The stage line which ran from Williams
to Bear Tooth (one of the most authentic then to be
found in all the West) possessed at least one genuine
Concord coach, so faded, so saddened, so cracked, and
so splintered that its passengers entered it under
protest, and alighted from it with thanksgiving, and
yet it must have been built by honorable men, for
in 190- it still made the run of one hundred and twenty
miles twice each week without loss of wheel or even
so much as moulting a scrap of paint.
And yet, whatever it may have been
in its youth, it was in its age no longer a gay dash
of color in the landscape. On the contrary, it
fitted into the dust-brown and sage-green plain as
defensively as a beetle in a dusty path. Nevertheless,
it was an indispensable part of a very moving picture
as it crept, creaking and groaning (or it may be it
was the suffering passenger creaking and groaning),
along the hillside.
After leaving the Grande River the
road winds up a pretty high divide before plunging
down into Ute Park, as they call all that region lying
between the Continental Range on the east and the Bear
Tooth plateau on the west. It was a big spread
of land, and very far from an Eastern man’s
conception of a park. From Dome Peak it seems
a plain; but, in fact, when clouds shut off the high
summits to the west, this “valley” becomes
a veritable mountain land, a tumbled, lonely country,
over which an occasional horseman crawls, a minute
but persistent insect. It is, to be exact, a
succession of ridges and ravines, sculptured (in some
far-off, post-glacial time) by floods of water, covered
now, rather sparsely, with piñóns, cedars, and
aspens, a dry, forbidding, but majestic landscape.
In late August the hills become iridescent,
opaline with the translucent yellow of the aspen,
the coral and crimson of the fire-weed, the blood-red
of huckleberry beds, and the royal purple of the asters,
while flowing round all, as solvent and neutral setting,
lies the gray-green of the ever-present and ever-enduring
sage-brush. On the loftier heights these colors
are arranged in most intricate and cunning patterns,
with nothing hard, nothing flaring in the prospect.
All is harmonious and restful. It is, moreover,
silent, silent as a dream world, and so flooded with
light that the senses ache with the stress of it.
Through this gorgeous land of mist,
of stillness, and of death, a few years ago a pale
young man (seated beside the driver) rode one summer
day in a voiceless rapture which made Bill McCoy weary.
“If you’d had as much
of this as I have you’d talk of something else,”
he growled, after a half dozen attempts at conversation.
Bill wasn’t much to look at, but he was a good
driver and the stranger respected him for it.
Eventually this simple-minded horseman
became curious about the slim young fellow sitting
“What you doing out here, anyhow fishing
or just rebuilding a lung?”
“Rebuilding two lungs,” answered the tourist.
“Well, this climate will just
about put lungs into a coffee-can,” retorted
Bill, with official loyalty to his country.
To his discerning eye “the tourist”
now became “a lunger.” “Where
do you live when you’re to home?”
“I knew it.”
“How did you know it?” The youth seemed
really interested to know.
“I drove another fellow up here
last fall that dealt out the same kind of brogue you
This amused the tourist. “You think I have
a ‘brogue,’ do you?”
“I don’t think it I know it!”
Bill replied, shortly.
He was prevented at the moment from
pursuing this line of inquiry by the discovery of
a couple of horsemen racing from a distant ranch toward
the road. It was plain, even to the stranger,
that they intended to intercept the stage, and Bill
plied the lash with sudden vigor.
“I’ll give ’em a chase,” said
The other appeared a little alarmed, “What are
“Bandits!” sneered Bill. “Your
eyesight is piercing. Them’s girls.”
The traveler apologized. “My eyes aren’t
very good,” he said, hurriedly.
He was, however, quite justified in
his mistake, for both riders wore wide-rimmed sombreros
and rode astride at a furious pace, bandanas fluttering,
skirts streaming, and one was calling in shrill command,
As they neared the gate the driver
drew up with a word of surprise. “Why,
howdy, girls, howdy!” he said, with an assumption
of innocence. “Were you wishin’ fer
to speak to me?”
“Oh, shut up!” commanded
one of the girls, a round-faced, freckled romp.
“You know perfectly well that Berrie is going
home to-day we told you all about it yesterday.”
“Sure thing!” exclaimed Bill. “I’d
forgot all about it.”
exclaimed the maid. “You’ve been countin’
the hours till you got here I know you.”
Meanwhile her companion had slipped
from her horse. “Well, good-by, Molly,
wish I could stay longer.”
“Good-by. Run down again.”
“I will. You come up.”
The young passenger sprang to the
ground and politely said: “May I help you
Bill stared, the girl smiled, and her companion called:
Berrie, don’t hurt yourself, the wagon might
The youth, perceiving that he had
made another mistake, stammered an apology.
The girl perceived his embarrassment
and sweetly accepted his hand. “I am much
obliged, all the same.”
Bill shook with malicious laughter.
“Out in this country girls are warranted to
jump clean over a measly little hack like this,”
The girl took a seat in the back corner
of the dusty vehicle, and Bill opened conversation
with her by asking what kind of a time she had been
having “in the East.”
“Fine,” said she.
“Did ye get as far back as my old town?”
“What town is that, Bill?”
“Oh, come off! You know I’m from
“No, I only got as far as South Bend.”
The picture which the girl had made
as she dashed up to the pasture gate (her hat-rim
blown away from her brown face and sparkling eyes),
united with the kindliness in her voice as she accepted
his gallant aid, entered a deep impression on the
tourist’s mind; but he did not turn his head
to look at her perhaps he feared Bill’s
elbow quite as much as his guffaw but he
listened closely, and by listening learned that she
had been “East” for several weeks, and
also that she was known, and favorably known, all
along the line, for whenever they met a team or passed
a ranch some one called out, “Hello, Berrie!”
in cordial salute, and the men, old and young, were
especially pleased to see her.
Meanwhile the stage rose and fell
over the gigantic swells like a tiny boat on a monster
sea, while the sun blazed ever more fervently from
the splendid sky, and the hills glowed with ever-increasing
tumult of color. Through this land of color,
of repose, of romance, the young traveler rode, drinking
deep of the germless air, feeling that the girl behind
him was a wondrous part of this wild and unaccountable
He had no chance to study her face
again till the coach rolled down the hill to “Yancy’s,”
where they were to take dinner and change horses.
Yancy’s ranch-house stood on
the bank of a fine stream which purled in
keen defiance of the hot sun over a gravel
bed, so near to the mountain snows that their coolness
still lingered in the ripples. The house, a long,
low, log hut, was fenced with antlers of the elk, adorned
with morning-glory vines, and shaded by lofty cottonwood-trees,
and its green grass-plat after the sun-smit
hills of the long morning’s ride was
very grateful to the Eastern man’s eyes.
With intent to show Bill that he did
not greatly fear his smiles, the youth sprang down
and offered a hand to assist his charming fellow-passenger
to alight; and she, with kindly understanding, again
accepted his aid to Bill’s chagrin and
they walked up the path side by side.
“This is all very new and wonderful
to me,” the young man said in explanation; “but
I suppose it’s quite commonplace to you and
“Oh no it’s home!”
“You were born here?”
“No, I was born in the East;
but I’ve lived here ever since I was three years
“By East you mean Kansas?”
“No, Missouri,” she laughed back at him.
She was taller than most women, and
gave out an air of fine unconscious health which made
her good to see, although her face was too broad to
be pretty. She smiled easily, and her teeth were
white and even. Her hand he noticed was as strong
as steel and brown as leather. Her neck rose from
her shoulders like that of an acrobat, and she walked
with the sense of security which comes from self-reliant
She was met at the door by old lady
Yancy, who pumped her hand up and down, exclaiming:
“My stars, I’m glad to see ye back!
’Pears like the country is just naturally goin’
to the dogs without you. The dance last Saturday
was a frost, so I hear, no snap to the fiddlin’,
no gimp to the jiggin’. It shorely was
Yancy himself, tall, grizzled, succinct,
shook her hand in his turn. “Ma’s
right, girl, the country needs ye. I’m scared
every time ye go away fer fear some feller will
snap ye up.”
She laughed. “No danger.
Well, how are ye all, anyway?” she asked.
“All well, ‘ceptin’
me,” said the little old woman. “I’m
just about able to pick at my vittles.”
“She does her share o’
the work, and half the cook’s besides,”
“I know her,” retorted
Berrie, as she laid off her hat. “It’s
me for a dip. Gee, but it’s dusty on the
The young tourist he signed
W. W. Norcross in Yancy’s register watched
her closely and listened to every word she spoke with
an intensity of interest which led Mrs. Yancy to say,
“’Pears like that young
‘lunger’ ain’t goin’ to forgit
you if he can help it.”
“What makes you think he’s a ’lunger’?”
“Don’t haf to think. One look at
him is enough.”
Thereafter a softer light the
light of pity shone in the eyes of the
girl. “Poor fellow, he does look kind o’
peaked; but this climate will bring him up to the
scratch,” she added, with optimistic faith in
her beloved hills.
A moment later the down-coming stage
pulled in, loaded to the side-lines, and everybody
on it seemed to know Berea McFarlane. It was hello
here and hello there, and how are ye between, with
smacks from the women and open cries of “pass
it around” on the part of the men, till Norcross
marveled at the display.
“She seems a great favorite,” he observed
She’s the whole works up at Bear Tooth.
Good thing she don’t want to go to Congress she’d
lay Jim Worthy on the shelf.”
Berea’s popularity was not so
remarkable as her manner of receiving it. She
took it all as a sort of joke a good, kindly
joke. She shook hands with her male admirers,
and smacked the cheeks of her female friends with
an air of modest deprecation. “Oh, you don’t
mean it,” was one of her phrases. She enjoyed
this display of affection, but it seemed not to touch
her deeply, and her impartial, humorous acceptance
of the courtship of the men was equally charming,
though this was due, according to remark, to the claims
of some rancher up the line.
She continued to be the theme of conversation
at the dinner-table and yet remained unembarrassed,
and gave back quite as good as she received.
“If I was Cliff,” declared
one lanky admirer, “I’d be shot if I let
you out of my sight. It ain’t safe.”
She smiled broadly. “I don’t feel
“Oh, you’re all
right! It’s the other feller like
me that gets hurt.”
“Don’t worry, you’re
old enough and tough enough to turn a steel-jacketed
This raised a laugh, and Mrs. Yancy,
who was waiting on the table, put in a word:
“I’ll board ye free, Berrie, if you’ll
jest naturally turn up here regular at meal-time.
You do take the fellers’ appetites. It’s
the only time I make a cent.”
To the Eastern man this was all very
unrestrained and deeply diverting. The people
seemed to know all about one another notwithstanding
the fact that they came from ranches scattered up
and down the stage line twenty, thirty miles apart to
be neighbors in this country means to be anywhere
within a sixty-mile ride and they gossiped
of the countryside as minutely as the residents of
a village in Wisconsin discuss their kind. News
The north-bound coach got away first,
and as the girl came out to take her place, Norcross
said: “Won’t you have my seat with
She dropped her voice humorously.
“No, thank you, I can’t stand for Bill’s
Norcross understood. She didn’t
relish the notion of being so close to the frankly
amorous driver, who neglected no opportunity to be
personal; therefore, he helped her to her seat inside
and resumed his place in front.
Bill, now broadly communicative, minutely
detailed his tastes in food, horses, liquors, and
saddles in a long monologue which would have been
tiresome to any one but an imaginative young Eastern
student. Bill had a vast knowledge of the West,
but a distressing habit of repetition. He was
self-conscious, too, for the reason that he was really
talking for the benefit of the girl sitting in critical
silence behind him, who, though he frequently turned
to her for confirmation of some of the more startling
of his statements, refused to be drawn into controversy.
In this informing way some ten miles
were traversed, the road climbing ever higher, and
the mountains to right and left increasing in grandeur
each hour, till of a sudden and in a deep valley on
the bank of another swift stream, they came upon a
squalid saloon and a minute post-office. This
was the town of Moskow.
Bill, lumbering down over the wheel,
took a bag of mail from the boot and dragged it into
the cabin. The girl rose, stretched herself, and
said: “This stagin’ is slow business.
I’m cramped. I’m going to walk on
“May I go with you?” asked Norcross.
“Sure thing! Come along.”
As they crossed the little pole bridge
which spanned the flood, the tourist exclaimed:
“What exquisite water! It’s like melted
“Comes right down from the snow,”
she answered, impressed by the poetry of his simile.
He would gladly have lingered, listening
to the song of the water, but as she passed on, he
followed. The opposite hill was sharp and the
road stony, but as they reached the top the young
Easterner called out, “See the savins!”
Before them stood a grove of cedars,
old, gray, and drear, as weirdly impressive as the
cacti in a Mexican desert. Torn by winds, scarred
by lightnings, deeply rooted, tenacious as tradition,
unlovely as Egyptian mummies, fantastic, dwarfed and
blackened, these unaccountable creatures clung to
the ledges. The dead mingled horribly with the
living, and when the wind arose the wind
that was robustly cheerful on the high hills these
hags cried out with low moans of infinite despair.
It was as if they pleaded for water or for deliverance
from a life that was a kind of death.
The pale young man shuddered.
“What a ghostly place!” he exclaimed, in
a low voice. “It seems the burial-place
of a vanished race.”
Something in his face, some note in
his voice profoundly moved the girl. For the
first time her face showed something other than childish
good nature and a sense of humor. “I don’t
like these trees myself,” she answered.
“They look too much like poor old squaws.”
For a few moments the man and the
maid studied the forest of immemorial, gaunt, and
withered trees bright, impermanent youth
confronting time-defaced and wind-torn age. Then
the girl spoke: “Let’s get out of
here. I shall cry if we don’t.”
In a few moments the dolorous voices
were left behind, and the cheerful light of the plain
reasserted itself. Norcross, looking back down
upon the cedars, which at a distance resembled a tufted,
bronze-green carpet, musingly asked: “What
do you suppose planted those trees there?”
The girl was deeply impressed by the
novelty of this query. “I never thought
to ask. I reckon they just grew.”
“No, there’s a reason
for all these plantings,” he insisted.
“We don’t worry ourselves
much about such things out here,” she replied,
with charming humor. “We don’t even
worry about the weather. We just take things
as they come.”
They walked on talking with new intimacy.
“Where is your home?” he asked.
“A few miles out of Bear Tooth.
You’re from the East, Bill says ’the
far East,’ we call it.”
“From New Haven. I’ve
just finished at Yale. Have you ever been to New
“Oh, good Lord, no!” she
answered, as though he had named the ends of the earth.
“My mother came from the South she
was born in Kentucky that accounts for
my name, and my father is a Missourian. Let’s
see, Yale is in the state of Connecticut, isn’t
“Connecticut is no longer a
state; it is only a suburb of New York City.”
“Is that so? My geography calls it ‘The
“Your geography is behind the
times. New York has absorbed all of Connecticut
and part of Jersey.”
“Well, it’s all the same
to us out here. Your whole country looks like
the small end of a slice of pie to us.”
“Have you ever been in a city?”
“Oh yes, I go to Denver once
in a while, and I saw St. Louis once; but I was only
a yearling, and don’t remember much about it.
What are you doing out here, if it’s a fair
He looked away at the mountains.
“I got rather used up last spring, and my doctor
said I’d better come out here for a while and
build up. I’m going up to Meeker’s
Mill. Do you know where that is?”
“I know every stove-pipe in
this park,” she answered. “Joe Meeker
is kind o’ related to me uncle by
marriage. He lives about fifteen miles over the
hill from Bear Tooth.”
This fact seemed to bring them still
closer together. “I’m glad of that,”
he said, pointedly. “Perhaps I shall be
permitted to see you now and again? I’m
going to be lonesome for a while, I’m afraid.”
“Don’t you believe it!
Joe Meeker’s boys will keep you interested,”
she assured him.
The stage overtook them at this point,
and Bill surlily remarked: “If you’d
been alone, young feller, I’d ‘a’
give you a chase.” His resentment of the
outsider’s growing favor with the girl was ludicrously
As they rose into the higher levels
the aspen shook its yellowish leaves in the breeze,
and the purple foot-hills gained in majesty. Great
new peaks came into view on the right, and the lofty
cliffs of the Bear Tooth range loomed in naked grandeur
high above the blue-green of the pines which clothed
their sloping eastern sides.
At intervals the road passed small
log ranches crouching low on the banks of creeks;
but aside from these and the sparse animal
life around them no sign of settlement
could be seen. The valley lay as it had lain
for thousands of years, repeating its forests as the
meadows of the lower levels send forth their annual
grasses. Norcross said to himself: “I
have circled the track of progress and have re-entered
the border America, where the stage-coach is still
the one stirring thing beneath the sun.”
At last the driver, with a note of
exultation, called out: “Grab a root, everybody,
it’s all the way down-hill and time to feed.”
And so, as the dusk came over the
mighty spread of the hills to the east, and the peaks
to the west darkened from violet to purple-black, the
stage rumbled and rattled and rushed down the winding
road through thickening signs of civilization, and
just at nightfall rolled into the little town of Bear
Tooth, which is the eastern gateway of the Ute Plateau.
Norcross had given a great deal of
thought to the young girl behind him, and thought
had deepened her charm. Her frankness, her humor,
her superb physical strength and her calm self-reliance
appealed to him, and the more dangerously, because
he was so well aware of his own weakness and loneliness,
and as the stage drew up before the hotel, he fervently
said: “I hope I shall see you again?”
Before she could reply a man’s
voice called: “Hello, there!” and
a tall fellow stepped up to her with confident mien.
Norcross awkwardly shrank away.
This was her cowboy lover, of course. It was
impossible that so attractive a girl should be unattached,
and the knowledge produced in him a faint but very
definite pang of envy and regret.
The happy girl, even in the excitement
of meeting her lover, did not forget the stranger.
She gave him her hand in parting, and again he thrilled
to its amazing power. It was small, but it was
like a steel clamp. “Stop in on your way
to Meeker’s,” she said, as a kindly man
would have done. “You pass our gate.
My father is Joseph McFarlane, the Forest Supervisor.
“Good night,” he returned, with sincere
“Who is that?” Norcross heard her companion
She replied in a low voice, but he
overheard her answer, “A poor ‘lunger,’
bound for Meeker’s and Kingdom Come,
I’m afraid. He seems a nice young feller,
“They always wait till the last
minute,” remarked the rancher, with indifferent