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   Chapter 18 No.18

The Desert of Wheat By Zane Grey Characters: 35119

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


After Lenore's paroxysm of emotion had subsided and she lay quietly in the dark, she became aware of soft, hurried footfalls passing along the path below her window. At first she paid no particular heed to them, but at length the steady steps became so different in number, and so regular in passing every few moments, that she was interested to go to her window and look out. Watching there awhile, she saw a number of men, whispering and talking low, come from the road, pass under her window, and disappear down the path into the grove. Then no more came. Lenore feared at first these strange visitors might be prowling I.W.W. men. She concluded, however, that they were neighbors and farm-hands, come for secret conference with her father.

Important events were pending, and her father had not taken her into his confidence! It must be, then, something that he did not wish her to know. Only a week ago, when the I.W.W. menace had begun to be serious, she had asked him how he intended to meet it, and particularly how he would take sure measures to protect himself. Anderson had laughed down her fears, and Lenore, absorbed in her own tumult, had been easily satisfied. But now, with her curiosity there returned a two-fold dread.

She put on a cloak and went down-stairs. The hour was still early. She heard the girls with her mother in the sitting-room. As Lenore slipped out she encountered Jake. He appeared to loom right out of the darkness and he startled her.

"Howdy, Miss Lenore!" he said. "Where might you be goin'?"

"Jake, I'm curious about the men I heard passing by my window," she replied. Then she observed that Jake had a rifle under his arm, and she added, "What are you doing with that gun?"

"Wal, I've sort of gone back to packin' a Winchester," replied Jake.

Lenore missed his smile, ever ready for her. Jake looked somber.

"You're on guard!" she exclaimed.

"I reckon. There's four of us boys round the house. You're not goin' off thet step, Miss Lenore."

"Oh, ah-huh!" replied Lenore, imitating her father, and bantering Jake, more for the fun of it than from any intention of disobeying him. "Who's going to keep me from it?"

"I am. Boss's orders, Miss Lenore. I'm dog-gone sorry. But you sure oughtn't to be outdoors this far," replied Jake.

"Look here, my cowboy dictator. I'm going to see where those men went," said Lenore, and forthwith she stepped down to the path.

Then Jake deliberately leaned his rifle against a post and, laying hold of her with no gentle hands, he swung her in one motion back upon the porch. The broad light streaming out of the open door showed that, whatever his force meant, it had paled his face to exercise it.

"Why, Jake-to handle me that way!" cried Lenore, in pretended reproach. She meant to frighten or coax the truth out of him. "You hurt me!"

"I'm beggin' your pardon if I was rough," said Jake. "Fact is, I'm a little upset an' I mean bizness."

Whereupon Lenore stepped back to close the door, and then, in the shadow, she returned to Jake and whispered: "I was only in fun. I would not think of disobeying you. But you can trust me. I'll not tell, and I'll worry less if I know what's what.… Jake, is father in danger?"

"I reckon. But the best we could do was to make him stand fer a guard. There's four of us cowpunchers with him all day, an' at night he's surrounded by guards. There ain't much chance of his gittin' hurt. So you needn't worry about thet."

"Who are these men I heard passing? Where are they from?"

"Farmers, ranchers, cowboys, from all over this side of the river."

"There must have been a lot of them," said Lenore, curiously.

"Reckon you never heerd the quarter of what's come to attend Anderson's meetin'."

"What for? Tell me, Jake."

The cowboy hesitated. Lenore heard his big hand slap round the rifle-stock.

"We've orders not to tell thet," he replied.

"But, Jake, you can tell me. You always tell me secrets. I'll not breathe it."

Jake came closer to her, and his tall head reached to a level with hers, where she stood on the porch. Lenore saw his dark, set face, his gleaming eyes.

"Wal, it's jest this here," he whispered, hoarsely. "Your dad has organized vigilantes, like he belonged to in the early days.… An' it's the vigilantes thet will attend to this I.W.W. outfit."

Those were thrilling words to Jake, as was attested by his emotion, and they surely made Lenore's knees knock together. She had heard many stories from her father of that famous old vigilante band, secret, making the law where there was no law.

"Oh, I might have expected that of dad!" she murmured.

"Wal, it's sure the trick out here. An' your father's the man to deal it. There'll be dog-goned little wheat burned in this valley, you can gamble on thet."

"I'm glad. I hate the very thought.… Jake, you know about Mr. Dorn's misfortune?"

"No, I ain't heerd about him. But I knowed the Bend was burnin' over, an' of course I reckoned Dorn would lose his wheat. Fact is, he had the only wheat up there worth savin' … Wal, these I.W.W.'s an' their German bosses hev put it all over the early days when rustlin' cattle, holdin' up stage-coaches, an' jest plain cussedness was stylish."

"Jake, I'd rather have lived back in the early days," mused Lenore.

"Me too, though I ain't no youngster," he replied. "Reckon you'd better go in now, Miss Lenore.… Don't you worry none or lose any sleep."

Lenore bade the cowboy good-night and went to the sitting-room. Her mother sat preoccupied, with sad and thoughtful face. Rose was writing many pages to Jim. Kathleen sat at the table, surreptitiously eating while she was pretending to read.

"My, but you look funny, Lenorry!" she cried.

"Why don't you laugh, then?" retorted Lenore.

"You're white. Your eyes are big and purple. You look like a starved cannibal.… If that's what it's like to be in love-excuse me-I'll never fall for any man!"

"You ought to be in bed. Mother I recommend the baby of the family be sent up-stairs."

"Yes, child, it's long past your bedtime," said Mrs. Anderson.

"Aw, no!" wailed Kathleen.

"Yes," ordered her mother.

"But you'd never thought of it-if Lenorry hadn't said so," replied Kathleen.

"You should obey Lenore," reprovingly said Mrs. Anderson.

"What? Me! Mind her!" burst out Kathleen, hotly, as she got up to go. "Well, I guess not!" Kathleen backed to the door and opened it. Then making a frightful face at Lenore, most expressive of ridicule and revenge, she darted up-stairs.

"My dear, will you write to your brother?" inquired Mrs. Anderson.

"Yes," replied Lenore. "I'll send mine with Rose's."

Mrs. Anderson bade the girls good-night and left the room. After that nothing was heard for a while except the scratching of pens.

It was late when Lenore retired, yet she found sleep elusive. The evening had made subtle, indefinable changes in her. She went over in mind all that had been said to her and which she felt, with the result that one thing remained to torment and perplex and thrill her-to keep Kurt Dorn from going to war.

* * *

Next day Lenore did not go out to the harvest fields. She expected Dorn might arrive at any time, and she wanted to be there when he came. Yet she dreaded the meeting. She had to keep her hands active that day, so in some measure to control her mind. A thousand times she felt herself on the verge of thrilling and flushing. Her fancy and imagination seemed wonderfully active. The day was more than usually golden, crowned with an azure blue, like the blue of the Pacific. She worked in her room, helped her mother, took up her knitting, and sewed upon a dress, and even lent a hand in the kitchen. But action could not wholly dull the song in her heart. She felt unutterably young, as if life had just opened, with haunting, limitless, beautiful possibilities. Never had the harvest-time been so sweet.

Anderson came in early from the fields that day. He looked like a farm-hand, with his sweaty shirt, his dusty coat, his begrimed face. And when he kissed Lenore he left a great smear on her cheek.

"That's a harvest kiss, my lass," he said, with his big laugh. "Best of the whole year!"

"It sure is, dad," she replied. "But I'll wait till you wash your face before I return it. How's the harvest going?"

"We had trouble to-day," he said.

"What happened?"

"Nothin' much, but it was annoyin'. We had some machines crippled, an' it took most of the day to fix them.… We've got a couple of hundred hands at work. Some of them are I.W.W.'s, that's sure. But they all swear they are not an' we have no way to prove it. An' we couldn't catch them at their tricks.… All the same, we've got half your big wheat-field cut. A thousand acres, Lenore!… Some of the wheat 'll go forty bushels to the acre, but mostly under that."

"Better than last harvest," Lenore replied, gladly. "We are lucky.… Father, did you hear any news from the Bend?"

"Sure did," he replied, and patted her head. "They sent me a message up from Vale.… Young Dorn wired from Kilo he'd be here to-day."

"To-day!" echoed Lenore, and her heart showed a tendency to act strangely.

"Yep. He'll be here soon," said Anderson, cheerfully. "Tell your mother. Mebbe he'll come for supper. An' have a room ready for him."

"Yes, father," replied Lenore.

"Wal, if Dorn sees you as you look now-sleeves rolled up, apron on, flour on your nose-a regular farmer girl-an' sure huggable, as Jake says-you won't have no trouble winnin' him."

"How you talk!" exclaimed Lenore, with burning cheeks. She ran to her room and made haste to change her dress.

But Dorn did not arrive in time for supper. Eight o'clock came without his appearing, after which, with keen disappointment, Lenore gave up expecting him that night. She was in her father's study, helping him with the harvest notes and figures, when Jake knocked and entered.

"Dorn's here," he announced.

"Good. Fetch him in," replied Anderson.

"Father, I-I'd rather go," whispered Lenore.

"You stay right along by your dad," was his reply, "an' be a real Anderson."

When Lenore heard Dorn's step in the hall the fluttering ceased in her heart and she grew calm. How glad she would be to see him! It had been the suspense of waiting that had played havoc with her feelings.

Then Dorn entered with Jake. The cowboy set down a bag and went out. He seemed strange to Lenore and very handsome in his gray flannel suit.

As he stepped forward in greeting Lenore saw how white he was, how tragic his eyes. There had come a subtle change in his face. It hurt her.

"Miss Anderson, I'm glad to see you," he said, and a flash of red stained his white cheeks. "How are you?"

"Very well, thank you," she replied, offering her hand. "I'm glad to see you."

They shook hands, while Anderson boomed out: "Hello, son! I sure am glad to welcome you to 'Many Waters.'"

No doubt as to the rancher's warm and hearty greeting! It warmed some of the coldness out of Dorn's face.

"Thank you. It's good to come-yet it's-it's hard."

Lenore saw his throat swell. His voice seemed low and full of emotion.

"Bad news to tell," said Anderson. "Wal, forget it.… Have you had supper?"

"Yes. At Huntington. I'd have been here sooner, but we punctured a tire. My driver said the I.W.W. was breaking bottles on the roads."

"I.W.W. Now where'd I ever hear that name?" asked Anderson, quizzically. "Bustin' bottles, hey! Wal, they'll be bustin' their heads presently.… Sit down, Dorn. You look fine, only you're sure pale."

"I lost my father," said Dorn.

"What! Your old man? Dead?… Aw, that's tough!"

Lenore felt an almost uncontrollable impulse to go to Dorn. "Oh, I'm sorry!" she said.

"That is a surprise," went on Anderson, rather huskily. "My Lord! But it's only round the corner for every man.… Come on, tell us all about it, an' the rest of the bad news.… Get it over. Then, mebbe Lenore n' me-"

But Anderson did not conclude his last sentence.

Dorn's face began to work as he began to talk, and his eyes were dark and deep, burning with gloom.

"Bad news it is, indeed.… Mr. Anderson, the I.W.W. marked us.… You'll remember your suggestion about getting my neighbors to harvest our wheat in a rush. I went all over, and almost all of them came. We had been finding phosphorus everywhere. Then, on the hot day, fires broke out all around. My neighbors left their own burning fields to save ours. We fought fire. We fought fire all around us, late into the night.… My father had grown furious, maddened at the discovery of how he had been betrayed by Glidden. You remember the-the plot, in which some way my father was involved. He would not believe the I.W.W. meant to burn his wheat. And when the fires broke out he worked like a mad-man.… It killed him!… I was not with him when he died. But Jerry, our foreman was.… And my father's last words were, 'Tell my son I was wrong.'… Thank God he sent me that message! I think in that he confessed the iniquity of the Germans.… Well, my neighbor, Olsen, managed the harvest. He sure rushed it. I'd have given a good deal for you and Miss Anderson to have seen all those big combines at work on one field. It was great. We harvested over thirty-eight thousand bushels and got all the wheat safely to the elevators at the station.… And that night the I.W.W. burned the elevators!"

Anderson's face turned purple. He appeared about to explode. There was a deep rumbling within his throat that Lenore knew to be profanity restrained on account of her presence. As for her own feelings, they were a strange mixture of sadness for Dorn and pride in her father's fury, and something unutterably sweet in the revelation about to be made to this unfortunate boy. But she could not speak a word just then, and it appeared that her father was in the same state.

Evidently the telling of his story had relieved Dorn. The strain relaxed in his white face and it lost a little of its stern fixity. He got up and, opening his bag, he took out some papers.

"Mr. Anderson, I'd like to settle all this right now," he said. "I want it off my mind."

"Go ahead, son, an' settle," replied Anderson, thickly. He heaved a big sigh and then sat down, fumbling for a match to light his cigar. When he got it lighted he drew in a big breath and with it manifestly a great draught of consoling smoke.

"I want to make over the-the land-in fact, all the property-to you-to settle mortgage and interest," went on Dorn, earnestly, and then paused.

"All right. I expected that," returned Anderson, as he emitted a cloud of smoke.

"The only thing is-" here Dorn hesitated, evidently with difficult speech-"the property is worth more than the debt."

"Sure. I know," said Anderson, encouragingly.

"I promised our neighbors big money to harvest our wheat. You remember you told me to offer it. Well, they left their own wheat and barley fields to burn, and they saved ours. And then they harvested it and hauled it to the railroad.… I owe Andrew Olsen fifteen thousand dollars for himself and the men who worked with him.… If I could pay that-I'd-almost be happy.… Do you think my property is worth that much more than the debt?"

"I think it is-just about," replied Anderson. "We'll mail the money to Olsen.… Lenore, write out a check to Andrew Olsen for fifteen thousand."

Lenore's hand trembled as she did as her father directed. It was the most poorly written check she had ever drawn. Her heart seemed too big for her breast just then. How cool and calm her father was! Never had she loved him quite so well as then. When she looked up from her task it was to see a change in Kurt Dorn that suddenly dimmed her eyes.

"There, send this to Olsen," said Anderson. "We'll run into town in a day or so an' file the papers."

Lenore had to turn her gaze away from Dorn. She heard him in broken, husky accents try to express his gratitude.

"Ah-huh! Sure-sure!" interrupted Anderson, hastily. "Now listen to me. Things ain't so bad as they look.… For instance, we're goin' to fool the I.W.W. down here in the valley."

"How can you? There are so many," returned Dorn.

"You'll see. We're just waitin' a chance."

"I saw hundreds of I.W.W. men between her and Kilo."

"Can you tell an I.W.W. from any other farm-hand?" asked Anderson.

"Yes, I can," replied Dorn, grimly.

"Wal, I reckon we need you round here powerful much," said the rancher, dryly. "Dorn, I've got a big proposition to put up to you."

Lenore, thrilling at her father's words, turned once more. Dorn appeared more composed.

"Have you?" he inquired, in surprise.

"Sure. But there's no hurry about tellin' you. Suppose we put it off."

"I'd rather hear it now. My stay here must be short. I-I-You know-"

"Hum! Sure I know.… Wal then, it's this: Will you go in business with me? Want you to work that Bend wheat-farm of yours for me-on half shares.… More particular I want you to take charge of 'Many Waters.' You see, I'm-not so spry as I used to be. It's a big job, an' I've a lot of confidence in you. You'll live here, of course, an' run to an' fro with one of my cars. I've some land-development schemes-an', to cut it short, there's a big place waitin' for you in the Northwest."

"Mr. Anderson!" cried Dorn, in a kind of rapturous amaze. Red burned out the white of his face. "That's great! It's too great to come true. You're good!… If I'm lucky enough to come back from the war-"

"Son, you'

re not goin' to war!" interposed Anderson.

"What!" exclaimed Dorn, blankly. He stared as if he had not heard aright.

Anderson calmly repeated his assertion. He was smiling; he looked kind; but underneath that showed the will that had made him what he was.

"But I am!" flashed the young man, as if he had been misunderstood.

"Listen. You're like all boys-hot-headed an' hasty. Let me talk a little," resumed Anderson. And he began to speak of the future of the Northwest. He painted that in the straight talk of a farmer who knew, but what he predicted seemed like a fairy-tale. Then he passed to the needs of the government and the armies, and lastly the people of the nation. All depended upon the farmer! Wheat was indeed the staff of life and of victory! Young Dorn was one of the farmers who could not be spared. Patriotism was a noble thing. Fighting, however, did not alone constitute a duty and loyalty to the nation. This was an economic war, a war of peoples, and the nation that was the best fed would last longest. Adventure and the mistaken romance of war called indeed to all red-blooded young Americans. It was good that they did call. But they should not call the young farmer from his wheat-fields.

"But I've been drafted!" Dorn spoke with agitation. He seemed bewildered by Anderson's blunt eloquence. His intelligence evidently accepted the elder man's argument, but something instinctive revolted.

"There's exemption, my boy. Easy in your case," replied Anderson.

"Exemption!" echoed Dorn, and a dark tide of blood rose to his temples. "I wouldn't-I couldn't ask for that!"

"You don't need to," said the rancher. "Dorn, do you recollect that Washington official who called on you some time ago?"

"Yes," replied Dorn, slowly.

"Did he say anythin' about exemption?"

"No. He asked me if I wanted it, that's all."

"Wal, you had it right then. I took it upon myself to get exemption for you. That government official heartily approved of my recommendin' exemption for you. An' he gave it."

"Anderson! You took-it upon-yourself-" gasped Dorn, slowly rising. If he had been white-faced before, he was ghastly now.

"Sure I did.… Good Lord! Dorn, don't imagine I ever questioned your nerve.… It's only you're not needed-or rather, you're needed more at home.… I let my son Jim go to war. That's enough for one family!"

But Dorn did not grasp the significance of Anderson's reply.

"How dared you? What right had you?" he demanded passionately.

"No right at all, lad," replied Anderson. "I just recommended it an' the official approved it."

"But I refuse!" cried Dorn, with ringing fury. "I won't accept exemption."

"Talk sense now, even if you are mad," returned Anderson, rising. "I've paid you a high compliment, young man, an' offered you a lot. More 'n you see, I guess.… Why won't you accept exemption?"

"I'm going to war!" was the grim, hard reply.

"But you're needed here. You'd be more of a soldier here. You could do more for your country than if you gave a hundred lives. Can't you see that?"

"Yes, I can," assented Dorn, as if forced.

"You're no fool, an' you're a loyal American. Your duty is to stay home an' raise wheat."

"I've a duty to myself," returned Dorn, darkly.

"Son, your fortune stares you right in the face-here. Are you goin' to turn from it?"

"Yes."

"You want to get in that war? You've got to fight?"

"Yes."

"Ah-huh!" Anderson threw up his hands in surrender. "Got to kill some Germans, hey?… Why not come out to my harvest fields an' hog-stick a few of them German I.W.W.'s?"

Dorn had no reply for that.

"Wal, I'm dog-gone sorry," resumed Anderson. "I see it's a tough place for you, though I can't understand. You'll excuse me for mixin' in your affairs.… An' now, considerin' other ways I've really helped you, I hope you'll stay at my home for a few days. We all owe you a good deal. My family wants to make up to you. Will you stay?"

"Thank you-yes-for a few days," replied Dorn.

"Good! That'll help some. Mebbe, after runnin' around 'Many Waters' with Le-with the girls-you'll begin to be reasonable. I hope so."

"You think me ungrateful!" exclaimed Dorn, shrinking.

"I don't think nothin'," replied Anderson. "I turn you over to Lenore." He laughed as he pronounced Dorn's utter defeat. And his look at Lenore was equivalent to saying the issue now depended upon her, and that he had absolutely no doubt of its outcome. "Lenore, take him in to meet mother an' the girls, an' entertain him. I've got work to do."

Lenore felt the blushes in her cheeks and was glad Dorn did not look at her. He seemed locked in somber thought. As she touched him and bade him come he gave a start; then he followed her into the hall. Lenore closed her father's door, and the instant she stood alone with Dorn a wonderful calmness came to her.

"Miss Anderson, I'd rather not-not meet your mother and sisters to-night," said Dorn. "I'm upset. Won't it be all right to wait till to-morrow?"

"Surely. But I think they've gone to bed," replied Lenore, as she glanced into the dark sitting-room. "So they have.… Come, let us go into the parlor."

Lenore turned on the shaded lights in the beautiful room. How inexplicable was the feeling of being alone with him, yet utterly free of the torment that had possessed her before! She seemed to have divined an almost insurmountable obstacle in Dorn's will. She did not have her father's assurance. It made her tremble to realize her responsibility-that her father's earnest wishes and her future of love or woe depended entirely upon what she said and did. But she felt that indeed she had become a woman. And it would take a woman's wit and charm and love to change this tragic boy.

"Miss-Anderson," he began, brokenly, with restraint let down, "your father-doesn't understand. I've got to go.… And even if I am spared-I couldn't ever come back.… To work for him-all the time in love with you-I couldn't stand it.… He's so good. I know I could care for him, too.… Oh, I thought I was bitterly resigned-hard-inhuman. But all this makes it-so-so much worse."

He sat down heavily, and, completely unnerved, he covered his face with his hands. His shoulders heaved and short, strangled sobs broke from him.

Lenore had to overcome a rush of tenderness. It was all she could do to keep from dropping to her knees beside him and slipping her arms around his neck. In her agitation she could not decide whether that would be womanly or not; only, she must make no mistakes. A hot, sweet flush went over her when she thought that always as a last resort she could reveal her secret and use her power. What would he do when he discovered she loved him?

"Kurt, I understand," she said, softly, and put a hand on his shoulder. And she stood thus beside him, sadly troubled, vaguely divining that her presence was helpful, until he recovered his composure. As he raised his head and wiped tears from his eyes he made no excuses for his weakness, nor did he show any shame.

"Miss Anderson-" he began.

"Please call me Lenore. I feel so-so stiff when you are formal. My friends call me Lenore," she said.

"You mean-you consider me your friend?" he queried.

"Indeed I do," she replied, smiling.

"I-I'm afraid I misunderstood your asking me to visit you," he said. "I thank you. I'm proud and glad that you call me your friend. It will be splendid to remember-when I am over there."

"I wonder if we could talk of anything except trouble and war," replied Lenore, plaintively. "If we can't, then let's look at the bright side."

"Is there a bright side?" he asked, with his sad smile.

"Every cloud, you know.… For instance, if you go to war-"

"Not if. I am going," he interrupted.

"Oh, so you say," returned Lenore, softly. And she felt deep in her the inception of a tremendous feminine antagonism. It stirred along her pulse. "Have your own way, then. But I say, if you go, think how fine it will be for me to get letters from you at the front-and to write you!"

"You'd like to hear from me?… You would answer?" he asked, breathlessly.

"Assuredly. And I'll knit socks for you."

"You're-very good," he said, with strong feeling.

Lenore again saw his eyes dim. How strangely sensitive he was! If he exaggerated such a little kindness as she had suggested, if he responded to it with such emotion, what would he do when the great and marvelous truth of her love was flung in his face? The very thought made Lenore weak.

"You'll go to training-camp," went on Lenore, "and because of your wonderful physique and your intelligence you will get a commission. Then you'll go to-France." Lenore faltered a little in her imagined prospect. "You'll be in the thick of the great battles. You'll give and take. You'll kill some of those-those-Germans. You'll be wounded and you'll be promoted.… Then the Allies will win. Uncle Sam's grand army will have saved the world.… Glorious!… You'll come back-home to us-to take the place dad offered you.… There! that is the bright side."

Indeed, the brightness seemed reflected in Dorn's face.

"I never dreamed you could be like this," he said, wonderingly.

"Like what?"

"I don't know just what I mean. Only you're different from my-my fancies. Not cold or-or proud."

"You're beginning to get acquainted with me, that's all. After you've been here awhile-"

"Please don't make it so hard for me," he interrupted, appealingly. "I can't stay."

"Don't you want to?" she asked.

"Yes. And I will stay a couple of days. But no longer. It'll be hard enough to go then."

"Perhaps I-we'll make it so hard for you that you can't go."

Then he gazed piercingly at her, as if realizing a will opposed to his, a conviction not in sympathy with his.

"You're going to keep this up-this trying to change my mind?"

"I surely am," she replied, both wistfully and wilfully.

"Why? I should think you'd respect my sense of duty."

"Your duty is more here than at the front. The government man said so. My father believes it. So do I.… You have some other-other thing you think duty."

"I hate Germans!" he burst out, with a dark and terrible flash.

"Who does not?" she flashed back at him, and she rose, feeling as if drawn by a powerful current. She realized then that she must be prepared any moment to be overwhelmed by the inevitable climax of this meeting. But she prayed for a little more time. She fought her emotions.

She saw him tremble. "Lenore, I'd better run off in the night," he said.

Instinctively, with swift, soft violence, she grasped his hands. Perhaps the moment had come. She was not afraid, but the suddenness of her extremity left her witless.

"You would not!… That would be unkind-not like you at all.… To run off without giving me a chance-without good-by!… Promise me you will not."

"I promise," he replied, wearily, as if nonplussed by her attitude. "You said you understood me. But I can't understand you."

She released his hands and turned away. "I promise-that you shall understand-very soon."

"You feel sorry for me. You pity me. You think I'll only be cannon-fodder for the Germans. You want to be nice, kind, sweet to me-to send me away with better thoughts.… Isn't that what you think?"

He was impatient, almost angry. His glance blazed at her. All about him, his tragic face, his sadness, his defeat, his struggle to hold on to his manliness and to keep his faith in nobler thoughts-these challenged Lenore's compassion, her love, and her woman's combative spirit to save and to keep her own. She quivered again on the brink of betraying herself. And it was panic alone that held her back.

"Kurt-I think-presently I'll give you the surprise of your life," she replied, and summoned a smile.

How obtuse he was! How blind! Perhaps the stress of his emotion, the terrible sense of his fate, left him no keenness, no outward penetration. He answered her smile, as if she were a child whose determined kindness made him both happy and sad.

"I dare say you will," he replied. "You Andersons are full of surprises.… But I wish you would not do any more for me. I am like a dog. The kinder you are to me the more I love you.… How dreadful to go away to war-to violence and blood and death-to all that's brutalizing-with my heart and mind full of love for a noble girl like you!-If I come to love you any more I'll not be a man."

To Lenore he looked very much of a man, so tall and lithe and white-faced, with his eyes of fire, his simplicity, and his tragic refusal of all that was for most men the best of life. Whatever his ideal, it was magnificent. Lenore had her chance then, but she was absolutely unable to grasp it. Her blood beat thick and hot. If she could only have been sure of herself! Or was it that she still cared too much for herself? The moment had not come. And in her tumult there was a fleeting fury at Dorn's blindness, at his reverence of her, that he dare not touch her hand. Did he imagine she was stone?

"Let us say good night," she said. "You are worn out. And I am-not just myself. To-morrow we'll be-good friends.… Father will take you to your room."

Dorn pressed the hand she offered, and, saying good-night, he followed her to the hall. Lenore tapped on the door of her father's study, then opened it.

"Good night, dad. I'm going up," she said. "Will you look after Kurt?"

"Sure. Come in, son," replied her father.

Lenore felt Dorn's strange, intent gaze upon her as she passed him. Lightly she ran up-stairs and turned at the top. The hall was bright and Dorn stood full in the light, his face upturned. It still wore the softer expression of those last few moments. Lenore waved her hand, and he smiled. The moment was natural. Youth to youth! Lenore felt it. She marveled that he did not. A sweet devil of wilful coquetry possessed her.

"Oh, did you say you wouldn't go?" she softly called.

"I said only good night," he replied.

"If you don't go, then you will never be General Dorn, will you? What a pity!"

"I'll go. And then it will be-'Private Dorn-missing. No relatives,'" he replied.

That froze Lenore. Her heart quaked. She gazed down upon him with all her soul in her eyes. She knew it and did not care. But he could not see.

"Good night, Kurt Dorn," she called, and ran to her room.

Composure did not come to her until she was ready for bed, with the light out and in her old seat at the window. Night and silence and starlight always lent Lenore strength. She prayed to them now and to the spirit she knew dwelt beyond them. And then she whispered what her intelligence told her was an unalterable fact-Kurt Dorn could never be changed. But her sympathy and love and passion, all that was womanly emotion, stormed at her intelligence and refused to listen to it.

Nothing short of a great shock would divert Dorn from his tragic headlong rush toward the fate he believed unalterable. Lenore sensed a terrible, sinister earnestness in him. She could not divine its meaning. But it was such a driving passion that no man possessing it and free to the violence of war could ever escape death. Even if by superhuman strife, and the guidance of Providence, he did escape death, he would have lost something as precious as life. If Dorn went to war at all-if he ever reached those blood-red trenches, in the thick of fire and shriek and ferocity-there to express in horrible earnestness what she vaguely felt yet could not define-then so far as she was concerned she imagined that she would not want him to come back.

That was the strength of spirit that breathed out of the night and the silence to her. Dorn would go to war as no ordinary soldier, to obey, to fight, to do his duty; but for some strange, unfathomable obsession of his own. And, therefore, if he went at all he was lost. War, in its inexplicable horror, killed the souls of endless hordes of men. Therefore, if he went at all she, too, was lost to the happiness that might have been hers. She would never love another man. She could never marry. She would never have a child.

So his soul and her happiness were in the balance weighed against a woman's power. It seemed to Lenore that she felt hopelessly unable to carry the issue to victory; and yet, on the other hand, a tumultuous and wonderful sweetness of sensation called to her, insidiously, of the infallible potency of love. What could she do to save Dorn's life and his soul? There was only one answer to that. She would do anything. She must make him love her to the extent that he would have no will to carry out this desperate intent. There was little time to do that. The gradual growth of affection through intimacy and understanding was not possible here. It must come as a flash of lightning. She must bewilder him with the revelation of her love, and then by all its incalculable power hold him there.

It was her father's wish; it would be the salvation of Dorn; it meant all to her. But if to keep him there would make him a slacker, Lenore swore she would die before lifting her lips to his. The government would rather he stayed to raise wheat than go out and fight men. Lenore saw the sanity, the cardinal importance of that, as her father saw it. So from all sides she was justified. And sitting there in the darkness and silence, with the cool wind in her face, she vowed she would be all woman, all sweetness, all love, all passion, all that was feminine and terrible, to keep Dorn from going to war.

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