Last updated: November 30, 2015
The original 1911 volume of Yellowstone Park Romance by William Lee Popham, in the Yellowstone Research Library collection.
Now that the crucial moment of their romance had passed — for the engagement is, to a girl, nearly as great a goal as the marriage itself, Clara had taken RuDell at his promise, and had already begun to prepare for his visit.
“P. S. Dear Clara, please expect my visit soon after your reply — if favorable. Russell.”
Remembering the foregoing in his letter, naturally Clara thought that she should expect him soon, — ““for,” she thought, ‘“my reply was favorable.” Always, as long as she lived, Clara would remember the visit to Yellowstone. She was unsbeakably, unbelievably happy. A man who seemed to her as high, as fine, as the heroes of her favorite stories had fallen in love with her. The ideal of all her choice of dreams and characters of fiction had become a fact — her very own. That he had wooed her with the tact if a citizen of the world, as well as with the tact of a genius, was a marvel for which she told herself she would be grateful to Heaven every
day that she lived. She felt sure, in the swelling rapture of her heart, that, had they not met, she must have gone unwed all her days. They had been born for each other; and Yellowstone had been preserved but to make the radiant setting for the most wonderful proposal that all the ages had ever known. It was in some such way that she thought of their betrothal. In thought she recalled the first day they had looked upon Yellowstone, bathed in the golden light of Indian summer, and of their meeting in the rustic depot when she gave “the five” to encourage the “hobo in his big wager” — and to have him in their company thru this Park. Henceforth, she alone would have him, his well-earned wager and his undying love.
Some poor women have the terrible misfortune to love unworthy men. Some dull women have the misfortune not to know what is worthy and what is unworthy. How doubly blessed was she to know what constitutes intellectual fineness, moral grandeur, and to find those
qualities in her lover. In this childish way she rejoiced in her victory. While yet rejoicing in the future happiness which awaited her in the new home which she hoped to select, Clara received the following letter:
Dear Clara: I regret that your reply has brought such a fatal, and sudden discontinuation to our romance. While, of course, I shall not pay you the visit which I had anticipated, I hope that the man who has the honor to be your husband will be more worthy than myself — and that you’ll be very happy in his keeping. Forever your well-wisher,
At receiving this Clara was unspeakably surprised, mystified, shocked and saddened. ‘“Is Kendric insane, fickle, or has he gone mad?” she exclaimed to herself. The evening shadows were gathering over Meadow Shade when she sought to be alone in the open — alone to weep among the flowers. She sought the same spot as the night before — then she had come to be alone with her fancies, to indulge in the luxury of happy thoughts, to study the stars, for, over the romantic girl the enchantment of Meadow Shade had only the night before cast its magic
spell. Slowly her white figure moved about under the dark, green trees. The peacock fluttered among the tree-tops as if alarmed at the walking form below. A moment she paused to pluck a rosebud, and gave a little cry as the thorns pricked her hand.
All night long she did not sleep, and a tempest of trouble tormented her. Ah, how she had loved this man! How she longed for the rapturous nuptial moment since he had kissed her hand! “Could the love have been with Kendric,” she sighed, “only the playful whim of a moment?” Could the man in whom she had confided, and on whom depended her future happiness — could he be so utterly false, so wholly untrue? “Oh, why did he write the letter of proposal,” exclaimed Clara, as if talking to the stars, “if he did not mean it?”
She would leave home immediately. She even commenced packing, only to break down, realizing that she could not leave while there was a possibility of seeing him.
One day followed another, and she passed thru every stage of suffering possible to a sensitive woman. A week went by, but still she lingered, tho she no longer hoped. If RuDell came now she would greet him with indifference; when in the first of her disappointment, she felt at moments that the shock would kill her. Finally a strange quietness settled over her. Her nerves had been strung too tensely, and now was the rebound. She moved a little languidly as she emerged into the strong sunlight, and yet there was that in her aspect which suggested youth, gentleness and love.
The fountain of a woman’s tears had washed the roses from Clara’s cheeks; but who could say but that every tear was a prayer to the one who has promised “to wipe away all tears?”
To God alone is known the biography of a tear.
Yea, verily, the tears of the world are the capital of civilization, as truly as the thoughts of the world. They give literature feeling, and instruct the philosophy of the world in the
deeper language of the heart. They humanize art by adding heart to brain, and filling with warm enthusiasm the dreams of the masters.
At last, as she sat alone in Meadow Shade, Clara decided that as “all is fair in love and war,” that she would invent some scheme to bring RuDell to her presence. For a long time she argued with herself, as to the best plan to bring about his early visit. “I’ll let him learn that I am dead, and he will surely come to my funeral. No, no, I don’t want to be dead — of course I want to be alive when he comes.”
Clara reflected in a childish way, and evidently decided that there was a better plan.
“That would be going too far, for what good would it do to find out that he loved me when I was dead. But I might be just coming back to life, yet that would be somewhat awkward and difficult to arrange. Perhaps I’d better be in danger of death or badly hurt or something like that. Then I can very soon find out how much he thinks of me by the way he acts when he gets my telegram.”
Slowly the possibility of this scheme began to impress Clara. ““He ought to have a good scare — and the more horrid, the better! I’11 sit right down and write the telegram.” She looked puzzled again. “Now, what’s going to be the matter with me? Consumption won’t do, it’s too awfully pathetic, and it won’t do in this case. O, dear, no! it’s too slow; besides, it wouldn’t look right for me to get over it in a hurry. Perhaps I’d better be just wasting away! No, no, that’s too indefinite. I want something “sort of startling,’ to stir him up. I think I’d better be shot. Oh, that’s too horrible! and vulgar! I couldn’t think of being shot. Why not phneumonia [sic]? No, that sounds common. But typhoid would do pretty well. But not enough of a shock in that. Shooting is better — a mysterious shooting. The mystery will make it more effective. It’s horrid to be shot, but it’s the very thing to bring Kendric to my bedside. Then he’s so tender-hearted any way. I’ll just let the telegram say Miss
Clara Denhart mysteriously shot; she calls for you constantly in her delirium. No, that would never do. It would be too humiliating, and I have too much pride to call for a man. Oh, yes! but I’m not responsible for what I do in a delirium. Oh, the delirium’s just the thing! But I don’t like to call for him. I might whisper his name while delirious, but I must not call for him. It seems unrefined and bold to cry for a man. All right, now I’ll just bring him here as fast as the train can bring him. That is, if he loves me. And if he don’t, I don’t want him to come — “never !”
Thinking all the foregoing plans over deliberately, the child-like girl-lover wrote the following telegram:
Mr. Kendric RuDell: —
Miss Clara Denhart mysteriously shot at Meadow Shade. Whispers your name while delirious. If you wish to see her alive, come quickly.
Secretly, Clara took the next car for the city and sent the telegram. Altho [sic] feeling very guil-
ty of her own untruthfulness, Clara felt some relief; some of the color returned to her face, and her eyes showed that life still held something of hope for her.
Hurrying back to her home, Clara remained prepared to met RuDell when he came in sight of the house, lest the family might learn of her trick. Clara had an anxious time of it after the telegram had been sent. She hoped and she doubted; she hoped more than she doubted, but there was enough of doubt to keep her in a state of nervous excitement. She considered all the possibilities, and then considered them again, and each time she reduced them to questions and hurled them at herself. Would he come? Would he even write? How would he take the news?
The time that must elapse before they could expect to hear had been figured almost to minutes. Then, at any rate, she would know the worst — or the best. This was not a matter that admitted of delay ; he would come at once or he
would not come at all. If he came, all would be well; if lie wrote, much would depend upon what he wrote; if he did neither, she would know that her dream was over.
Meanwhile Kendric RuDell had received the telegram, and was properly “startled” at learning the horrible news.
“Poor little girl,” he murmured, when he had so far recovered from the shock that he was able to say anything; “wounded, suffering — and whispering my name in her delirium. I must see her as quickly as a train will carry me.”
There was no thought of the rebuff he had so recently received. He was so straightforward and certain in his own decision that it had never occurred to him that a misunderstanding might occur between them. While he had been both hurt and angered by her apparent change of heart, sympathy for her left room for nothing of resentment now. It was enough that she needed him.
“Must have been an accident” he thought There isn’t anybody who could be such a brute as to hurt her.”
His heart thrilled, in spite of his anxiety, at the knowledge that his name was on her lips, yet it was love and sympathy, rather than hope, that dictated his decision to go to her at once. Nor did these reflections, and his hopes and fears, delay the decision of his visit. He was thinking very tenderly of her — thinking unselfishly of her suffering and danger, without reference to the possible effect upon his own life.
Immediately he looked up the time of departure of the first available train, and then he notified his partner that he was going. He thought of telegraphing for definite information, but decided that there would not be time to get an answer.
No less soon than train schedule, and the time required on the trolley from the city to Meadow
Shade, RuDell arrived at Clara’s home. In the peaceful beauty of the twilight, Clara had
walked to the far edge of the long front yard — vainly hoping, it seemed to her, and longing to meet her lover on his arrival. In sight of where she sat, Clara could see the trolleys stop to take on and let off passengers. In her longing for RuDell’s arrival, she forgot the suffering his recent letter had caused her. Seated upon the "wooden stile,” Clara noticed that a passenger from the car had started in her direction.
Closer inspection revealed that the passenger was a man. The shadows were too deep to catch his profile as he pressed nearer and nearer the waiting girl. “If it’s Kendric,” Clara cautioned herself, “I must not forget that I have been shot ; and I must call him before he opens the gate, so he won’t go to the house before seeing me.”
“And I must not be so well as to run to meet him,” she decided. A flickering gleam from the distant trolley head-light convinced Clara beyond a doubt that the approaching form was that of her lover. The blood quickened in her
veins. As RuDell was about to open the gate, Clara called : “Kendric ! O, Kendric !”
Knowing her voice, RuDell turned his head, observed Clara sitting upon the wooden stile, and rushed to her side. “O, Clara ! my dear little girl, are you able to be out so soon?”
She held out her arms, threw them around his neck, as he took her in his arms. Once more becoming conscious of his love, a quivering passed over her face. For a second or more she helplessly returned his glance, as if she would fill herself with the sight of him. With all the sense of loving in her, the delicate passionateness [sic] which never before had obtained full expression, and which gave to her lips such a curve and to her eyes such a light that it seemed to him her woman’s soul literally flowered there, he felt between them a stronger tie. A new grace seemed born in her.
‘“Tell me, dear, about the shooting — was it an accident — do you suffer still — have you re-
covered?” Asking these questions in the same
breath, RuDell lifted Ms blue-gray eyes to her, and Clara saw in them both tenderness and
She gazed upon him with a troubled look.
“‘Ye shall know the truth,” she whispered. “Doesn’t the Bible say that? And it shall make you free. The truth is — is — that I have not been shot — I — I just had to see you! O, Kendric, can’t you understand?”
Her speech broke into sobs as he again took Clara in his arms.
““Yes, yes, I understand, little girl. I’m glad I came — glad it’s not so — the accident.”
In his voice was a keen compassion, for her tears, her cunning, her devotion had played on the tense chords of his true, tender heart.
“Your letter,” he said, producing it from his pocket, “was quite a disappointment — a mystery.”
““My letter?” she replied. “my letter was a favorable reply to your — “
Here he produced the letter which he had received, saying;
“Do you call this a favorable reply?”
The moonlight permitted a difficult reading, as Clara poured over the sheet with anxious eyes. It read:
“ Dear Sir : — Yours of recent date to hand. In reply, I beg to state that the matter to which you refer, has been attended to by another man.
“Very truly, Claka Denhart.”
“O, Kendric,” exclaimed Clara, “how very stupid of me! I — I’m so sorry, Kendric, I mailed you the letter I had written to a plumber in the city in reply to a letter from him, regarding the mending of our water pipes; and O, Kendric, I just know that I mailed my reply to your letter to him. The horrid thing! Why did he not send it back at once?”
“Then you never intended to reject my proposal?”
“Me reject you?” exclaimed Clara, “of course, I did not! It’s just as I say — accepted at once!”
“Little girl,” replied RuDell, taking her in his arms, “I understand it all now, and I love you all the more for your bravery. You are just the kind of girl a man would go to the earth’s end to win — and now — now we belong to each other.”
This is our last post. Hope you enjoyed the story! Please let us know by commenting below or posting to our Facebook page.Images are taken from the Yellowstone Park Museum. They may not have been taken in 1911 but we hope that they help to illustrate the author’s wonderfully descriptive prose. Please note that many of the practices the author writes about (including feeding the animals or tramping near certain features) are no longer allowed today.