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- The Little Lady of the Big House - 4/60 -


that warmed his eye. "She is a normal female. Only incidentally, through thousands of years of domestic selection, has man evolved her into a draught beast breeding true to kind. But being a draught-beast is secondary. Primarily she is a female. Take them by and large, our own human females, above all else, love us men and are intrinsically maternal. There is no biological sanction for all the hurly burly of woman to-day for suffrage and career."

"But there is an economic sanction," Crellin objected.

"True," his employer agreed, then proceeded to discount. "Our present industrial system prevents marriage and compels woman to career. But, remember, industrial systems come, and industrial systems go, while biology runs on forever."

"It's rather hard to satisfy young women with marriage these days," the hog-manager demurred.

Dick Forrest laughed incredulously.

"I don't know about that," he said. "There's your wife for an instance. She with her sheepskin--classical scholar at that--well, what has she done with it?... Two boys and three girls, I believe? As I remember your telling me, she was engaged to you the whole last half of her senior year."

"True, but--" Crellin insisted, with an eye-twinkle of appreciation of the point, "that was fifteen years ago, as well as a love-match. We just couldn't help it. That far, I agree. She had planned unheard-of achievements, while I saw nothing else than the deanship of the College of Agriculture. We just couldn't help it. But that was fifteen years ago, and fifteen years have made all the difference in the world in the ambitions and ideals of our young women."

"Don't you believe it for a moment. I tell you, Mr. Crellin, it's a statistic. All contrary things are transient. Ever woman remains Avoman, everlasting, eternal. Not until our girl-children cease from playing with dolls and from looking at their own enticingness in mirrors, will woman ever be otherwise than what she has always been: first, the mother, second, the mate of man. It is a statistic. I've been looking up the girls who graduate from the State Normal. You will notice that those who marry by the way before graduation are excluded. Nevertheless, the average length of time the graduates actually teach school is little more than two years. And when you consider that a lot of them, through ill looks and ill luck, are foredoomed old maids and are foredoomed to teach all their lives, you can see how they cut down the period of teaching of the marriageable ones."

"A woman, even a girl-woman, will have her way where mere men are concerned," Crellin muttered, unable to dispute his employer's figures but resolved to look them up.

"And your girl-woman will go to Stanford," Forrest laughed, as he prepared to lift his mare into a gallop, "and you and I and all men, to the end of time, will see to it that they do have their way."

Crellin smiled to himself as his employer diminished down the road; for Crellin knew his Kipling, and the thought that caused the smile was: "But where's the kid of your own, Mr. Forrest?" He decided to repeat it to Mrs. Crellin over the breakfast coffee.

Once again Dick Forrest delayed ere he gained the Big House. The man he stopped he addressed as Mendenhall, who was his horse-manager as well as pasture expert, and who was reputed to know, not only every blade of grass on the ranch, but the length of every blade of grass and its age from seed-germination as well.

At signal from Forrest, Mendenhall drew up the two colts he was driving in a double breaking-cart. What had caused Forrest to signal was a glance he had caught, across the northern edge of the valley, of great, smooth-hill ranges miles beyond, touched by the sun and deeply green where they projected into the vast flat of the Sacramento Valley.

The talk that followed was quick and abbreviated to terms of understanding between two men who knew. Grass was the subject. Mention was made of the winter rainfall and of the chance for late spring rains to come. Names occurred, such as the Little Coyote and Los Cuatos creeks, the Yolo and the Miramar hills, the Big Basin, Round Valley, and the San Anselmo and Los Banos ranges. Movements of herds and droves, past, present, and to come, were discussed, as well as the outlook for cultivated hay in far upland pastures and the estimates of such hay that still remained over the winter in remote barns in the sheltered mountain valleys where herds had wintered and been fed.

Under the oaks, at the stamping posts, Forrest was saved the trouble of tying the Man-Eater. A stableman came on the run to take the mare, and Forrest, scarce pausing for a word about a horse by the name of Duddy, was clanking his spurs into the Big House.

CHAPTER III

Forrest entered a section of the Big House by way of a massive, hewn- timber, iron-studded door that let in at the foot of what seemed a donjon keep. The floor was cement, and doors let off in various directions. One, opening to a Chinese in the white apron and starched cap of a chef, emitted at the same time the low hum of a dynamo. It was this that deflected Forrest from his straight path. He paused, holding the door ajar, and peered into a cool, electric-lighted cement room where stood a long, glass-fronted, glass-shelved refrigerator flanked by an ice-machine and a dynamo. On the floor, in greasy overalls, squatted a greasy little man to whom his employer nodded.

"Anything wrong, Thompson?" he asked.

"There _was,"_ was the answer, positive and complete.

Forrest closed the door and went on along a passage that was like a tunnel. Narrow, iron-barred openings, like the slits for archers in medieval castles, dimly lighted the way. Another door gave access to a long, low room, beam-ceilinged, with a fireplace in which an ox could have been roasted. A huge stump, resting on a bed of coals, blazed brightly. Two billiard tables, several card tables, lounging corners, and a miniature bar constituted the major furnishing. Two young men chalked their cues and returned Forrest's greeting.

"Good morning, Mr. Naismith," he bantered. "--More material for the _Breeders' Gazette?"_

Naismith, a youngish man of thirty, with glasses, smiled sheepishly and cocked his head at his companion.

"Wainwright challenged me," he explained.

"Which means that Lute and Ernestine must still be beauty-sleeping," Forrest laughed.

Young Wainwright bristled to acceptance of the challenge, but before he could utter the retort on his lips his host was moving on and addressing Naismith over his shoulder.

"Do you want to come along at eleven:thirty? Thayer and I are running out in the machine to look over the Shropshires. He wants about ten carloads of rams. You ought to find good stuff in this matter of Idaho shipments. Bring your camera along.--Seen Thayer this morning?"

"Just came in to breakfast as we were leaving," Bert Wainwright volunteered.

"Tell him to be ready at eleven-thirty if you see him. You're not invited, Bert... out of kindness. The girls are sure to be up then."

"Take Rita along with you anyway," Bert pleaded.

"No fear," was Forrest's reply from the door. "We're on business. Besides, you can't pry Rita from Ernestine with block-and-tackle."

"That's why I wanted to see if you could," Bert grinned.

"Funny how fellows never appreciate their own sisters." Forrest paused for a perceptible moment. "I always thought Rita was a real nice sister. What's the matter with her?"

Before a reply could reach him, he had closed the door and was jingling his spurs along the passage to a spiral stairway of broad concrete steps. As he left the head of the stairway, a dance-time piano measure and burst of laughter made him peep into a white morning room, flooded with sunshine. A young girl, in rose-colored kimono and boudoir cap, was at the instrument, while two others, similarly accoutered, in each other's arms, were parodying a dance never learned at dancing school nor intended by the participants for male eyes to see.

The girl at the piano discovered him, winked, and played on. Not for another minute did the dancers spy him. They gave startled cries, collapsed, laughing, in each other's arms, and the music stopped. They were gorgeous, healthy young creatures, the three of them, and Forrest's eye kindled as he looked at them in quite the same way that it had kindled when he regarded the Fotherington Princess.

Persiflage, of the sort that obtains among young things of the human kind, flew back and forth.

"I've been here five minutes," Dick Forrest asserted.

The two dancers, to cover their confusion, doubted his veracity and instanced his many well-known and notorious guilts of mendacity. The girl at the piano, Ernestine, his sister-in-law, insisted that pearls of truth fell from his lips, that she had seen him from the moment he began to look, and that as she estimated the passage of time he had been looking much longer than five minutes.

"Well, anyway," Forrest broke in on their babel, "Bert, the sweet innocent, doesn't think you are up yet."

"We're not... to him," one of the dancers, a vivacious young Venus, retorted. "Nor are we to you either. So run along, little boy. Run along."

"Look here, Lute," Forrest began sternly. "Just because I am a decrepit old man, and just because you are eighteen, just eighteen, and happen to be my wife's sister, you needn't presume to put the high and mighty over on me. Don't forget--and I state the fact, disagreeable as it may be, for Rita's sake--don't forget that in the past ten years I've paddled you more disgraceful times than you care


The Little Lady of the Big House - 4/60

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