He whirled suddenly toward the girl, surprising her in her scrutiny of his frowning face.
“Why do you care what I do?” he cried, almost fiercely. “Why do you tell me to go ahead, to do something? What difference does it make to you? Will you tell me?”
She returned his look steadily, answered steadily, not hesitating.
“Because it seemed to me a shame for a man like you to be a pawn in a game all of his life while he might be playing the game himself, directing the pawns.”
“And there is no other interest?”
“A friend’s interest. For,” smiling at him, “I believed what you said when you told me that we were going to be friends.”
“We are.” He spoke slowly, thoughtfully. “You have talked very plainly to me to-day, and I can do no more and no less than to thank you. You have told me several things. Some of them are true. I don’t know that I agree with the others. You have a way of looking at life, at the world, which is new to me. I must think it all over. I shall know how to think, what to do, to-morrow.”
She looked at him questioningly.
“For to-morrow I shall have decided. And then I shall ask for my time and quit, or—”
“Or—?” she asked, quickly.
“Or I shall tie into my work in earnest. I wonder which it will be?”
“I don’t wonder at all!” she cried, softly, her eyes very bright. “And to-morrow evening will you come up to the house and tell me what you have decided?”
“I think,” he answered her, quietly, “that I have already decided. But I shall not tell you until to-morrow evening.”
That night Conniston sat up late, perched high on the corral fence, staring at the stars while he tore down and builded up the World.
He had ridden to Rattlesnake Valley with Argyl, and had spent a big part of the day there with her. He saw scores of men at work with scrapers, picks, and shovels, and understood little enough of what they were doing. He rode with her into a town, a brand-new town, of twenty small, neat houses, as alike as rows of peas. In one of the houses he worked for Argyl, tacking down carpets in the empty rooms, moving furniture which he had uncrated in the yard. This was to be her father’s camp, she told him, where he would soon have to spend a part of each week superintending the work which Bat Truxton was pushing forward seven days out of the week. Then they had at last ridden home together, and he had left her at the house, going slowly back to the corrals with the two horses. And now, his day’s work done, he stared at the stars, rearranging the universe.
He knew that he was William Conniston, the son of William Conniston of Wall Street. That fact was unchanged, unchangeable. But in some new way, vaguely different, it was not the all-important fact which it had been. It was still something to be glad of, something which he was not going to forget or underestimate. But it was not everything.