The Light of Western Stars
Part 2 out of 8
short and again flopped to his knees. Then he crawled about,
evidently examining horse tracks.
"Nels, whoever was straddlin' Stewart's hoss met somebody. An'
they hauled up a bit, but didn't git down."
"Tolerable good for you, Bill, thet reasonin'," replied the
Stillwell presently got up and walked swiftly to the left for
some rods, halted, and faced toward the southwest, then retraced
his steps. He looked at the imperturbable cowboy.
"Nels, I don't like this a little," he growled. "Them tracks make
straight fer the Peloncillo trail."
"Shore," replied Nels.
"Wal?" went on Stillwell, impatiently.
"I reckon you know what hoss made the other tracks?"
"I'm thinkin' hard, but I ain't sure"
"It was Danny Mains's bronc."
"How do you know thet?" demanded Stillwell, sharply. "Bill, the
left front foot of thet little hoss always wears a shoe thet sets
crooked. Any of the boys can tell you. I'd know thet track if I
Stillwell's ruddy face clouded and he kicked at a cactus plant.
"Was Danny comin' or goin'?" he asked.
"I reckon he was hittin' across country fer the Peloncillo trail.
But I ain't shore of thet without back-trailin' him a ways. I
was jest waitin' fer you to come up."
"Nels, you don't think the boy's sloped with thet little hussy,
"Bill, he shore was sweet on Bonita, same as Gene was, an' Ed
Linton before he got engaged, an' all the boys. She's shore
chain-lightnin', that little black-eyed devil. Danny might hev
sloped with her all right. Danny was held up on the way to town,
an' then in the shame of it he got drunk. But he'll shew up
"Wal, mebbe you an' the boys are right. I believe you are.
Nels, there ain't no doubt on earth about who was ridin'
"Thet's as plain as the hoss's tracks."
"Wal, it's all amazin' strange. It beats me. I wish the boys
would ease up on drinkin'. I was pretty fond of Danny an' Gene.
I'm afraid Gene's done fer, sure. If he crosses the border where
he can fight it won't take long fer him to get plugged. I guess
I'm gettin' old. I don't stand things like I used to."
"Bill, I reckon I'd better hit the Peloncillo trail. Mebbe I can
"I reckon you had, Nels," replied Stillwell. "But don't take
more 'n a couple of days. We can't do much on the round-up
without you. I'm short of boys."
That ended the conversation. Stillwell immediately began to
hitch up his team, and the cowboys went out to fetch their
strayed horses. Madeline had been curiously interested, and she
saw that Florence knew it.
"Things happen, Miss Hammond," she said, soberly, almost sadly.
Madeline thought. And then straightway Florence began brightly
to hum a tune and to busy herself repacking what was left of the
lunch. Madeline conceived a strong liking and respect for this
Western girl. She admired the consideration or delicacy or
wisdom--what-ever it was--which kept Florence from asking her
what she knew or thought or felt about the events that had taken
Soon they were once more bowling along the road down a gradual
incline, and then they began to climb a long ridge that had for
hours hidden what lay beyond. That climb was rather tiresome,
owing to the sun and the dust and the restricted view.
When they reached the summit Madeline gave a little gasp of
pleasure. A deep, gray, smooth valley opened below and sloped up
on the other side in little ridges like waves, and these led to
the foothills, dotted with clumps of brush or trees, and beyond
rose dark mountains, pine-fringed and crag-spired.
"Wal, Miss Majesty, now we're gettin' somewhere," said Stillwell,
cracking his whip. "Ten miles across this valley an' we'll be in
the foothills where the Apaches used to run."
"Ten miles!" exclaimed Madeline. "It looks no more than half a
mile to me."
"Wal, young woman, before you go to ridin' off alone you want to
get your eyes corrected to Western distance. Now, what'd you
call them black things off there on the slope?"
"Horsemen. No, cattle," replied Madeline, doubtfully. "Nope.
Jest plain, every-day cactus. An' over hyar--look down the
valley. Somethin' of a pretty forest, ain't thet?" he asked,
Madeline saw a beautiful forest in the center of the valley
toward the south.
"Wal, Miss Majesty, thet's jest this deceivin' air. There's no
forest. It's a mirage."
"Indeed! How beautiful it is!" Madeline strained her gaze on
the dark blot, and it seemed to float in the atmosphere, to have
no clearly defined margins, to waver and shimmer, and then it
faded and vanished.
The mountains dropped down again behind the horizon, and
presently the road began once more to slope up. The horses
slowed to a walk. There was a mile of rolling ridge, and then
came the foothills. The road ascended through winding valleys.
Trees and brush and rocks began to appear in the dry ravines.
There was no water, yet all along the sandy washes were
indications of floods at some periods. The heat and the dust
stifled Madeline, and she had already become tired. Still she
looked with all her eyes and saw birds, and beautiful quail with
crests, and rabbits, and once she saw a deer.
"Miss Majesty," said Stillwell, "in the early days the Indians
made this country a bad one to live in. I reckon you never heerd
much about them times. Surely you was hardly born then. I'll
hev to tell you some day how I fought Comanches in the Panhandle-
-thet was northern Texas--an' I had some mighty hair-raisin'
scares in this country with Apaches."
He told her about Cochise, chief of the Chiricahua Apaches, the
most savage and bloodthirsty tribe that ever made life a horror
for the pioneer. Cochise befriended the whites once; but he was
the victim of that friendliness, and he became the most
implacable of foes. Then, Geronimo, another Apache chief, had,
as late as 1885, gone on the war-path, and had left a bloody
trail down the New Mexico and Arizona line almost to the border.
Lone ranchmen and cowboys had been killed, and mothers had shot
their children and then themselves at the approach of the Apache.
The name Apache curdled the blood of any woman of the Southwest
in those days.
Madeline shuddered, and was glad when the old frontiersman
changed the subject and began to talk of the settling of that
country by the Spaniards, the legends of lost gold-mines handed
down to the Mexicans, and strange stories of heroism and mystery
and religion. The Mexicans had not advanced much in spite of the
spread of civilization to the Southwest. They were still
superstitious, and believed the legends of treasures hidden in
the walls of their missions, and that unseen hands rolled rocks
down the gullies upon the heads of prospectors who dared to hunt
for the lost mines of the padres.
"Up in the mountains back of my ranch there's a lost mine," said
Stillwell. "Mebbe it's only a legend. But somehow I believe
it's there. Other lost mines hev been found. An' as fer' the
rollin' stones, I sure know thet's true, as any one can find out
if he goes trailin' up the gulch. Mebbe thet's only the
weatherin' of the cliffs. It's a sleepy, strange country, this
Southwest, an', Miss Majesty, you're a-goin' to love it. You'll
call it ro-mantic, Wal, I reckon ro-mantic is correct. A feller
gets lazy out hyar an' dreamy, an' he wants to put off work till
to-morrow. Some folks say it's a land of manana--a land of
to-morrow. Thet's the Mexican of it.
"But I like best to think of what a lady said to me ouct--an
eddicated lady like you, Miss Majesty. Wal, she said it's a land
where it's always afternoon. I liked thet. I always get up sore
in the mawnin's, an' don't feel good till noon. But in the
afternoon I get sorta warm an' like things. An' sunset is my
time. I reckon I don't want nothin' any finer than sunset from
my ranch. You look out over a valley that spreads wide between
Guadalupe Mountains an' the Chiricahuas, down across the red
Arizona desert clear to the Sierra Madres in Mexico. Two hundred
miles, Miss Majesty! An' all as clear as print! An' the sun
sets behind all thet! When my time comes to die I'd like it to be
on my porch smokin' my pipe an' facin' the west."
So the old cattleman talked on while Madeline listened, and
Florence dozed in her seat, and the sun began to wane, and the
horses climbed steadily. Presently, at the foot of the steep
ascent, Stillwell got out and walked, leading the team. During
this long climb fatigue claimed Madeline, and she drowsily closed
her eyes, to find when she opened them again that the glaring
white sky had changed to a steel-blue. The sun had sunk behind
the foothills and the air was growing chilly. Stillwell had
returned to the driving-seat and was chuckling to the horses.
Shadows crept up cut of the hollows.
"Wal, Flo," said Stillwell, "I reckon we'd better hev the rest of
thet there lunch before dark."
"You didn't leave much of it," laughed Florence, as she produced
the basket from under the seat.
While they ate, the short twilight shaded and gloom filled the
hollows. Madeline saw the first star, a faint, winking point of
light. The sky had now changed to a hazy gray. Madeline saw it
gradually clear and darken, to show other faint stars. After
that there was perceptible deepening of the gray and an enlarging
of the stars and a brightening of new-born ones. Night seemed to
come on the cold wind. Madeline was glad to have the robes close
around her and to lean against Florence. The hollows were now
black, but the tops of the foothills gleamed pale in a soft
light. The steady tramp of the horses went on, and the creak of
wheels and crunching of gravel. Madeline grew so sleepy that she
could not keep her weary eyelids from falling. There were
drowsier spells in which she lost a feeling of where she was, and
these were disturbed by the jolt of wheels over a rough place.
Then came a blank interval, short or long, which ended in a more
violent lurch of the buckboard. Madeline awoke to find her head
on Florence's shoulder. She sat up laughing and apologizing for
her laziness. Florence assured her they would soon reach the
Madeline observed then that the horses were once more trotting.
The wind was colder, the night darker, the foot-hills flatter.
And the sky was now a wonderful deep velvet-blue blazing with
millions of stars. Some of them were magnificent. How strangely
white and alive! Again Madeline felt the insistence of familiar
yet baffling associations. These white stars called strangely to
her or haunted her.
V The Round-Up
It was a crackling and roaring of fire that awakened Madeline
next morning, and the first thing she saw was a huge stone
fireplace in which lay a bundle of blazing sticks. Some one had
kindled a fire while she slept. For a moment the curious
sensation of being lost returned to her. She just dimly
remembered reaching the ranch and being taken into a huge house
and a huge, dimly lighted room. And it seemed to her that she
had gone to sleep at once, and had awakened without remembering
how she had gotten to bed.
But she was wide awake in an instant. The bed stood near one end
of an enormous chamber. The adobe walls resembled a hall in an
ancient feudal castle, stone-floored, stone-walled, with great
darkened rafters running across the ceiling. The few articles of
furniture were worn out and sadly dilapidated. Light flooded
into the room from two windows on the right of the fireplace and
two on the left, and another large window near the bedstead.
Looking out from where she lay, Madeline saw a dark, slow
up-sweep of mountain. Her eyes returned to the cheery, snapping
fire, and she watched it while gathering courage to get up. The
room was cold. When she did slip her bare feet out upon the
stone floor she very quickly put them back under the warm
blankets. And she was still in bed trying to pluck up her
courage when, with a knock on the door and a cheerful greeting,
Florence entered, carrying steaming hot water.
"Good mawnin', Miss Hammond. Hope you slept well. You sure were
tired last night. I imagine you'll find this old rancno house as
cold as a barn. It'll warm up directly. Al's gone with the boys
and Bill. We're to ride down on the range after a while when
your baggage comes."
Florence wore a woolen blouse with a scarf round her neck, a
short corduroy divided skirt, and boots; and while she talked she
energetically heaped up the burning wood in the fireplace, and
laid Madeline's clothes at the foot of the bed, and heated a rug
and put that on the floor by the bedside. And lastly, with a
sweet, direct smile, she said:
"Al told me--and I sure saw myself--that you weren't used to
being without your maid. Will you let me help you?"
"Thank you, I am going to be my own maid for a while. I expect I
do appear a very helpless individual, but really I do not feel
so. Perhaps I have had just a little too much waiting on."
"All right. Breakfast will be ready soon, and after that we'll
look about the place."
Madeline was charmed with the old Spanish house, and the more she
saw of it the more she thought what a delightful home it could be
made. All the doors opened into a courtyard, or patio, as
Florence called it. The house was low, in the shape of a
rectangle, and so immense in size that Madeline wondered if it
had been a Spanish barracks. Many of the rooms were dark,
without windows, and they were empty. Others were full of
ranchers' implements and sacks of grain and bales of hay.
Florence called these last alfalfa. The house itself appeared
strong and well preserved, and it was very picturesque. But in
the living-rooms were only the barest necessities, and these were
worn out and comfortless.
However, when Madeline went outdoors she forgot the cheerless,
bare interior. Florence led the way out on a porch and waved a
hand at a vast, colored void. "That's what Bill likes," she
At first Madeline could not tell what was sky and what was land.
The immensity of the scene stunned her faculties of conception.
She sat down in one of the old rocking-chairs and looked and
looked, and knew that she was not grasping the reality of what
stretched wondrously before her.
"We're up at the edge of the foothills," Florence said. "You
remember we rode around the northern end of the mountain range?
Well, that's behind us now, and you look down across the line
into Arizona and Mexico. That long slope of gray is the head of
the San Bernardino Valley. Straight across you see the black
Chiricahua Mountains, and away down to the south the Guadalupe
Mountains. That awful red gulf between is the desert, and far,
far beyond the dim, blue peaks are the Sierra Madres in Mexico."
Madeline listened and gazed with straining eyes, and wondered if
this was only a stupendous mirage, and why it seemed so different
from all else that she had seen, and so endless, so baffling, so
" It'll sure take you a little while to get used to being up high
and seeing so much," explained Florence. "That's the secret--
we're up high, the air is clear, and there's the whole bare world
beneath us. Don't it somehow rest you? Well, it will. Now see
those specks in the valley. They are stations, little towns.
The railroad goes down that way. The largest speck is
Chiricahua. It's over forty miles by trail. Here round to the
north you can see Don Carlos's rancho. He's fifteen miles off,
and I sure wish he were a thousand. That little green square
about half-way between here and Don Carlos--that's Al's ranch.
Just below us are the adobe houses of the Mexicans. There's a
church, too. And here to the left you see Stillwell's corrals
and bunk-houses and his stables all falling to pieces. The ranch
has gone to ruin. All the ranches are going to ruin. But most
of them are little one-horse affairs. And here--see that cloud of
dust down in the valley? It's the round-up. The boys are there,
and the cattle. Wait, I'll get the glasses."
By their aid Madeline saw in the foreground a great, dense herd
of cattle with dark, thick streams and dotted lines of cattle
leading in every direction. She saw streaks and clouds of dust,
running horses, and a band of horses grazing; and she descried
horsemen standing still like sentinels, and others in action.
"The round-up! I want to know all about it--to see it," declared
Madeline. "Please tell me what it means, what it's for, and then
take me down there."
"It's sure a sight, Miss Hammond. I'll be glad to take you down,
but I fancy you'll not want to go close. Few Eastern people who
regularly eat their choice cuts of roast beef and porterhouse
have any idea of the open range and the struggle cattle have to
live and the hard life of cowboys. It'll sure open your eyes,
Miss Hammond. I'm glad you care to know. Your brother would
have made a big success in this cattle business if it hadn't been
for crooked work by rival ranchers. He'll make it yet, in spite
"Indeed he shall," replied Madeline. "But tell me, please, all
about the round-up."
"Well, in the first place, every cattleman has to have a brand to
identify his stock. Without it no cattleman, nor half a hundred
cowboys, if he had so many, could ever recognize all the cattle
in a big herd. There are no fences on our ranges. They are all
open to everybody. Some day I hope we'll be rich enough to fence
a range. The different herds graze together. Every calf has to
be caught, if possible, and branded with the mark of its mother.
That's no easy job. A maverick is an unbranded calf that has
been weaned and shifts for itself. The maverick then belongs to
the man who finds it and brands it. These little calves that
lose their mothers sure have a cruel time of it. Many of them
die. Then the coyotes and wolves and lions prey on them. Every
year we have two big round-ups, but the boys do some branding all
the year. A calf should be branded as soon as it's found. This
is a safeguard against cattle-thieves. We don't have the
rustling of herds and bunches of cattle like we used to. But
there's always the calf-thief, and always will be as long as
there's cattle-raising. The thieves have a good many cunning
tricks. They kill the calf's mother or slit the calf's tongue so
it can't suck and so loses its mother. They steal and hide a
calf and watch it till it's big enough to fare for itself, and
then brand it. They make imperfect brands and finish them at a
"We have our big round-up in the fall, when there's plenty of
grass and water, and all the riding-stock as well as the cattle
are in fine shape. The cattlemen in the valley meet with their
cowboys and drive in all the cattle they can find. Then they
brand and cut out each man's herd and drive it toward home. Then
they go on up or down the valley, make another camp, and drive in
more cattle. It takes weeks. There are so many Greasers with
little bands of stock, and they are crafty and greedy. Bill says
he knows Greaser cowboys, vaqueros, who never owned a steer or a
cow, and now they've got growing herds. The same might be said
of more than one white cowboy. But there's not as much of that as
there used to be."
"And the horses? I want to know about them," said Madeline, when
"Oh, the cow-ponies! Well, they sure are interesting. Broncos,
the boys call them. Wild! they're wilder than the steers they
have to chase. Bill's got broncos heah that never have been
broken and never will be. And not every boy can ride them,
either. The vaqueros have the finest horses. Don Carlos has a
black that I'd give anything to own. And he has other fine
stock. Gene Stewart's big roan is a Mexican horse, the swiftest
and proudest I ever saw. I was up on him once and--oh, he can
run! He likes a woman, too, and that's sure something I want in
a horse. I heard Al and Bill talking at breakfast about a horse
for you. They were wrangling. Bill wanted you to have one, and
Al another. It was funny to hear them. Finally they left the
choice to me, until the round-up is over. Then I suppose every
cowboy on the range will offer you his best mount. Come, let's
go out to the corrals and look over the few horses left."
For Madeline the morning hours flew by, with a goodly part of the
time spent on the porch gazing out over that ever-changing vista.
At noon a teamster drove up with her trunks. Then while Florence
helped the Mexican woman get lunch Madeline unpacked part of her
effects and got out things for which she would have immediate
need. After lunch she changed her dress for a riding-habit and,
going outside, found Florence waiting with the horses.
The Western girl's clear eyes seemed to take stock of Madeline's
appearance in one swift, inquisitive glance and then shone with
"You sure look--you're a picture, Miss Hammond. That
riding-outfit is a new one. What it 'd look like on me or
another woman I can't imagine, but on you it's--it's stunning.
Bill won't let you go within a mile of the cowboys. If they see
you that'll be the finish of the round-up."
While they rode down the slope Florence talked about the open
ranges of New Mexico and Arizona.
"Water is scarce," she said. "If Bill could afford to pipe water
down from the mountains he'd have the finest ranch in the
She went on to tell that the climate was mild in winter and hot
in summer. Warm, sunshiny days prevailed nearly all the year
round. Some summers it rained, and occasionally there would be a
dry year, the dreaded ano seco of the Mexicans. Rain was always
expected and prayed for in the midsummer months, and when it came
the grama-grass sprang up, making the valleys green from mountain
to mountain. The intersecting valleys, ranging between the long
slope of foothills, afforded the best pasture for cattle, and
these were jealously sought by the Mexicans who had only small
herds to look after. Stillwell's cowboys were always chasing
these vaqueros off land that belonged to Stillwell. He owned
twenty thousand acres of unfenced land adjoining the open range.
Don Carlos possessed more acreage than that, and his cattle were
always mingling with Stillwell's. And in turn Don Carlos's
vaqueros were always chasing Stillwell's cattle away from the
Mexican's watering-place. Bad feeling had been manifested for
years, and now relations were strained to the breaking-point.
As Madeline rode along she made good use of her eyes. The soil
was sandy and porous, and she understood why the rain and water
from the few springs disappeared so quickly. At a little
distance the grama-grass appeared thick, but near at hand it was
seen to be sparse. Bunches of greasewood and cactus plants were
interspersed here and there in the grass. What surprised Madeline
was the fact that, though she and Florence had seemed to be
riding quite awhile, they had apparently not drawn any closer to
the round-up. The slope of the valley was noticeable only after
some miles had been traversed. Looking forward, Madeline
imagined the valley only a few miles wide. She would have been
sure she could walk her horse across it in an hour. Yet that
black, bold range of Chiricahua Mountains was distant a long
day's journey for even a hard-riding cowboy. It was only by
looking back that Madeline could grasp the true relation of
things; she could not be deceived by distance she had covered.
Gradually the black dots enlarged and assumed shape of cattle and
horses moving round a great dusty patch. In another half-hour
Madeline rode behind Florence to the outskirts of the scene of
action. They drew rein near a huge wagon in the neighborhood of
which were more than a hundred horses grazing and whistling and
trotting about and lifting heads to watch the new-comers. Four
cowboys stood mounted guard over this drove of horses. Perhaps a
quarter of a mile farther out was a dusty melee. A roar of
tramping hoofs filled Madeline's ears. The lines of marching
cattle had merged into a great, moving herd half obscured by
"I can make little of what is going on," said Madeline. "I want
to go closer."
They trotted across half the intervening distance, and when
Florence halted again Madeline was still not satisfied and asked
to be taken nearer. This time, before they reined in again, Al
Hammond saw them and wheeled his horse in their direction. He
yelled something which Madeline did not understand, and then
"Close enough," he called; and in the din his voice was not very
clear. "It's not safe. Wild steers! I'm glad you came, girls.
Majesty, what do you think of that bunch of cattle?"
Madeline could scarcely reply what she thought, for the noise and
dust and ceaseless action confused her.
"They're milling, Al," said Florence.
"We just rounded them up. They're milling, and that's bad. The
vaqueros are hard drivers. They beat us all hollow, and we drove
some, too." He was wet with sweat, black with dust, and out of
breath. "I'm off now. Flo, my sister will have enough of this
in about two minutes. Take her back to the wagon. I'll tell
Bill you're here, and run in whenever I get a minute."
The bawling and bellowing, the crackling of horns and pounding of
hoofs, the dusty whirl of cattle, and the flying cowboys
disconcerted Madeline and frightened her a little; but she was
intensely interested and meant to stay there until she saw for
herself what that strife of sound and action meant. When she
tried to take in the whole scene she did not make out anything
clearly and she determined to see it little by little.
"Will you stay longer?" asked Florence; and, receiving an
affirmative reply, she warned Madeline: "If a runaway steer or
angry cow comes this way let your horse go. He'll get out of the
That lent the situation excitement, and Madeline became absorbed.
The great mass of cattle seemed to be eddying like a whirlpool,
and from that Madeline understood the significance of the range
word "milling." But when Madeline looked at one end of the herd
she saw cattle standing still, facing outward, and calves
cringing close in fear. The motion of the cattle slowed from the
inside of the herd to the outside and gradually ceased. The roar
and tramp of hoofs and crack of horns and thump of heads also
ceased in degree, but the bawling and bellowing continued. While
she watched, the herd spread, grew less dense, and stragglers
appeared to be about to bolt through the line of mounted cowboys.
From that moment so many things happened, and so swiftly, that
Madeline could not see a tenth of what was going on within
eyesight. It seemed horsemen darted into the herd and drove out
cattle. Madeline pinned her gaze on one cowboy who rode a white
horse and was chasing a steer. He whirled a lasso around his
head and threw it; the rope streaked out and the loop caught the
leg of the steer. The white horse stopped with wonderful
suddenness, and the steer slid in the dust. Quick as a flash the
cowboy was out of the saddle, and, grasping the legs of the steer
before it could rise, he tied them with a rope. It had all been
done almost as quickly as thought. Another man came with what
Madeline divined was a branding-iron. He applied it to the flank
of the steer. Then it seemed the steer was up with a jump,
wildly looking for some way to run, and the cowboy was circling
his lasso. Madeline saw fires in the background, with a man in
charge, evidently heating the irons. Then this same cowboy roped
a heifer which bawled lustily when the hot iron seared its hide.
Madeline saw the smoke rising from the touch of the iron, and the
sight made her shrink and want to turn away, but she resolutely
fought her sensitiveness. She bad never been able to bear the
sight of any animal suffering. The rough work in men's lives was
as a sealed book to her; and now, for some reason beyond her
knowledge, she wanted to see and hear and learn some of the
every-day duties that made up those lives.
"Look, Miss Hammond, there's Don Carlos!" said Florence. "Look
at that black horse!"
Madeleine saw a dark-faced Mexican riding by. He was too far
away for her to distinguish his features, but he reminded her of
an Italian brigand. He bestode a magnificent horse.
Stillwell rode up to the girls then and greeted them in his big
"Right in the thick of it, hey? Wal, thet's sure fine. I'm glad
to see, Miss Majesty, thet you ain't afraid of a little dust or
smell of burnin' hide an' hair."
"Couldn't you brand the calves without hurting them?" asked
"Haw, haw! Why, they ain't hurt none. They jest bawl for their
mammas. Sometimes, though, we hev to hurt one jest to find which
is his mamma."
"I want to know how you tell what brand to put on those calves
that are separated from their mothers," asked Madeline.
"Thet's decided by the round-up bosses. I've one boss an' Don
Carlos has one. They decide everything, an' they hev to be
obyed. There's Nick Steele, my boss. Watch him! He's ridin' a
bay in among the cattle there. He orders the calves an' steers
to be cut out. Then the cowboys do the cuttin' out an' the
brandin'. We try to divide up the mavericks as near as
At this juncture Madeline's brother joined the group, evidently
in search of Stillwell.
"Bill, Nels just rode in," he said.
"Good! We sure need him. Any news of Danny Mains?"
"No. Nels said he lost the trail when he got on hard ground."
"Wal, wal. Say, Al, your sister is sure takin' to the round-up.
An' the boys are gettin' wise. See thet sun-of-a-gun Ambrose
cuttin' capers all around. He'll sure do his prettiest. Ambrose
is a ladies' man, he thinks."
The two men and Florence joined in a little pleasant teasing of
Madeline, and drew her attention to what appeared to be really
unnecessary feats of horsemanship all made in her vicinity. The
cowboys evinced their interest in covert glances while recoiling
a lasso or while passing to and fro. It was all too serious for
Madeline to be amused at that moment. She did not care to talk.
She sat her horse and watched.
The lithe, dark vaqueros fascinated her. They were here, there,
everywhere, with lariats flying, horses plunging back, jerking
calves and yearlings to the grass. They were cruel to their
mounts, cruel to their cattle. Madeline winced as the great
silver rowels of the spurs went plowing into the flanks of their
horses. She saw these spurs stained with blood, choked with
hair. She saw the vaqueros break the legs of calves and let them
lie till a white cowboy came along and shot them. Calves were
jerked down and dragged many yards; steers were pulled by one
leg. These vaqueros were the most superb horsemen Madeline had
ever seen, and she had seen the Cossacks and Tatars of the
Russian steppes. They were swift, graceful, daring; they never
failed to catch a running steer, and the lassoes always went
true. What sharp dashes the horses made, and wheelings here and
there, and sudden stops, and how they braced themselves to
withstand the shock!
The cowboys, likewise, showed wonderful horsemanship, and,
reckless as they were, Madeline imagined she saw consideration
for steed and cattle that was wanting in the vaqueros. They
changed mounts oftener than the Mexican riders, and the horses
they unsaddled for fresh ones were not so spent, so wet, so
covered with lather. It was only after an hour or more of
observation that Madeline began to realize the exceedingly
toilsome and dangerous work cowboys had to perform. There was
little or no rest for them. They were continually among wild and
vicious and wide-horned steers. In many instances they owed
their lives to their horses. The danger came mostly when the
cowboy leaped off to tie and brand a calf he had thrown. Some of
the cows charged with lowered, twisting horns. Time and again
Madeline's heart leaped to her throat for fear a man would be
gored. One cowboy roped a calf that bawled loudly. Its mother
dashed in and just missed the kneeling cowboy as he rolled over.
Then he had to run, and he could not run very fast. He was
bow-legged and appeared awkward. Madeline saw another cowboy
thrown and nearly run over by a plunging steer. His horse bolted
as if it intended to leave the range. Then close by Madeline a
big steer went down at the end of a lasso. The cowboy who had
thrown it nimbly jumped down, and at that moment his horse began
to rear and prance and suddenly to lower his head close to the
ground and kick high. He ran round in a circle, the fallen steer
on the taut lasso acting as a pivot. The cowboy loosed the rope
from the steer, and then was dragged about on the grass. It was
almost frightful for Madeline to see that cowboy go at his horse.
But she recognized the mastery and skill. Then two horses came
into collision on the run. One horse went down; the rider of the
other was unseated and was kicked before he could get up. This
fellow limped to his mount and struck at him, while the horse
showed his teeth in a vicious attempt to bite.
All the while this ceaseless activity was going on there was a
strange uproar--bawl and bellow, the shock of heavy bodies
meeting and falling, the shrill jabbering of the vaqueros, and
the shouts and banterings of the cowboys. They took sharp orders
and replied in jest. They went about this stern toil as if it
were a game to be played in good humor. One sang a rollicking
song, another whistled, another smoked a cigarette. The sun was
hot, and they, like their horses, were dripping with sweat. The
characteristic red faces had taken on so much dust that cowboys
could not be distinguished from vaqueros except by the difference
in dress. Blood was not wanting on tireless hands. The air was
thick, oppressive, rank with the smell of cattle and of burning
Madeline began to sicken. She choked with dust, was almost
stifled by the odor. But that made her all the more determined
to stay there. Florence urged her to come away, or at least move
back out of the worst of it. Stillwell seconded Florence.
Madeline, however, smilingly refused. Then her brother said:
"Here, this is making you sick. You're pale." And she replied
that she intended to stay until the day's work ended. Al gave
her a strange look, and made no more comment. The kindly
Stillwell then began to talk.
"Miss Majesty, you're seein' the life of the cattleman an,
cowboy--the real thing--same as it was in the early days. The
ranchers in Texas an' some in Arizona hev took on style,
new-fangled idees thet are good, an' I wish we could follow them.
But we've got to stick to the old-fashioned, open-range
round-tip. It looks cruel to you, I can see thet. Wal, mebbe
so, mebbe so. Them Greasers are cruel, thet's certain. Fer thet
matter, I never seen a Greaser who wasn't cruel. But I reckon
all the strenuous work you've seen to-day ain't any tougher than
most any day of a cowboy's life. Long hours on hossback, poor
grub, sleepin' on the ground, lonesome watches, dust an' sun an,
wind an' thirst, day in an' day out all the year round--thet's
what a cowboy has.
"Look at Nels there. See, what little hair be has is snow-white.
He's red an' thin an' hard--burned up. You notice thet hump of
his shoulders. An' his hands, when he gets close--jest take a
peep at his hands. Nels can't pick up a pin. He can't hardly
button his shirt or untie a knot in his rope. He looks sixty
years--an old man. Wal, Nels 'ain't seen forty. He's a young
man, but he's seen a lifetime fer every year. Miss Majesty, it
was Arizona thet made Nels what he is, the Arizona desert an' the
work of a cowman. He's seen ridin' at Canon Diablo an' the Verdi
an' Tonto Basin. He knows every mile of Aravaipa Valley an' the
Pinaleno country. He's ranged from Tombstone to Douglas. He hed
shot bad white men an' bad Greasers before he was twenty-one.
He's seen some life, Nels has. My sixty years ain't nothin'; my
early days in the Staked Plains an' on the border with Apaches
ain't nothin' to what Nels has seen an' lived through. He's just
come to be part of the desert; you might say he's stone an' fire
an' silence an' cactus an' force. He's a man, Miss Majesty, a
wonderful man. Rough he'll seem to you. Wal, I'll show you
pieces of quartz from the mountains back of my ranch an' they're
thet rough they'd cut your hands. But there's pure gold in them.
An' so it is with Nels an' many of these cowboys.
"An' there's Price--Monty Price. Monty stands fer Montana, where
he hails from. Take a good look at him, Miss Majesty. He's been
hurt, I reckon. Thet accounts fer him bein' without hoss or
rope; an' thet limp. Wal, he's been ripped a little. It's sure
rare an seldom thet a cowboy gets foul of one of them thousands
of sharp horns; but it does happen."
Madeline saw a very short, wizened little man, ludicrously
bow-legged, with a face the color and hardness of a burned-out
cinder. He was hobbling by toward the wagon, and one of his
short, crooked legs dragged.
"Not much to look at, is he?" went on Stillwell. "Wal; I know
it's natural thet we're all best pleased by good looks in any
one, even a man. It hedn't ought to be thet way. Monty Price
looks like hell. But appearances are sure deceivin'. Monty saw
years of ridin' along the Missouri bottoms, the big prairies,
where there's high grass an' sometimes fires. In Montana they
have blizzards that freeze cattle standin' in their tracks. An'
hosses freeze to death. They tell me thet a drivin' sleet in the
face with the mercury forty below is somethin' to ride against.
You can't get Monty to say much about cold. All you hev to do is
to watch him, how he hunts the sun. It never gets too hot fer
Monty. Wal, I reckon he was a little more prepossessin' once.
The story thet come to us about Monty is this: He got caught out
in a prairie fire an' could hev saved himself easy, but there was
a lone ranch right in the line of fire, an' Monty knowed the
rancher was away, an' his wife an' baby was home. He knowed,
too, the way the wind was, thet the ranch-house would burn. It
was a long chance he was takin'. But he went over, put the woman
up behind him, wrapped the baby an' his hoss's haid in a wet
blanket, an' rode away. Thet was sure some ride, I've heerd. But
the fire ketched Monty at the last. The woman fell an' was lost,
an' then his hoss. An' Monty ran an' walked an' crawled through
the fire with thet baby, an' he saved it. Monty was never much
good as a cowboy after thet. He couldn't hold no jobs. Wal,
he'll have one with me as long as I have a steer left."
VI A Gift and A Purchase
For a week the scene of the round-up lay within riding-distance
of the ranch-house, and Madeline passed most of this time in the
saddle, watching the strenuous labors of the vaqueros and
cowboys. She overestimated her strength, and more than once had
to be lifted from her horse. Stillwell's pleasure in her
attendance gave place to concern. He tried to persuade her to
stay away from the round-up, and Florence grew even more
Madeline, however, was not moved by their entreaties. She grasped
only dimly the truth of what it was she was learning--something
infinitely more than the rounding up of cattle by cowboys, and
she was loath to lose an hour of her opportunity.
Her brother looked out for her as much as his duties permitted;
but for several days he never once mentioned her growing fatigue
and the strain of excitement, or suggested that she had better go
back to the house with Florence. Many times she felt the drawing
power of his keen blue eyes on her face. And at these moments she
sensed more than brotherly regard. He was watching her, studying
her, weighing her, and the conviction was vaguely disturbing. It
was disquieting for Madeline to think that Alfred might have
guessed her trouble. From time to time he brought cowboys to her
and introduced them, and laughed and jested, trying to make the
ordeal less embarrassing for these men so little used to women.
Before the week was out, however, Alfred found occasion to tell
her that it would be wiser for her to let the round-up go on
without gracing it further with her presence. He said it
laughingly; nevertheless, he was serious. And when Madeline
turned to him in surprise he said, bluntly:
"I don't like the way Don Carlos follows you around. Bill's
afraid that Nels or Ambrose or one of the cowboys will take a
fall out of the Mexican. They're itching for the chance. Of
course, dear, it's absurd to you, but it's true."
Absurd it certainly was, yet it served to show Madeline how
intensely occupied she had been with her own feelings, roused by
the tumult and toil of the round-up. She recalled that Don
Carlos had been presented to her, and that she had not liked his
dark, striking face with its bold, prominent, glittering eyes and
sinister lines; and she had not liked his suave, sweet,
insinuating voice or his subtle manner, with its slow bows and
gestures. She had thought he looked handsome and dashing on the
magnificent black horse. However, now that Alfred's words made
her think, she recalled that wherever she had been in the field
the noble horse, with his silver-mounted saddle and his dark
rider, had been always in her vicinity.
"Don Carlos has been after Florence for a long time," said
Alfred. "He's not a young man by any means. He's fifty, Bill
says; but you can seldom tell a Mexican's age from his looks.
Don Carlos is well educated and a man we know very little about.
Mexicans of his stamp don't regard women as we white men do.
Now, my dear, beautiful sister from New York, I haven't much use
for Don Carlos; but I don't want Nels or Ambrose to make a wild
throw with a rope and pull the Don off his horse. So you had
better ride up to the house and stay there."
"Alfred, you are joking, teasing me," said Madeline. "Indeed
not," replied Alfred. "How about it, Flo?" Florence replied
that the cowboys would upon the slightest provocation treat Don
Carlos with less ceremony and gentleness than a roped steer. Old
Bill Stillwell came up to be importuned by Alfred regarding the
conduct of cowboys on occasion, and he not only corroborated the
assertion, but added emphasis and evidence of his own.
"An', Miss Majesty," he concluded, "I reckon if Gene Stewart was
ridin' fer me, thet grinnin' Greaser would hev hed a bump in the
dust before now."
Madeline had been wavering between sobriety and laughter until
Stillwell's mention of his ideal of cowboy chivalry decided in
favor of the laughter.
"I am not convinced, but I surrender," she said. "You have only
some occult motive for driving me away. I am sure that handsome
Don Carlos is being unjustly suspected. But as I have seen a
little of cowboys' singular imagination and gallantry, I am
rather inclined to fear their possibilities. So good-by."
Then she rode with Florence up the long, gray slope to the
ranch-house. That night she suffered from excessive weariness,
which she attributed more to the strange working of her mind than
to riding and sitting her horse. Morning, however, found her in
no disposition to rest. It was not activity that she craved, or
excitement, or pleasure. An unerring instinct, rising dear from
the thronging sensations of the last few days, told her that she
had missed something in life. It could not have been love, for
she loved brother, sister, parents, friends; it could not have
been consideration for the poor, the unfortunate, the hapless;
she had expressed her sympathy for these by giving freely; it
could not have been pleasure, culture, travel, society, wealth,
position, fame, for these had been hers all her life. Whatever
this something was, she had baffling intimations of it, hopes
that faded on the verge of realizations, haunting promises that
were unfulfilled. Whatever it was, it had remained hidden and
unknown at home, and here in the West it began to allure and
drive her to discovery. Therefore she could not rest; she wanted
to go and see; she was no longer chasing phantoms; it was a hunt
for treasure that held aloof, as intangible as the substance of
That morning she spoke a desire to visit the Mexican quarters
lying at the base of the foothills. Florence protested that this
was no place to take Madeline. But Madeline insisted, and it
required only a few words and a persuading smile to win Florence
From the porch the cluster of adobe houses added a picturesque
touch of color and contrast to the waste of gray valley. Near at
hand they proved the enchantment lent by distance. They were
old, crumbling, broken down, squalid. A few goats climbed around
upon them; a few mangy dogs barked announcement of visitors; and
then a troop of half-naked, dirty, ragged children ran out. They
were very shy, and at first retreated in affright. But kind
words and smiles gained their confidence, and then they followed
in a body, gathering a quota of new children at each house.
Madeline at once conceived the idea of doing something to better
the condition of these poor Mexicans, and with this in mind she
decided to have a look indoors. She fancied she might have been
an apparition, judging from the effect her presence had upon the
first woman she encountered. While Florence exercised what
little Spanish she had command of, trying to get the women to
talk, Madeline looked about the miserable little rooms. And
there grew upon her a feeling of sickness, which increased as she
passed from one house to another. She had not believed such
squalor could exist anywhere in America. The huts reeked with
filth; vermin crawled over the dirt floors. There was absolutely
no evidence of water, and she believed what Florence told her--
that these people never bathed. There was little evidence of
labor. Idle men and women smoking cigarettes lolled about, some
silent, others jabbering. They did not resent the visit of the
American women, nor did they show hospitality. They appeared
stupid. Disease was rampant in these houses; when the doors were
shut there was no ventilation, and even with the doors open
Madeline felt choked and stifled. A powerful penetrating odor
pervaded the rooms that were less stifling than others, and this
odor Florence explained came from a liquor the Mexicans distilled
from a cactus plant. Here drunkenness was manifest, a terrible
inert drunkenness that made its victims deathlike.
Madeline could not extend her visit to the little mission-house.
She saw a padre, a starved, sad-faced man who, she instinctively
felt, was good. She managed to mount her horse and ride up to
the house; but, once there, she weakened and Florence had almost
to carry her in-doors. She fought off a faintness, only to
succumb to it when alone in her room. Still, she did not entirely
lose consciousness, and soon recovered to the extent that she did
not require assistance.
Upon the morning after the end of the round-up, when she went out
on the porch, her brother and Stillwell appeared to be arguing
about the identity of a horse.
"Wal, I reckon it's my old roan," said Stillwell, shading his
eves with his hand.
"Bill, if that isn't Stewart's horse my eyes are going back on
me," replied Al. "It's not the color or shape--the distance is
too far to judge by that. It's the motion--the swing."
"Al, mebbe you're right. But they ain't no rider up on thet
hoss. Flo, fetch my glass."
Florence went into the house, while Madeline tried to discover
the object of attention. Presently far up the gray hollow along
a foothill she saw dust, and then the dark, moving figure of a
horse. She was watching when Florence returned with the glass.
Bill took a long look, adjusted the glasses carefully, and tried
"Wal, I hate to admit my eyes are gettin' pore. But I guess I'll
hev to. Thet's Gene Stewart's hoss, saddled, an' comin' at a
fast clip without a rider. It's amazin' strange, an' some in
keepin' with other things concernin' Gene."
"Give me the glass," said Al. "Yes, I was right. Bill, the horse
is not frightened. He's coming steadily; he's got something on
"Thet's a trained hoss, Al. He has more sense than some men I
know. Take a look with the glasses up the hollow. See anybody?"
"Swing up over the foothills--where the trail leads. Higher--
along thet ridge where the rocks begin. See anybody?"
"By Jove! Bill--two horses! But I can't make out much for dust.
They are climbing fast. One horse gone among the rocks. There--
the other's gone. What do you make of that?"
"Wal, I can't make no more 'n you. But I'll bet we know
somethin' soon, fer Gene's hoss is comin' faster as he nears the
The wide hollow sloping up into the foothills lay open to
unobstructed view, and less than half a mile distant Madeline saw
the riderless horse coming along the white trail at a rapid
canter. She watched him, recalling the circumstances under which
she had first seen him, and then his wild flight through the
dimly lighted streets of El Cajon out into the black night. She
thrilled again and believed she would never think of that starry
night's adventure without a thrill. She watched the horse and
felt more than curiosity. A shrill, piercing whistle pealed in.
"Wal, he's seen us, thet's sure," said Bill.
The horse neared the corrals, disappeared into a lane, and then,
breaking his gait again, thundered into the inclosure and pounded
to a halt some twenty yards from where Stillwell waited for him.
One look at him at close range in the clear light of day was
enough for Madeline to award him a blue ribbon over all horses,
even her prize-winner, White Stockings. The cowboy's great steed
was no lithe, slender-bodied mustang. He was a charger, almost
tremendous of build, with a black coat faintly mottled in gray,
and it shone like polished glass in the sun. Evidently he had
been carefully dressed down for this occasion, for there was no
dust on him, nor a kink in his beautiful mane, nor a mark on his
"Come hyar, you son-of-a-gun," said Stillwell.
The horse dropped his head, snorted, and came obediently up. He
was neither shy nor wild. He poked a friendly nose at Stillwell,
and then looked at Al and the women. Unhooking the stirrups from
the pommel, Stillwell let them fall and began to search the
saddle for something which he evidently expected to find.
Presently from somewhere among the trappings he produced a folded
bit of paper, and after scrutinizing it handed it to Al.
"Addressed to you; an' I'll bet you two bits I know what's in
it," he said.
Alfred unfolded the letter, read it, and then looked at
"Bill, you're a pretty good guesser. Gene's made for the border.
He sent the horse by somebody, no names mentioned, and wants my
sister to have him if she will accept."
"Any mention of Danny Mains?" asked the rancher.
"Not a word."
"Thet's bad. Gene'd know about Danny if anybody did. But he's a
close-mouthed cuss. So he's sure hittin' for Mexico. Wonder if
Danny's goin', too? Wal, there's two of the best cowmen I ever
seen gone to hell an' I'm sorry."
With that he bowed his head and, grumbling to himself, went into
the house. Alfred lifted the reins over the head of the horse
and, leading him to Madeline, slipped the knot over her arm and
placed the letter in her hand.
"Majesty, I'd accept the horse," he said. "Stewart is only a
cowboy now, and as tough as any I've known. But he comes of a
good family. He was a college man and a gentleman once. He went
to the bad out here, like so many fellows go, like I nearly did.
Then he had told me about his sister and mother. He cared a good
deal for them. I think he has been a source of unhappiness to
them. It was mostly when he was reminded of this in some way
that he'd get drunk. I have always stuck to him, and I would do
so yet if I had the chance. You can see Bill is heartbroken about
Danny Mains and Stewart. I think he rather hoped to get good
news. There's not much chance of them coming back now, at least
not in the case of Stewart. This giving up his horse means he's
going to join the rebel forces across the border. What wouldn't
I give to see that cowboy break loose on a bunch of Greasers!
Oh, damn the luck! I beg your pardon, Majesty. But I'm upset,
too. I'm sorry about Stewart. I liked him pretty well before he
thrashed that coyote of a sheriff, Pat Hawe, and afterward I
guess I liked him more. You read the letter, sister, and accept
In silence Madeline bent her gaze from her brother's face to the
Friend Al,--I'm sending my horse down to you because I'm going
away and haven't the nerve to take him where he'd get hurt or
fall into strange hands.
If you think it's all right, why, give him to your sister with my
respects. But if you don't like the idea, Al, or if she won't
have him, then he's for you. I'm not forgetting your kindness to
me, even if I never showed it. And, Al, my horse has never felt a
quirt or a spur, and I'd like to think you'd never hurt him. I'm
hoping your sister will take him. She'll be good to him, and she
can afford to take care of him. And, while I'm waiting to be
plugged by a Greaser bullet, if I happen to have a picture in
mind of how she'll look upon my horse, why, man, it's not going
to make any difference to you. She needn't ever know it.
Between you and me, Al, don't let her or Flo ride alone over Don
Carlos's way. If I had time I could tell you something about that
slick Greaser. And tell your sister, if there's ever any reason
for her to run away from anybody when she's up on that roan, just
let her lean over and yell in his ear. She'll find herself
riding the wind. So long.
Madeline thoughtfully folded the letter and murmured, "How he
must love his horse!"
"Well, I should say so," replied Alfred. "Flo will tell you.
She's the only person Gene ever let ride that horse, unless, as
Bill thinks, the little Mexican girl, Bonita, rode him out of El
Cajon the other night. Well, sister mine, how about it--will you
accept the horse?"
"Assuredly. And very happy indeed am I to get him. Al, you said,
I think, that Mr. Stewart named him after me--saw my nickname in
the New York paper?"
"Well, I will not change his name. But, Al, how shall I ever
climb up on him? He's taller than I am. What a giant of a
horse! Oh, look at him--he's nosing my hand. I really believe
he understood what I said. Al, did you ever see such a splendid
head and such beautiful eyes? They are so large and dark and
soft--and human. Oh, I am a fickle woman, for I am forgetting
"I'll gamble he'll make you forget any other horse," said Alfred.
"You'll have to get on him from the porch."
As Madeline was not dressed for the saddle, she did not attempt
"Come, Majesty--how strange that sounds!--we must get acquainted.
You have now a new owner, a very severe young woman who will
demand loyalty from you and obedience, and some day, after a
decent period, she will expect love."
Madeline led the horse to and fro, and was delighted with his
gentleness. She discovered that he did not need to be led. He
came at her call, followed her like a pet dog, rubbed his black
muzzle against her. Sometimes, at the turns in their walk, he
lifted his head and with ears forward looked up the trail by
which he had come, and beyond the foothills. He was looking over
the range. Some one was calling to him, perhaps, from beyond the
mountains. Madeline liked him the better for that memory, and
pitied the wayward cowboy who had parted with his only possession
for very love of it.
That afternoon when Alfred lifted Madeline to the back of the big
roan she felt high in the air.
"We'll have a run out to the mesa," said her brother, as he
mounted. "Keep a tight rein on him and ease up when you want him
to go faster. But don't yell in his ear unless you want Florence
and me to see you disappear on the horizon."
He trotted out of the yard, down by the corrals, to come out on
the edge of a gray, open flat that stretched several miles to the
slope of a mesa. Florence led, and Madeline saw that she rode
like a cowboy. Alfred drew on to her side, leaving Madeline in
the rear. Then the leading horses broke into a gallop. They
wanted to run, and Madeline felt with a thrill that she would
hardly be able to keep Majesty from running, even if she wanted
to. He sawed on the tight bridle as the others drew away and
broke from pace to gallop. Then Florence put her horse into a
run. Alfred turned and called to Madeline to come along.
"This will never do. They are running away from us," said
Madeline, and she eased up her hold on the bridle. Something
happened beneath her just then; she did not know at first exactly
what. As much as she had been on horseback she had never ridden
at a running gait. In New York it was not decorous or safe. So
when Majesty lowered and stretched and changed the stiff, jolting
gallop for a wonderful, smooth, gliding run it required Madeline
some moments to realize what was happening. It did not take long
for her to see the distance diminishing between her and her
companions. Still they had gotten a goodly start and were far
advanced. She felt the steady, even rush of the wind. It amazed
her to find how easily, comfortably she kept to the saddle. The
experience was new. The one fault she had heretofore found with
riding was the violent shaking-up. In this instance she
experienced nothing of that kind, no strain, no necessity to hold
on with a desperate awareness of work. She had never felt the
wind in her face, the whip of a horse's mane, the buoyant, level
spring of a tanning gait. It thrilled her, exhilarated her,
fired her blood. Suddenly she found herself alive, throbbing;
and, inspired by she knew not what, she loosened the bridle and,
leaning far forward, she cried, "Oh, you splendid fellow, run!"
She heard from under her a sudden quick clattering roar of hoofs,
and she swayed back with the wonderfully swift increase in
Majesty's speed. The wind stung her face, howled in her ears,
tore at her hair. The gray plain swept by on each side, and in
front seemed to be waving toward her. In her blurred sight
Florence and Alfred appeared to be coming back. But she saw
presently, upon nearer view, that Majesty was overhauling the
other horses, was going to pass them. Indeed, he did pass them,
shooting by so as almost to make them appear standing still. And
be ran on, not breaking his gait till he reached the steep side
of the mesa, where he slowed down and stopped.
"Glorious!" exclaimed Madeline. She was all in a blaze, and
every muscle and nerve of her body tingled and quivered. Her
hands, as she endeavored to put up the loosened strands of hair,
trembled and failed of their accustomed dexterity. Then she
faced about and waited for her companions.
Alfred reached her first, laughing, delighted, yet also a little
"Holy smoke! But can't he run? Did he bolt on you?"
"No, I called in his ear," replied Madeline.
"So that was it. That's the woman of you, and forbidden fruit.
Flo said she'd do it the minute she was on him. Majesty, you can
ride. See if Flo doesn't say so."
The Western girl came up then with her pleasure bright in her
"It was just great to see you. How your hair burned in the wind!
Al, she sure can ride. Oh, I'm so glad! I was a little afraid.
And that horse! Isn't he grand? Can't he run?"
Alfred led the way up the steep, zigzag trail to the top of the
mesa. Madeline saw a beautiful flat surface of short grass,
level as a floor. She uttered a little cry of wonder and
"Al, what a place for golf! This would be the finest links in
Well, I've thought of that myself," he replied. "The only
trouble would be--could anybody stop looking at the scenery long
enough to hit a ball? Majesty, look!"
And then it seemed that Madeline was confronted by a spectacle
too sublime and terrible for her gaze. The immensity of this
red-ridged, deep-gulfed world descending incalculable distances
refused to be grasped, and awed her,shocked her.
"Once, Majesty, when I first came out West, I was down and out--
determined to end it all," said Alfred. "And happened to climb
up here looking for a lonely place to die. When I saw that I
changed my mind."
Madeline was silent. She remained so during the ride around the
rim of the mesa and down the steep trail. This time Alfred and
Florence failed to tempt her into a race. She had been
awe-struck; she had been exalted she had been confounded; and she
recovered slowly without divining exactly what had come to her.
She reached the ranch-house far behind her companions, and at
supper-time was unusually thoughtful. Later, when they assembled
on the porch to watch the sunset, Stillwell's humorous
complainings inspired the inception of an idea which flashed up
in her mind swift as lightning. And then by listening
sympathetically she encouraged him to recite the troubles of a
poor cattleman. They were many and long and interesting, and
rather numbing to the life of her inspired idea.
Mr. Stillwell, could ranching here on a large scale, with
up-to-date methods, be made--well, not profitable, exactly, but
to pay--to run without loss?" she asked, determined to kill her
new-born idea at birth or else give it breath and hope of life.
"Wal, I reckon it could," he replied, with a short laugh. "It'd
sure be a money-maker. Why, with all my bad luck an' poor
equipment I've lived pretty well an' paid my debts an' haven't
really lost any money except the original outlay. I reckon
thet's sunk fer good."
"Would you sell--if some one would pay your price?"
"Miss Majesty, I'd jump at the chance. Yet somehow I'd hate to
leave hyar. I'd jest be fool enough to go sink the money in
"Would Don Carlos and these other Mexicans sell?"
"They sure would. The Don has been after me fer years, wantin'
to sell thet old rancho of his; an' these herders in the valley
with their stray cattle, they'd fall daid at sight of a little
"Please tell me, Mr. Stillwell, exactly what you would do here if
you had unlimited means?" went on Madeline.
"Good Lud!" ejaculated the rancher, and started so he dropped his
pipe. Then with his clumsy huge fingers he refilled it,
relighted it, took a few long pulls, puffed great clouds of
smoke, and, squaring round, hands on his knees, he looked at
Madeline with piercing intentness. His hard face began to relax
and soften and wrinkle into a smile.
"Wal, Miss Majesty, it jest makes my old heart warm up to think
of sich a thing. I dreamed a lot when I first come hyar. What
would I do if I hed unlimited money? Listen. I'd buy out Don
Carlos an' the Greasers. I'd give a job to every good cowman in
this country. I'd make them prosper as I prospered myself. I'd
buy all the good horses on the ranges. I'd fence twenty thousand
acres of the best grazin'. I'd drill fer water in the valley.
I'd pipe water down from the mountains. I'd dam up that draw out
there. A mile-long dam from hill to hill would give me a big
lake, an' hevin' an eye fer beauty, I'd plant cottonwoods around
it. I'd fill that lake full of fish. I'd put in the biggest
field of alfalfa in the South-west. I'd plant fruit-trees an'
garden. I'd tear down them old corrals an' barns an' bunk-houses
to build new ones. I'd make this old rancho some comfortable an'
fine. I'd put in grass an' flowers all around an' bring young
pine-trees down from the mountains. An' when all thet was done
I'd sit in my chair an' smoke an' watch the cattle stringin' in
fer water an' stragglin' back into the valley. An' I see the
cowboys ridin' easy an' heah them singin' in their bunks. An'
thet red sun out there wouldn't set on a happier man in the world
than Bill Stillwell, last of the old cattlemen."
Madeline thanked the rancher, and then rather abruptly retired to
her room, where she felt no restraint to hide the force of that
wonderful idea, now full-grown and tenacious and alluring.
Upon the next day, late in the afternoon, she asked Alfred if it
would be safe for her to ride out to the mesa.
"I'll go with you," he said, gaily.
"Dear fellow, I want to go alone," she replied.
"Ah!" Alfred exclaimed, suddenly serious. He gave her just a
quick glance, then turned away. "Go ahead. I think it's safe.
I'll make it safe by sitting here with my glass and keeping an
eye on you. Be careful coming down the trail. Let the horse
pick his way. That's all."
She rode Majesty across the wide flat, up the zigzag trail,
across the beautiful grassy level to the far rim of the mesa, and
not till then did she lift her eyes to face the southwest.
Madeline looked from the gray valley at her feet to the blue
Sierra Madres, gold-tipped in the setting sun. Her vision
embraced in that glance distance and depth and glory hitherto
unrevealed to her. The gray valley sloped and widened to the
black sentinel Chiricahuas, and beyond was lost in a vast
corrugated sweep of earth, reddening down to the west, where a
golden blaze lifted the dark, rugged mountains into bold relief.
The scene had infinite beauty. But after Madeline's first swift,
all-embracing flash of enraptured eyes, thought of beauty passed
away. In that darkening desert there was something illimitable.
Madeline saw the hollow of a stupendous hand; she felt a mighty
hold upon her heart. Out of the endless space, out of silence
and desolation and mystery and age, came slow-changing colored
shadows, phantoms of peace, and they whispered to Madeline. They
whispered that it was a great, grim, immutable earth; that time
was eternity; that life was fleeting. They whispered for her to
be a woman; to love some one before it was too late; to love any
one, every one; to realize the need of work, and in doing it to
She rode back across the mesa and down the trail, and, once more
upon the flat, she called to the horse and made him run. His
spirit seemed to race with hers. The wind of his speed blew her
hair from its fastenings. When he thundered to a halt at the
porch steps Madeline, breathless and disheveled, alighted with
the mass of her hair tumbling around her.
Alfred met her, and his exclamation, and Florence's rapt eyes
shining on her face, and Stillwell's speechlessness made her
self-conscious. Laughing, she tried to put up the mass of hair.
"I must--look a--fright," she panted.
"Wal, you can say what you like," replied the old cattleman, "but
I know what I think."
Madeline strove to attain calmness.
"My hat--and my combs--went on the wind. I thought my hair would
go, too. . . . There is the evening star. . . . I think I am very
And then she gave up trying to be calm, and likewise to fasten up
her hair, which fell again in a golden mass.
"Mr. Stillwell," she began, and paused, strangely aware of a
hurried note, a deeper ring in her voice. "Mr. Stillwell, I want
to buy your ranch--to engage you as my superintendent. I want to
buy Don Carlos's ranch and other property to the extent, say, of
fifty thousand acres. I want you to buy horses and cattle--in
short, to make all those improvements which you said you had so
long dreamed of. Then I have ideas of my own, in the development
of which I must have your advice and Alfred's. I intend to
better the condition of those poor Mexicans in the valley. I
intend to make life a little more worth living for them and for
the cowboys of this range. To-morrow we shall talk it all over,
plan all the business details."
Madeline turned from the huge, ever-widening smile that beamed
down upon her and held out her hands to her brother.
"Alfred, strange, is it not, my coming out to you? Nay, don't
smile. I hope I have found myself--my work--my happiness--here
under the light of that western star."
VII Her Majesty's Rancho
FIVE months brought all that Stillwell had dreamed of, and so
many more changes and improvements and innovations that it was as
if a magic touch had transformed the old ranch. Madeline and
Alfred and Florence had talked over a fitting name, and had
decided on one chosen by Madeline. But this instance was the
only one in the course of developments in which Madeline's wishes
were not compiled with. The cowboys named the new ranch "Her
Majesty's Rancho." Stillwell said the names cowboys bestowed
were felicitous, and as unchangeable as the everlasting hills;
Florence went over to the enemy; and Alfred, laughing at
Madeline's protest, declared the cowboys had elected her queen of
the ranges, and that there was no help for it. So the name stood
"Her Majesty's Rancho."
The April sun shone down upon a slow-rising green knoll that
nestled in the lee of the foothills, and seemed to center bright
rays upon the long ranch-house, which gleamed snow-white from the
level summit. The grounds around the house bore no semblance to
Eastern lawns or parks; there had been no landscape-gardening;
Stillwell had just brought water and grass and flowers and plants
to the knoll-top, and there had left them, as it were, to follow
nature. His idea may have been crude, but the result was
beautiful. Under that hot sun and balmy air, with cool water
daily soaking into the rich soil, a green covering sprang into
life, and everywhere upon it, as if by magic, many colored
flowers rose in the sweet air. Pale wild flowers, lavender
daisies, fragile bluebells, white four-petaled lilies like
Eastern mayflowers, and golden poppies, deep sunset gold, color
of the West, bloomed in happy confusion. California roses,
crimson as blood, nodded heavy heads and trembled with the weight
of bees. Low down in bare places, isolated, open to the full
power of the sun, blazed the vermilion and magenta blossoms of
Green slopes led all the way down to where new adobe barns and
sheds had been erected, and wide corrals stretched high-barred
fences down to the great squares of alfalfa gently inclining to
the gray of the valley. The bottom of a dammed-up hollow shone
brightly with its slowly increasing acreage of water, upon which
thousands of migratory wildfowl whirred and splashed and
squawked, as if reluctant to leave this cool, wet surprise so new
in the long desert journey to the northland. Quarters for the
cowboys--comfortable, roomy adobe houses that not even the lamest
cowboy dared describe as crampy bunks--stood in a row upon a long
bench of ground above the lake. And down to the edge of the
valley the cluster of Mexican habitations and the little church
showed the touch of the same renewing hand.
All that had been left of the old Spanish house which had been
Stillwell's home for so long was the bare, massive structure, and
some of this had been cut away for new doors and windows. Every
modern convenience, even to hot and cold running water and
acetylene light, had been installed; and the whole interior
painted and carpentered and furrished. The ideal sought had not
been luxury, but comfort. Every door into the patio looked out
upon dark, rich grass and sweet-faced flowers, and every window
looked down the green slopes.
Madeline's rooms occupied the west end of the building and
comprised four in number, all opening out upon the long porch.
There was a small room for her maid, another which she used as an
office, then her sleeping-apartment; and, lastly, the great light
chamber which she had liked so well upon first sight, and which
now, simply yet beautifully furnished and containing her favorite
books and pictures, she had come to love as she had never loved
any room at home. In the morning the fragrant, balmy air blew
the white curtains of the open windows; at noon the drowsy,
sultry quiet seemed to creep in for the siesta that was
characteristic of the country; in the afternoon the westering sun
peeped under the porch roof and painted the walls with gold bars
that slowly changed to red.
Madeline Hammond cherished a fancy that the transformation she
had wrought in the old Spanish house and in the people with whom
she had surrounded herself, great as that transformation had
been, was as nothing compared to the one wrought in herself. She
had found an object in life. She was busy, she worked with her
hands as well as mind, yet she seemed to have more time to read
and think and study and idle and dream than ever before. She had
seen her brother through his difficulties, on the road to all the
success and prosperity that he cared for. Madeline had been a
conscientious student of ranching and an apt pupil of Stillwell.
The old cattleman, in his simplicity, gave her the place in his
heart that was meant for the daughter he had never had. His
pride in her, Madeline thought, was beyond reason or belief or
words to tell. Under his guidance, sometimes accompanied by
Alfred and Florence, Madeline had ridden the ranges and had
studied the life and work of the cowboys. She had camped on the
open range, slept under the blinking stars, ridden forty miles a
day in the face of dust and wind. She had taken two wonderful
trips down into the desert--one trip to Chiricahua, and from
there across the waste of sand and rock and alkali and cactus to
the Mexican borderline; and the other through the Aravaipa
Valley, with its deep, red-walled canons and wild fastnesses.
This breaking-in, this training into Western ways, though she had
been a so-called outdoor girl, had required great effort and
severe pain; but the education, now past its grades, had become a
labor of love. She had perfect health, abounding spirits. She
was so active hat she had to train herself into taking the midday
siesta, a custom of the country and imperative during the hot
summer months. Sometimes she looked in her mirror and laughed
with sheer joy at sight of the lithe, audacious, brown-faced,
flashing-eyed creature reflected there. It was not so much joy
in her beauty as sheer joy of life. Eastern critics had been
wont to call her beautiful in those days when she had been pale
and slender and proud and cold. She laughed. If they could only
see her now! From the tip of her golden head to her feet he was
alive, pulsating, on fire.
Sometimes she thought of her parents, sister, friends, of how
they had persistently refused to believe she could or would stay
in the West. They were always asking her to come home. And when
she wrote, which was dutifully often, the last thing under the
sun that she was likely to mention was the change in her. She
wrote that she would return to her old home some time, of course,
for a visit; and letters such as this brought returns that amused
Madeline, sometimes saddened her. She meant to go back East for a
while, and after that once or twice every year. But the
initiative was a difficult step from which she shrank. Once
home, she would have to make explanations, and these would not be
understood. Her father's business had been such that he could
not leave it for the time required for a Western trip, or else,
according to his letter, he would have come for her. Mrs.
Hammond could not have been driven to cross the Hudson River; her
un-American idea of the wilderness westward was that Indians
still chased buffalo on the outskirts of Chicago. Madeline's
sister Helen had long been eager to come, as much from curiosity,
Madeline thought, as from sisterly regard. And at length
Madeline concluded that the proof of her breaking permanent ties
might better be seen by visiting relatives and friends before she
went back East. With that in mind she invited Helen to visit her
during the summer, and bring as many friends as she liked.
No slight task indeed was it to oversee the many business details
of Her Majesty's Rancho and to keep a record of them. Madeline
found the course of business training upon which her father had
insisted to be invaluable to her now. It helped her to
assimilate and arrange the practical details of cattle-raising as
put forth by the blunt Stillwell. She split up the great stock
of cattle into different herds, and when any of these were out
running upon the open range she had them closely watched. Part
of the time each herd was kept in an inclosed range, fed and
watered, and carefully handled by a big force of cowboys. She
employed three cowboy scouts whose sole duty was to ride the
ranges searching for stray, sick, or crippled cattle or
motherless calves, and to bring these in to be treated and
nursed. There were two cowboys whose business was to master a
pack of Russian stag-hounds and to hunt down the coyotes, wolves,
and lions that preyed upon the herds. The better and tamer milch
cows were separated from the ranging herds and kept in a pasture
adjoining the dairy. All branding was done in corrals, and
calves were weaned from mother-cows at the proper time to benefit
both. The old method of branding and classing, that had so
shocked Madeline, had been abandoned, and one had been
inaugurated whereby cattle and cowboys and horses were spared
brutality and injury.
Madeline established an extensive vegetable farm, and she planted
orchards. The climate was superior to that of California, and,
with abundant water, trees and plants and gardens flourished and
bloomed in a way wonderful to behold. It was with ever-increasing
pleasure that Madeline walked through acres of ground once bare,
now green and bright and fragrant. There were poultry-yards and
pig-pens and marshy quarters for ducks and geese. Here in the
farming section of the ranch Madeline found employment for the
little colony of Mexicans. Their lives had been as hard and
barren as the dry valley where they had lived. But as the valley
had been transformed by the soft, rich touch of water, so their
lives had been transformed by help and sympathy and work. The
children were wretched no more, and many that had been blind
could now see, and Madeline had become to them a new and blessed
Madeline looked abroad over these lands and likened the change in
them and those who lived by them to the change in her heart. It
may have been fancy, but the sun seemed to be brighter, the sky
bluer, the wind sweeter. Certain it was that the deep green of
grass and garden was not fancy, nor the white and pink of
blossom, nor the blaze and perfume of flower, nor the sheen of
lake and the fluttering of new-born leaves. Where there had been
monotonous gray there was now vivid and changing color. Formerly
there had been silence both day and night; now during the sunny
hours there was music. The whistle of prancing stallions pealed
in from the grassy ridges. Innumerable birds had come and, like
the northward-journeying ducks, they had tarried to stay. The
song of meadow-lark and blackbird and robin, familiar to Madeline
from childhood, mingled with the new and strange heart-throbbing
song of mocking-bird and the piercing blast of the desert eagle
and the melancholy moan of turtle-dove.
One April morning Madeline sat in her office wrestling with a
problem. She had problems to solve every day. The majority of
these were concerned with the management of twenty-seven
incomprehensible cowboys. This particular problem involved
Ambrose Mills, who had eloped with her French maid, Christine.
Stillwell faced Madeline with a smile almost as huge as his bulk.
"Wal, Miss Majesty, we ketched them; but not before Padre Marcos
had married them. All thet speedin' in the autoomoobile was jest
a-scarin' of me to death fer nothin'. I tell you Link Stevens is
crazy about runnin' thet car. Link never hed no sense even with
a hoss. He ain't afraid of the devil hisself. If my hair hedn't
been white it 'd be white now. No more rides in thet thing fer
me! Wal, we ketched Ambrose an' the girl too late. But we
fetched them back, an' they're out there now, spoonin', sure
oblivious to their shameless conduct."
"Stillwell, what shall I say to Ambrose? How shall I punish him?
He has done wrong to deceive me. I never was so surprised in my
life. Christine did not seem to care any more for Ambrose than
for any of the other cowboys. What does my authority amount to?
I must do something. Stillwell, you must help me."
Whenever Madeline fell into a quandary she had to call upon the
old cattleman. No man ever held a position with greater pride
than Stillwell, but he had been put to tests that steeped him in
humility. Here he scratched his head in great perplexity.
"Dog-gone the luck! What's this elopin' bizness to do with
cattle-raisin'? I don't know nothin' but cattle. Miss Majesty,
it's amazin' strange what these cowboys hev come to. I never seen
no cowboys like these we've got hyar now. I don't know them any
more. They dress swell an' read books, an' some of them hev
actooly stopped cussin' an' drinkin'. I ain't sayin' all this is
against them. Why, now, they're jest the finest bunch of
cow-punchers I ever seen or dreamed of. But managin' them now is
beyond me. When cowboys begin to play thet game gol-lof an' run
off with French maids I reckon Bill Stillwell has got to resign."
"Stillwell! Oh, you will not leave me? What in the world would
I do?" exclaimed Madeline, in great anxiety.
"Wal, I sure won't leave you, Miss Majesty. No, I never'll do
thet. I'll run the cattle bizness fer you an' see after the
hosses an' other stock. But I've got to hev a foreman who can
handle this amazin' strange bunch of cowboys."
"You've tried half a dozen foremen. Try more until you find the
man who meets your requirements," said Madeline. "Never mind that
now. Tell me how to impress Ambrose--to make him an example, so
to speak. I must have another maid. And I do not want a new
one carried off in this summary manner."
"Wal, if you fetch pretty maids out hyar you can't expect nothin'
else. Why, thet black-eyed little French girl, with her white
skin an' pretty airs an' smiles an' shrugs, she had the cowboys
crazy. It'll be wuss with the next one."
"Oh dear!" sighed Madeline.
"An' as fer impressin' Ambrose, I reckon I can tell you how to do
thet. Jest give it to him good an' say you're goin' to fire him.
That'll fix Ambrose, an' mebbe scare the other boys fer a spell."
"Very well, Stillwell, bring Ambrose in to see me, and tell
Christine to wait in my room."
"It was a handsome debonair, bright-eyed cowboy that came
tramping into Madeline's presence. His accustomed shyness and
awkwardness had disappeared in an excited manner. He was a happy
boy. He looked straight into Madeline's face as if he expected
her to wish him joy. And Madeline actually found that expression
trembling to her lips. She held it back until she could be
severe. But Madeline feared she would fail of much severity.
Something warm and sweet, like a fragrance, had entered the room
"Ambrose, what have you done?" she asked. "Miss Hammond, I've
been and gone and got married," replied Ambrose, his words
tumbling over one another. His eyes snapped, and there was a
kind of glow upon his clean-shaven brown cheek. "I've stole a
march on the other boys. There was Frank Slade pushin' me close,
and I was havin' some runnin' to keep Jim Bell back in my dust.
Even old man Nels made eyes at Christine! So I wasn't goin' to
take any chances. I just packed her off to El Cajon and married
"Oh, so I heard," said Madeline, slowly, as she watched him.
"Ambrose, do you--love her?"
He reddened under her clear gaze, dropped his head, and fumbled
with his new sombrero, and there was a catch in his breath.
Madeline saw his powerful brown hand tremble. It affected her
strangely that this stalwart cowboy, who could rope and throw and
tie a wild steer in less than one minute, should tremble at a
mere question. Suddenly he raised his head, and at the beautiful
blase of his eyes Madeline turned her own away.
"Yes, Miss Hammond, I love her," he said. "I think I love her in
the way you're askin' about. I know the first time I saw her I
thought how wonderful it'd be to have a girl like that for my
wife. It's all been so strange--her comin' an' how she made me
feel. Sure I never knew many girls, and I haven't seen any girls
at all for years. But when she came! A girl makes a wonderful
difference in a man's feelin's and thoughts. I guess I never had
any before. Leastways, none like I have now. My--it--well, I
guess I have a little understandin' now of Padre Marcos's
"Ambrose, have you nothing to say to me?" asked Madeline.
"I'm sure sorry I didn't have time to tell you. But I was in
"What did you intend to do? Where were you going when Stillwell
"We'd just been married. I hadn't thought of anything after
that. Suppose I'd have rustled back to my job. I'll sure have
to work now and save my money."
"Oh, well, Ambrose, I am glad you realize your responsibilities.
Do you earn enough--is your pay sufficient to keep a wife?"
"Sure it is! Why, Miss Hammond, I never before earned half the
salary I'm gettin' now. It's some fine to work for you. I'm
goin' to fire the boys out of my bunk-house and fix it up for
Christine and me. Say, won't they be jealous?"
"Ambrose, I--I congratulate you. I wish you joy," said Madeline.
"I--I shall make Christine a little wedding-present. I want to
talk to her for a few moments. You may go now."
It would have been impossible for Madeline to say one severe word
to that happy cowboy. She experienced difficulty in hiding her
own happiness at the turn of events. Curiosity and interest
mingled with her pleasure when she called to Christine.
"Mrs. Ambrose Mills, please come in."
No sound came from the other room.
"I should like very much to see the bride," went on Madeline.
Still there was no stir or reply
"Christine!" called Madeline.
Then it was as if a little whirlwind of flying feet and
entreating hands and beseeching eyes blew in upon Madeline.
Christine was small, graceful, plump, with very white skin and
very dark hair. She had been Madeline's favorite maid for years
and there was sincere affection between the two. Whatever had
been the blissful ignorance of Ambrose, it was manifestly certain
that Christine knew how she had transgressed. Her fear and
remorse and appeal for forgiveness were poured out in an
incoherent storm. Plain it was that the little French maid had
been overwhelmed. It was only after Madeline had taken the
emotional girl in her arms and had forgiven and soothed her that
her part in the elopement became clear. Christine was in a maze.
But gradually, as she talked and saw that she was forgiven,
calmness came in some degree, and with it a story which amused
yet shocked Madeline. The unmistakable, shy, marveling love,
scarcely realized by Christine, gave Madeline relief and joy. If
Christine loved Ambrose there was no harm done. Watching the
girl's eyes, wonderful with their changes of thought, listening
to her attempts to explain what it was evident she did not
understand, Madeline gathered that if ever a caveman had taken
unto himself a wife, if ever a barbarian had carried off a Sabine
woman, then Ambrose Mills had acted with the violence of such
ancient forebears. Just how it all happened seemed to be beyond
"He say he love me," repeated the girl, in a kind of rapt awe.
"He ask me to marry him--he kees me--he hug me--he lift me on ze
horse--he ride with me all night--he marry me."
And she exhibited a ring on the third finger of her left hand.
Madeline saw that, whatever had been the state of Christine's
feeling for Ambrose before this marriage, she loved him now. She
had been taken forcibly, but she was won.
After Christine had gone, comforted and betraying her shy
eagerness to get back to Ambrose, Madeline was haunted by the
look in the girl's eyes, and her words. Assuredly the spell of
romance was on this sunny land. For Madeline there was a
nameless charm, a nameless thrill combating her sense of the
violence and unfitness of Ambrose's wooing. Something, she knew
not what, took arms against her intellectual arraignment of the
cowboy's method of getting himself a wife. He had said straight
out that he loved the girl--he had asked her to marry him--he
kissed her--he hugged her--he lifted her upon his horse--he rode
away with her through the night--and he married her. In whatever
light Madeline reviewed this thing she always came back to her
first natural impression; it thrilled her, charmed her. It went
against all the precepts of her training; nevertheless, it was
somehow splendid and beautiful. She imagined it stripped another
artificial scale from her over-sophisticated eyes.
Scarcely had she settled again to the task on her desk when
Stillwell's heavy tread across the porch interrupted her. This
time when he entered he wore a look that bordered upon the
hysterical; it was difficult to tell whether he was trying to
suppress grief or glee.
"Miss Majesty, there's another amazin' strange thing sprung on
me. Hyars Jim Bell come to see you, an', when I taxed him,
sayin' you was tolerable busy, he up an' says he was hungry an'
be ain't a-goin' to eat any more bread made in a wash-basin!
Says he'll starve first. Says Nels hed the gang over to big bunk
an' feasted them on bread you taught him how to make in some
new-fangled bucket-machine with a crank. Jim says thet bread
beat any cake he ever eat, an' he wants you to show him how to
make some. Now, Miss Majesty, as superintendent of this ranch I
ought to know what's goin' on. Mebbe Jim is jest a-joshin' me.
Mebbe he's gone clean dotty. Mebbe I hev. An' beggin' your
pardon, I want to know if there's any truth in what Jim says Nels
Whereupon it became necessary for Madeline to stifle her mirth
and to inform the sadly perplexed old cattleman that she had
received from the East a patent bread-mixer, and in view of the
fact that her household women had taken fright at the
contrivance, she had essayed to operate it herself. This had
turned out to be so simple, so saving of time and energy and
flour, so much more cleanly than the old method of mixing dough
with the hands, and particularly it had resulted in such good
bread, that Madeline had been pleased. Immediately she ordered
more of the bread-mixers. One day she had happened upon Nels
making biscuit dough in his wash-basin, and she had delicately
and considerately introduced to him the idea of her new method.
Nels, it appeared, had a great reputation as a bread-maker, and
he was proud of it. Moreover, he was skeptical of any clap-trap
thing with wheels and cranks. He consented, however, to let her
show how the thing worked and to sample some of the bread. To
that end she had him come up to the house, where she won him
over. Stillwell laughed loud and long.
"Wal, wal, wal!" he exclaimed, at length. "Thet's fine, an' it's
powerful funny. Mebbe you don't see how funny? Wal, Nels has
jest been lordin' it over the boys about how you showed him, an'
now you'll hev to show every last cowboy on the place the same
thing. Cowboys are the jealousest kind of fellers. They're all
crazy about you, anyway. Take Jim out hyar. Why, thet lazy
cowpuncher jest never would make bread. He's notorious fer
shirkin' his share of the grub deal. I've knowed Jim to trade
off washin' the pots an' pans fer a lonely watch on a rainy
night. All he wants is to see you show him the same as Nels is
crowin' over. Then he'll crow over his bunkie, Frank Slade, an'
then Frank'll get lonely to know all about this wonderful
bread-machine. Cowboys are amazin' strange critters, Miss
Majesty. An' now thet you've begun with them this way, you'll
hev to keep it up. I will say I never seen such a bunch to work.
You've sure put heart in them."
"Indeed, Stillwell, I am glad to hear that," replied Madeline.
"And I shall be pleased to teach them all. But may I not have
them all up here at once--at least those off duty?"
"Wal, I reckon you can't onless you want to hev them scrappin',"
rejoined Stillwell, dryly. "What you've got on your hands now,
Miss Majesty, is to let 'em come one by one, an' make each cowboy
think you're takin' more especial pleasure in showin' him than
the feller who came before him. Then mebbe we can go on with
Madeline protested, and Stillwell held inexorably to what he said
was wisdom. Several times Madeline had gone against his advice,
to her utter discomfiture and rout. She dared not risk it again,
and resigned herself grace-fully and with subdued merriment to
her task. Jim Bell was ushered into the great, light, spotless
kitchen, where presently Madeline appeared to put on an apron and
roll up her sleeves. She explained the use of the several pieces
of aluminum that made up the bread-mixer and fastened the bucket
to the table-shelf. Jim's life might have depended upon this
lesson, judging from his absorbed manner and his desire to have
things explained over and over, especially the turning of the
crank. When Madeline had to take Jim's hand three times to show
him the simple mechanism and then he did not understand she began
to have faint misgivings as to his absolute sincerity. She
guessed that as long as she touched Jim's hand he never would
understand. Then as she began to measure out flour and milk and
lard and salt and yeast she saw with despair that Jim was not
looking at the ingredients, was not paying the slightest
attention to them. His eyes were covertly upon her.
"Jim, I am not sure about you," said Madeline, severely. "How
can you learn to make bread if you do not watch me mix it?"
"I am a-watchin' you," replied Jim, innocently.
Finally Madeline sent the cowboy on his way rejoicing with the
bread-mixer under his arm. Next morning, true to Stillwell's
prophecy, Frank Slade, Jim's bunkmate, presented himself
cheerfully to Madeline and unbosomed himself of a long-deferred
and persistent desire to relieve his overworked comrade of some
of the house-keeping in their bunk.
"Miss Hammond," said Frank, "Jim's orful kind wantin' to do it
all hisself. But he ain't very bright, an' I didn't believe him.
You see, I'm from Missouri, an, you'll have to show me."
For a whole week Madeline held clinics where she expounded the
scientific method of modern bread-making. She got a good deal of
enjoyment out of her lectures. What boys these great hulking
fellows were! She saw through their simple ruses. Some of them
were grave as deacons; others wore expressions important enough
to have fitted the faces of statesmen signing government
treaties. These cowboys were children; they needed to be
governed; but in order to govern them they had to be humored. A
more light-hearted, fun-loving crowd of boys could not have been
found. And they were grown men. Stillwell explained that the
exuberance of spirits lay in the difference in their fortunes.
Twenty-seven cowboys, in relays of nine, worked eight hours a
day. That had never been heard of before in the West. Stillwell
declared that cowboys from all points of the compass would head
their horses toward Her Majesty's Rancho.
VIII El Capitan
Stillwell's interest in the revolution across the Mexican line
had manifestly increased with the news that Gene Stewart had
achieved distinction with the rebel forces. Thereafter the old
cattleman sent for El Paso and Douglas newspapers, wrote to
ranchmen he knew on the big bend of the Rio Grande, and he would
talk indefinitely to any one who would listen to him. There was
not any possibility of Stillwell's friends at the ranch
forgetting his favorite cowboy. Stillwell always prefaced his
eulogy with an apologetic statement that Stewart had gone to the
bad. Madeline liked to listen to him, though she was not always
sure which news was authentic and which imagination.
There appeared to be no doubt, however, that the cowboy had
performed some daring feats for the rebels. Madeline found his
name mentioned in several of the border papers. When the rebels
under Madero stormed and captured the city of Juarez, Stewart did
fighting that won him the name of El Capitan. This battle
apparently ended the revolution. The capitulation of President
Diaz followed shortly, and there was a feeling of relief among
ranchers on the border from Texas to California. Nothing more was
heard of Gene Stewart until April, when a report reached
Stillwell that the cowboy had arrived in El Cajon, evidently
hunting trouble. The old cattleman saddled a horse and started
post-haste for town. In two days he returned, depressed in
spirit. Madeline happened to be present when Stillwell talked to
"I got there too late, Al," said the cattleman. "Gene was gone.
An' what do you think of this? Danny Mains hed jest left with a
couple of burros packed. I couldn't find what way he went, but
I'm bettin' he hit the Peloncillo trail."
"Danny will show up some day," replied Alfred. "What did you
learn about Stewart? Maybe he left with Danny."
"Not much," said Stillwell, shortly. "Gene's hell-bent fer
election! No mountains fer him."
"Well tell us about him."
Stillwell wiped his sweaty brow and squared himself to talk.
"Wal, it's sure amazin' strange about Gene. Its got me locoed.
He arrived in El Cajon a week or so ago. He was trained down
like as if he'd been ridin' the range all winter. He hed plenty
of money--Mex, they said. An' all the Greasers was crazy about
him. Called him El Capitan. He got drunk an' went roarin' round
fer Pat Hawe. You remember that Greaser who was plugged last
October--the night Miss Majesty arrived? Wal, he's daid. He's
daid, an' people says thet Pat is a-goin' to lay thet killin'
onto Gene. I reckon thet's jest talk, though Pat is mean enough
to do it, if he hed the nerve. Anyway, if he was in El Cajon he
kept mighty much to hisself. Gene walked up an' down, up an'
down, all day an' night, lookin' fer Pat. But he didn't find
him. An', of course, he kept gettin' drunker. He jest got plumb
bad. He made lots of trouble, but there wasn't no gun-play.
Mebbe thet made him sore, so he went an' licked Flo's
brother-in-law. Thet wasn't so bad. Jack sure needed a good
lickin'. Wal, then Gene met Danny an' tried to get Danny drunk.
An' he couldn't! What do you think of that? Danny hedn't been
drinkin'--wouldn't touch a drop. I'm sure glad of thet, but it's
amazin' strange. Why, Danny was a fish fer red liquor. I guess
he an' Gene had some pretty hard words, though I'm not sure about
thet. Anyway, Gene went down to the railroad an' he got on an
engine, an' he was in the engine when it pulled out. Lord, I
hope he doesn't hold up the train! If he gets gay over in
Arizona he'll go to the pen at Yuma. An' thet pen is a graveyard
fer cowboys. I wired to agents along the railroad to look out
fer Stewart, an' to wire back to me if he's located."
"Suppose you do find him, Stillwell, what can you do?" inquired
The old man nodded gloomily.
"I straightened him up once. Mebbe I can do it again." Then,
brightening somewhat, be turned to Madeline. "I jest hed an
idee, Miss Majesty. If I can get him, Gene Steward is the cowboy
I want fer my foreman. He can manage this bunch of cow-punchers
thet are drivin' me dotty. What's more, since he's fought fer
the rebels an' got that name El Capitan, all the Greasers in the
country will kneel to him. Now, Miss Majesty, we hevn't got rid
of Don Carlos an' his vaqueros yet. To be sure, he sold you his
house an' ranch an' stock. But you remember nothin' was put in
black and white about when he should get out. An' Don Carlos
ain't gettin' out. I don't like the looks of things a little
bit. I'll tell you now thet Don Carlos knows somethin' about the
cattle I lost, an' thet you've been losin' right along. Thet
Greaser is hand an' glove with the rebels. I'm willin' to gamble
thet when he does get out he an' his vaqueros will make another
one of the bands of guerrillas thet are harassin' the border.
This revolution ain't over' yet. It's jest commenced. An' all
these gangs of outlaws are goin' to take advantage of it. We'll
see some old times, mebbe. Wal, I need Gene Stewart. I need him
bad. Will you let me hire him, Miss Majesty, if I can get him
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