Franklin was for a time busy in keeping his team upon the trail, but soon they settled down into a steady, shuffling trot, to which they held for mile after mile over the hard prairie road. The day was bright and clear, the air sweet and bracing. An hour’s drive from the town, and the traveller seemed in a virgin world. A curious coyote sat on a hill, regarding intently the spectacle of a man travelling with wheels beneath him, instead of the legs of a horse. A band of antelope lined up on the crest of a ridge and stood staring steadfastly. A gray-winged hawk swept wide and easily along the surface of the earth on its morning hunting trip. Near by the trail hundreds of cheerful prairie dogs barked and jerked their ceaseless salutation. An ancient and untroubled scheme of life lay all around him, appealing in its freshness and its charm. Why should a man, a tall and strong man, with health upon his cheek, sit here with brooding and downcast eye, heedless of the miles slipping behind him like a ribbon spun beneath the wheels?
Franklin was learning how fast bound are all the ways of life to the one old changeless way. This new land, which he and his fellow-men coveted, why was it so desired? Only that over it, as over all the world behind it, there might be builded homes. For, as he reflected, the adventurers of the earth had always been also the home-builders; and there followed for him the bitter personal corollary that all his adventure was come to naught if there could be no home as its ultimate reward. His vague eye swam over the wide, gray sea about him, and to himself he seemed adrift, unanchored and with no chart of life.
Lifting and shimmering mysteriously in the midday sun, as though tantalizing any chance traveller of that wide land with a prospect alluring, yet impossible, the buildings of the Halfway station now loomed large and dark, now sank until they seemed a few broken dots and dashes just visible upon the wide gray plain. Yet soon the tall frame of the windmill showed high above the earth, most notable landmark for many a mile, and finally the ragged arms of the corral posts appeared definitely, and then the low peak of the roof of the main building. For miles these seemed to grow no closer, but the steady trot of the little horses ate up the distance, and Franklin found himself again at the spot with which he was already so well acquainted that every detail, every low building and gnarled bit of wood, was tabulated surely in his mind. The creak of the windmill presently came to his ears as a familiar sound, but rasping and irritating on his strong nerves as the croak of the elder Fate.