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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Eagle's Heart - Part 3 - Chapter 19. The Eagle Adventures Into Strange Lands
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The Eagle's Heart - Part 3 - Chapter 19. The Eagle Adventures Into Strange Lands Post by :Michael_LI Category :Long Stories Author :Hamlin Garland Date :May 2012 Read :2453

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The Eagle's Heart - Part 3 - Chapter 19. The Eagle Adventures Into Strange Lands


It can not be said that the Black Eagle of the Rocky Mountains approached civilization in any heroic disguise. At its best, accompanying a cattle train is not epic in its largeness. To prod cattle by means of a long pole, to pull out smothered sheep, are not in themselves degrading deeds, but they are not picturesque in quality. They smell of the shambles, not of the hills.

Day by day the train slid down the shining threads of track like a long string of rectangular green and brown and yellow beads. The caboose was filled with cattlemen and their assistants, who smoked, talked politics, told stories, and slept at all hours of the day, whenever a spare segment of bench offered. Those who were awake saw everything and commented on everything in sight. To some the main questions were when and where they were to get dinner or secure a drink. The train, being a "through freight," ran almost as steadily as a passenger train, and the thirsty souls became quite depressed or savage at times by lack of opportunities to "wet their whistles."

Mose was singularly silent, for he was reliving his boyish life on the plains and noting the changes which had taken place. The towns had grown gray with the bleach of the weather. Farms had multiplied and fences cut the range into pasture lands. As the mountains sank beneath the level horizon line his heart sank with them. Every hour of travel to the East was to him dangerous, disheartening. On the second day he was ready to leap from the caboose and wave it good-by; but he did not--he merely sat on the back platform and watched the track. He felt as if he were in one of those aerial buckets which descend like eagles from the mines in the Marshall Basin; the engine appeared to proceed eastward of its own weight, impossible to check or turn back.

The uncertainty of finding Mary in the millions of the city weakened his resolution, but as he was aboard, and as the train slid while he pondered, descending, remorselessly, he determined to "stay with it" as he would with a bucking broncho.

Kansas City with its big depot sheds filled with clangor and swarming with emigrants gave him a foretaste of Chicago. Two of his companions proceeded to get drunk and became so offensive that he was forced to cuff them into quiet. This depressed him also--he had no other defense but his hands. His revolvers were put away in his valise where they could not be reached in a hurry. Reynolds had said to him, "Now, Mose, you're going into a country where they settle things with fists, so leave your guns at home. Keep cool and don't mix in where there's no call to mix in. If a man gives you lip--walk off and leave him--don't hunt your guns."

Mose had also purchased a "hard" hat and shaved off his mustache in Canon City, and Reynolds himself would not have known him as he sauntered about the station room. Every time he lifted his fingers to his mustache he experienced a shock, and coming before a big mirror over the fireplace he stared with amazement--so boyish and so sorrowful did he appear to himself. It seemed as though he were playing a part.

As the train drew out of the town, night was falling and the East grew mysterious as the thitherward side of the river of death. Familiar things were being left behind. Uncertainties thickened like the darkness. All night long the engine hooted and howled and jarred along through the deep darkness, and every time the train stopped the cattle and sheep were inspected. Lanterns held aloft disclosed cattle being trampled to death and sheep smothering. Wild shouting, oaths, broke forth accompanied by thumpings, and the rumbling and creaking of cars as the cattle surged to and fro, and at the end, circles of fire--lanterns signaling "Go ahead"--caused a wild rush for the caboose.

Morning brought to light a land of small farms, with cattle in minute pastures, surrounded by stacks of hay and grain, plowed fields, threshing crews, and teams plodding to and fro on dusty roads. The plainsman was gone, the prairie farmer filled the landscape. Towns thickened and grew larger. At noon the freight lay at a siding to let the express trains come in at a populous city, and in the wait Mose found time to pace the platform. The people were better dressed, the cowboy hat was absent, and nearly everybody wore not merely a coat but a vest and linen collar. Some lovely girls looking crisp as columbines or plains' poppies looked at him from the doors of the parlor cars. They suggested Mary to him, of course, and made him realize how far he was getting from the range.

These dainty girls looked and acted like some of those he had seen in Canon City and the Springs. They walked with the same step and held their dresses the same way. That must be the fashion, he thought. The men of the town were less solemn than plainsmen, they smiled oftener and they joked more easily. Mose wondered how so many of them made a living in one place. He heard one girl say to another, "Yes--but he's awful sad looking, don't you think so?" and it was some minutes before he began to understand that they were talking about him. Then he wished he knew what else they had said.

There was little chance to see the towns for the train whirled through them with furious jangle of bell and whiz of steam--or else drew up in the freight yard a long way out from the station. When night fell on this, the third day, they were nearing the Great River and all the cattlemen were lamenting the fact. Those who had been over the line before said:

"Too bad, fellers! You'd ought to see the Mississippi, she's a loo-loo. The bridge, too, is worth seein'."

During the evening there was a serious talk about hotels and the amusements to be had. One faction, led by McCleary, of Currant Creek, stood for the "Drovers' Home." "It's right out near the stockyards an' it's a good place. Dollar a day covers everything, unless you want a big room, which is a quarter extra. Grub is all right--and some darn nice girls waitin' on the table, too."

But Thompson who owned the sheep was contemptuous. "I want to be in town; I don't go to Chicago to live out in the stockyards; I want to be where things go by. I ante my valise at the Grand Palace or the New Merchants'; the best is good enough for me."

McCleary looked a little put down. "Well, that's all right for a man who can afford it. I've got a big family and I wouldn't feel right to be blowing in two or three dollars a day just for style."

"Wherever the girls are thickest, there's where you'll find me," said one of the young fellows.

"That's me," said another.

Thompson smiled with a superior air. "You fellers'll bring up down on South Clark Street before you end. Some choice dive on the levee is gappin' for you. Now, mind you, I won't bail you out. You go into the game with your eyes open," he said, and his banter was highly pleasing to the accused ones.

McCleary turned to Harold, whom he knew only as "Hank," and said:

"Hank, you ain't sayin' a word; what're your plans?"

"I'll stay with you as long as you need me."

"All right; I'll take care o' you then."

Night fell before they came in sight of the city. They were woefully behindhand and everything delayed them. After a hundred hesitations succeeded by fierce forward dashes, after switching this way and that, they came to a final halt in a jungle of freight cars, a chaos of mysterious activities, and a dense, hot, steaming atmosphere that oppressed and sickened the men from the mountains. Lanterns sparkled and looped and circled, and fierce cries arose. Engines snorted in sullen labor, charging to and fro, aimlessly it appeared. And all around cattle were bawling, sheep were pleading for release, and swine lifted their piercing protests against imprisonment.

"Here we are, in Chicago!" said McCleary, who always entered the city on that side. "Now, fellers, watch out for yourselves. Keep your hands on your wallets and don't blow out the electric light."

"Oh, you go to hell," was their jocular reply.

"We're no spring chickens."

"You go up against this town, my boys, and you'll think you're just out o' the shell."

Mose said nothing. He had the indifferent air of a man who had been often to the great metropolis and knew exactly what he wished to do.

It was after twelve o'clock when the crowd of noisy cattlemen tramped into the Drovers' Home, glad of a safe ending of their trip. They were all boisterous and all of them were liquorous except Harold, who drank little and remained silent and uncommunicative. He had been most efficient in all ways and McCleary was grateful and filled with admiration of him. He had taken him without knowing who he was, merely because Reynolds requested it, but he now said:

"Hank, you're a jim-dandy; I want you. When you've had your spree here, you come back with me and I'll do the right thing by ye."

Harold thanked him in offhand phrase and went early to bed.

He had not slept in a hotel bed since the night in Marmion when Jack was with him, and the wonderful charm and mystery and passion of those two days, so intimately wrought in with passionate memories of Mary, came back upon him now, keeping him awake till nearly dawn. He arose late and yet found only McCleary at breakfast; the other men had remained so long in the barroom that sleep and drunkenness came together.

After breakfast Harold wandered out into the street. To his left a hundred towers of dull gray smoke rose, and prodigious buildings set in empty spaces were like the cliffs of red stone in the Quirino. Beyond, great roofs thickened in the haze, farther on in that way lay Chicago, and somewhere in that welter, that tumult, that terror of the unknown, lived Mary.

With McCleary he took a car that galloped like a broncho, and started for the very heart of the mystery. As the crowds thickened, as the cars they met grew more heavily laden, McCleary said:

"My God! Where are they all goin'? How do they all make a livin'?"

"That beats me," said Harold. "Seems as if they eat up all the grub in the world."

The older man sighed. "Well, I reckon they know what they're doin', but I'd hate to take my chances among 'em."

If any man had told Harold before he started that he would grow irresolute and weak in the presence of the city he would have bitterly resented it, but now the mass and weight of things hitherto unimagined appalled and bewildered him.

A profound melancholy settled over his heart as the smoke and gray light of the metropolis closed in over his head. For half a day he did little more than wander up and down Clark Street. His ears, acute as a hound's, took hold of every sound and attempted to identify it, just as his eyes seized and tried to understand the forms and faces of the swarming pavements. He felt his weakness as never before and it made him sullen and irritable. He acknowledged also the folly of thrusting himself into such a world, and had it not been for a certain tenacity of purpose which was beyond his will, he would have returned with his companions at the end of their riotous week.

Up till the day of their going he had made no effort to find Mary but had merely loitered in the streets in the daytime, and at night had visited the cheap theaters, not knowing the good from the bad. The city grew each day more vast and more hateful to him. The mere thought of being forced to earn a living in such a mad tumult made him shudder. The day that McCleary started West Harold went to see him off, and after they had shaken hands for the last time, Harold went to the ticket window and handed in his return coupon to the agent, saying, "I'd like to have you put that aside for me; I don't want to run any chances of losing it."

The agent smiled knowingly. "All right, what name?"

"Excell, 'XL,' that's my brand."

"All right, she's right here any time you want her--inside of the thirty days--time runs out on the fifteenth."

"I savvy," said Harold as he turned away.

He disposed his money about his person in four or five small wads, and so fortified, faced the city. To lose his little fund would be like having his pack mule give out in the desert, and he took every precaution against such a calamity.

Nothing of this uncertainty and inner weakness appeared in his outward actions, however. No one accused him of looking like an "easy mark" or "a soft thing." The line of his lips and the lower of his strongly marked eyebrows made strangers slow of approach. He was never awkward, he could not be so any more than could a fox or a puma, but he was restless, irresolute, brooding, and gloomy.

He moved down to the Occidental Grand, where he was able to secure a room on the top floor for fifty cents per day. His meals he picked up wherever he chanced to be when feeling hungry. When weary with his wanderings he often returned to his seat on the sidewalk before the hotel and watched the people pass, finding in this a melancholy pleasure.

One evening the night clerk, a brisk young fellow, took a seat beside him. "This is a great corner for the girls all right. A feller can just about take his pick here along about eight. They're after a ticket to the theater and a supper. If a feller only has a few seemolleons to spare he can have a life worth livin'."

Mose turned a curious glance upon him. "If you wanted to find a party in this town how would you go at it?"

"Well, I'd try the directory first go-off. If I didn't find him there I'd write to some of his folks, if I knew any of 'em, and get a clew. If I didn't succeed then I'd try the police. What's his name?"

Harold ignored this query.

"Where could I try this directory?"

"There's one right in there on the desk."

"That big book?"


"I didn't know what that was. I thought it was a dictionary."

The clerk shrieked with merriment. "The dictionary! Well, say, where have you been raised?"

"On the range."

"You mean cowboy?"

"Yes; we don't need directories out there. Does that book tell where everybody lives?"

"Well no, but most everybody shows up in it somewhere," replied the clerk quite soberly. It had not occurred to him that anybody could live outside a directory.

Harold got up and went to the book which he turned over slowly, looking at the names. "I don't see that this helps a man much," he said to the clerk who came in to help him. "Here is Henry Coleman lives at 2201 Exeter Street. Now how is a man going to find that street?"

"Ask a policeman," replied the clerk, much interested. "You're not used to towns?"

"Not much. I can cross a mountain range easier than I can find one of these streets."

Under the clerk's supervision Harold found the Yardwells, Thomas and James, but Mary's name did not appear. He turned to conservatories and located three or four, and having made out a slip of information set forth. The first one he found to be situated up several flights of stairs and was closed; so was the second. The third was in a brilliantly lighted building which towered high above the street. On the eighth floor in a small office a young girl with severe cast of countenance (and hair parted on one side) looked up from her writing and coldly inquired:

"Is there anything I can do for you?"

"Is there a girl named Mary Yardwell in your school?" he asked with some effort, feeling a hot flush in his cheek--a sensation new to him.

"I don't think so, I'll look," replied the girl with business civility. She thumbed a book to see and at length replied, "No, sir, there is not."

"Much obliged."

"Not at all," replied the girl calmly, resuming her work.

Harold went down the steps to avoid the elevator. The next place was oppressive with its grandeur. A tremendous wall, cold and dark (except for a single row of lighted windows), loomed high overhead. In the center of an arched opening in this wall a white hot globe flamed, lighting into still more dazzling cleanliness a broad flight of marble steps which led by a half turn to unknown regions above. Young people were crowding into the elevator, girls in dainty costumes predominating. They seemed wondrously flowerlike and birdlike to the plainsman, and brought back his school days at the seminary, and the time when he was at ease with young people like this. He had gone far from them now--their happy faces made him sad.

He walked up the stairway, four flights, and came to a long hall, which rustled and rippled and sparkled with flights of young girls--eager, vivid, excited, and care-free. A few men moved about like dull-coated robins surrounded by orioles and canary birds.

A bland old man with clean-shaven mouth seemed to be the proper source of information, and to him Harold stepped with his question.

The old man smiled. "Miss Yardwell? Yes--she is one of our most valued pupils. Certainly--Willy!" he called to a small boy who carried a livery of startling newness, "go tell Miss Yardwell a gentleman would like to see her."

"I suppose you are from her country home?" said the old gentleman, who imagined a romance in this relation of a powerful and handsome young man to Miss Yardwell.

"I am," Harold replied briefly.

"Take a seat--she will be here presently."

Harold took the offered seat with a sick, faint feeling at the pit of his stomach. The long-hoped-for event was at hand. It seemed impossible that Mary could be there--that she was about to stand before him. His mind was filled with the things he had arranged to say to her, but they were now in confused mass, circling and circling like the wrack of a boat in a river's whirlpool.

He knew her far down the hall--he recognized the poise of her head and her walk, which had always been very fine and dignified. As she approached, the radiance of her dress, her beauty, scared him. She looked at him once and then at the clerk as if to say, "Is this the man?"

Then Harold arose and said, "Well, Mary, here I am."

For an instant she looked at him, and then a light leaped into her eyes.

"Why, Harold Excell!----" she stopped abruptly as he caught her outstretched hands, and she remembered the sinister association of the name. "Why, why, I didn't know you. Where do you come from?" Her face was flushed, her eyes eager, searching, restless. "Come in here," she said abruptly, and before he had time to reply, she led him to a little anteroom with a cushioned wall seat, and they took seats side by side.

"It is impossible!" she said, still staring at him, her bosom pulsating with her quickened breath. "It is not you--it can't be you," she whispered, "Black Mose sitting here--with me--in Chicago. You're in danger."

"I don't feel that way."

He smiled for the first time, and his fine teeth shining from his handsome mouth led her to say:

"Your big mustaches are gone--that's the reason I didn't know you at once--I don't believe I like you so well----"

"They'll grow again," he said; "I'm in disguise." He smiled again as if in a joke.

Again the thought of who he really was flamed through her mind. "What a life you lead! How do you happen to be here? I never expected to see you in a city--you don't fit into a city."

"I'm here because you are," he replied, and the simplicity of his reply moved her deeply. "I came as soon as I got your letter," he went on.

"My letter! I've written only one letter, that was soon after your visit to Marmion."

"That's the one I mean. I got it nearly four years after you wrote it. I hope you haven't changed since that letter."

"I'm older," she said evasively. "My father died a little over a year ago."

"I know, Jack wrote me."

"Why didn't you get my letter sooner?"

"I was on the trail."

"On the trail! You are always on the trail. Oh, the wild life you lead! I saw notices of you once or twice--always in some trouble." She looked at him smilingly but there was sadness in her smile.

"It's no fault of mine," he exclaimed. "I can't stand by and see some poor Indian or Chinaman bullied--and besides the papers always exaggerate everything I do. You mustn't condemn me till you hear my side of these scrapes."

"I don't condemn you at all but it makes me sad," she slowly replied. "You are wasting your life out there in the wild country--oh, isn't it strange that we should sit here? My mind is so busy with the wonder of it I can't talk straight. I had given up ever seeing you again----"

"You're not married?" he asked with startling bluntness.

She colored hotly. "No."

"Are you engaged?"

"No," she replied faintly.

"Then you're mine!" he said with a clutch upon her wrist, a masterful intensity of passion in his eyes.

"Don't--please don't!" she said, "they will see you."

"I don't care if they do!" he exultingly said; then his face darkened. "But perhaps you are ashamed of me?"

"Oh, no, no--only----"

"I couldn't blame you if you were," he said bitterly. "I'm only a poor devil of a mountaineer, not fit to sit here beside you."

"Tell me about yourself," she hastened to say. "What have you been doing all these years?" She was determined to turn him from his savage arraignment of himself.

"It won't amount to much in your eyes. It isn't worth as much to me as I thought it was going to be. When I found King had your promise--I hit the trail and I didn't care where it led, so it didn't double on itself. I didn't want to see or hear anything of you again. What became of King? Why did you turn him loose?"

Her eyelids fell to shut out his gaze. "Well--after your visit I couldn't find courage to fulfill my promise--and so I asked him to release me--and he did--he was very kind."

"He couldn't do anything else."

"Go on with your story," she said hurriedly.

As they sat thus in the corner of the little sitting room, the pupils and guests of the institution came and went from the cloak rooms, eyeing the intent couple with smiling and curious glances. Who could that dark, handsome young man be who held Miss Yardwell with his glittering eyes? The girls found something very interesting in his bronzed skin and in the big black hat which he held in his hands.

On his part Harold did not care--he scarcely noticed these figures. Their whispers were as unimportant as the sound of aspen leaves, their footfalls as little to be heeded as those of rabbits on the pine needles of his camp. Before him sat the one human being in the world who could command him and she was absorbed in interest of his story. He grew to a tense, swift, eager narration as he went on. It pleased him to see her glow with interest and enthusiasm over the sights and sounds of the wild country. At last he ended.

"And so--I feel as though I could settle down--if I only had you. The trail got lonesome that last year--I didn't suppose it would--but it did. After three years of it I was glad to get back to my old friends, the Reynolds. I thought of you every day--but I didn't listen to hear you sing, because I thought you were King's wife--I didn't want to hear about you ever--but that's all past now--I am here and you are here. Will you go back to the mountains with me this time?"

She looked away. "Come and see me to-morrow, I must think of this. It is so hard to decide--our lives are so different----" She arose abruptly. "I must go now. Come into the concert, I'm going to sing." She glanced at him in a sad, half-smiling way. "I can't sing If I Were a Voice for you, but perhaps you'll like my aria better."

As they walked along the corridor together they formed a singularly handsome couple. He was clad in a well-worn but neat black suit, which he wore with grace. His big-rimmed black hat was crushed in his left hand. Mary was in pale blue which became her well, and on her softly rounded face a thoughtful smile rested. She always walked with uncommon dignity, and the eyes of many young men followed her. There was something about her companion not quite analyzable to her city friends--something alien and savage and admirable.

Entering the hall they found it well filled, but Mary secured a seat near the side door for Harold, and with a smile said, "I may not see you till to-morrow. Here is my address. Come up early. At three. I want a long talk with you."

Left to himself the plainsman looked around the hall which seemed a splendid and spacious one to him. It was filled with ladies in beautiful costumes, and with men in clawhammer coats. He had seen pictures of evening suits in the newspapers but never before had he been privileged to behold live men in them. The men seemed pale and puny for the most part. He had never before seen ladies in low-necked dresses and one just before him seemed shamelessly naked, and he gazed at her in astonishment. He was glad Mary had more modesty.

The concert interested him but did not move him. The songs were brilliant but without meaning. He waited with fierce impatience for Mary to come on, and during this wait he did an inordinate amount of thinking. A hundred new conceptions came into his besieged brain--engaging but by no means confusing him. He perceived that Mary was already as much a part of this high-colored life as she had been of the life of Marmion, quite at ease, certain of herself, and the canon between them widened swiftly. She was infinitely further away from him than before. His cause now entirely hopeless, he had no right to ask any such sacrifice of her--even if she were ready to make it.

As she stepped out upon the stage in the glare of the light, she seemed as far from him as the roseate crown of snow on Sierra Blanca, and he shivered with a sort of awe. Her singing moved him less than her delicate beauty--but her voice and the pretty way she had of lifting her chin thrilled him just as when he sat in the little church at Marmion. The flowerlike texture of her skin and the exquisite grace of her hands plunged him into gloom.

He did not join in the generous applause which followed--he wondered if she would sing If I Were a Voice for him. He felt a numbness creeping over his limbs and he drew his breath like one in pain. Mary looked pale as a lily as she returned and stood waiting for the applause to die away. Then out over the tense audience, straight toward him, soared her voice quivering with emotion--she dared to sing the old song for him.

Suddenly all sense of material things passed from the wild heart of the plainsman. He saw only the singer who stood in the center of a white flame. A soft humming roar was in his ears like the falling of rain drops on the leaves of maple trees. He remembered the pale little girl in the prison--this was not Mary--but she had the voice and the spirit of Mary----

Then the song stopped! The singer went away--the white light went with her and the yellow glare of lamps came back. He heard the passionate applause--he saw Mary reappear and bow, a sad smile on her face--a smile which he alone could understand--her heart was full of pity for him. Then once more she withdrew, and staggering like one suffering from vertigo--the eagle-hearted youth went out of the hall and down the polished stairway like an outcast soul, descending from paradise into hell.

That radiant singer was not for such as Black Mose.

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