Jordan is a Hard Road
Sir Gilbert Parker
Author of “The WeaversThe Right of Way," “The Money Master," etc.
SYNOPSIS—Bill Minden, ex-train robber, comet to Askatoon to Hce, creating lively discussion among the townspeople as to his motives. He stays at the Sunbright Hotel, amd lives «a exemplary life, reading his Bible on Sundays on the hotel porch in full of everyone, liw-itti shows special interest in the school taught by Cora Finley, a pretty and popular young woman, and Mrs. Finley, the mother, displays animosity toward him. He calls cm Mrs. Finley one evening and in the course of the conversa (ion it develops that Cora is Minden's daughter, given to Mrs. Finley to raise by !finden on ni« wife’s death. Minden avows his intention of trinninp his way to power in Askatoon. Many successful rerival meetings are held at Mayo, Solan Doyle's ranch. *** one of these camp meetings Minden is converted, which fact causes much com■Mnt and criticism by the newspapers of the West. Minden longs to be under the same V**' •* "*• daughter, and yet does not dare risk letting the truth become knoirn. 1*5’ , °1 the impending bankruptcy of John Warner, a real estate agent, who had built a hotel and could not pay for it, he decidet to bay the place. Minden then explains to Mrs. Finley and Cora that he intends to run it as a temperance hotil and persuades them to come and help lin make the venture a success.
THEY said that he would yet return to the enticing dangers of crime, as a red man educated at Harvard or Oxford returned at last to the Sun Dance and the greasy-haired women of his tribe. But others again pointed to the fact that in his most criminal days he always carried and read his Bible, while never pretending to be anything but what he really was.
“Thert is no reason,” said one of the articles, “why the scandalous sinner, damned a~ hundred times, over, should not admire and long for the quiet courts of the Lord, the happiness to which he had no claim.”
It was further said thak Minden had the characteristics of a duaPpersonalitv, loving the good things humanly and truly, but doing the bad things wilfully and voluntarily. Minden read this particular article many times, and it seemed to him to be true. Ever since a child he had boen susceptible to all these things which were the possession of the prayerpeople, while something drove him into acts which, never personally cruel, or malignant, were still criminal. While h* had risked his life in breaking the law many times, he had also risked it in support of the law.
/~\NE DAY, as he sat reading this ^ article, which greatly fascinated him, he said to himself at last:
“It’s funny, but the one thing seemed just as natural to me as the other. It was always like that I liked good company better than bad, but I couldn't keep from doing the bad things, an I didn’t want to keep from doing them— not till now; not till I got my eyes on my little gal. By gracious, when I saw her the first time after all them years, I felt as if I could say to my right foot, ’You walked me into the broad path, and off you’ve got to come with a knife an’ a saw'; an’ to my left hand, ‘You held my gun, while the other took the oof, an’ off you’ve got to come with a knife an’ a saw.’ That’s your dooal personality, I s’p’ose. I ain’t never been one personality till now. Since I come to Askatoon I feel, I truly feel, grace in me. When my little eal looks at me I feel as if I’d like to be burnt at the stake, jest to show her what I’d do to be the same as her. ... I wonder how long it’ll last!”
Trouble came into his eyes suddenly. “I wonder how long it’ll last,” he repeated. “I wonder how long it'll go on like this—just us three in the only home I’ve ever had since I was a little boy. If it does go on, my. won’t it be too good for tastin’! It can’t though, I feel it; an’ I’ve got to make the most of it. Cora’s got to get married, an’ she’s got to marry an all-righter, a one-in-a-million. twentytwo carat fella, so as when I go, I’ll know shçjs all right. She ain’t goin’ to marry a man like me. I looked all right, an’ I spoke all right to her mother—the angel that she was, an’ I deceived her as to what I reely was. Cora’s got Amandy’s beauty (an’ mind), an’ she’ll break her heart if she don’t marry the right kind o’ man. She ought to marry a President or a young Ceecil Rhodes—that’s the kind of man she oughter marry, high bred and high steppin’.”
He laughed a little to himself. “I wonder what they’d, think of that at prayer-meetin’! Their idea ’d be she oughter marry in her own station, down among the druggists, an’ the undertakers; but I’ve traveled a lot, an’ I’ve seen the pearl-necklace ladies, the finger-bowl ladies, an’ rigged out like them she’d look fifty times as good.”
Suddenly a cloud passed over his face. “There’s the dool personality again. Here am I converted and saved, and belongin’ to the Methodists, bein’ therevivalist that held the fort when the * ir-i^on fell sick of a fever—here ara I talkin’ as if I was a slave to the high-muggery of this here world. But wait; ain’t there as good men among the blue-veined highmuggers as down here ’mongst the narrow-minded children of the Lord? I ain’t as humble as I ought to be, for I feel as good as any oí ’em, an’ I don’t like their tastes. They want hell-fire preachin’, an’ praise God for the elect; they want to live humble before the Lord, yet they’re graspin’ after riches all the time. But I want to be like Solomon— sit op a throne, with a cornucopeey in each hand, pourin’ out beautiful gold fivedollar pieces for humanity. I want to be good like him, an’ write the Song o Solomon, an’ the Book o’ Ruth an’ the Proverbs; but I want to do it from the steps of a palace. That’s, Bill Minden, an’ I guess I ain’t a Christian in th* sense it’s understood. I guess I belong to the old order—them that lived a thousand years before Matthew begun to write. . . . But she’s got to marry, an’ I don’t like the lot that surrounds her now. my little gal.”
He was still brooding and talking to himself, with the newspaper in his hand, when Cora entered, her eyes sparkling, her cheeks showing nothing of the fatigue of the six hours in the schoolroom.
“Now I wish you wouldn’t do that. Mr. Minden,” she said. “You’re always so polite, though you’re old enough to be my father.”
A flush stole slowly over his face. “I shouldn’t mind being your father; I’d be good to you,” he answered.
She nodded. “I know that, but my own father was kind to me—yes, beautifully kind. He always seemed sorry when I went out and always glad when I came in. , Tell me," she added, “were you ever married?”
INDEN looked her straight in the eyes as he answered, “Yes, I ww married, but my wife died a year after.”
"And you had no children?” she asked, but as though it were a fact.
“Yes, I had a child.”
“Oh! . . she isn't living?”
“I lost her,” he answered. “I lost her soon after her mother died.”
“How lcng ago was that?” she asked with a deep curiosity in her face.
“Why, years and years ago—more’n twenty years ago, I gues9.”
“And you never have had any rea home since?” she inquired softly.
“Not till I come here to Askatoon, a.i you and your mother come and made a home for me here. Now I feel like a family-man—as if I had my own family under my own roof.”
“And you still remember your little girl that died?” she asked with sympathetic eyes.
“Whenever I look at you I remember her,” he answered slowly.
“So. I’m a kind of adopted daughter to you, am I not?” she returned.
“W’ell it’s almost like the real thing,” he said, his face aflush, but holding himself sternly quiet.
She laughed very prettily, and yet there was a touch of sadness in her eyes, a lurking something which was always behind »he mirth of her face; and it was in his eyes also.
“Shut your eyes,” she said softly.
He did so. She went up to him and touched his cheek with her lips. “I’m your lost girl,” she said sweetly, little knowing the truth.
It required all his will to prevent him pouring out a father’s accumulated love of twenty-two years upon her; but he mastered himself in time.
“Lord love us, but that was good!” he said, without any excess of motion, and they both smiled as though it was but a trifling matter between them.
“I’m not , going to do it again,” she said however. “I know you’re fond of me, but the world wouldn’t understand. I don’t believe mother would understand, though kissing you is different from kissing any other man.”
“Do men kiss you?” he asked, frowning slightly in anxiety.
“Men don’t kiss me, but a man did kiss me, and I hated it,” she answered. A shadow crossed her face. “I don’t like to remember it,” she continued. “I liked him in a way, and then all at once I didn’t like him, because he took hold of me and kissed me. I wanted to strike him in the face, I hated him so. I don’t know what it was, but first he seemed respectful to me, the same as most other men, and then he acted like some wild animal, and it made me sick.”
“Was it here in this house?” he asked, almost trembling with anger, yet hiding it from her.
“No, not here," she replied. “I’m glad o’ that—I’m glad it didn’t happen here,” he declared. “I’m glad it didn’t happen while you was here with me.” '
“Men don’t bother me since 1 came to live here,” she remarked. “It was when I was alone with mother they did it.
Oh, there are men—but no, I won’t tell you. Bygones are bygones.”
“Did you never care for any man?” he asked. “Did you never love ar.y man at all?”
“No. never,” she answered.
“I never loved any one except my own father, and then I am very fond of you.”
A great ’light shone in his eyes. “It may happen a man’ll come some day. Wouldn’t you like to love a man and get married?” he asked.
She looked him frankly in the face, and her eyes softened. “When the right man comes along I’ll marry him just as quick as he wants me to—or almost,” she answered.
About ten o’clock that night, Minden was sitting in his office which had a big door opening on the garden behind the hotel. From it a few steps led down to the grassy level. With foresight, not to say cunning, he had placed his office where he could not be reached by the casual passer-by; by the loafer, the book agent, or the bore. It was some distance from the rooms occupied by Mrs. Finley and Cora, and it w’as also some yards away from the central hall where visitors were received and names registered. He had greatly enjoyed the seclusion, and there were times when he worked for hours with his accounts and at the detailed business of the hotel. These details and calculations gave him much trouble at first, because he had always been indifferent to money in the small pieces and hated detail—the small itemt of life, as it were. His whole scheme of existence had been too large, too episodical and incidental, to admit of precision and finesse; but now when he felt he could tear accounts, books and letters to pieces, and scatter them to the four winds of heaven, one thought held him steady, kept him smifing at his .desk. It was Cora. It was worth any atnount of drudgery to be near her, and something of a conventional sense of duty, belonging to the Christian life, worked through all he d^4. Perhaps it was as much habit as anything elsei bût there it was : the pious system with its etiquette, rules und discipline worked upon him.
He had sat in his office till nearly an hour past closing-time, absorbed, puzzled, stubbornly determined to work out hi^ business problems without calling in an accountant’s assistance. A pipe rested by his hand untouched, the clock ticked on unnoticed. Presently he was disturbed by a noise in the garden. Then he heard his own name called, and someone stumbled on the steps. He went ^o the door quickly, opened it and looked out into the night. It was very dark. He stepped back quickly and turned the gas low. then he went to the open door again. Now he could make out a stooping figure at the bottom of the steps.
“Help, Mr. Minden, help! I.’ip hurt!” a voice whispered to him.
An instant later Minden had the stranger in his office lying on a sofa. A little trickle of blood showed on the floor, and there was another spot on the lower step of the stair at the doorway. Minden asked no questions at once, but with the instinct of one who had used firearms much, he found a wound in the man’s arm Aid the flesh of the side. Stripping the victim of his coat and waistcoat and tearing open his shirt, he proceeded with a frontiersman’s skill to dress the wounds, cutting up with a pair of scissors a towel, which hung by the little washstand. and using his big red handkerchiefs to bind the bandages.
Instinct told him that here was a mystery, a story not for the open day.
“What did you come to my back door for?” he asked of the haggard-looking young man with the handsome face and the round, soldier-like head.
The blue eyes, troubled by physical pain, looked straight into his own. “I might have been seen—the police!” the wounded man said.
“What you been doing?” Minden asked, still at work with the bandages.
“I knew I’d be safe with you,” was the reply. “You’ve been in trouble yourself for what you did and meant to do. I’m in trouble now for what I did and didn’t mean to do.”
“That’s a fool’s game,” remarked Minden. “It’s bad enough to get into trouble with the law for what you mean to do, but the other makes me sick. You must have been an idjit.”
“Perhaps not so much as you think,” was the weary reply.
“Well, anyway, what did you come to me for?” Minden asked authoritatively.
“I know you belong to the Methodists, now, Mr. Minden,” was the quick answer;; “but you’ve been through such a lot yourself, if the papers say what’s right,
I was sure you’d help a fellow who onl made one mistake. I didn’t know wha the MacMahons were when I joined up with them a few weeks ago, dead broke, with a mine worth millions behind me!”
Minden stopped his first-aid surgical work suddenly, put hi9 hands on his hips and lodked down at the young face made so old with suffering.
“You—you joined up with the MacMahofts. That gang’s the worst lot of horse thieves above the 49th parallel. You got into traces with them—that lot!”
The young man made a protesting gesture. “I didn’t know this part of the country. I’ve been mining for the last two years. I’m an Englishman from Norfolk—my family’s all right. They belong”—but as though to stop himself from bragging, he paused.
Minden went on with the bandaging again. “Of course you were English, or you couldn’t ha’ been such a fool. You belong to the way-up people, eh? To the ten thousand-acre lot, eh? Up among the dukes and earls and lords?”
THE young man nodded mournfully. He did not seem very proud of it. “I came out over two years ago with a man who had been here before, ar.d knew about the mine. First we tried one place in the claim, then another, then we struck it. but not so awful rich. We got capital and used it, then we wanted more capital, and we couldn’t get it. The mine wasn’t rich enough to bring money in. We were three partners, one being a native of the Mi est here. They left the mine at last and came down to Rowney City to have a last try for money. I had a lot of faith in that mine. I offered to buy the others’ shares. I had five thousand dollars which I hadn’t touched—not in my worst days. I found I could buy that whole mine—their share of it—for fifteen thousand dollars; so I gave them my last five thousand dollars, and my note for the rest, and a mortgage on the machinery. After they went away I struck a reef, a drift that was twice as good as what we’d had, and I believe it’s three times as good further on. I left a man in charge of the mine and struck south, where my horse died at the MacMahons’ ranch. I bought one from them and offered to work it out. That’s why I stayed there on the ranch—just a few days it was. I didn’t see anything wrong in the outfit. They told me day before yesterday they were going after a bunch of horses they’d bought, and I was to go with them. I went.”
“An’ you found out that the bunch of horses wasn’t their own, an’ the Riders come down on you?”
“That’s it,” answered the young man, drawing himself up to a sitting posture. “I only found out the truth at the last minute, and then I went hoofing it to get away. The MacMahons got away safe, and so did I except for this bullet wound and my horse shot under me as I rode away hell-for-leather.”
Minden’s eyes were alight; the old virus was working in his veins. “It was a MacMahon horse you rode, eh! It was branded with an M?”
The young man nodded.
“Say, that’s real good,” answered Minden. “The police'll likely think it was another MacMahon moke. There used to be four MacMahons, but there’s only three now. Phil, the best of them, vamoosed South. They'll think you was him p’raps, did you get here?” got thé trail and stumbled along mehow, bleeding till my boots were half full.”
“What made you steer for me?” asked Minden.
“Because of what you’d done yourself, as I said. I believed you’d hide me, for I didn’t mean to do wrong. I didn’t realize the situation. I saw you once on the Fraser River. I saw you give fifty dollars to a poor tramp of a fellow who’d been shot dead by bad luck. I hadn’t anywhere to go that seemed safe, except to you.” “But I’m a Christian, now,” remarked Minden dryly and with a glimmer of irony. “You were a Christian then on the Fraser River when you gave a man a chance to begin life again. You’ll stand by me, won’t you? I don’t believe the Riders have traced me here. You’ll hide me, and get the doctor to look after me. and see me through, won’t you? I’ll give you a share of my mine. . . . Oh, it’.-
all right!" he added, when he saw a smile, half cynical, half compassionate, come upon Minden’s face. “You know all about mines, and you must take three or four days off, and go and look at it. Make your own investigtions, and you'll see!”
“Say, that mine doesn’t cut any ice with me,” Minder, responded. “I don’t sell my private hospitality. That’s not the trouble. I do it because the spirit moves me. an’ you can’t "buy that, no more'n you could bite into a piece of iron with your ivory teeth. Who’s your father, and what’s your name?” he asked brusquely.
“I call myself Mark Hayling out here, but my real name is Mark Sheldon, and my father is Lord William Sheldon.” “Who was your grandfather?”
“He—he was the I>uke of Bolton.” Minden whistled. “Well, a man has got to be good to a duke’s son just the same as to the son of a tinsmith.” he remarked dryly. “You can stay here, although it’s against the Christian religion to shelter a man from the law. If what you say is true though—an’ I believe it is—an’ you was trapped into that MacMahon scrape. I'll help you out. I’ll hide you. an’ give you my wine and milk without money and without price.”
“If you looked at the mine you’d-” “Pshaw, the mine can wait!” interjected Minden. “I'll have a look at it all right, but there’s no hurry. There's a hurry, though, about gettin’ a doctor here, for fear your wounds git poisoned, an’ I’ve got to find a room to put you to bed in. Then about that doctor. I’ve got to tell him everything. He’s all right, he’s as good as gold; he’s been here ever since the place started almost. I’d let him see the inside of my mind an’ it’s safe deposit, an’ that’s sayin’ a lot.” He paused reflectively, and then after a minute added: “Tell me now. do you think the police got a glimpse o’ your face?”
“I’m certain they didn’t,” was the reply. “Bill MacMahon opened’ fire from behind the trees—it was dusk; and then we made tracks. I don’t think they saw me even when they hit me. It must have been a chance bullet.”
“That’s all O.K. It makes things easy. Son. we’ll save you, if it can be done. Have you got a mother?"
“Yes. I have a mother,” was the slow reply, “the best that ever was.”
Minden nodded sagely. "There’s lot of good mothers in this world; there’s one in this house; and I’ve got to rout her out now. an’ have her make a bed for you on the next floor up. If you can’t walk I can carry you. You’ve got to have somethin’ to eat an’ drink. The three of us can look after you all right—anyhow two of us can. That’s no reason Miss Finley shouldn’t get you some hot milk, while her mother is getting your bed ready. Think you’ll be all right for a few minutes son?”
"I’ll be right enough. This is good enough for me. I don’t mind about the doctor; tell him everything.”
Continued on page 55
Continued from page 28
A FE\V nur:utc~ Iat(r Mr~. f'in~v `~a n~akii:~r tht hed rt id a. a run a -hort di.~tai,et frin h~r vr already gui,e tO led wher Minden called her, but (`ura at readir.g ii~ her oWr. room and, hearir~ Mird~i,~ voice, came out into the hail. Briefly M indey: told her the tory, and she had quickly repeated it to her mother.
Presently she herself was below scalding milk, into which .-he poured a beaten-up egg and sherry. It is hard to t. 11 what'soit of man she expected to see m the office. Minder, had said nothing the youth, about his handsomeness and soldierly appearance, or of his name or family; and she had imagined some tough westerner with a red handkerchief round his neck, with a hard-bitter, face and rough bony hands. When she entered the office. Sheldon was on his feet, leaning on Minder/s shoulder, for he was six inches taller. He stood, head bent forward, with that piteous look of despair which seizes outh when checked on its course. His look of suffering softened the almost iron lines of the shapely head, and gave a touch of poetry to a determined face, which had more uprightness, persistence, courage and good humor than aught else. Her hand tightened almost spasmodically on the glass of milk she held, as her glance fell on the wounded refugee. Her eyes met his in one long look, and a wonderful smile came to his lips. She shivered, how*ever, as she went forward and held the milk to his lips.
Half an hour later the Young Doctor had a talk with Minden in his office. “He will get well, unless there’9 something we can’t see,” remarked the Young Doctor decisively. “But I tell you frankly, I don’t like playing against the law. However; all is that I keep my tongue still, and supposed to know, unless you tell mediat the law* is after the young fellow. I like him,” he added reflectively. “He has eyes that no Ananias ever had. and he has looks too; but there’s a young lady we both know in this house. Minden. Have you thought of that?”
Minden nodded and turned away his head. After a moment he said: “Yes, that’s all right. She can take care of herself.”
MINDEN TO THE RESCUE.
AX/' EEKS went by. In spite of Min’ ’ den's powers of self control he found himself at times so agitated that more than once he mounted his horse, rode ten or fifteen miles into the prairie and back again, “to work off steam.” When the conviction came to him that Sheldon was to play a part in Cora's life, he began to reflect, and then to trouble himself greatly-
Here Sheldon was, a comet with a long tail of travel, adventure and life—life topped by a tuft of involuntary crime; penniless, homeless, helpless; and here was Cora, the seed and stem, the bud and flower of a community, to wrhom men and women pointed as one who could be both beautiful anfj good; was she to linn herwith such a man of mystery and misdemeanor, with r.o future except a problematical scoop out of a problematical gold mine? If Sheldon had spoken the whole truth then the solution of the problem might i be so hard, seeing Mrs. Finley’s attitude towards'him. Like many a woman who has had a man in her home and has lost him, so losing also the opportunity for mothering, the opportunitv afforded Mrs. Finley by Sheldon’s arrival was like a gift from Heaven. Yet she remained watchful and concerned; for no matter how reputable the young man — Miiiden had not told her all—he certainly had not “got religion," and she did her best to keep Fora from intimacy with him. When he was aide to leave his bedroom, however, and use Mrs. Finley's sittingroom. watching on her part became onerous. with her many exacting daily duties; while, at the same time, Fora’s gravitation towards Sheldon was natural and f 1 eq lient.
THF PUBLIC only knew of his presence in the Rest Awhile Hotel after the Riders of the Plains had reported to the Commissioner an encounter with unidentified horse thieves, though they ha«i good reason to suspect that they were the Mac.Mahons. As evidence there was the dead hor.-e ridden by Sheldon, branded with the letter M. The MacMahoriV. however, were found asleep in their beds when the Riders raided their ranch soon after the encounter. Bill MacMahon said that the horse had beer. -Tölen from their paddock and this was borne out by the evidence of hired hands. The Mac.Mahons knew what had happened to Sheldon, and where he was. but they knew well also that he would remain silent. Before ter. days had gone interest in. it was replaced by other sensational events demanding the attention of the Riders.
Concerning his relations with the Mac.Mahons, Minden believed that Sheldon spoke the truth; but there was the question of his origin. A previous Mayor of the town had been an Englishman, and he had fortified himself for his office by a useful reference library. One or two volumes like Kelly’s "County Families,” and “Debrett,” were found useful by subsequent Mayors wher travelling members of “the best families” of Great Britain visited Askatoon. With a pleasurable yet anxious excitement, and with a little awe, Minden approached these books for a history of Sheldon’s family.
His fingers had never trembled on the trigger, or had had a tremor in time of danger, but they shook a little now'— perhaps it was age creeping on—as he turned over the page to the index letter “S.” After a few moments of attentive search they suddenly halted on a page.
VZKS, TllKRK it was. There was the celebrated genealogy ar.d history of the Dukes of Bolton; there was the name of Reginald Sheldon, grandson of the sixth Duko. sometime of the Household Cavalry, row a fugitive from justice, impounded ir the Rest Awhile Hotel of of a Duke in Bill Minder.’s house talking to Bill Minder ai d his daughter and her reputed mother just as though they had been brought up together! But that was due to a kind of manner Sheldon had. a manner Minder, had seen among Indians, Chinese and mountaineers. The idea of Cota taking to the grandimn of a Duke and he taking to her pleased him. hut it also artled him. A kind of panic took possession of him. What, might have been' a splendid prospect for an ambitious ‘gorse and heather to Minder.'s vision. Then it was he lunged up and down, hi.office talking aloud to himself, tempted to ob;urgation and even blasphemy, yet rot yielding. If the class-leaders of Grace Methodist Church could have seen him in such a state, they would have declared him imperfectly saved. They would have said it was his duty to take the whole matter to the Throne of Grace. No doubt they were right, for the old Adam was still much alive in Minden.
No repose came to him; none could come until he had tested the last and most important statement made by Sheldon concerning the mine and its imprisoned fortunes. It seemed mean to suspect him of untruth. In his heart of hearts he believed, but a great anxi-etv concerning the welfare of his daughter forced him to be cautious. Had he not thrown the \1oung man in her way by harboring him? If what Sheldon sa;d al»out the mine was true, why not visit it, and find out the facts beyond peradventure? lie could r ot being himself to do it. however, until fully three weeks after the patient's removal from Mrs. F inley's end iof the house to his own. where Sheldcjn showed himself in the day he made Ijiis appearance in the public dir ir.g-room, Who should appear but one Swim mine!
Straightwav Sheldon sent for Minden and introduced the two. Sheldon's late partner was on his way East. It could be seen he was cynical concerning the prospects of tpe mine, but the main truth of Sheldon's btory was established, and the erstwhile! partner left with mingled admiration fpr Sheldon's courage ar.d compassion fqr his fatuity.
It was otherwise with Minden. Within twenty-four hours he was on his wav Nurth^to investigate the mine, taking with him an expert assay ist. Something of the the old zeal of the coach-road and the switch-man’s red light filled the mind of William Minden, Esq., Mayor, schooltrustee. class-leader and revivalist, as he reared his destination. He arrived, he explored, he found; he saw. and saw enough.
Thirty-six hours later, in his office at Askatoon, he sat closeted with his unpaying guest. , Neither Sheldon. Mrs. h mley, nor Cora had known the cause of his absence during the preceding four days.
“What are you going to do about that mine?” he said to Sheldon. "And what are you going to do anyhow?"
“I am waiting for two hundred pounds - a thousand dollars.” was Sheldon's answer. “It's coming from Montreal. It sent there on deposit for me from my father. That will pay my bill here, won’t it?".
Minden made a wide, generous gesture. “You ain’t got any bill here, son." he said. "Yept the doctor's bill. He's got to be paid, of course, but your name ain’t on my books. I was once nursed myself when 1 was shot by a constable. I was five weeks in the house where two women and a man tended me, an' they wouldn't take anything from me; but they never knew how the mortgage was lifted from their farm. That I done in return for goods received. They never made any charge on me—rone at all. and 1 ain’t makin’ any charge on you. I guess.” Sheldon smiled. It was an ashen and restrained smile. “I’ll remember that,« and I'll lift a mortgage for you when the Sink-or-Swim is making five thousand dollars a day.” he remarked. ■ Minden nodded. "That’s what I want to know. What about your mine? Is it movin'?"
A SHADOW crossed the young man’s face but he looked straight into Minder's eyes. "I haven’t the least idea how I'm going to get the cash to make that mire move, but I believe in it, as I believe I have got two hands and two eyes and a mouth that never lost a tooth.
I haven’t begun to stir yet. but there is going to be stirring: the mine must move or. I want twenty thousand dollars to put that money-machine in motion again and give me a chance to show a steady output for awhile. Just as soon as I can pay for more stamps, just as soon as 1 car pay wages. I'm going to pull the beginning of a fortune out of her. There’s a guod many million dollars in this country, and there's a lot of men who have got money and want to make more; well, I will give them their chance. But mind you, Mr. Minden, I am going to have and keep three-quarters of the stock of the Sink-or-Swim, and 1 would rather see it shut up for ever than not own fifty per cent, of its stock. If it proved a success — and it will — and I »iidr.’t have half of it, I'd go grousing all the rest of my life. I’m not going to grouse; I’m going to have all that’s in that mine up to seventy-five per cent.;
I haven’t the least idea how it is to be done, but that's my policy.”
“I got idea plenty how it can be done,” answered Minden. “How would you like to give me a mortgage on the mine, and take your twenty thousand dollars with you?”
The young man stared hard at Minden,
his hands resting on his knees seemed to clinch spasmodically. He doubted what he had heard.
“Don’t make fun of a man that’s down.” he said. “It’s one thing I can’t joke about—that mire. If you were to swear on the Bible what you've said just r.ow. I’d ask you to swear it again.”
Minden got up, opened a desk, and took out a little black Bible having that greasy look which the wax of time gives. He laid it on the table between them, sat down and placed his hand on it.
“Once and then twice, and then as many times as you like, Mr. Sheldon,” he said in a ouiet voice.
Sheldon got to his feet, placed his hands on the table and leaned over towards Minden with a devouring look. “You mean it? Why, you’ve never seen the place. I might be lying to you.”
"Yes, you might, you naturally might, but you naturally ain’t, liecause you ain’t built that way,” answered Minden. “I know all about that mine. I’ve been there. I took the best assayist in the country with me. I know what I’m doing. You can have the twenty thousand dollars, with a mortgage on ^the whole mine; but I’d ruther buy straight out a quarter of the mine, if you’d take me on as a quiet, sleepin’ partner.”
young man sank down in his chair and dropped his head into his hands. "This takes the starch out of me," he said brokenly. "I apologize; itV everything to me. I was just starting life again, and I was dead stopped. I couldn't go to my father and ask for more;' he has done all he could. So I was going out like a commercial traveller to drum up cash, with that beautiful rpine just waiting to pour tself out; and now here you’re starting me fair again!’’
He got to his feet once more. “I’ll make it go; it shall be a winner,” he said.
His eyes were moist and his hands trembling, but the look on his face was the IOOK of ten men facing a hundred, but sure that the end of the battle was theirs.
“Say, son, keep cool,” said Minden cheerfully. “It’s all right. I’ll give yon the cheque in an hour. Steady now. steady on, son.”
He had his hands on the young man’s shoulders, and then all at once he released them. He had used a very friendly word of greeting—the word son; and now. suddenly, it had taken a new and tremendous significance. He flushed and turned away to his desk.
“Is it going to be a mortgage or a sale?” he asked over his shoulder.
“A sale, of course,” Sheldon answered.
BY THE WAYSIDE.
T N THE late afternoon of the day when' Minden gave him twenty thousand dollars for a quarter of his mine. Sheldon took the air for the first time since his coming to the Rest Awhile. Ever since the one-sided bargain was made, he had been in a dream. Wopderful visions of the future flitted through his brain. For two or three, hours it had worked excitedly, and he had defined his plans for the immediate future with a sharp decision natural to him. There was much of the soldier about him—not the soldier of routine. lather the soldier of tactics and strategy. The twenty thousand dollars would set the mine working, would increase the machinery, would provide for further prospecting and a search for the drift which, dropped at one point, must be picked up aga.n somewhere else. He was impatiently eager to get the Sink-or-Swim well forward Again before the winter set in. He made his plans with the idea that he would leave Askatoon within a week.
As he slowly travelled the main street to the bridge crossing the river, gratitude to Minden possessed him. No compunctions existed in his mind as to the source of the latter’s wealth. If the conscience of Minden, who was a class-leader, permitted him to use the money got without labor and investment, without inheritance or toil, but wàich, perhaps, other people had got through such sources and had delivered up to Minden under pressure, his own conscience would not trouble itself. Besides, this tainted money was to be | used in a virtuous enterprise which, if successful, would make his fortune sei cure, make g>od, as the prairie people say, the promise of his youth, redeem his past.
As he neared the end of the street, two men drove past him in a buggy’. They • were Bill and Matt MacMahon.
As they passed him without reining in their hordes, Bill MacMahon leaned over the side of the buggy and with a pavage sneer, said: “God, but you had a iot of luck! Makin’ for jail, you dropped into the bosom of the family! Keep youi mouth -hut. damn you!”
“Yes. I had a lot of luck,” Sheldon sai«i to himself as they drove on. “I tuigh* have been doing: hard labor, with nothing in front of me. at all, at all; and here 1 am with better chances than I’ve ever known.”
He turned and looked after the MacMahons, a curtain of dust rolling up behind them on their swift journey into the town. “You devils,” he exclaimed, “something worse than jail will bring you up with a sharp turn!”
AX^ITH a shudder and a swift upward ’ * motion of thé hands, as though freeing himself from an ugly thought, he moved slowly across the bridge, and was making: for Nolan Doyle’s ranch Mayo, when he saw another hungry approaching. Suddenly a faintness came over him. The sun was still hot, though the day was well past, but he had walked too fast for the first outing after his illness. He stepped to one side, and leaned against a solitary tree, which threw a timorous shade over a small portion of the gold-brown prairie. He did not heed the on-coming buggy, his eyes were bent upon the ground in thought, for the meeting with the MacMahons had unnerved him. It snatched him out of his dream, back into the danger where he had been, and he realized, with a force never before felt, what he had escaped. Certainly, the luck had heen with him. Presently he wa-» conscious that the buggy had stopped beside him. and before he saw its occupant he abstractedly watched the surf of dust settling at the wheels. Then he heard what brought his head up quickly, and sent into his eyes a delighted look of recognition.
“What are you doing here. Mr. Sheldon?” a charming voice asked. “Well, I never! You ought to be whipped. Who let you out? You aren’t fit to walk yet. but I suppose you've come all the way from home.”
He Podded, and smiled with a curious meaning. “Yes. I have walked all the way from home.” he answered.
It was strange that she should speak of the Rest Awhile Hotel as home! Yet it was home in the sense that he had never known home for very many years. It was home because she was there, the daughter of a woman who had an income of five hundred dollars a year. He had been born in a castle, he had been friendly with a hundred county families with their marriageable daughters, yet the naturalness, the self-reliance, the selfrespect and the sweet musing charm of this girl had been to him like a cleansing shower, through which the sun shone. Three weeks in the* Rest Awhile Hotel. rnmrnn.trmi as it was. had made him feei that it was moh* home to him than an\ other place in the world. The companionship of a reformed criminal and the finely austere friendship of an elderly woman who had never seen the ocean or a great city, had brought a newunderstanding of life to him. With that had come something else which this girl with the faint rose in her cheeks and the deeply mysterious, yet frank look in her blue eyes represented. The other two had brought him friendship; she had brought him he knew not what; he only felt that whore she was he wanted to he. When -he was present fce was hesitant to speak; and when she was gone he countedMhe hours and minutes till she returned. When she returned he counted the minutes until she must leave him again;‘and so their relation drip stood.
“Come, get in.” she said. “I’ll drive you hack home.”
Did she. too. then, regard the Rest Awhile as home? What was it. indeed, hut a gipsy tent to which all might come and pay and pass on their way! The truth is she had never spoken of it in that way before. It had come to her as she looked at him. pale and overdone, leaning again-t that solitary tree.
"(íet in." she repeated with a pretty authoritative tlick of the whip.
l_I E SMILED and came forward. “I’m * not one of yotir pupils that you can use a whip on.” he said in mock protest.
“Yes you are my pupil," she answered. “At any rate you’re not old enough to know what you ought to do, and a little whipping might do you a great deal of good." »
“Did you get a great deal of whipping sometime or other?” he asked.
“I never needed it. I never was whipped in my life. My mother never even slapped me once," she indignantly remarked.
"Then what made you so good?" he questioned.
She laughed gaily. ' T was born good, I expect,” she answered mockingly.
He shook his head. “Then you had a better chance than most of us. Look what it cost me to be any §ort of good. Look what it costs Mr^ Minden to be any sort of good.”
A strange, almost rapt look came inte the girl’s face. “Yes, it is wonderful about him.” she s^id; “oh, but wonderful! Do come.”
He put his hand on the rail of the buggy-seat and another of the dashboard, and was about to mount, when he stopped and said. “I don’t want to drive home, I want to be in the open air awhile yet. Haven’t you got an hour you can spare before supper?"
“Yes, of course,” she answered frankly. “I have just been oyer to Nolan Doyle’s ranch seeing that new baby which Mrs. Doyle has adopted. I’ve nothing else to do except to see that you don’t spoil all the nursing you’ve had the last three weeks by walking yourself sick. How would you like to go down the river-bank to the old Hudson Bay Fort, about two miles? It’s shady there, and I’ve got a fishing rod and line nid in the Fort. There’s a splendid place for rock-bass just below the Fort. You’d love it. And if you really want to do any work you can dig for bait. What’s more, Mrs. Doyle insisted on my having some tea-cakes and a bottle of what she calls creamnectar. So we can have a real picric. You ought to have some fun, you know, after being cooped up in that-”
He interrupted her. “In that happy home?” he exclaimed, seating himself comfortably beside her. “I really was in prison, but I wasn’t cooped up.”
“In prison—I don’t understand," she rejoined.
Half turning, he was about to look her straight in the eyes, but he did not do so;
and he was wise.
“Still I am a captive," he repeated, with only a sidelong glance, as though to see how she took it.
She did take it with a sudden little flush, but coquetry was native to her. though she had used it .-o little, and she answered: “Yes, you were a captive. The Young Doctor was the jailor; and we other three were the wardens, whose duty was to see that you atoned for your crimes.”
SHE HAD turned the horse into the trail leading to the Fort, and she flicked it gently with her whip. Unconsciously she wished to reach the goal quickly. So far she had only talked with him within four walls, and she was not used to these living minutes with him in the open air. Somehow, it had just a feeling of impropriety. This, of course, was absurd. but behind her natural openness, there was a curious reticence and sensitiveness. and it was as though she hastened to the river and the old Fort, so that the world’s eyes could not be upon her as she sat beside him.
Atoned for his crimes! A strange look passed over Sheldon’s face. Yes, he had paid something of the price of atonement, but not all. She did not know about the horse-stealing. Minden had not told her. Suddenly he made up his mind that he would tell her the whole truth. But not yet; he would wait until they reached the FortHe also was seized by her desire for seclusion.
"This is a real bit of luck,” he said. “I was hungry and you bring me some cakes; I was thirsty and you bring me some drink; I was dying for some sport and you've got a fishing rod. I wanted to see you”—his voice faltered—“and here you are. This is my lucky day. Y’es, it is my lucky day,”; he added. “No man ever had so much in one day as I’ve had. I was let out of prison to-day, and some one met me at the prison-gates and offered to give me a new start in life, and then you came and -”
He paused as she looked at him inquiringly. She caught the undertone of sentiment in his voice, but she grasped also at some deeper meaning. She did not question him. or speak; she waited. She had a woman’s instinct that he had something to tell her, and she had a further instinct that what he had to tell her was not what a number of men had tried to tell her in her short life. Of late there had grown a feeling within her that she wanted to know about his past life and what he was going to do in future. Perhaps her wish was to be granted now.