Not that young Gilbert Jones was a pessimist. And yet he wasn’t one of those damnable Pollyanna optimists he so abominated—the kind who went about saying continually that God was in His heaven and all was right with the world. No, indeed! He was just a normal, regular fellow, ready to face a difficult situation when it came about as the natural result of a series of events. He saw the impending catastrophe as the logical finale of many happenings—for some of which he was not in any way responsible.
Who could have foreseen the Great War, for instance? Surely that was not his fault! A pitiful archduke was murdered in a European city. He remembered reading about it, and then instantly dismissing it from his mind as of no consequence. He never connected himself with so remote an event. Yet a few years later he, with many others, was fighting in France—a lieutenant in the United States Army—just because a shot had been fired at a man he had never heard of!
A strange world, he pondered, as he looked out over the blue hills, heavy with heat, and meandering away to God knows where.
Then, surely it was no fault of his if the Government under which he lived made no strenuous effort to stop the Mexican massacres of American citizens all along the border. One firm word, one splendid gesture, and daring raids would have ceased; and there would have been no menace of bandits hereabouts. It would have been a country fit to live in. There would have developed a feeling of permanence and peace, and a young chap could have made his plans for the future with some sense of security and high optimism. Surely they were entitled to protection—these brave boys and stalwart sons of America who fearlessly took up claims, staked all, and strove to make homes in this thrilling section along the borderland. They were not mere adventurers; they were pioneers. They were of the best stuff that America contained—clean-cut, clear-eyed, with level heads and high hearts. Yet their own Government did not think enough of them to offer them the sure protection they were entitled to.
Gilbert looked back on that distant day when he had gone up to Bisbee and purchased four head of cattle, and brought them himself to this ranch he had purchased, happy as only a fool is happy. Within a week they had mysteriously disappeared.
Rumors of Mexican thieves and assassins had come to him, as they had come to all the young land-owners along the line. He recalled how, after one raid, in which a good citizen had been foully murdered in his bed, he had called a meeting of the ranchers in their section, and with one voice they agreed to send a protest to Washington.