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   Chapter 19 No.19

The Desert of Wheat By Zane Grey Characters: 33839

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


Lenore awakened early. The morning seemed golden. Birds were singing at her window. What did that day hold in store for her? She pressed a hand hard on her heart as if to hold it still. But her heart went right on, swift, exultant, throbbing with a fullness that was almost pain.

Early as she awakened, it was, nevertheless, late when she could direct her reluctant steps down-stairs. She had welcomed every little suggestion and task to delay the facing of her ordeal.

There was merriment in the sitting-room, and Dorn's laugh made her glad. The girls were at him, and her father's pleasant, deep voice chimed in. Evidently there was a controversy as to who should have the society of the guest. They had all been to breakfast. Mrs. Anderson expressed surprise at Lenore's tardiness, and said she had been called twice. Lenore had heard nothing except the birds and the music of her thoughts. She peeped into the sitting-room.

"Didn't you bring me anything?" Kathleen was inquiring of Dorn.

Dorn was flushed and smiling. Anderson stood beaming upon them, and Rose appeared to be inclined toward jealousy.

"Why-you see-I didn't even know Lenore had a little sister," Dorn explained.

"Oh!" exclaimed Kathleen, evidently satisfied. "All Lenorry's beaux bring me things. But I believe I'm going to like you best."

Lenore had intended to say good morning. She changed her mind, however, at Kathleen's na?ve speech, and darted back lest she be seen. She felt the blood hot in her cheeks. That awful, irrepressible Kathleen! If she liked Dorn she would take possession of him. And Kathleen was lovable, irresistible. Lenore had a sudden thought that Kathleen would aid the good cause if she could be enlisted. While Lenore ate her breakfast she listened to the animated conversation in the sitting-room. Presently her father came in.

"Hello, Lenore! Did you get up?" he greeted her, cheerily.

"I hardly ever did, it seems.… Dad, the day was something to face," she said.

"Ah-huh! It's like getting up to work. Lenore, the biggest duty of life is to hide your troubles.… Dorn looks like a human bein' this mornin'. The kids have won him. I reckon he needs that sort of cheer. Let them have him. Then after a while you fetch him out to the wheat-field. Lenore, our harvestin' is half done. Every day I've expected some trick or deviltry. But it hasn't come yet."

"Are any of the other ranchers having trouble?" she inquired.

"I hear rumors of bad work. But facts told by ranchers an' men who were here only yesterday make little of the rumors. All that burnin' of wheat an' timber, an' the destruction of machines an' strikin' of farm-hands, haven't hit Golden Valley yet. We won't need any militia here, you can bet on that."

"Father, it won't do to be over-confident," she said, earnestly. "You know you are the mark for the I.W.W. sabotage. If you are not careful-any moment-"

Lenore paused with a shudder.

"Lass, I'm just like I was in the old rustlin' days. An' I've surrounded myself with cowboys like Jake an' Bill, an' old hands who pack guns an' keep still, as in the good old Western days. We're just waitin' for the I.W.W.'s to break loose."

"Then what?" queried Lenore.

"Wal, we'll chase that outfit so fast it'll be lost in dust," he replied.

"But if you chase them away, it 'll only be into another state, where they'll make trouble for other farmers. You don't do any real good."

"My dear, I reckon you've said somethin' strong," he replied, soberly, and went out.

Then Kathleen came bouncing in. Her beautiful eyes were full of mischief and excitement. "Lenorry, your new beau has all the others skinned to a frazzle," she said.

For once Lenore did not scold Kathleen, but drew her close and whispered: "Do you want to please me? Do you want me to do everything for you?"

"I sure do," replied Kathleen, with wonderful eyes.

"Then be nice, sweet, good to him.… make him love you.… Don't tease him about my other beaux. Think how you can make him like 'Many Waters.'"

"Will you promise-everything?" whispered Kathleen, solemnly. Evidently Lenore's promises were rare and reliable.

"Yes. Cross my heart. There! And you must not tell."

Kathleen was a precocious child, with all the potentialities of youth. She could not divine Lenore's motive, but she sensed a new and fascinating mode of conduct for herself. She seemed puzzled a little at Lenore's earnestness.

"It's a bargain," she said, soberly, as if she had accepted no slight gauge.

"Now, Kathleen, take him all over the gardens, the orchards, the corrals and barns," directed Lenore. "Be sure to show him the horses-my horses, especially. Take him round the reservoir-and everywhere except the wheat-fields. I want to take him there myself. Besides, father does not want you girls to go out to the harvest."

Kathleen nodded and ran back to the sitting-room. Lenore heard them all go out together. Before she finished breakfast her mother came in again.

"Lenore, I like Mr. Dorn," she said, meditatively. "He has an old-fashioned manner that reminds me of my boy friends when I was a girl. I mean he's more courteous and dignified than boys are nowadays. A splendid-looking boy, too. Only his face is so sad. When he smiles he seems another person."

"No wonder he's sad," replied Lenore, and briefly told Kurt Dorn's story.

"Ah!" sighed Mrs. Anderson. "We have fallen upon evil days.… Poor boy!… Your father seems much interested in him. And you are too, my daughter?"

"Yes, I am," replied Lenore, softly.

Two hours later she heard Kathleen's gay laughter and pattering feet. Lenore took her wide-brimmed hat and went out on the porch. Dorn was indeed not the same somber young man he had been.

"Good morning, Kurt," said Lenore, extending her hand.

The instant he greeted her she saw the stiffness, the aloofness had gone from him. Kathleen had made him feel at home. He looked younger. There was color in his face.

"Kathleen, I'll take charge of Mr. Dorn now, if you will allow me that pleasure."

"Lenorry, I sure hate to give him up. We sure had a fine time."

"Did he like 'Many Waters'?"

"Well, if he didn't he's a grand fibber," replied Kathleen. "But he did. You can't fool me. I thought I'd never get him back to the house." Then, as she tripped up the porch steps, she shook a finger at Dorn. "Remember!"

"I'll never forget," said Dorn, and he was as earnest as he was amiable. Then, as she disappeared, he exclaimed to Lenore, "What an adorable little girl!"

"Do you like Kathleen?"

"Like her!" Dorn laughed in a way to make light of such words. "My life has been empty. I see that."

"Come, we'll go out to the wheat-fields," said Lenore. "What do you think of 'Many Waters'? This is harvest-time. You see 'Many Waters' at its very best."

"I can hardly tell you," he replied. "All my life I've lived on my barren hills. I seem to have come to another world. 'Many Waters' is such a ranch as I never dreamed of. The orchards, the fruit, the gardens-and everywhere running water! It all smells so fresh and sweet. And then the green and red and purple against that background of blazing gold!… 'Many Waters' is verdant and fruitful. The Bend is desert."

"Now that you've been here, do you like it better than your barren hills?" asked Lenore.

Kurt hesitated. "I don't know," he answered, slowly. "But maybe that desert I've lived in accounts for much I lack."

"Would you like to stay at 'Many Waters'-if you weren't going to war?"

"I might prefer 'Many Waters' to any place on earth. It's a paradise. But I would not chose to stay here."

"Why? When you return-you know-my father will need you here. And if anything should happen to him I will have to run the ranch. Then I would need you."

Dorn stopped in his tracks and gazed at her as if there were slight misgivings in his mind.

"Lenore, if you owned this ranch would you want me-me for your manager?" he asked, bluntly.

"Yes," she replied.

"You would? Knowing I was in love with you?"

"Well, I had forgotten that," she replied, with a little laugh. "It would be rather embarrassing-and funny, wouldn't it?"

"Yes, it would," he said, grimly, and walked on again. He made a gesture of keen discomfiture. "I knew you hadn't taken me seriously."

"I believed you, but I could not take you very seriously," she murmured.

"Why not?" he demanded, as if stung, and his eyes flashed on her.

"Because your declaration was not accompanied by the usual-question-that a girl naturally expects under such circumstances."

"Good Heaven! You say that?… Lenore Anderson, you think me insincere because I did not ask you to marry me," he asserted, with bitter pathos.

"No. I merely said you were not-very serious," she replied. It was fascination to torment him this way, yet it hurt her, too. She was playing on the verge of a precipice, not afraid of a misstep, but glorying in the prospect of a leap into the abyss. Something deep and strange in her bade her make him show her how much he loved her. If she drove him to desperation she would reward him.

"I am going to war," he began, passionately, "to fight for you and your sisters.… I am ruined.… The only noble and holy feeling left to me-that I can have with me in the dark hours-is my love for you. If you do not believe that, I am indeed the most miserable of beggars! Most boys going to the front leave many behind whom they love. I have no one but you.… don't make me a coward."

"I believe you. Forgive me," she said.

"If I had asked you to marry me-me-why, I'd have been a selfish, egotistical fool. You are far above me. And I want you to know I know it.… But even if I had not-had the blood I have-even if I had been prosperous instead of ruined, I'd never have asked you, unless I came back whole from the war."

They had been walking out the lane during this conversation and had come close to the wheat-field. The day was hot, but pleasant, the dry wind being laden with harvest odors. The hum of the machines was like the roar in a flour-mill.

"If you go to war-and come back whole-?" began Lenore, tantalizingly. She meant to have no mercy upon him. It was incredible how blind he was. Yet how glad that made her. He resembled his desert hills, barren of many little things, but rich in hidden strength, heroic of mold.

"Then just to add one more to the conquests girls love I'll-I'll propose to you," he declared, banteringly.

"Beware, boy! I might accept you," she exclaimed.

His play was short-lived. He could not be gay, even under her influence.

"Please don't jest," he said, frowning. "Can't we talk of something besides love and war?"

"They seem to be popular just now," she replied, audaciously. "Anyway, all's fair-you know."

"No, it is not fair," he returned, low-voiced and earnest. "So once for all let me beg of you, don't jest. Oh, I know you're sweet. You're full of so many wonderful, surprising words and looks. I can't understand you.… But I beg of you, don't make me a fool!"

"Well, if you pay such compliments and if I-want them-what then? You are very original, very gallant, Mr. Kurt Dorn, and I-I rather like you."

"I'll get angry with you," he threatened.

"You couldn't.… I'm the only girl you're going to leave behind-and if you got angry I'd never write to you."

It thrilled Lenore and wrung her heart to see how her talk affected him. He was in a torment. He believed she spoke lightly, girlishly, to tease him-that she was only a gay-hearted girl, fancy-free and just a little proud of her conquest over even him.

"I surrender. Say what you like," he said, resignedly. "I'll stand anything-just to get your letters."

"If you go I'll write as often as you want me to," she replied.

With that they emerged upon the harvest-field. Machines and engines dotted the golden slope, and wherever they were located stood towering straw-stacks. Horses and men and wagons were strung out as far as the eye could see. Long streams of chaff and dust and smoke drifted upward.

"Lenore, there's trouble in the very air," said Dorn. "Look!"

She saw a crowd of men gathering round one of the great combine-harvesters. Some one was yelling.

"Let's stay away from trouble," replied Lenore. "We've enough of our own."

"I'm going over there," declared Dorn. "Perhaps you'd better wait for me-or go back."

"Well! You're the first boy who ever-"

"Come on," he interrupted, with grim humor. "I'd rather enjoy your seeing me break loose-as I will if there's any I.W.W. trickery."

Before they got to the little crowd Lenore both heard and saw her father. He was in a rage and not aware of her presence. Jake and Bill, the cowboys, hovered over him. Anderson strode to and fro, from one side of the harvester to the other. Lenore did not recognize any of the harvest-hands, and even the driver was new to her. They were not a typical Western harvest crew, that was certain. She did not like their sullen looks, and Dorn's muttered imprecation, the moment he neared them, confirmed her own opinion.

Anderson's foreman stood gesticulating, pale and anxious of face.

"No, I don't hold you responsible," roared the rancher. "But I want action.… I want to know why this machine's broke down."

"It was in perfect workin' order," declared the foreman. "I don't know why it broke down."

"That's the fourth machine in two days. No accident, I tell you," shouted Anderson. Then he espied Dorn and waved a grimy hand. "Come here, Dorn," he called, and stepped out of the group of dusty men. "Somethin' wrong here. This new harvester's broke down. It's a McCormack an' new to us. But it has worked great an' I jest believe it's been tampered with… Do you know these McCormack harvesters?"

"Yes. They're reliable," replied Dorn.

"Ah-huh! Wal, get your coat off an' see what's been done to this one."

Dorn took off his coat and was about to throw it down, when Lenore held out her hand for it.

"Unhitch the horses," said Dorn.

Anderson gave this order, which was complied with. Then Dorn disappeared around or under the big machine.

"Lenore, I'll bet he tells us somethin' in a minute," said Anderson to her. "These new claptraps are beyond me. I'm no mechanic."

"Dad, I don't like the looks of your harvest-hands," whispered Lenore.

"Wal, this is a sample of the lot I hired. No society for you, my lass!"

"I'm going to stay now," she replied.

Dorn appeared to be raising a racket somewhere out of sight under or inside the huge harvester. Rattling and rasping sounds, creaks and cracks, attested to his strong and impatiently seeking hands.

Presently he appeared. His white shirt had been soiled by dust and grease. There was chaff in his fair hair. In one grimy hand he held a large monkey-wrench. What struck Lenore most was the piercing intensity of his gaze as he fixed it upon her father.

"Anderson, I knew right where to find it," he said, in a sharp, hard voice. "This monkey-wrench was thrown upon the platform, carried to the elevator into the thresher.… Your machine is torn to pieces inside-out of commission!"

"Ah-huh!" exclaimed Anderson, as if the truth was a great relief.

"Where'd that monkey-wrench come from?" asked the foreman, aghast. "It's not ours. I don't buy that kind."

Anderson made a slight, significant motion to the cowboys. They lined up beside him, and, like him, they looked dangerous.

"Come here, Kurt," he said, and then, putting Lenore before him, he moved a few steps aside, out of earshot of the shifty-footed harvest-hands. "Say, you called the turn right off, didn't you?"

"Anderson, I've had a hard experience, all in one harvest-time," replied Dorn. "I'll bet you I can find out who threw this wrench into your harvester."

"I don't doubt you, my lad. But how?"

"It had to be thrown by one of these men near the machine. That harvester hasn't run twenty feet from where the trick was done.… Let these men face me. I'll find the guilty one."

"Wait till we get Lenore out of the way," replied Anderson

"Boss, me an' Bill can answer fer thet outfit as it stands, an' no risks fer nobody," put in Jake, coolly.

Anderson's reply was cut short by a loud explosion. It frightened Lenore. She imagined one of the steam-engines had blown up.

"That thresher's on fire," shouted Dorn, pointing toward a big machine that was attached by an endless driving belt to an engine.

The workmen, uttering yells and exclamations, ran toward the scene of the new accident, leaving Anderson, his daughter, and the foreman behind. Smoke was pouring out of the big harvester. The harvest-hands ran wildly around, shouting and calling, evidently unable to do anything. The line of wagons full of wheat-sheaves broke up; men dragged at the plunging horses. Then flame followed the smoke out of the threshe

r.

"I've heard of threshers catchin' fire," said Anderson, as if dumfounded, "but I never seen one.… Now how on earth did that happen?"

"Another trick, Anderson," replied Dorn. "Some I.W.W. has stuffed a handful of matches into a wheat-sheaf. Or maybe a small bomb!"

"Ah-huh!… Come on, let's go over an' see my money burn up.… Kurt, I'm gettin' some new education these days."

Dorn appeared to be unable to restrain himself. He hurried on ahead of the others. And Anderson whispered to Lenore, "I'll bet somethin's comin' off!"

This alarmed Lenore, yet it also thrilled her.

The threshing-machine burned like a house of cards. Farm-hands came running from all over the field. But nothing, manifestly, could be done to save the thresher. Anderson, holding his daughter's arm, calmly watched it burn. There was excitement all around; it had not been communicated, however, to the rancher. He looked thoughtful. The foreman darted among the groups of watchers and his distress was very plain. Dorn had gotten out of sight. Lenore still held his coat and wondered what he was doing. She was thoroughly angry and marveled at her father's composure. The big thresher was reduced to a blazing, smoking hulk in short order.

Dorn came striding up. His face was pale and his mouth set.

"Mr. Anderson, you've got to make a strong stand-and quick," he said, deliberately.

"I reckon. An' I'm ready, if it's the right time," replied the rancher. "But what can we prove?"

"That's proof," declared Dorn, pointing at the ruined thresher. "Do you know all your honest hands?"

"Yes, an' I've got enough to clean up this outfit in no time. We're only waitin'."

"What for?"

"Wal, I reckon for what's just come off."

"Don't let them go any farther.… Look at these fellows. Can't you tell the I.W.W.'s from the others?"

"No, I can't unless I count all the new harvest-hands I.W.W.'s."

"Every one you don't know here is in with that gang," declared Dorn, and he waved a swift hand at the groups. His eyes swept piercingly over, and apparently through, the men nearest at hand.

At this juncture Jake and Bill, with two other cowboys, strode up to Anderson.

"Another accident, boss," said Jake, sarcastically. "Ain't it about time we corralled some of this outfit?"

Anderson did not reply. He had suddenly imitated Lenore, who had become solely bent upon Dorn's look. That indeed was cause for interest. It was directed at a member of the nearest group-a man in rough garb, with slouch-hat pulled over his eyes. As Lenore looked she saw this man, suddenly becoming aware of Dorn's scrutiny, hastily turn and walk away.

"Hold on!" called Dorn, his voice a ringing command. It halted every moving person on that part of the field. Then Dorn actually bounded across the intervening space.

"Come on, boys," said Anderson, "get in this. Dorn's spotted some one, an' now that's all we want.… Lenore, stick close behind me. Jake, you keep near her."

They moved hastily to back up Dorn, who had already reached the workman he had halted. Anderson took out a whistle and blew such a shrill blast that it deafened Lenore, and must have been heard all over the harvest-field. Not improbably that was a signal agreed upon between Anderson and his men. Lenore gathered that all had been in readiness for a concerted movement and that her father believed Dorn's action had brought the climax.

"Haven't I seen you before?" queried Dorn, sharply.

The man shook his head and kept it bent a little, and then he began to edge back nearer to the stragglers, who slowly closed into a group behind him. He seemed nervous, shifty.

"He can't speak English," spoke up one of them, gruffly.

Dorn looked aggressive and stern. Suddenly his hand flashed out to snatch off the slouch-hat which hid the fellow's face. Amazingly, a gray wig came with it. This man was not old. He had fair thick hair.

For a moment Dorn gazed at the slouch-hat and wig. Then with a fierce action he threw them down and swept a clutching hand for the man. The fellow dodged and, straightening up, he reached for a gun. But Dorn lunged upon him. Then followed a hard grappling sound and a hoarse yell. Something bright glinted in the sun. It made a sweeping circle, belched fire and smoke. The report stunned Lenore. She shut her eyes and clung to her father. She heard cries, a scuffling, sodden blows.

"Jake! Bill!" called Anderson. "Hold on! No gun-play yet! Dorn's makin' hash out of that fellow.… But watch the others sharp!"

Then Lenore looked again. Dorn had twisted the man around and was in the act of stripping off the further disguise of beard, disclosing the pale and convulsed face of a comparatively young man.

"Glidden!" burst out Dorn. His voice had a terrible ring of furious amaze. His whole body seemed to gather as in a knot and then to spring. The man called Glidden went down before that onslaught, and his gun went flying aside.

Three of Glidden's group started for it. The cowboy Bill leaped forward, a gun in each hand. "Hyar!… Back!" he yelled. And then all except the two struggling principals grew rigid.

Lenore's heart was burning in her throat. The movements of Dorn were too swift for her sight. But Glidden she saw handled as if by a giant. Up and down he seemed thrown, with bloody face, flinging arms, while he uttered hoarse bawls. Dorn's form grew more distinct. It plunged and swung in frenzied energy. Lenore heard men running and yells from all around. Her father spread wide his arm before her, so that she had to bend low to see. He shouted a warning. Jake was holding a gun thrust forward.

"Boss, he's goin' to kill Glidden!" said the cowboy, in a low tone.

Anderson's reply was incoherent, but its meaning was plain.

Lenore's lips and tongue almost denied her utterance. "Oh!… Don't let him!"

The crowd behind the wrestling couple swayed back and forth, and men changed places here and there. Bill strode across the space, guns leveled. Evidently this action was due to the threatening movements of several workmen who crouched as if to leap on Dorn as he whirled in his fight with Glidden.

"Wal, it's about time!" yelled Anderson, as a number of lean, rangy men, rushing from behind, reached Bill's side, there to present an armed and threatening front.

All eyes now centered on Dorn and Glidden. Lenore, seeing clearly for the first time, suffered a strange, hot paroxysm of emotion never before experienced by her. It left her weak. It seemed to stultify the cry that had been trying to escape her. She wanted to scream that Dorn must not kill the man. Yet there was a ferocity in her that froze the cry. Glidden's coat and blouse were half torn off; blood covered him; he strained and flung himself weakly in that iron clutch. He was beaten and bent back. His tongue hung out, bloody, fluttering with strangled cries. A ghastly face, appalling in its fear of death!

Lenore broke her mute spell of mingled horror and passion.

"For God's sake, don't let Dorn kill him!" she implored.

"Why not?" muttered Anderson. "That's Glidden. He killed Dorn's father-burned his wheat-ruined him!"

"Dad-for my-sake!" she cried brokenly.

"Jake, stop him!" yelled Anderson. "Pull him off!"

As Lenore saw it, with eyes again half failing her, Jake could not separate Dorn from his victim.

"Leggo, Dorn!" he yelled. "You're cheatin' the gallows!…Hey, Bill, he's a bull!… Help, hyar-quick!"

Lenore did not see the resulting conflict, but she could tell by something that swayed the crowd when Glidden had been freed.

"Hold up this outfit!" yelled Anderson to his men. "Come on, Jake, drag him along." Jake appeared, leading the disheveled and wild-eyed Dorn. "Son, you did my heart good, but there was some around here who didn't want you to spill blood. An' that's well. For I am seein' red.…Jake, you take Dorn an' Lenore a piece toward the house, then hurry back."

Then Lenore felt that she had hold of Dorn's arm and she was listening to Jake without understanding a word he said, while she did hear her father's yell of command, "Line up there, you I.W.W.'s!"

Jake walked so swiftly that Lenore had to run to keep up. Dorn stumbled. He spoke incoherently. He tried to stop. At this Lenore clasped his arm and cried, "Oh, Kurt, come home with me!"

They hurried down the slope. Lenore kept looking back. The crowd appeared bunched now, with little motion. That relieved her. There was no more fighting.

Presently Dorn appeared to go more willingly. He had relaxed. "Let go, Jake," he said. "I'm-all right-now. That arm hurts."

"Wal, you'll excuse me, Dorn, for handlin' you rough.… Mebbe you don't remember punchin' me one when I got between you an' Glidden?"

"Did I?… I couldn't see, Jake," said Dorn. His voice was weak and had a spent ring of passion in it. He did not look at Lenore, but kept his face turned toward the cowboy.

"I reckon this 's fur enough," rejoined Jake, halting and looking back. "No one comin'. An' there'll be hell to pay out there. You go on to the house with Miss Lenore.… Will you?"

"Yes," replied Dorn.

"Rustle along, then.… An' you, Miss Lenore, don't you worry none about us."

Lenore nodded and, holding Dorn's arm closely, she walked as fast as she could down the lane.

"I-I kept your coat," she said, "though I never thought of it-till just now."

She was trembling all over, hot and cold by turns, afraid to look up at him, yet immensely proud of him, with a strange, sickening dread. He walked rather dejectedly now, or else bent somewhat from weakness. She stole a quick glance at his face. It was white as a sheet. Suddenly she felt something wet and warm trickle from his arm down into her hand. Blood! She shuddered, but did not lose her hold. After a faintish instant there came a change in her.

"Are you-hurt?" she asked.

"I guess-not. I don't know," he said.

"But the-the blood," she faltered.

He held up his hands. His knuckles were bloody and it was impossible to tell whether from injury to them or not. But his left forearm was badly cut.

"The gun cut me.… And he bit me, too," said Dorn. "I'm sorry you were there.… What a beastly spectacle for you!"

"Never mind me," she murmured. "I'm all right now!… But, oh!-"

She broke off eloquently.

"Was it you who had the cowboys pull me off him? Jake said, as he broke me loose, 'For Miss Lenore's sake!'"

"It was dad who sent them. But I begged him to."

"That was Glidden, the I.W.W. agitator and German agent.… He-just the same as murdered my father.… He burned my wheat-lost my all!"

"Yes, I-I know, Kurt," whispered Lenore.

"I meant to kill him!"

"That was easy to tell.… Oh, thank God, you did not!… Come, don't let us stop." She could not face the piercing, gloomy eyes that went through her.

"Why should you care?.… Some one will have to kill Glidden."

"Oh, do not talk so," she implored. "Surely, now you're glad you did not?"

"I don't understand myself. But I'm certainly sorry you were there.… There's a beast in men-in me!… I had a gun in my pocket. But do you think I'd have used it?… I wanted to feel his flesh tear, his bones break, his blood spurt-"

"Kurt!"

"Yes!… That was the Hun in me!" he declared, in sudden bitter passion.

"Oh, my friend, do not talk so!" she cried. "You make me-Oh, there is no Hun in you!"

"Yes, that's what ails me!"

"There is not!" she flashed back, roused to passion. "You had been made desperate. You acted as any wronged man! You fought. He tried to kill you. I saw the gun. No one could blame you.… I had my own reason for begging dad to keep you from killing him-a selfish woman's reason!… But I tell you I was so furious-so wrought up-that if it had been any man but you-he should have killed him!"

"Lenore, you're beyond my understanding," replied Dorn, with emotion. "But I thank you-for excusing me-for standing up for me."

"It was nothing.…Oh, how you bleed!.… Doesn't that hurt?"

"I've no pain-no feeling at all-except a sort of dying down in me of what must have been hell."

They reached the house and went in. No one was there, which fact relieved Lenore.

"I'm glad mother and the girls won't see you," she said, hurriedly. "Go up to your room. I'll bring bandages."

He complied without any comment. Lenore searched for what she needed to treat a wound and ran up-stairs. Dorn was sitting on a chair in his room, holding his arm, from which blood dripped to the floor. He smiled at her.

"You would be a pretty Red Cross nurse," he said.

Lenore placed a bowl of water on the floor and, kneeling beside Dorn, took his arm and began to bathe it. He winced. The blood covered her fingers.

"My blood on your hands!" he exclaimed, morbidly. "German blood!"

"Kurt, you're out of your head," retorted Lenore, hotly. "If you dare to say that again I'll-" She broke off.

"What will you do?"

Lenore faltered. What would she do? A revelation must come, sooner or later, and the strain had begun to wear upon her. She was stirred to her depths, and instincts there were leaping. No sweet, gentle, kindly sympathy would avail with this tragic youth. He must be carried by storm. Something of the violence he had shown with Glidden seemed necessary to make him forget himself. All his whole soul must be set in one direction. He could not see that she loved him, when she had looked it, acted it, almost spoken it. His blindness was not to be endured.

"Kurt Dorn, don't dare to-to say that again!"

She ceased bathing his arm, and looked up at him suddenly quite pale.

"I apologize. I am only bitter," he said. "Don't mind what I say.… It's so good of you-to do this."

Then in silence Lenore dressed his wound, and if her heart did beat unwontedly, her fingers were steady and deft. He thanked her, with moody eyes seeing far beyond her.

"When I lie-over there-with-"

"If you go!" she interrupted. He was indeed hopeless. "I advise you to rest a little."

"I'd like to know what becomes of Glidden," he said.

"So should I. That worries me."

"Weren't there a lot of cowboys with guns?"

"So many that there's no need for you to go out-and start another fight."

"I did start it, didn't I?"

"You surely did," She left him then, turning in the doorway to ask him please to be quiet and let the day go by without seeking those excited men again. He smiled, but he did not promise.

For Lenore the time dragged between dread and suspense. From her window she saw a motley crowd pass down the lane to the main road. No harvesters were working. At the noon meal only her mother and the girls were present. Word had come that the I.W.W. men were being driven from "Many Waters." Mrs. Anderson worried, and Lenore's sisters for once were quiet. All afternoon the house was lifeless. No one came or left. Lenore listened to every little sound. It relieved her that Dorn had remained in his room. Her hope was that the threatened trouble had been averted, but something told her that the worst was yet to come.

It was nearly supper-time when she heard the men returning. They came in a body, noisy and loitering, as if reluctant to break away from one another. She heard the horses tramp into the barns and the loud voices of drivers.

When she went down-stairs she encountered her father. He looked impressive, triumphant! His effort at evasion did not deceive Lenore. But she realized at once that in this instance she could not get any news from him. He said everything was all right and that I.W.W. men were to be deported from Washington. But he did not want any supper, and he had a low-voiced, significant interview with Dorn. Lenore longed to know what was pending. Dorn's voice, when he said at his door, "Anderson, I'll go!" was ringing, hard, and deadly. It frightened Lenore. Go where? What were they going to do? Lenore thought of the vigilantes her father had organized.

Supper-time was an ordeal. Dorn ate a little; then excusing himself, he went back to his room. Lenore got through the meal somehow, and, going outside, she encountered Jake. The moment she questioned him she knew something extraordinary had taken place or was about to take place. She coaxed and entreated. For once Jake was hard to manage. But the more excuses he made, the more he evaded her, the greater became Lenore's need to know. And at last she wore the cowboy out. He could not resist her tears, which began to flow in spite of her.

"See hyar, Miss Lenore, I reckon you care a heap fer young Dorn-beggin' your pardon?" queried Jake.

"Care for him!… Jake, I love him."

"Then take a hunch from me an' keep him home-with you-to-night."

"Does father want Kurt Dorn to go-wherever he's going?"

"Wal, I should smile! Your dad likes the way Dorn handles I.W.W.'s," replied Jake, significantly.

"Vigilantes!" whispered Lenore.

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