Ocean Echoes - Far Reaching Consequences
( Originally Published 1922 )
A HAPPY greeting Austen and I got when we got back to the ranch. The lady's cow money seemed to have given her happiness in the joy brought to that old man, joy in having sight of the valleys, the green grass, and the mountain streams, and to look at his banjo and really see its strings.
That night in the sitting-room before the fire, he sang us songs of other days, of the musket and the broadsword, and his old young voice showed his happiness. He wound up in fine form with :
"When first I joined the army, My mother said to me."
"Come back, you red-headed—"
But here he broke down, and cried as he cried that first night, for the very opposite reason.
Austen was given a house to live in, and work to do to start him on his way to the remnant of a relation whom he still had in the East.
I did not linger on. I told her that I was going, that my mind was made up. Either she should marry me at Christmas in Los Angeles, where I was going to look for work, or I should never see her again. And right there, because she said she would marry me, did the vicious chain of consequences to which I have alluded before, begin to show themselves.
I went to Los Angeles, getting into touch with what seemed to be an excellent mining proposition, a new town, which afterward failed at the threat of impending war. At Thanksgiving I returned to the ranch for a few days and found that she had written to her father, and received his reply. I was a fortune-hunter, and an "impossible person."
Once there was a cobbler in Michigan. He made a standard shoe that stood the test of time, and he had made standard shoes for many years. One day he was working on a pair, when the mail brought him a letter from his brother in California asking him for money. He was so disturbed by the letter, that his mind wandered from the shoes, and a little variation in one shoe occurred. A customer in New York who always bought these shoes happened a little later to be in need of a pair. He bought the very shoes that the cobbler had made when he received his brother's letter.
He wore them out on a rainy day. They were not quite stout, owing to the defect in one of them, and the water leaked in and gave the man pneumonia. When he was recovering, his wife asked him to hang a picture, and he got upon a chair to do it. The shoe had never quite regained its shape, like the other shoe, his foot turned in it, he was thrown to the ground and broke his leg. So did the cobbler's brother in California affect the purchaser in New York.
So did my impulsive sacrifice for Austen cause the utmost disturbance thousands of miles away, to which even broken bones would have been preferable.
How was I, who had always worked hard and never valued money, going to prove that the prospects of this lonely lady and her people were of no interest to me? Or that, although I had no money, I had some valuable assets of experience, and honesty and heart? It simply couldn't be done.
So, when a member of the family appeared with a written questionnaire, what could I do but answer him as I did? I said :
"I shall not answer these questions. If you want to look me up, here are the addresses of my enemies. Go to them, for my friends will not interest you."
Surely enough he did, and heard the worst of me, and much that wasn't true, and my Lady. must needs pay her price, too, for the rescue of a blind man and the sale of a cow !
We had rather a tumultuous two years, from which we emerged with great faith in each Other, and little in those who would have kept us apart. That was while the war was at its height; small passions mounted into great ones everywhere, and many small fry; perished.
April 12, 1917, we took a street-car from Los Angeles to Santa Ana, and were there married by a justice of the peace, whose witnesses were vital to us but for an instant, and then passed forever from our lives.