The Flying U's Last Stand
B. M. Bower
Part 4 out of 5
Would you believe it, that small child of the Flying U
picketed his horse where the grass was best, and the knots he
tied were the knots his dad would have tied in his place. He
unrolled his blanket and carried it to the sheltered little
nook under the ledge, and dragged the bag of doughnuts and
the jelly and honey and bread after it. He had heard about
thievish animals that will carry off bacon and flour and
such. He knew that he ought to hang his grub in a tree, but
he could not reach up as far as the fox who might try to help
himself, so that was out of the question.
The Kid ate a doughnut while he studied the matter out for
himself. "If a coyote or a skink came pestering around ME,
I'd frow rocks at him," he said. So when he had finished the
doughnut he collected a pile of rocks. He ate another
doughnut, went over and laid himself down on his stomach the
way the boys did, and drank from the little creek. It was
just a chance that he had not come upon water tainted with
alkali--but fate is kind sometimes.
So the Kid, trying very, very hard to act just like his Daddy
Chip and the boys, flopped the blanket vigorously this way
and that in an effort to get it straightened, flopped himself
on his knees and folded the blanket round and round him until
he looked like a large, gray cocoon, and cuddled himself
under the ledge with his head on the bag of doughnuts and his
wide eyes fixed upon the first pale stars and his mind
clinging sturdily to his mission and to this first real, man-
sized adventure that had come into his small life.
It was very big and very empty--that canyon. He lifted his
yellow head and looked to see if Silver were there, and was
comforted at the sight of his vague bulk close by, and by the
steady KR-UP, KR-UP of bitten grasses.
"I'm a rell ole cowpuncher, all right," he told himself
bravely; but he had to blink his eyelashes pretty fast when
he said it. A "rell ole cowpuncher" wouldn't cry! He was
afraid Doctor Dell would be AWFULLY s'prised, though . . .
An unexpected sob broke loose, and another. He wasn't
afraid--but . . . Silver, cropping steadily at the grass
which must be his only supper, turned and came slowly toward
the Kid in his search for sweeter grass-tufts. The Kid choked
off the third sob and sat up ashamed. He tugged at the bag
and made believe to Silver that his sole trouble was with his
"By cripes, that damn' jelly glass digs right into my ear,"
he complained aloud, to help along the deception. "You go
back, old-timer--I'm all right. I'm a--rell--ole cowpuncher;
ain't I, old-timer? We're makin' a dry-camp, just like--Happy
Jack. I'm a rell--ole--" The Kid went to sleep before he
finished saying it. There is nothing like the open air to
make one sleep from dusk till dawn. The rell ole cowpuncher
forgot his little white bed in the corner of the big bedroom.
He forgot that Doctor Dell would be awfully s'prised, and
that Daddy Chip would maybe be cross--Daddy Chip was cross,
sometimes. The rell ole cowpuncher lay with his yellow curls
pillowed on the bag of doughnuts and the gray blanket wrapped
tightly around him, and slept soundly; and his lips were
curved in the half smile that came often to his sleeping
place and made him look ever so much like his Daddy Chip.
CHAPTER 27. "LOST CHILD"
"Djuh find 'im?" The Old Man had limped down to the big gate
and stood there bare headed under the stars, waiting, hoping-
-fearing to hear the answer.
"Hasn't he showed up yet?" Chip and the Little Doctor rode
out of the gloom and stopped before the gate. Chip did not
wait for an answer. One question answered the other and there
was no need for more. "I brought Dell home," he said. "She's
about all in--and he's just as likely to come back himself as
we are to run across him. Silver'll bring him home, all
right. He can't be--yuh can't lose a horse. You go up to the
house and lie down, Dell. I--the Kid's all right."
His voice held all the tenderness of the lover, and all the
protectiveness of the husband and all the agony of a father--
but Chip managed to keep it firm and even for all that. He
lifted the Little Doctor bodily from the saddle, held her
very close in his arms for a minute, kissed her twice and
pushed her gently through the gate.
"You better stay right here," he said authoritatively, "and
rest and look after J.G. You can't do any good riding--and
you don't want to be gone when he comes." He reached over the
gate, got hold of her arm and pulled her towards him. "Buck
up, old girl," he whispered, and kissed her lingeringly.
"Now's the time to show the stuff you're made of. You needn't
worry one minute about that kid. He's the goods, all right.
Yuh couldn't lose him if you tried. Go up and go to bed."
"Go to bed!" echoed the Little Doctor and sardonically. J.G.,
are you sure he didn't say anything about going anywhere?"
"No. He was settin' there on the porch tormenting the cat."
The Old Man swallowed a lump. "I told him to quit. He set
there a while after that--I was talkin'' to Blake. I dunno
where he went to. I was--"
"'S that you, Dell? Did yuh find 'im?" The Countess came
flapping down the path in a faded, red kimono. "What under
the shinin' sun's went with him, do yuh s'pose? Yuh never
know what a day's got up its sleeve--'n I always said it. Man
plans and God displans--the poor little tad'll be scairt
plumb to death, out all alone in the dark--"
"Oh, for heaven's sake shut up!" cried the tortured Little
Doctor, and fled past her up the path as though she had some
hope of running away from the tormenting thoughts also. "Poor
little tad, all alone in the dark,"--the words followed her
and were like sword thrusts through the mother heart of her.
Then Chip overtook her, knowing too well the hurt which the
Countess had given with her blundering anxiety. Just at the
porch he caught up with her, and she clung to him, sobbing
"You don't want to mind what that old hen says," he told her
brusquely. "She's got to do just so much cackling or she'd
choke, I reckon. The Kid's all right. Some of the boys have
run across him by this time, most likely, and are bringing
him in. He'll be good and hungry, and the scare will do him
good." He forced himself to speak as though the Kid had
merely fallen on the corral fence, or something like that.
"You've got to make up your mind to these things," he argued,
"if you tackle raising a boy, Dell. Why, I'll bet I ran off
and scared my folks into fits fifty times when I was a kid."
"But--he's--just a baby!" sobbed the Little Doctor with her
face pressed hard against Chip's strong, comforting shoulder.
"He's a little devil!" amended Chip fiercely. "He ought to be
walloped for scaring you like this. He's just as capable of
looking after himself as most kids twice his size. He'll get
hungry and head for home--and if he don't know the way,
Silver does; so he can't--"
"But he may have fallen and--"
"Come, now! Haven't you got any more sense than the Countess?
If you insist of thinking up horrors to scare yourself with,
I don't know as anybody can stop you. Dell! Brace up and quit
worrying. I tell you--he's--all right!"
That did well enough--seeing the Little Doctor did not get a
look at Chip's face, which was white and drawn, with sunken,
haggard eyes staring into the dark over her head. He kissed
her hastily and told her he must go, and that he'd hurry back
as soon as he could. So he went half running down the path
and passed the Countess and the Old Man without a word; piled
onto his horse and went off up the hill road again.
They could not get it out of their minds that the Kid must
have ridden up on the bluff to meet his mother, had been too
early to meet her--for the Little Doctor had come home rather
later than she expected to do--and had wandered off to visit
the boys, perhaps, or to meet his Daddy Chip who was over
there some where on the bench trying to figure out a system
of ditches that might logically be expected to water the
desert claims of the Happy Family--if they could get the
They firmly believed that the kid had gone up on the hill,
and so they hunted for him up there. The Honorable Blake had
gone to Dry Lake and taken the train for Great Falls, before
ever the Kid had been really missed. The Old Man had not seen
the Kid ride up the hill--but he had been sitting with his
chair turned away from the road, and he was worried about
other things and so might easily have missed seeing him. The
Countess had been taking a nap, and she was not expected to
know anything about his departure. And she had not looked
into the doughnut jar--indeed, she was so upset by supper
time that, had she looked, she would not have missed the
doughnuts. For the same reason Ole did not miss his blanket.
Ole had not been near his bed; he was out riding and
searching and calling through the coulee and up toward the
old Denson place.
No one dreamed that the :Kid had started out with a camp-
outfit--if one might call it that--and with the intention of
joining the Happy Family in the breaks, and of helping them
gather their cattle. How could they dream that? How could
they realize that a child who still liked to be told bedtime
stories and to be rocked to sleep, should harbor such man-
size thoughts and ambitions? How could they know that the Kid
was being "a rell ole cowpuncher"?
That night the whole Happy Family, just returned from the
Badlands and warned by Chip at dusk that the Kid was missing,
hunted the coulees that bordered the benchland. A few of the
nesters who had horses and could ride them hunted also. The
men who worked at the Flying U hunted, and Chip hunted
frantically. Chip just about worshipped that kid, and in
spite of his calmness and his optimism when he talked to the
Little Doctor, you can imagine the state of mind he was in.
At sunrise they straggled in to the ranch, caught up fresh
horses, swallowed a cup of coffee and what food they could
choke down and started out again. At nine o'clock a party
came out from Dry Lake, learned that the Kid was not yet
found, and went out under a captain to comb systematically
through the hills and the coulees.
Before night all the able-bodied men in the country and some
who were not--were searching. It is astonishing how quickly a
small army will volunteer in such an emergency; and it
doesn't seem to matter very much that the country seems big
and empty of people ordinarily. They come from somewhere,
when they're needed.
The Little Doctor--oh, let us not talk about the Little
Doctor. Such agonies as she suffered go too deep for words.
The next day after that, Chip saddled a horse and let her
ride beside him. Chip was afraid to leave her at the ranch--
afraid that she would go mad. So he let her ride--they rode
together. They did not go far from the ranch. There was
always the fear that someone might bring him in while they
were gone. That fear drove them back, every hour or two. Then
another fear would drive them forth again.
Up in another county there is a creek called Lost Child
Creek. A child was lost--or was it two children?--and men
hunted and hunted and hunted, and it was months before
anything was found. Then a cowboy riding that way found--just
bones. Chip knew about that creek which is called Lost Child.
He had been there and he had heard the story, and he had seen
the--father and had shuddered--and that was long before he
had known the feeling a father has for his child. What he was
deadly afraid of now was that the Little Doctor would hear
about that creek, and how it had gotten its name.
What he dreaded most for himself was to think of that creek.
He kept the Little Doctor beside him and away from that Job's
comforter, the Countess, and tried to keep her hope alive
while the hours dragged their leaden feet over the hearts of
A camp was hastily organized in One Man Coulee and another
out beyond Denson's place, and men went there to the camps
for a little food and a little rest, when they could hold out
no longer. Chip and the Little Doctor rode from camp to camp,
intercepted every party of searchers they glimpsed on the
horizon, and came back to the ranch, hollow-eyed and silent
for the most part. They would rest an hour, perhaps. Then
they would ride out again.
The Happy Family seemed never to think of eating, never to
want sleep. Two days--three days--four days--the days became
a nightmare. Irish, with a warrant out for his arrest, rode
with the constable, perhaps--if the search chanced to lead
them together. Or with Big Medicine, whom he had left in hot
anger. H. J. Owens and these other claim-jumpers hunted with
the Happy Family and apparently gave not a thought to claims.
Miss Allen started out on the second day and hunted through
all the coulees and gulches in the neighborhood of her
claim--coulees and gulches that had been searched frantically
two or three times before. She had no time to make whimsical
speeches to Andy Green, nor he to listen. When they met, each
asked the other for news, and separated without a thought for
each other. The Kid--they must find him--they must.
The third day, Miss Allen put up a lunch, told her three
claim partners that she should not come back until night
unless that poor child was found, and that they need not look
for her before dark and set out with the twinkle all gone
from her humorous brown eyes and her mouth very determined.
She met Pink and the Native Son and was struck with the
change which two days of killing anxiety had made in them.
True, they had not slept for forty-eight hours, except an
hour or two after they had been forced to stop and eat. True,
they had not eaten except in snatches. But it was not that
alone which made their faces look haggard and old and
haunted. They, too, were thinking of Lost Child Creek and How
it had gotten its name.
Miss Allen gleaned a little information from them regarding
the general whereabouts of the various searching parties. And
then, having learned that the foothills of the mountains were
being searched minutely because the Kid might have taken a
notion to visit Meeker's; and that the country around Wolf
Butte was being searched, because he had once told Big
Medicine that when he got bigger and his dad would let him,
he was going over there and kill wolves to make Doctor Dell
some rugs: and that the country toward the river was being
searched because the Kid always wanted to see where the Happy
Family drove the sheep to, that time when Happy Jack got shot
under the arm; that all the places the Kid had seemed most
interested in were being searched minutely--if it could be
possible to; search minutely a country the size of that!
Having learned all that, Miss Allen struck off by herself,
straight down into the Badlands where nobody seemed to have
done much searching.
The reason for that was, that the Happy Family had come out
of the breaks on the day that the Kid was lost. They had not
ridden together, but in twos and threes because they drove
out several small bunches of cattle that they had gleaned, to
a common centre in One Man Coulee. They had traveled by the
most feasible routes through that rough country, and they had
seen no sign of the Kid or any other rider.
They did not believe that he had come over that far, or even
in that direction; because a horseman would almost certainly
have been sighted by some of them in crossing a ridge
It never occurred to anyone that the Kid might go down Flying
U Creek and so into the breaks and the Badlands. Flying U
Creek was fenced, and the wire gate was in its place--Chip
had looked down along there, the first night, and had found
the gate up just as it always was kept. Why should he
suspect that the Kid had managed to open that gate and to
close it after him? A little fellow like that?
So the searching parties, having no clue to that one incident
which would at least have sent them in the right direction,
kept to the outlying fringe of gulches which led into the
broken edge of the benchland, and to the country west and
north and south of these gulches. At that, there was enough
broken country to keep them busy for several days, even when
you consider the number of searchers.
Miss Allen did not want to go tagging along with some party.
She did not feel as if she could do any good that way, and
she wanted to do some good. She wanted to find that poor
little fellow and take him to his mother. She had met his
mother, just the day before, and had ridden with her for
several miles. The look in the Little Doctor's eyes haunted
Miss Allen until she felt sometimes as if she must scream
curses to the heavens for so torturing a mother. And that was
not all; she had looked into Chip's face, last night--and she
had gone home and cried until she could cry no more, just
with the pity of it.
She left the more open valley and rode down a long, twisting
canyon that was lined with cliffs so that it was impossible
to climb out with a horse. She was sure she could not get
lost or turned around, in a place like that, and it seemed to
her as hopeful a place to search as any. When you came to
that, they all had to ride at random and trust to luck, for
there was not the faintest clue to guide them. So Miss Allen
considered that she could do no better than search all the
patches of brush in the canyon, and keep on going.
The canyon ended abruptly in a little flat, which she
crossed. She had not seen the tracks of any horse going down,
but when she was almost across the flat she discovered tracks
of cattle, and now and then the print of a shod hoof. Miss
Allen began to pride herself on her astuteness in reading
these signs. They meant that some of the Happy Family had
driven cattle this way; which meant that they would have seen
little Claude Bennett--that was the Kid's real name, which no
one except perfect strangers ever used--they would have seen
the Kid or his tracks, if he had ridden down here.
Miss Allen, then, must look farther than this. She hesitated
before three or four feasible outlets to the little flat, and
chose the one farthest to the right. That carried her farther
south, and deeper into a maze of gulches and gorges and
small, hidden valleys. She did not stop, but she began to see
that it was going to be pure chance, or the guiding hand of a
tender Providence, if one ever did find anybody in this
horrible jumble. She had never seen such a mess. She believed
that poor little tot had come down in here, after all; she
could not see why, but then you seldom did know why children
took a notion to do certain unbelievable things. Miss Allen
had taught the primary grade in a city school, and she knew a
little about small boys and girls and the big ideas they
She rode and rode, trying to put herself mentally in the
Kid's place. Trying to pick up the thread of logical
thought--children were logical sometimes--startlingly so.
"I wonder," she thought suddenly, "if he started out with the
idea of hunting cattle! I wouldn't be a bit surprised if he
did--living on a cattle ranch, and probably knowing that the
men were down here somewhere." Miss Allen, you see, came
pretty close to the truth with her guess.
Still, that did not help her find the Kid. She saw a high,
bald peak standing up at the mouth of the gorge down which
she was at that time picking her way, and she made up her
mind to climb that peak and see if she might not find him by
looking from that point of vantage. So she rode to the foot
of the pinnacle, tied her horse to a bush and began to climb.
Peaks like that are very deceptive in their height Miss Allen
was slim and her lungs were perfect, and she climbed steadily
and as fast as she dared. For all that it took her a long
while to reach the top--much longer than she expected. When
she reached the black rock that looked, from the bottom, like
the highest point of the hill, she found that she had not
gone much more than two-thirds of the way up, and that the
real peak sloped back so that it could not be seen from below
Miss Allen was a persistent young woman. She kept climbing
until she did finally reach the highest point, and could look
down into gorges and flats and tiny basins and canyons and
upon peaks and ridges and worm-like windings, and patches of
timber and patches of grass and patches of barren earth and
patches of rocks all jumbled up together--. Miss Allen gasped
from something more than the climb, and sat down upon a rock,
stricken with a sudden, overpowering weakness. "God in
heaven!" she whispered, appalled. "What a place to get lost
She sat there a while and stared dejectedly down upon that
wild orgy of the earth's upheaval which is the Badlands. She
felt as though it was sheer madness even to think of finding
anybody in there. It was worse than a mountain country,
because in the mountains there is a certain semblance of some
system in the canyons and high ridges and peaks. Here every
thing--peaks, gorges, tiny valleys and all--seemed to be just
dumped down together. Peaks rose from the middle of canyons;
canyons were half the time blind pockets that ended abruptly
against a cliff.
"Oh!" she cried aloud, jumpin up and gesticulating wildly.
Baby! Little Claude! Here! Look up this way!" She saw him,
down below, on the opposite side from where she had left her
The Kid was riding slowly up a gorge. Silver was picking his
way carefully over the rocks--they looked tiny, down there!
And they were not going toward home, by any means. They were
headed directly away from home.
The cheeks of Miss Allen were wet while she shouted and
called and waved her hands. He was alive, anyway. Oh, if his
mother could only be told that he was alive! Oh, why weren't
there telephones or something where they were needed! If his
poor mother could see him!
Miss Allen called again, and the Kid heard her. She was sure
that he heard her, because he stopped--that pitiful, tiny
speck down there on the horse!--and she thought he looked up
at her. Yes, she was sure he heard her, and that finally he
saw her; because he took off his hat and waved it over his
head--just like a man, the poor baby!
Miss Allen considered going straight down to him, and then
walking around to where her horse was tied. She was afraid to
leave him while she went for the horse and rode around to
where he was. She was afraid she might miss him somehow the
Badlands had stamped that fear deep into her soul.
"Wait!" she shouted, her hands cupped around her trembling
lips, tears rolling down her cheeks "Wait baby! I'm coming
for you." She hoped that the Kid heard what she said, but she
could not be sure, for she did not hear him reply. But he did
not go on at once, and she thought he would wait.
Miss Allen picked up her skirts away from her ankles and
started running down the steep slope. The Kid, away down
below, stared up at her. She went down a third of the way,
and stopped just in time to save herself from going over a
sheer wall of rocks--stopped because a rock which she
dislodged with her foot rolled down the slope a few feet,
gave a leap into space and disappeared.
A step at a time Miss Allen crept down to where the rock had
bounced off into nothingness, and gave one look and crouched
close to the earth. A hundred feet, it must be, straight
down. After the first shock she looked to the right and the
left and saw that she must go back, and down upon the other
Away down there at the bottom, the Kid sat still on his horse
and stared up at her. And Miss Allen calling to him that she
would come, started back up to the peak.
CHAPTER 18. THE LONG WAY ROUND
Miss Allen turned to yell encouragingly to the Kid, and she
saw that he was going on slowly, his head turned to watch
her. She told him to wait where he was, and she would come
around the mountain and get him and take him home. "Do you
hear me, baby?" she asked imploringly after she had told him
just what she meant to do. "Answer me, baby!"
"I ain't a baby!" his voice came faintly shrill after a
minute. "I'm a rell ole cowpuncher"
Miss Allen thought that was what he said, but at the time she
did not quite understand, except his denial of being a baby;
that was clear enough. She turned to the climb, feeling that
she must hurry if she expected to get him and take him home
before dark. She knew that every minute was precious and must
not be wasted. It was well after noon--she had forgotten to
eat her lunch, but her watch said it was nearly one o'clock
already. She had no idea how far she had ridden, but she
thought it must be twelve miles at least.
She had no idea, either, how far she had run down the butte
to the cliff--until she began to climb back. Every rod or so
she stopped to rest and to look back and to call to the Kid
who seemed such a tiny mite of humanity among these huge
peaks and fearsome gorges. He seemed to be watching her very
closely always when she looked she could see the pink blur of
his little upturned face. She must hurry. Oh, if she could
only send a wireless to his mother! Human inventions fell far
short of the big needs, after all, she thought as she toiled
From the top of the peak she could see the hazy outline of
the Bear Paws, and she knew just about where the Flying U
Coulee lay. She imagined that she could distinguish the line
of its bluff in the far distance. It was not so very far--but
she could not get any word of cheer across the quivering air
lanes. She turned and looked wishfully down at the Kid, a
tinier speck now than before--for she had climbed quite a
distance She waved her hand to him, and her warm brown eyes
held a maternal tenderness. He waved his hat--just like a
man; he must be brave! she thought. She turned reluctantly
and went hurrying down the other side, her blood racing with
the joy of having found him, and of knowing that he was safe.
It seemed to take a long time to climb down that peak; much
longer than she thought it would take. She looked at her
watch nervously--two o'clock, almost! She must hurry, or they
would be in the dark getting home. That did not worry her
very much, However, for there would be searching parties--she
would be sure to strike one somewhere in the hills before
She came finally down to the level--except that it was not
level at all, but a trough-shaped gulch that looked
unfamiliar. Still, it was the same one she had used as a
starting point when she began to climb--of course it was the
same one. How in the world could a person get turned around
going straight up the side of a hill and straight down again
in the very same place. This was the gorge where her horse
was tied, only it might be that she was a little below the
exact spot; that could happen, of course. So Miss Allen went
up the gorge until it petered out against the face of the
mountain--one might as well call it a mountain and be done
with it, for it certainly was more than a mere hill.
It was some time before Miss Allen would admit to herself
that she had missed the gorge where she had left her horse,
and that she did not know where the gorge was, and that she
did not know where she was herself. She had gone down the
mouth of the gulch before she made any admissions, and she
had seen not one solitary thing that she could remember
having ever seen before.
Not even the peak she had climbed looked familiar from where
she was. She was not perfectly sure that it was the same peak
when she looked at it.
Were you ever lost? It is a very peculiar sensation--the
feeling that you are adrift in a world that is strange. Miss
Allen had never been lost before in her life. If she had
been, she would have been more careful, and would have made
sure that she was descending that peak by the exact route she
had followed up it, instead of just taking it for granted
that all she need do was get to the bottom.
After an hour or two she decided to climb the peak again, get
her bearings from the top and come down more carefully. She
was wild with apprehension--though I must say it was not for
her own plight but on account of the Kid. So she climbed. And
then everything looked so different that she believed she had
climbed another hill entirely. So she went down again and
turned into a gorge which seemed to lead in the direction
where she had seen the little lost boy. She followed that
quite a long way--and that one petered out like the first.
Miss Allen found the gorges filling up with shadow, and she
looked up and saw the sky crimson and gold, and she knew then
without any doubts that she was lost. Miss Allen was a brave
young woman, or she would not have been down in that country
in the first place; but just the same she sat down with her
back against a clay bank and cried because of the eeriness
and the silence, and because she was hungry and she knew she
was going to be cold before morning--but mostly because she
could not find that poor, brave little baby boy who had waved
his hat when she left him, and shouted that he was not a
In a few minutes she pulled herself together and went on;
there was nothing to be gained by sitting in one place and
worrying. She walked until it was too dark to see, and then,
because she had come upon a little, level canyon bottom--
though one that was perfectly strange--she stopped there
where a high bank sheltered her from the wind that was too
cool for comfort. She called, a few times, until she was sure
that the child was not within hearing. After that she
repeated poetry to keep her mind off the loneliness and the
pity of that poor baby alone like herself. She would not
think of him if she could help it.
When she began to shiver so that her teeth chattered, she
would walk up and down before the bank until she felt warm
again; then she would sit with her back against the clay and
close her eyes and try to sleep. It was not a pleasant way in
which to pass a whole night, but Miss Allen endured it as
best she could. When the sun tinged the hill-tops she got up
stiffly and dragged herself out of the canyon where she could
get the direction straight in her mind, and then set off
resolutely to find the Kid. She no longer had much thought of
finding her horse, though she missed him terribly, and wished
she had the lunch that was tied to the saddle.
This, remember, was the fourth day since the Kid rode down
through the little pasture and stood on a piece of fence-post
so that he could fasten the gate. Men had given up hope of
finding him alive and unharmed. They searched now for his
body. And then the three women who lived with Miss Allen
began to inquire about the girl, and so the warning went out
that Miss Allen was lost; and they began looking for her
Miss Allen, along towards noon of that fourth day, found a
small stream of water that was fit to drink. Beside the
stream she found the footprints of a child, and they looked
quite fresh--as if they had been made that day. She whipped
up her flagging energy and went on hopefully.
It was a long while afterwards that she met him coming down a
canyon on his horse. It must have been past three o'clock,
and Miss Allen could scarcely drag herself along. When she
saw him she turned faint, and sat down heavily on the steep-
The Kid rode up and stopped beside her. His face was terribly
dirty and streaked with the marks of tears he would never
acknowledge afterwards. He seemed to be all right, though,
and because of his ignorance of the danger he had been in he
did not seem to have suffered half as much as had Miss Allen.
"Howdy do," he greeted her, and smiled his adorable little
smile that was like the Little Doctor's. "Are you the lady up
on the hill? Do you know where the bunch is? I'm--lookin' for
Miss Allen found strength enough to stand up and put her arms
around him as he sat very straight in his little stock
saddle; she hugged him tight.
"You poor baby!" she cried, and her eyes were blurred with
tears. "You poor little lost baby!"
"I ain't a baby!" The Kid pulled himself free. "I'm six years
old goin' on thirty. I'm a rell ole cowpuncher. I can slap a
saddle on my string and ride like a son-a-gun. And I can put
the bridle on him my own self and everything. I--I was
lookin' for the bunch. I had to make a dry-camp and my
doughnuts is smashed up and the jelly glass broke but I never
cried when a skink came. I shooed him away and I never cried
once. I'm a rell ole cowpuncher, ain't I? I ain't afraid of
skinks. I frowed a rock at him and I said, git outa here, you
damn old skink or I'll knock your block off!' You oughter
seen him go! I--I sure made him hard to ketch, by cripes!"
Miss Allen stepped back and the twinkle came into her eyes
and the whimsical twist to her lips. She knew children. Not
for the world would she offend this manchild.
"Well, I should say you are a real old cowpuncher!" she
exclaimed admiringly. "Now I'm afraid of skinks. I never
would dare knock his block off! And last night when I was
lost and hungry and it got dark, I--cried!"
"Hunh!" The Kid studied her with a condescending pity. "Oh,
well--you're just a woman. Us fellers have to take care of
women. Daddy Chip takes care of Doctor Dell--I guess she'd
cry if she couldn't find the bunch and had to make dry-camp
and skinks come around--but I never."
"Of course you never!" Miss Allen agreed emphatically, trying
not to look conscious of any tear-marks on the Kid's
sunburned cheeks. "Women are regular cry babies, aren't they?
I suppose," she added guilefully: "I'd cry again if you rode
off to find the bunch an left me down here all alone. I've
lost my horse, an I've lost my lunch, and I've lost myself,
and I'm awful afraid of skunks--skinks."
"Oh, I'll take care of you," the Kid comforted. "I'll give
you a doughnut if you're hungry. I've got some left, but
you'll have to pick out the glass where the jelly broke on
it." He reined closer to the bank and slid off and began
untying the sadly depleted bag from behind the cantle. Miss
Allen offered to do it for him, and was beautifully snubbed.
The Kid may have been just a frightened, lost little boy
before he met her--but that was a secret hidden in the
silences of the deep canyons. Now he was a real old
cowpuncher, and he was going to take care of Miss Allen
because men always had to take care of women.
Miss Allen offended him deeply when she called him Claude.
She was told bluntly that he was Buck, and that he belonged
to the Flying U outfit, and was riding down here to help the
bunch gather some cattle. "But I can't find the brakes," he
admitted grudgingly. "That's where the bunch is--down in the
brakes; I can't seem to locate them brakes"
"Don't you think you ought to go home to your mother?" Miss
Allen asked him while he was struggling with the knot he had
tied in the bag.
"I've got to find the bunch. The bunch needs me," said the
Kid. "I--I guess Doctor Dell is s'prised--"
"Who's Doctor Dell? Your mother? Your mother has just about
cried herself sick, she's so lonesome without you."
The Kid looked at her wide-eyed. "Aw, gwan! he retorted after
a minute, imitating Happy Jack's disbelief of any unpleasant
news. "I guess you're jest loadin' me. Daddy Chip is takin'
care of her. He wouldn't let her be lonesome."
The Kid got the sack open and reached an arm in to the
shoulder . He groped there for a minute and drew out a
battered doughnut smeared liberally with wild currant jelly,
and gave it to Miss Allen with an air of princely generosity
and all the chivalry of all the Happy Family rolled into one
baby gesture. Miss Allen took the doughnut meekly and did not
spoil the Kid's pleasure by hugging him as she would have
liked to do. Instead she said: "Thank you, Buck of the Flying
U," quite humbly. Then something choked Miss Allen and she
turned her back upon him abruptly.
"I've got one, two, free, fourteen left," said the Kid,
counting them gravely. "If I had 'membered to bring matches,"
he added regretfully, "I could have a fire and toast rabbit
legs. I guess you got some glass, didn't you? I got some and
it cutted my tongue so the bleed came--but I never cried," he
made haste to deny stoutly. "I'm a rell ole cowpuncher now. I
just cussed." He looked at her gravely. "You can't cuss where
women can hear," he told Miss Allen reassuringly. "Bud
"Let me see the doughnuts," said miss Allen abruptly. "I
think you ought to let me keep the lunch. That's the woman's
part. Men can't bother with lunch--"
"It ain't lunch, it's grub," corrected the Kid. But he let
her have the bag, and Miss Allen looked inside. There were
some dried prunes that looked like lumps of dirty dough, and
six dilapidated doughnuts in a mess of jelly, and a small
glass jar of honey.
"I couldn't get the cover off," the Kid explained, "'theut I
busted it, and then it would all spill like the jelly. Gee I-
I wish I had a beefsteak under my belt!"
Miss Allen leaned over with her elbows on the bank and
laughed and laughed. Miss Allen was closer to hysterics than
she had ever been in her life. The Kid looked at her in
astonishment and turned to Silver, standing with drooping
head beside the bank. Miss Allen pulled herself together and
asked him what he was going to do.
"I'm going to LOCATE your horse," he said, "and then I'm
going to take you home." He looked at her disapprovingly. "I
don't like you so very much," he added. "It ain't p'lite to
laugh at a feller all the time."
"I won't laugh any more. I think we had better go home right
away," said Miss Allen contritely. "You see, Buck, the bunch
came home. They--they aren't hunting cattle now. They want to
find you and tell you. And your father and mother need you
awfully bad, Buck. They've been looking all over for you,
everywhere, and wishing you'd come home."
Buck looked wistfully up and down the canyon. His face at
that moment was not the face of a real old cowpuncher, but
the sweet, dirty, mother-hungry face of a child. "It's a far
ways," he said plaintively. "It's a million miles, I guess I
wanted to go home, but I couldn't des' 'zactly 'member--and I
thought I could find the bunch, and they'd know the trail
better. Do you know the trail?"
Miss Allen evaded that question and the Kid's wide, wistful
eyes. "I think if we start out, Buck, we can find it. We must
go toward the sun, now. That will be towards home. Shall I
put you on your horse?"
The Kid gave her a withering glance and squirmed up into the
saddle with the help of both horn and cantle and by the grace
of good luck. Miss Allen gasped while she watched him.
The Kid looked down at her triumphantly. He frowned a little
and flushed guiltily when he remembered something. "'Scuse
me," he said. "I guess you better ride my horse. I guess I
better walk. It ain't p'lite for ladies to walk and men
"No, no!" Miss Allen reached up with both hands and held the
Kid from dismounting. "I'll walk, Buck. I'd rather. I--why, I
wouldn't dare ride that horse of yours. I'd be afraid he
might buck me off." She pinched her eyebrows together and
pursed up her lips in a most convincing manner.
"Hunh!" Scorn of her cowardice was in his tone. "Well, a
course I ain't scared to ride him."
So with Miss Allen walking close to the Kid's stirrup and
trying her best to keep up and to be cheerful and to remember
that she must not treat him like a little, lost boy but like
a real old cowpuncher, they started up the canyon toward the
sun which hung low above a dark, pine-covered hill.
CHAPTER 19. HER NAME WAS ROSEMARY
Andy Green came in from a twenty-hour ride through the Wolf
Butte country and learned that another disaster had followed
on the heels of the first; that miss Allen had been missing
for thirty-six hours. While he bolted what food was handiest
in the camp where old Patsy cooked for the searchers, and the
horse wrangler brought up the saddle-bunch just as though it
was a roundup that held here its headquarters, he heard all
that Slim and Cal Emmett could tell him about the
disappearance of Miss Allen.
One fact stood significantly in the foreground, and that was
that Pink and the Native Son had been the last to speak with
her, so far as anyone knew. That was it--so far as anyone
knew. Andy's lips tightened. There were many strangers riding
through the country, and where there are many strangers there
is also a certain element of danger. That Miss Allen was lost
was not the greatest fear that drove Andy Green forth without
sleep and with food enough to last him a day or two.
First he meant to hunt up Pink and Miguel--which was easy
enough, since they rode into camp exhausted and disheartened
while he was saddling a fresh horse. From them he learned the
direction which Miss Allen had taken when she left them, and
he rode that way and never stopped until he had gone down off
the benchland and had left the fringe of coulees and canyons
behind. Pink and the Native Son had just come from down in
here, and they had seen no sign of either her or the Kid.
Andy intended to begin where they had left off, and comb the
breaks as carefully as it is possible for one man to do. He
was beginning to think that the Badlands held the secret of
the Kid disappearance, even though they had seen nothing of
him when they came out four days ago. Had he seen Chip he
would have urged him to send all the searchers--and there
were two or three hundred by now--into the Badlands and keep
them there until the Kid was found. But he did not see Chip
and had no time to hunt him up. And having managed to evade
the supervision of any captain, and to keep clear of all
parties, he meant to go alone and see if he could find a
clue, at least.
It was down in the long canyon which Miss Allen had followed,
that Andy found hoof-prints which he recognized. The horse
Miss Allen had ridden whenever he saw her--one which she had
bought somewhere north of town--had one front foot which
turned in toward the other. "Pigeon-toed," he would have
called it. The track it left in soft soil was unmistakable.
Andy's face brightened when he saw it and knew that he was on
her trail. The rest of the way down the canyon he rode
alertly, for though he knew she might be miles from there by
now, to find the route she had taken into the Badlands was
The flat, which Andy knew very well--having driven the bunch
of cattle whose footprints had so elated Miss Allen--he
crossed uneasily. There were so many outlets to this rich
little valley. He tried several of them, which took time; and
always when he came to soft earth and saw no track of the
hoof that turned in toward the other, he would go back and
ride into another gulch. And when you are told that these
were many, and that much of the ground was rocky, and some
was covered with a thick mat of grass, you will not be
surprised that when Andy finally took up her trail in the
canyon farthest to the right, it was well towards noon. He
followed her easily enough until he came to the next valley,
which he examined over and over before he found where she had
left it to push deeper into the Badlands. And it was the same
experience repeated when he came out of that gulch into
another open space.
He came into a network of gorges that would puzzle almost
anyone, and stopped to water his horse and let him feed for
an hour or so. A man's horse meant a good deal to him, down
here on such a mission, and even his anxiety could not betray
him into letting his mount become too fagged.
After a while he mounted and rode on without having any clue
to follow; one must trust to chance, to a certain extent, in
a place like this. He had not seen any sign of the Kid,
either, and the gorges were filling with shadows that told
How low the sun was sliding down the sky. At that time he was
not more than a mile or so from the canyon up which Miss
Allen was toiling afoot toward the sun; but Andy had no means
of knowing that. He went on with drooping head and eyes that
stared achingly here and there. That was the worst of his
discomfort--his eyes. Lack of sleep and the strain of
looking, looking, against wind and sun, had made them red-
rimmed and bloodshot. Miss Allen's eyes were like that, and
so were the eyes of all the searchers.
In spite of himself Andy's eyes closed now. He had not slept
for two nights, and he had been riding all that time. Before
he realized it he was asleep in the saddle, and his horse was
carrying him into a gulch that had no outlet--there were so
many such!--but came up against a hill and stopped there. The
shadows deepened, and the sky above was red and gold.
Andy woke with a jerk, his horse having stopped because he
could go no farther. But it was not that which woke him. He
listened. He would have sworn that he had heard the shrill,
anxious whinney of a horse not far away. He turned and
examined the gulch, but it was narrow and grassy and had no
possible place of concealment, and save himself and his own
horse it was empty. And it was not his own horse that
whinnied--he was sure of that. Also, he was sure that he had
-not dreamed it. A horse had called insistently. Andy knew
horses too well not to know that there was anxiety and
rebellion in that call.
He waited a minute, his heart beating heavily. He turned and
started back down the gulch, and then stopped suddenly. He
heard it again--shrill, prolonged, a call from somewhere;
where, he could not determine because of the piled masses of
earth and rock that flung the sound riotously here and there
and confused him as to direction.
Then his own horse turned his head and looked toward the
left, and answered the call. From far off the strange horse
made shrill reply. Andy got down and began climbing the left-
hand ridge on the run, tired as he was. Not many horses
ranged down in here--and he did not believe, anyway, that
this was any range horse. It did not sound like Silver, but
it might be the pigeon-toed horse of Miss Allen. And if it
was, then Miss Allen would be there. He took a deep breath
and went up the last steep pitch in a spurt of speed that
At the top he stood panting and searched the canyon below
him. Just across the canyon was the high peak which Miss
Allen had climbed afoot. But down below him he saw her horse
circling about in a trampled place under a young cottonwood.
You would never accuse Andy Green of being weak, or of having
unsteady nerves, I hope.
But it is the truth that he felt his knees give way while he
looked; and it was a minute or two before he had any voice
with which to call to her. Then he shouted, and the great
hill opposite flung back the echoes maddeningly.
He started running down the ridge, and brought up in the
canyon's bottom near the horse. It was growing shadowy now to
the top of the lower ridges, although the sun shone faintly
on the crest of the peak. The horse whinnied and circled
restively when Andy came near. Andy needed no more than a
glance to tell him that the horse had stood tied there for
twenty-four hours, at the very least. That meant. . . .
Andy turned pale. He shouted, and the canyon mocked him with
echoes. He looked for her tracks. At the base of the peak he
saw the print of her riding boots; farther along, up the
slope he saw the track again. Miss Allen, then, must have
climbed the peak, and he knew why she had done so. But why
had she not come down again?
There was only one way to find out, and he took the method in
the face of his weariness. He climbed the peak also, with now
and then a footprint to guide him. He was not one of these
geniuses at trailing who could tell, by a mere footprint,
what had been in Miss Allen's mind when she had passed that
way; but for all that it seemed logical that she had gone up
there to see if she could not glimpse the kid--or possibly
the way home.
At the top he did not loiter. He saw, before he reached the
height, where Miss Allen had come down again--and he saw
where she had, to avoid a clump of boulders and a broken
ledge, gone too far to one side. He followed that way. She
had descended at an angle, after that, which took her away
from the canyon.
In Montana there is more of daylight after the sun has gone
than there is in some other places. Andy, by hurrying,
managed to trail Miss Allen to the bottom of the peak before
it grew really dusky. He knew that she had been completely
lost when she reached the bottom, and had probably wandered
about at random since then. At any rate, there were no tracks
anywhere save her own, so that he felt less anxiety over her
safety than, when he had started out looking for her.
Andy knew these breaks pretty well. He went over a rocky
ridge, which Miss Allen had not tried to cross because to her
it seemed exactly in the opposite direction from where she
had started, and so he came to her horse again. He untied the
poor beast and searched for a possible trail over the ridge
to where his own horse waited; and by the time he had found
one and had forced the horse to climb to the top and then
descend into the gulch, the darkness lay heavy upon the
He picketed Miss Allen's horse with his rope', and fashioned
a hobble for his own mount. Then he ate a little of the food
he carried and sat down to rest and smoke and consider how
best he could find Miss Allen or the Kid--or both. He
believed Miss Allen to be somewhere not far away--since she
was afoot, and had left her lunch tied to the saddle. She
could not travel far without food.
After a little he climbed back up the ridge to where he had
noticed a patch of brush, and there he started a fire. Not a
very large one, but large enough to be seen for a long
distance where the vision was not blocked by intervening
hills. Then he sat down beside it and waited and listened and
tended the fire. It was all that he could do for the present,
and it seemed pitifully little. If she saw the fire, he
believed that she would come; if she did not see it, there
was no hope of his finding her in the dark. Had there been
fuel on the high peak, he might have gone up there to start
his fire; but that was out of the question, since the peak
Heavy-eyed, tired in every fibre of his being, Andy dragged
up a dead buck-bush and laid the butt of it across his blaze.
Then he lay down near it--and went to sleep as quickly as if
he had been chloroformed.
It may have been an hour after that--it may have been more.
He sat up suddenly and listened. Through the stupor of his
sleep he had heard Miss Allen call. At least, he believed he
had heard her call, though he knew he might easily have
dreamed it. He knew he had been asleep, because the fire had
eaten part of the way to the branches of the bush and had
died down to smoking embers. He kicked the branch upon the
coals and a blaze shot up into the night. He stood up and
walked a little distance away from the fire so that he could
see better, and stood staring down into the canyon.
From below he heard a faint call--he was sure of it. The
wonder to him was that he had heard it at all in his sleep.
His anxiety must have been strong enough even then to send
the signal to his brain and rouse him.
He shouted, and again he heard a faint call. It seemed to be
far down the canyon. He started running that way.
The next time he shouted, she answered him more clearly. And
farther along he distinctly heard and recognized her voice.
You may be sure he ran, after that!
After all, it was not so very far, to a man who is running
recklessly down hill. Before he realized how close he was he
saw her standing before him in the starlight. Andy did not
stop. He kept right on running until he could catch her in
his arms; and when he had her there he held her close and
then he kissed her. That was not proper, of course--but a man
does sometimes do terribly improper things under the stress
of big emotions; Andy had been haunted by the fear that she
Well, Miss Allen was just as improper as he was, for that
matter. She did say "Oh!" in a breathless kind of way, and
then she must have known who he was. There surely could be no
other excuse for the way she clung to him and without the
faintest resistance let him kiss her.
"Oh, I've found him!" she whispered after the first terribly
unconventional greetings were over. "I've found him, Mr.
Green. I couldn't come up to the fire, because he's asleep
and I couldn't carry him, and I wouldn't wake him unless I
had to. He's just down here--I was afraid to go very far, for
fear of losing him again. Oh, Mr. Green! I--"
"My name is Andy," he told her. "What's your name?"
"Mine? It's--well, it's Rosemary. Never mind now. I should
think you'd be just wild to see that poor little fellow--he's
a brick, though."
"I've been wild," said Andy, "over a good many things--you,
for one. Where's the Kid?"
They went together, hand in hand--terribly silly, wasn't
it?--to where the Kid lay wrapped in the gray blanket in the
shelter of a bank. Andy struck a match and held it so that he
could see the Kid face--and Miss Allen, looking at the man
whose wooing had been so abrupt, saw his mouth tremble and
his lashes glisten as he stared down while the match-blaze
"Poor little tad--he's sure a great Kid," he said huskily
when the match went out. He stood up and put his arm around
Miss Allen just as though that was his habit. "And it was you
that found him!" he murmured with his face against hers. "And
I've found you both, thank God."
CHAPTER 20. THE RELL OLE COWPUNCHER GOES HOME
I don't suppose anything can equal the aplomb of a child that
has always had his own way and has developed normally. The
Kid, for instance, had been wandering in the wild places--
this was the morning of the sixth day. The whole of Northern
Montana waited anxiously for news of him. The ranch had been
turned into a rendezvous for searchers. Men rode as long as
they could sit in the saddle. Women were hysterical in the
affection they lavished upon their own young. And yet, the
Kid himself opened his eyes to the sun and his mind was
untroubled save where his immediate needs were concerned. He
sat up thinking of breakfast, and he spied Andy Green humped
on his knees over a heap of camp-fire coals, toasting rabbit-
hams--the joy of it--on a forked stick. Opposite him Miss
Allen crouched and held another rabbit-leg on a forked stick.
The Kid sat up as if a spring had been suddenly released, and
threw off the gray blanket
"Say, I want to do that too!" he cried. "Get me a stick,
Andy, so I can do it. I never did and I want to!"
Andy grabbed him as he came up and kissed him--and the Kid
wondered at the tremble of Andy's arms. He wondered also at
the unusual caress; but it was very nice to have Andy's arms
around him and Andy's cheek against his, and of a sudden the
baby of him came to the surface.
"I want my Daddy Chip!" he whimpered, and laid his head down
on Andy's shoulder . "And I want my Doctor Dell and my--cat!
She's lonesome for me. And I forgot to take the string off
her tail and maybe it ain't comfortable any more!"
"We're going to hit the trail, old-timer, just as soon as we
get outside of a little grub." Andy's voice was so tender
that Miss Allen gulped back a sob of sympathy. "You take this
stick and finish roasting the meat, and then see what you
think of rabbit-hams. I hear you've been a real old
cowpuncher, Buck. The way you took care of Miss Allen proves
you're the goods, all right. Not quite so close, or you'll
burn it, Buck. That's better. I'll go get another stick and
roast the back."
The Kid, squatting on his heels by the fire, watched gravely
the rabbit-leg on the two prongs of the willow stick he held.
He glanced across at Miss Allen and smiled his Little Doctor
"He's my pal," he announced. "I bet if I stayed we could round
up all them cattle our own selves. And I bet he can find your
horse, too. He--he's 'customed to this country. I'd a found
your horse today, all right--but I guess Andy could find him
quicker. Us punchers'll take care of you, all right." The
rabbit-leg sagged to the coals and began to scorch, and the
Kid lifted it startled and was grateful when Miss Allen did
not seem to have seen the accident.
"I'd a killed a rabbit for you," he explained, "only I didn't
have no gun or no matches so I couldn't. When I'm ten my
Daddy Chip is going to give me a gun. And then if you get
lost I can take care of you like Andy can. I'll be ten next
week, I guess." He turned as Andy came back slicing off the
branches of a willow the size of his thumb.
"Say, old-timer, where's the rest of the bunch?" he inquired
casually. "Did you git your cattle rounded up?"
"Not yet." Andy sharpened the prongs of his stick and
carefully impaled the back of the rabbit.
"Well, I'll help you out. But I guess I better go home
first--I guess Doctor Dell might need me, maybe."
"I know she does, Buck." Andy's voice had a peculiar, shaky
sound that the Kid did not understand. "She needs you right
bad. We'll hit the high places right away quick."
Since Andy had gone at daybreak and brought the horses over
into this canyon, his statement was a literal one. They ate
hurriedly and started--and Miss Allen insisted that Andy was
all turned around, and that they were going in exactly the
wrong direction, and blushed and was silent when Andy,
turning his face full toward her, made a kissing motion with
"You quit that!" the Kid commanded him sharply. "She's my
girl I guess I found her first 'fore you did, and you ain't
goin' to kiss her."
After that there was no lovemaking but the most decorous
conversation between these two.
Flying U Coulee lay deserted under the warm sunlight of early
forenoon. Deserted, and silent with the silence that tells
where Death has stopped with his sickle. Even the Kid seemed
to feel a strangeness in the atmosphere--a stillness that
made his face sober while he looked around the little pasture
and up at the hill trail. In all the way home they had not
met anyone--but that may have been because Andy chose the
way up Flying U Creek as being shorter and therefore more
At the lower line fence of the little pasture Andy refused to
believe the Kid's assertion of having opened and shut the
gate, until the Kid got down and proved that he could open
it--the shutting process being too slow for Andy's raw
nerves. He lifted the Kid into the saddle and shut the gate
himself, and led the way up the creek at a fast trot.
"I guess Doctor Dell will be glad to see me," the Kid
observed wistfully. "I've been gone most a year, I guess."
Neither Andy nor Miss Allen made any reply to this. Their
eyes were searching the hilltop for riders, that they might
signal. But there was no one in sight anywhere.
"Hadn't you better shout?" suggested Miss Allen. "Or would it
be better to go quietly--"
Andy did not reply; nor did he shout. Andy, at that moment,
was fighting a dryness in his throat. He could not have
called out if he had wanted to. They rode to the stable and
stopped. Andy lifted the Kid down and set him on his two feet
by the stable door while he turned to Miss Allen. For once in
his life he was at a loss. He did not know how best to bring
the Kid to the Little Doctor; How best to lighten the shock
of seeing safe and well the manchild who she thought was
dead. He hesitated. Perhaps he should have ridden on to the
house with him. Perhaps he should have fired the signal when
first he came into the coulee. Perhaps. . .
The Kid himself swept aside Andy's uncertainties. Adeline,
the cat, came out of the stable and looked at them
contemplatively. Adeline still had the string tied to her
tail, and a wisp of paper tied to the string. The Kid pounced
and caught her by the middle.
"I guess I can tie knots so they stay, by cripes!" he shouted
vaingloriously. "I guess Happy Jack can't tie strings any
better 'n me, can he? Nice kitty--c'm back here, you son-a-
Adeline had not worried over the absence of the Kid, but his
hilarious arrival seemed to worry her considerably. She went
bounding up the path to the house, and after her went the
Kid, yelling epithets which were a bit shocking for one of
So he came to the porch just when Chip and the Little Doctor
reached it, white-faced and trembling. Adeline paused to
squeeze under the steps, and the Kid catching her by the
tail, dragged her back yowling. While his astounded parents
watched him unbelievingly, the Kid gripped Adeline firmly and
started up the steps.
"I ketched the son-a-gun!" he cried jubilantly.
"Say, I seen a skink, Daddy Chip, and I frowed a rock and
knocked his block off 'cause he was going to swipe my grub.
Was you s'prised, Doctor Dell?"
Doctor Dell did not say. Doctor Dell was kneeling on the
porch floor with the Kid held closer in her arms than ever he
held the cat, and she was crying and laughing and kissing him
all at once--though nobody except a mother can perform that
CHAPTER 21. THE FIGHT GOES ON
It is amazing how quickly life swings back to the normal
after even so harrowing an experience as had come to the
Flying U. Tragedy had hovered there a while and had turned
away with a smile, and the smile was reflected upon the faces
and in the eyes of everyone upon whose souls had fallen her
shadow. The Kid was safe, and he was well, and he had not
suffered from the experience; on the contrary he spent most
of his waking hours in recounting his adventures to an
admiring audience. He was a real old cowpuncher. He had gone
into the wilderness and he had proven the stuff that was in
him. He had made "dry-camp" just exactly as well as any of
the Happy Family could have done. He had slept out under the
stars rolled in a blanket--and do you think for one minute
that he would ever submit to lace-trimmed nighties again? If
you do, ask the little Doctor what the Kid said on the first
night after his return, when she essayed to robe him in
spotless white and rock him, held tight in her starved arms.
Or you might ask his Daddy Chip, who hovered pretty close to
them both, his eyes betraying how his soul gave thanks. Or--
never mind, I'll tell you myself.
The Little Doctor brought the nightie, and reached out her
two eager arms to take the kid off Chip's knees where he was
perched contentedly relating his adventures with sundry hair-
raising additions born of his imagination. The Kid was
telling Daddy Chip about the skunk he saw, and he hated to be
interrupted. He looked at his Doctor Dell and at the
familiar, white garment with lace at the neck and wristbands,
and he waved his hand with a gesture of dismissal.
"Aw, take that damn' thing away!" he told her in the tone of
the real old cowpuncher. "When I get ready to hit the bed-
ground, a blanket is all I'll need."
Lest you should think him less lovable than he really was, I
must add that, when Chip set him down hastily so that he
himself could rush off somewhere and laugh in secret, the Kid
spread his arms with a little chuckle and rushed straight at
his Doctor Dell and gave her a real bear hug.
"I want to be rocked," he told her--and was her own baby man
again, except that he absolutely refused to reconsider the
nightgown. "And I want you to tell me a story--about when
Silver breaked his leg. Silver's a good ole scout, you bet. I
don't know what I'd a done 'theut Silver. And tell about the
bunch makin' a man outa straw to scare you, and the horses
runned away. I was such a far ways, Doctor Dell, and I
couldn't get back to hear them stories and I've most forgot
about 'em. And tell about Whizzer, Doctor Dell."
The Little Doctor rocked him and told him of the old days,
and she never again brought him his lace-trimmed nightie at
bedtime. She never mentioned his language upon the subject,
either. The Little Doctor was learning some things about her
man-child, and one of them was this: When he rode away into
the Badlands and was lost, other things were lost, and lost
permanently; he was no longer her baby, for all he liked to
be rocked. He had come back to her changed, so that she
studied him amazedly while she worshipped. He had entered
boldly into the life which men live, and he would never come
back entirely to the old order of things. He would never be
her baby; there would be a difference, even while she held
him in her arms and him rocked him to sleep.
She knew that it was so, when the Kid insisted, next day,
upon going home with the bunch; with Andy, rather, who was
just now the Kid's particular hero. He had to help the bunch
he said; they needed him, and Andy needed him and Miss Allen
"Aw, you needn't be scared, Doctor Dell," he told her
shrewdly. "I ain't going to find them brakes any more. I'll
stick with the bunch, cross my heart. and I'll come back
tonight if you're scared 'theut me. Honest to gran'ma, I've
got to go and help the bunch lick the stuffen' outa them
nesters, Doctor Dell."
The Little Doctor looked at him strangely, hugged him tight--
and let him go. Chip would be with them, and he would bring
the Kid home safely, and--the limitations of dooryard play no
longer sufficed; her fledgling had found what his wings were
for, and the nest was too little, now.
"We'll take care of him," Andy promised her understandingly.
"If Chip don't come up, this afternoon, I'll bring him home
myself. Don't you worry a minute about him."
"I'd tell a man she needn't!" added the Kid patronizingly.
"I suppose he's a lot safer with you boys than he is here at
the ranch--unless one of us stood over him all the time, or
we tied him up," she told Andy gamely. "I feel like a hen
trying to raise a duck! Go on, Buck--but give mother a kiss
The Kid kissed her violently and with a haste that betrayed
where his thoughts were, in spite of the fact that never
before had his mother called him Buck.
To her it was a supreme surrender of his babyhood--to him it
was merely his due. The Little Doctor sighed and watched him
ride away beside Andy. "Children are such self-centred little
beasts!" she told J. G. rue-fully. "I almost wish he was a
"Ay? If he was a girl he wouldn't git lost, maybe, but some
feller'd take him away from yuh just the same. The Kid's all
right. He's just the kind you expect him to be and want him
to be. You're tickled to death because he's like he is.
Doggone it, Dell, that Kid's got the real stuff in him! He's
a dead ringer fer his dad--that ought to do yuh."
"It does," the Little Doctor declared. "But it does seem as
if he might be contented here with me for a little while--
after such a horrible time--"
"It wasn't horrible to him, yuh want to recollect. Doggone
it, I wish that Blake would come back. You write to him,
Dell, and tell him how things is stacking up. He oughta be
here on the ground. No tellin' what them nesters'll build up
So the Old Man slipped back into the old channels of worry
and thought, just as life itself slips back after a stressful
period. The little Doctor sighed again and sat down to write
the letter and to discuss with the Old Man what she should
There was a good deal to say. For one thing, more contests
had been filed and more shacks built upon claims belonging to
the Happy Family. She must tell Blake that. Also, Blake must
help make some arrangement whereby the Happy Family could
hire an outfit to gather their stock and the alien stock
which they meant to drive back out of the Badlands. And there
was Irish, who had quietly taken to the hills again as soon
as the Kid returned. Blake was needed to look into that
particular bit of trouble and try and discover just how
serious it was. The man whom Irish had floored with a chair
was apparently hovering close to death--and there were these
who emphasized the adverb and asserted that the hurt was only
apparent, but could prove nothing.
"And you tell 'im," directed the Old Man querulously, "that
I'll stand good for his time while he's lookin' after things
for the boys. And tell 'im if he's so doggoned scared I'll
buy into the game, he needn't to show up here at the ranch at
all; tell him to stay in Dry Lake if he wants to--serve him
right to stop at that hotel fer a while. But tell him for the
Lord's sake git a move on. The way it looks to me, things is
piling up on them boys till they can't hardly see over the
top, and something's got to be done. Tell 'im--here! Give me
a sheet of paper and a pencil and I'll tell him a few things
myself. Chances are you'd smooth 'em out too much, gitting
'em on paper. And the things I've got to say to Blake don't
want any smoothing."
The things he wrote painfully with his rheumatic hand were
not smoothed for politeness' sake, and it made the Old Man
feel better to get them off his mind. He read the letter over
three times, and lingered over the most scathing sentences
relishfully. He sent one of his new men to town for the
express purpose of mailing that letter, and he felt a glow of
satisfaction at actually speaking his mind upon the subject.
Perhaps it was just as well he did not know that Blake was in
Dry Lake when the letter reached his office in Helena, and
that it was forwarded to the place whence it had started.
Blake was already "getting a move on," and he needed no such
spur as the Old Man's letter. But the letter did the Old Man
a lot of good, so that it served its purpose.
Blake had no intention of handling the case from the Flying U
porch, for instance. He had laid his plans quite
independently of the Flying U outfit. He had no intention of
letting Irish be arrested upon a trumped up charge, and he
managed to send a word of warning to that hot-headed young
man not to put himself in the way of any groping arm of the
law; it was so much simpler than arrest and preliminary trial
and bail, and all that. He had sent word to Weary to come and
see him, before ever he received the Old Man's letter, and he
had placed at Weary's disposal what funds would be needed for
the immediate plans of the Happy Family. He had attended in
person to the hauling of the fence material to their boundary
line on the day he arrived and discovered by sheer accident
that the stuff was still in the warehouse of the general
After he did all that, the Honorable Blake received the Old
Man's letter, read it through slowly and afterwards stroked
down his Vandyke beard and laughed quietly to himself. The
letter itself was both peremptory and profane, and commanded
the Honorable Blake to do exactly what he had already done,
and what he intended to do when the time came for the doing.
CHAPTER 22. LAWFUL IMPROVEMENTS
Florence Grace Hallman must not be counted a woman without
principle or kindness of heart or these qualities which make
women beloved of men. She was a pretty nice young woman,
unless one roused her antagonism. Had Andy Green, for
instance, accepted in good faith her offer of a position with
the Syndicate, he would have found her generous and humorous
and loyal and kind. He would probably have fallen in love
with her before the summer was over, and he would never have
discovered in her nature that hardness and that ability for
spiteful scheming which came to the surface and made the
whole Happy Family look upon her as an enemy.
Florence Grace Hillman was intensely human, as well as
intensely loyal to her firm. She had liked Andy Green better
than anyone--herself included--realized. It was not
altogether her vanity that was hurt when she discovered how
he had worked against her--how little her personality had
counted with him. She felt chagrined and humiliated and as
though nothing save the complete subjugation of Andy Green
and the complete thwarting of his plans could ease her own
Deep in her heart she hoped that he would eventually want her
to forgive him his treachery. She would give him a good, hard
fight--she would show him that she was mistress of the
situation. She would force him to respect her as a foe; after
that--Andy Green was human, certainly. She trusted to her
feminine intuition to say just what should transpire after
the fight; trusted to her feminine charm also to bring her
whatever she might desire.
That was the personal side of the situation. There was also
the professional side, which urged her to do battle for the
interests of her firm. And since both the personal and the
professional aspects of the case pointed to the same general
goal, it may be assumed that Florence Grace was prepared to
make a stiff fight.
Then Andy Green proceeded to fall in love with that sharp-
tongued Rosemary Allen; and Rosemary Allen had no better
taste than to let herself be lost and finally found by Andy,
and had the nerve to show very plainly that she not only
approved of his love but returned it. After that, Florence
Grace was in a condition to stop at nothing--short of
murder--that would defeat the Happy Family in their latest
While all the Bear Paw country was stirred up over the lost
child, Florence Grace Hillman said it was too bad, and had
they found him yet? and went right along planting contestants
upon the claims of the Happy Family. She encouraged the
building of claim-shacks and urged firmness in holding
possession of them. She visited the man whom Irish had
knocked down with a bottle of whisky, and she had a long talk
with him and with the doctor who attended him. She saw to it
that the contest notices were served promptly upon the Happy
Family, and she hurried in shipments of stock. Oh, she was
very busy indeed, during the week that was spent in hunting
the Kid. When he was found, and the rumor of an engagement
between Rosemary Allen and that treacherous Andy Green
reached her, she was busier still; but since she had changed
her methods and was careful to mask her real purpose behind
an air of passive resentment, her industry became less
The Happy Family did not pay much attention to Florence Grace
Hallman and her studied opposition. They were pretty busy
attending to their own affairs; Andy Green was not only busy
but very much in love, so that he almost forgot the existence
of Florence Grace except on the rare occasions when he met
her riding over the prairie trails.
First of all they rounded up the stock that had been
scattered, and they did not stop when they crossed Antelope
Coulee with the settlers' cattle. They bedded them there
until after dark. Then they drove them on to the valley of
Dry Lake, crossed that valley on the train traveled road and
pushed the herd up on Lonesome Prairie and out as far upon
the benchland as they had time to drive them.
They did not make much effort toward keeping it a secret.
Indeed Weary told three or four of the most indignant
settlers, next day, where they would find their cattle. But
he added that the feed was pretty good back there, and
advised them to leave the stock out there for the present.
"It isn't going to do you fellows any good to rear up on your
hind legs and make a holler," he said calmly. "We haven't
hurt your cattle. We don't want to have trouble with anybody.
But we're pretty sure to have a fine, large row with our
neighbors if they don't keep on their own side the fence."
That fence was growing to be more than a mere figure of
speech The Happy Family did not love the digging of post-
holes and the stretching of barbed wire; on the contrary they
hated it so deeply that you could not get a civil word out of
one of them while the work went on; yet they put in long
hours at the fence-building.
They had to take the work in shifts on account of having
their own cattle to watch day and night. Sometimes it
happened that a man tamped posts or helped stretch wire all
day, and then stood guard two or three hours on the herd at
night; which was wearing on the temper. Sometimes, because
they were tired, they quarreled over small things.
New shipments of cattle, too, kept coming to Dry Lake.
Invariably these would be driven out towards Antelope
Coulee--farther if the drivers could manage it--and would
have to be driven back again with what patience the Happy
Family could muster. No one helped them among the settlers.
There was every attitude among the claim-dwellers, from open
opposition to latent antagonism. None were quite neutral--and
yet the Happy Family did not bother any save these who had
filed contests to their claims, or who took active part in
the cattle driving.
The Happy Family were not half as brutal as they might have
been. In spite of their no-trespassing signs they permitted
settlers to drive across their claims with wagons and water-
barrels, to haul water from One Man Creek when the springs
and the creek in Antelope Coulee went dry.
They did not attempt to move the shacks of the later
contestants off their claims. Though they hated the sight of
them and of the owners who bore themselves with such
provocative assurance, they grudged the time the moving would
take. Besides that the Honorable Blake had told them that
moving the shacks would accomplish no real, permanent good.
Within thirty days they must appear before the register and
receiver and file answer to the contest, and he assured them
that forbearance upon their part would serve to strengthen
their case with the Commissioner.
It goes to prove how deeply in earnest they were, that they
immediately began to practice assiduously the virtues of
mildness and forbearance. They could, he told them, postpone
the filing of their answers until close to the end of the
thirty days; which would serve also to delay the date of
actual trial of the contests, and give the Happy Family more
time for their work.
Their plans had enlarged somewhat. They talked now of fencing
the whole tract on all four sides, and of building a dam
across the mouth of a certain coulee in the foothills which
drained several miles of rough country, thereby converting
the coulee into a reservoir that would furnish water for
their desert claims. It would take work, of course; but the
Happy Family; were beginning to see prosperity on the trail
ahead and nothing in the shape of hard work could stop them
from coming to hang-grips with fortune.
Chip helped them all he could, but he had the Flying U to
look after, and that without the good team-work of the Happy
Family which had kept things moving along so smoothly. The
team-work now was being used in a different game; a losing
game, one would say at first glance.
So far the summer had been favorable to dry-farming. The more
enterprising of the settlers had some grain and planted
potatoes upon freshly broken soil, and these were growing
apace. They did not know about these scorching August winds,
that might shrivel crops in a day. They did not realize that
early frosts might kill what the hot winds spared. They
became enthusiastic over dry-farming, and their resentment
toward the Happy family increased as their enthusiasm waxed
strong. The Happy Family complained to one another that you
couldn't pry a nester loose from his claim with a crowbar.
In this manner did civilization march out and take possession
of the high prairies that lay close to the Flying U. They had
a Sunday School organized, with the meetings held in a double
shack near the trail to Dry Lake. The Happy family, riding
that way, sometimes heard voices mingled in the shrill
singing of some hymn where, a year before, they had listened
to the hunting song of the coyote.
Eighty acres to the man--with that climate and that soil they
never could make it pay; with that soil especially since it
was mostly barren. The Happy Family knew it, and could find
it in their hearts to pity the men who were putting in
dollars and time and hard work there. But for obvious reasons
they did not put their pity into speech.
They fenced their west line in record time. There was only
one gate in the whole length of it, and that was on the trail
to Dry Lake. Not content with trusting to the warning of four
strands of barbed wire stretched so tight that they hummed to
the touch, they took turns in watching it--"riding fence," in
range parlance--and in watching the settlers' cattle.
To H. J. Owens and his fellow contestants they paid not the
slightest attention, because the Honorable Blake had urged
them personally to ignore any and all claimants. To Florence
Grace Hallman they gave no heed, believing that she had done
her worst, and that her worst was after all pretty weak,
since the contests she had caused to be filed could not
possibly be approved by the government so long as the Happy
Family continued to abide by every law and by-law and
condition and requirement in their present through-going and
You should have seen how mild-mannered and how industrious
the Happy Family were, during these three weeks which
followed the excitement of the Kid's adventuring into the
wild. You would have been astonished, and you would have made
the mistake of thinking that they had changed permanently and
might be expected now to settle down with wives and raise
families and hay and cattle and potatoes, and grow beards,
perhaps, and become well-to-do ranchers.
The Happy Family were almost convinced that they were
actually leaving excitement behind them for good and all.
They might hold back the encroaching tide of immigration from
the rough land along the river--that sounded like something
exciting, to be sure. But they must hold back the tide with
legal proceedings and by pastoral pursuits, and that promised
little in the way of brisk, decisive action and strong nerves
and all these qualities which set the Happy Family somewhat
apart from their fellows.
CHAPTER 23. THE WATER QUESTION AND SOME GOSSIP
Miss Rosemary Allen rode down into One Man Coulee and boldly
up to the cabin of Andy Green, and shouted musically for him
to come forth. Andy made a hasty pass at his hair with a
brush, jerked his tie straight and came out eagerly. There
was no hesitation in his manner. He went straight up to her
and reached up to pull her from the saddle, that he might
hold her in his arms and kiss her--after the manner of bold
young men who are very much in love. But Miss Rosemary Allen
stopped him with a push that was not altogether playful, and
scowled at him viciously.
"I am in a most furious mood today," she said. "I want to
scratch somebody's eyes out! I want to say WORDS. Don't come
close, or I might pull your hair or something, James." She
called him James because that was not his name, and because
she had learned a good deal about his past misdeeds and liked
to take a sly whack at his notorious tendency to forget the
truth, by calling him Truthful James.
"All right; that suits me fine. It's worth a lot to have you
close enough to pull hair. Where have you been all this long
while?" Being a bold young man and very much in love, he
kissed her in spite of her professed viciousness.
"Oh, I've been to town--it hasn't been more than three days
since we met and had that terrible quarrel James. What was it
about?" She frowned down at him thoughtfully. "I'm still
furious about it--whatever it is. Do you know, Mr. Man, that
I am an outlaw amongst my neighbors, and that our happy
little household, up there on the hill, is a house divided
against itself? I've put up a green burlap curtain on my
southwest corner, and bought me a smelly oil stove and I
pos-i-tively refuse to look at my neighbors or speak to them.
I'm going to get some lumber and board up that side of my
"Those three cats--they get together on the other side of my
curtain and say the meanest things!"
Andy Green had the temerity to laugh. "That sounds good to
me," he told her unsympathetically. "Now maybe you'll come
down and keep house for me and let that pinnacle go to
thunder. It's no good anyway, and I told you so long ago.
That whole eighty acres of yours wouldn't support a family of
jackrabbits month. What--"
"And let those old hens say they drove me off? That Kate
Price is the limit. The things she said to me you wouldn't
believe. And it all started over my going with little Buck a
few times to ride along your fence when you boys were busy. I
consider that I had a perfect right to ride where I pleased.
Of course they're furious anyway, because I don't side
against you boys and--and all that. When--when they found out
about--you and me, James, they said some pretty sarcastic
things, but I didn't pay any attention to that. Poor old
freaks, I expected them to be jealous, because nobody ever
pays any attention to THEM. Kate Price is the worst--she's an
old maid. The others have had husbands and can act superior.
"Well, I didn't mind the things they said then; I took that
for granted. But a week or so ago Florence Hallman came, and
she did stir things up in great style! Since then the girls
have hardly spoken to me except to say something insulting.
And Florence Grace came right out and called me a traitor;
that was before little Buck and I took to 'riding fence' as
you call it, for you boys. You imagine what they've been
saying since then!"
"Well, what do you care? You don't have to stay with them,
and you know it. I'm just waiting--"
"Well, but I'm no quitter, James. I'm going to hold down that
claim now if I have to wear a sixshooter!" Her eyes twinkled
at that idea. "Besides, I can stir them up now and then and
get them to say things that are useful. For instance,
Florence Hallman told Kate Price about that last trainload of
cattle coming, and that they were going to cut your fence and
drive them through in the night--and I stirred dear little
Katie up so she couldn't keep still about that. And
therefore--" She reached out and gave Andy Green's ear a
small tweek--"somebody found out about it, and a lot of
somebodys happened around that way and just quietly managed
to give folks a hint that there was fine grass somewhere
else. That saved a lot of horseflesh and words and work,
"It sure did." Andy smiled up at her worshipfully. "Just the
"But listen here, nice, level-headed Katiegirl has lost her
temper since then, and let out a little more that is useful
knowledge to somebody. There's one great weak point in the
character of Florence Hallman; maybe you have noticed it.
She's just simply GOT to have somebody to tell things to, and
she doesn't always show the best judgment in her choice of a
"I've noticed that before," Andy Green admitted, and smiled
reminiscently. "She sure does talk too much--for a lady that
has so much up her sleeve."
"Yes--and she's been making a chum of Katie Price since she
discovered what an untrustworthy creature I am. I did a
little favor for Irish Mallory, James. I overheard Florence
Grace talking to Kate about that man who is supposed to be at
death's door. So I made a trip to Great Falls, if you please,
and I scouted around and located the gentleman--well, anyway,
I gave that nice, sleek little lawyer of yours a few facts
that will let Irish come back to his claim."
"Irish has been coming back to his claim pretty regular as it
is," Andy informed her quietly. "Did you think he was hiding
out, all this time? Why"--he laughed at her--"you talked to
him yourself, one day, and thought it was Weary. Remember
when you came over with the mail? That was Irish helping me
string wire. He's been wearing Weary's hat and clothes and
cultivating a twinkle to his eyes--that's all"
"Why, I--well, anyway, that man they've been making a fuss
over is just as well as you are, James. They only wanted to
get Irish in jail and make a little trouble--pretty cheap
warfare at that, if you want my opinion."
"Oh, well--what's the odds? While they're wasting time and
energy that way, we're going right along doing what we've
laid out to do. Say, do you know I'm kinda getting stuck on
this ranch proposition. If I just had a housekeeper--"
Miss Rosemary Allen seldom let him get beyond that point, and
she interrupted him now by wrinkling her nose at him in a
manner that made Andy Green forget altogether that he had
begun a sentence upon a subject forbidden. Later she went
back to her worries; she was a very persistent young woman.
"I hope you boys are going to attend to that contest business
right away," she said, with a pucker between her eyes and not
much twinkle in them. "There's something about that which I
don't quite understand. I heard Florence Hallman and Kate
talking yesterday about it going by default. Are you sure
it's wise to put off filing your answers so long? When are
you supposed to appear, James?"
"Me? On or before the twenty-oneth day of July, my dear girl.
They lumped us up and served us all on the same day--I reckon
to save shoe-leather; therefore, inasmuch as said adverse
parties have got over a week left--"
"You'd better not take a chance, waiting till the last day in
the afternoon," she warned him vaguely. "Maybe they think
you've forgotten the date or something--but whatever they
think, I believe they're counting on your not answering in
time. I think Florence Hallman knows they haven't any real
proof against you. I know she knows it. She's perfectly wild
over the way you boys have stuck here and worked. And from
what I can gather, she hasn't been able to scrape up the
weentiest bit of evidence that the Flying U is backing you--
and of course that is the only ground they could contest your
claims on. So if it comes to trial, you'll all win; you're
bound to. I told Kate Price so--and those other old hens,
yesterday, and that's what we had the row over."
"My money's on you, girl," Andy told her, grinning. "How are
"The wounded? Oh, they've clubbed together this morning and
are washing hankies and collars and things, and talking about
me. And they have snouged every speck of water from the
barrel--I paid my share for the hauling, too--and the man
won't come again till day after tomorrow with more. Fifty
cents a barrel, straight, he's charging now, James. And you ,
boys with a great, big, long creekful of it that you can get
right in and swim in! I've come over to borrow two water-bags
of it, if you please, James I never dreamed water was so
precious. Florence Hallman ought to be made to lie on one of
these dry claims she's fooled us into taking. I really don't
know, James, what's going to become of some of these poor
farmers. You knew, didn't you, that Mr. Murphy spent nearly
two hundred dollars boring a well--and now it's so strong of
alkali they daren't use a drop of it? Mr. Murphy is living
right up to his name and nationality, since then. He's away
back there beyond the Sands place, you know. He has to haul
water about six miles. Believe me, James, Florence Hallman
had better keep away from Murphy! I met him as I was coming
out from town, and he called her a Jezebel!"
"That's mild!" Andy commented dryly. "Get down, why don't
you? I want you to take a look at the inside of my shack and
see how bad I need a housekeeper--since you won't take my
word for it. I hope every drop of water leaks outa these bags
before you get home. I hope old Mister falls down and spills
it. I've a good mind not to let you have any, anyway. Maybe
you could be starved and tortured into coming down here where
"Maybe I couldn't. I'll get me a barrel of my own, and hire
Simpson to fill it four times a week, if you please! And I'll
put a lid with a padlock on it, so Katie dear can't rob me in
the night--and I'll use a whole quart at a time to wash
dishes, and two quarts when I take a bath! I shall," she
asserted with much emphasis, "lie in luxury, James!"
Andy laughed and waved his hand toward One Man Creek. "That's
all right--but how would you like to have that running past
your house, so you could wake up in the night and hear it go
gurgle-gurgle?, Wouldn't that be all right?"
Rosemary Allen clasped her two gloved hands together and drew
a long breath. "I should want to run out and stop it," she
declared. "To think of water actually running around loose in
this world!! And think of us up on that dry prairie, paying
fifty cents a barrel for it--and a lot slopped out of the
barrel on the road!" She glanced down into Andy's lovelighted
eyes, and her own softened. She placed her hand on his
shoulder and shook her head at him with a tender
"I know, boy--but it isn't in me to give up anything I set
out to do, any more than it is in you. You wouldn't like me
half so well if I could just drop that claim and think no
more about it. I've got enough money to commute, when the
time comes, and I'll feel a lot better if I go through with
it now I've started. And--James!" She smiled at him
wistfully. "Even if it is only eighty acres, it will make
good pasture, and--it will help some, won't it?"
After that you could not expect Andy Green to do any more
badgering or to discourage the girl. He did like her better
for having grit and a mental backbone--and he found a way of
telling her so and of making the assurance convincing enough.
He filled her canvas water-bags and went with her to carry
them, and he cheered her much with his aircastles. Afterwards
he took the team and rustled a water-barrel and hauled her a
barrel of water and gave Kate Price a stony-eyed stare when
she was caught watching him superciliously; and in divers
ways managed to make Miss Rosemary Allen feel that she was
fighting a good fight and that the odds were all in her favor
and in the favor of the Happy Family--and of Andy Green in
particular. She felt that the spite of her three very near
neighbors was really a matter to laugh over, and the spleen
of Florence Hallman a joke.
But for all that she gave Andy Green one last warning when he
climbed up to the spring seat of the wagon and unwound the
lines from the brake-handle, ready to drive back to his own
work. She went close to the front wheel, so that
eavesdroppers could not hear, and held her front hair from
blowing across her earnest, windtanned face while she looked
up at him.
"Now remember, boy, do go and file your answer to those
contests--all of you!" she urged. "I don't know why--but I've
a feeling some kind of a scheme is being hatched to make you
trouble on that one point. And if you see Buck, tell him I'll
ride fence with him tomorrow again. If you realized how much
I like that old cowpuncher, you'd be horribly jealous,
"I'm jealous right now, without realizing a thing except that
I've got to go off and leave you here with a bunch of
lemons," he retorted--and he spoke loud enough so that any
eavesdroppers might hear.
CHAPTER 24. THE KID IS USED FOR A PAWN IN THE GAME
Did you ever stop to think of the tremendous moral lesson in
the Bible tale of David and Goliath? And how great, human
issues are often decided one way or the other by little
things? Not all crises are passed in the clashing of swords
and the boom of cannon. It was a pebble the size of your
thumbend, remember, that slew the giant.
In the struggle which the Happy Family was making to preserve
the shrunken range of the Flying U, and to hold back the
sweeping tide of immigration, one might logically look for
some big, overwhelming element to turn the tide one way or
the other. With the Homeseekers' Syndicate backing the
natural animosity of the settlers, who had filed upon
semiarid land because the Happy Family had taken all of the
tract that was tillable, a big, open clash might be
And yet the struggle was resolving itself into the question
of whether the contest filings should be approved by the
land-office, or the filings of the Happy Family be allowed to
stand as having been made in good faith. Florence Hallman
therefore, having taken upon herself the leadership in the
contest fight, must do one of two things if she would have
victory to salve the hurt to her self-esteem and to vindicate
the firm's policy in the eyes of the settlers.
She must produce evidence of the collusion of the Flying U
outfit with the Happy Family, in the taking of the claims. Or
she must connive to prevent the filing of answers to the
contest notices within the time-limit fixed by law, so that
the cases would go by default. That, of course, was the
simplest--since she had not been able to gather any evidence
of collusion that would stand in court.
There was another element in the land struggle--that was the
soil and climate that would fight inexorably against the
settlers; but with them we have little to do, since the Happy
Family had nothing to do with them save in a purely negative
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