The Watchers


18. Seth's Duty Accomplished

"It's a great country. It astonishes me at every turn, madam; but it's too stirring for me. One gets used to things, I know, but this," with a wave of the arm in the direction of the Reservations, "these hair-raising Indians! Bless me, and you live so close to them!"

The crisp-faced, gray-headed little lawyer smiled in a sharp, angular manner in Ma Sampson's direction. The farmwife, arrayed in her best mission-going clothes, was ensconced in her husband's large parlor chair, which was sizes too big for her, and smiled back at him through her glasses.

Mr. Charles Irvine, the junior partner of the firm of solicitors, Rodgers, Son, and Irvine, of London, had made his final statement with regard to Rosebud, and had now given himself up to leisure.

There had been no difficulty. Seth's letter had stated all the facts of which he had command. It had been handed on to these solicitors. And what he had told them had been sufficient to bring one of the partners out to investigate. Nor had it taken this practical student of human nature long to realize the honesty of these folk, just as it had needed but one glance of comparison between Rosebud and the portrait of Marjorie Raynor, taken a few weeks before her disappearance, and which he had brought with him, to do the rest. The likeness was magical. The girl had scarcely changed at all, and it was difficult to believe that six years had elapsed since the taking of that portrait. After a long discussion with Seth the lawyer made his final statement to the assembled family.

"You quite understand that this case must go through the courts," he said gravely. "There is considerable property involved. For you, young lady, a long and tedious process. However, the matter will be easier than if there were others fighting for the estate. There are no others, because the will is entirely in your favor, in case of your mother's death. You have some cousins, and an aunt or two, all prepared to welcome you cordially; they are in no way your opponents; they will be useful in the matter of identification. The only other relative is this lost uncle. In taking you back to England I assume sole responsibility. I am convinced myself, therefore I unhesitatingly undertake to escort you, and, if you care to accept our hospitality, will hand you over to the charge of Mrs. Irvine and my daughters. And should the case go against you, a contingency which I do not anticipate for one moment, I will see that you return to your happy home here in perfect safety. I hope I state my case clearly, Mr. Sampson, and you, Mr. Seth. I," and the little man tapped the bosom of his shirt, "will personally guarantee Miss--er--Marjorie Raynor's safety and comfort."

Mr. Irvine beamed in his angular fashion upon Rosebud, in a way that emphatically said, "There, by that I acknowledge your identity."

But this man who felt sure, that, at much discomfort to himself, he was bringing joy into a poor household, was grievously disappointed, for one and all received his assurances as though each were a matter for grief. Seth remained silent, and Rube had no comment to offer. Rosebud forgot even to thank him.

Ma alone rose to the occasion, and she only by a great effort. But when the rest had, on various pretexts, drifted out of the parlor, she managed to give the man of law a better understanding of things. She gave him an insight into their home-life, and hinted at the grief this parting would be to them all, even to Rosebud. And he, keen man of business that he was, encouraged her to talk until she had told him all, even down to the previous night's work on the banks of the White River. Like many women who trust rather to the heart than to the head, Ma had thus done for Rosebud what no purely business procedure could have done. She had enlisted this cool-headed but kindly lawyer's sympathies. And that goes far when a verdict has to be obtained.

In response to the lawyer's horrified realization of the dangerous adjacency of the Reservations, Ma laughed in her gentle, assured manner.

"Maybe it seems queer to you, Mr. Irvine, but it isn't to us. We are used to it. As my Rube always says, says he, 'When our time comes ther' ain't no kickin' goin' to be done. Meanwhiles we'll keep a smart eye, an' ther's allus someun lookin' on to see fair play.'"

The old woman's reply gave this man, who had never before visited any place wilder than a European capital, food for reflection. This was his first glimpse of pioneer life, and he warmed toward the spirit, the fortitude which actuated these people. But he made a mental resolve that the sooner Miss Raynor was removed from the danger zone the better.

There was little work done on the farm that day. When Seth had finished with the lawyer he abruptly took himself away and spent most of the day among the troops. For one thing, he could not stay in the home which was so soon to lose Rosebud. It was one matter for him to carry out the duty he conceived to be his, and another to stand by and receive in silence the self-inflicted chastisement it brought with it. So, with that quiet spirit of activity which was his by nature, and which served him well now, he took his share in the work of the troops, for which his knowledge and experience so fitted him. The most experienced officers were ready to listen to him, for Seth was as well known in those disturbed regions as any of the more popular scouts who have found their names heading columns in the American daily press.

After supper he and Rube devoted themselves to the chores of the farm, and it was while he was occupied in the barn, and Rube was attending to the milch cows in another building, that he received an unexpected visit. He was working slowly, his wounded shoulder handicapping him sorely, for he found difficulty in bedding down the horses with only one available hand. Hearing a light footstep coming down the passage between the double row of stalls, he purposely continued his work.

Rosebud, for it was she, paused at the foot of the stall in which he was working. He glanced round and greeted her casually. The girl stood there a second, then she turned away, and, procuring a fork, proceeded to bed down the stall next to him.

Seth protested at once. Rosebud had never been allowed to do anything like this. His objection came almost roughly, but the girl ignored it and went on working.

"Say, gal, quit right there," he said, in an authoritative manner.

Rosebud laughed. But the old spirit was no longer the same. The light-hearted mirth had gone. Indeed, Rosebud was a child no longer. She was a woman, and it would have surprised these folk to know how serious-minded the last two days had made her.

"Even a prisoner going to be hanged is allowed to amuse himself as he pleases during his last hours, Seth," she responded, pitching out the bedding from under the manger with wonderful dexterity.

Seth flushed, and his eyes were anxious. No physical danger could have brought such an expression to them. It was almost as if he doubted whether what he had done was right. It was the doubt which at times assails the strongest, the most decided. He seemed to be seeking a suitable response, but his habit of silence handicapped him. At last he said--

"But he's goin' to be hanged."

"And so am I." Rosebud fired her retort with all the force of her suppressed passion. Then she laughed again in that hollow fashion, and the straw flew from her fork. "At least I am going out of the world--my world, the world I love, the only world I know. And for what?"

Seth labored steadily. His tongue was terribly slow.

"Ther's your friends, and--the dollars."

"Friends--dollars?" she replied scornfully, while the horse she was bedding moved fearfully away from her fork. "You are always thinking of my dollars. What do I want with dollars? And I am not going to friends. I have no father and mother but Pa and Ma. I have no friends but those who have cared for me these last six years. Why has this little man come out here to disturb me? Because he knows that if the dollars are mine he will make money out of me. He knows that, and for a consideration he will be my friend. Oh, I hate him and the dollars!"

The tide of the girl's passion overwhelmed Seth, and he hardly knew what to say. He passed into another stall and Rosebud did the same. The man was beginning to realize the unsuspected depths of this girl's character, and that, perhaps, after all, there might have been another mode of treatment than his line of duty as he had conceived it. He found an answer at last.

"Say, if I'd located this thing and had done nothin'----" he began. And she caught him up at once.

"I'd have thanked you," she said.

But Seth saw the unreasonableness of her reply.

"Now, Rosebud," he said gently, "you're talkin' foolish. An' you know it. What I did was only right by you. I'd 'a' been a skunk to have acted different. I lit on the trail o' your folk, don't matter how, an' I had to see you righted, come what might. Now it's done. An' I don't see wher' the hangin' comes in. Guess you ken come an' see Ma later, when things get quiet agin. I don't take it she hates you a heap."

He spoke almost cheerfully, trying hard to disguise what he really felt. He knew that with this girl's going all the light would pass out of his life. He dared not speak in any other way or his resolve would melt before the tide of feeling which he was struggling to repress. He would have given something to find excuse to leave the barn, but he made no effort to do so.

When Rosebud answered him her manner had changed. Seth thought that it was due to the reasonableness of his own arguments, but then his knowledge of women was trifling. The girl had read something underlying the man's words which he had not intended to be there, and had no knowledge of having expressed. Where a woman's affections are concerned a man is a simple study, especially if he permits himself to enter into debate. Seth's strength at all times lay in his silence. He was too honest for his speech not to betray him.

"Yes, I know, Seth, you are right and I am wrong," she said, and her tone was half laughing and half crying, and wholly penitent. "That's just it, I am always wrong. I have done nothing but bring you trouble. I am no help to you at all. Even this fresh trouble with the Indians is my doing. And none of you ever blame me. And--and I don't want to go away. Oh, Seth, you don't know how I want to stay! And you're packing me off like a naughty child. I am not even asked if I want to go." She finished up with that quick change to resentment so characteristic of her.

The touch of resentment saved Seth. He found it possible to answer her, which he did with an assumption of calmness he in no way felt. It was a pathetic little face that looked up into his. The girl's anger had brought a flush to her cheeks, but her beautiful eyes were as tearful as an April sky.

"Guess we've all got to do a heap o' things we don't like, Rosie; a mighty big heap. An' seems to me the less we like 'em the more sure it is they're right for us to do. Some folks calls it 'duty.'"

"And you think it's my duty to go?"

Seth nodded.

"My duty, the same as it was your duty always to help me out when I got into some scrape?"

Without a thought Seth nodded again, and was at once answered by that hollow little laugh which he found so jarring.

"I hate duty! But, since I have had your splendid example before me for six years, it has forced on me the necessity of trying to be like you." The girl's sarcasm was harsh, but Seth ignored it.

As she went on her mood changed again. "I was thinking while that old man was talking so much," she said slowly, "how I shall miss Pa, and Ma, and old General. And I can't bear the idea of leaving even the horses and cattle, and the grain fields. I don't know whatever the little papooses at the Mission will do without me. I wonder if all the people who do their duty feel like that about things? They can't really, or they wouldn't want to do it, and would just be natural and--and human sometimes. Think of it, Seth, I'm going to leave all this beautiful sunshine for the fog of London just for the sake of duty. I begin to feel quite good. Then, you see, when I'm rich I shall have so much to do with my money--so many duties--that I shall have no time to think of White River Farm at all. And if I do happen to squeeze in a thought, perhaps just before I go to sleep at night, it'll be such a comfort to think everybody here is doing their duty. You see nothing else matters, does it?"

Seth took refuge in silence. The girl's words pained him, but he knew that it was only her grief at leaving, and he told himself that her bitterness would soon pass. The pleasure of traveling, of seeing new places, the excitement of her new position would change all that. Receiving no reply Rosebud went on, and her bitterness merged into an assumed brightness which quite deceived her companion.

"Yes," she continued, "after all it won't be so dreadful, will it? I can buy lots of nice things, and I shall have servants. And I can go all over the world. No more washing up. And there'll be parties and dances. And Mr. Irvine said something about estates. I suppose I'll have a country house--like people in books. Yes, and I'll marry some one with a title, and wear diamonds. Do you think somebody with a title would marry me, Seth?"

"Maybe, if you asked him."


"Wal, you see it's only fine ladies gits asked by fellers as has titles."

The dense Seth felt easier in his mind at the girl's tone, and in his clumsy fashion was trying to join in the spirit of the thing.

"Thank you, I'll not ask any one to marry me."

Seth realized his mistake.

"Course not. I was jest foolin'."

"I know." Rosebud was smiling, and a dash of mischief was in her eyes as she went on--

"It would be awful if a girl had to ask some one to marry her, wouldn't it?"


Seth moved out into the passage; the last horse was bedded down, and they stood together leaning on their forks.

"The man would be a silly, wouldn't he?"

"A reg'lar hobo."

"What's a 'hobo,' Seth?"

"Why, jest a feller who ain't got no 'savee.'"

"'Savee' means 'sense,' doesn't it?" Rosebud's eyes were innocently inquiring, and they gazed blandly up into the man's face.

"Wal, not exac'ly. It's when a feller don't git a notion right, an' musses things up some." They were walking toward the barn door now. Seth was about to go up to the loft to throw down hay. "Same as when I got seein' after the Injuns when I ought to've stayed right here an' seen you didn't go sneakin' off by y'self down by the river," he added slyly, with one of his rare smiles.

The girl laughed and clapped her hands.

"Oh, Seth!" she cried, as she moved out to return to the house, "then you're a regular 'hobo.' What a joke!"

And she ran off, leaving the man mystified.

Rosebud and the lawyer left the following morning. Never had such good fortune caused so much grief. It was a tearful parting; Ma and Rosebud wept copiously, and Rube, too, was visibly affected. Seth avoided everybody as much as possible. He drove the conveyance into Beacon Crossing, but, as they were using the lawyer's hired "democrat," he occupied the driving-seat with the man who had brought the lawyer out to the farm. Thus it was he spoke little to Rosebud on the journey.

Later, at the depot, he found many things to occupy him and only time to say "good-bye" at the last moment, with the lawyer looking on.

The girl was on the platform at the end of the sleeping-car when Seth stepped up to make his farewell.

"Good-bye, little Rosebud," he said, in his quiet, slow manner. His eyes were wonderfully soft. "Maybe you'll write some?"

The girl nodded. Her violet eyes were suspiciously bright as she looked frankly up into his face. "I hope we shall both be happy. We've done our duty, haven't we?" she asked, with a wistful little smile.

"Sure," replied Seth, with an ineffective attempt at lightness.

The girl still held his hand and almost imperceptibly drew nearer to him. Her face was lifted to him in a manner that few would have mistaken. But Seth gently withdrew his hand, and, as the train began to move, climbed down and dropped upon the low platform.

Rosebud turned away with a laugh, though her eyes filled with tears. She waved a handkerchief, and Seth's tall, slim figure was the last she beheld of Beacon Crossing. And when the train was sufficiently far away she kissed her hand in the direction of the solitary figure still doing sentry at the extremity of the platform. Then she went into the car and gave full vent to the tears she had struggled so long to repress.