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Through The Santa Clara Wheat
by [?]


It was an enormous wheat-field in the Santa Clara valley, stretching to the horizon line unbroken. The meridian sun shone upon it without glint or shadow; but at times, when a stronger gust of the trade winds passed over it, there was a quick slanting impression of the whole surface that was, however, as unlike a billow as itself was unlike a sea. Even when a lighter zephyr played down its long level, the agitation was superficial, and seemed only to momentarily lift a veil of greenish mist that hung above its immovable depths. Occasional puffs of dust alternately rose and fell along an imaginary line across the field, as if a current of air were passing through it, but were otherwise inexplicable.

Suddenly a faint shout, apparently somewhere in the vicinity of the line, brought out a perfectly clear response, followed by the audible murmur of voices, which it was impossible to localize. Yet the whole field was so devoid of any suggestion of human life or motion that it seemed rather as if the vast expanse itself had become suddenly articulate and intelligible.

“Wot say?”

“Wheel off.”


“In the road.”

One of the voices here indicated itself in the direction of the line of dust, and said, “Comin’,” and a man stepped out from the wheat into a broad and dusty avenue.

With his presence three things became apparent.

First, that the puffs of dust indicated the existence of the invisible avenue through the unlimited and unfenced field of grain; secondly, that the stalks of wheat on either side of it were so tall as to actually hide a passing vehicle; and thirdly, that a vehicle had just passed, had lost a wheel, and been dragged partly into the grain by its frightened horse, which a dusty man was trying to restrain and pacify.

The horse, given up to equine hysterics, and evidently convinced that the ordinary buggy behind him had been changed into some dangerous and appalling creation, still plunged and kicked violently to rid himself of it. The man who had stepped out of the depths of the wheat quickly crossed the road, unhitched the traces, drew back the vehicle, and, glancing at the traveler’s dusty and disordered clothes, said, with curt sympathy:–

“Spilt, too; but not hurt, eh?”

“No, neither of us. I went over with the buggy when the wheel cramped, but SHE jumped clear.”

He made a gesture indicating the presence of another. The man turned quickly. There was a second figure, a young girl standing beside the grain from which he had emerged, embracing a few stalks of wheat with one arm and a hand in which she still held her parasol, while she grasped her gathered skirts with the other, and trying to find a secure foothold for her two neat narrow slippers on a crumbling cake of adobe above the fathomless dust of the roadway. Her face, although annoyed and discontented, was pretty, and her light dress and slim figure were suggestive of a certain superior condition.

The man’s manner at once softened with Western courtesy. He swung his broad-brimmed hat from his head, and bent his body with the ceremoniousness of the country ball-room. “I reckon the lady had better come up to the shanty out o’ the dust and sun till we kin help you get these things fixed,” he said to the driver. “I’ll send round by the road for your hoss, and have one of mine fetch up your wagon.”

“Is it far?” asked the girl, slightly acknowledging his salutation, without waiting for her companion to reply.

“Only a step this way,” he answered, motioning to the field of wheat beside her.

“What in THERE? I never could go in there,” she said, decidedly.

“It’s a heap shorter than by the road, and not so dusty. I’ll go with you, and pilot you.”

The young girl cast a vexed look at her companion as the probable cause of all this trouble, and shook her head. But at the same moment one little foot slipped from the adobe into the dust again. She instantly clambered back with a little feminine shriek, and ejaculated: “Well, of all things!” and then, fixing her blue annoyed eyes on the stranger, asked impatiently, “Why couldn’t I go there by the road ‘n the wagon? I could manage to hold on and keep in.”