THE DESERT AND THE SOWN
THE DESERT AND THE SOWN
MARY HALLOCK FOOTE
I. A COUNCIL OF THE ELDERS
II. INTRODUCING A SON-IN-LAW
III. THE INITIAL LOVE
IV. "A MAN THAT HAD A WELL IN HIS OWN COURT"
VI. AN APPEAL TO NATURE
VII. MARKING TIME
VIII. A HUNTER'S DIARY
IX. THE POWER OF WEAKNESS
X. THE WHITE PERIL
XI. A SEARCHING OF HEARTS
XII. THE BLOOD-WITE
XIV. KIND INQUIRIES
XV. A BRIDEGROOM OF SNOW
XVI. THE NATURE OF AN OATH
XVII. THE HIDDEN TRAIL
XVIII.THE STAR IN THE EAST
XIX. PILGRIMS AND STRANGERS
XX. A STATION IN THE DESERT
XXI. INJURIOUS REPORTS CONCERNING AN OLD HOUSE
XXII. THE CASE STRIKES IN
XXIV. INDIAN SUMMER
XXV. THE FELL FROST
XXVI. PEACE TO THIS HOUSE
A COUNCIL OF THE ELDERS
It was an evening of sudden mildness following a dry October gale. The
colonel had miscalculated the temperature by one log--only one he
declared but that had proved a pitchy one and the chimney bellowed with
flame. From end to end the room was alight with it as if the stored-up
energies of a whole pine-tree had been sacrificed in the consumption of
that four-foot stick.
The young persons of the house had escaped laughing into the fresh night
air but the colonel was hemmed in on every side; deserted by his
daughter mocked by the work of his own hands and torn between the duties
of a host and the host's helpless craving for his after-dinner cigar.
Across the hearth filling with her silks all the visible room in his own
favorite settle corner sat the one woman on earth it most behooved him to
be civil to--the future mother-in-law of his only child. That Moya was a
willing nay a reckless hostage did not lessen her father's awe of the
Mrs. Bogardus according to her wont at this hour was composedly doing
nothing. The colonel could not make his retreat under cover of her real or
feigned absorption in any of the small scattering pursuits which distract
the female mind. When she read she read--she never "looked at books." When
she sewed she sewed--presumably but no one ever saw her do it. Her mind
was economic and practical and she saved it whole like many men of
force for whatever she deemed her best paying sphere of action.
It was a silence that crackled with heat! The colonel wrathfully
perspiring in the glow of that impenitent stick frowned at it like an
inquisitor. Presently Mrs. Bogardus looked up and her expression softened
as she saw the energetic despair upon his face.
"Colonel don't you always smoke after dinner?"
"That is my bad habit madam. I belong to the generation that
smokes--after dinner and most other times--more than is good for us."
Colonel Middleton belonged also to the generation that can carry a
sentence through to the finish in handsome style and he did it with a
suave Virginian accent as easy as his seat in the saddle. Mrs. Bogardus
always gave him her respectful attention during his best performances
though she was a woman of short sentences herself.
"Don't you smoke in this room sometimes?" she asked with a barely
perceptible sniff the merest contraction of her housewifely nostrils.
"Ah--h! Those rascally curtains and cushions! You ladies--women I should
say--Moya won't let me say ladies--you bolster us up with comforts on
purpose to betray us!"
"You can say 'ladies' to me" smiled the very handsome one before him.
"That's the generation _I_ belong to."
The colonel bowed playfully. "Well you know I don't detect myself but
there's no doubt I have infected the premises."
"Open fires are good ventilators. I wish you would smoke now. If you
don't I shall have to go away and I'm exceedingly comfortable."
"You are exceedingly charming to say so--on top of that last stick too!"
The colonel had Irish as well as Virginian progenitors. "Well" he sighed
proceeding to make himself conditionally happy "Moya will never forgive
me! We spoil each other shamefully when we're alone but of course we try
to jack each other up when company comes. It's a great comfort to have
some one to spoil isn't it now? I needn't ask which it is in your
"The spoiled one?" Mrs. Bogardus smiled rather coldly. "A woman we had for
governess when Christine was a little thing used to say: 'That child is
the stuff that tyrants are made of!' Tyrants are made by the will of their
subjects don't you think generally speaking?"
"Well you couldn't have made a tyrant of your son Mrs. Bogardus. He's
the Universal Spoiler! He'll ruin my striker Jephson. I shall have to
send the fellow back to the ranks. I don't know how you keep a servant
good for anything with Paul around."
"Paul thinks he doesn't like to be waited on" Paul's mother observed
shrewdly. "He says that only invalids old people and children have any
claim on the personal service of others."
"By George! I found him blacking his own boots!"
Mrs. Bogardus laughed.
"But I'm paying a man to do it for him. It upsets my contract with that
other fellow for Paul to do his work. We have a claim on what we pay for
in this world."
"I suppose we have. But Paul thinks that nothing can pay the price of
those artificial relations between man and man. I think that's the way he
"Good Heavens! Has the boy read history? It's a relation that began when
the world was made and will last while men are in it."
"I am not defending Paul's ideas Colonel. I have a great sympathy with
tyrants myself. You must talk to him. He will amuse you."
"My word! It's a ticklish kind of amusement when _we_ get talking. Why
the boy wants to turn the poor old world upside down--make us all stand on
our heads to give our feet a rest. Now I respect my feet"--the colonel
drew them in a little as the lady's eyes involuntarily took the direction
of his allusion--"I take the best care I can of them; but I propose to
keep my head such as it is on top till I go under altogether. These
young philanthropists! They assume that the Hands and the Feet of the
world the class that serves in that capacity have got the same nerves as
"There's a sort of connection" said Mrs. Bogardus carelessly. "Some of
our Heads have come from the class that you call the Hands and Feet
The colonel admitted the fact but the fact was the exception. "Why
that's just the matter with us now! We've got no class of legislators. I
don't wish to plume myself but upon my word the two services are about
all we have left to show what selection and training can do. And we're
only just getting the army into shape after the raw material that was
dumped into it by the civil war."
"Weren't you in the civil war yourself?"
"I was--a West Pointer madam; and I was true to my salt and false to my
blood. But the flag over all!--at the cost of everything I held dear on
earth." After this speech the colonel looked hotter than ever and a trifle
ashamed of himself.
Mrs. Bogardus's face wore its most unobservant expression. "I don't agree
with Paul" she said. "I wish in some ways he were more like other young
men--exercise for instance. It's a pity for young men not to love
activity and leadership. Besides it's the fashion. A young man might as
well be out of the world as out of the fashion. Blood is a strange thing"
The colonel looked at her curiously. In a woman so unfrank her occasional
bursts of frankness were surprising and as he thought not altogether
complimentary. It was as if she felt herself so far removed from his
conception of her that she might say anything she pleased sure of his
"He is not lazy intellectually" said the colonel aiming to comfort her.
"I did not say he was lazy--only he won't do things except to what he
calls some 'purpose.' At his age amusement ought to be purpose enough. He
ought to take his pleasures seriously--this hunting-trip for instance. I
believe on the very least encouragement he would give it all up!"
"You mustn't let him do that" said the colonel warming. "All that
country above Yankee Fork for a hundred miles after you've gone fifty
north from Bonanza is practically virgin forest. Wonderful flora and
fauna! It's late for the weeds and things but if Paul wants game trophies
for your country-house he can load a pack-train."
Mrs. Bogardus continued to be amused in a quiet way. "He calls them
relics of barbarism! He would as soon festoon his walls with scalps as
decorate them with the heads of beautiful animals--nearer the Creator's
design than most men he would say."
"He's right there! But that doesn't change the distinction between men and
animals. He is your son madam--and he's going to be mine. But fine boy
as he is I call him a crank of the first water."
"You'll find him quite good to Moya" Mrs. Bogardus remarked
dispassionately. "And he's not quite twenty-four."
"Very true. Well _I_ should send him into the woods for the sake of
getting a little sense into him of an every-day sort. He 'll take in
sanity with every breath."
"And you don't think it's too late in the season for them to go out?"
There was no change in Mrs. Bogardus's voice unconcerned as it was; yet
the colonel felt at once that this simple question lay at the root of all
her previous skirmishing.
"The guide will decide as to that" he said definitely. "If it is he
won't go out with them. They have got a good man you say?"
"They are waiting for a good man; they have waited too long I think. He
is expected in with another party on Monday perhaps Paul is to meet the
Bowens at Challis where they buy their outfit. I do believe"--she laughed
constrainedly--"that he is going up there more to head them off than for
any other reason."
"How do you mean?"
"Oh it's very stupid of them! They seem to think an army post is part of
the public domain. They have been threatening if Paul gives up the trip
to come down here on a gratuitous visit."
"Why let them come by all means! The more the merrier! We will quarter
them on the garrison at large."
"Wherever they were quartered they would be here all the time. They are
not intimate friends of Paul's. _Mrs._ Bowen is--a very great friend. He
is her right-hand in all that Hartley House work. The boys are just
fashionable young men."
"Can't they go hunting without Paul?"
"Wheels within wheels!" Mrs. Bogardus sighed impatiently. "Hunting trips
are expensive and--when young men are living on their fathers it is
convenient sometimes to have a third. However Paul goes I half believe
to prevent their making a descent upon us here."
"Well; I should ask them to come or make it plain they were not
"Oh would you?--if their mother was one of the nicest women and your
friend? Besides the reservation does not cover the whole valley. Banks
Bowen talks of a mine he wants to look at--I don't think it will make much
difference to the mine! This is simply to say that I wish Paul cared more
about the trip for its own sake."
"Well frankly I think he's better out of the way for the next fortnight.
The girls ought to go to bed early and keep the roses in their cheeks for
the wedding. Moya's head is full of her frocks and fripperies. She is
trying to run a brace of sewing women; and all those boxes are coming from
the East to be 'inspected and condemned' mostly. The child seems to make
a great many mistakes doesn't she? About every other day I see a box as
big as a coffin in the hall addressed to some dry-goods house 'returned
"Moya should have sent to me for her things" said Mrs. Bogardus. "I am
the one who makes her return them. She can do much better when she is in
town herself. It doesn't matter for the few weeks they will be away what
she wears. I shall take her measures home with me and set the people to
work. She has never been _fitted_ in her life."
The colonel looked rather aghast. He had seldom heard Mrs. Bogardus speak
with so much animation. He wondered if really his household was so very
far behind the times.
"It's very kind of you I'm sure if Moya will let you. Most girls think
they can manage these matters for themselves."
"It's impossible to shop by mail" Mrs. Bogardus said decidedly. "They
always keep a certain style of things for the Western and Southern trade."
The colonel was crushed. Mrs. Bogardus rose and he picked up her
handkerchief breathing a little hard after the exertion. She passed out
thanking him with a smile as he opened the door. In the hall she stopped
to choose a wrap from a collection of unconventional garments hanging on a
rack of moose horns.
"I think I shall go out" she said. "The air is quite soft to-night. Do
you know which way the children went?" By the "children" as the colonel
had noted Mrs. Bogardus usually meant her daughter the budding tyrant
"Fine woman!" he mused alone with himself in his study. "Splendid
character head. Regular Dutch beauty. But hard--eh?--a trifle hard in the
grain. Eyes that tell you nothing. Mouth set like a stone. Never rambles
in her talk. Never speculates or exaggerates for fun. Never runs into
hyperbole--the more fool some other folks! Speaks to the point or keeps
INTRODUCING A SON-IN-LAW
The colonel's papers failed to hold him somehow. He rose and paced the
room with his short stiff-kneed tread. He stopped and stared into the
fire; his face began to get red.
"So! Moya's clothes are not good enough. Going to set the people to work
is she? Wants an outfit worthy of her son. And who's to pay for it by
gad? Post-nuptial bills for wedding finery are going to hurt poor little
Moya like the deuce. Confound the woman! Dressing my daughter for me
right in my own house. Takes it in her hands as if it were her right by
----!" The colonel let slip another expletive. "Well" he sighed half
amused at his own violence "I'll write to Annie. I promised Moya and
it's high time I did."
Annie was the colonel's sister the wife of an infantry captain stationed
at Fort Sherman. She was a very understanding woman; at least she
understood her brother. But she was not solely dependent upon his laggard
letters for information concerning his private affairs. The approaching
wedding at Bisuka Barracks was the topic of most of the military families
in the Department of the Columbia. Moya herself had written some time
before in the self-conscious manner of the newly engaged. Her aunt knew
of course that Moya and Christine Bogardus had been room-mates at Miss
Howard's that the girls had fallen in love with each other first and
with visits at holidays and vacations when the army girl could not go to
her father it was easily seen how the rest had followed. And well for
Moya that it had was Mrs. Creve's indorsement. As a family they were
quite sufficiently represented in the army; and if one should ever get an
Eastern detail it would be very pleasant to have a young niece charmingly
settled in New York.
The colonel drew a match across the top bar of the grate and set it to his
pipe. His big nostrils whitened as he took a deep in-breath. He reseated
himself and began his duty letter in the tone of a judicious parent; but
warming as he wrote under the influence of Annie's imagined sympathy he
presently broke forth with his usual arrogant colloquialism.
"She might have had her pick of the junior officers in both branches. And
there was a captain of engineers at the Presidio a widower but an
awfully good fellow. And she has chosen a boy full of transcendental
moonshine who climbs upon a horse as if it were a stone fence and has
mixed ideas which side of himself to hang a pistol on.
"I have no particular quarrel with the lad barring his great burly
mouthful of a name Bo--gardus! To call a child Moya and have her fetch up
with her soft Irish vowels against such a name as that! She had a fond
idea that it was from Beauregard. But she has had to give that up. It's
Dutch--Hudson River Dutch--for something horticultural--a tree or an
orchard or a brush-pile; and she says it's a good name where it belongs.
Pity it couldn't have stayed where it belongs.
"However you won't find him quite so scrubby as he sounds. He's very
proper and clean-shaven with a good pair of dark Dutch eyes which he
gets from his mother; and I wish he had got her business ability with
them and her horse sense if the lady will excuse me. She runs the
property and he spends it as far as she'll let him on the newest
reforms. And there's another hitch!--To belong to the Truly Good at
twenty-four! But beggars can't be choosers. He's going to settle something
handsome on Moya out of the portion Madame gives him on his marriage. My
poor little girl as you know will get nothing from me but a few old bits
and trinkets and a father's blessing--the same doesn't go for much in
these days. I have been a better dispenser than accumulator like others
of our name.
"I do assure you Annie it bores me down to the ground this humanitarian
racket from children with ugly names who have just chipped the shell. This
one owns his surprise that we _work_ in the army! That our junior officers
teach and study a bit perforce themselves. His own idea is that every
West Pointer before he gets his commission should serve a year or two in
the ranks to raise the type of the enlisted man and chiefly mark you
to get his point of view the which he is to bear in mind when he comes to
his command. Oh we've had some pretty arguments! But I suspect the rascal
of drawing it mild at this stage for the old dragon who guards his
Golden Apple. He doesn't want to poke me up. How far he'd go if he were
not hampered in his principles by the fact that he is in love I cannot
say. And I'd rather not imagine."
The commandant's house at Bisuka Barracks is the nearest one to the
flag-pole as you go up a flight of wooden steps from the parade ground.
These steps and their landings flanked by the dry grass terrace of the
line are a favorite gathering place for young persons of leisure at the
Post. They face the valley and the mountains; they lead past the
adjutant's office to the main road to town; they command the daily pageant
of garrison duty as performed at such distant unvisited posts with only
the ladies and the mountains looking on.
Retreat had sounded at half after five for the autumn days grew short.
The colonel's orderly had been dismissed to his quarters. There was no
excuse at this hour for two young persons lingering in sentimental
corners of the steps beyond a flagrant satisfaction in the shadow thereof
which covered them since the lighting of lamps on Officers' Row.
The colonel stood at his study window keeping his pipe alive with slow and
dreamy puffs. The moon was just clearing the roof of the men's quarters.
His eye caught a shape or a commingling of shapes ensconced in an angle
of the steps; the which he made out to be his daughter in her light
evening frock with one of his own old army capes over her shoulders
seated in close formation beside the only man at the Post who wore
The colonel had the feelings of a man as well as a father. He went back to
his letter with a softened look in his face. He had said too much; he
always did--to Annie; and now he must hedge a little or she would think
there was trouble brewing and that he was going to be nasty about Moya's
THE INITIAL LOVE
"Let us be simple! Not every one can be but we can. We can afford to be
and we know how!"