He led her into the prettiest low-beamed room she thought she had ever seen. Indian pottery was all about, low settles, a fireplace that conjured up a cozy picture of lonely winter evenings, and an entrancing staircase without a balustrade that led to a dark blue door. On the walls were some beautiful Navajo blankets, and a tiny alcove off to the right seemed to lead to another part of the long low house. The windows were brightly curtained, and all the furniture had a look of endurance and permanence—a manly room, she thought. Yet how ironical this appearance of firmness and stability was, in view of the reason of their visit! He had said he must give the place up. What a wrench it would be for him!
Women seldom like to see a bachelor—particularly a young bachelor—living in such solid comfort. As Lucia went up the stairs, she saw little touches she could give to the place. But she had to confess that the improvements she could suggest were not at all important. If two men could get along so well without feminine society, perhaps one of them didn’t miss her much, after all!
WHEREIN UNCLE HENRY SPEAKS HIS MIND—AS USUAL
It was high noon, two days later. Gilbert again had been about the ranch looking things over. He had his dreamy moments, but he was far too practical to let the poet in him rule his life. One sensed, by the most cursory glance, that here was a type of virile young American who could not only dream, but make his dreams come true. No idler he! And he had no use for idlers. He had dared to come to this far country, establish himself on a ranch, and seek to win out in the face of overwhelming odds.
How many other young men had staked all on a single game—and lost. That was one of the finest qualities of the Americans who migrated to this vast section of the country. They were always good losers, as well as modest winners. The land was rich in possibilities, as Sturgis had told Pell; and though the hot season lasted interminably and caused one’s spirits, as well as one’s hopes, to droop, there were enchanting spring days and bright, colorful, dwindling autumns when the air was keen and clear, and life was a song with youth for its eternal theme.
Men with families bore the hardest burdens in their early struggle for success. Gilbert, being single, had less to worry about than many another; but his Uncle Henry was a handicap. For Uncle Henry used his invalid’s chair much as a king might use his throne—a vantage place from which to hurl his tyrannous speeches. And there was no come-back. Uncle Henry had reigned too long to be fearful of any retort from any mere subject who walked about on two firm legs. For ten years he had held court, moving his little throne about with sudden jerks. When things did not go entirely his way, he could always withdraw—expertly, swiftly, cleverly. Doorsills were nothing to