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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Eagle's Heart - Part 3 - Chapter 15. The Eagle Completes His Circle
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The Eagle's Heart - Part 3 - Chapter 15. The Eagle Completes His Circle Post by :pcmarket Category :Long Stories Author :Hamlin Garland Date :May 2012 Read :2070

Click below to download : The Eagle's Heart - Part 3 - Chapter 15. The Eagle Completes His Circle (Format : PDF)

The Eagle's Heart - Part 3 - Chapter 15. The Eagle Completes His Circle

PART III CHAPTER XV. THE EAGLE COMPLETES HIS CIRCLE

All days were Sunday in the great mining camp of Wagon Wheel, so far as legal enactment ran, but on Saturday night, in following ancient habit, the men came out of their prospect holes on the high, grassy hills, or threw down the pick in their "overland tunnels," or deep shafts and rabbitlike burrows, and came to camp to buy provisions, to get their mail, and to look upon, if not to share, the vice and tumult of the town.

The streets were filled from curb to curb with thousands of men in mud-stained coats and stout-laced boots. They stood in the gutters and in the middle of the street to talk (in subdued voices) of their claims. There was little noise. The slowly-moving streams of shoppers or amusement seekers gave out no sudden shouting. A deep murmur filled the air, but no angry curse was heard, no whooping. In a land where the revolver is readier than the fist men are wary of quarrel, careful of abuse, and studiously regardful of others.

There were those who sought vice, and it was easily found. The saloons were packed with thirsty souls, and from every third door issued the click of dice and whiz of whirling balls in games of chance.

Every hotel barroom swarmed with persuasive salesmen bearing lumps of ore with which to entice unwary capital. All the talk was of "pay-streaks," "leads," "float," "whins," and "up-raises," while in the midst of it, battling to save souls, the zealous Salvation Army band paraded to and fro with frenzied beating of drums. Around and through all this, listening with confused ears, gazing with wide, solemn eyes, were hundreds of young men from the middle East, farmers' sons, cowboys, mountaineers, and miners. To them it was an awesome city, this lurid camp, a wonder and an allurement to dissipation.

To Mose, fresh from the long trail, it was irritating and wearying. He stood at the door of a saloon, superbly unconscious of his physical beauty, a somber dream in his eyes, a statuesque quality in his pose. He wore the wide hat of the West, but his neat, dark coat, though badly wrinkled, was well cut, and his crimson tie and dark blue shirt were handsomely decorative. His face was older, sterner, and sadder than when he faced Mary three years before. No trace of boyhood was in his manner. Seven years of life on the long trail and among the mountain peaks had taught him silence, self-restraint, and had also deepened his native melancholy. He had ridden into Wagon Wheel from the West, eager to see the great mining camp whose fame had filled the world.

As he stood so, with the light of the setting sun in his face, the melancholy of a tiger in his eyes, a woman in an open barouche rode by. Her roving glance lighted upon his figure and rested there. "Wait!" she called to her driver, and from the shadow of her silken parasol she studied the young man's absorbed and motionless figure. He on his part perceived only a handsomely dressed woman looking out over the crowd. The carriage interested him more than the woman. It was a magnificent vehicle, the finest he had ever seen, and he wondered how it happened to be there on the mountain top.

A small man with a large head stepped from the crowd and greeted the woman with a military salute. In answer to a question, the small man turned and glanced toward Mose. The woman bowed and drove on, and Mose walked slowly up the street, lonely and irresolute. At the door of a gambling house he halted and looked in. A young lad and an old man were seated together at a roulette table, and around them a ring of excited and amused spectators stood. Mose entered and took a place in the circle. The boy wore a look of excitement quite painful to see, and he placed his red and white chips with nervous, blundering, and ineffectual gestures, whereas the older man smiled benignly over his glasses and placed his single dollar chip each time with humorous decision. Each time he won. "This is for a new hat," he said, and the next time, "This is for a box at the theater." The boy, with his gains in the circle of his left arm, was desperately absorbed. No smile, no jest was possible to him.

Mose felt a hand on his shoulder, and turning, found himself face to face with the small man who had touched his hat to the woman in the carriage. The stranger's countenance was stern in its outlines, and his military cut of beard added to his grimness, but his eyes were surrounded by fine lines of good humour.

"Stranger, I'd like a word with you."

Mose followed him to a corner, supposing him to be a man with mines to sell, or possibly a confidence man.

"Stranger, where you from?"

"From the Snake country," replied Mose.

"What's your little game here?"

Mose was angered at his tone. "None of your business."

The older man flushed, and the laugh went out of his eyes. "I'll make it my business," he said grimly. "I've seen you somewhere before, but I can't place you. You want to get out o' town to-night; you're here for no man's good--you've got a 'graft.'"

Mose struck him with the flat of his left hand, and, swift as a rattlesnake's stroke, covered him with his revolver. "Wait right where you are," he said, and the man became rigid. "I came here as peaceable as any man," Mose went on, "but I don't intend to be ridden out of town by a jackass like you."

The other man remained calm. "If you'll kindly let me unbutton my coat, I'll show you my star; I'm the city marshal."

"Be quiet," commanded Mose; "put up your hands!"

Mose was aware of an outcry, then a silence, then a rush.

From beneath his coat, quick as a flash of light from a mirror, he drew a second revolver. His eyes flashed around the room. For a moment all was silent, then a voice called, "What's all this, Haney?"

"Keep them quiet," said Mose, still menacing the officer.

"Boys, keep back," pleaded the marshal.

"The man that starts this ball rolling will be sorry," said Mose, searching the crowd with sinister eyes. "If you're the marshal, order these men back to the other end of the room."

"Boys, get back," commanded the marshal. With shuffling feet the crowd retreated. "Shut the door, somebody, and keep the crowd out."

The doors were shut, and the room became as silent as a tomb.

"Now," said Mose, "is it war or peace?"

"Peace," said the marshal.

"All right." Mose dropped the point of his revolver.

The marshal breathed easier. "Stranger, you're a little the swiftest man I've met since harvest; would you mind telling me your name?"

"Not a bit. My friends call me Mose Harding."

"'Black Mose'!" exclaimed the marshal, and a mutter of low words and a laugh broke from the listening crowd. Haney reached out his hand. "I hope you won't lay it up against me." Mose shook his hand and the marshal went on: "To tell the honest truth, I thought you were one of Lightfoot's gang. I couldn't place you. Of course I see now--I have your picture at the office--the drinks are on me." He turned with a smile to the crowd: "Come, boys--irrigate and get done with it. It's a horse on me, sure."

Taking the mildest liquor at the bar, Mose drank to further friendly relations, while the marshal continued to apologize. "You see, we've been overrun with 'rollers' and 'skin-game' men, and lately three expresses have been held up by Lightfoot's gang, and so I've been facing up every suspicious immigrant. I've had to do it--in your case I was too brash--I'll admit that--but come, let's get away from the mob. Come over to my office, I want to talk with you."

Mose was glad to escape the curious eyes of the throng. While his life was in the balance, he saw and heard everything hostile, nothing more--now, he perceived the crowd to be disgustingly inquisitive. Their winks, and grins, and muttered words annoyed him.

"Open the door--much obliged, Kelly," said the marshal to the man who kept the door. Kelly was a powerfully built man, dressed like a miner, in broad hat, loose gray shirt, and laced boots, and Mose admiringly studied him.

"This is not 'Rocky Mountain Kelly'?" he asked.

Kelly smiled. "The same; 'Old Man Kelly' they call me now."

Mose put out his hand. "I'm glad to know ye. I've heard Tom Gavin speak of you."

Kelly shook heartily. "Oh! do ye know Tom? He's a rare lump of a b'y, is Tom. We've seen great times together on the plains and on the hills. It's all gone now. It's tame as a garden since the buffalo went; they've made it another world, b'y."

"Come along, Kelly, and we'll have it out at my office."

As the three went out into the street they confronted a close-packed throng. The word had passed along that the marshal was being "done," and now, singularly silent, the miners waited the opening of the door.

The marshal called from the doorstep: "It's all right. Don't block the street. Break away, boys, break away." The crowd opened to let them pass, fixing curious eyes upon Mose.

As the three men crossed the street the woman in the carriage came driving slowly along. Kelly and the marshal saluted gallantly, but Mose did not even bow.

She leaned from her carriage and called:

"What's that I hear, marshal, about your getting shot?"

"All a mistake, Madam. I thought I recognized this young man and was politely ordering him out of town when he pulled his gun and nailed me to the cross."

The woman turned a smiling face toward Mose. "He must be a wonder. Introduce me, please."

"Certain sure! This is Mrs. Raimon, Mose; 'Princess Raimon,' this is my friend, Mose Harding, otherwise known as 'Black Mose.'"

"Black Mose!" she cried; "are _you that terrible man?"

She reached out her little gloved hand, and as Mose took it her eyes searched his face. "I think we are going to be friends." Her voice was affectedly musical as she added: "Come and see me, won't you?"

She did not wait for his reply, but drove on with a sudden assumption of reserve which became her very well.

The three men walked on in silence. At last, with a curious look at Kelly, the marshal said, "Young man, you're in luck. Anything you want in town is yours now. How about it, Kelly?"

"That's the thrue word of it."

"What do you mean?" asked Mose.

"Just this--what the princess asks for she generally gets. She's taken a fancy to you, and if you're keen as I think you are, you'll call on her without much delay."

"Who is she? How does she happen to be here?"

"She came out here with her husband--and stays for love of men and mines, I reckon. Anyhow, she always has a man hangin' on, and has managed to secure some of the best mines in the camp. She works 'em, too. She's a pretty high roller, as they call 'em back in the States, but she helps the poor, and pays her debts like a man, and it's no call o' mine to pass judgment on her."

The marshal's office was an old log shanty, one of the first to be built on the trail, and passing through the big front room in which two or three men were lounging, the marshal led his guests to his inner office and sleeping room. A fire was blazing in a big stone fireplace. Skins and dingy blankets were scattered about, and on the mantle stood a bottle and some dirty glasses.

"Sit down, gentlemen," said the marshal, "and have some liquor."

After they were served and cigars lighted, the marshal began:

"Mose, I want you to serve as my deputy."

Mose was taken by surprise and did not speak for a few moments. The marshal went on:

"I don't know that you're after a job, but I'm sure I need you. There's no use hemming and hawing--I've made a cussed fool of myself this evenin', and the boys are just about going to drink up my salary for me this coming week. I can't afford _not to have you my deputy because you unlimbered your gun a grain of a second before me--beat me at my own trick. I need you--now what do you say?"

Mose took time to reply. "I sure need a job for the winter," he admitted, "but I don't believe I want to do this."

The marshal urged him to accept. "I'll call in the newspaper men and let them tell the whole story of your life, and of our little jamboree to-day--they'll fix up a yarn that'll paralyze the hold-up gang. Together we'll swoop down on the town. I've been planning a clean-out for some weeks, and I need you to help me turn 'em loose."

Mose arose. "I guess not; I'm trying to keep clear of gun-play these days. I've never hunted that kind of thing, and I won't start in on a game that's sure to give me trouble."

The marshal argued. "Set down; listen; that's the point exactly. The minute the boys know who you are we won't _need to shoot. That's the reason I want you--the reporters will prepare the way. Wherever we go the 'bad men' will scatter."

But Mose was inexorable. "No, I can't do it. I took just such a job once--I don't want another."

Haney was deeply disappointed, but shook hands pleasantly. "Well, good-night; drop in any time."

Mose went out into the street once more. He was hungry, and so turned in at the principal hotel in the city for a "good square meal." An Italian playing the violin and his boy accompanying him on the harp, made up a little orchestra. Some palms in pots, six mirrors set between the windows, together with tall, very new, oak chairs gave the dining room a magnificence which abashed the bold heart of the trailer for a moment.

However, his was not a nature to show timidity, and taking a seat he calmly spread his damp napkin on his knee and gave his order to the colored waiter (the Palace Hotel had the only two colored waiters in Wagon Wheel) with such grace as he could command after long years upon the trail.

As he lifted his eyes he became aware of "the princess" seated at another table and facing him. She seemed older than when he saw her in the carriage. Her face was high-colored, and her hair a red-brown. Her eyes were half closed, and her mouth drooped at the corners. Her chin, supported on her left hand, glittering with jewels, was pushed forward aggressively, and she listened with indifference to the talk of her companion, a dark, smooth-featured man, with a bitter and menacing smile.

Mose was oppressed by her glance. She seemed to be looking at him from the shadow as a tigress might glare from her den, and he ate awkwardly, and his food tasted dry and bitter. Ultimately he became angry. Why should this woman, or any woman, stare at him like that? He would have understood her better had she smiled at him--he was not without experience of that sort, but this unwavering glance puzzled and annoyed him.

Putting her companion aside with a single gesture, the princess arose and came over to Mose's table and reached her hand to him. She smiled radiantly of a sudden, and said, "How do you do, Mr. Harding; I didn't recognize you at first."

Mose took her hand but did not invite her to join him. However, she needed no invitation, and taking a seat opposite, leaned her elbows on the table and looked at him with eyes more inscrutable than ever--despite their nearness. They were a mottled yellow and brown, he noticed, unusual and interesting eyes, but by contrast with the clear deeps of Mary's eyes they seemed like those of some beautiful wild beast. He could not penetrate a thousandth part of a hair line beyond the exterior shine of her glance. The woman's soul was in the unfathomable shadow beneath.

"I know all about you," she said. "I read a long article about you in the papers some months ago. You stood off a lot of bogus game wardens who were going to butcher some Shoshonees. I liked that. The article said you killed a couple of them. I hope you did."

Mose was very short. "I don't think any of them died at my hands, but they deserved it, sure enough."

She smiled again. "After seeing you on the street, I went home and looked up that slip--I saved it, you see. I've wanted to see you for a long time. You've had a wonderful life for one so young. This article raked up a whole lot of stuff about you--said you were the son of a preacher--is that so?"

"Yes, that part of it was true."

"Same old story, isn't it? I'm the daughter of a college professor--sectarian college at that." She smiled a moment, then became as suddenly grave. "I like men. I like men who face danger and think nothing of it. The article said you came West when a mere boy and got mixed up in some funny business on the plains and had to take a sneak to the mountains. What have you been doing since? I wish you'd tell me the whole story. Come to my house; it's just around the corner."

As she talked, her voice became more subtly pleasing, and the lines of her mouth took on a touch of girlish grace.

"I haven't time to do that," Mose said, "and besides, my story don't amount to much. You don't want to believe all they say of me. I've just knocked around a little like a thousand other fellows, that's all. I pull out to-night. I'm looking up an old friend down here on a ranch."

She saw her mistake. "All right," she said, and smiled radiantly. "But come some other time, won't you?" She was so winning, so frank and kindly that Mose experienced a sudden revulsion of feeling. A powerful charm came from her superb physique, her radiant color, and from her beautiful, flexile lips and sound white teeth. He hesitated, and she pressed her advantage.

"You needn't be afraid of me. The boys often drop in to see me of an evening. If I can be of any use to you, let me know. I'll tell you what you do. You take supper with me here to-morrow night. What say?"

Mose looked across at the scowling face of the woman's companion and said hesitatingly:

"Well, I'll see. If I have time--maybe I will."

She smiled again and impulsively reached her hand to him, and as he took it he was nearly won by her friendliness. This she did not know, and he was able to go out into the street alone. He could not but observe that the attendants treated him with added respect by reason of his acquaintance with the wealthiest and most powerful woman in the camp. She had made his loneliness very keen and hard to bear.

As he walked down the street he thought of Mary--she seemed to be a sister to the distant, calm and glorious moon just launching into the sky above the serrate wall of snowy peaks to the East. There was a powerful appeal in the vivid and changeful woman he had just met, for her like had never touched his life before.

As he climbed back up the hill toward the corral where he had left his horse, he was filled with a wordless disgust of the town and its people. The night was still and cool, almost frosty. The air so clear and so rare filled his lungs with wholesomely sweet and reanimating breath. His head cleared, and his heart grew regular in its beating. The moon was sailing in mid-ocean, between the Great Divide and the Christo Range, cold and sharp of outline as a boat of silver. Lizard Head to the south loomed up ethereal as a cloud, so high it seemed to crash among the stars. The youth drew a deep breath and said: "To hell with the town."

Kintuck whinnied caressingly as he heard his master's voice. After putting some grain before the horse, Mose rolled himself in his blanket and went to sleep with only a passing thought of the princess, her luxurious home, and her radiant and inscrutable personality.

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