It was a poor home, but the lamplight revealed no discontent in the faces around the table. True, the mother’s was a little pinched and careworn, which gave the yet beautiful face a sharp expression; but the other two countenances shone with health and happiness. The girl was enjoying her supper, the bright sagebrush fire, and the story book by the side of her bowl, all at the same time. She dipped, alternately, into her bowl and into her book.
The boy was the man of that family. He had combed his hair well back, and his bright, honest face gleamed in the light. He was big and strong, hardened by constant toil, matured beyond his years by the responsibility which had been placed upon him since his father’s death, now four years ago. In answer to his mother’s inquiries, Rupert explained:
“You see, the cows had strayed up Dry Holler, an’ I had an awful time a findin’ them. I couldn’t hear any bell, neither. Dry Holler creek is just boomin’, an’ there’s a big lake up there now. The water has washed out a hole in the bank and has gone into Dry Basin, an’ it’s backed up there till now it’s a lake as big as Brown’s pond. As I stood and looked at the running water an’ the pond, somethin’ came into my head—somethin’ I heard down town last summer. An’ mother, we must do it!”
The boy was glowing with some exciting thought. His mother looked at him while his sister neglected both book and bowl.
“Do what, Rupert?”
“Why, we must have Dry Basin, an’ I’ll make a reservoir out of it, an’ we’ll have water in the summer for our land, an’ it’ll be just the thing. With a little work the creek can be turned into the Basin which’ll fill up during the winter an’ spring. There’s a low place which we’ll have to bank up, an’ the thing’s done. The ditch’ll be the biggest job, but I think we can get some help on that—but we must have the land up in Dry Holler now before someone else thinks of it an’ settles on it. Mother, I was just wonderin’ why someone hasn’t thought of this before.”
The mother was taken by surprise. She sat and looked wonderingly at the boy as he talked. The idea was new to her, but now she thought of it, it seemed perfectly feasible. Work was the only thing needed; but could she and her boy do it?
Five years ago when Mr. Ames had moved upon the bench, he had been promised that the new canal should come high enough to bring water to his land; but a new survey had been made which had left his farm far above the irrigation limit. Mr. Ames had died before he could move his family; and they had been compelled to remain in their temporary hut these four long, hard years. Rupert had tried to farm without water. A little wheat and alfalfa had been raised, which helped the little family to live without actual suffering.
* * * * *
That evening, mother and son talked late into the night. Nina listened until her eyes closed in sleep. The rain had ceased altogether, and the moon, hurrying through the breaking clouds, shone in at the little curtained window. Prayers were said, and then they retired. Peaceful sleep reigned within. Without, the moonlight illumined the mountains, shining on the caps of pearly whiteness which they had donned for the night.