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When The Sun Went Down
 The mind hath a thousand eyes, And the heart but one. --BOURDILLON.
 Busy years, each one a dramatic era all its own, made up the annals of the Middle West as the nation began to feel the thrill for expansion in its pulse-beat. The territorial days of Kansas were big with the tragic events of border warfare, and her birth into statehood marked the commencement of the four years of civil strife whose record played a mighty part in shaping human destiny.
 Meanwhile the sunny Kansas prairies lay waiting for the hearthstone and the plow. And young men, trained in camp and battle-field, looked westward for adventure, fortune, future homes and fame. But the tribes, whose hunting-grounds had been the green and grassy plains, yielded slowly, foot by foot, their stubborn claim, marking in human blood the price of each acre of the prairie sod. The lonely homesteads were the prey of savage bands, and the old Santa Fé Trail, always a way of danger, became doubly perilous now to the men who drove the vans of commerce along its broad, defenseless miles. The frontier forts increased: Hays and Harker, Larned and Zarah, and Lyon and Dodge became outposts of power in the wilderness, whose half-forgotten sites to-day lie buried under broad pasture-lands and fields of waving grain.
 One June day, as the train rolled through the Missouri woodlands along rugged river bluffs, Beverly Clarenden and I looked eagerly out of the car window, watching for signs of home. It was two years after the close of the Civil War. We had just finished six years of Federal service and were coming back to Kansas City. We were young men still, with all the unsettled spirit that follows the laying aside of active military life for the wholesome but uneventful life of peace.
 The time of our arrival had been uncertain, and the Clarenden household had been taken by surprise at our coming.
 "I wonder how it will seem to settle down in a store, Bev, after toting shooting-irons for six years," I said to my cousin, as the train neared Kansas City.
 "I don't know," Beverly replied, with a yawn, "but I'm thinking that after we see all the folks, and play with Mat's little boys awhile, and eat Aunty Boone's good stuff till we begin to get flabby-cheeked and soft-muscled, and our jaws crack from smiling so much when we just naturally want to get out and cuss somebody--about that time I'll be ready to run away, if I have to turn Dog Indian to do it."
 "There's a new Clarenden store at a place called Burlingame out in Kansas now, somewhere on the old trail. Maybe it will be far enough away to let you get tamed gradually to civil life there, if Uncle Esmond thinks you are worth it," I suggested.
 "Rex Krane is to take charge of that as soon as we get home. Yonder are the spires and minarets and domes of Kansas City. Put on your company grin, Gail," Beverly replied, as we began to run by the huts and cabins forming the outworks of the little city at the Kaw's mouth.
 Six years had made many changes in the place, but the same old welcome awaited us, and we became happy-hearted boys again as we climbed the steep road up the bluff to the Clarenden house. On the wide veranda overlooking the river everybody except one--Bill Banney, sleeping under the wind-caressed sod beside the Cimarron spring--was waiting to greet us. There were Esmond Clarenden and Jondo, in the prime of middle life, the one a little bald, and more than a little stout; the other's heavy hair was streaked with gray, but the erect form and tremendous physical strength told how well the plains life had fortified the man of fifty for the years before him. The prairies had long since become his home; but whether in scout service for the Government, or as wagon-master for a Clarenden train on the trail, he was the same big, brave, loyal Jondo.
 And there was Rex Krane, tall, easy-going old Rex, with his wife beside him. Mat was a fair-faced young matron now, with something Madonna-like in her calm poise and kindly spirit. Two little boys, Esmond, and Rex, Junior, clinging to her gown, smiled a shy welcome at us.
 In the background loomed the shining face and huge form of Aunty Boone. She had never seemed bigger to me, even in my little-boy days, when I considered her a giant. Her eyes grew dull as she looked at us.
 "Clean faces and finger-nails now. Got to stain 'em up 'bout once more 'fore you are through. Hungry as ever, I'll bet. I'll get your supper right away. Whoo-ee!"
 As she turned away, Mat said:
 "There is somebody else here, boys, that you will be glad to meet. She has just come and doesn't even know that you are expected. It is 'Little Lees.'"
 A rustle of silken skirts, a faint odor of blossoms, a footfall, a presence, and Eloise St. Vrain stood before us. Eloise, with her golden hair, the girlish roundness of her fair face, her big dark eyes and their heavy lashes and clear-penciled brows, her dainty coloring, and beyond all these the beauty of womanly strength written in her countenance.
 Her dress was a sort of pale heliotrope, with trimmings of a deeper shade, and in her hands she carried a big bunch of June roses. She stopped short, and the pink cheeks grew pale, but in an instant the rich bloom came back to them again.
 "I tried to find you, Eloise. The boys have just come in almost unannounced," Mat said.
 "You didn't mean to hide from us, of course," Beverly broke in, as he took the girl's hand, his face beaming with genuine joy at meeting her again.
 Eloise met him with the same frank delight with which she always greeted him. Everything seemed so simple and easy for these two when they came together. Little Blue Flower was right about them. They seemed to fit each other.
 But when she turned to me her eyes were downcast, save for just one glance. I feel it yet, and the soft touch of her hand as it lay in mine a moment.
 I think we chatted all together for a while. I had a wound at Malvern Hill that used to make me dizzy. That, or an older wound, made my pulse frantic now. I know that it was a rare June day, and the breeze off the river came pouring caressingly over the bluff. I remember later that Uncle Esmond and Jondo and Rex Krane went to the Clarenden store, and that Mat was helping Aunty Boone inside, while Beverly let the two little Kranes take him down the slope to see some baby squirrels or something. And Eloise and I were left alone beneath the trees, where once we had sat together long ago in the "Moon of the Peach Blossom." For me, all the strength of the years wherein I had built a wall around my longing love, all my manly loyalty to my cousin's claims, were swept away, as I have seen the big Missouri floods, joined by the lesser Kaw, sweep out bridges, snapping like sticks before their power.
 "Eloise, it seems a hundred years since I saw you and Little Blue Flower ride away up the San Christobal River trail out of my sight," I said.
 "It has been a long time, but we are not yet old. You seem the same. And as for me, I feel as if the clock had stopped awhile and had suddenly started to ticking anew."
 It was wonderful to sit beside her and hear her voice again. I did not dare to ask about her mother, but I am sure she read my thoughts, for she went on:
 "My mother is gone now. She was as happy as a child and never had a sorrow on her mind after her dreadful fever, although the doctors say she might have been restored if I had only been with her then. But it is all ended now."
 Eloise paused with saddened face, and looked out toward the Missouri River, boiling with June rains and melted snows.
 "It is all right now," she went on, bravely. "Sister Gloria--you know who she was--stayed with me to the last. And I have a real mound of earth in the cemetery beside my father." The last two words were spoken softly. "Sister Gloria is in the convent now. Marcos is a common gambler. His father disappeared and left him penniless. Esmond Clarenden says that his father died out on the plains somewhere."
 "And Father Josef?" I inquired.
 "Is still the same strong friend to everybody. He spends much time among the Hopi people. I don't know why, for they are hopelessly heathen. Their own religion has so many beautiful things to offset our faith that they are hard to convert."
 "And Little Blue Flower--what became of her?" I asked. "Is she a squaw in some hogan or pueblo, after all that the Sisterhood of St. Ann's did for her?"
 A shadow fell on the bright face beside me.
 "Let's not talk of her to-day." There was a pleading note in Eloise's voice. "Life has its tragedies everywhere, but I sometimes think that none of them--American, English, Spanish, French, Mexican, nor any others of our pale-faced people, have quite such bitter acts as the Indian tragedy among a gentle race like the people of Hopi-land."
 "I hope you will stay with us now."
 I didn't know what I really did hope for. I was no longer a boy, but a young man in the very best of young manhood's years. I had seen this girl ride away from me without one good-by word or glance. I had heard her message to me through Little Blue Flower. I had suffered and outgrown all but the scar. And now one touch of her hand, one smile, one look from her beautiful eyes, and all the barrier of the years fell down. I wondered vaguely now about Beverly's wish to turn Dog Indian if things became too monotonous. I wondered about many things, but I could not think anything.
 "I have no present plans. Father Josef and Esmond Clarenden thought it would be well for me to come up to Kansas and look at green prairies instead of red mesas for a while; to rest my eyes, and get my strength again--which I have never lost," Eloise said, with a smile. "And Jondo says--"
 She did not tell me what Jondo had said, for Beverly and Mat and the two rollicking boys joined us just then and we talked of many things of the earlier years.
 I cannot tell how that June slipped by, nor how Eloise, in the full bloom of her young womanhood, with the burdens lifted from her heart and hands, was no more the clinging, crushed Eloise who had sat beside me in the church of San Miguel, but a self-reliant and deliciously companionable girl-woman. With Beverly she was always gay, matching him, mood for mood; and if sometimes I caught the fleeting edge of a shadow in her eyes, it was gone too soon to measure. I did not seek her company alone, because I knew that I could not trust myself. Over and over, Jondo's words, when he had told me the story of Mary Marchland, came back to me:
 "And although they loved each other always, they never saw each other again."
 Nobody, outside of those touched by it, knew Jondo's story, except myself. He was Theron St. Vrain's brother, yet Eloise never called him uncle, and, except for the one mention of her father's grave, she did not speak of him. He was not even a memory to her. And both men's names were forever stained with the black charge against them.
 One evening in late June, Uncle Esmond called me into council.
 "Gail, Rex leaves to-morrow for the new store at Burlingame, Kansas. It is two days out on the Santa Fé Trail. Bev will go with him and stay for a while. I want you to drive through with Mat and the children and Eloise a day or two later."
 "Eloise?" I looked up in surprise.
 "Yes; she will visit with Mat for a while. She has had some trying years that have taxed her heavily. The best medicine for such is the song of the prairie winds," Uncle Esmond replied.
 "And after that?" I insisted.
 "We will wait for 'after that' till it gets here," my uncle smiled as he spoke. "There are more serious things on hand than where out Little Lees will eat her meals. She seems able to take care of herself anywhere. Wonderfully beautiful and charming young woman she is, and her troubles have strengthened her character without robbing her of her youth and happy spirits."
 Esmond Clarenden spoke reminiscently, and I stared at him in surprise until suddenly I remembered that Jondo had said, "We were all in love with Mary Marchland." Eloise must seem to him and Jondo like the Mary Marchland they had known in their young manhood. But my uncle's mood passed quickly, and his face was very grave as he said:
 "The conditions out on the frontier are serious in every way right now. The Indians are on the war-path, leaving destruction wherever they set foot. Something must be done to protect the wagon-trains on the Santa Fé Trail. I have already lost part of two valuable loads this season, and Narveo has lost three. But the appalling loss of property is nothing compared to the terror and torture to human life. The settlers on the frontier claims are being massacred daily. The Governor of Kansas is doing all he can to get some action from the army leaders at Washington. But you haven't been in military service for six years without finding out that some army leaders are flesh and blood, and some are only wood--plain wooden wood. Meantime, the story of one butchery doesn't get to the Missouri River before the story of another catches up with it. It's bad enough when it's ruinous to just my own commercial business--but in cases like this, humanity is my business."
 What a man he was--that Esmond Clarenden! They still say of him in Kansas City that no sounder financier and no bigger-hearted humanitarian ever walked the streets of that "Gateway to the Southwest" than the brave little merchant-plainsman who builded for the generations that should follow him.
 "What will be the outcome, Uncle Esmond? Are we to lose all we have gained out here?" I asked.
 "Not if we are real Westerners. It's got to be stopped. The question is, how soon," my uncle replied.
 That night in a half-waking dream I remembered Aunty Boone's prophetic greeting a few days before, and how her eyes had narrowed and grown dull as she said, "One more stainin' of your hands 'fore you are through."
 I had given six good years to army service--the years which young men give to college and to establishing themselves in their life-work. But the vision of the three men whom I had seen under the elm-tree at Fort Leavenworth came back to me, and only one--the cavalry man--moved westward now. I knew that I was dreaming, but I did not want to waken till the vision of a fair face whose eyes looked into mine should come to make my dream sweet and restful.
 But in my waking hours, in spite of the gravity of conditions that troubled Esmond Clarenden, in spite of the terrible tidings of daily killings on the unprotected plains, I forgot everything except the girl beside me as I went with her and Mat and the children to the new home in the village of Burlingame beside the Santa Fé Trail.
 Eloise St. Vrain had come up to Kansas to let the green prairies shut out the memory of tall red mesas. About the little town of Burlingame the prairies were waiting for her eyes to see. It nestled beside a deep creek under the shelter of forest trees, with the green prairie lapping up to its edges on every side. The trail wound round the shoulder of a low hill, and, crossing the stream, it made the main street of the town, then wandered on westward to where a rim of ground shut the view of its way from the settlement under the trees by the creek. A stanch little settlement it was, and, like many Kansas towns of the '60's, with big, but never-to-be realized, ambition to become a city. Into its life and up-building Rex Krane was to throw his good-natured Yankee shrewdness, and Mat her calm, generous spirit; vanguards they were, among the home-makers of a great State.
 My stay in the place was brief, and I saw little of Eloise until the evening before I was to return to Kansas City. I had meant to go away, as she had left me in the San Christobal Valley, without one backward look, but I couldn't do it; and at the close of my last day I went to the Krane home, where I found her alone. It was the long after-sunset hour, with the refreshing evening breezes pouring in from all the green levels about us.
 "Rex is at the store, and the others are all gone fishing," Eloise said, in answer to my inquiry for the family.
 "Mat and Bev always did go fishing on every occasion that I can remember, and they will make fishermen of little Esmond and Rex now. Would you like to go up to the west side of town and look into New Mexico?" I asked, wondering why Beverly should go fishing with Mat when Eloise was waiting for his smile.
 But I was desperately lonely to-night, and I might not see Eloise again until after she and Beverly--I could not go farther. She smiled and said, lightly:
 "I'm just honin' for a walk, as Aunty Boone would say, but I'm not quite ready to see New Mexico yet."
 "Oh, it's only a thing made of evening mists rising from the meadows, and bits of sunset lights left over when the day was finished," I assured her.
 So we left the shadow of the tall elms and strolled up the main street toward the west.
 Where the one cross-street cut the trail in the center of the village there was a public well. The ground around it was trampled into mud by many hoofs. A Mexican train had just come in and was grouped about this well, drinking eagerly.
 "What news of the plains?" I asked their leader as we passed.
 "I cannot tell you with the lady here," he replied, bowing courteously. "It is too awful. A spear hung with a scalp of pretty baby hair like hers. I see it yet. The plains are all _alive--alive_ with hostile red men; and the worst one of all--he that had the golden scalp--is but a half-breed Cheyenne Dog. Never the Apaches were so bad as he."
 The cattle horned about the well, with their drivers shouting and struggling to direct them, as we went wide to avoid the mud, then passed up to the rise beyond which lay the old trail's westward route.
 The mists were rising from the lowlands; along the creek the sunset sky was all a flaming glory, under whose deep splendor the June prairies lay tenderly green and still; down in the village the sounds of the Mexicans settling into camp; the shouting of children, romping late; and out across the levels, the mooing call of milking-time from some far-away settler's barn-yard; a robin singing a twilight song in the elms; crickets chirping in the long grass; and the gentle evening breeze sweet and cool out of the west--such was the setting for us two. We paused on the crest of the ridge and sat down to watch the afterglow of a prairie twilight. We did not speak for a long time, but when our eyes met I knew the hour had been made for me. In such an hour we had sat beside the glistening Flat Rock down in the Neosho Valley. I was a whole-hearted boy when I went down there, full of eagerness for the life of adventure on the trail, and she a girl just leaving boarding-school. And now--life sweetens so with years.
 "I think I can understand why your uncle thought it would be well for me to come to Kansas," Eloise said at last. "There is an inspiration and soothing restfulness in a thing like this. Our mountains are so huge and tragical; and even their silences are not always gentle. And our plains are dry and gray. And yet I love the valley of the Santa Fé, and the old Ortiz and Sandia peaks, and the red sunset's stain on the Sangre-de-Christo. Many a time I have lifted up my eyes to them for help, as the shepherd did to his Judean hills when he sang his psalms of hope and victory."
 "Yes, Nature is kind to us if we will let her be. Jondo told me that long ago, and I've proved it since. But I have always loved the prairies. And this ridge here belongs to me," I replied.
 Eloise looked up inquiringly.
 "I'll tell you why. When I was a little boy, years ago, a day-dreaming, eager-hearted little boy, we camped here one night. That was my first trip over the trail to Santa Fé. You haven't forgotten it and what a big brown bob-cat I looked like when I got there. I grew like weeds in a Kansas corn-field on that trip."
 "Oh, I remember you. Go on," Eloise said, laughingly.
 "That night after supper, everybody had left camp--Mat and Bev were fishing--and I was alone and lonely, so I came up here to find what I could see of the next day's trail. It was such an hour as this. And as I watched the twilight color deepen, my own horizon widened, and I think the soul of a man began, in that hour, to look out through the little boy's eyes; and a new mile-stone was set here to make a landmark in my life-trail. The boy who went back slowly to the camp that night was not the same little boy that had run up here to spy out the way of the next day's journey."
 The afterglow was deepening to purple; the pink cloud-flecks were turning gray in the east, and a kaleidoscope of softest rose and tender green and misty lavender filled the lengthening shadows of the twilight prairie.
 "Eloise, I had a longing that night, still unfulfilled. I wish I dared to tell you what it was."
 I turned to look at the fair girl-woman beside me. In the twilight her eyes were always like stars; and the golden hair and the pink bloom of her cheeks seemed richer in their shadowy setting. To-night her gown was white--like the Greek dress she had worn at Mat's wedding, on the night when she met Beverly in the little side porch at midnight. Why did I recall that here?
 "What was your wish, Gail?" The voice was low and sweet.
 I took her hand in mine and she did not draw away from me.
 "That I might some day have a real home all my own down there among the trees. I was a little homesick boy that night, and I came up here to watch the sunset and see the open level lands that I have always loved. Eloise, Jondo told me once of three young college men who loved your beautiful mother, and because of that love they never married anybody, but they lived useful, happy lives. I can understand now why they should love her, and why, because they could not have her love, they would not marry anybody else. One was my uncle Esmond, and one was Father Josef."
 "And the third?" The voice was very low and a tremor shook the hand I held.
 "He did not tell me. And I speak of it now only to show you that in what I want to say I am not altogether selfish and unkind. I love you, Eloise. I have loved you since the day, long ago, when your face came before me on the parade-ground at Fort Leavenworth. I told you of that once down on the bluff by the Clarenden home at Kansas City. I shall love you, as the Bedouin melody runs,
 Til the sun grows cold, And the stars are old, And the leaves of the judgment Book unfold!
 "But I know that it will end as Uncle Esmond's and Father Josef's loving did, in my living my life alone."
 Eloise quickly withdrew her hand, and the pain in her white face haunts me still.
 "I do not want to hurt you, oh, Eloise. I know I do wrong to speak, but to-night will be the last time. I thought that night in the church at San Miguel, and that next day when we rode for our lives together, that you cared for me who would have walked through fire for you. But in that hour in the little chapel a barrier came between us. You rode away without one word or glance. And I turned back feeling that my soul was falling into ruins like that half-ruined little pile of stone that some holy padre had built his heart into years and years ago. Then Little Blue Flower brought your message to me and I knew as I sat beside Fort Marcy's wall that night, and saw the sun go down, that the light of my life was going out with it."
 "But, Gail," Eloise exclaimed, "I said I could not send you any word, but you would understand. I--I couldn't say any more than that." Her voice was full of tears and she turned away from me and looked at the last radiant tints edging the little cloud-flecks above the horizon.
 "Of course I understand you, Eloise, and I do not blame you. I never could blame you for anything." I sprang to my feet. "You'll hate me if I say another word," I said, savagely.
 She rose up, too, and put her hand on my arm. Oh, she was beautiful as she stood beside me. So many times I have pictured her face, I will not try to picture it as it looked now in this sweet, sacred moment of our lives.
 "Gail, I could never hate you. You do not understand me. I cannot help what is past now. I hoped you might forget. And yet--" She paused.
 All men are humanly alike. In spite of my strong love for Beverly and my sense of right, the presence of the woman whose image for so many years had been in the sacredest shrine of my heart, Eloise, in all her beauty and her womanly strength and purity, standing beside me, her hand still on my arm--all overpowered me.
 I put my arms about her and held her close to me, kissing her forehead, her cheek, her lips. The world for one long moment was rose-hued like the sunset's afterglow; and sky and prairie, lowlands along the winding creek, and tall elm-trees above the deepening shadows, were all engulfed in a mist of golden glory, shot through with amethyst and sapphire, the dainty coraline pink of summer dawns, and the iridescent shimmer of mother-of-pearl.
 Heaven opens to us here and there such moments on the way of life. And the memory of them lingers like perfume through all the days that follow.
 We turned our faces toward the darkening village street and the tall elms above the gathering shadows, and neither spoke a word until we reached the door where I must say good night.
 "I cannot ask you to forgive me, Little Lees, because you let me have a bit of heaven up there. I shall go away a better man. And, remember, that no blessing in your life can be greater than I would wish for you to have."
 The brave white face was before my eyes and the low voice was in my ears long after I had left her door.
 "Gail, I cannot help what has been, but I do not blame you. I should almost wish myself shut in again by the tall red mesas; but maybe, after all, the prairies are best for me. I am glad I have known you. Good night."
 "Goodnight," I said, and turned away.
 And that was all. The last light of day had gone from the sky, and the stars overhead were hidden by the thick leafage of the Burlingame elms.