The Girl at the Halfway House
by Emerson Hough
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E-text prepared by Al Haines


A Story of the Plains



Author of The Covered Wagon, 54-40 or Fight, North of 36, etc.

Grosset & Dunlap Publishers New York

























The band major was a poet. His name is lost to history, but it deserves a place among the titles of the great. Only in the soul of a poet, a great man, could there have been conceived that thought by which the music of triumph should pass the little pinnacle of human exultation, and reach the higher plane of human sympathy.

Forty black horses, keeping step; forty trumpeters, keeping unison; this procession, headed by a mere musician, who none the less was a poet, a great man, crossed the field of Louisburg as it lay dotted with the heaps of slain, and dotted also with the groups of those who sought their slain; crossed that field of woe, meeting only hatred and despair, yet leaving behind only tears and grief. Tears and grief, it is true, yet grief that knew of sympathy, and tears that recked of other tears.

For a long time the lines of invasion had tightened about the old city of Louisburg, and Louisburg grew weaker in the coil. When the clank of the Southern cavalry advancing to the front rang in the streets, many were the men swept away with the troops asked to go forward to silence the eternally throbbing guns. Only the very old and the very young were left to care for the homes of Louisburg, and the number of these grew steadily less as the need increased for more material at the front. Then came the Southern infantry, lean, soft-stepping men from Georgia and the Carolinas, their long black hair low on their necks, their shoes but tattered bits of leather bound upon their feet, their blankets made of cotton, but their rifles shining and their drill perfection. The wheat lay green upon the fields and the odours of the blossoms of the peach trees hung heavy on the air; but there was none who thought of fruitage or of harvest. Out there in front, where the guns were pulsing, there went on that grimmer harvest with which the souls of all were intimately concerned. The boys who threw up their hats to greet the infantry were fewer than they had been before the blossoming of the peach. The war had grown less particular of its food. A boy could speed a bullet, or could stop one. There were yet the boys.

Of all the old-time families of this ancient little city none held position more secure or more willingly accorded than the Fairfaxes and the Beauchamps. There had always been a Colonel Fairfax, the leader at the local bar, perhaps the representative in the Legislature, or in some position of yet higher trust. The Beauchamps had always had men in the ranks of the professions or in stations of responsibility. They held large lands, and in the almost feudal creed of the times they gave large services in return. The curse of politics had not yet reached this land of born politicians. Quietly, smoothly, yet withal keyed to a high standard of living, the ways of this old community, as of these two representative families, went on with little change from generation to generation.

It was not unknown that these two families should intermarry, a Fairfax finding a wife among the Beauchamps, or perchance a Beauchamp coming to the Fairfax home to find a mistress for his own household. It was considered a matter of course that young Henry Fairfax, son of Colonel Fairfax, should, after completing his studies at the ancient institution of William and Mary College, step into his father's law office, eventually to be admitted to the bar and to become his father's partner; after which he should marry Miss Ellen Beauchamp, loveliest daughter of a family noted for its beautiful women. So much was this taken for granted, and so fully did it meet the approval of both families, that the tide of the young people's plans ran on with little to disturb its current. With the gallantry of their class the young men of the plantations round about, the young men of the fastidiously best, rode in to ask permission of Mary Ellen's father to pay court to his daughter. One by one they came, and one by one they rode away again, but of them all not one remained other than Mary Ellen's loyal slave. Her refusal seemed to have so much reason that each disappointed suitor felt his own defeat quite stingless. Young Fairfax seemed so perfectly to represent the traditions of his family, and his future seemed so secure; and Mary Ellen herself, tall and slender, bound to be stately and of noble grace, seemed so eminently fit to be a Beauchamp beauty and a Fairfax bride.

For the young people themselves it may be doubted if there had yet awakened the passion of genuine, personal love. They met, but, under the strict code of that land and time, they never met alone. They rode together under the trees along the winding country roads, but never without the presence of some older relative whose supervision was conventional if careless. They met under the honeysuckles on the gallery of the Beauchamp home, where the air was sweet with the fragrance of the near-by orchards, but with correct gallantry Henry Fairfax paid his court rather to the mother than to the daughter. The hands of the lovers had touched, their eyes had momentarily encountered, but their lips had never met. Over the young girl's soul there sat still the unbroken mystery of life; nor had the reverent devotion of the boy yet learned love's iconoclasm.

For two years Colonel Fairfax had been with his regiment, fighting for what he considered the welfare of his country and for the institutions in whose justice he had been taught to believe. There remained at the old Fairfax home in Louisburg only the wife of Colonel Fairfax and the son Henry, the latter chafing at a part which seemed to him so obviously ignoble. One by one his comrades, even younger than himself, departed and joined the army hastening forward toward the throbbing guns. Spirited and proud, restive under comparisons which he had never heard but always dreaded to hear. Henry Fairfax begged his mother to let him go, though still she said, "Not yet."

But the lines of the enemy tightened ever about Louisburg. Then came a day—a fatal day—fraught with the tidings of what seemed a double death. The wife of Colonel Henry Fairfax was grande dame that day, when she buried her husband and sent away her son. There were yet traditions to support.

Henry Fairfax said good-bye to Mary Ellen upon the gallery of the old home, beneath a solemn, white-faced moon, amid the odours of the drooping honeysuckle. Had Mary Ellen's eyes not been hid beneath the lids they might have seen a face pale and sad as her own. They sat silent, for it was no time for human speech. The hour came for parting, and he rose. His lips just lightly touched her cheek. It seemed to him he heard a faint "good-bye." He stepped slowly down the long walk in the moonlight, and his hand was at his face. Turning at the gate for the last wrench of separation, he gazed back at a drooping form upon the gallery. Then Mrs. Beauchamp came and took Ellen's head upon her bosom, seeing that now she was a woman, and that her sufferings had begun.



When the band major was twenty miles away in front of Louisburg his trumpets sounded always the advance. The general played the game calmly. The line of the march was to be along the main road leading into the town. With this course determined, the general massed his reserves, sent on the column of assault, halted at the edge of the wood, deployed his skirmishers, advanced them, withdrew them, retreated but advanced again, ever irresistibly sweeping the board in toward the base of Louisburg, knight meeting knight, pawn meeting pawn, each side giving and taking pieces on the red board of war.

The main intrenchments erected in the defences of Louisburg lay at right angles to the road along which came the Northern advance, and upon the side of the wood nearest to the town. Back of the trenches lay broken fields, cut up by many fences and dotted with occasional trees. In the fields both the wheat and the flowers were now trampled down, and a thousand industrious and complaining bees buzzed protest at the losing of their commerce. The defences themselves were but earthworks, though skilfully laid out. Along their front, well hidden by the forest growth, ran a line of entangling abattis of stakes and sharpened interwoven boughs.

In the centre of the line of defence lay the reserves, the boys of Louisburg, flanked on either side by regiments of veterans, the lean and black-haired Georgians and Carolinians, whose steadiness and unconcern gave comfort to more than one bursting boyish heart. The veterans had long played the game of war. They had long since said good-bye to their women. They had seen how small a thing is life, how easily and swiftly to be ended. Yellow-pale, their knees standing high in front of them as they squatted about on the ground, their long black hair hanging down uncared for, they chewed, smoked, swore, and cooked as though there was no jarring in the earth, no wide foreboding on the air. One man, sitting over his little fire, alternately removed and touched his lips to the sooty rim of his tin cup, swearing because it was too hot. He swore still more loudly and in tones more aggrieved when a bullet, finding that line, cut off a limb from a tree above and dropped it into his fire, upsetting the frying pan in which he had other store of things desirable. Repairing all this damage as he might, he lit his pipe and leaned against the tree, sitting with his knees high in front of him. There came other bullets, singing, sighing. Another bullet found that same line as the man sat there smoking.

Overhead were small birds, chirping, singing, twittering. A long black line of crows passed, tumbling in the air, with much confusion of chatter and clangour of complaint that their harvest, too, had been disturbed. They had been busy. Why should men play this game when there were serious things of life?

The general played calmly, and ever the points and edges and fronts of his advance came on, pressing in toward the last row of the board, toward the line where lay the boys of Louisburg. Many a boy was pale and sick that day, in spite of the encouraging calm or the biting jests of the veterans. The strange sighings in the air became more numerous and more urgent. Now and then bits of twigs and boughs and leaves came sifting down, cut by invisible shears, and now and then a sapling jarred with the thud of an unseen blow. The long line in the trenches moved and twisted restlessly.

In front of the trenches were other regiments, out ahead in the woods, unseen, somewhere toward that place whence came the steadiest jarring of artillery and the loudest rattling of the lesser arms. It was very hard to lie and listen, to imagine, to suspect, to dread. For hours the game went on, the reserves at the trenches hearing now distinctly and now faintly the tumult of the lines, now receding, now coming on. But the volume of the tumult, and its separation into a thousand distinct and terrifying sounds, became in the average ever an increasing and not a lessening thing. The cracker-popping of the musketry became less and less a thing of sport, of reminiscences. The whinings that passed overhead bore more and more a personal message. These young men, who but lately had said good-bye to the women of their kin, began to learn what war might mean. It had been heretofore a distant, unmeasured, undreaded thing, conquerable, not to be feared. It seemed so sweet and fit to go forth, even though it had been hard to say good-bye!

Now there began to appear in the woods before the trenches the figures of men, at first scattered, then becoming steadily more numerous. There came men bearing other men whose arms lopped loosely. Some men walked with a hand gripped tightly to an arm; others hobbled painfully. Two men sometimes supported a third, whose head, heavy and a-droop, would now and then be kept erect with difficulty, the eyes staring with a ghastly, sheepish gaze, the face set in a look of horrified surprise. This awful rabble, the parings of the defeated line in front, dropped back through the woods, dropped back upon the young reserves, who lay there in the line. Some of them could go no farther, but fell there and lay silent. Others passed back into the fields where droned the protesting bees, or where here and there a wide tree offered shelter. Suddenly all the summer air was filled with anguish and horror. Was this, then, the War?

And now there appeared yet other figures among the trees, a straggling, broken line, which fell back, halted, stood and fired always calmly, coolly, at some unseen thing in front of them. But this line resolved itself into individuals, who came back to the edge of the wood, methodically picking their way through the abattis, climbing the intervening fences, and finally clambering into the earthworks to take their places for the final stand. They spoke with grinning respect of that which was out there ahead, coming on. They threw off their coats and tightened their belts, making themselves comfortable for what time there yet remained. One man saw a soldier sitting under a tree, leaning against the trunk, his knees high in front of him, his pipe between his lips. Getting no answer to his request for the loan of the pipe, he snatched it without leave, and then, discovering the truth, went on none the less to enjoy the luxury of a smoke, it seeming to him desirable to compass this while it yet remained among the possibilities of life.

At last there came a continued, hoarse, deep cheering, a roaring wave of menace made up of little sounds. An officer sprang up to the top of the breastworks and waved his sword, shouting out something which no one heard or cared to hear. The line in the trenches, boys and veterans, reserves and remnants of the columns of defence, rose and poured volley after volley, as they could, into the thick and concealing woods that lay before them. None the less, there appeared soon a long, dusty, faded line, trotting, running, walking, falling, stumbling, but coming on. It swept like a long serpent parallel to the works, writhing, smitten but surviving. It came on through the wood, writhing, tearing at the cruel abattis laid to entrap it. It writhed, roared, but it broke through. It swept over the rail fences that lay between the lines and the abattis, and still came on! This was not war, but Fate!

There came a cloud of smoke, hiding the face of the intrenchments. Then the boys of Louisburg saw bursting through this suffocating curtain a few faces, many faces, long rows of faces, some pale, some red, some laughing, some horrified, some shouting, some swearing—a long row of faces that swept through the smoke, following a line of steel—a line of steel that flickered, waved, and dipped.



The bandmaster marshalled his music at the head of the column of occupation which was to march into Louisburg. The game had been admirably played. The victory was complete. There was no need to occupy the trenches, for those who lay in them or near them would never rally for another battle. The troops fell back behind the wood through which they had advanced on the preceding day. They were to form upon the road which had been the key of the advance, and then to march, horse and foot in column, into Louisburg, the place of honour at the head being given to those who had made the final charge to the last trench and through the abattis. Gorged with what it had eaten, the dusty serpent was now slothful and full of sleep. There was no longer need for hurry. Before the middle of the morning the lines would start on the march of the few short miles.

During the delay a young officer of engineers, Captain Edward Franklin by name, asked permission of his colonel to advance along the line of march until he came to the earthworks, to which he wished to give some examination, joining his regiment as it passed beyond the fortifications on its march. The colonel gave his consent, not altogether willingly. "You may see more over there than you want to see, young man," said he.

Franklin went on, following as nearly as he could the line of the assault of the previous day, a track all too boldly marked by the horrid debris of the fight. As he reached the first edge of the wood, where the victorious column had made its entrance, it seemed to him that there could have been no such thing as war. A gray rabbit hopped comfortably across the field. Merry squirrels scampered and scolded in the trees overhead. The jays jangled and bickered, it is true, but a score of sweet-voiced, peaceful-throated birds sang bravely and contentedly as though there had never been a sound more discordant than their own speech. The air was soft and sweet, just cold enough to stir the leaves upon the trees and set them whispering intimately. The sky, new washed by the rain which had fallen in the night, was clean and bright and sweet to look upon, and the sun shone temperately warm. All about was the suggestion of calm and rest and happiness. Surely it had been a dream! There could have been no battle here.

This that had been a dream was changed into a horrid nightmare as the young officer advanced into the wood. About him lay the awful evidences. Coats, caps, weapons, bits of gear, all marked and emphasized with many, many shapeless, ghastly things. Here they lay, these integers of the line, huddled, jumbled. They had all the contortions, all the frozen ultimate agonies left for survivors to see and remember, so that they should no more go to war. Again, they lay so peacefully calm that all the lesson was acclaim for happy, painless war. One rested upon his side, his arm beneath his head as though he slept. Another sat against a tree, his head fallen slightly forward, his lax arms allowing his hands to droop plaintively, palms upward and half spread, as though he sat in utter weariness. Some lay upon their backs where they had turned, thrusting up a knee in the last struggle. Some lay face downward as the slaughtered fall. Many had died with hands open, suddenly. Others sat huddled, the closed hand with its thumb turned under and covered by the fingers, betokening a gradual passing of the vital spark, and a slow submission to the conqueror. It was all a hideous and cruel dream. Surely it could be nothing more. It could not be reality. The birds gurgled and twittered. The squirrels barked and played. The sky was innocent. It must be a dream.

In this part of the wood the dead were mingled from both sides of the contest, the faded blue and the faded gray sometimes scarce distinguishable. Then there came a thickening of the gray, and in turn, as the traveller advanced toward the fences and abattis, the Northern dead predominated, though still there were many faces yellow-pale, dark-framed. At the abattis the dead lay in a horrid commingling mass, some hanging forward half through the entanglement, some still in the attitude of effort, still tearing at the spiked boughs, some standing upright as though to signal the advance. The long row of dead lay here as where the prairie wind drives rolling weeds, heaping them up against some fence that holds them back from farther travel.

Franklin passed over the abattis, over the remaining fences, and into the intrenchments where the final stand had been. The dead lay thick, among them many who were young. Out across the broken and trodden fields there lay some scattered, sodden lumps upon the ground. Franklin stood looking out over the fields, in the direction of the town. And there he saw a sight fitly to be called the ultimate horror of all these things horrible that he had seen.

Over the fields of Louisburg there came a fearful sound, growing, rising, falling, stopping the singing and the twitter of the birds. Across the land there came a horrible procession, advancing with short, uncertain, broken pauses—a procession which advanced, paused, halted, broke into groups; advanced, paused, stopped, and stooped; a procession which came with wailings and bitter cries, with wringing of hands, with heads now and then laid upon the shoulders of others for support; a procession which stooped uncertainly, horribly. It was the women of Louisburg coming to seek their slain—a sight most monstrous, most terrible, unknown upon any field of civilized war, and unfit to be tolerated even in the thought! It is for men, who sow the fields of battle, to attend also to the reaping.

Franklin stood at the inner edge of the earthworks, half hidden by a little clump of trees. It seemed to him that he could not well escape without being seen, and he hesitated at this thought, Yet as he stood it appeared that he must be an intruder even thus against his will. He saw approaching him, slowly but almost in direct line, two figures, an older lady and a girl. They came on, as did the others, always with that slow, searching attitude, the walk broken with pauses and stoopings. The quest was but too obvious. And even as Franklin gazed, uncertain and unable to escape, it seemed apparent that the two had found that which they had sought. The girl, slightly in advance, ran forward a few paces, paused, and then ran back. "Oh, there! there!" she cried. And then the older woman took the girl's head upon her bosom. With bared head and his own hand at his eyes, Franklin hurried away, hoping himself unseen, but bearing indelibly pictured on his brain the scene of which he had been witness. He wanted to cry out, to halt the advancing columns which would soon be here, to tell them that they must not come upon this field, made sacred by such woe.

The column of occupation had begun its movement. Far as the eye could see, the way was filled with the Northern troops now swinging forward in the march. Their course would be along this road, across these earthworks, and over the fields between the wood and the town. The rattle and rumble of the advance began. Upon the morning air there rose the gallant and forgetful music which bade the soldier think not of what had been or would be, but only of the present. The bugles and the cymbals sounded high and strong in the notes of triumph. The game was over. The army was coming to take possession of that which it had won.

It had won—what? Could the answer be told by this chorus of woe which arose upon the field of Louisburg? Could the value of this winning be summed by the estimate of these heaps of sodden, shapeless forms? Here were the fields, and here lay the harvest, the old and the young, the wheat and the flower alike cut down. Was this, then, what the conqueror had won?

Near the intrenchment where the bitter close had been, and where there was need alike for note of triumph, and forgetfulness, the band major marshalled his music, four deep and forty strong, and swung out into the anthem of the flag. The march was now generally and steadily begun. The head of the column broke from the last cover of the wood and came into full sight at the edge of the open country. Thus there came into view the whole panorama of the field, dotted with the slain and with those who sought the slain. The music of triumph was encountered by the concerted voice of grief and woe. There appeared for the feet of this army not a mere road, a mere battlefield, but a ground sacred, hedged high about, not rudely to be violated.

But the band major was a poet, a great man. There came to him no order telling him what he should do, but the thing was in his soul that should be done. There came to him, wafted from the field of sorrow, a note which was command, a voice which sounded to him above the voices of his own brasses, above the tapping of the kettledrums. A gesture of command, and the music ceased absolutely. A moment, and it had resumed.

The forty black horses which made up this regimental band were the pride of the division. Four deep, forty strong, with arching necks, with fore feet reaching far and drooping softly, each horse of the famous cavalry band passed on out upon the field of Louisburg with such carriage as showed it sensible of its mission. The reins lay loose upon their necks, but they kept step to the music which they felt. Forty horses paced slowly forward, keeping step. Forty trumpeters, each man with his right hand aloft, holding his instrument, his left hand at his side, bearing the cap which he had removed, rode on across the field of Louisburg. The music was no longer the hymn of triumph.

Softly and sadly, sweetly and soothingly, the trumpets sang a melody of other days, an air long loved in the old-time South. And Annie Laurie, weeping, heard and listened, and wept the more, and blessed God for her tears!





Colonel Henry Battersleigh sat in his tent engaged in the composition of a document which occasioned him concern. That Colonel Battersleigh should be using his tent as office and residence—for that such was the fact even the most casual glance must have determined—was for him a circumstance offering no special or extraordinary features. His life had been spent under canvas. Brought up in the profession of arms, so long as fighting and forage were good it had mattered little to him in what clime he found his home. He had fought with the English in India, carried sabre in the Austrian horse, and on his private account drilled regiments for the Grand Sultan, deep within the interior of a country which knew how to keep its secrets. When the American civil war began he drifted to the newest scene of activity as metal to a magnet. Chance sent him with the Union army, and there he found opportunity for a cavalry command. "A gintleman like Battersleigh of the Rile Irish always rides," he said, and natural horseman as well as trained cavalryman was Battersleigh, tall, lean, flat-backed, and martial even under his sixty admitted years. It was his claim that no Sudanese spearsman or waddling assegai-thrower could harm him so long as he was mounted and armed, and he boasted that no horse on earth could unseat him. Perhaps none ever had—until he came to the Plains.

For this was on the Plains. When the bitter tide of war had ebbed, Battersleigh had found himself again without a home. He drifted with the disintegrating bodies of troops which scattered over the country, and in course of time found himself in the only portion of America which seemed to him congenial. Indeed, all the population was adrift, all the anchors of established things torn loose. In the distracted South whole families, detesting the new ways of life now thrust upon them, and seeing no way of retrieving their fortunes in the country which had borne them, broke away entirely from old associations and started on in the strange, vague American fashion of that day, in a hope of finding a newer and perhaps a better country. They moved by rail, by boat, by wagon, in such way as they could. The old Mountain Road from Virginia was trodden by many a disheartened family who found Kentucky also smitten, Missouri and Arkansas no better. The West, the then unknown and fascinating West, still remained beyond, a land of hope, perhaps a land of refuge. The men of the lower South, also stirred and unsettled, moved in long columns to the West and Southwest, following the ancient immigration into Texas. The men of Texas, citizens of a crude empire of unproved resources, likewise cast about them restlessly. Their cattle must some day find a market. To the north of them, still unknown and alluring, lay the new upper country known as the West.

In the North the story was the same. The young men, taken from the fields and marts to the camps and marches of the war, could not easily return to the staid ways of their earlier life. From New England to Michigan, from Michigan to Minnesota, many Northern families began to move also toward that West which offered at least opportunity for change. Thus there poured into the West from many different directions, but chiefly from two right-angling directions which intersected on the Plains, a diverse population whose integers were later with phenomenal swiftness to merge and blend. As in the war the boldest fought, so in emigration the boldest travelled, and the West had the pick of the land. In Illinois and Iowa, after the war had ended, you might have seen a man in flapping blue army overcoat hewing timber for fences on the forgotten farms, or guiding the plough across the black reeking sod; but presently you must have also seen the streams of white-topped wagons, sequel to the white tented fields, moving on, pushing toward the West, the land of action and adventure, the land of hope and promise.

As all America was under canvas, it was not strange that Colonel Battersleigh should find his home in a tent, and that this tent should be pitched upon the Western Plains. Not that he had gone directly to the West after the mustering out of his regiment. To the contrary, his first abode had been in the city of New York, where during his brief stay he acquired a certain acquaintance. Colonel Battersleigh was always a striking figure, the more so by reason of his costume, which was invariably the same. His broad cavalry hat, his shapely varnished boots, his gauntlets, his sweeping cloak, made him fairly historic about the clubs. His air, lofty, assured, yet ever suave, showed that he classified himself cheerfully as being of the natural aristocracy of the earth. When Colonel Battersleigh had occasion to sign his name it was worth a dinner to see the process, so seriously did he himself regard it. "Battersleigh"—so stood the name alone, unsupported and self-sufficient. Seeing which inscription in heavy black lines, many a man wondered, considering that he had discovered an Old-World custom, and joining in the belief of the owner of the name that all the world must know the identity of Battersleigh.

What were the financial resources of Battersleigh after the cessation of his pay as a cavalry officer not even his best friends could accurately have told. It was rumoured that he was the commissioner in America of the London Times. He was credited with being a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. That he had a history no one could doubt who saw him come down the street with his broad hat, his sweeping cloak, his gauntlets, his neatly varnished boots.

In reality Colonel Henry Battersleigh lived, during his city life, in a small, a very small room, up more than one night of stairs. This room, no larger than a tent, was military in its neatness. Battersleigh, bachelor and soldier, was in nowise forgetful of the truth that personal neatness and personal valour go well hand in hand. The bed, a very narrow one, had but meagre covering, and during the winter months its single blanket rattled to the touch. "There's nothing in the world so warm as newspapers, me boy," said Battersleigh. Upon the table, which was a box, there was displayed always an invariable arrangement. Colonel Battersleigh's riding whip (without which he was rarely seen in public) was placed upon the table first. Above the whip were laid the gauntlets, crossed at sixty degrees. On top of whip and gloves rested the hat, indented never more nor less. Beyond these, the personal belongings of Battersleigh of the Rile Irish were at best few and humble. In the big city, busy with reviving commerce, there were few who cared how Battersleigh lived. It was a vagrant wind of March that one day blew aside the cloak of Battersleigh as he raised his hat in salutation to a friend—a vagrant wind, cynical and merciless, which showed somewhat of the poverty with which Battersleigh had struggled like a soldier and a gentleman. Battersleigh, poor and proud, then went out into the West.

The tent in which Colonel Battersleigh was now writing was an old one, yellow and patched in places. In size it was similar to that of the bedroom in New York, and its furnishings were much the same. A narrow bunk held a bed over which there was spread a single blanket. It was silent in the tent, save for the scratching of the writer's pen; so that now and then there might easily have been heard a faint rustling as of paper. Indeed, this rustling was caused by the small feet of the prairie mice, which now and then ran over the newspaper which lay beneath the blanket. Battersleigh's table was again a rude one, manufactured from a box. The visible seats were also boxes, two or three in number. Upon one of these sat Battersleigh, busy at his writing. Upon the table lay his whip, gloves, and hat, in exactly the same order as that which had been followed in the little chamber in the city. A strip of canvas made a carpet upon the hard earthen floor. A hanging cloth concealed a portion of the rear end of the tent. Such had been Battersleigh's quarters in many climes, under different flags, sometimes perhaps more luxurious, but nevertheless punctiliously neat, even when Fortune had left him servantless, as had happened now. Colonel Battersleigh as he wrote now and then looked out of the open door. His vision reached out, not across a wilderness of dirty roads, nor along a line of similar tents. There came to his ear no neighing of horses nor shouting of the captains, neither did there arise the din of the busy, barren city. He gazed out upon a sweet blue sky, unfretted by any cloud. His eye crossed a sea of faintly waving grasses. The liquid call of a mile-high mysterious plover came to him. In the line of vision from the tent door there could be seen no token of a human neighbourhood, nor could there be heard any sound of human life. The canvas house stood alone and apart. Battersleigh gazed out of the door as he folded his letter. "It's grand, just grand," he said. And so he turned comfortably to the feeding of his mice, which nibbled at his fingers intimately, as had many mice of many lands with Battersleigh.



At the close of the war Captain Edward Franklin returned to a shrunken world. The little Illinois village which had been his home no longer served to bound his ambitions, but offered only a mill-round of duties so petty, a horizon of opportunities so restricted, as to cause in his mind a feeling of distress equivalent at times to absolute abhorrence. The perspective of all things had changed. The men who had once seemed great to him in this little world now appeared in the light of a wider judgment, as they really were—small, boastful, pompous, cowardly, deceitful, pretentious. Franklin was himself now a man, and a man graduated from that severe and exacting school which so quickly matured a generation of American youth. Tall, finely built, well set up, with the self-respecting carriage of the soldier and the direct eye of the gentleman, there was a swing in his step not commonly to be found behind a counter, and somewhat in the look of his grave face which caused men to listen when he spoke. As his hand had fitted naturally a weapon, so his mind turned naturally to larger things than those offered in these long-tilled fields of life. He came back from the war disillusionized, irreverent, impatient, and full of that surging fretfulness which fell upon all the land. Thousands of young men, accustomed for years to energy, activity, and a certain freedom from all small responsibility, were thrust back at once and asked to adjust themselves to the older and calmer ways of peace. The individual problems were enormous in the aggregate.

Before Franklin, as before many other young men suddenly grown old, there lay the necessity of earning a livelihood, of choosing an occupation. The paternal arm of the Government, which had guided and controlled so long, was now withdrawn. The young man must think for himself. He must choose his future, and work out his way therein alone and unsupported. The necessity of this choice, and the grave responsibility assumed in choosing, confronted and oppressed Edward Franklin as they did many another young man, whose life employment had not been naturally determined by family or business associations. He stood looking out over the way of life. There came to his soul that indefinite melancholy known by the young man not yet acquainted with the mysteries of life. Franklin had been taken away at the threshold of young manhood and crowded into a rude curriculum, which taught him reserve as well as self-confidence, but which robbed him of part of the natural expansion in experience which is the ordinary lot of youth. He had seen large things, and had become intolerant of the small. He wished to achieve life, success, and happiness at one assault, and rebelled at learning how stubborn a resistance there lies in that perpetual silent line of earth's innumerable welded obstacles. He grieved, but knew not why he grieved. He yearned, but named no cause.

To this young man, ardent, energetic, malcontent, there appeared the vision of wide regions of rude, active life, offering full outlet for all the bodily vigour of a man, and appealing not less powerfully to his imagination. This West—no man had come back from it who was not eager to return to it again! For the weak and slothful it might do to remain in the older communities, to reap in the long-tilled fields, but for the strong, for the unattached, for the enterprising, this unknown, unexplored, uncertain country offered a scene whose possibilities made irresistible appeal. For two years Franklin did the best he could at reading law in a country office. Every time he looked out of the window he saw a white-topped wagon moving West. Men came back and told him of this West. Men wrote letters from the West to friends who remained in the East. Presently these friends also, seized upon by some vast impulse which they could not control, in turn arranged their affairs and departed for the West. Franklin looked about him at the squat buildings of the little town, at the black loam of the monotonous and uninviting fields, at the sordid, set and undeveloping lives around him. He looked also at the white wagons moving with the sun. It seemed to him that somewhere out in the vast land beyond the Missouri there beckoned to him a mighty hand, the index finger of some mighty force, imperative, forbidding pause.

The letter of Battersleigh to his friend Captain Franklin fell therefore upon soil already well prepared. Battersleigh and Franklin had been friends in the army, and their feet had not yet wandered apart in the days of peace. Knowing the whimsicality of his friend, and trusting not at all in his judgment of affairs, Franklin none the less believed implicitly in the genuineness of his friendship, and counted upon his comradeship as a rallying point for his beginning life in the new land which he felt with strange conviction was to be his future abiding place. He read again and again the letter Battersleigh had written him, which, in its somewhat formal diction and informal orthography, was as follows:

"To Capt. Edw. Franklin, Bloomsbury, Ill.

"MY DEAR NED: I have the honour to state to you that I am safely arrived and well-established at this place, Ellisville, and am fully disposed to remain. At present the Railway is built no further than this point, and the Labourers under charge of the Company Engineers make the most of the population. There is yet but one considerable building completed, a most surprising thing to be seen in this wild Region. It is of stone and built as if to last forever. It is large as a Courthouse of one of your usual Towns, and might seem absurd in this country did it not suggest a former civilization instead of one yet to come. It is full large enough for any Town of several thousand people. This is the property of the Co. that is building the Ry. It is said that the Co. will equip it fully, so that the country round about may depend upon it for Rations.

"There is another building, intended also for an Hotel, but of a different sort. This is called the Cottage, and is much frequented by fellows of the lower sort, the Labourers and others now stopping in this vicinity. It is the especial rendezvous of many men concerned with the handling of Cattle. I must tell you that this is to be a great market for these Western Beeves. Great numbers of these cattle are now coming in to this country from the far South, and since the Ry. is yet unable to transport these Animals as they arrive there is good Numbers of them in the country hereabout, as well as many strange persons curiously known as Cowboys or Cow-Punchers, which the same I may call a purely Heathan sort. These for the most part resort at the Cottage Hotel, and there is no peace in the Town at this present writing.

"For myself I have taken entry upon one hundred and sixty Acres Govt. Land, and live a little way out from the Town. Here I have my quarters under tent, following example of all men, for as yet there are scarce a dozen houses within fifty Miles. I find much opportunity for studies to be presented to the London Times, which paper as you know I represent, and I prosecute with great hopes the business of the British American Colonization Society, of which corporation I am resident Agent.

"I have Chosen this point because it was the furtherest one yet reached by Rail. Back of this, clean to the Missouri River, new Towns have grown up in most wonderful fashion. I have been advised that it is highly desirable to be in at the beginning in this Country if one is to stay in the Hunt, therefore I have come to a Town which has just Begun. Believe me, dear Ned, it is the beginning of a World. Such chances are here, I am Sure as do not exist in any other Land, for behind this land is all the Richer and older Parts, which are but waiting to pour money and men hither so soon as the Ry. shall be Fully completed. I have heard of many men who have made Fortunes since the War. It is truly a rapid Land.

"I am persuaded, my dear boy, that this is the place for you to come. There are an Hundred ways in which one may earn a Respectable living, and I find here no Class Distinction. It is an extraordinary fact that no man and no profession ranks another here. One man is quite good as another.

"Of society I regret to say we can not as yet offer you much. There is yet but four women in the place and for the men a Part seem mostly busy consuming Whisky at the Cottage, at which I wonder, for I have found the Whisky very bad. Let this not dishearten you, for many things will change when the Ry. is completed. We are to have Shops here, and I understand this is to be the seat of the county. A year from now, as I am told, we shall have 2,000 Persons living here, and in five years this will be a City. Conceive the opportunity meantime. The Cattle business is bound to grow, and I am advised that all this land will Ultimately be farmed and prove rich as that through which I Past in coming out. You are welcome, my dear Ned, as I am sure you know, to half my blankets and rations during your stay here, however long same may be, and I most cordially invite you to come out and look over this Country, nor do I have the smallest doubt that it will seem to you quite as it does to me, and I shall hope that we make a Citizen of you.

"Above all is this a man's country. For sport it has no equal I have ever seen, and as you know I have visited some Parts of the World. The Buffaloes is to be found by Millions within a few miles of this point, and certain of the savidge Tribes still live but a short journey from this point, though now the Army has pretty much Reduced them. Antelopes there is all around in thousands, and many Wolves. It is, indeed, my boy, as I have told you, a country entirely new. I have travelled much, as you know, and am not so Young as yourself, but I must say to you that your friend Batty feels like a boy again. There is something Strange in this air. The sky is mostly clear, and the Air very sweet. The wind is steady but pleasant, and a man may live in comfort the year round as I am told. I am but new here as yet myself, but am fully disposed, as they say in the strange language here, to drive my Stake. I want you, my dear boy, also to drive Yours beside me, and to that Effect I beg to extend you whatever Aid may lie in my Power.

"Hoping that you may receive this communication duly, and make reply to Same, and hoping above all things that I may soon meet again my Companion of the 47th., I beg to subscribe myself, my dear boy, ever your Obdt. & Affect. Friend,


"P.S.—Pray Herild your advent by a letter & bring about 4 lbs. or 5 lbs. of your Favourite Tea, as I am Short of Same."

The letter ended with Battersleigh's best flourish. Franklin turned it over again and again in his hand and read it more than once as he pondered upon its message. "Dear old fellow," he said; "he's a good deal of a Don Quixote, but he never forgets a friend. Buffalo and Indians, railroads and hotels—it must at least be a land of contrasts!"



Edward Franklin had taken up his law studies in the office of Judge Bradley, the leading lawyer of the little village of Bloomsbury, where Franklin was born, and where he had spent most of his life previous to the time of his enlistment in the army. Judge Bradley was successful, as such matters go in such communities, and it was his open boast that he owed his success to himself and no one else. He had no faith in such mythical factors as circumstances in the battle of life. This is the common doctrine of all men who have arrived, and Judge Bradley had long since arrived, in so far as the possibilities of his surroundings would admit. His was the largest law library in the town. He had the most imposing offices—a suite of three rooms, with eke a shiny base-burner in the reception room. His was one of the three silk hats in the town.

Thirty-five years earlier, a raw youth from old Vermont, Hollis N. Bradley had walked into the embryonic settlement of Bloomsbury with a single law book under his arm, and naught but down upon his chin. He pleaded his first cause before a judge who rode circuit over a territory now divided into three Congressional districts. He won his first case, for his antagonist was even more ignorant than he. As civilization advanced, he defended fewer men for stealing hogs, and more for murder and adultery. His practice grew with the growth of the population of the country about him. He was elected county attorney, local counsel for the railroad, and judge of the circuit court. He was mentioned for gubernatorial honours, and would perhaps have received the party nomination but for the breaking out of the civil war. Not fancying the personal risks of the army, he hired a substitute, and this sealed his political fate; for Illinois at that time did not put in power men who sent substitutes to the war. None the less, the lands and moneys of the most prominent lawyer of the place kept him secure, and human memories are short; so that, when Edward Franklin and others of the young men of Bloomsbury returned from the war, they saw upon the streets of the little town, as they had seen before they went away, the tall form, the portly front, the smooth-shaven face, and the tall silk hat of Judge Hollis N. Bradley, who had in every sense survived the war.

It was an immemorial custom in Bloomsbury for the youth who had aspirations for a legal career to "read law" in Judge Bradley's office. Two of his students had dropped their books to take up rifles, and they came not back to their places. They were forgotten, save once a year, upon Decoration Day, when Judge Bradley made eloquent tribute above their graves. Upon such times Judge Bradley always shed tears, and always alluded to the tears with pride. Indeed, his lachrymal ability was something of which he had much right to be proud, it being well known in the legal profession that one's fees are in direct proportion to his ability to weep. Judge Bradley could always weep at the right time before a Jury, and this facility won him many a case. Through no idle whim had public sentiment, even after the incident of the substitute, confirmed him in his position as the leading lawyer of Bloomsbury.

It was therefore predetermined that Edward Franklin should go into the office of Judge Bradley to begin his law studies, after he had decided that the profession of the law was the one likely to offer him the best career. In making his decision, Franklin was actuated precisely as are many young men who question themselves regarding their career. He saw the average results of the lives of others in a given calling, and conceived, without consulting in most jealous scrutiny his own natural fitnesses and preferences, that he might well succeed in that calling because he saw others so succeeding. Already there were two dozen lawyers in Bloomsbury, and it was to be questioned whether they all did so well as had Judge Bradley in the hog-stealing epoch of the local history. Yet it was necessary for him to take up something by way of occupation, and it resolved itself somewhat into a matter of cancellation. For the profession of medicine he had a horror, grounded upon scenes of contract surgery upon the fields of battle. The ministry he set aside. From commerce, as he had always seen it in his native town, twelve hours a day of haggling and smirking, he shrank with all the impulses of his soul. The abject country newspaper gave him no inkling of that fourth estate which was later to spring up in the land. Arms he loved, but there was now no field for arms. There were no family resources to tide him over the season of experiment, and, indeed, but for a brother and a sister, who lived in an adjoining farming community, he had no relatives to be considered in his plans. Perforce, then, Franklin went into the law, facing it somewhat as he had the silent abattis, as with a duty to perform. Certainly, of all students, Judge Bradley had never had a handsomer, a more mature, or a more reluctant candidate than this same Edward Franklin, late captain in the United States Army, now getting well on into his twenties, grave, silent, and preoccupied, perhaps a trine dreamy. He might or might not be good material for a lawyer; as to that, Judge Bradley did not concern himself. Young men came into his office upon their own responsibility.

It was one of the unvarying rules of Judge Bradley's office, and indeed this was almost the only rule which he imposed, that the law student within his gates, no matter what his age or earlier servitude, should each morning sweep out the office, and should, when so requested, copy out any law papers needing to be executed in duplicate. So long as a student did these things, he was welcome as long as he cared to stay. The judge never troubled himself about the studies of his pupil, never asked him a question, indeed never even told him what books it might be best to read, unless this advice were asked voluntarily by the student himself. He simply gave the candidate a broom, a chair, and the freedom of the library, which latter was the best law library in the town. What more could one ask who contemplated a career at law? It was for him to work out his own salvation; and to sweep the stairs each morning.

Edward Franklin accepted his seat in Judge Bradley's office without any reservations, and he paid his daily fee of tenure as had all the other students before him, scorning not the broom. Indeed, his conscience in small things augured well, for it was little cousin to his conscience in great things. Ardent, ambitious, and resolute, he fell upon Blackstone, Chitty, and Kent, as though he were asked to carry a redoubt. He read six, eight, ten hours a day, until his head buzzed, and he forgot what he had read. Then at it all over again, with teeth set. Thus through more than a year he toiled, lashed forward by his own determination, until at length he began to see some of the beautiful first principles of the law—that law, once noble and beneficent, now degraded and debased; once designed for the protection of the individual, now used by society as the instrument for the individual's extermination. So in his second year Franklin fared somewhat beyond principles merely, and got into notes and bills, torts, contracts, and remedies. He learned with a shiver how a promise might legally be broken, how a gift should be regarded with suspicion, how a sacred legacy might be set aside. He read these things again and again, and forced them into his brain, so that they might never be forgotten; yet this part of the law he loved not so much as its grand first principles of truth and justice.

One morning, after Franklin had finished his task of sweeping down the stairs, he sat him down by the window with Battersleigh's letter in his hand; for this was now the third day since he had received this letter, and it had been in his mind more vividly present than the pages of the work on contracts with which he was then occupied. It was a bright, fresh morning in the early spring. A little bird was singing somewhere near the window. From where Franklin sat he could see the green grass just starting, over in the courthouse yard. A long and lazy street lay in perspective before the window, and along it, out beyond the confines of the town, there reached the flat monotony of the dark prairie soil. The leaves of the soft maples were beginning to show over there, near the village church. A dog crossed the street, pausing midway of the crossing to scratch his ear. The cart of the leading grocer was hitched in front of his store, and an idle citizen or two paused near by to exchange a morning greeting. All the little, uneventful day was beginning, as it had begun so many times before here in this little, uneventful town, where the world was finished, never more to change. Franklin shuddered. Was this, then, to be his life? He turned to the rows of scuffed-backed law books on their shelves. Then he turned again to his letter, and to the window, and to the birds and the grass. He caught himself noting how long the dog's hind leg looked, how impossible the angle between the fore leg and the spine, as it half sat in flea-compelled contortions.

There came a regular tread upon the stair, as there had always for years come at this hour of half past seven in the morning, rain or shine. Judge Bradley entered, tall, portly, smooth shaven, his silk hat pushed back upon his brow, as was his fashion. Franklin turned to make the usual morning salutation.

"Good-morning, Ned," said the Judge, affably.

"Good-morning, Judge," said Franklin. "I hope you are well."

"Yes, thank you. Nothing ever the matter with me. How are things coming?"

"Oh, all right, thank you."

This was the stereotyped form of the daily greeting between the two. Judge Bradley turned as usual to his desk, but, catching sight of the letter still held in Franklin's hand, remarked carelessly:

"Got a letter from your girl?"

"Not so lucky," said Franklin. "From a friend."

Silence resulted. Judge Bradley opened his desk, took off his coat and hung it on a nail, after his custom, thereafter seating himself at his desk, with the official cough which signified that the campaign of the day had begun. He turned over the papers for a moment, and remarked absent-mindedly, and more to be polite than because the matter interested him, "Friend, eh?"

"Yes," said Franklin, "friend, out West"; and both relapsed again into silence. Franklin once more fell to gazing out of the window, but at length turned toward the desk and pulled over his chair to a closer speaking distance.

"Judge Bradley," said he, "I shouldn't wonder if I could pass my examination for the bar."

"Well, now," said the Judge, "I hope you can. That's nice. Goin' to hang out your own shingle, eh?"

"I might, if I got my license."

"Oh, that's easy," replied the other; "it's mostly a matter of form. The court'll appoint a committee of three members of the bar, an' they'll tell you when they want to see you for the circus—some evening after court. They'll ask you where you've been readin' law, an' for how long. If you tell 'em you've read in my office, it'll be all right. I never knew 'em to fail to pass a student that had read with me—it wouldn't be professional courtesy to me. You'll go through all right, don't worry. You want to post up on a few such questions as, 'What is the law?' and 'What are the seven—or is it eight?—forms of actions at law?' Then you want to be able to answer on 'What was the rule in Shelley's Case?' There's sure to be some fool or other that'll ask you that question, just to show off—I don't remember what the d——d thing is myself—and you'll never hear of it again; but you get fixed to answer them three questions, an' you can be admitted to the bar all right anywhere in the State of Illinois, or leastways in this county. Then it's customary for a fellow just admitted to the bar to have a little jug around at his office before court adjourns—just to comply with a professional custom, you know. No trouble about it—not in the least. I'll see you through."

"I am clear in my own mind that I don't know much about the law," said Franklin, "and I should not think of going up for examination if that ended my studies in the profession. If I were intending to go into practice here, sir, or near by, I should not think of applying for admission for at least another year. But the fact is, I'm thinking of going away."

"Goin' away?" Judge Bradley straightened up, and his expression if anything was one of relief. He had had his own misgivings about this grave-faced and mature young man should he go into the practice at the Bloomsbury bar. It was well enough to encourage such possibilities to take their test in some other locality. Judge Bradley therefore became more cheerful. "Goin' away, eh?" he said. "Where to?"

"Out West," said Franklin, unconsciously repeating the phrase which was then upon the lips of all the young men of the country.

"Out West, eh?" said the judge, with still greater cheerfulness. "That's right, that's right. That's the place to go to, where you can get a better chance. I came West in my day myself, though it isn't West now; an' that's how I got my start. There's ten chances out there to where there's one here, an' you'll get better pay for what you do. I'd advise it, sir—I'd advise it; yes, indeed."

"I think it will be better," said Franklin calmly.

"Hate to lose you," said the judge, politely—"hate to lose you, of course, but then a young man's got to make his way; he's got to get his start."

Franklin sat silent for a few moments, musingly staring out of the window, and listening, without active consciousness of the fact, to the music of the singing bird which came from somewhere without. At length he rose and turned toward the elder man.

"If you please, judge," said he, "get the committee appointed for to-night if you can. I'll take the examination now."

"Yes? You are in a hurry!"

"Then to-morrow I'll go over and say good-bye to my sister; and the next day I think I'll follow the wagons West. I've not much to put in a wagon, so I can go by rail. The road's away west of the Missouri now, and my letter comes from the very last station, at the head of the track."

"So?" said the Judge. "Well, that ought to be far enough, sure, if you go clean to the jumping-off place. Goin' to leave your sweetheart behind you, eh?"

Franklin laughed. "Well, I don't need face that hardship," said he, "for I haven't any sweetheart."

"Ought to have," said the judge. "You're old enough. I was just twenty-two years old when I was married, an' I had just one hundred dollars to my name. I sent back to Vermont for my sweetheart, an' she came out, an' we were married right here. I couldn't afford to go back after her, so she came out to me. An' I reckon," added he, with a sense of deep satisfaction, "that she hasn't never regretted it."

"Well, I don't see how love and law can go together," said Franklin sagely.

"They don't," said the judge tersely. "When you get so that you see a girl's face a-settin' on the page of your law book in front of you, the best thing you can do is to go marry the girl as quick as the Lord'll let you. It beats the world, anyhow, how some fellows get mixed up, and let a woman hinder 'em in their work. Now, in my case, I never had any such a trouble."

"And I hope I never shall," said Franklin.

"Well, see that you don't. You hit it close when you said that love an' law don't go together. Don't try to study 'em both at the same time; that's my advice, an' I don't charge you anything for it, seeing it's you." With a grin at his little jest, Judge Bradley turned back to his desk and to his little world.



Franklin crossed the Missouri River, that dividing stream known to a generation of Western men simply as "the River," and acknowledged as the boundary between the old and the new, the known and the untried. He passed on through well-settled farming regions, dotted with prosperous towns. He moved still with the rolling wheels over a country which showed only here and there the smoke of a rancher's home. Not even yet did the daring flight of the railway cease. It came into a land wide, unbounded, apparently untracked by man, and seemingly set beyond the limit of man's wanderings. Far out in the heart of this great gray wilderness lay the track-end of this railroad pushing across the continent. When Franklin descended from the rude train he needed no one to tell him he had come to Ellisville. He was at the limit, the edge, the boundary! "Well, friend," said the fireman, who was oiling the engine as he passed, and who grinned amiably as he spoke, "you're sure at the front now."

Franklin had not advised his friend Battersleigh of his intended arrival, but as he looked about him he saw that he had little need for any guide.

Ellisville as an actual town did not yet exist. A rude shanty or two and a line of tents indicated the course of a coming street. The two hotels mentioned by Battersleigh were easily recognised, and indeed not to be evaded. Out of the middle of this vast, treeless plain the great stone hotel arose, with no visible excuse or palliation, a deliberate affront to the solitude which lay far and wide about. Even less within the bounds of reason appeared the wooden building which Franklin learned was the Cottage. "Surely," thought he, "if the railroad company had been mad in building the stone hotel, much worse must have been the man who erected this rambling wooden structure, hoping for customers who must come a thousand miles." Yet was this latter mad act justified before his very eyes. The customers had come. More than forty cow ponies stood in the Cottage corral or in the street near by. Afar there swelled the sound of morning revelries.

Franklin wanted breakfast, and instinctively turned toward the stone hotel at the depot, where he learned were quartered the engineers and contractors on the railroad work. He seated himself at one of the many tables in the vast, barren dining room. Half the attendants were haughty young women, and half rather slovenly young men.

Franklin fell under the care of one of the latter, who greeted him with something of the affection of an old acquaintance. Coming to the side of his chair, and throwing an arm carelessly across Franklin's shoulder, the waiter asked in a confidential tone of voice, "Well, Cap, which'll you have, hump or tongue?" Whereby Franklin discovered that he was now upon the buffalo range, and also at the verge of a new etiquette.

After breakfast Franklin paused for a moment at the hotel office, almost as large and empty as the dining room. Different men now and then came and passed him by, each seeming to have some business of his own. The clerk at the hotel asked him if he wanted to locate some land. Still another stranger, a florid and loosely clad young man with a mild blue eye, approached him and held some converse.

"Mornin', friend," said the young man.

"Good-morning," said Franklin.

"I allow you're just in on the front," said the other.

"Yes," said Franklin, "I came on the last train."

"Stay long?"

"Well, as to that," said Franklin, "I hardly know, but I shall look around a bit."

"I didn't know but maybe you'd like to go south o' here, to Plum Centre. I run the stage line down there, about forty-six miles, twict a week. That's my livery barn over there—second wooden building in the town. Sam's my name; Sam Poston."

"I never heard of Plum Centre," said Franklin, with some amusement. "Is it as large a place as this?"

"Oh, no," said Sam hurriedly, "not nigh as large as this, but it's a good town, all right. Lots on the main street there sold for three hundred dollars last week. You see, old man Plum has got it figgered out that his town is right in the middle of the United States, ary way you measure it. We claim the same thing for Ellisville, and there you are. We've got the railroad, and they've got my stage line. There can't no one tell yet which is goin' to get the bulge on the other. If you want to go down there, come over and I'll fix you up."

Franklin replied that he would be glad to do so in case he had the need, and was about to turn away. He was interrupted by the other, who stopped him with an explosive "Say!"

"Yes," said Franklin.

"Did you notice that girl in the dining room, pony-built like, slick, black-haired, dark eyes—wears glasses? Say, that's the smoothest girl west of the river. She's waitin', in the hotel here, but say" (confidentially), "she taught school onct—yes, sir. You know, I'm gone on that girl the worst way. If you get a chanct to put in a word for me, you do it, won't you?"

Franklin was somewhat impressed with the swiftness of acquaintanceships and of general affairs in this new land, but he retained his own tactfulness and made polite assurances of aid should it become possible.

"I'd be mightily obliged," said his new-found friend. "Seems like I lose my nerve every time I try to say a word to that girl. Now, I plum forgot to ast you which way you was goin'. Do you want a team?"

"Thank you," said Franklin, "but I hardly think so. I want to find my friend Colonel Battersleigh, and I understand he lives not very far away."

"Oh, you mean old Batty. Yes, he lives just out south a little ways—Section No. 9, southeast quarter. I suppose you could walk."

"I believe I will walk, if you don't mind," said Franklin. "It seems very pleasant, and I am tired of riding."

"All right, so long," said Sam. "Don't you forgit what I told you about that Nora girl."

Franklin passed on in the direction which had been pointed out to him, looking about him at the strange, new country, in which he felt the proprietorship of early discovery. He drew in deep breaths of an air delightfully fresh, squaring his shoulders and throwing up his head instinctively as he strode forward. The sky was faultlessly clear. The prospect all about him, devoid as it was of variety, was none the less abundantly filling to the eye. Far as the eye could reach rolled an illimitable, tawny sea. The short, harsh grass near at hand he discovered to be dotted here and there with small, gay flowers. Back of him, as he turned his head, he saw a square of vivid green, which water had created as a garden spot of grass and flowers at the stone hotel. He did not find this green of civilization more consoling or inspiring than the natural colour of the wild land that lay before him. For the first time in his life he looked upon the great Plains, and for the first time felt their fascination. There came to him a subtle, strange exhilaration. A sensation of confidence, of certainty, arose in his heart. He trod as a conqueror upon a land new taken. All the earth seemed happy and care-free. A meadow lark was singing shrilly high up in the air; another lark answered, clanking contentedly from the grass, whence in the bright air its yellow breast showed brilliantly.

As Franklin was walking on, busy with the impressions of his new world, he became conscious of rapid hoof-beats coming up behind him, and turned to see a horseman careering across the open in his direction, with no apparent object in view beyond that of making all the noise possible to be made by a freckled-faced cowboy who had been up all night, but still had some vitality which needed vent.

"Eeeeee-yow-heeeeee!" yelled the cowboy, both spurring and reining his supple, cringing steed. "Eeeeeee-yip-yeeeee!" Thus vociferating, he rode straight at the footman, with apparently the deliberate wish to ride him down. He wist not that the latter had seen cavalry in his day, and was not easily to be disconcerted, and, finding that he failed to create a panic, he pulled up with the pony's nose almost over Franklin's shoulder.

"Hello, stranger," cried the rider, cheerfully; "where are you goin', this bright an' happy mornin'?"

Franklin was none too pleased at the method of introduction selected by this youth, but a look at his open and guileless face forbade the thought of offence. The cowboy sat his horse as though he was cognizant of no such creature beneath him. His hand was held high and wabbling as he bit off a chew from a large tobacco plug the while he jogged alongside.

Franklin made no immediate reply, and the cowboy resumed.

"Have a chaw?" he said affably, and looked surprised when Franklin thanked him but did not accept.

"Where's yore hoss, man?" asked the new-comer with concern. "Where you goin', headin' plum south, an' 'thout no hoss?"

"Oh," said Franklin, smiling, "I'm not going far; only over south a mile or so. I want to find a friend. Colonel Battersleigh. I think his place is only a mile or so from here."

"Sure," said the cowboy. "Old Batty—I know him. He taken up a quarter below here. Ain't got his shack up yet. But say, that's a full mile from yer. You ain't goin' to walk a mile, are you?"

"I've walked a good many thousand miles," said Franklin, "and I shouldn't wonder if I could get over this one."

"They's all kind of fools in the world," said the rider sagely, and with such calm conviction in his tone that again Franklin could not take offence. They progressed a time in silence.

"Say," said the cowboy, after a time—"say, I reckon I kin lick you."

"Do you think so?" said Franklin calmly, pulling up his shoulders and feeling no alarm.

"Shorely I do," said the other; "I reckon I kin lick you, er beat you shootin', er throw you down."

"Friend," said Franklin judicially, "I have a good many doubts about your being able to do all that. But before we take it up any further I would like to ask you something."

"Well, whut?"

"I'd just like to ask you what makes you tell me that, when I'm a perfect stranger to you, and when perhaps you may never see me again?"

"Well, now," said the cowboy, pushing back his hat and scratching his head thoughtfully, "blame if I know why, but I just 'lowed I could, sorter. An' I kin!"

"But why?"

"Say, you're the d——dest feller I ever did see. You got to have a reason fer everything on earth?" His tone became more truculent. "First place, 'f I didn't have no other reason, I kin lick ary man on earth that walks."

"Friend," said Franklin, "get down off that horse, and I'll give you a little wrestle to see who rides. What's your name, anyhow?"

"Whoa!" said the other. "Name's Curly." He was on the ground as he said this last, and throwing the bridle over the horse's head. The animal stood as though anchored. Curly cast his hat upon the ground and trod upon it in a sort of ecstasy of combat. He rushed at Franklin without argument or premeditation.

The latter had not attended country school for nothing. Stepping lightly aside, he caught his ready opponent as he passed, and, with one arm about his neck, gave him a specimen of the "hip-lock" which sent him in the air over his own shoulder. The cowboy came down much in a heap, but presently sat up, his hair somewhat rumpled and sandy. He rubbed his head and made sundry exclamations of surprise. "Huh!" said he. "Well, I'm d——d! Now, how you s'pose that happened? You kain't do that again," he said to Franklin, finally.

"Shouldn't wonder if I could," said Franklin, laughing.

"Look out fer me—I'm a-comin'!" cried Curly.

They met more fairly this time, and Franklin found that he had an antagonist of little skill in the game of wrestling, but of a surprising wiry, bodily strength. Time and again the cowboy writhed away from the hold, and came back again with the light of battle in his eye. It was only after several moments that he succumbed, this time to the insidious "grapevine." He fell so sharply that Franklin had difficulty in breaking free in order not to fall upon him. The cowboy lay prone for a moment, then got up and dusted off his hat.

"Mount, friend," said he, throwing the bridle back over the horse's neck without other word. "You done it fair!"

"I'll tell you what we'll do," said Franklin, extending his hand. "We'll just both walk along together a way, if you don't mind. I'll get me a horse pretty soon. You see, I'm a new man here—just got in this morning, and I haven't had time to look around much yet. I thought I'd go out and meet my friend, and perhaps then we could talk over such things together."

"Shore," said Curly. "Why didn't you tell me? Say, ole Batty, he's crazy to ketch a whole lot o' hosses out'n a band o' wild hosses down to the Beaver Creek. He always a-wantin' me to help him ketch them hosses. Say, he's got a lot o' sassafiddity, somethin' like that, an' he says he's goin' to soak some corn in that stuff an' set it out fer hosses. Says it'll make 'em loco, so'st you kin go right up an' rope 'em. Now, ain't that the d——dest fool thing yet? Say, some o' these pilgrims that comes out here ain't got sense enough to last over night."

"Battersleigh is fond of horses," said Franklin, "and he's a rider, too."

"That's so," admitted Curly. "He kin ride. You orter see him when he gits his full outfit on, sword an' pistol by his side, uh-huh!"

"He has a horse, then?"

"Has a boss? Has a hoss—has—what? Why, o' course he has a boss. Is there anybody that ain't got a hoss?"

"Well, I haven't," said Franklin.

"You got this one," said Curly.

"How?" said Frank, puzzled.

"Why, you won him."

"Oh, pshaw!" said Franklin. "Nonsense! I wasn't wrestling for your horse, only for a ride. Besides, I didn't have any horse put up against yours. I couldn't lose anything."

"That's so," said Curly. "I hadn't thought of that. Say, you seem like a white sort o' feller. Tell you what I'll just do with you. O' course, I was thinkin' you'd win the whole outfit, saddle an' all. I think a heap o' my saddle, an' long's you ain't got no saddle yet that you have got used to, like, it don't make much difference to you if you get another saddle. But you just take this here hoss along. No, that's all right. I kin git me another back to the corral, just as good as this one. Jim Parsons, feller on the big bunch o' cows that come up from the San Marcos this spring, why, he got killed night before last. I'll just take one o' his hosses, I reckon. I kin fix it so'st you kin git his saddle, if you take a notion to it."

Franklin looked twice to see if there was affectation in this calm statement, but was forced, with a certain horror, to believe that his new acquaintance spoke of this as a matter of fact, and as nothing startling. He had made no comment, when he was prevented from doing so by the exclamation of the cowboy, who pointed out ahead.

"There's Batty's place," said he, "an' there's Batty himself. Git up, quick; git up, an' ride in like a gentleman. It's bad luck to walk."

Franklin laughed, and, taking the reins, swung himself into the saddle with the ease of the cavalry mount, though with the old-fashioned grasp at the cantle, with the ends of the reins in his right hand.

"Well, that's a d——d funny way gittin' on top of a hoss," said Curly. "Are you 'fraid the saddle's goin' to git away from you? Better be 'fraid 'bout the hoss.—Git up, Bronch!"

He slapped the horse on the hip with his hat, and gave the latter a whirl in the air with a shrill "Whoooop-eee!" which was all that remained needful to set the horse off on a series of wild, stiff-legged plunges—the "bucking" of which Franklin had heard so much; a manoeuvre peculiar to the half-wild Western horses, and one which is at the first experience a desperately difficult one for even a skilful horseman to overcome. It perhaps did not occur to Curly that he was inflicting any hardship upon the newcomer, and perhaps he did not really anticipate what followed on the part either of the horse or its rider. Had Franklin not been a good rider, and accustomed to keeping his head while sitting half-broken mounts, he must have suffered almost instantaneous defeat in this sudden encounter. The horse threw his head down far between his fore legs at the start, and then went angling and zigzagging away over the hard ground in a wild career of humpbacked antics, which jarred Franklin to the marrow of his bones. The air became scintillant and luminously red. His head seemed filled with loose liquid, his spine turned into a column of mere gelatine. The thudding of the hoofs was so rapid and so punishing to his senses that for a moment he did not realize where he actually was. Yet with the sheer instinct of horsemanship he clung to the saddle in some fashion, until finally he was fairly forced to relax the muscular strain, and so by accident fell into the secret of the seat—loose, yielding, not tense and strung.

"Go it, go it—whooop-e-e-e!" cried Curly, somewhere out in a dark world. "Ee-eikee-hooo! Set him fair, pardner! Set him fair, now! Let go that leather! Ride him straight up! That's right!"

Franklin had small notion of Curly's locality, but he heard his voice, half taunting and half encouraging, and calling on all his pluck as he saw some hope of a successful issue, he resolved to ride it out if it lay within him so to do. He was well on with his resolution when he heard another voice, which he recognised clearly.

"Good boy, Ned," cried out this voice heartily, though likewise from some locality yet vague. "R-ride the divil to a finish, me boy! Git up his head, Ned! Git up his head! The murdering haythin' brute! Kill him! Ride him out!"

And ride him out Franklin did, perhaps as much by good fortune as by skill, though none but a shrewd horseman would have hoped to do this feat. Hurt and jarred, he yet kept upright, and at last he did get the horse's head up and saw the wild performance close as quickly as it had begun. The pony ceased his grunting and fell into a stiff trot, with little to indicate his hidden pyrotechnic quality. Franklin whirled him around and rode up to where Battersleigh and Curly had now joined. He was a bit pale, but he pulled himself together well before he reached them and dismounted with a good front of unconcern. Battersleigh grasped his hand in both his own and greeted him with a shower of welcomes and of compliments. Curly slapped him heartily upon the shoulders.

"You're all right, pardner," said he. "You're the d——dest best pilgrim that ever struck this place, an' I kin lick ary man that says differ'nt. He's yore horse now, shore."

"And how do ye do, Ned? God bless ye!" said Battersleigh a moment later, after things had become more tranquil, the horse now falling to cropping at the grass with a meekness of demeanour which suggested innocence or penitence, whichever the observer chose. "I'm glad to see ye; glad as ivver I was in all me life to see a livin' soul! Why didn't ye tell ye was coming and not come ridin' like a murderin' Cintaur—but ay, boy, ye're a rider—worthy the ould Forty-siventh—yis, more, I'll say ye might be a officer in the guards, or in the Rile Irish itself, b'gad, yes, sir!—Curly, ye divvil, what do ye mean by puttin' me friend on such a brute, him the first day in the land? And, Ned, how are ye goin' to like it here, me boy?"

Franklin wiped his forehead as he replied to Battersleigh's running fire of salutations.

"Well, Battersleigh," he said, "I must say I've been pretty busy ever since I got here, and so far as I can tell at this date, I'm much disposed to think this is a strange and rather rapid sort of country you've got out here."

"Best d——n pilgrim ever hit this rodeo!" repeated Curly, with conviction.

"Shut up, Curly, ye divvil!" said Battersleigh. "Come into the house, the both of you. It's but a poor house, but ye're welcome.—An' welcome ye are, too, Ned, me boy, to the New World."



Franklin's foot took hold upon the soil of the new land. His soul reached out and laid hold upon the sky, the harsh flowers, the rasping wind. He gave, and he drank in. Thus grew the people of the West.

The effect upon different men of new and crude conditions is as various as the individuals themselves. To the dreamer, the theorist, the man who looks too far forward into the future or too far back into the past, the message of the environment may fall oppressively; whereas to the practical man, content to live in the present and to devise immediate remedies for immediate ills, it may come sweet as a challenge upon reserves of energy. The American frontier subsequent to the civil war was so vast, yet so rapid, in its motive that to the weak or the unready it was merely appalling. The task was that of creating an entire new world. So confronted, some sat down and wept, watching the fabric grow under the hands of others. Some were strong, but knew not how to apply their strength; others were strong but slothful. The man of initiative, of executive, of judgment and resource, was the one who later came to rule. There was no one class, either of rich or of poor, who supplied all these men. The man who had been poor in earlier life might set to work at once in bettering himself upon the frontier; and by his side, equally prosperous, might be one who in his earlier days had never needed to earn a dollar nor to thrash a fellow-man. Civilization at its later stages drives the man into a corner. In its beginning it summons this same man out of the corner and asks him to rely upon himself for the great and the small things of life, thus ultimately developing that sturdy citizen who knows the value of the axiom, "Ubi bene, ibi patria." The great deeds, the great dreams become possible for nation or for individual only through the constant performance of small deeds. "For it must be remembered that life consists not of a series of illustrious actions or elegant enjoyments. The greater part of our time passes in compliance with necessities, in the performance of daily duties, in the removal of small inconveniences, in the procurement of petty pleasures; and we are well or ill at ease as the main stream of life glides on smoothly, or is ruffled by small obstructions and frequent interruptions."

Such philosophy was for Franklin unformulated. Care sat not on his heart. There were at first no problems in all the world for him. It was enough to feel this warm sun upon the cheek, to hear the sigh of the wind in the grasses, to note the nodding flowers and hear the larks busy with their joys. The stirring of primeval man was strong, that magnificent rebellion against bonds which has, after all, been the mainspring of all progress, however much the latter may be regulated by many intercurrent wheels. It was enough for Franklin to be alive. He stood straight, he breathed deep. This infection was in his blood.

"Think you, Ned, me boy," said Battersleigh, one day, as they stood at the tent door—"think you, this old gray world has been inhabited a million years, by billions of people, and yet here we have a chance to own a part of it, each for himself, here, at this last minute of the world's life! Do you mind that, what it means? Never you think a chance like that'll last forever. Yet here we are, before the law, and almost antedatin' the social ijee. It's the beginning man, it's the very beginnin' of things, where we're standin' here, this very blessed day of grace. It's Batty has travelled all his life, and seen the lands, but never did Batty live till now!"

"It's grand," murmured Franklin, half dreamily and unconsciously repeating the very words of his friend, as he had done before.

Yet Franklin was well bitten of the ambition germ. It would serve him to run only in the front rank. He was not content to dream. He saw the great things ahead, and the small things that lay between. In a week he was the guiding mind in the affairs of the odd partnership which now sprang between him and his friend. Battersleigh would have lived till autumn in his tent, but Franklin saw that the need of a house was immediate. He took counsel of Curly, the cowboy, who proved guardian and benefactor. Curly forthwith produced a workman, a giant Mexican, a half-witted mozo, who had followed the cow bands from the far Southwest, and who had hung about Curly's own place as a sort of menial, bound to do unquestioningly whatever Curly bade. This curious being, a very colossus of strength, was found to be possessed of a certain knowledge in building houses after the fashion of that land—that is to say, of sods and earthen unbaked bricks—and since under his master's direction he was not less serviceable than docile, it was not long before the "claim" of Battersleigh was adorned with a comfortable house fit for either winter or summer habitation. Franklin meantime selected the body of land upon which he proposed to make settlers' entry, this happily not far from his friend, and soon this too had its house—small, crude, brown, meagre, but not uncomforting to one who looked over the wide land and saw none better than his own. Then, little by little, they got precious coal from the railroad, this land having but scant fuel near at hand, and they built great stacks of the bois des vaches, that fuel which Nature left upon the plains until the railroads brought in coal and wood. Each man must, under the law, live upon his own land, but in practice this was no hardship. Each must of necessity cook for himself, sew for himself, rely upon himself for all those little comforts which some men miss so keenly, and which others so quickly learn to supply. To these two this was but comfortable campaigning.

There remained ever before the minds of the settlers the desirability of laying this land under tribute, of forcing it to yield a livelihood. Franklin had no wish to depart from his original plans. He looked to see all the ways of the civilization he had left behind come duly hither to search him out. He was not satisfied to abandon his law books for the saddle, but as yet there was no possibility of any practice in the law, though meantime one must live, however simply. It was all made easy. That wild Nature, which had erected rude barriers against the coming of the white man, had at her reluctant recession left behind the means by which the white man might prevail. Even in the "first year" the settler of the new West was able to make his living. He killed off the buffalo swiftly, but he killed them in numbers so desperately large that their bones lay in uncounted tons all over a desolated empire. First the hides and then the bones of the buffalo gave the settler his hold upon the land, which perhaps he could not else have won.

Franklin saw many wagons coming and unloading their cargoes of bleached bones at the side of the railroad tracks. The heap of bones grew vast, white, ghastly, formidable, higher than a house, more than a bowshot long. There was a market for all this back in that country which had conceived this road across the desert. Franklin put out a wagon at this industry, hauling in the fuel and the merchandise of the raw plains. He bought the grim product of others who were ready to sell and go out the earlier again. He betimes had out more than one wagon of his own; and Battersleigh, cavalryman, became Batty, scouter for bones, while Franklin remained at the market. It was Franklin who, bethinking himself of the commercial difference between hard black horn and soft, spongy bone, began the earliest shipments of the tips of the buffalo horns, which he employed a man to saw off and pack into sacks ready for the far-off button factories. Many tons of these tips alone he came to ship, such had been the incredible abundance and the incredible waste; and thus thriving upon an industry whose cause and whose possibility he deplored, he came to realize considerable sums and saw the question of subsistence pass rapidly into unconcern. Thus he had gone to work in his new and untried world with a direct and effective force. He dropped from him as a garment the customs and standards of the world he had left behind, and at once took his place as a factor in a new order of things.

Meantime the little town added building after building along its straggling street, each of these houses of a single story, with a large square of board front which projected deceptively high and wide, serving to cover from direct view the rather humiliating lack of importance in the actual building. These new edifices were for the most part used as business places, the sorts of commerce being but two—"general merchandise," which meant chiefly saddles and firearms, and that other industry of new lands which flaunts under such signboards as the Lone Star, the Happy Home, the Quiet Place, the Cowboy's Dream, and such descriptive nomenclature. Of fourteen business houses, nine were saloons, and all these were prosperous. Money was in the hands of all. The times had not yet come when a dollar seemed a valuable thing. Men were busy living, busy at exercising this vast opportunity of being prehistoric.

One by one, then in a body, as though struck by panic, the white tents of the railroad labourers vanished, passing on yet farther to the West, only the engineers remaining at Ellisville and prosecuting from the haven of the stone hotel the work of continuing the line. The place of the tents was taken by vast white-topped wagons, the creaking cook carts of the cattle trail, and the van of the less nomadic man. It was the beginning of the great cattle drive from the Southern to the Northern ranges, a strange, wild movement in American life which carried in its train a set of conditions as vivid and peculiar as they were transient. At Ellisville there was no ordered way of living. The frontier was yet but one vast camp. It was, as Battersleigh had said, the beginning of things.

Many of the white-topped wagons began to come from the East, not following the railroad, but travelling the trail of the older adventurers who had for a generation gone this way, and whose pathway the railroad took for its own. Some of these wagons passed still onward, uncontent. Others swerved and scattered over the country to the south and southwest, from which the Indian tribes had now been driven, and which appeared more tempting to the farming man than lands farther to the west and higher up that gradual and wonderful incline which reaches from the Missouri River to the Rockies. One by one, here and there, these new men selected their lands and made their first rude attempts at building for themselves the homes which they coveted and had come far to win.

Ellisville lay at an eddy in the Plains, and gathered toll of the strange driftwood which was then afloat. Though the chutes at the railway were busy, yet other herds of cattle passed Ellisville and wandered on north, crowding at the heels of the passing Indians, who now began to see their own cattle to be doomed. The main herd of the buffalo was now reported to be three or four days' drive from Ellisville, and the men who killed for the railroad camps uttered loud complaints. The skin-hunting still went on. Great wagons, loaded with parties of rough men, passed on out, bound for the inner haunts, where they might still find their prey. The wagons came creaking back loaded with bales of the shaggy brown robes, which gave the skin-hunters money with which to join the cowmen at the drinking places. Some of the skin-hunters, some of the railroad men, some of the cowmen, some of the home-seekers, remained in the eddy at Ellisville, this womanless beginning of a permanent society. Not sinless was this society at its incipiency. In any social atmosphere good and evil are necessary concomitants. Sinless men would form a community at best but perishable. Tolerance, submission, patriotism so called, brotherly love so named—all these things were to come later, as they have ever done in the development of communities, builded mainly upon the foundation of individual aggressiveness and individual centrifugence. Having arrived, we wave scented kerchiefs between us and the thought of such a beginning of our prosperity. Having become slaves, we scoff at the thought of a primitive, grand, and happy world, where each man was a master. Having lost touch of the earth, having lost sight of the sky, we opine there could have been small augur in a land where each man found joy in an earth and sky which to him seemed his own. There were those who knew that joy and who foresaw its passing, yet they were happy. Edward Franklin saw afar off the dim star of his ambition; yet for him, as for many another man in those days, it was enough to own this earthy this sky, to lie down under his own roof at night to untroubled dreams, to awake each morning to a day of hopeful toil.

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