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Trial By Fire

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The major was one of the many well born Englisbmen who oome to j nia with a yonuger son 's portion and a j small rnonthly allowance and hope to j mako a fortune on a vineyard or a wheat i ïauch. The plan always looksfeasible in j Eugland, and the agent assnres his I tim that the thousand pounds will buy a ten acra plot, plant vines, rraild a decent bungalow and tide the owner over nutal the vines shall bear and bring him a harvest of good American gold. The major was going the way of many of hisEnglishfriends. TheLl,000 legacy was gone, and the monthly allowance of L20 (which, viewed from a distance, seemed large) always grew painfully small as it California and the debts it was supposed to cover. The major's little mouutain vineyard had been destroyed by phylloxera, and he was living on the uncertain proruise of a number of green shoots, calléd, respectfully, "the olive orchard. " But the ruajor was not unhappy. When he was not tilling the soil, he saton his little veranda, with his brier wood pipe between his teeth and studied the long, narrow, pictnresque Napa valley far below. It may be that "the major's failure to eucoeed in the grape business was not the fault of the country, but that his genial, unpractical nature was the true obstacle to success! The major was, in fact, the most helpless Englishman who ever carne to California to take care of faimself . The poor fellow became so convinced of this after a short trial that he engaged a man to act as valet to hiraself and incidentally cook the meals for both. The major was a solitary bachelor then. The gods alone know in what nnpropitious moment he picked up Pete to hang about his neck, a millstone of inefficieney. Pete's poverty must have been his recornmendation and the major's poverty the excuse for keeping him. Pete had about as much kiiowledge of layingout and caring for a man 's wardrobe as the major had of running a ranch. The consequenoe was that the major often presented himself at his friends' houses in the most surprising garb - a combination of white duck trousers, black frock coat and rnsset hunting boots being oue of Pete's masterpieces. In his capacity as cook Pete was uot one wbit more efficiënt and often snffered mental agony over the ponderons directions of the major's French cookbook, which were like the hieroglyphics of the aacients to his clouded intellect. Considering the diet of sour bread and tinned meats which Pete provided, it is only less tban marvelous that his benefactor was still alive. Wben the major married Ellie Smith, a pretty San Francisco girl, Pete was promoted to be manager of the ranch and expended his grooming talents on the pet mule. The major's wife was "artistic. " She had studied sketching and did soma reallyclever bits. Her admiring hnsband was sure that she possessed the divine afflatus, and consequently much time was devoted to art and little time to ranching. But this was not without protest from ona individual. Not that he was disturbed by lack of work, but poor Pete was oftener than not the unwilling model for Ellie's clever studies. One day Pete posed for 'The Man With the Hoe. " His temper was particularly triedon that occasion, for hehad taken up his tooi with the honest intention of weeding the' primitive vegetable garden. Though he had scudded through the back yard and climbed the rear feuce he had not counted. on meeting his young mistress in the barnyard. He began to wrestle with the weeds and pretended not to see her. His edueation, however, had not included a sight of Millet's picture, or he would have fled down the mountain side in utter despair. "Stop, stop, Peter, right there. Don 't move an inch," calïed the sweet voice that drove him to madness. "Kenneth, " Ellie called to her hnsband, ' ' look. Isn'fc it wonderful? The lights, the pose, the very landscape like" - " 'The Man With the Hoe,' " shonted the major gleefully. "I'll get your paints, Ellie. Hold on, Pete!" And before that honest 6on of toil had time to oollect his scattered senses, he fcrand himself posing in a very unoomfortable attitude, with the Napa valley lying at his f eet and the major's familiar phrases ringing in his ears - "fine pose - jolly good subject - deliciou8 coloring. " After Perte had posed for a hundred or more indifferent works of art without names, he began to think of deserting his moster and leaviríg him toa just and Bwful fate. Bnt this stupendous blow was averted by the arrival of Brompton Edwards, another Englishman, who had come to learn practical ranching under the direotion of his father's old friend, the major. After a week had been given up to driviug bis protege about the valley and introducing him to the English colony, the major returned to his daily routine of pruning olive trees and digging out worm eaten grapevines. Ellie soon diacovered in the yonng man 's olean ent features and fine, athletic figure an entir-ely new field for art stndy, and Edwards fcond the time pass moro pleasantly as a model than as an mbryo ranoher. They were together during most of the daylight houra. Whon Brompton was not posing for a wild ! Norseinau or a Grreek hero, he was sitting very close to Bllie, criticising, in soft, caressing tones, the sketches of himself which she had been doing. Without aotually strayiug froru the patb of duty, Ellie was treading 011 daugerously uncertain territory. She quite frankly admitted to herself that she was pretty and cbarming, and, being of that rniud, she did not repress comparisons between her busbaud and the younger man. Mattershad arrived at a state where a warm hearted bat vain young woman needed a friend with the strength to hold up a good, powerful, unrelenting mirror for her to gaze into. Pete conld have held up the mirror with right good will, but he did uot kuow how. In those days he followed the major around with doglike devotiou, and only glowerod when Ellie carne out to the orchard one morning with ber paibts and succeoded in bringingupou herself á scoldiug from her overindnlgent husband. She held her head very high andstiff, and marched over the hill some distance away, where she seated herself and pretended to sketch, tmt was in reality nursiug her injured feelings to keep them alive. The major watched her disappear with a pained exptession on bis good natured face, and then went dejéctedly into the house. Pete was deoply incensed against Ellie, and made another solemn vow to desert the ranch. Jt was. the ninety and ninth time that he had done so, and this time he sealed the vow with an oath. The long grass on the Napa bilis was burned and crisp and Ellie was daubing yellow ocher and bnrnt umber over her canvas witb vicious strokes. She was not giving any attention to her work, howeve.r, for an athletic form stood betweeu her and the landscape, and sho was indulging in a very foolish day drearn. To do the little woman justice, she was not in love with Brompton, bnt her vanity had been stinmlated to such wonderf ui activity by his youthful gallautries that she fancied he was deeply infatuated with her. Shewondered if he would ever teil her tbat he loved her. If she could ouly have some test of his love, wbat a satisfaction it would be ! Over on the rnountain side a half mile away Pete leaned on his hoe and watched a thread of fire crawling like a red snake through the underbrush of chaparral and manzanita. He knew only too well that no human power could etop it, and that within a few minutes the gentle breeze would cause a flying spark to fall upon the long dry grass, and puft - the crawling snake would become a great swirling, galloping mass of flame and smokeand would pass pver the very place where Ellie sat sulking and dreaming. Pete had firmíy determined to leave the ranch. He had washed his hands of these people. He would not' - bnt the grass was on fire, and Pete made a dash for the house, yelling at the top of his lungs for thè major. The volume of smoke was rising high when Ellie rose to her feet and sniffed the air. Before she conld gather up her paints a thin rim of, fire ran along tho top of the little hill above her. The small birds and insects rose from the ground with a whir and scattered down the hillside. Ellie glanced quickly backward and saw the fire licking up the grass as it bore down upon her and the smoke rolling heavenward in dense, sooty clouds. She did not lose her presence of mind, but remembered a small plöwed field a short distance away, where the flames could not reach ber, and ran nimbly down the hill, with her fluttering skirts gathering cockle burs and sticker weed as she sped. When she was fairly on the plowed ground and gasping for breatb, she saw the young Engliahman tearing along the hill at a frantic rafce. Through the smoke he looked pale and frightened. Ellie feit a thrill of satisfaction. Here was the longed f or proof of his love. He thought she was in oanger and had come to her rescne. A deep blush mounted to her oheeks and her heart beat to suffocation. But be did not seem to see her. It was evident to her that he was crazed with fear and would plunge into the fire in search of her. Merciful God 1 He would be burned. "Brompton!" she screamed. "Dear Brompton, I am bere - safe." The fire was very close, and she had to throw herself flat on the ground to escape being burned. She gave one more despairing cry as she feit the hot breath scoroh her clothing. "Brompton! Brompton! Brompton!"' A great wave of smoke and flame swept around the edgas of the plowed ground, and for a minute nothing could be seen or heard. For'tunately for Ellie the dry grass burned like tinder, and the fire was soon roaring down the hill kward the valley. When Ellie, oboked and frightened, lifted her head, she saw the thin, long, scantily olad legs of her husband bounding over the blaokened earth toward her. His duok trcrauers were smeared with loot, and be bad a wet blanket about his sboulders. He oonld not speak, but oanght Ellie in bis arms and buist into etifled soba. Baok of them was heard the voioe of Brompton Edwards. "Helio there, major!" be called. "I had a very narrow squeak of it. My hammook and books are burned to tinder by this. By Jove, old fellow, you are burned yourself, aren't you? Yourwife was safe enough. I knew she could take care of herself." But Ellie buried her head in the wet blanket with a shudder and burst into tears of shame and contrition. "Well, well," gasped Pete, who hac stumbled up the hill with a bundie of wet sacks. "I never was so plaguey soared in my life. Thought you'd be burned sure, Miss Ellie. Me and the major'll have a fine time next week olear ing" - Por Pete had reconsidered his ninety and ninth vow. Indeed it vfaa only a week later when he was speculating il th i was evr a happier couple than the major and hls JSIHe. And Pete beamed aa he thought of the ignoble part Brompton Hdwardi playad on th day of the


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