are. I don't see that anything could have been omitted. Listen, Diana."
Plaintively from below rose Na-che's voice in a slow sweet chant. Jonas's baritone hesitatingly repeated the strain, and after a moment they softly sang it together.
"Oh, this is perfect!" murmured Enoch. "Perfect!" Then he drew Diana's hand to his lips.
How long they sat in silence listening to the wistful notes that floated up to them, neither could have told. But when the singing finally ceased, Diana, with a sudden shiver said,
"Enoch, I want to go back to the camp."
Enoch rose at once, with a rueful little laugh. "Our first precious evening is ended, and we've said nothing!"
"Nothing!" exclaimed Diana. "Enoch, what was there left to say when I could touch your hair and forehead so? We can talk on the trail."
"Starlight and you and Na-che's little song," murmured Enoch; "I am hard to satisfy, am I not?" He put his arms about Diana and kissed her softly, then let her lead the way down to the spring. And shortly, rolled in his blankets, his feet to the dying fire, Enoch was deep in sleep.
Sun-up found them on the trail again. All day the way wound through country that had been profoundly eroded. Na-che led by instinct, it seemed, to Enoch, for when they were a few miles from the spring, as far as he, at least, could observe, the trail disappeared, entirely. During the morning, they walked much, for the over-hanging ledges and sudden chasms along which Na-che guided them made even the horses hesitate. They were obliged to depend on their canteens for water and there was no sign of forage for the horses and mules. Every one was glad when the noon hour came.
"It will be better, to-night," explained Diana. "There are water holes known as Indian's Cups that we should reach before dark. They're sure to be full of water, for it has rained so much lately. The way will be far easier to-morrow, Enoch, so that we can talk as we go."
They were standing by the horses, waiting for Jonas and Na-che to put the dishes in one of the packs.
"Diana, do you realize that you made no comment whatever on what I told you yesterday? Didn't the story of Lucy seem wonderful to you?"
"I was too deeply moved to make any very sane comment," replied Diana. "Enoch, will you let me see the diary?"
"When I die, it is to be yours, but—" he hesitated, "it tells so many of my weaknesses, that I wouldn't like to be alive and feel that you know so much about them." He laughed a little sadly.
"Yet you told Lucy them, didn't you?" insisted Diana with a smile. "Don't make me jealous of that person, Enoch!"
"She was you!" returned Enoch, briefly. "To-night, I'll tell you, Lucy, some of the things you have forgotten."
"You're a dear," murmured Diana, under her breath, turning to mount as Jonas and Na-che clambered into their saddles.
All the afternoon, Enoch, riding under the burning sun, through the ever shifting miracles of color, rested in his happy dream. The past and the future did not exist for him. It was enough that Diana, straight and slender and unflagging rode before him. It was enough that that evening after the years of yearning he would feel the touch of Lucy's hand on his burning forehead. For the first time in his life, Enoch's spirit was at peace.
The pools were well up on the desert, where pinnacles and buttes had given way at last to a roughly level country, with only occasional fissures as reminders of the canyon. Bear grass and yucca, barrel and fish-hook cactus as well as the ocotilla appeared. The sun was sinking when the horses smelled water and cantered to the shallow but grateful basins. Far to the south, the chaos out of which they had labored was black, and mysterious with drifting vapors. The wind which whirled forever among the chasms was left behind. They had entered into silence and tranquillity.
After supper and while the last glow of the sunsets still clung to the western horizon, Na-che said,
"Jonas, you want to see the great Navajo charm, made by Navajo god when he made these waterholes?"
Jonas pricked up his ears. "Is it a good charm or a hoo-doo?"
"If you come at it right, it means you never die," Na-che nodded her head solemnly.
Jonas put a cat's claw root on the fire. "All right! You see, woman, that I come at it right."
Na-che smiled and led the way eastward.
"Bless them!" exclaimed Enoch. "They're doing the very best they can for us!"
"And they're having a beautiful time with each other," added Diana. "I think Jonas loves you as much as Na-che loves me."
"I don't deserve that much love," said Enoch, watching the fire glow on Diana's face. "But he is the truest friend I have on earth."
Diana gave him a quick, wide-eyed glance.
"Ah, but you don't know me, as Jonas does! I wouldn't want you to know me as he does!" exclaimed Enoch.
"I'll not admit either Lucy or Jonas as serious rivals," protested Diana.
Enoch laughed. "Dearest, I have told you things that Jonas would not dream existed. I have poured out my heart to you, night after night. All a boy's aching dreams, all a man's hopes and fears, I've shared with you. Jonas was not that kind of friend. I first met him when I became secretary to the Mayor of New York. He was a sort of porter or doorman at the City Hall. He gradually began to do little personal things for me and before I realized just how it was accomplished, he became my valet and steward, and was keeping house for me in a little flat up on Fourth Avenue.
"And then, when I was still in the City Hall I had a row with Luigi. He spoke of my mother to a group of officials I was taking through Minetta Lane.
"Diana, it was Luigi who taught me to gamble when I was not over eight years old. I took to it with devilish skill. What drink or dope or women have been to other men, gambling has been to me. After I came back from the Grand Canyon with John Seaton, I began to fight against it. But, although I waited on table for my board, I really put myself through the High School on my earnings at craps and draw poker. As I grew older I ceased to gamble as a means of subsistence but whenever I was overtaxed mentally I was drawn irresistibly to a gambling den. And so after the fight with Luigi—"
Enoch paused, his face knotted. His strong hands, clasping his knees as he sat in the sand, opposite Diana, were tense and hard. Diana, looking at him thought of what this man meant to the nation, of what his service had been and would be: she thought of the great gifts with which nature had endowed him and she could not bear to have him humble himself to her.
She sprang to her feet. "Enoch! Enoch!" she cried. "Don't tell me any more! You are entitled to your personal weaknesses. Even I must not intrude! I asked you about them because, oh, because, Enoch, you are letting your only real weakness come between you and me."
Enoch had risen with Diana, and now he came around the fire and put his hands on her shoulders. "No! No! Diana! not my weaknesses keep us apart, bitterly as they mortify me."
Diana looked up at him steadily. "Enoch, your great weakness is not gambling. Who cares whether you play cards or not? No one but Brown! But your weakness is that you have let those early years and Luigi's vicious stories warp your vision of the sweetest thing in life."
"Diana! I thought you understood. My mother—"
"Don't!" interrupted Diana, quickly. "Don't! I understand and because I do, I tell you that you are warped. You are America's only real statesman, the man with a vision great enough to mold ideals for the nation. Still you are not normal, not sane, about yourself."
Enoch dropped his hands from her shoulders and stood staring at her sadly.
"I thought you understood!" he whispered, brokenly.
Diana wrung her hands, turned and walked swiftly toward a neighboring heap of rocks whose shadows swallowed her. Enoch breathed hard for a moment, then followed. He found Diana, a vague heap on a great stone, her face buried in her hands. Enoch sat down beside her and took her in his arms.
"Sweetheart," he whispered, "what have I done?"
Diana, shaken by dry sobs, did not reply. But she put her arms about his neck and clung to him as though she could never let him go. Enoch sat holding her in an ecstasy that was half pain. Dusk thickened into night and the stars burned richly above them. Enoch could see that Diana's face against his breast was quiet, her great eyes fastened on the desert. He whispered again,
"Diana, what have I done?"
"You have made me love you so that I cannot bear to think of the future," she replied. "It was not wise of us to take this trip together, Enoch."
Enoch's arms tightened about her. "We'll be thankful all our lives for it, Diana. And you haven't really answered my question, darling!"
Diana drew herself away from him. "Enoch, let's never mention the subject again. The things you understand by weakness—why, I don't care if you have a thousand of them! But, dear, I want the diary. When you leave El Tovar, leave that much of yourself with me."
Enoch's voice was troubled. "I have been so curiously lonely! You can have no idea of what the diary has meant to me."
"I won't ask you for it, Enoch!" exclaimed Diana. Suddenly she leaned forward in the moonlight and kissed him softly on the lips.
Enoch drew her to him and kissed her fiercely. "The diary! It is yours, Diana, yours in a thousand ways. When you read it, you will understand why I hesitated to give it to you."
"I'll find some way to thank you," breathed Diana.
"I know a way. Give me some of your desert photographs. Choose those that you think tell the most. And don't forget Death and the Navajo."
"Oh, Enoch! What a splendid suggestion! You've no idea how I shall enjoy making the collection for you. It will take several months to complete it, you know."
"Don't wait to complete the collection. Send the prints one at a time, as you finish them. Send them to my house, not my office."
Soft voices sounded from the camping place. "We must go back," said Diana.
"Another evening gone, forever," said Enoch. "How many more have we, Diana?"
"Three or four. One never knows, in the Canyon country."
They moved slowly, hand in hand, toward the firelight. Just before they came within its zone, Enoch lifted Diana's hand to his lips.
"Good night, Diana!"
"Good night, Enoch!"
Jonas and Na-che, standing by the fire like two brown genii of the desert, looked up smiling as the two appeared.
"Ain't they a handsome pair, Na-che?" asked Jonas, softly. "Ain't he a grand looking man?"
Na-che assented. "I wish I could get each of 'em to wear a love ring. I could get two the best medicine man in the desert country made."
"Where are they?" demanded Jonas eagerly.
"Up near Bright Angel."
"You get 'em and I'll pay for 'em," urged Jonas.
"We can't buy 'em! They got to be taken."
"Well, how come you to think I couldn't take 'em, woman? You show me where they are. I'll do the rest."
"All right," said Na-che. "Diana, don't you feel tired?"
"Tired enough to go to bed, anyway," replied Diana. "It's going to be a very cold night. Be sure that you and the Judge have plenty of blankets, Jonas. Good night!" and she disappeared into the tent.
The night was stinging cold. Ice formed on the rain pools and they ate breakfast with numbed hands. As usual, however, the mercury began to climb with the sun and when at mid-morning, they entered a huge purple depression in the desert, coats were peeled and gloves discarded.
The depression was an ancient lava bed, deep with lavender dust that rose chokingly about them. There was a heavy wind that increased as they rode deeper into the great bowl and this, with the swirling sand, made the noon meal an unpleasant duty. But, in spite of these discomforts, Enoch managed to ride many miles, during the day, with his horse beside Diana's. And he talked to her as though he must in the short five days make up for a life time of reticence.
He told her of the Seatons and all that John Seaton had done for him. He told her of his years of dreaming of the Canyon and of his days as Police Commissioner. He told of dreams he had had as a Congressman and as a Senator and of the great hopes with which he had taken up the work of the Secretary of the Interior. And finally, as the wind began to lessen with the sinking sun, and the tired horses slowed to the trail's lifting from the bowl, he told her of his last speaking trip, of its purpose and of its results.
"The more I know you," said Diana, "the more I am confirmed in the opinion I had of you years before I met you. And that is that however our great Departments need men of your administrative capacity and integrity—and I'm perfectly willing to admit that their need is dire—your place, Enoch Huntingdon, is in the Senate. Yet I suppose your party will insist on pushing you on into the White House. And it will be a mistake."
"Why?" asked Enoch quickly.
"Because," replied Diana, brushing the lavender dust from her brown hands thoughtfully, "your gift of oratory, your fundamental, sane dreams for the nation, your admirable character, impose a particular and peculiar duty on you. It has been many generations since the nation had a spokesman. Patrick Henry, Daniel Webster, have been dead a long time. Most of our orators since have killed their own influence by fanatical clinging to some partisan cause. You should be bigger than any party, Enoch. And in the White House you cannot be. Our spoils system has achieved that. But in the Senate is your great, natural opportunity."
Enoch smiled. "Without the flourishes of praise, I've reached about the same conclusion that you have," he said. "I have been told," he hesitated, "that I could have the party nomination for the presidency, if I wished it. You know that practically assures election."
Diana nodded. "And it's a temptation, of course!"
"Yes and no!" replied Enoch. "No man could help being moved and flattered, yes, and tempted by the suggestion. And yet when I think of the loneliness of a man like me in the White House, the loneliness, and the gradual disillusionment such as the President spoke of you, the temptation has very little effect on me."
"How kind he was that day!" exclaimed Diana, "and how many years ago it seems!"
They rode on in silence for a few moments, then Diana exclaimed, "Look, Enoch dear!"
Ahead of them, along the rim of the bowl, an Indian rode. His long hair was flying in the wind. Both he and his horse were silhouetted sharply against the brilliant western sky.
"Make a picture of it, Diana!" cried Enoch.
Diana shook her head. "I could make nothing of it!"
Na-che gave a long, shrill call, which the Indian returned, then pulled up his horse to wait for them. When Enoch and Diana reached the rim, the others already had overtaken him.
"It's Wee-tah!" exclaimed Diana, then as she shook hands, she added: "Where are you going so fast, Wee-tah?"
The Indian, a handsome young buck, his hair bound with a knotted handkerchief, glanced at Enoch and answered Diana in Navajo.
Diana nodded, then said: "Judge, this is Wee-tah, a friend of mine."
Enoch and the Indian shook hands gravely, and Diana said, "Can't you take supper with us, Wee-tah?"
"You stay, Wee-tah," Na-che put in abruptly. "Jonas and I want you to help us with a charm."
"Na-che says you know a heap about charms, Mr. Wee-tah!" exclaimed Jonas.
Wee-tah grinned affably. "I stay," he said. "Only the whites have to hurry. Good water hole right there." He jerked his thumb over his shoulder, then turned his pony and led the way a few hundred yards to a low outcropping of stones, the hollowed top of which held a few precious gallons of rain water.
"My Lordy!" exclaimed Jonas, as he and Enoch were hobbling their horses, "if I don't have some charms and hoo-doos to put over on those Baptist folks back home! Why, these Indians have got even a Georgia nigger beat for knowing the spirits."
"Jonas, you're an old fool, but I love you!" said Enoch.
Jonas chuckled, and hurried off to help Na-che with the supper. The stunted cat's claw and mesquite which grew here plentifully made possible a glorious fire that was most welcome, for the evening was cold. Enoch undertook to keep the big blaze going while Wee-tah prepared a small fire at a little distance for cooking purposes. After supper the two Indians and Jonas gathered round this while Enoch and Diana remained at what Jonas designated as the front room stove.
"What solitary trip was Wee-tah undertaking?" asked Enoch. "Or mustn't I inquire?"
"On one of the buttes in the canyon country," replied Diana, "Wee-tah's grandfather, a great chief, was killed, years ago. Wee-tah is going up to that butte to pray for his little son who has never been born."
"Ah!" said Enoch, and fell silent. Diana, in her favorite attitude, hands clasping her knees, watched the fire. At last Enoch roused himself.
"Shall you come to Washington this winter, Diana?"
"I ought to, but I may not. I may go into the Havesupai country for two months, after you go East, and put Washington off until late spring."
"Don't fear that I shall disturb you, when you come, dear." Enoch looked at Diana with troubled eyes.
She looked at him, but said nothing, and again there was silence. Enoch emptied his pipe and put it in his pocket.
"After you have finished this work for the President, then what, Diana?"
She shook her head. "There is plenty of time to plan for that. If I go into the angle of the children's games and their possible relations to religious ceremonies, there's no telling when I shall wind up! Then there are their superstitions that careful study might separate clearly from their true spiritism. The great danger in work like mine is that it is apt to grow academic. In the pursuit of dry ethnological facts one forgets the artistry needed to preserve it and present it to the world."
"Whew!" sighed Enoch. "I'm afraid you're a fearful highbrow, Diana! Hello, Jonas, what can I do for you?"
"We all are going down the desert a piece with Wee-tah. They's a charm down there he knows about. They think we'll be gone about an hour. But don't worry about us."
"Don't let the ghosts get you, old man,", said Enoch. "After all you've lived through, that would be too simple."
Jonas grinned, and followed the Indians out into the darkness.
"Now," inquired Enoch, "is that tact or superstition?"
"Both, I should say," replied Diana. "We'll have to agree that Na-che and Jonas are doing all they can to make the match. I gather from what Na-che says that they're working mostly on love charms for us."
"More power to 'em," said Enoch grimly. "Diana, let's walk out under the stars for a little while. The fire dims them."
They rose, and Enoch put his arm about the girl and said, with a tenderness in his beautiful voice that seemed to Diana a very part of the harmony of the glowing stars:
"Diana! Oh, Diana! Diana!"
She wondered as they moved slowly away from the fire, if Enoch had any conception of the beauty of his voice. It seemed to her to express the man even more fully than his face. All the sweetness, all the virility, all the suffering, all the capacity for joy that was written in Enoch's face was expressed in his voice, with the addition of a melodiousness that only tone could give. Although she never had heard him make a speech she knew how even his most commonplace sentence must wing home to the very heart of the hearer.
They said less, in this hour alone together, than they said in any evening of their journey. And yet they both felt as if it was the most nearly perfect of their hours.
Perhaps it was because the sky was more magnificent than it had been before; the stars larger and nearer and the sky more deeply, richly blue.
Perhaps it was because after the dusk and heat of the day, the uproar of the sand and wind, the cool silence was doubly impressive and thrice grateful.
And perhaps it was because of some wordless, intangible reason, that only lovers know, which made Diana seem more beautiful, more pure, her touch more sacred, and Enoch stronger, finer, tenderer than ever before.
At any rate, walking slowly, with their arms about each other, they were deeply happy.
And Enoch said, "Diana, I know now that not one moment of the loneliness and the bitterness of the years, would I part with. All of it serves to make this moment more perfect."
And suddenly Diana said, "Enoch, hold me close to you again, here, under the stars, so that I may never again look at them, when I'm alone in the desert, without feeling your dear arms about me, and your dear cheek against mine."
And when they were back by the fire again, Enoch once more leaned against Diana's knee and felt the soft touch of her hand on his hair and forehead.
The three magic-makers returned, chanting softly, as magic-makers should. Faint and far across the desert sounded the intriguing rhythm long before the three dark faces were caught by the firelight. When they finally appeared, Jonas was bearing an eagle's feather.
"Miss Diana," he said solemnly, "will you give me one of your long hairs?"
Quite as solemnly, Diana plucked a long chestnut spear and Jonas wrapped it round the stem of the feather. Then he joined the other two at the water hole. Enoch and Diana looked at each other with a smile.
"Do you think it will work, Diana?" asked Enoch.
"Eagle feather magic is strong magic," replied Diana. "I shall go to sleep believing in it. Good night, Enoch."
"Good night, Diana."
Wee-tah left them after breakfast, cantering away briskly on his pony, his long hair blowing, Na-che and Jonas shouting laughingly after him.
It was a brisk, clear morning, with ribbons of mist blowing across the distant ranges. By noon, their way was leading through scattered growths of stunted cedar and juniper with an occasional gnarled, undersized oak in which grew mistletoe thick-hung with ivory berries. Bear grass and bunch grass dotted the sand. Orioles and robins sang as they foraged for the blue cedar berry. All the afternoon the trees increased in size and when they made camp at night, it was under a giant pine whose kindred stretched in every direction as far as the eye could pierce through the dusk. There was water in a tiny rivulet near by.
"It's heavenly, Diana!" exclaimed Enoch, as he returned from hobbling the horses. "We must be getting well up as to elevation. There is a tang to the air that says so."
Diana nodded a little sadly. "One night more, after this, then you'll sleep at El Tovar, Enoch."
"I'm not thinking even of to-morrow, Diana. This moment is enough. Are you tired?"
"Tired? No!" but the eyes she lifted to Enoch's were faintly shadowed. "Perhaps," she suggested, "I'm not living quite so completely in the present as you are."
"Necessity hasn't trained you during the years, as it has me," said Enoch. "If the trail had not been so bad to-day and I could have ridden beside you, I think I could have kept your thoughts here, sweetheart."
"I think you could have, Enoch," agreed Diana, with a wistful smile.
The hunting had been good that day. Amongst them, the travelers had bagged numerous quail and cottontails, and Jonas had brought in at noon a huge jack rabbit. This they could not eat but its left hind foot, Jonas claimed, would make a sensation in Washington. Supper was a festive meal, Na-che producing a rabbit soup, and Jonas broiling the quail, which he served with hot biscuit that the most accomplished chef might have envied.
After the meal was finished and Enoch and Diana were standing before the fire, debating the feasibility of a walk under the pines, Jonas and Na-che approached them solemnly.
Jonas cleared his throat. "Boss and Miss Diana, Na-che and me, we want you to do something for us. We know you all trust us both and so we don't want you to ask the why or the wherefore, but just go ahead and do it."
"What is it, Jonas?" asked Diana.
"Well, up ahead a spell in these woods, there's a round open space and in the middle of it under a big rock an Injun and his sweetheart is buried. Something like a million years ago he stole her from over yonder from the—" he hesitated, and Na-che said softly:
"Yes, the Hopis. And her tribe come lickety-cut after her, and overtook 'em at that spot yonder, and her father give her the choice of coming back or both of 'em dying right there. They chose to die, and there they are. Wee-tah and Na-che and all the Injuns believe—"
Na-che pulled at his sleeve.
"Oh, I forgot! We ain't going to tell you what they believe, because whites don't never have the right kind of faith. Let me alone, Na-che. How come you think I can't tell this story? But what we ask of you is, will you and Miss Allen, boss, go up to that stone yonder, and lay this eagle's feather beside it, then sit on the stone until a star falls."
Enoch and Diana looked at each other, half smiling.
"Don't say no," urged Na-che. "You want to take a walk, anyhow."
"And what happens, if the star falls?" asked Diana.
"Something mighty good," replied Jonas.
"It's pretty cold for sitting still so long, isn't Jonas?" asked Enoch.
"You can take a blanket to wrap round yourselves. Do it, boss! You know you and Miss Diana don't care where you are as long as you get a little time alone together."
Enoch laughed. "Come along, Diana! Who knows what Indian magic might do for us!"
"That's right," Na-che nodded approval. "There's an old trail to it, see!" she led Diana beyond the camp pine, and pointed to the faint black line, that was traceable in the sand under the trees. The pine forest was absolutely clear of undergrowth.
"Come on, Enoch," laughed Diana, and Enoch, chuckling, joined her, while the two magicians stood by the fire, interest and satisfaction showing in every line of their faces.
Diana had little difficulty following the trail. To Enoch's unaccustomed eyes and feet, the ease with which she led the way was astonishing. She walked swiftly under the trees for ten minutes, then paused on the edge of a wide amphitheater, rich in starlight. In the center lay a huge flat stone. They made their way through the sand to this. Dimly they could discern that the sides of the rock were covered with hieroglyphics. Diana laid the eagle's feather in a crevice at the end of the rock.
"See!" exclaimed Enoch. "Other lovers have been here before!" He pointed to feathers at different points in the rock. "It must indeed be strong magic!"
He folded one blanket for a seat, another he pulled over their shoulders, for in spite of the brisk walk, they both were shivering with the cold.
"What do you suppose the world at large would say," chuckled Diana, "if it would see the Secretary of the Interior, at this moment."
"I think it would say that as a human being, it was beginning to have hope of him," replied Enoch.
Then they fell silent. The great trees that widely encircled them were motionless. The heavens seemed made of stars. Enoch drew Diana close against him, and leaned his cheek upon her hair. Slowly a jack rabbit loped toward the ancient grave, stopped to gaze with burning eyes at the two motionless figures, twitched his ears and slowly hopped away. Shortly a cottontail deliberately crossed the circle, then another and another. Suddenly Diana touched Enoch's hand softly.
"In the trees, opposite!" she breathed.
Two pairs of fiery eyes moved slowly out until the starlight revealed two tiny antelope, gray, graceful shadows of the desert night. The pair stared motionless at the ancient grave, then gently trotted away. Now came a long interval in which neither sound nor motion was perceptible in the silvery dusk. Then like little gray ghosts with glowing eyes half a dozen antelope moved tranquilly across the amphitheater. Enoch and Diana watched breathlessly but for many moments more there was no sign of living creature. And suddenly a great star flashed across the radiant heavens.
"The magic!" whispered Diana, "the desert magic!"
"Diana," murmured Enoch in reply, "this is as near heaven as mortals may hope to reach."
"Desert magic!" repeated Diana softly. "Come, dear, we must go back to camp."
Enoch rose reluctantly and put his hands on Diana's shoulders. "Those lovers, long ago," he said, his deep voice tender and wistful, "those lovers long ago were not far wrong in their decision. I'm sure, in the years to come, when I think of this evening, and this journey, I shall feel so."
Diana touched his cheek softly with her hand. "I love you, Enoch," was all she said, and they returned in silence to the camp.
"We saw the star fall!" exclaimed Jonas, waiting by the fire with Na-che.
Enoch nodded and, after a glance at his face, Jonas said nothing more.
All the next day they penetrated deeper and deeper into the mighty forest. All day long the trail lifted gradually, the air growing rarer and colder as they went.
It was biting cold when they made their night camp deep in the woods. But a glorious fire before a giant tree trunk made the last evening on the trail one of comfort. Na-che and Jonas had run out of excuses for leaving the lovers alone, but nothing daunted, after supper was cleared off they made their own camp fire at a distance and sat before it, singing and laughing even after Diana had withdrawn to her tent.
"Enoch," said Diana, "I have something that I want to say to you, but I'll admit that it takes more courage than I've been able to gather together until now. But this is our last evening and I must relieve my mind."
Enoch, surprised by the earnestness of Diana's voice, laid down his pipe and put his hand over hers. "I don't see why you need courage to say anything under heaven to me!"
"But I do on this subject," returned Diana, raising wide, troubled eyes to his. "Enoch, you have made me love you and then have told me that you cannot marry me. I think that I have the right to tell you that you are abnormal toward marriage. You are spoiling our two lives and I am entering a most solemn protest against your doing so."
"But, Diana—" began Enoch.
"No!" interrupted Diana. "You must hear me through in silence, Enoch. I remember my father telling me that Seaton believed that you had been made the victim of almost hypnotic suggestion by that beast, Luigi. Not that Luigi knew anything about auto-suggestion or anything of the sort! He simply wanted to enslave a boy who was a clever gambler. And so he planted the vicious suggestion in your mind that you were necessarily bad because your mother was. And all these years, that suggestion has held, not to make you bad but to make you fear that your children would be or that disease, mental or physical, is latent in you which marriage would uncover. Enoch, have you never talked your case over with a psychologist?"
"No!" replied Enoch. "I've always felt that I was perfectly normal and I still feel so. Moreover, I've wanted to bury my mother's history a thousand fathoms deep. Consider too, that I've never wanted to marry any woman till I met you."
"And having met me," said Diana bitterly, "you allow a preconceived idea to wreck us both. You astonish me almost as much as you make me suffer. Enoch, did you ever try to trace your father?"
"Diana, what chance would I have of finding my father when you consider what my mother was? Nevertheless, I have tried." And Enoch told in detail both Seaton's and the Police Commissioner's efforts in his behalf.
Diana rose and paced restlessly up and down before the fire. Enoch rose with her and stood leaning against the tree trunk, watching her with tragic eyes. Finally Diana said:
"I'm not clever at argument, but every woman has a right to fight for her mate. I insist that your reasons for not marrying are chimeras. And if I'm willing to risk marrying the man who may or may not be the son of Luigi's mistress, he should be willing to risk marrying me."
"But, you see, you do admit it's a risk!" exclaimed Enoch.
"No more a risk than marriage always is," declared Diana, with a smile that had no humor in it. "Enoch, let's not be cowardly. Let's 'set the slug horn dauntless to our lips.'"
Enoch covered his eyes with his hands. Cold sweat stood on his brow. All the ugly, menacing suggestions of thirty years crowded his answer to his lips.
"Diana, we must not!" he groaned.
Diana drew a quick breath, then said, "Enoch, I cannot submit tamely to such a decision. I have a friend in Boston who is one of the great psycho-analysts of the country. When I return to Washington in the spring I shall go to see him."
"God! Shall I never be able to bury Minetta Lane?" cried Enoch.
"Not until you dig the grave yourself, my dear! Yours has been a case for a mind specialist, all these years, not a detective. I, for one, refuse to let Minetta Lane hag ride me if it is possible to escape it." Suddenly she smiled again. "I'll admit I'm not at all Victorian in my attitude."
"You couldn't be anything that was not fine," returned Enoch sadly. "But I cannot bear to have you buoy yourself with false hopes."
"A drowning woman grasps at straws, I suppose," said Diana, a little brokenly. "Good night, my dearest," and Diana went into the tent, leaving Enoch to ponder heavily over the fire until the cold drove him to his blankets.
Breaking camp the next morning was dreary and arduous enough. Snow was still falling, the mules were recalcitrant and a bitter wind had piled drifts in every direction. The four travelers were in a subdued mood, although Enoch heartened himself considerably by urging Diana to remember that they had still to look forward to the trip down Bright Angel.
They floundered through the snow for two heavy hours before Diana looked back at Enoch to say,
"We're only a mile from the cabin now, Enoch!"
"Only a mile!" exclaimed Enoch. "Diana, I wonder what your father will say when he sees me!"
"He thinks you are two thousand miles from here!" laughed Diana. "We'll see what he will say."
"And so," murmured Enoch to himself, "any perfect journey is ended."
THE PHANTASM DESTROYED
THE FIRING LINE AGAIN
"When I shall have given you up, Diana, I shall love my own solitude as never before. For you will dwell there and he who has lovely thoughts is never lonely."—Enoch's Diary.
The cabin was built of cedar logs. Frank had added to it as necessity arose or his means permitted, and it sprawled pleasantly under the pines, as if it belonged there and enjoyed being there. Na-che gave her peculiar, far-carrying call, some moments before the cabin came into view, and when the little cavalcade jingled up to the door, it was wide open, a ruddy faced, white-haired man standing before it.
"Hello, Diana!" he shouted. "Where in seven thunders have you been! You're a week late!"
Then his eyes fastened wonderingly on Enoch's face. He came slowly across the porch and down the steps. Enoch did not speak, and for a long moment the two men stared at each other while time turned back its hands for a quarter of a century. Suddenly Frank's hand shot out.
"My God! It's Enoch Huntingdon!"
"Yes, Frank, it's he," replied Enoch.
"Where on earth did you come from? Come in, Mr. Secretary! Come in! Or do you want to go up to the hotel?"
"Hotel! Frank, don't try to put on dog with me or snub me either!" exclaimed Enoch, dismounting. "And I am Enoch to you, just as that cowardly kid was, twenty-two years ago!"
"Cowardly!" roared Frank. "Well, come in! Come in before I get started on that."
"This is Jonas," said Na-che gravely.
"I know who Jonas is," said Frank, shaking hands. "Come in! Come in! Before I burst with curiosity! Diana girl, I've been worried sick about you. I swear once more this is the last trip you shall take without me."
The living-room was huge and beautiful. A fire roared in the great fireplace. Indian blankets and rugs covered the floor. There were some fine paintings on the walls and books and photographs everywhere. After Enoch and Diana had removed their snowy coats, Frank impatiently forced them into the arm-chairs before the fire, while he stood on the bearskin before them.
"For the love of heaven, Diana, where did you folks meet?"
"You begin, Enoch," said Diana quietly.
At the use of the Secretary's name, Frank glanced at Diana quickly, then turned back to Enoch.
"Well, Frank, I was on a speaking trip, and the pressure of things got so bad that I decided to slip away from everybody and give myself a trip to the Canyon. That was about a month ago. I outfitted at a little village on the railroad, and shortly after that I joined some miners who were going up to the Canyon to placer prospect. We had been at the Canyon several days when Jonas and Diana and Na-che found us. Diana stayed a day or so, then Jonas and I went with a Geological Survey crew for a boating trip down the river. We had sundry adventures, finally landing at Grant's Ferry, our leader, Milton, with a broken leg. Here we found Diana and Na-che. Jonas and I left the others and came on here because I want to go down the trail with you. That, in brief, is my story."
"Devilish brief!" snorted Frank. "Thank you for nothing! Diana, suppose you pad the skeleton a little."
"Yes, I will, Dad, if you'll let Enoch go to his room and get into some dry clothes. I told Na-che to help herself for him from your supply."
"Surely! Surely! What a rough bronco, I am! Let me show you to the guest room, Mr. Secretary—Enoch, I should say," and Frank led the way to a comfortable room whose windows gave a distant view of the Canyon rim.
When Enoch returned to the living-room after a bath and some strenuous grooming at Jonas' hands, Diana had disappeared and Frank was standing before the fire, smoking a cigarette. He tossed it into the flames at Enoch's approach.
"Enoch, my boy!" he said, then his voice broke, and the two men stood silently grasping each other's hands.
Enoch was the first to find his voice. "Except for the white hair, Frank, the years have forgotten you."
"Not quite, Enoch! Not quite! I don't take those trails as easily as I did once. You, yourself are changed, but one would expect that! Fourteen to thirty-six, isn't it?"
Enoch nodded. "Will the snow make Bright Angel too difficult for you, Frank?"
"Me? My Lord, no! Do I look a tenderfoot? We'll start to-morrow morning and take two days to it. Sit down, do! I've a thousand questions to ask you."
"Before I begin to answer them, Frank, tell me if there is any way in which I can send a telegram. I must let my office know where I am, much as I regret the necessity."
"You can telephone a message to the hotel," replied Frank. "They'll take care of it. But you realize that your traveling incog. will be all out if you do that?"
"Not necessarily!" Enoch chuckled.
Frank called the hotel on the telephone and handed the instrument to Enoch, who smiled as he gave the message.
"Mr. Charles Abbott, 8946 Blank Street, Washington, D. C. The boss can be reached now at El Tovar, Jonas."
"But won't Abbott wire you?" asked Frank.
"No, he'll wire Jonas. See if he doesn't," replied Enoch. "And now for the questions. Oh, Diana!" rising as Diana, in a brown silk house frock, came into the room. "How lovely you look! Doesn't she, Frank?"
"She looks like her mother," said Frank. "Only she'll never be quite as beautiful as Helen was."
"'Whose beauty launched a thousand ships'!" Enoch exclaimed, smiling at Diana. "My boyish memoir of Mrs. Allen is that she was dark."
"She was darker than Diana, and not so tall. Just as high as my breast; a fine mind in a lovely body!" Frank sighed deeply and stared at the fire.
Enoch, lying back in the great arm-chair, watched Diana with thoughtful, wistful eyes, until Frank roused himself, saying abruptly, "And now once more for the questions. Enoch, what started you in politics?"
"Well," replied Enoch, "that's a large order, but I'll try to tell the story." He began the tale, but was so constantly interrupted by Frank's questions that luncheon was announced by Na-che, just as he finished.
After luncheon they returned again to the fire, and Frank, urged on by Enoch, told the story of his early days at the Canyon. Perhaps Frank guessed that Enoch and Diana were in no mood for speech themselves, for he talked on and on, interrupted only by Enoch's laughter, or quick word of sympathy. Diana, her hands clasped loosely in her lap, watched the fire or stared at the snow drifts that the wind was piling against the window. It seemed to Enoch that the shadows about her great eyes were deepening as the hours went on.
Suddenly Frank looked at his watch. "Four o'clock! I must go out to the corral. Want to come along, Enoch?"
"I think not, Frank. I'll sit here with Diana, if you don't mind."
"I can stand it, if Diana can," chuckled Frank, and a moment later a door slammed after him.
Enoch turned at once to Diana. "Are you happy, dear?"
"Happy and unhappy; unbearably so!" replied Diana.
"Don't forget for a moment," said Enoch quickly, "that we have two whole days after to-day."
"I don't," Diana smiled a little uncertainly. "Enoch, I wonder if you know how well you look! You are so tanned and so clear-eyed! I'm going to be jealous of the women at every dinner party I imagine you attending!"
Enoch laughed. "Diana, my reputation as a woman hater is going to be increased every year. See if it's not!"
The telephone rang and Diana answered the call.
"Yes! Yes, Jonas is here, Fred Jonas—I'll take the message." There was a pause, then Diana said steadily, "See if I repeat correctly. Tell the Boss the President wishes him to take first train East, making all possible speed. Wire at once date of arrival. Signed Abbott."
Diana hung up the receiver and turned to Enoch, who had risen and was standing beside her.
"Orders, eh, Enoch?" she said, trying to smile with white lips.
Enoch did not answer. He stood staring at the girl's quivering mouth, while his own lips stiffened. Then he said quietly: "Will you tell me where I can find Jonas, Diana?"
"He's in the kitchen with Na-che. I'll go bring him in."
"No, stay here, Diana, sweetheart. Your face tells too much. I'll be back in a moment."
Jonas looked up from the potatoes he was peeling, as Enoch came into the kitchen. "Jonas, I've just had a reply from the wire I sent Abbott this morning. The President wants me at once. Will you go up to the hotel and arrange for transportation out of here tonight? Remember, I don't want it known who I am."
"Yes, Mr. Secretary!" exclaimed Jonas. Hastily wiping his hands, he murmured to Na-che, as Enoch turned away: "No trip down Bright Angel, Na-che. Ain't it a shame to think that love ring—" But Enoch heard no more.
Diana stood before the fire in the gathering twilight. "Is there anything Dad or I can do to facilitate your start, Enoch?"
"Nothing, Diana. Jonas is a past master in this sort of thing, and he prefers to do it all himself. You and I have only to think of each other until I have to leave."
He took Diana's face between his hands and gazed at it hungrily. "How beautiful, how beautiful you are!" he said, his rich voice dying in a sigh.
"Don't sigh, Enoch!" exclaimed Diana. "We must not make this last moment sad. You are going back into the arena, fit for the fight. That makes me very, very glad. And while you have told me nothing as to your intentions concerning Brown, I know that your decision, when it comes, will be right."
"I don't know what that decision will be, Diana. I have given my whole mind to you for many days. But I shall do nothing rash, nor without long thought. My dearest, I wish I could make you understand what you mean to me. I had thought when we were in the Canyon to-morrow I could tell you something of my boyhood, so that you would understand me, and what you mean to me. But all that must remain unsaid. Perhaps it's just as well."
Enoch sighed again and, turning to the table, picked up the flat package he had laid there on entering the room.
"This is my diary, Diana," placing it in her hands. "Be as gentle as you can in judging me, as you read it. If we were to be married, I think I would not have let you see it, but as it is, I am giving to you the most intimate thing in my possession, and I feel somehow as if in so doing I am tying myself to you forever."
Diana clasped the book to her heart, and laid her burning cheek against Enoch's. But she did not speak. Enoch held her slender body against his and the firelight flickered on the two motionless forms.
"Diana," said Enoch huskily, "you are going on with your work, as earnestly as ever, are you not?"
"Not quite so earnestly because, after I reach the East again, Minetta Lane will be my job."
"Oh, Diana, I beg of you, don't soil your hands with that!" groaned Enoch.
"I must! I must, Enoch!" Then Diana's voice broke and again the room was silent. They stood clinging to each other until Frank's voice was heard in the rear of the house.
"It's an infernal shame, I say. President or no President!"
"I'm going to my room for a little while," whispered Diana. And when Frank stamped into the room, Enoch was standing alone, his great head bowed in the firelight.
"Can't you stall 'em off a little while?" demanded Frank.
Enoch shook his head with a smile. "I've played truant too long to dictate now. Jonas and I must pull out to-night. Perhaps it's best, after all, Frank, and yet, it seemed for a moment as if it were physically impossible for me to give up that trip down Bright Angel. I've dreamed of it for twenty-two years. And to go down with Diana and you—"
"It's life!" said Frank briefly. He sank into an armchair and neither man spoke until Na-che announced supper.
Diana appeared then, her cheeks and eyes bright and her voice steady. Enoch never had seen her in a more whimsical mood and the meal, which he had dreaded, passed off quickly and pleasantly.
Not long after dinner, Frank announced the buck-board ready for the drive to the station. He slammed the door after this announcement, and Enoch took Diana in his arms and kissed her passionately.
"Good-by, Enoch!" and the last golden moment was gone.
Enoch had no very clear recollection of his farewells to Na-che and Frank. Outwardly calm and collected, within he was a tempest. He obeyed Jonas automatically, went to his berth at once, and toward dawn fell asleep to the rumble of the train. The trip across the continent was accomplished without untoward incident. Enoch was, of course, recognized by the trainmen, but he kept to the stateroom that Jonas had procured and refused to see the reporters who boarded the train at Kansas City and again at Chicago. After the first twenty-four hours of grief over the parting with Diana, Enoch began to recover his mental poise. He was able to crowd back some of his sorrow and to begin to contemplate his whole adventure. Nor could he contemplate it without beginning to exult, and little by little his spirits lifted and even the tragedy of giving up Diana became a sacred and a beautiful thing. His grief became a righteous part of his life, a thing he would not give up any more than he would have given up a joy.
Undoubtedly Jonas enjoyed this trip more than any railway journey of his experience. Certainly he was a marked man. He wore the broadest brimmed hat in Frank Allen's collection, and John Red Sun's high laced boots. Strapped to his suitcase were the Ida's broken paddle and the battered board with "a-che" on it. These stood conspicuously in his seat in the Pullman, where he held a daily reception to all the porters on the train. True to his orders, he never mentioned Enoch's name in connection with his tale of the Canyon, but his own adventures lost nothing by that.
Enoch did not wire the exact time of his arrival in Washington, as he wished no one to meet the train. It was not quite three o'clock of a cold December day when Charley Abbott, arranging the papers in Enoch's private office, looked up as the inner door opened. Enoch, tanned and vigorous, came in, followed by Jonas, in all his western glory.
Charley sprang forward to meet Enoch's extended hand. "Mr. Huntingdon! Thank the Lord!"
"All set, Abbott!" exclaimed Enoch, "and ready to steam ahead. Let me introduce old Canyon Bill, formerly known as Jonas!"
Charley clasped Jonas' hand, burst out laughing, and slapped him on the back. "Some story goes with that outfit, eh, Jonas, old boy! Say! if you let the rest of the doormen and messengers see you, there won't be a stroke of work done for the rest of the day."
"I'm going to look Harry up, right now, if you don't need me, boss!" exclaimed Jonas.
"Take the rest of the day, Jonas!"
"No, I'll be back prompt at six, boss!" and Jonas, with his luggage, disappeared.
Enoch pulled off his overcoat and seated himself at the desk, then looked up at Charley with a smile.
"I had a great trip, Abbott. I went with a mining outfit up to the Canyon country. With Miss Allen's help, Jonas located me at the placer mine, and after several adventures, we came back with her to El Tovar, where I wired you."
Abbott looked at Enoch keenly. "You're a new man, Mr. Secretary."
Enoch nodded. "I'm in good trim. What happens first, Abbott?"
"I didn't know what time you'd be in to-day, so your appointments don't begin until to-morrow. But the President wants you to call him at your earliest convenience. Shall I get in touch with the White House?"
"If you please. In the meantime, I may as well begin to go through these letters."
"I kept them down pretty well, I think," said Abbott, with justifiable pride, as he picked up the telephone. After several moments he reported that the President would see Enoch at five o'clock.
"Very well," Enoch nodded. "Then you'd better tell me the things I need to know."
Abbott went into the outer office for his note book and, returning with it, for an hour he reported to Enoch on the business of the Department. Enoch, puffing on a cigar, asked questions and made notes himself. When Charley had finished, he said:
"Thank you, Abbott! I don't see but what I could have remained away indefinitely. Matters seem in excellent shape."
"Not everything, Mr. Secretary. Your oil bill has been unaccountably blocked in the Senate. The intervention in Mexico talk has begun again. The Geological Survey is in a mix-up and it looks as if a scandal were about to burst on poor old Cheney's head. I'm afraid he's outlived his usefulness anyhow. The newspapers in California are starting a new states-rights campaign for water power control and, every day since I've returned, Secretary Fowler's office has called and asked for the date of your return."
"Interested in me, aren't they!" smiled Enoch. "Why is the President in such a hurry to see me, Abbott?"
"I don't know, sir. I promised his secretary that the moment I heard from you I'd send such a message as I did send you."
"All right, Abbott, I'll start along. Don't wait or let Jonas wait after six. I'll go directly home if I'm detained after that."
The President looked at Enoch intently as he crossed the long room.
"Wherever you've been, Huntingdon, it has done you good."
"I took a trip through the Canyon country, Mr. President. I've always wanted it."
The President waited as if he expected Enoch to say more, but the younger man stood silently contemplating the open fire.
"How about this tale of Brown's?" the Chief Executive asked finally. "I dislike mentioning it to you, Huntingdon, but you are the most trusted member of my Cabinet, and you have issued no denial to a very nasty scandal about yourself."
Enoch turned grave eyes toward the President. "I shall issue no denial, Mr. President. But there is one man in the world I wish to know the whole truth. If you have the time, sir, will you permit me to go over the whole miserable story?"
The President studied the Secretary's face. "It will be a painful thing for both of us, Huntingdon," he said after a moment, "but for the sake of our future confidential relationship, I think I shall have to ask you to go over it with me. Sit down, won't you?"
Enoch shook his head and, standing with his back to the fire, his burning eyes never leaving the President's face, he told the story of Minetta Lane. He ceased only at the moment when he dropped off the train into the desert. He did not spare himself. And yet when the quiet, eloquent voice stopped, there were tears in the President's eyes. He made no comment until Enoch turned to the fire, then he said, with a curious smile:
"A public man cannot afford private vices."
"I know that now," replied Enoch. "You may have my resignation whenever you wish it. I think it probable that I'll never touch a card again. But I dare not promise."
"I'm told," said the Chief Executive drily, "that you were not without good company in Blank Street; that a certain famous person from the British Legation, a certain Admiral of our own navy and an Italian prince contributed their share to the entertainment."
Enoch flushed slightly, but did not speak.
"I don't want your resignation, Huntingdon. It's a most unfortunate affair, but we cannot afford to lose you. Brown is a whelp, also he's a power that must be reckoned with. That article turned Washington over for a while. The talk has quieted now. It was the gambling that the populace rolled under its tongue. Only he and the scandal mongers like Brown gave any but a pitying glance at the other story. The fears that I have about the affair are first as to its reaction on you and second as to the sort of capital the opposite party will make of it. I think you let it hit you too hard, Huntingdon."
Enoch lifted sad eyes to the chief executive. His lips were painfully compressed and the President said, huskily:
"I know, my boy! I sensed long ago that you were a man who had drunk of a bitter cup. I wish I could have helped you bear it!" There was silence for a moment, then the President went on:
"What are you going to do to Brown, Huntingdon?"
"I haven't decided yet," replied Enoch slowly. "But I shall not let him go unpunished."
The President shook his head and sighed. "You must feel that way, of course, but before we talk about that let's review the political situation. I'm ending my second term. For years, as you know, a large portion of the party has had its eye on you to succeed me. In fact, as the head of the party, I may modestly claim to have been your first endorser! Long ago I recognized the fact that unless youth and virility and sane idealism were injected into the old machine, it would fall apart and radicalism would take its place."
"Or Tammanyism!" interjected Enoch.
"They are equally menacing in my mind," said the older man. "As you know, too, Huntingdon, there has been a quiet but very active minority very much against you. They have spent years trying to get something on you, and they've never succeeded. But—well, you understand mob psychology better than I do—if Brown evolves a slogan, a clever phrase, built about your gambling propensities, it will damn you far more effectively than if he had proved that you played crooked politics or did something really harmful to the country."
Enoch nodded. "Whom do you think Brown is for, Mr. President?"
"Has it ever occurred to you that Brown often picks up Fowler's policies and quietly pushes them?"
Again Enoch nodded and the President went on, "Brown never actively plays Fowler's game. There's an old story that an ancient quarrel separates them. But word has been carefully passed about that there is to be a dinner at the Willard to-morrow night, of the nature of a love feast, at which Fowler and Brown are to fall on each other's necks with tears."
Enoch got up from his chair and prowled about the great room restlessly, then he stood before the chief executive.
"Mr. President, why shouldn't Fowler go to the White House? He's a brilliant man. He's done notable service as Secretary of State. I don't think the cabinet has contained his equal for twenty-five years. He has given our diplomatic service a distinction in Europe that it never had before. He has a good following in the party. Perhaps the best of the old conservatives are for him. I don't like his attitude on the Mexican trouble and sometimes I have felt uneasy as to his entire loyalty to you. Yet, I am not convinced that he would not make a far more able chief executive than I?"
"Suppose that he openly ties to Brown, Huntingdon?"
"In that case," replied Enoch slowly, "I would feel in duty bound to interfere."
"And if you do interfere," persisted the President, "you realize fully that it will be a nasty fight?"
"Perhaps it would be!" Enoch's lips tightened as he shrugged his shoulders.
The President's eyes glowed as he watched the grim lines deepen in Enoch's face. Then he said, "Huntingdon, I'm giving a dinner to-morrow night too! The British Ambassador and the French Ambassador want to meet Senor Juan Cadiz. Did you know that your friend Cadiz is the greatest living authority on Aztec worship and a hectic fan for bullfighting as a national sport? My little party is entirely informal, one of the things the newspapers ordinarily don't comment on. You know I insist on my right to cease to be President on occasions when I can arrange for three or four real people to meet each other. This is one of those occasions. You are to come to the dinner too, Huntingdon. And if the conversation drifts from bullfighting and Aztec gods to Mexico and England's and France's ideas about your recent speeches, I shall not complain."
"Thank you, Mr. President," said Enoch.
"I would do as much for you personally, of course," the older man nodded, as he rose, "but in this instance, I'm playing politics even more than I'm putting my hand on your shoulder. It's good to have you back, Huntingdon! Good night!" and a few minutes later Enoch was out on the snowy street.
It was after six and he went directly home. He spent the evening going over accumulated reports. At ten o'clock Jonas came to the library door.
"Boss, how would you feel about going to bed? You know we got into early hours in the Canyon."
"I feel that I'm going immediately!" Enoch laughed. "Jonas, what have your friends to say about your trip?" as he went slowly up the stairs.
"Boss, I'm the foremost colored man in Washington to-night. I'm invited to give a lecture on my trip in the Baptist Church. They offered me five bones for it and I laughed at 'em. How come you to think, I asked 'em, that money could make me talk about my life blood's escape. No, sir, I give my services for patriotism. I can't have the paddle nor the name board framed till I've showed 'em at the lecture. I'm requested to wear my costume."
"Good work, Jonas! Remember one thing, though! Leave me and Miss Diana absolutely out of the story."
Jonas nodded. "I understand, Mr. Secretary."
When Enoch reached his office the next morning he said to Charley Abbott: "When or if Secretary Fowler's office calls with the usual inquiry, make no reply but connect whomever calls directly with me."
Charley grinned. "Very well, Mr. Secretary. Shall we go after those letters?"
"Whenever you say so. You'd better make an appointment as soon as possible with Cheney. He—" The telephone interrupted and Abbott took the call, then silently passed the instrument to Enoch.
"Yes, this is the Secretary's office," said Enoch. "Who is wanted? . . . This is Mr. Huntingdon speaking. Please connect me with Mr. Fowler. . . . Good morning, Mr. Fowler! I'm sorry to have made your office so much trouble. I understand you've been calling me daily. . . . Oh, yes, I thought it was a mistake. . . . Late this afternoon, at the French Ambassador's? Yes, I'll look you up there. Good-by."
Enoch hung up the receiver. "Was I to go to tea at Madame Foret's this afternoon, Abbott?"
"Yes, Mr. Secretary. Madame Foret called me up a few days ago and was so kind and so explicit—"
"It's quite all right, Abbott. Mr. Fowler wondered, he said, if I was to be invited!"
The two men looked at each other, then without further comment Enoch began to dictate his long-delayed letters. The day was hectic but Enoch turned off his work with zest.
Shortly after lunch the Director of the Geological Survey appeared. Enoch greeted him cordially, and after a few generalities said, "Mr. Cheney, what bomb are they preparing to explode now?"
Cheney ran his fingers through his white hair and sighed. "I guess I'm getting too old for modern politics, Mr. Secretary. You'd better send me back into the field. Neither you nor I knew it, but it seems that I've been using those fellows out in the field for my own personal ends. I have a group mining for me in the Grand Canyon and another group locating oil fields for me in Texas."
Enoch laughed, then said seriously: "What's the idea, Mr. Cheney? Have you a theory?"
Cheney shook his head. "Just innate deviltry, I suppose, on the part of Congress."
"You've been chief of the Survey fifteen years, haven't you, Mr. Cheney?"
"Yes, too long for my own good. Times have changed. People realized once that men who go high in the technical world very seldom are crooked. But your modern politician would believe evil of the Almighty."
"What sort of timber are you developing among your field men, Cheney?"
"Only so-so! Young men aren't what they were in my day."
Enoch eyed the tired face under the white hair sympathetically. "Mr. Cheney, you're letting these people get under your skin. And that is exactly what they are aiming to do. You aren't the man you were a few months ago. My advice to you is, take a vacation. When you come back turn over the field work to a younger man and devote yourself to finding who is after you and why. I have an idea that the gang is not interested in you, personally."
Cheney suddenly sat up very straight. "You think that you—" then he hesitated. "No, Mr. Secretary, this is a young man's fight. I'd better resign."
"Perhaps, later on, but not now. After years of such honorable service as yours, go because you have reached the fullness of years and have earned your rest. Don't let these fellows smirch your name and the name of the Service. Clear both before you go."
"What do I care for what they say of me!" cried Cheney with sudden fire. "I know what I've given to the government since I first ran surveys in Utah! You're an eastern man and a city man, Mr. Secretary. If you had any idea of what a field man, in Utah, for example, or New Mexico, or Arizona endures, of the love he has for his work, you'd see why my pride won't let me justify my existence to a Congressional Committee."
"And yet," insisted Enoch, "I am going to ask you to do that very thing, Mr. Cheney. I am asking you to do it not for me or for yourself, but for the good of the Survey. Find out who, what and why. And tell me. Will you do it, Mr. Cheney?"
There was something winning as well as compelling in Enoch's voice. The director of the Survey rose slowly, and with a half smile held out his hand to the Secretary.
"I'll do it, Mr. Secretary, but for just one reason, because of my admiration and friendship for you."
Enoch smiled. "Not the best of reasons, I'm afraid, but I'm grateful anyhow. Will you let me know facts as you turn them up?"
Cheney nodded. "Good day, Mr. Secretary!" and Enoch turned to meet his next visitor.
Shortly before six o'clock Enoch shook hands with Madame Foret in her crowded drawing-room. He seemed to be quite unconscious of the more than usually interested and inquiring glances that were directed toward him.
"You had a charming vacation, so your smile says, Mr. Huntingdon!" exclaimed Madame Foret. "I am so glad! Where did you go?"
"Into the desert, Madame Foret."
"Oh, into the desert of that beautiful Miss Allen! She and her pictures together made me feel that that was one part of America I must not miss. She promised me that she would show me what she called the Painted Desert, and I shall hold her to the promise!"
"No one could show you quite so wonderfully as Miss Allen, I'm sure," said Enoch.
"Now, just what did you do to kill time in the desert, Huntingdon?" asked Mr. Johns-Eaton, the British Ambassador. "Why didn't you go where there was some real sport?"
"Oh, I found sport of a sort!" returned Enoch solemnly.
Johns-Eaton gave Enoch a keen look. "I'll wager you did!" he exclaimed. "Any hunting?"
"Some small game and a great deal of boating!"
"Boating! Now you are spoofing me! Listen, Mr. Fowler, here's a man who says he was boating in the desert!"
Fowler and Enoch bowed and, after a moment's more general conversation, they drew aside.
"About this Mexican trouble, Huntingdon," said Fowler slowly. "I said nothing as to your speaking trip, until your return, for various reasons. But I want to tell you now, that I considered it an intrusion upon my prerogatives."
"Have you told the President so?" asked Enoch.
"The President did not make the tour," replied Fowler.
"Just why," Enoch sipped his cup of tea calmly, "did you choose this occasion to tell me of your resentment?"
"Because," replied Fowler, in a voice tense with repressed anger, "it is my express purpose never to set foot in your office again, nor to permit you to appear in mine. When we are forced to meet, we will meet on neutral ground."
"Well," said Enoch mildly, "that's perfectly agreeable to me. But, excepting on cabinet days, why meet at all?"
"You are agreed that it shall be war between us, then?" demanded Fowler eagerly.
"Oh, quite so! Only not exactly the kind of war you think it will be, Mr. Secretary!" said Enoch, and he walked calmly back to the tea table for his second cup.
He stayed for some time longer, chatting with different people, taking his leave after the Secretary of State had driven away. Then he went home, thoughtfully, to prepare for the President's dinner.
The chief executive was a remarkable host, tactful, resourceful, and witty. The dinner was devoted entirely at first to Juan Cadiz and his wonderful stories of Aztec gods and of bullfighting. Gradually, however, Cadiz turned to modern conditions in Mexico, and Mr. Johns-Eaton, with sudden fire, spoke of England's feeling about the chaos that reigned beyond the Texan border lines. Monsieur Foret did not fully agree with the Englishman's general attitude, but when Cadiz quoted from one of Enoch's speeches, the ambassadors united in praise of the sanity of Enoch's arguments. The President did not commit himself in any way. But when he said good night to Enoch, he added in the hearing of the others:
"Thank you, old man! I wish I had a hundred like you!"
Enoch walked home through a light snow that was falling. And although his mind grappled during the entire walk with the new problem at hand, he was conscious every moment of the fact that a week before he had tramped through falling snow with Diana always within hand touch.
Jonas, brushing the snow from Enoch's broad shoulders, said casually: "I had a telegram from Na-che this evening, boss. She and Miss Diana start for Havasu canyon to-morrow."
Enoch started. "Why, how'd she happen to wire you, Jonas?"
"I done told her to," replied Jonas coolly, "and moreover, I left the money for her to do it with."
Enoch said nothing until he was standing in his dressing-gown before his bedroom fire. Then he turned to Jonas and said:
"Old man, it won't do. I can't stand it. I must not be able to follow her movements or I shall not be able to keep my mind on matters here. I shall never marry, Jonas. All the charms and all the affectionate desires of you and Na-che cannot change that."
Jonas gave Enoch a long, reproachful look that was at the same time well-tinctured with obstinacy. Without a word he left the room.
"And now my house-mate is Grief. But she is wise and beautiful as the Canyon is wise and beautiful and I claim both as my own."—Enoch's Diary.
The Washington papers, the next morning, contained the accounts of two very interesting dinner parties. One was a detailed story of the President's dinner. The other told of the public meeting and reconciliation of Secretary Fowler and Hancock Brown. The evening papers contained, as did the morning editions the day following, widely varied comment on the two episodes.
Enoch did not see the President for nearly a week after the dinner party, excepting at the cabinet meeting. Then, in response to a telephone call one evening, he went to the White House and told the President of his break with Fowler.
"That was a curious thing for him to do," commented the chief executive. "It looks to me like a plain case of losing his temper."
"It struck me so," agreed Enoch.
"Do you think that he had anything to do with the publishing of that canard about you, Huntingdon?"
"I would not be surprised if he had. If I find that he was mixed up in it, Mr. President, I shall have to punish him as well as Brown."
"Horsewhipping is what Brown deserves," growled the President. "Huntingdon, why are they after Cheney?"
"I've told him to find out," replied Enoch. "I want him to put himself in the position of being able to give them the lie direct, and then resign."
"Who is after him?"
"I believe, if we can probe far enough, we'll find this same Mexican controversy at the bottom of it. Cheney has been immensely interested in the fuel problem. He's given signal help to the Bureau of Mines."
The telephone rang, and the President answered it. He returned to his arm-chair shortly, with a curious smile on his face.
"Secretary Fowler wants to see me. I did not tell him that you are calling. As far as he has informed me, you and he are still on a friendly basis. He will be along shortly, and I shall be keenly interested in observing the meeting."
Enoch smoked his cigar in silence for some moments before he said, with a chuckle:
"I like a fight, if only it's in the open."
"So do I!" exclaimed the President.
The conversation was desultory until the door opened, admitting the Secretary of State. He gave Enoch a glance and greeted the chief executive, then bowed formally to Enoch, and stood waiting.
"Sit down, Fowler! Try one of those cigars! They haven't killed Huntingdon yet."
"I beg your pardon, Mr. President," stiffly, "it is quite impossible for me to make any pretense of friendship for the present Secretary of the Interior."
The President raised his eyebrows. "What's the trouble, Fowler?"
"You may have heard," Fowler's voice was sardonic, "that your Secretary of the Interior swung around the circle on a speech-making trip this fall!"
"I heard of it," replied the chief executive, "probably before you did, because I asked Mr. Huntingdon to make the trip."
"And may I ask, Mr. President, why you asked this gentleman to interfere with my prerogatives?"
"Come! Come, Fowler! You are too clever a man to attempt the hoity-toity manner with me! You undoubtedly read all of Huntingdon's speeches with care, and you observed that his entire plea was for the states to allow the Federal Government to proceed in its normal function of developing the water power and oil resources of this country; that a few American business men should not be permitted to hog the water power of the state for private gain, nor to embroil us in war with Mexico because of private oil holdings there. You will recall that whatever information he used, he procured himself and, before using, laid it in your hands. You laughed at it. You will recall that I asked you, a month before Huntingdon went out, if you would not swing round the circle, and you begged to be excused."
Still standing, the Secretary of State bowed and said, "Mr. Huntingdon has too distinguished an advocate to permit me to argue the matter here."
Enoch spoke suddenly. "Although I'm grateful to the President, Mr. Fowler, I need no advocate. What in thunder are you angry about? If you and I are to quarrel, why not let me know the casus belli!"
"I've stated my grievance," said Fowler flatly.
"Your new attitude toward me has nothing to do, I suppose," suggested Enoch, lighting a fresh cigar, "with the fact that you dined with Hancock Brown the other evening?"