Tales of Trail and Town
The Judgment Of Bolinas Plain
The wind was getting up on the Bolinas Plain. It had started the fine alkaline dust
along the level stage road, so that even that faint track, the only break in the
monotony of the landscape, seemed fainter than ever. But the dust cloud was
otherwise a relief; it took the semblance of distant woods where there was no
timber, of moving teams where there was no life. And as Sue Beasley, standing
in the doorway of One Spring House that afternoon, shading her sandy lashes
with her small red hand, glanced along the desolate track, even HER eyes,
trained to the dreary prospect, were once or twice deceived.
It was a man's voice from within. Sue took no notice of it, but remained with her
hand shading her eyes.
"Sue! Wot yer yawpin' at thar?"
"Yawpin'" would seem to have been the local expression for her abstraction,
since, without turning her head, she answered slowly and languidly: "Reckoned I
see'd som' un on the stage road. But 'tain't nothin' nor nobody."
Both voices had in their accents and delivery something of the sadness and
infinite protraction of the plain. But the woman's had a musical possibility in its
long-drawn cadence, while the man's was only monotonous and wearying. And
as she turned back into the room again, and confronted her companion, there
was the like difference in their appearance. Ira Beasley, her husband, had
suffered from the combined effects of indolence, carelessness, misadventure,
and disease. Two of his fingers had been cut off by a scythe, his thumb and part
of his left ear had been blown away by an overcharged gun; his knees were
crippled by rheumatism, and one foot was lame from ingrowing nails,—deviations
that, however, did not tend to correct the original angularities of his frame. His
wife, on the other hand, had a pretty figure, which still retained—they were
childless—the rounded freshness of maidenhood. Her features were irregular,
yet not without a certain piquancy of outline; her hair had the two shades
sometimes seen in imperfect blondes, and her complexion the sallowness of
combined exposure and alkaline assimilation.
She had lived there since, an angular girl of fifteen, she had been awkwardly
helped by Ira from the tail-board of the emigrant wagon in which her mother had
died two weeks before, and which was making its first halt on the Californian
plains, before Ira's door. On the second day of their halt Ira had tried to kiss her
while she was drawing water, and had received the contents of the bucket
instead,—the girl knowing her own value. On the third day Ira had some
conversation with her father regarding locations and stock. On the fourth day this
conversation was continued in the presence of the girl; on the fifth day the three
walked to Parson Davies' house, four miles away, where Ira and Sue were
married. The romance of a week had taken place within the confines of her
present view from the doorway; the episode of her life might have been shut in in
that last sweep of her sandy lashes.