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The City of Numbered Days By Francis Lynde Characters: 34052

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


J. Wesley Cr?sus

Measured even by the rather exacting standards of the mining and cattle country, Brouillard was not what the West calls "jumpy." Four years of field-work, government or other, count for something; and the man who has proved powder-shy in any stage of his grapple with the Land of Short Notice is customarily a dead man.

In spite of his training, however, the young chief of construction, making an early morning exploration of the site for the new dam at the mouth of the outlet gorge while the rank and file of the pioneer force were building the permanent camp half-way between the foot-hills and the river, winced handsomely when the shock of a distance-muffled explosion trembled upon the crisp morning air, coming, as it seemed, from some point near the lower end of the canyon.

The dull rumble of the explosion and the little start for which it was accountable were disconcerting in more ways than one. As an industry captain busy with the preliminaries of what promised to be one of the greatest of the modern salvages of the waste places, Brouillard had been assuring himself that his work was large enough to fill all his horizons. But the detonating crash reminded him forcibly that the presence of the touring party was asserting itself as a disturbing element and that the incident of its discovery the night before had been dividing time pretty equally with his verification of the locating engineer's blue-print mappings and field-notes.

This was the first thought, and it was pointedly irritating. But the rebound flung him quickly over into the field of the common humanities. The explosion was too heavy to figure as a gun-shot; and, besides, it was the closed season for game. Therefore, it must have been an accident of some sort-possibly the blowing up of the automobile. Brouillard had once seen the gasolene tank of a motor-car take fire and go up like a pyrotechnic set piece in a sham battle.

Between this and a hurried weighting of the sheaf of blue-prints with his field-glass preparatory to a first-aid dash down the outlet gorge, there was no appreciable interval. But the humane impulse doubled back upon itself tumultuously when he came to his outlook halting place of the night before.

There had been no accident. The big touring-car, yellow with the dust of the Buckskin, stood intact on the sand flat where it had been backed and turned and headed toward the desert. Wading in the shallows of the river with a linen dust robe for a seine, the two younger men of the party were gathering the choicest of the dead mountain trout with which the eddy was thickly dotted. Coming toward him on the upward trail and climbing laboriously to gain the easier path among the pines, were the two remaining members of the party-an elderly, pudgy, stockily built man with a gray face, stiff gray mustaches and sandy-gray eyes to match, and the young woman, booted, gauntleted, veiled, and bulked into shapelessness by her touring coat, and yet triumphing exuberantly over all of these handicaps in an ebullient excess of captivating beauty and attractiveness.

Being a fisherman of mark and a true sportsman, Brouillard had a sudden rush of blood to the anger cells when he realized that the alarm which had brought him two hard-breathing miles out of his way had been the discharge of a stick of dynamite thrown into the Niquoia for the fish-killing purpose. In his code the dynamiting of a stream figured as a high crime. But the two on the trail had come up, and his protest was forestalled by the elderly man with the gray face and the sandy-gray eyes, whose explosive "Ha!" was as much a measure of his breathlessness as of his surprise.

"I was just telling Van Bruce that his thundering fish cartridge would raise the neighbors," the trail climber went on with a stout man's chuckle. And then: "You're one of the Reclamation engineers? Great work the government is undertaking here-fine opportunity to demonstrate the lifting power of aggregated capital backed by science and energy and a whole heap of initiative. It's a high honor to be connected with it, and that's a fact. You are connected with it, aren't you?"

Brouillard's nod was for the man, but his words were for the young woman whose beauty refused to be quenched by the touring handicaps. "Yes, I am in charge of it," he said.

"Ha!" said the stout man, and this time the exclamation was purely approbative. "Chief engineer, eh? That's fine, fine! You're young, and you've climbed pretty fast. But that's the way with you young men nowadays; you begin where we older fellows leave off. I'm glad we met you. My name is Cortwright-J. Wesley Cortwright, of Chicago. And yours is--?"

Brouillard named himself in one word. Strangers usually found him bluntly unresponsive to anything like effusiveness, but he was finding it curiously difficult to resist the good-natured heartiness which seemed to exude from the talkative gentleman, overlaying him like the honeydew on the leaves in a droughty forest.

If Mr. J. Wesley Cortwright's surprise on hearing the Brouillard surname was not genuine it was at least an excellent imitation.

"Well, well, well-you don't say! Not of the Brouillards of Knox County, Indiana?-but, of course, you must be. There is only the one family that I ever heard of, and it is mighty good, old voyageur stock, too, dating 'way back to the Revolutionary War, and further. I've bought hogs of the farmer Brouillards hundreds of times when I was in the packing business, and I want to tell you that no finer animals ever came into the Chicago market."

"Yes?" said Brouillard, driving the word in edgewise. "I am sorry to say that I don't know many of the farmers. Our branch of the family settled near Vincennes, and my father was on the bench, when he wasn't in politics."

"What? Not Judge Antoine! Why, my dear young man! Do you know that I once had the pleasure of introducing your good father to my bankers in Chicago? It was years ago, at a time when he was interested in floating a bond issue for some growing industry down on the Wabash. And to think that away out here in this howling wilderness, a thousand miles from nowhere, as you might say, I should meet his son!"

Brouillard laughed and fell headlong into the pit of triteness.

"The world isn't so very big when you come to surround it properly, Mr. Cortwright," he asserted.

"That's a fact; and we're doing our level best nowadays to make and keep it little," buzzed the portly man cheerfully, with a wave of one pudgy arm toward the automobile. "It's about a hundred and twenty miles from this to El Gato, on the Grand Canyon, isn't it, Mr. Brouillard? Well, we did it in five hours yesterday afternoon, and we could have cut an hour out of that if Rickert hadn't mistaken the way across the Buckskin. Not that it made any special difference. We expected to spend one night out and came prepared."

Brouillard admitted that the touring feat kept even pace with the quickening spirit of the age; but he did not add that the motive for the feat was not quite so apparent as it might be. This mystery, however, was immediately brushed aside by Mr. Cortwright, speaking in his character of universal ouster of mysteries.

"You are wondering what fool notion chased us away out here in the desert when we had a comfortable hotel to stop at," he rattled on. "I'll tell you, Mr. Brouillard-in confidence. It was curiosity-raw, country curiosity. The papers and magazines have been full of this Buckskin reclamation scheme, and we wanted to see the place where all the wonderful miracles were going to get themselves wrought out. Have you got time to 'put us next'?"

Brouillard, as the son of the man who had been introduced to the Chicago money gods in his hour of need, could scarcely do less than to take the time. The project, he explained, contemplated the building of a high dam across the upper end of the Niquoia Canyon and the converting of the inland valley above into a great storage reservoir. From this reservoir a series of distributing canals would lead the water out upon the arid lands of the Buckskin and the miracle would be a fact accomplished.

"Sure, sure!" said the cheerful querist, feeling in the pockets of the automobile coat for a cigar. At the match-striking instant he remembered a thing neglected. "By George! you'll have to excuse me, Mr. Brouillard; I'm always forgetting the little social dewdabs. Let me present you to my daughter Genevieve. Gene, shake hands with the son of my good old friend Judge Antoine Brouillard, of Vincennes."

It was rather awkwardly done, and somehow Brouillard could not help fancying that Mr. Cortwright could have done it better; that the roughly informal introduction was only one of the component parts of a studied brusquerie which Mr. Cortwright could put on and off at will, like a well-worn working coat. But when the unquenchable beauty stripped her gauntlet and gave him her hand, with a dazzling smile and a word of acknowledgment which was not borrowed from her father's effusive vocabulary, he straightway fell into another pit of triteness and his saving first impressions of Mr. J. Wesley Cortwright's character began to fade.

"I'm immensely interested," was Miss Cortwright's comment on the outlining of the reclamation project. "Do you mean to say that real farms with green things growing on them can be made out of that frightful desert we drove over yesterday afternoon?"

Brouillard smiled and plunged fatuously. "Oh, yes; the farms are already there. Nature made them, you know; she merely forgot to arrange for their watering." He was going on to tell about the exhaustive experiments the Department of Agriculture experts had been making upon the Buckskin soils when the gentleman whose name had once figured upon countless thousands of lard packages cut in.

"Do you know what I'm thinking about, Mr. Brouillard? I'm saying it over soft and slow to myself that no young man in this world ever had such a magnificent fighting chance as you have right here," he averred, the sandy-gray eyes growing suddenly alert and shrewd. "If you don't come out of this with money enough to buy in all those bonds your father was placing that time in Chicago-but of course you will."

"I'm afraid I don't quite understand what you mean, Mr. Cortwright," said Brouillard, with some inner monitor warning him that it would be better not to understand.

The portly gentleman became suddenly facetious.

"Hear him, Gene," he chuckled, sharing the joke with his daughter; "he says he doesn't understand!" Then to Brouillard: "Say, young man; you don't mean to tell me that your father's son needs a guardian, do you? You know exactly where these canals are going to run and all the choice spots they are going to irrigate; what's to prevent your getting in ahead of the rush and taking up a dozen or so of those prime quarter-sections-homesteads, town sites, and the like? Lack of money? Why, bless your soul, there are plenty of us who would fall all over ourselves running to back a proposition like that-any God's quantity of us who would fairly throw the working capital at you! For that matter, I don't know but I'd undertake to finance you alone."

Brouillard's first impulse sprang full-grown out of honest anger. That any man who had known his father should make such a proposal to that father's son was a bald insult to the father's memory. But the calmer second thought turned wrath into amused tolerance. The costly touring-car, the idle, time-killing jaunt in the desert, the dynamiting of the river for the sake of taking a few fish-all these were the indices of a point of view limited strictly by a successful market for hog products. Why should he go out of his way to quarrel with it on high moral grounds?

"You forget that I am first of all the government's hired man, Mr. Cortwright," he demurred. "My job of dam building will be fully big enough and strenuous enough to keep me busy. Aside from that, I fancy the department heads would take it rather hard if we fellows in the field went plum picking."

"Let them!" retorted the potential backer of profitable side issues. "What's the odds if you go to it and bring back the money? I tell you, Mr. Brouillard, money-bunched money-is what talks. A good, healthy bank balance makes so much noise that you can't hear the knockers. If the Washington crowd had your chance-but never mind, that's your business and none of mine, and you'll take it as it's meant, as a good-natured hint to your father's son. How far is it up to where you are going to build your dam?"

Brouillard gave the distance, and Mr. Cortwright measured the visible trail grades with a deprecatory eye.

"Do you think my daughter could walk it?" he asked.

Miss Genevieve answered for herself: "Of course I can walk it; can't I, Mr. Brouillard?"

"I'll be glad to show you the way if you care to try," Brouillard offered; and the tentative invitation was promptly accepted.

The transfer of view-points from the lower end of the canyon to the upper was effected without incident, save at its beginning, when the father would have called down to the young man who had waded ashore and was drying himself before the camp-fire. "Van Bruce won't care to go," the daughter hastened to say; and Brouillard, whose gift it was to be able to pick out and identify the human derelict at long range, understood perfectly well the reason for the young woman's hasty interruption. One result of the successfully marketed lard packages was very plainly evident in the dissipated face and hangdog attitude of the marketer's son.

Conversation flagged, even to the discouragement of a voluble money king, on the climb from the Buckskin level to that of the reservoir valley. The trail was narrow, and Brouillard unconsciously set a pace which was almost inhospitable for a stockily built man whose tendency was toward increasing waist measures. But when they reached the pine-tree of the anchored blue-prints at the upper portal, Mr. Cortwright recovered his breath sufficiently to gasp his appreciation of the prospect and its possibilities.

"Why, good goodness, Mr. Brouillard, it's practically all done for you!" he wheezed, taking in the level, mountain-enclosed valley with an appraisive eye-sweep. "Van Bruce and the chauffeur came up here last night, with one of the car lamps for a lantern, but of course they couldn't bring back any idea of the place. What will you do?-build your dam right here and take out your canal through the canyon? Is that the plan?"

Brouillard nodded and went a little further into details, showing how the inward-arching barrier would be anchored into the two opposing mountain buttresses.

"And the structure itself-how high is it to be?"

"Two hundred feet above the spillway apron foot."

The lard millionaire twisted his short, fat neck and guessed the distance up the precipitous slopes of Chigringo and Jack's Mountain.

"That will be a whale of a chunk of masonry," he said. Then, with business-like directness: "What will you build it of?-concrete?"

"Yes; concrete and steel."

"Then you are going to need Portland cement-a whole world of it. Where will you get it? And how will you get it here?"

Brouillard smiled inwardly at the pork packer's suddenly awakened interest in the technical ways and means. His four years in the desert had taken him out of touch with a money-making world, and this momentary contact with one of its successful devotees was illuminating. He had a growing conviction that the sordid atmosphere which appeared to be as the breath of life to Mr. J. Wesley Cortwright would presently begin to make things taste coppery, but the inextinguishable charm of the veiled princess was a compensation. It was partly for the sake of seeing her with the veil abolished that he recovered the paper-weighting field-glass and gave it to her, showing her how to focus it upon the upper reaches of the valley.

"We are in luck on the cement proposition," he told the eager money-maker. "We shall probably manufacture our own supply right here on the ground. There is plenty of limestone and an excellent shale in those hills just beyond our camp; and for burning fuel there is a fairly good vein of bituminous coal underlying that farther range at the head of the valley."

"H'm," said the millionaire; "a cement plant, eh? There's money in that anywhere on the face of the globe, just now. And over here, where there is no transportation-Gad! if you only had somebody to sell cement to, you could ask your own price. The materials have all been tested, I suppose?"

"Oh, yes; we've had experts in here for more than a year. The material is all right."

"And your labor?"

"On the dam, you mean? One advantage of concrete work is that it does not require any great proportion of skilled labor, the crushing, mixing, and placing all being done by machinery. We shall work

all the Indians we can get from the Navajo Reservation, forty-odd miles south of here; for the remainder we shall import men from the States, bringing them in over the Timanyoni High Line-the trail from Quesado on the Red Butte Western. At least, that is what we shall do for the present. Later on, the railroad will probably build an extension up the Barking Dog and over War Arrow Pass."

Mr. Cortwright's calculating eye roved once more over the attractive prospect.

"Fuel for your power plant?-wood I take it?" he surmised; and then: "Oh, I forgot; you say you have coal."

"Yes; there is coal, of a sort; good enough for the cement kilns. But we sha'n't burn it for power. Neither shall we burn the timber, which can be put to much better use in building and in false- and form-work. There are no finer lumber forests this side of the Sierras. For power we shall utilize the river. There is another small canyon at the head of the valley where a temporary dam can be built which will deliver power enough to run anything-an entire manufacturing city, if we had one."

Mr. Cortwright made a clucking noise with his tongue and blew his cheeks out like a swimmer gasping for breath.

"Julius C?sar!" he exploded. "You stand there and tell me calmly that the government has all these resources coopered up here in a barrel?-that nobody is going to get a chance to make any money out of them? It's a crime, Mr. Brouillard; that's just what it is-a crime!"

"No; I didn't say that. The resources just happen to be here and we shall turn them to good account. But if there were any feasible transportation facilities I doubt if we should make use of these native raw materials. It is the policy of the department to go into the market like any other buyer where it can. But here there are no sellers, or, rather, no way in which the sellers can reach us."

"No sellers and no chance for a man to get the thin edge of a wedge in anywhere," lamented the money-maker despairingly. Then his eye lighted upon the graybeard dump of a solitary mine high up on the face of Mount Chigringo. "What's that up there?" he demanded.

"It is a mine," said Brouillard, showing Miss Cortwright how to adjust the field-glass for the shorter distance. "Two men named Massingale, father and son, are working it, I'm told." And then again to Miss Genevieve: "That is their cabin-on the trail a little to the right of the tunnel opening."

"I see it quite plainly," she returned. "Two people are just leaving it to ride down the path-a man and a woman, I think, though the woman-if it is a woman-is riding on a man's saddle."

Brouillard's eyebrows went up in a little arch of surprise. Harding, the topographical engineer who had made all the preliminary surveys and had spent the better part of the former summer in the Niquoia, had reported on the Massingales, father and son, and his report had conveyed a hint of possible antagonism on the part of the mine owners to the government project. But there had been no mention of a woman.

"The Massingale mine, eh?" broke in the appraiser of values crisply. "They showed us some ore specimens from that property while we were stopping over in Red Butte. It's rich-good and plenty rich-if they have the quantity. And somebody told me they had the quantity, too; only it was too far from the railroad-couldn't jack-freight it profitably over the Timanyonis."

"In which case it is one of many," Brouillard said, taking refuge in the generalities.

But Mr. Cortwright was not to be so easily diverted from the pointed particulars-the particulars having to do with the pursuit of the market trail.

"I'm beginning to get my feet on bottom, Brouillard," he said, dropping the courtesy prefix and shoving his fat hands deep into the pockets of the dust-coat. "There's a business proposition here, and it looks mighty good to me. That was a mere nursery notion I gave you a while back-about picking up homesteads and town sites in the Buckskin. The big thing is right here. I tell you, I can smell money in this valley of yours-scads of it."

Brouillard laughed. "It is only the fragrance of future Reclamation-Service appropriations," he suggested. "There will be a good bit of money spent here before the Buckskin Desert gets its maiden wetting."

"I don't mean that at all," was the impatient rejoinder. "Let me show you: you are going to have a population of some sort, if it's only the population that your big job will bring here. That's the basis. Then you're going to need material by the train load, not the raw stuff, which you say is right here on the ground, but the manufactured article-cement, lumber, and steel. You can ship this material in over the range at prices that will be pretty nearly prohibitory, or, as you suggest, it can be manufactured right here on the spot."

"The cement and the lumber can be produced here, but not the steel," Brouillard corrected.

"That's where you're off," snapped the millionaire. "There are fine ore beds in the Hophras and a pretty good quality of coking coal. Ten or twelve miles of a narrow-gauge railroad would dump the pig metal into the upper end of your valley, and there you are. With a small reduction plant you could tell the big steel people to go hang."

Brouillard admitted the postulate without prejudice to a keen and growing wonder. How did it happen that this Chicago money king had taken the trouble to inform himself so accurately in regard to the natural resources of the Niquoia region? Had he not expressly declared that the object of the desert automobile trip was mere tourist curiosity? Given a little time, the engineer would have cornered the inquiry, making it yield some sort of a reasonable answer; but Mr. Cortwright was galloping on again.

"There you are, then, with the three prime requisites in raw material: cement stock, timber, and pig metal. Fuel you've got, you say, and if it isn't good enough, your dummy railroad can supply you from the Hophra mines. Best of all, you've got power to burn-and that's the key to any manufacturing proposition. Well and good. Now, you know, and I know, that the government doesn't care to go into the manufacturing business when it can help it. Isn't that so?"

"Unquestionably. But this is a case of can't-help-it," Brouillard argued. "You couldn't begin to interest private capital in any of these industries you speak of."

"Why not?" was the curt demand.

"Because of their impermanence-their dependence upon a market which will quit definitely when the dam is completed. What you are suggesting predicates a good, busy little city in this valley, behind the dam-since there is no other feasible place for it-and it would be strictly a city of numbered days. When the dam is completed and the spillway gates are closed, the Niqoyastcàdje and everything in it will go down under two hundred feet of water."

"The-what?" queried Miss Cortwright, lowering the glass with which she had been following the progress of the two riders down the Buckskin trail from the high-pitched mine on Chigringo.

"The Niqoyastcàdje-'Place-where-they-came-up,'" said Brouillard, elucidating for her. "That is the Navajo name for this valley. The Indians have a legend that this is the spot where their tribal ancestors came up from the underworld. Our map makers shortened it to 'Niquoia' and the cow-men of the Buckskin foot-hills have cut that to 'Nick-wire.'"

This bit of explanatory place lore was entirely lost upon Mr. J. Wesley Cortwright. He was chewing the ends of his short mustaches and scowling thoughtfully out upon the possible site of the future industrial city of the plain.

"Say, Brouillard," he cut in, "you get me the right to build that power dam, and give me the contracts for what material you'd rather buy than make, and I'll be switched if I don't take a shot at this drowning proposition myself. I tell you, it looks pretty good to me. What do you say?"

"I'll say what I said a few minutes ago," laughed the young chief of construction-"that I'm only a hired man. You'll have to go a good few rounds higher up on the authority ladder to close a deal like that. I'm not sure it wouldn't require an act of Congress."

"Well, by George, we might get even that if we have to," was the optimistic assertion. "You think about it."

"I guess it isn't my think," said Brouillard, still inclined to take the retired pork packer's suggestion as the mere ravings of a money-mad promoter. "As the government engineer in charge of this work, I couldn't afford to be identified even as a friendly intermediary in any such scheme as the one you are proposing."

"Of course, I suppose not," agreed the would-be promoter, sucking his under lip in a way ominously familiar to his antagonists in the wheat pit. Then he glanced at his watch and changed the subject abruptly. "We'll have to be straggling back to the chug-wagon. Much obliged to you, Mr. Brouillard. Will you come down and see us off?"

Brouillard said "yes," for Miss Cortwright's sake, and took the field-glass she was returning to put it back upon the sheaf of blue-prints. She saw what he did with it and made instant acknowledgments.

"It was good of you to neglect your work for us," she said, smiling level-eyed at him when he straightened up.

He was frank enough to tell the truth-or part of it.

"It was the dynamite that called me off. Doesn't your brother know that it is illegal to shoot a trout stream?"

She waited until her father was out of ear-shot on the gorge trail before she answered:

"He ought to know that it is caddish and unsportsmanlike. I didn't know what he and Rickert were doing or I should have stopped them."

"In that event we shouldn't have met, and you would have missed your chance of seeing the Niqoyastcàdje and the site of the city that isn't to be-the city of numbered days," he jested, adding, less lightly: "You wouldn't have missed very much."

"No?" she countered with a bright return of the alluring smile which he had first seen through the filmy gauze of the automobile veil. "Do you want me to say that I should have missed a great deal? You may consider it said if you wish."

He made no reply to the bit of persiflage, and a little later felt the inward warmth of an upflash of resentment directed not at his companion but at himself for having been momentarily tempted to take the persiflage seriously. The temptation was another of the consequences of the four years of isolation which had cut him off from the world of women no less completely than from the world of money-getting. But it was rather humiliating, none the less.

"What have I done to make you forget how to talk?" she wished to know, five minutes further on, when his silence was promising to outlast the canyon passage.

"You? Nothing at all," he hastened to say. Then he took the first step in the fatal road of attempting to account for himself. "But I have forgotten, just the same. It has been years since I have had a chance to talk to a woman. Do you wonder that I have lost the knack?"

"How dreadful!" she laughed. And afterward, with a return to the half-serious mood which had threatened to reopen the door so lately slammed in the face of temptation: "Perhaps we shall come back to Niqo-Niqoy-I simply can't say it without sneezing-and then you might relearn some of the things you have forgotten. Wouldn't that be delightful?"

This time he chose to ignore utterly the voice of the inward monitor, which was assuring him coldly that young women of Miss Cortwright's world plane were constrained by the accepted rules of their kind to play the game in season and out of season, and his half-laughing reply was at once a defiance and a counter-challenge.

"I dare you to come!" he said brazenly. "Haven't you heard how the men of the desert camps kill each other for the chance to pick up a lady's handkerchief?"

They were at the final descent in the trail, with the Buckskin blanknesses showing hotly beyond the curtaining of pines, and there was space only for a flash of the beautiful eyes and a beckoning word.

"In that case, I hope you know how to shoot straight, Mr. Brouillard," she said quizzically; and then they passed at a step from romance to the crude realities.

The realities were basing themselves upon the advent of two new-comers, riding down the Chigringo trail to the ford which had been the scene of the fish slaughtering; a sunburnt young man in goatskin "shaps," flannel shirt and a flapping Stetson, and a girl whose face reminded Brouillard of one of the Madonnas, whose name and painter he strove vainly to recall. Ten seconds farther along the horses of the pair were sniffing suspiciously at the automobile, and the young man under the flapping hat was telling Van Bruce Cortwright what he thought of cartridge fishermen in general, and of this present cartridge fisherman in particular.

"Which the same, being translated into Buckskin English, hollers like this," he concluded. "Don't you tote any more fish ca'tridges into this here rese'vation; not no more, whatsoever. Who says so? Well, if anybody should ask, you might say it was Tig Smith, foreman o' the Tri'-Circ' outfit. No, I ain't no game warden, but what I say goes as she lays. Savez?"

The chauffeur was adjusting something under the upturned bonnet of the touring-car and thus hiding his grin. Mr. Cortwright, who had maintained his lead on the descent to the desert level, was trying to come between his sullen-faced son and the irate cattleman, money in hand. Brouillard walked his companion down to the car and helped her to a seat in the tonneau. She repaid him with a nod and a smile, and when he saw that the crudities were not troubling her he stepped aside and unconsciously fell to comparing the two-the girl on horseback and his walking mate of the canyon passage.

They had little enough in common, apart from their descent from Eve, he decided-and the decision itself was subconscious. The millionaire's daughter was a warm blonde, beautiful, queenly, a finished product of civilization and high-priced culture; a woman of the world, standing but a single remove from the generation of quick money-getting and yet able to make the money take its proper place as a means to an end.

And the girl on horseback? Brouillard had to look twice before he could attempt to classify her, and even then she baffled him. A rather slight figure, suggestive of the flexible strength of a silken cord; a face winsome rather than beautiful; coils and masses of copper-brown hair escaping under the jaunty cow-boy hat; eyes ... it was her eyes that made Brouillard look the third time: they were blue, with a hint of violet in them; he made sure of this when she turned her head and met his gaze fearlessly and with a certain calm serenity that made him feel suddenly uncomfortable and half embarrassed. Nevertheless, he would not look aside; and he caught himself wondering if her cow-boy lover-he had already jumped to the sentimental conclusion-had ever been able to look into those steadfast eyes and trifle with the truth.

So far the young chief of construction had travelled on the road reflective while the fish-slaughtering matter was getting itself threshed out at the river's edge. When it was finally settled-not by the tender of money that Mr. Cortwright had made-the man Smith and his pretty riding mate galloped through the ford and disappeared among the barren hills, and the chauffeur was at liberty to start the motor.

"Au revoir, Mr. Brouillard," said the princess, as the big car righted itself for the southward flight into the desert. Then, when the wheels began to churn in the loose sand of the halting place, she leaned out to give him a woman's leave-taking. "If I were you I shouldn't fall in love with the calm-eyed goddess who rides like a man. Mr. Tri'-Circ' Smith might object, you know; and you haven't yet told me whether or not you can shoot straight."

There was something almost heart-warming in the bit of parting badinage; something to make the young engineer feel figuratively for the knife with which he had resolutely cut around himself to the dividing of all hindrances, sentimental or other, on a certain wretched day years before when he had shouldered his life back-load.

* * *

Brouillard had to look twice before he could attempt to classify her, and even then she baffled him.

* * *

But the warmth might have given place to a disconcerting chill if he could have heard Mr. J. Wesley Cortwright's remark to his seat companion, made when the canyon portal of the Niquoia and the man climbing the path beside it were hazy mirage distortions in the backward distances.

"He isn't going to be the dead easy mark I hoped to find in the son of the old bankrupt hair-splitter, Genie, girl. But he'll come down and hook himself all right if the bait is well covered with his particular brand of sugar. Don't you forget it."

* * *

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