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Bonner, Geraldine / The Emigrant Trail
Produced by Al Haines










[Frontispiece: He gathered her in his arms, and bending low carried her
back into the darkened cavern.]






THE EMIGRANT TRAIL


BY

GERALDINE BONNER





NEW YORK

GROSSET & DUNLAP

PUBLISHERS




COPYRIGHT, 1910, BY

DUFFIELD & COMPANY


Published, April, 1910




CONTENTS


PART I

THE PRAIRIE


PART II

THE RIVER


PART III

THE MOUNTAINS


PART IV

THE DESERT


PART V

THE PROMISED LAND




THE EMIGRANT TRAIL


PART I

The Prairie


CHAPTER I

It had rained steadily for three days, the straight, relentless rain of
early May on the Missouri frontier. The emigrants, whose hooded wagons
had been rolling into Independence for the past month and whose tents
gleamed through the spring foliage, lounged about in one another's
camps cursing the weather and swapping bits of useful information.

The year was 1848 and the great California emigration was still twelve
months distant. The flakes of gold had already been found in the race
of Sutter's mill, and the thin scattering of men, which made the
population of California, had left their plows in the furrow and their
ships in the cove and gone to the yellow rivers that drain the Sierra's
mighty flanks. But the rest of the world knew nothing of this yet.
They were not to hear till November when a ship brought the news to New
York, and from city and town, from village and cottage, a march of men
would turn their faces to the setting sun and start for the land of
gold.

Those now bound for California knew it only as the recently acquired
strip of territory that lay along the continent's Western rim, a place
of perpetual sunshine, where everybody had a chance and there was no
malaria. That was what they told each other as they lay under the
wagons or sat on saddles in the wet tents. The story of old Roubadoux,
the French fur trader from St. Joseph, circulated cheeringly from mouth
to mouth--a man in Monterey had had chills and people came from miles
around to see him shake, so novel was the spectacle. That was the
country for the men and women of the Mississippi Valley, who shook half
the year and spent the other half getting over it.

The call of the West was a siren song in the ears of these waiting
companies. The blood of pioneers urged them forward. Their
forefathers had moved from the old countries across the seas, from the
elm-shaded towns of New England, from the unkempt villages that
advanced into the virgin lands by the Great Lakes, from the peace and
plenty of the splendid South. Year by year they had pushed the
frontier westward, pricked onward by a ceaseless unrest, "the old land
hunger" that never was appeased. The forests rang to the stroke of
their ax, the slow, untroubled rivers of the wilderness parted to the
plowing wheels of their unwieldy wagons, their voices went before them
into places where Nature had kept unbroken her vast and pondering
silence. The distant country by the Pacific was still to explore and
they yoked their oxen, and with a woman and a child on the seat started
out again, responsive to the cry of "Westward, Ho!"

As many were bound for Oregon as for California. Marcus Whitman and
the missionaries had brought alluring stories of that great domain once
held so cheaply the country almost lost it. It was said to be of a
wonderful fertility and league-long stretches of idle land awaited the
settler. The roads ran together more than half the way, parting at
Green River, where the Oregon trail turned to Fort Hall and the
California dipped southward and wound, a white and spindling thread,
across what men then called "The Great American Desert." Two days'
journey from Independence this road branched from the Santa Fé Trail
and bent northward across the prairie. A signboard on a stake pointed
the way and bore the legend, "Road to Oregon." It was the starting
point of one of the historic highways of the world. The Indians called
it "The Great Medicine Way of the Pale-face."

Checked in the act of what they called "jumping off" the emigrants wore
away the days in telling stories of the rival countries, and in
separating from old companies and joining new ones. It was an
important matter, this of traveling partnerships. A trip of two
thousand miles on unknown roads beset with dangers was not to be
lightly undertaken. Small parties, frightened on the edge of the
enterprise, joined themselves to stronger ones. The mountain men and
trappers delighted to augment the tremors of the fearful, and round the
camp fires listening groups hung on the words of long-haired men clad
in dirty buckskins, whose moccasined feet had trod the trails of the
fur trader and his red brother.

This year was one of special peril for, to the accustomed dangers from
heat, hunger, and Indians, was added a new one--the Mormons. They were
still moving westward in their emigration from Nauvoo to the new Zion
beside the Great Salt Lake. It was a time and a place to hear the
black side of Mormonism. A Missourian hated a Latter Day Saint as a
Puritan hated a Papist. Hawn's mill was fresh in the minds of the
frontiersmen, and the murder of Joseph Smith was accounted a righteous
act. The emigrant had many warnings to lay to heart--against Indian
surprises in the mountains, against mosquitoes on the plains, against
quicksands in the Platte, against stampedes among the cattle, against
alkaline springs and the desert's parching heats. And quite as
important as any of these was that against the Latter Day Saint with
the Book of Mormon in his saddlebag and his long-barreled rifle across
the pommel.

So they waited, full of ill words and impatience, while the rain fell.
Independence, the focusing point of the frontier life, housing
unexpected hundreds, dripped from all its gables and swam in mud. And
in the camps that spread through the fresh, wet woods and the oozy
uplands, still other hundreds cowered under soaked tent walls and in
damp wagon boxes, listening to the rush of the continuous showers.




CHAPTER II

On the afternoon of the fourth day the clouds lifted. A band of yellow
light broke out along the horizon, and at the crossings of the town and
in the rutted country roads men and women stood staring at it with its
light and their own hope brightening their faces.

David Crystal, as he walked through the woods, saw it behind a veining
of black branches. Though a camper and impatient to be off like the
rest, he did not feel the elation that shone on their watching faces.
His was held in a somber abstraction. Just behind him, in an opening
under the straight, white blossoming of dogwood trees, was a new-made
grave. The raw earth about it showed the prints of his feet, for he
had been standing by it thinking of the man who lay beneath.

Four days before his friend, Joe Linley, had died of cholera. Three of
them--Joe, himself, and George Leffingwell, Joe's cousin--had been in
camp less than a week when it had happened. Until then their life had
been like a picnic there in the clearing by the roadside, with the
thrill of the great journey stirring in their blood. And then Joe had
been smitten with such suddenness, such awful suddenness! He had been
talking to them when David had seen a suspension of something, a
stoppage of a vital inner spring, and with it a whiteness had passed
across his face like a running tide. The awe of that moment, the hush
when it seemed to David the liberated spirit had paused beside him in
its outward flight, was with him now as he walked through the rustling
freshness of the wood.

The rain had begun to lessen, its downfall thinning into a soft patter
among the leaves. The young man took off his hat and let the damp air
play over his hair. It was thick hair, black and straight, already
longer than city fashions dictated, and a first stubble of black beard
was hiding the lines of a chin perhaps a trifle too sensitive and
pointed. Romantic good looks and an almost poetic refinement were the
characteristics of the face, an unusual type for the frontier. With
thoughtful gray eyes set deep under a jut of brows and a nose as finely
cut as a woman's, it was of a type that, in more sophisticated
localities, men would have said had risen to meet the Byronic ideal of
which the world was just then enamored. But there was nothing Byronic
or self-conscious about David Crystal. He had been born and bred in
what was then the Far West, and that he should read poetry and regard
life as an undertaking that a man must face with all honor and
resoluteness was not so surprising for the time and place. The West,
with its loneliness, its questioning silences, its solemn sweep of
prairie and roll of slow, majestic rivers, held spiritual communion
with those of its young men who had eyes to see and ears to hear.

The trees grew thinner and he saw the sky pure as amber beneath the
storm pall. The light from it twinkled over wet twigs and glazed the
water in the crumplings of new leaves. Across the glow the last
raindrops fell in slanting dashes. David's spirits rose. The weather
was clearing and they could start--start on the trail, the long trail,
the Emigrant Trail, two thousand miles to California!

He was close to the camp. Through the branches he saw the filmy,
diffused blueness of smoke and smelled the sharp odor of burning wood.
He quickened his pace and was about to give forth a cheerful hail when
he heard a sound that made him stop, listen with fixed eye, and then
advance cautiously, sending a questing glance through the screen of
leaves. The sound was a woman's voice detached in clear sweetness from
the deeper tones of men.

There was no especial novelty in this. Their camp was just off the
road and the emigrant women were wont to pause there and pass the time
of day. Most of them were the lean and leathern-skinned mates of the
frontiersmen, shapeless and haggard as if toil had drawn from their
bodies all the softness of feminine beauty, as malaria had sucked from
their skins freshness and color. But there were young, pretty ones,
too, who often strolled by, looking sideways from the shelter of
jealous sunbonnets.

This voice was not like theirs. It had a quality David had only heard
a few times in his life--cultivation. Experience would have
characterized it as "a lady voice." David, with none, thought it an
angel's. Very shy, very curious, he came out from the trees ready at
once and forever to worship anyone who could set their words to such
dulcet cadences.

The clearing, green as an emerald and shining with rain, showed the
hood of the wagon and the new, clean tent, white as sails on a summer
sea, against the trees' young bloom. In the middle the fire burned and
beside it stood Leff, a skillet in his hand. He was a curly-headed,
powerful country lad, twenty-four years old, who, two months before,
had come from an Illinois farm to join the expedition. The frontier
was to him a place of varied diversion, Independence a stimulating
center. So diffident that the bashful David seemed by contrast a man
of cultured ease, he was now blushing till the back of his neck was red.

On the other side of the fire a lady and gentleman stood arm in arm
under an umbrella. The two faces, bent upon Leff with grave attention,
were alike, not in feature, but in the subtly similar play of
expression that speaks the blood tie. A father and daughter, David
thought. Against the rough background of the camp, with its litter at
their feet, they had an air of being applied upon an alien surface, of
not belonging to the picture, but standing out from it in sharp and
incongruous contrast.

The gentleman was thin and tall, fifty or thereabouts, very pale,
especially to one accustomed to the tanned skins of the farm and the
country town. His face held so frank a kindliness, especially the eyes
which looked tired and a little sad, that David felt its expression
like a friendly greeting or a strong handclasp.

The lady did not have this, perhaps because she was a great deal
younger. She was yet in the bud, far from the tempering touch of
experience, still in the state of looking forward and anticipating
things. She was dark, of medium height, and inclined to be plump.
Many delightful curves went to her making, and her waist tapered
elegantly, as was the fashion of the time. Thinking it over
afterwards, the young man decided that she did not belong in the
picture with a prairie schooner and camp kettles, because she looked so
like an illustration in a book of beauty. And David knew something of
these matters, for had he not been twice to St. Louis and there seen
the glories of the earth and the kingdoms thereof?

But life in camp outside Independence had evidently blunted his
perceptions. The small waist, a round, bare throat rising from a
narrow band of lace, and a flat, yellow straw hat were the young
woman's only points of resemblance to the beauty-book heroines. She
was not in the least beautiful, only fresh and healthy, the flat straw
hat shading a girlish face, smooth and firmly modeled as a ripe fruit.
Her skin was a glossy brown, softened with a peach's bloom, warming
through deepening shades of rose to lips that were so deeply colored no
one noticed how firmly they could come together, how their curving,
crimson edges could shut tight, straighten out, and become a line of
forceful suggestions, of doggedness, maybe--who knows?--perhaps of
obstinacy. It was her physical exuberance, her downy glow, that made
David think her good looking; her serene, brunette richness, with its
high lights of coral and scarlet, that made her radiate an aura of
warmth, startling in that woodland clearing, as the luster of a firefly
in a garden's glooming dusk.

She stopped speaking as he emerged from the trees, and Leff's
stammering answer held her in a riveted stare of attention. Then she
looked up and saw David.

"Oh," she said, and transferred the stare to him. "Is this he?"

Leff was obviously relieved:

"Oh, David, I ain't known what to say to this lady and her father.
They think some of joining us. They've been waiting for quite a spell
to see you. They're goin' to California, too."

The gentleman lifted his hat. Now that he smiled his face was even
kindlier, and he, too, had a pleasant, mellowed utterance that linked
him with the world of superior quality of which David had had those two
glimpses.

"I am Dr. Gillespie," he said, "and this is my daughter Susan."

David bowed awkwardly, a bow that was supposed to include father and
daughter. He did not know whether this was a regular introduction, and
even if it had been he would not have known what to do. The young
woman made no attempt to return the salutation, not that she was rude,
but she had the air of regarding it as a frivolous interruption to
weighty matters. She fixed David with eyes, small, black, and bright
as a squirrel's, so devoid of any recognition that he was a member of
the rival sex--or, in fact, of the human family--that his
self-consciousness sunk down abashed as if before reproof.

"My father and I are going to California and the train we were going
with has gone on. We've come from Rochester, New York, and everywhere
we've been delayed and kept back. Even that boat up from St. Louis was
five days behind time. It's been nothing but disappointments and
delays since we left home. And when we got here the people we were
going with--a big train from Northern New York--had gone on and left
us."

She said all this rapidly, poured it out as if she were so full of the
injury and annoyance of it, that she had to ease her indignation by
letting it run over into the first pair of sympathetic ears. David's
were a very good pair. Any woman with a tale of trouble would have
found him a champion. How much more a fresh-faced young creature with
a melodious voice and anxious eyes.

"A good many trains have gone on," he said. And then, by way of
consolation for her manner demanded, that, "But they'll be stalled at
the fords with this rain. They'll have to wait till the rivers fall.
All the men who know say that."

"So we've heard," said the father, "but we hoped that we'd catch them
up. Our outfit is very light, only one wagon, and our driver is a
thoroughly capable and experienced man. What we want are some
companions with whom we can travel till we overhaul the others. I'd
start alone, but with my daughter----"

She cut in at once, giving his arm a little, irritated shake:

"Of course you couldn't do that." Then to the young men: "My father's
been sick for quite a long time, all last winter. It's for his health
we're going to California, and, of course, he couldn't start without
some other men in the party. Indians might attack us, and at the hotel
they said the Mormons were scattered all along the road and thought
nothing of shooting a Gentile."

Her father gave the fingers crooked on his arm a little squeeze with
his elbow. It was evident the pair were very good friends.

"You'll make these young men think I'm a helpless invalid, who'll lie
in the wagon all day. They won't want us to go with them."

This made her again uneasy and let loose another flow of authoritative
words.

"No, my father isn't really an invalid. He doesn't have to lie in the
wagon. He's going to ride most of the time. He and I expect to ride
all the way, and the old man who goes with us will drive the mules.
What's been really bad for my father was living in that dreadful hotel
at Independence with everything damp and uncomfortable. We want to get
off just as soon as we can, and this gentleman," indicating Leff, "says
you want to go, too."

"We'll start to-morrow morning, if it's clear."

"Now, father," giving the arm she held a renewed clutch and sharper
shake, "there's our chance. We must go with them."

The father's smile would have shown something of deprecation, or even
apology, if it had not been all pride and tenderness.

"These young men will be very kind if they permit us to join them," was
what his lips said. His eyes added: "This is a spoiled child, but even
so, there is no other like her in the world."

The young men sprang at the suggestion. The spring was internal, of
the spirit, for they were too overwhelmed by the imminent presence of
beauty to show a spark of spontaneity on the outside. They muttered
their agreement, kicked the ground, and avoided the eyes of Miss
Gillespie.

"The people at the hotel," the doctor went on, "advised us to join one
of the ox trains. But it seemed such a slow mode of progress. They
don't make much more than fifteen to twenty miles a day."

"And then," said the girl, "there might be people we didn't like in the
train and we'd be with them all the time."

It is not probable that she intended to suggest to her listeners that
she could stand them as traveling companions. Whether she did or not
they scented the compliment, looked stupid, and hung their heads,
silent in the intoxication of this first subtle whiff of incense. Even
Leff, uncouth and unlettered, extracted all that was possible from the
words, and felt a delicate elation at the thought that so fine a
creature could endure his society.

"We expect to go a great deal faster than the long trains," she
continued. "We have no oxen, only six mules and two extra horses and a
cow."

Her father laughed outright.

"Don't let my daughter frighten you. We've really got a very small
amount of baggage. Our little caravan has been made up on the advice
of Dr. Marcus Whitman, an old friend of mine. Five years ago when he
was in Washington he gave me a list of what was needed for the journey
across the plains. I suppose he's the best authority on that subject.
We all know how successfully the Oregon emigration was carried through."

David was glad to show he knew something of that. A boy friend of his
had gone to Oregon with this, the first large body of emigrants that
had ventured on the great enterprise. Whitman was to him a national
hero, his ride in the dead of winter from the far Northwest to
Washington, as patriotically inspiring as Paul Revere's.

There was more talk, standing round the fire, while the agreements for
the start were being made. No one thought the arrangement hasty, for
it was a place and time of quick decisions. Men starting on the
emigrant trail were not for wasting time on preliminaries. Friendships
sprang up like the grass and were mown down like it. Standing on the
edge of the unknown was not the propitious moment for caution and
hesitation. Only the bold dared it and the bold took each other
without question, reading what was on the surface, not bothering about
what might be hidden.

It was agreed, the weather being fair, that they would start at seven
the next morning, Dr. Gillespie's party joining David's at the camp.
With their mules and horses they should make good time and within a
month overhaul the train that had left the Gillespies behind.

As the doctor and his daughter walked away the shyness of the young men
returned upon them in a heavy backwash. They were so whelmed by it
that they did not even speak to one another. But both glanced with
cautious stealth at the receding backs, the doctor in front, his
daughter walking daintily on the edge of grass by the roadside, holding
her skirts away from the wet weeds.

When she was out of sight Leff said with an embarrassed laugh:

"Well, we got some one to go along with us now."

David did not laugh. He pondered frowningly. He was the elder by two
years and he felt his responsibilities.

"They'll do all right. With two more men we'll make a strong enough
train."

Leff was cook that night, and he set the coffee on and began cutting
the bacon. Occupied in this congenial work, the joints of his tongue
were loosened, and as the skillet gave forth grease and odors, he gave
forth bits of information gleaned from the earlier part of the
interview:

"I guess they got a first rate outfit. The old gentleman said they'd
been getting it together since last autumn. They must be pretty well
fixed."

David nodded. Being "well fixed" or being poor did not count on the
edge of the prairie. They were frivolous outside matters that had
weight in cities. Leff went on,

"He's consumpted. That's why he's going. He says he expects to be
cured before he gets to California."

A sudden zephyr irritated the tree tops, which bent away from its touch
and scattered moisture on the fire and the frying pan. There was a
sputter and sizzle and Leff muttered profanely before he took up the
dropped thread:

"The man that drives the mules, he's a hired man that the old
gentleman's had for twenty years. He was out on the frontier once and
knows all about it, and there ain't nothing he can't drive"--turning of
the bacon here, Leff absorbed beyond explanatory speech--"They got four
horses, two to ride and two extra ones, and a cow. I don't see how
they're goin' to keep up the pace with the cow along. The old
gentleman says they can do twenty to twenty-five miles a day when the
road's good. But I don't seem to see how the cow can keep up such a
lick."

"A hired man, a cow, and an outfit that it took all winter to get
together," said David thoughtfully. "It sounds more like a pleasure
trip than going across the plains."

He sat as if uneasily debating the possible drawbacks of so elaborate
an escort, but he was really ruminating upon the princess, who moved
upon the wilderness with such pomp and circumstance.

As they set out their tin cups and plates they continued to discuss the
doctor, his caravan, his mules, his servant, and his cow, in fact,
everything but his daughter. It was noticeable that no mention of her
was made till supper was over and the night fell. Then their comments
on her were brief. Leff seemed afraid of her even a mile away in the
damp hotel at Independence, seemed to fear that she might in some way
know he'd had her name upon his tongue, and would come to-morrow with
angry, accusing looks like an offended goddess. David did not want to
talk about her, he did not quite know why. Before the thought of
traveling a month in her society his mind fell back reeling, baffled by
the sudden entrance of such a dazzling intruder. A month beside this
glowing figure, a month under the impersonal interrogation of those
cool, demanding eyes! It was as if the President or General Zachary
Taylor had suddenly joined them.

But of course she figured larger in their thoughts than any other part
or all the combined parts of Dr. Gillespie's outfit. In their
imaginations--the hungry imaginations of lonely young men--she
represented all the grace, beauty, and mystery of the Eternal Feminine.
They did not reason about her, they only felt, and what they
felt--unconsciously to themselves--was that she had introduced the
last, wildest, and most disturbing thrill into the adventure of the
great journey.




CHAPTER III

The next day broke still and clear. The dawn was yet a pale promise in
the East when from Independence, out through the dripping woods and
clearings, rose the tumult of breaking camps. The rattle of the yoke
chains and the raucous cry of "Catch up! Catch up!" sounded under the
trees and out and away over valley and upland as the lumbering wagons,
freighted deep for the long trail, swung into the road.

David's camp was astir long before the sun was up. The great hour had
come. They were going! They sung and shouted as they harnessed Bess
and Ben, a pair of sturdy roans bought from an emigrant discouraged
before the start, while the saddle horses nosed about the tree roots
for a last cropping of the sweet, thick grass. Inside the wagon the
provisions were packed in sacks and the rifles hung on hooks on the
canvas walls. At the back, on a supporting step, the mess chest was
strapped. It was a businesslike wagon. Its contents included only one
deviation from the practical and necessary--three books of David's.
Joe had laughed at him about them. What did a man want with Byron's
poems and Milton and Bacon's "Essays" crossing the plains? Neither Joe
nor Leff could understand such devotion to the printed page. Their
kits were of the compactest, not a useless article or an unnecessary
pound, unless you counted the box of flower seeds that belonged to Joe,
who had heard that California, though a dry country, could be coaxed
into productiveness along the rivers.

Dr. Gillespie and his daughter were punctual. David's silver watch,
large as the circle of a cup and possessed of a tick so loud it
interrupted conversation, registered five minutes before seven, when
the doctor and his daughter appeared at the head of their caravan. Two
handsome figures, well mounted and clad with taste as well as
suitability, they looked as gallantly unfitted for the road as armored
knights in a modern battlefield. Good looks, physical delicacy, and
becoming clothes had as yet no recognized place on the trail. The
Gillespies were boldly and blithely bringing them, and unlike most
innovators, romance came with them. Nobody had gone out of
Independence with so confident and debonair an air. Now advancing
through a spattering of leaf shadows and sunspots, they seemed to the
young men to be issuing from the first pages of a story, and the
watchers secretly hoped that they would go riding on into the heart of
it with the white arch of the prairie schooner and the pricked ears of
the six mules as a movable background.

There was no umbrella this morning to obscure Miss Gillespie's vivid
tints, and in the same flat, straw hat, with her cheeks framed in
little black curls, she looked a freshly wholesome young girl, who
might be dangerous to the peace of mind of men even less lonely and
susceptible than the two who bid her a flushed and bashful good
morning. She had the appearance, however, of being entirely oblivious
to any embarrassment they might show. There was not a suggestion of
coquetry in her manner as she returned their greetings. Instead, it
was marked by a businesslike gravity. Her eyes touched their faces
with the slightest welcoming light and then left them to rove, sharply
inspecting, over their wagon and animals. When she had scrutinized
these, she turned in her saddle, and said abruptly to the driver of the
six mules:

"Daddy John, do you see--horses?"

The person thus addressed nodded and said in a thin, old voice,

"I do, and if they want them they're welcome to them."

He was a small, shriveled man, who might have been anywhere from sixty
to seventy-five. A battered felt hat, gray-green with wind and sun,
was pulled well down to his ears, pressing against his forehead and
neck thin locks of gray hair. A grizzle of beard edged his chin, a
poor and scanty growth that showed the withered skin through its
sparseness. His face, small and wedge-shaped, was full of ruddy color,
the cheeks above the ragged hair smooth and red as apples. Though his
mouth was deficient in teeth, his neck, rising bare from the band of
his shirt, corrugated with the starting sinews of old age, he had a
shrewd vivacity of glance, an alertness of poise, that suggested an
unimpaired spiritual vitality. He seemed at home behind the mules, and
here, for the first time, David felt was some one who did not look
outside the picture. In fact, he had an air of tranquil acceptance of
the occasion, of adjustment without effort, that made him fit into the
frame better than anyone else of the party.

It was a glorious morning, and as they fared forward through the
checkered shade their spirits ran high. The sun, curious and
determined, pried and slid through every crack in the leafage, turned
the flaked lichen to gold, lay in clotted light on the pools around the
fern roots. They were delicate spring woods, streaked with the white
dashes of the dogwood, and hung with the tassels of the maple. The
foliage was still unfolding, patterned with fresh creases, the prey of
a continuous, frail unrest. Little streams chuckled through the
underbrush, and from the fusion of woodland whisperings bird notes
detached themselves, soft flutings and liquid runs, that gave another
expression to the morning's blithe mood.

Between the woods there were stretches of open country, velvet smooth,
with the trees slipped down to where the rivers ran. The grass was as
green as sprouting grain, and a sweet smell of wet earth and seedling
growths came from it. Cloud shadows trailed across it, blue blotches
moving languidly. It was the young earth in its blushing promise,
fragrant, rain-washed, budding, with the sound of running water in the
grass and bird voices dropping from the sky.

With their lighter wagons they passed the ox trains plowing stolidly
through the mud, barefoot children running at the wheel, and women
knitting on the front seat. The driver's whip lash curled in the air,
and his nasal "Gee haw" swung the yoked beasts slowly to one side.
Then came detachments of Santa Fé traders, dark men in striped serapes
with silver trimmings round their high-peaked hats. Behind them
stretched the long line of wagons, the ponderous freighters of the
Santa Fé Trail, rolling into Independence from the Spanish towns that
lay beyond the burning deserts of the Cimarron. They filed by in slow
procession, a vision of faded colors and swarthy faces, jingle of spur
and mule bell mingling with salutations in sonorous Spanish.

As the day grew warmer, the doctor complained of the heat and went back
to the wagon. David and the young girl rode on together through the
green thickness of the wood. They had talked a little while the doctor
was there, and now, left to themselves, they suddenly began to talk a
good deal. In fact, Miss Gillespie revealed herself as a somewhat
garrulous and quite friendly person. David felt his awed admiration
settling into a much more comfortable feeling, still wholly admiring
but relieved of the cramping consciousness that he had entertained an
angel unawares. She was so natural and girlish that he began to
cherish hopes of addressing her as "Miss Susan," even let vaulting
ambition carry him to the point where he could think of some day
calling himself her friend.

She was communicative, and he was still too dazzled by her to realize
that she was not above asking questions. In the course of a half hour
she knew all about him, and he, without the courage to be thus
flatteringly curious, knew the main points of her own history. Her
father had been a practicing physician in Rochester for the past
fifteen years. Before that he had lived in New York, where she had
been born twenty years ago. Her mother had been a Canadian, a French
woman from the Province of Quebec, whom her father had met there one
summer when he had gone to fish in Lake St. John. Her mother had been
very beautiful--David nodded at that, he had already decided it--and
had always spoken English with an accent. She, the daughter, when she
was little, spoke French before she did English; in fact, did not Mr.
Crystal notice there was still something a little queer about her _r_'s?

Mr. Crystal had noticed it, noticed it to the extent of thinking it
very pretty. The young lady dismissed the compliment as one who does
not hear, and went on with her narrative:

"After my mother's death my father left New York. He couldn't bear to
live there any more. He'd been so happy. So he moved away, though he
had a fine practice."

The listener gave forth a murmur of sympathetic understanding.
Devotion to a beautiful woman was matter of immediate appeal to him.
His respect for the doctor rose in proportion, especially when the
devotion was weighed in the balance against a fine practice. Looking
at the girl's profile with prim black curls against the cheek, he saw
the French-Canadian mother, and said not gallantly, but rather timidly:

"And you're like your mother, I suppose? You're dark like a French
woman."

She answered this with a brusque denial. Extracting compliments from
the talk of a shy young Westerner was evidently not her strong point.

"Oh, no! not at all. My mother was pale and tall, with very large
black eyes. I am short and dark and my eyes are only just big enough
to see out of. She was delicate and I am very strong. My father says
I've never been sick since I got my first teeth."

She looked at him and laughed, and he realized it was the first time he
had seen her do it. It brightened her face delightfully, making the
eyes she had spoken of so disparagingly narrow into dancing slits.
When she laughed men who had not lost the nicety of their standards by
a sojourn on the frontier would have called her a pretty girl.

"My mother was of the French _noblesse_," she said, a dark eye upon him
to see how he would take this dignified piece of information. "She was
a descendant of the Baron de Poutrincourt, who founded Port Royal."

David was as impressed as anyone could have desired. He did not know
what the French _noblesse_ was, but by its sound he judged it to be
some high and honorable estate. He was equally ignorant of the
identity of the Baron de Poutrincourt, but the name alone was
impressive, especially as Miss Gillespie pronounced it.

"That's fine, isn't it?" he said, as being the only comment he could
think of which at once showed admiration and concealed ignorance.

The young woman seemed to find it adequate and went on with her family
history. Five years ago in Washington her father had seen his old
friend, Marcus Whitman, and since then had been restless with the
longing to move West. His health demanded the change. His labors as a
physician had exhausted him. His daughter spoke feelingly of the
impossibility of restraining his charitable zeal. He attended the poor
for nothing. He rose at any hour and went forth in any weather in
response to the call of suffering.

"That's what he says a doctor's duties are," she said. "It isn't a
profession to make money with, it's a profession for helping people and
curing them. You yourself don't count, it's only what you do that
does. Why, my father had a very large practice, but he made only just
enough to keep us."

Of all she had said this seemed to the listener the best worth hearing.
The doctor now mounted to the top of the highest pedestal David's
admiration could supply. Here was one of the compensations with which
life keeps the balances even. Joe had died and left him friendless,
and while the ache was still sharp, this stranger and his daughter had
come to soothe his pain, perhaps, in the course of time, to conjure it
quite away.

Early in the preceding winter the doctor had been forced to decide on
the step he had been long contemplating. An attack of congestion of
the lungs developed consumption in his weakened constitution. A warm
climate and an open-air life were prescribed. And how better combine
them than by emigrating to California?

"And so," said the doctor's daughter, "father made up his mind to go
and sold out his practice. People thought he was crazy to start on
such a trip when he was sick, but he knows more than they do. Besides,
it's not going to be such hard work for him. Daddy John, the old man
who drives the mules, knows all about this Western country. He was
here a long time ago when Indiana and Illinois were wild and full of
Indians. He got wounded out here fighting and thought he was going to
die, and came back to New York. My father found him there, poor and
lonely and sick, and took care of him and cured him. He's been with us
ever since, more than twenty years, and he manages everything and takes
care of everything. He and father'll tell you I rule them, but that's
just teasing. It's really Daddy John who rules."

The mules were just behind them, and she looked back at the old man and
called in her clear voice:

"I'm talking about you, Daddy John. I'm telling all about your
wickedness."

Daddy John's answer came back, slow and amused:

"Wait till I get the young feller alone and I'll do some talking."

Laughing, she settled herself in her saddle and dropped her voice for
David's ear:

"I think Daddy John was quite pleased we missed the New York train. It
was a big company, and he couldn't have managed everything the way he
can now. But we'll soon catch it up and then"--she lifted her eyebrows
and smiled with charming malice at the thought of Daddy John's coming
subjugation. "We ought to overtake it in three or four weeks they said
in Independence."

Her companion made no answer. The cheerful conversation had suddenly
taken a depressing turn. Under the spell of Miss Gillespie's loquacity
and black eyes he had quite forgotten that he was only a temporary
escort, to be superseded by an entire ox train, of which even now they
were in pursuit. David was a dreamer, and while the young woman
talked, he had seen them both in diminishing perspective, passing
sociably across the plains, over the mountains, into the desert, to
where California edged with a prismatic gleam the verge of the world.
They were to go riding, and talking on, their acquaintance ripening
gradually and delightfully, while the enormous panorama of the
continent unrolled behind them. And it might end in three or four
weeks! The Emigrant Trail looked overwhelmingly long when he could
only see himself and Leff riding over it, and California lost its color
and grew as gray as a line of sea fog.

That evening's camp was pitched in a clearing near the road. The woods
pressed about them, whispering and curious, thrown out and then blotted
as the fires leaped or died. It was the first night's bivouac, and
much noise and bustle went to its accomplishment. The young men
covertly watched the Gillespie Camp. How would this ornamental party
cope with such unfamiliar labors? With its combination of a feminine
element which must be helpless by virtue of a rare and dainty fineness
and a masculine element which could hardly be otherwise because of ill
health, it would seem that all the work must devolve upon the old man.

Nothing, however, was further from the fact. The Gillespies rose to
the occasion with the same dauntless buoyancy that they had shown in
ever attempting the undertaking, and then blithely defying public
opinion with a servant and a cow.



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