Part 1 out of 5
by B. M. BOWER
I PEACEFUL HART RANCH
II GOOD INDIAN
III OLD WIVES' TALES
IV THE CHRISTMAS ANGEL
V "I DON'T CARE MUCH ABOUT GIRLS"
VI THE CHRISTMAS ANGEL PLAYS GHOST
VII MISS GEORGIE HOWARD, OPERATOR
VIII THE AMIABLE ANGLER
IX PEPPAJEE JIM "HEAP SABES"
X MIDNIGHT PROWLERS
XI "YOU CAN'T PLAY WITH ME"
XII "THEM DAMN' SNAKE"
XIII CLOUD-SIGN VERSUS CUPID
XIV THE CLAIM-JUMPERS
XV SQUAW-TALK-FAR-OFF HEAP SMART
XVI "DON'T GET EXCITED!"
XVII A LITTLE TARGET PRACTICE
XVIII A SHOT FROM THE RIM-ROCK
XIX EVADNA GOES CALLING
XX MISS GEORGIE ALSO MAKES A CALL
XXI SOMEBODY SHOT SAUNDERS
XXII A BIT OF PAPER
XXIII THE MALICE OF A SQUAW
XXIV PEACEFUL RETURN
XXV "I'D JUST AS SOON HANG FOR NINE MEN AS FOR ONE"
XXVI "WHEN THE SUN GOES AWAY"
XXVII LIFE ADJUSTS ITSELF AGAIN TO SMALL THINGS
GOOD INDIAN by B.M. Bower
PEACEFUL HART RANCH
It was somewhere in the seventies when old Peaceful Hart woke to
a realization that gold-hunting and lumbago do not take kindly to
one another, and the fact that his pipe and dim-eyed meditation
appealed to him more keenly than did his prospector's pick and
shovel and pan seemed to imply that he was growing old. He was a
silent man, by occupation and by nature, so he said nothing about
it; but, like the wild things of prairie and wood, instinctively
began preparing for the winter of his life. Where he had lately
been washing tentatively the sand along Snake River, he built a
ranch. His prospector's tools he used in digging ditches to
irrigate his new-made meadows, and his mining days he lived over
again only in halting recital to his sons when they clamored for
details of the old days when Indians were not mere untidy
neighbors to be gossiped with and fed, but enemies to be fought,
They felt that fate had cheated them--did those five sons; for
they had been born a few years too late for the fun. Not one of
them would ever have earned the title of "Peaceful," as had his
father. Nature had played a joke upon old Peaceful Hart; for he,
the mildest-mannered man who ever helped to tame the West when it
really needed taming, had somehow fathered five riotous young
males to whom fight meant fun--and the fiercer, the funnier.
He used to suck at his old, straight-stemmed pipe and regard them
with a bewildered curiosity sometimes; but he never tried to put
his puzzlement into speech. The nearest he ever came to
elucidation, perhaps, was when he turned from them and let his
pale-blue eyes dwell speculatively upon the face of his wife,
Phoebe. Clearly he considered that she was responsible for their
The house stood cuddled against a rocky bluff so high it dwarfed
the whole ranch to pygmy size when one gazed down from the rim,
and so steep that one wondered how the huge, gray bowlders
managed to perch upon its side instead of rolling down and
crushing the buildings to dust and fragments. Strangers used to
keep a wary eye upon that bluff, as if they never felt quite safe
from its menace. Coyotes skulked there, and tarantulas and
"bobcats" and snakes. Once an outlaw hid there for days, within
sight and hearing of the house, and stole bread from Phoebe's
pantry at night--but that is a story in itself.
A great spring gurgled out from under a huge bowlder just behind
the house, and over it Peaceful had built a stone milk house,
where Phoebe spent long hours in cool retirement on churning day,
and where one went to beg good things to eat and to drink. There
was fruit cake always hidden away in stone jars, and cheese, and
buttermilk, and cream.
Peaceful Hart must have had a streak of poetry somewhere hidden
away in his silent soul. He built a pond against the bluff;
hollowed it out from the sand he had once washed for traces of
gold, and let the big spring fill it full and seek an outlet at
the far end, where it slid away under a little stone bridge. He
planted the pond with rainbow trout, and on the margin a rampart
of Lombardy poplars, which grew and grew until they threatened to
reach up and tear ragged holes in the drifting clouds. Their
slender shadows lay, like gigantic fingers, far up the bluff when
the sun sank low in the afternoon.
Behind them grew a small jungle of trees-catalpa and locust among
them--a jungle which surrounded the house, and in summer hid it
from sight entirely.
With the spring creek whispering through the grove and away to
where it was defiled by trampling hoofs in the corrals and
pastures beyond, and with the roses which Phoebe Hart kept abloom
until tho frosts came, and the bees, and humming--birds which
somehow found their way across the parched sagebrush plains and
foregathered there, Peaceful Hart's ranch betrayed his secret
longing for girls, as if he had unconsciously planned it for the
daughters he had been denied.
It was an ideal place for hammocks and romance--a place where
dainty maidens might dream their way to womanhood. And Peaceful
Hart, when all was done, grew old watching five full-blooded boys
clicking their heels unromantically together as they roosted upon
the porch, and threw cigarette stubs at the water lilies while
they wrangled amiably over the merits of their mounts; saw them
drag their blankets out into the broody dusk of the grove when
the nights were hot, and heard their muffled swearing under their
"tarps" because of the mosquitoes which kept the night air
twanging like a stricken harp string with their song.
They liked the place well enough. There were plenty of shady
places to lie and smoke in when the mercury went sizzling up its
tiny tube. Sometimes, when there was a dance, they would choose
the best of Phoebe's roses to decorate their horses' bridles; and
perhaps their hatbands, also. Peaceful would then suck harder
than ever at his pipe, and his faded blue eyes would wander
pathetically about the little paradise of his making, as if he
wondered whether, after all, it had been worth while.
A tight picket fence, built in three unswerving lines from the
post planted solidly in a cairn of rocks against a bowlder on the
eastern rim of the pond, to the road which cut straight through
the ranch, down that to the farthest tree of the grove, then back
to the bluff again, shut in that tribute to the sentimental side
of Peaceful's nature. Outside the fence dwelt sturdier, Western
Once the gate swung shut upon the grove one blinked in the garish
sunlight of the plains. There began the real ranch world. There
was the pile of sagebrush fuel, all twisted and gray, pungent as
a bottle of spilled liniment, where braided, blanketed bucks were
sometimes prevailed upon to labor desultorily with an ax in hope
of being rewarded with fruit new-gathered from the orchard or a
place at Phoebe's long table in the great kitchen.
There was the stone blacksmith shop, where the boys sweated over
the nice adjustment of shoes upon the feet of fighting, wild-eyed
horses, which afterward would furnish a spectacle of unseemly
behavior under the saddle.
Farther away were the long stable, the corrals where
broncho-taming was simply so much work to be performed,
hayfields, an orchard or two, then rocks and sand and sage which
grayed the earth to the very skyline.
A glint of slithering green showed where the Snake hugged the
bluff a mile away, and a brown trail, ankle-deep in dust,
stretched straight out to the west, and then lost itself
unexpectedly behind a sharp, jutting point of rocks where the
blufF had thrust out a rugged finger into the valley.
By devious turnings and breath-taking climbs, the trail finally
reached the top at the only point for miles, where it was
possible for a horseman to pass up or down.
Then began the desert, a great stretch of unlovely sage and lava
rock and sand for mile upon mile, to where the distant mountain
ridges reached out and halted peremptorily the ugly sweep of it.
The railroad gashed it boldly, after the manner of the iron trail
of modern industry; but the trails of the desert dwellers wound
through it diffidently, avoiding the rough crest of lava rock
where they might, dodging the most aggressive sagebrush and
dipping tentatively into hollows, seeking always the easiest way
to reach some remote settlement or ranch.
Of the men who followed those trails, not one of them but could
have ridden straight to the Peaceful Hart ranch in black
darkness; and there were few, indeed, white men or Indians, who
could have ridden there at midnight and not been sure of blankets
and a welcome to sweeten their sleep. Such was the Peaceful Hart
Ranch, conjured from the sage and the sand in the valley of the
There is a saying--and if it is not purely Western, it is at
least purely American--that the only good Indian is a dead
Indian. In the very teeth of that, and in spite of tho fact that
he was neither very good, nor an Indian--nor in any sense
"dead"-- men called Grant Imsen "Good Indian" to his face; and if
he resented the title, his resentment was never made
manifest--perhaps because he had grown up with the name, he
rather liked it when he was a little fellow, and with custom had
come to take it as a matter of course.
Because his paternal ancestry went back, and back to no one knows
where among the race of blue eyes and fair skin, the Indians
repudiated relationship with him, and called him white
man--though they also spoke of him unthinkingly as "Good Injun."
Because old Wolfbelly himself would grudgingly admit under
pressure that the mother of Grant had been the half-caste
daughter of Wolfbelly's sister, white men remembered the taint
when they were angry, and called him Injun. And because he stood
thus between the two races of men, his exact social status a
subject always open to argument, not even the fact that he was
looked upon by the Harts as one of the family, with his own bed
always ready for him in a corner of the big room set apart for
the boys, and with a certain place at the table which was called
his--not even his assured position there could keep him from
sometimes feeling quite alone, and perhaps a trifle bitter over
Phoebe Hart had mothered him from the time when his father had
sickened and died in her house, leaving Grant there with twelve
years behind him, in his hands a dirty canvas bag of gold coin so
heavy he could scarce lift it, which stood for the mining claim
the old man had just sold, and the command to invest every one of
the gold coins in schooling.
Old John Imsen was steeped in knowledge of the open; nothing of
the great outdoors had ever slipped past him and remained
mysterious. Put when he sold his last claim--others he had
which promised little and so did not count--he had signed his
name with an X. Another had written the word John before that X,
and the word Imsen after; above, a word which he explained was
"his," and below the word "mark." John Imsen had stared down
suspiciously at the words, and he had not felt quite easy in his
mind until the bag of gold coins was actually in his keeping.
Also, he had been ashamed of that X. It was a simple thing to
make with a pen, and yet he had only succeeded in making it look
like two crooked sticks thrown down carelessly, one upon the
other. His face had gone darkly red with the shame of it, and he
had stood scowling down at the paper.
"That boy uh mine's goin' to do better 'n that, by God!" he had
sworn, and the words had sounded like a vow.
When, two months after that, he had faced--incredulously, as is
the way with strong men--the fact that for him life was over,
with nothing left to him save an hour or so of labored breath and
a few muttered sentences, he did not forget that vow. He called
Phoebe close to the bed, placed the bag of gold in Grant's
trembling hands, and stared intently from one face to the other.
"Mis' Hart, he ain't got--anybody--my folks--I lost track of 'em
years ago. You see to it--git some learnin' in his head. When a
man knows books--it's--like bein' heeled--good gun--plenty uh
ca't'idges-- in a fight. When I got that gold--it was like
fightin' with my bare hands--against a gatlin' gun. They coulda
cheated me--whole thing--on paper--I wouldn't know--luck--just
luck they didn't. So you take it--and git the boy schoolin'.
Costs money--I know that--git him all it'll buy. Send him--
where they keep--the best. Don't yuh let up--n'er let
him--whilst they's a dollar left. Put it all--into his
head--then he can't lose it, and he can--make it earn more.
An'--I guess I needn't ask yuh--be good to him. He ain't got
anybody--not a soul--Injuns don't count. You see to it--don't
let up till--it's all gone."
Phoebe had taken him literally. And Grant, if he had little
taste for the task, had learned books and other things not
mentioned in the curriculums of the schools she sent him to--and
when the bag was reported by Phoebe to be empty, he had returned
with inward relief to the desultory life of the Hart ranch and
its immediate vicinity.
His father would probably have been amazed to see how little
difference that schooling made in the boy. The money had lasted
long enough to take him through a preparatory school and into the
second year of a college; and the only result apparent was speech
a shade less slipshod than that of his fellows, and a vocabulary
which permitted him to indulge in an amazing number of epithets
and in colorful vituperation when the fancy seized him.
He rode, hot and thirsty and tired, from Sage Hill one day and
found Hartley empty of interest, hot as the trail he had just now
left thankfully behind him, and so absolutely sleepy that it
seemed likely to sink into the sage-clothed earth under the
weight of its own dullness. Even the whisky was so warm it
burned like fire, and the beer he tried left upon his outraged
palate the unhappy memory of insipid warmth and great bitterness.
He plumped the heavy glass down upon the grimy counter in the
dusty far corner of the little store and stared sourly at Pete
Hamilton, who was apathetically opening hatboxes for the
inspection of an Indian in a red blanket and frowsy braids.
"How much?" The braided one fingered indecisively the broad brim
of a gray sombrero.
"Nine dollars." Pete leaned heavily against the shelves behind
him and sighed with the weariness of mere living.
"Huh! All same buy one good hoss." The braided one dropped the
hat, hitched his blanket over his shoulder in stoical disregard
of the heat, and turned away.
Pete replaced the cover, seemed about to place the box upon the
shelf behind him, and then evidently decided that it was not
worth the effort. He sighed again.
"It is almighty hot," he mumbled languidly. "Want another drink,
"I do not. Hot toddy never did appeal to me, my friend. If you
weren't too lazy to give orders, Pete, you'd have cold beer for a
day like this. You'd give Saunders something to do beside lie in
the shade and tell what kind of a man he used to be before his
lungs went to the bad. Put him to work. Make him pack this
stuff down cellar where it isn't two hundred in the shade. Why
"We was going to get ice t'day, but they didn't throw it off when
the train went through."
"That's comforting--to a man with a thirst like the great Sahara.
Ice! Pete, do you know what I'd like to do to a man that mentions
ice after a drink like that?"
Pete neither knew nor wanted to know, and he told Grant so. "If
you're going down to the ranch," he added, by way of changing the
subject, "there's some mail you might as well take along."
"Sure, I'm going--for a drink out of that spring, if nothing
else. You've lost a good customer to-day, Pete. I rode up here
prepared to get sinfully jagged--and here I've got to go on a
still hunt for water with a chill to it--or maybe buttermilk.
Pete, do you know what I think of you and your joint?"
"I told you I don't wanta know. Some folks ain't never
satisfied. A fellow that's rode thirty or forty miles to get
here, on a day like this, had oughta be glad to get anything that
looks like beer."
"Is that so?" Grant walked purposefully down to the front of the
store, where Pete was fumbling behind the rampart of crude
pigeonholes which was the post-office. "Let me inform you, then,
There was a swish of skirts upon the rough platform outside, and
a young woman entered with the manner of feeling perfectly at
home there. She was rather tall, rather strong and capable
looking, and she was bareheaded, and carried a door key suspended
from a smooth-worn bit of wood.
"Don't get into a perspiration making up the mail, Pete," she
advised calmly, quite ignoring both Grant and the Indian.
"Fifteen is an hour late--as usual. Jockey Bates always seems to
be under the impression he's an undertaker's assistant, and is
headed for the graveyard when he takes fifteen out. He'll get
the can, first he knows--and he'll put in a month or two
wondering why. I could make better time than he does myself."
By then she was leaning with both elbows upon the counter beside
the post-office, bored beyond words with life as it must be
lived--to judge from her tone and her attitude.
"For Heaven's sake, Pete," she went on languidly, "can't you
scare up a novel, or chocolates, or gum, or--ANYTHING to kill
time? I'd even enjoy chewing gum right now--it would give my
jaws something to think of, anyway."
Pete, grinning indulgently, came out of retirement behind the
pigeonholes, and looked inquiringly around the store.
"I've got cards," he suggested. "What's the matter with a game
of solitary? I've known men to put in hull winters alone, up in
the mountains, jest eating and sleeping and playin' solitary."
The young woman made a grimace of disgust. "I've come from three
solid hours of it. What I really do want is something to read.
Haven't you even got an almanac?"
"Saunders is readin' 'The Brokenhearted Bride'-- you can have it
soon's he's through. He says it's a peach."
"Fifteen is bringing up a bunch of magazines. I'll have reading
in plenty two hours from now; but my heavens above, those two
hours!" She struck both fists despairingly upon the counter.
"I've got gumdrops, and fancy mixed--"
"Forget it, then. A five-pound box of chocolates is due--on
fifteen." She sighed heavily. "I wish you weren't so old, and
hadn't quite so many chins, Pete," she complained. "I'd inveigle
you into a flirtation. You see how desperate I am for something
Pete smiled unhappily. He was sensitive about all those chins,
and the general bulk which accompanied them.
"Let me make you acquainted with my friend, Good In--er--Mr.
Imsen." Pete considered that he was behaving with great
discernment and tact. "This is Miss Georgie Howard, the new
operator." He twinkled his little eyes at her maliciously.
"Say, he ain't got but one chin, and he's only twenty-three years
old." He felt that the inference was too plain to be ignored.
She turned her head slowly and looked Grant over with an air of
disparagement, while she nodded negligently as an acknowledgment
to the introduction. "Pete thinks he's awfully witty," she
remarked. "It's really pathetic."
Pete bristled--as much as a fat man could bristle on so hot a
day. "Well, you said you wanted to flirt, and so I took it for
granted you'd like--"
Good Indian looked straight past the girl, and scowled at Pete.
"Pete, you're an idiot ordinarily, but when you try to be smart
you're absolutely insufferable. You're mentally incapable of
recognizing the line of demarcation between legitimate persiflage
and objectionable familiarity. An ignoramus of your particular
class ought to confine his repartee to unqualified affirmation or
the negative monosyllable." Whereupon he pulled his hat more
firmly upon his head, hunched his shoulders in disgust,
remembered his manners, and bowed to Miss Georgie Howard, and
stalked out, as straight of back as the Indian whose blanket he
brushed, and who may have been, for all he knew, a blood relative
"I guess that ought to hold you for a while, Pete," Miss Georgie
approved under her breath, and stared after Grant curiously.
"'You're mentally incapable of recognizing the line of
demarcation between legitimate persiflage and objectionable
familiarity.' I'll bet two bits you don't know what that means,
Pete; but it hits you off exactly. Who is this Mr. Imsen?"
She got no reply to that. Indeed, she did not wait for a reply.
Outside, things were happening--and, since Miss Georgie was dying
of dullness, she hailed the disturbance as a Heaven-sent
blessing, and ran to see what was going on.
Briefly, Grant had inadvertently stepped on a sleeping dog's
paw--a dog of the mongrel breed which infests Indian camps, and
which had attached itself to the blanketed buck inside. The dog
awoke with a yelp, saw that it was a stranger who had perpetrated
the outrage, and straightway fastened its teeth in the leg of
Grant's trousers. Grant kicked it loose, and when it came at him
again, he swore vengeance and mounted his horse in haste.
He did not say a word. He even smiled while he uncoiled his
rope, widened the loop, and, while the dog was circling warily
and watching for another chance at him, dropped the loop neatly
over its front quarters, and drew it tight.
Saunders, a weak-lunged, bandy-legged individual, who was
officially a general chore man for Pete, but who did little
except lie in the shade, reading novels or gossiping, awoke then,
and, having a reputation for tender-heartedness, waved his arms
and called aloud in the name of peace.
"Turn him loose, I tell yuh! A helpless critter like that--you
oughta be ashamed--abusin' dumb animals that can't fight back!"
"Oh, can't he?" Grant laughed grimly.
"You turn that dog loose!" Saunders became vehement, and paid the
penalty of a paroxysm of coughing.
"You go to the devil. If you were an able-bodied man, I'd get
you, too--just to have a pair of you. Yelping, snapping curs,
both of you." He played the dog as a fisherman plays a trout.
"That dog, him Viney dog. Viney heap likum. You no killum, Good
Injun." The Indian, his arms folded in his blanket, stood upon
the porch watching calmly the fun. "Viney all time heap mad, you
killum," he added indifferently.
"Sure it isn't old Hagar's?"
"No b'long-um Hagar--b'long-um Viney. Viney heap likum."
Grant hesitated, circling erratically with his victim close to
the steps. "All right, no killum--teachum lesson, though. Viney
heap bueno squaw--heap likum Viney. No likum dog, though. Dog
all time come along me." He glanced up, passed over the fact
that Miss Georgie Howard was watching him and clapping her hands
enthusiastically at the spectacle, and settled an unfriendly
stare upon Saunders.
"You shut up your yowling. You'll burst a blood vessel and go to
heaven, first thing you know. I've never contemplated hiring you
as my guardian angel, you blatting buck sheep. Go off and lie
down somewhere." He turned in the saddle and looked down at the
dog, clawing and fighting the rope which held him fast just back
of the shoulder--blades. "Come along, doggie--NICE doggie!" he
grinned, and touched his horse with the spurs. With one leap, it
was off at a sharp gallop, up over the hill and through the
sagebrush to where he knew the Indian camp must be.
Old Wolfbelly had but that morning brought his thirty or forty
followers to camp in the hollow where was a spring of clear
water--the hollow which had for long been known locally as "the
Indian Camp," because of Wolfbelly's predilection for the spot.
Without warning save for the beat of hoofs in the sandy soil,
Grant charged over the brow of the hill and into camp, scattering
dogs, papooses, and squaws alike as he rode.
ShriLL clamor filled the sultry air. Sleeping bucks awoke,
scowling at the uproar; and the horse of Good Indian, hating
always the smell and the litter of an Indian camp, pitched
furiously into the very wikiup of old Hagar, who hated the rider
of old. In the first breathing spell he loosed the dog, which
skulked, limping, into the first sheltered spot be found, and
laid him down to lick his outraged person and whimper to himself
at the memory of his plight. Grant pulled his horse to a restive
stand before a group of screeching squaws, and laughed outright
at the panic of them.
"Hello! Viney! I brought back your dog," he drawled. "He tried
to bite me--heap kay bueno* dog. Mebbyso you killum. Me no
hurtum--all time him Hartley, all time him try hard bite me.
Sleeping Turtle tell me him Viney dog. he likum Viney, me no
kill Viney dog. You all time mebbyso eat that dog--sabe? No
keep--Kay bueno. All time try for bite. You cookum, no can
*AUTHOR'S NOTE.--The Indians of southern Idaho spoke a somewhat
mixed dialect. Bueno (wayno), their word for 'good,' undoubtedly
being taken from the Spanish language. I believe the word "kay"
to be Indian. It means "no', and thus the "Kay bueno" so often
used by them means literally 'no good," and is a term of reproach
On the other hand, "heap bueno" is "very good," their enthusiasm
being manifested merely by drawing out the word "heap." In
speaking English they appear to have no other way of expressing,
in a single phrase, their like or dislike of an object or person.
Without waiting to see whether Viney approved of his method of
disciplining her dog, or intended to take his advice regarding
its disposal, he wheeled and started off in the direction of the
trail which led down the bluff to the Hart ranch. When he
reached the first steep descent, however, he remembered that Pete
had spoken of some mail for the Harts, and turned back to get it.
Once more in Hartley, he found that the belated train was making
up time, and would be there within an hour; and, since it carried
mail from the West, it seemed hardly worthwhile to ride away
before its arrival. Also, Pete intimated that there was a good
chance of prevailing upon the dining-car conductor to throw off a
chunk of ice. Grant, therefore, led his horse around into the
shade, and made himself comfortable while he waited.
OLD WIVES TALES
Down the winding trail of Snake River bluff straggled a blanketed
half dozen of old Wolfbelly's tribe, the braves stalking moodily
in front and kicking up a gray cloud of dust which enveloped the
squaws behind them but could not choke to silence their shrill
chatter; for old Hagar was there, and Viney, and the incident of
the dog was fresh in their minds and tickling their tongues.
The Hart boys were assembled at the corral, halter-breaking a
three-year-old for the pure fun of it. Wally caught sight of the
approaching blotch of color, and yelled a wordless greeting; him
had old Hagar carried lovingly upon her broad shoulders with her
own papoose when he was no longer than her arm; and she knew his
voice even at that distance, and grinned--grinned and hid her joy
in a fold of her dingy red blanket.
"Looks like old Wolfbelly's back," Clark observed needlessly.
"Donny, if they don't go to the house right away, you go and tell
mum they're here. Chances are the whole bunch'll hang around
"Say!" Gene giggled with fourteen-year-old irrepressibility.
"Does anybody know where Vadnie is? If we could spring 'em on
her and make her believe they're on the warpath--say, I'll gamble
she'd run clear to the Malad!"
"I told her, cross my heart, this morning that the Injuns are
peaceful now. I said Good Injun was the only one that's
dangerous--oh, I sure did throw a good stiff load, all right!"
Clark grinned at the memory. "I've got to see Grant first, when
he gets back, and put him wise to the rep he's got. Vad didn't
hardly swallow it. She said: 'Why, Cousin Clark! Aunt Phoebe
says he's perfectly lovely!"' Clark mimicked the girl's voice
"Aw--there's a lot of squaws tagging along behind!" Donny
complained disgustedly from his post of observation on the fence.
"They'll go to the house first thing to gabble--there's old Hagar
waddling along like a duck. You can't make that warpath business
stick, Clark--not with all them squaws."
"Well, say, you sneak up and hide somewhere till yuh see if
Vadnie's anywhere around. If they get settled down talking to
mum, they're good for an hour--she's churning, Don--you hide in
the rocks by the milk-house till they get settled. And I'll see
if-- Git! Pikeway, while they're behind the stacks!"
Donny climbed down and scurried through the sand to the house as
if his very life depended upon reaching it unseen. The group of
Indians came up, huddled at the corral, and peered through the
"How! How!" chorused the boys, and left the horse for a moment
while they shook hands ceremoniously with the three bucks. Three
Indians, Clark decided regretfully, would make a tame showing on
the warpath, however much they might lend themselves to the
spirit of the joke. He did not quite know how he was going to
manage it, but he was hopeful still. It was unthinkable that
real live Indians should be permitted to come and go upon the
ranch without giving Evadna Ramsey, straight from New Jersey, the
scare of her life.
The three bucks, grunting monosyllabic greetings' climbed, in all
the dignity of their blankets, to the top rail of the corral, and
roosted there to watch the horse-breaking; and for the present
Clark held his peace.
The squaws hovered there for a moment longer, peeping through the
rails. Then Hagar--she of much flesh and more temper--grunted a
word or two, and they turned and plodded on to where the house
stood hidden away in its nest of cool green. For a space they
stood outside the fence, peering warily into the shade,
instinctively cautious in their manner of approaching a strange
place, and detained also by the Indian etiquette which demands
that one wait until invited to enter a strange camp.
After a period of waiting which seemed to old Hagar sufficient,
she pulled her blanket tight across her broad hips, waddled to
the gate, pulled it open with self-conscious assurance, and led
the way soft-footedly around the house to where certain faint
sounds betrayed the presence of Phoebe Hart in her stone milk-
At the top of the short flight of wide stone steps they stopped
and huddled silently, until the black shadow of them warned
Phoebe of their presence. She had lived too long in the West to
seem startled when she suddenly discovered herself watched by
three pair of beady black eyes, so she merely nodded, and laid
down her butter-ladle to shake hands all around.
"How, Hagar? How, Viney? How, Lucy? Heap glad to see you.
Bueno buttermilk--mebbyso you drinkum?"
However diffident they might be when it came to announcing their
arrival, their bashfulness did not extend to accepting offers of
food or drink. Three brown hands were eagerly
outstretched--though it was the hand of Hagar which grasped first
the big tin cup. They not only drank, they guzzled, and
afterward drew a fold of blanket across their milk-white lips,
and grinned in pure animal satisfaction.
"Bueno. He-e-ap bueno!" they chorused appreciatively, and
squatted at the top of the stone steps, watching Phoebe
manipulate the great ball of yellow butter in its wooden bowl.
After a brief silence, Hagar shook the tangle of unkempt, black
hair away from her moonlike face, and began talking in a soft
monotone, her voice now and then rising to a shrill singsong.
"Mebbyso Tom, mebbyso Sharlie, mebbyso Sleeping Turtle all time
come along," she announced. "Stop all time corral, talk yo'
boys. Mebbyso heap likum drink yo' butter water. Bueno."
When Phoebe nodded assent, Hagar went on to the news which had
brought her so soon to the ranch--the news which satisfied both
an old grudge and her love of gossip.
"Good Injun, him all time heap kay bueno," she stated
emphatically, her sloe black eyes fixed unwaveringly upon
Phoebe's face to see if the stab was effective. "Good Injun come
Hartley, all time drunk likum pig.
"All time heap yell, heap shoot--kay bueno. Wantum fight
Man-that-coughs. Come all time camp, heap yell, heap shoot some
more. I fetchum dog--Viney dog--heap dragum through
sagebrush--dog all time cry, no can get away--me thinkum kill
that dog. Squaws cry--Viney cry--Good Injun"--Hagar paused here
for greater effect--"makum horse all time buck--ridum in
wikiup--Hagar wikiup--all time breakum--no can fix that wikiup.
Good Injun, hee-e-ap kay bueno!" At the last her voice was high
and tremulous with anger.
"Good Indian mebbyso all same my boy Wally." Phoebe gave the
butter a vicious slap. "Me heap love Good Indian. You no call
Good Indian, you call Grant. Grant bueno. Heap bueno all time.
No drunk, no yell, no shoot, mebbyso"--she hesitated, knowing
well the possibilities of her foster son--"mebbyso catchum
dog--me think no catchum. Grant all same my boy. All time me
Viney and Lucy nudged each other and tittered into their
blankets, for the argument was an old one between Hagar and
Phoebe, though the grievance of Hagar might be fresh. Hagar
shifted her blanket and thrust out a stubborn under lip.
"Wally boy, heap bueno," she said; and her malicious old face
softened as she spoke of him, dear as her own first-born. "Jack
bueno, mebbyso Gene bueno, mebbyso Clark, mebbyso Donny all time
bueno." Doubt was in her voice when she praised those last two,
however, because of their continual teasing. She stopped short
to emphasize the damning contrast. "Good Injun all same mebbyso
yo' boy Grant, hee-ee-eap kay bueno. Good Injun Grant all time
It was at this point that Donny slipped away to report that
"Mamma and old Hagar are scrappin' over Good Injun again," and
told with glee the tale of his misdeeds as recounted by the
Phoebe in her earnestness forgot to keep within the limitations
of their dialect.
"Grant's a good boy, and a smart boy. There isn't a
better-hearted fellow in the country, if I have got five boys of
my own. You think I like him better than I like Wally, is all
ails you, Hagar. You're jealous of Grant, and you always have
been, ever since his father left him with me. I hope my heart's
big enough to hold them all." She remembered then that they
could not understand half she was saying, and appealed to Viney.
Viney liked Grant.
"Viney, you tell me. Grant no come Hartley, no drunk, no yell,
no catchum you dog, no ride in Hagar's wikiup? You tell me,
Viney and Lucy bobbed their heads rapidly up and down. Viney,
with a sidelong glance at Hagar, spoke softly.
"Good Injun Grant, mebbyso home Hartley," she admitted
reluctantly, as if she would have been pleased to prove Hagar a
liar in all things. "Me thinkum no drunk. Mebbyso ketchum
dog--dog kay bueno, mebbyso me killing. Good Injun Grant no heap
yell, no shoot all time--mebbyso no drunk. No breakum wikiup.
Horse all time kay bueno, Hagar--"
"Shont-isham!" (big lie) Hagar interrupted shrilly then, and
Viney relapsed into silence, her thin face growing sullen under
the upbraiding she received in her native tongue. Phoebe,
looking at her attentively, despaired of getting any nearer the
truth from any of them.
There was a sudden check to Hagar's shrewish clamor. The squaws
stiffened to immobility and listened stolidly, their eyes alone
betraying the curiosity they felt. Off somewhere at the head of
the tiny pond, hidden away in the jungle of green, a voice was
singing; a girl's voice, and a strange voice--for the squaws knew
well the few women voices along the Snake.
"That my girl," Phoebe explained, stopping the soft pat--pat of
"Where ketchum yo' girl?" Hagar forgot her petulance, and became
curious as any white woman.
"Me ketchum 'way off, where sun come up. In time me have heap
boys--mebbyso want girl all time. My mother's sister's boy have
one girl, 'way off where sun come up. My mother's sister's boy
die, his wife all same die, that girl mebbyso heap sad; no got
father, no got mother--all time got nobody. Kay bueno. That
girl send one letter, say all time got nobody. Me want one girl.
Me send one letter, tell that girl come, be all time my girl.
Five days ago, that girl come. Her heap glad; boys all time heap
glad, my man heap glad. Bueno. Mebbyso you glad me have one
girl." Not that their approval was necessary, or even of much
importance; but Phoebe was accustomed to treat them like spoiled
Hagar's lip was out-thrust again. "Yo' ketchum one girl, mebbyso
yo' no more likum my boy Wally. Kay bueno."
"Heap like all my boys jus' same," Phoebe hastened to assure her,
and added with a hint of malice, "Heap like my boy Grant all
"Huh!" Hagar chose to remain unconvinced and antagonistic. "Good
Injun kay bueno. Yo' girl, mebbyso kay bueno."
"What name yo' girl?" Viney interposed hastily.
"Name Evadna Ramsey." In spite of herself, Phoebe felt a trifle
chilled by their lack of enthusiasm. She went back to her
butter-making in dignified silence.
The squaws blinked at her stolidly. Always they were inclined
toward suspicion of strangers, and perhaps to a measure of
jealousy as well. Not many whites received them with frank
friendship as did the Hart family, and they felt far more upon
the subject than they might put into words, even the words of
their own language.
Many of the white race looked upon them as beggars, which was bad
enough, or as thieves, which was worse; and in a general way they
could not deny the truth of it. But they never stole from the
Harts, and they never openly begged from the Harts. The friends
of the Harts, however, must prove their friendship before they
could hope for better than an imperturbable neutrality. So they
would not pretend to be glad. Hagar was right--perhaps the girl
was no good. They would wait until they could pass judgment upon
this girl who had come to live in the wikiup of the Harts. Then
Lucy, she who longed always for children and had been denied by
fate, stirred slightly, her nostrils aquiver.
"Mebbyso bueno yo' girl,', she yielded, speaking softly.
"Mebbyso see yo' girl."
Phoebe's face cleared, and she called, in mellow crescendo: "Oh,
Va-ad-NIEE?" Immediately the singing stopped.
"Coming, Aunt Phoebe," answered the voice.
The squaws wrapped themselves afresh in their blankets, passed
brown palms smoothingly down their hair from the part in the
middle, settled their braids upon their bosoms with true feminine
instinct, and waited. They heard her feet crunching softly in
the gravel that bordered the pond, but not a head turned that
way; for all the sign of life they gave, the three might have
been mere effigies of women. They heard a faint scream when she
caught sight of them sitting there, and their faces settled into
more stolid indifference, adding a hint of antagonism even to the
soft eyes of Lucy, the tender, childless one.
"Vadnie, here are some new neighbors I want you to get acquainted
with." Phoebe's eyes besought the girl to be calm. "They're all
old friends of mine. Come here and let me introduce you--and
don't look so horrified, honey!"
Those incorrigibles, her cousins, would have whooped with joy at
her unmistakable terror when she held out a trembling hand and
gasped faintly: "H-how do you--do?"
"This Hagar," Phoebe announced cheerfully; and the old squaw
caught the girl's hand and gripped it tightly for a moment in
malicious enjoyment of her too evident fear and repulsion.
Viney, reading Evadna's face in one keen, upward glance, kept her
hands hidden in the folds of her blanket, and only nodded twice
Lucy read also the girl's face; but she reached up, pressed her
hand gently, and her glance was soft and friendly. So the ordeal
"Bring some of that cake you baked to-day, honey--and do brace
up!" Phoebe patted her upon the shoulder.
Hagar forestalled the hospitable intent by getting slowly upon
her fat legs, shaking her hair out of her eyes, and grunting a
command to the others. With visible reluctance Lucy and Viney
rose also, hitched their blankets into place, and vanished,
soft-footed as they had come.
"Oo-oo!" Evadna stared at the place where they were not. "Wild
Indians--I thought the boys were just teasing when they said
so--and it's really true, Aunt Phoebe?"
"They're no wilder than you are," Phoebe retorted impatiently.
"Oh, they ARE wild. They're exactly like in my history--and they
don't make a sound when they go--you just look, and they're gone!
That old fat one--did you see how she looked at me? As if she
wanted to--SCALP me, Aunt Phoebe! She looked right at my hair
"Well, she didn't take it with her, did she? Don't be silly.
I've known old Hagar ever since Wally was a baby. She took him
right to her own wikiup and nursed him with her own papoose for
two months when I was sick, and Viney stayed with me day and
night and pulled me through. Lucy I've known since she was a
papoose. Great grief, child! Didn't you hear me say they're old
friends? I wanted you to be nice to them, because if they like
you there's nothing they won't do for you. If they don't,
there's nothing they WILL do. You might as well get used to
Out by the gate rose a clamor which swept nearer and nearer until
the noise broke at the corner of the house like a great wave, in
a tumult of red blanket, flying black hair, the squalling of a
female voice, and the harsh laughter of the man who carried the
disturbance, kicking and clawing, in his arms. Fighting his way
to the milk-house, he dragged the squaw along beside the porch,
followed by the Indians and all the Hart boys, a yelling, jeering
"You tell her shont-isham! Ah-h--you can't break loose, you old
she-wildcat. Quit your biting, will you? By all the big and
little spirits of your tribe, you'll wish--"
Panting, laughing, swearing also in breathless exclamations, he
forced her to the top of the steps, backed recklessly down them,
and came to a stop in the corner by the door. Evadna had taken
refuge there; and he pressed her hard against the rough wall
without in the least realizing that anything was behind him save
"Now, you sing your little song, and be quick about it!" he
commanded his captive sternly. "You tell Mother Hart you lied.
I hear she's been telling you I'm drunk, Mother Hart--didn't you,
you old beldam? You say you heap sorry you all time tellum lie.
You say: 'Good Injun, him all time heap bueno.' Say: 'Good Injun
no drunk, no heap shoot, no heap yell--all time bueno.' Quick, or
I'll land you headforemost in that pond, you infernal old hag!"
"Good Injun hee-eeap kay bueno! Heap debbil all time." Hagar
might be short of breath, but her spirit was unconquered, and her
under lip bore witness to her stubbornness.
Phoebe caught him by the arm then, thinking he meant to make good
his threat--and it would not have been unlike Grant Imsen to do
"Now, Grant, you let her go," she coaxed. "I know you aren't
drunk--of course, I knew it all the time. I told Hagar so. What
do you care what she says about you? You don't want to fight an
old woman, Grant--a man can't fight a woman--"
"You tell her you heap big liar!" Grant did not even look at
Phoebe, but his purpose seemed to waver in spite of himself.
"You all time kay bueno. You all time lie." He gripped her more
firmly, and turned his head slightly toward Phoebe. "You'd be
tired of it yourself if she threw it into you like she does into
me, Mother Hart. It's got so I can't ride past this old hag in
the trail but she gives me the bad eye, and mumbles into her
blanket. And if I look sidewise, she yowls all over the country
that I'm drunk. I'm getting tired of it!" He shook the squaw as
a puppy shakes a shoe--shook her till her hair quite hid her ugly
old face from sight.
"All right--Mother Hart she tellum mebbyso let you go. This time
I no throw you in pond. You heap take care next time, mebbyso.
You no tellum big lie, me all time heap drunk. You kay bueno.
All time me tellum Mother Hart, tellum boys, tellum Viney, Lucy,
tellum Charlie and Tom and Sleeping Turtle you heap big liar. Me
tell Wally shont-isham. Him all time my friend--mebbyso him no
likum you no more.
"Huh. Get out--pikeway before I forget you're a lady!"
He laughed ironically, and pushed her from him so suddenly that
she sprawled upon the steps. The Indians grinned
unsympathetically at her, for Hagar was not the most popular
member of the tribe by any means. Scrambling up, she shook her
witch locks from her face, wrapped herself in her dingy blanket,
and scuttled away, muttering maledictions under her breath. The
watching group turned and followed her, and in a few seconds the
gate was heard to slam shut behind them. Grant stood where he
was, leaning against the milk-house wall; and when they were
gone, he gave a short, apologetic laugh.
"No need to lecture, Mother Hart. I know it was a fool thing to
do; but when Donny told me what the old devil said, I was so mad
for a minute--"
Phoebe caught him again by the arm and pulled him forward.
"Grant! You're squeezing Vadnie to death, just about! Great
grief, I forgot all about the poor child being here! You poor
"Squeezing who?" Grant whirled, and caught a brief glimpse of a
crumpled little figure behind him, evidently too scared to cry,
and yet not quite at the fainting point of terror. He backed,
and began to stammer an apology; but she did not wait to hear a
word of it. For an instant she stared into his face, and then,
like a rabbit released from its paralysis of dread, she darted
past him and deaf up the stone steps into the house. He heard
the kitchen-door shut, and the click of the lock. He heard other
doors slam suggestively; and he laughed in spite of his
"And who the deuce might that be?" he asked, feeling in his
pocket for smoking material.
Phoebe seemed undecided between tears and laughter. "Oh, Grant,
GRANT! She'll think you're ready to murder everybody on the
ranch--and you can be such a nice boy when you want to be! I did
"I don't want to be nice," Grant objected, drawing a match along
a fairly smooth rock.
"Well, I wanted you to appear at your best; and, instead of that,
here you come, squabbling with old Hagar like--"
"Yes--sure. But who is the timid lady?"
"Timid! You nearly killed the poor girl, besides scaring her half
to death, and then you call her timid. I know she thought there
was going to be a real Indian massacre, right here, and she'd be
Wally Hart came back, laughing to himself.
"Say, you've sure cooked your goose with old Hagar, Grant! She's
right on the warpath, and then some. She'd like to burn yuh
alive--she said so. She's headed for camp, and all the rest of
the bunch at her heels. She won't come here any more till you're
kicked off the ranch, as near as I could make out her jabbering.
And she won't do your washing any more, mum--she said so. You're
kay bueno yourself, because you take Good Indian's part. We're
all kay bueno--all but me. She wanted me to quit the bunch and
go live in her wikiup. I'm the only decent one in the outfit."
He gave his mother an affectionate little hug as he went past,
and began an investigative tour of the stone jars on the cool
rock floor within. "What was it all about, Grant? What did yuh
do to her, anyway?"
"Oh, it wasn't anything. Hand me up a cup of that buttermilk,
will you? They've got a dog up there in camp that I'm going to
kill some of these days--if they don't beat me to it. He was up
at the store, and when I went out to get my horse, he tried to
take a leg off me. I kicked him in the nose and he came at me
again, so when I mounted I just dropped my loop over Mr. Dog.
Sleeping Turtle was there, and he said the dog belonged to Viney,
So I just led him gently to camp."
He grinned a little at the memory of his gentleness. "I told
Viney I thought he'd make a fine stew, and, they'd better use him
up right away before he spoiled. That's all there was to it.
Well, Keno did sink his head and pitch around camp a little, but
not to amount to anything. He just stuck his nose into old
Hagar's wikiup--and one sniff seemed to be about all he wanted.
He didn't hurt anything."
He took a meditative bite of cake, finished the buttermilk in
three rapturous swallows, and bethought him of the feminine
"If you please, Mother Hart, who was that Christmas angel I
"Vad? Was Vad in on it, mum? I never saw her." Wally
straightened up with a fresh chunk of cake in his hand. "Was she
"Yes," his mother admitted reluctantly, "I guess she was, all
right. First the squaws--and, poor girl, I made her shake hands
all round--and then Grant here, acting like a wild hyena--"
"Say, PLEASE don't tell me who she is, or where she belongs, or
anything like that," Grant interposed, with some sarcasm. "I
smashed her flat between me and the wall, and I scared the
daylights out of her; and I'm told I should have appeared at my
best. But who she is, or where she belongs--"
"She belongs right here." Phoebe's tone was a challenge, whether
she meant it to be so or not. "This is going to be her home from
now on; and I want you boys to treat her nicer than you've been
doing. She's been here a week almost; and there ain't one of you
that's made friends with her yet, or tried to, even. You've
played jokes on her, and told her things to scare her--and my
grief! I was hoping she'd have a softening influence on you, and
make gentlemen of you. And far as I can make out, just having
her on the place seems to put the Old Harry into every one of
you! It isn't right. It isn't the way I expected my boys would
act toward a stranger--a girl especially. And I did hope Grant
would behave better."
"Sure, he ought to. Us boneheads don't know any better--but
Grant's EDUCATED." Wally grinned and winked elaborately at his
"I'm not educated up to Christmas angels that look as if they'd
been stepped on," Grant defended himself.
"She's a real nice little thing. If you boys would quit teasing
the life out of her, I don't doubt but what, in six months or so,
you wouldn't know the girl," Phoebe argued, with some heat.
"I don't know the girl now." Grant spoke dryly. "I don't want
to. If I'd held a tomahawk in one hand and her flowing locks in
the other, and was just letting a war-whoop outa me, she'd look
at me--the way she did look." He snorted in contemptuous
amusement, and gave a little, writhing twist of his slim body
into his trousers. "I never did like blondes," he added, in a
tone of finality, and started up the steps.
"You never liked anything that wore skirts," Phoebe flung after
him indignantly; and she came very close to the truth.
THE CHRISTMAS ANGEL
Phoebe watched the two unhappily, sighed when they disappeared
around the corner of the house, and set her bowl of butter upon
the broad, flat rock which just missed being overflowed with
water, and sighed again.
"I'm afraid it isn't going to work," she murmured aloud; for
Phoebe, having lived much of her life in the loneliness which the
West means to women, frequently talked to herself. "She's such a
nice little thing--but the boys don't take to her like I thought
they would. I don't see as she's having a mite of influence on
their manners, unless it's to make them act worse, just to shock
her. Clark USED to take off his hat when he come into the house
most every time. And great grief! Now he'd wear it and his chaps
and spurs to the table, if I didn't make him take them off.
She's nice--she's most too nice. I've got to give that girl a
good talking to."
She mounted the steps to the back porch, tried tho kitchen door,
and found it locked. She went around to the door on the west
side, opposite the gate, found that also secured upon the inside,
and passed grimly to the next.
"My grief! I didn't know any of these doors COULD be locked!" she
muttered angrily. "They never have been before that I ever heard
of." She stopped before Evadna's window, and saw, through a slit
in the green blind, that the old-fashioned bureau had been pulled
close before it. "My grief!" she whispered disgustedly, and
retraced her steps to the east side, which, being next to the
pond, was more secluded. She surveyed dryly a window left wide
open there, gathered her brown-and-white calico dress close about
her plump person, and crawled grimly through into the sitting-
room, where, to the distress of Phoebe's order-loving soul, the
carpet was daily well-sanded with the tread of boys' boots fresh
from outdoors, and where cigarette stubs decorated every
window-sill, and the stale odor of Peaceful's pipe was never long
She went first to all the outer rooms, and unlocked every one of
the outraged doors which, unless in the uproar and excitement of
racing, laughing boys pursuing one another all over the place
with much slamming and good-natured threats of various sorts, had
never before barred the way of any man, be he red or white, came
he at noon or at midnight.
Evadna's door was barricaded, as Phoebe discovered when she
turned the knob and attempted to walk in. She gave the door an
indignant push, and heard a muffled shriek within, as if Evadna's
head was buried under her pillow.
"My grief! A body'd think you expected to be killed and eaten,"
she called out unsympathetically. "You open this door! Vadnie
Ramsey. This is a nice way to act with my own boys, in my own
house! A body'd think--"
There was the sound of something heavy being dragged laboriously
away from tho barricaded door; and in a minute a vividly blue eye
appeared at a narrow crack.
"Oh, I don't see how you dare to L-LIVE in such a place, Aunt
Phoebe!" she cried tearfully, opening the door a bit wider.
"Those Indians--and that awful man--"
"That was only Grant, honey. Let me in. There's a few things I
want to say to you, Vadnie. You promised to help me teach my
boys to be gentle--it's all they lack, and it takes gentle women,
"I am gentle," Evadna protested grievedly. "I've never once
forgotten to be gentle and quiet, and I haven't done a thing to
them--but they're horrid and rough, anyway--"
"Let me in, honey, and we'll talk it over. Something's got to be
done. If you wouldn't be so timid, and would make friends with
them, instead of looking at them as if you expected them to
murder you--I must say, Vadnie, you're a real temptation; they
can't help scaring you when you go around acting as if you
expected to be scared. You--you're TOO--" The door opened still
wider, and she went in. "Now, the idea of a great girl like you
hiding her head under a pillow just because Grant asked old Hagar
Evadna sat down upon the edge of the bed and stared unwinkingly
at her aunt. "They don't apologize like that in New Jersey," she
observed, with some resentment in her voice, and dabbed at her
unbelievably blue eyes with a moist ball of handkerchief.
"I know they don't, honey." Phoebe patted her hand reassuringly.
"That's what I want you to help me teach my boys--to be real
gentlemen. They're pure gold, every one of them; but I can't
deny they're pretty rough on the outside sometimes. And I hope
you will be--"
"Oh, I know. I understand perfectly. You just got me out here
as a--a sort of sandpaper for your boys' manners!" Evadna choked
over a little sob of self-pity. "I can just tell you one thing,
Aunt Phoebe, that fellow you call Grant ought to be smoothed with
one of those funny axes they hew logs with."
Phoebe bit her lips because she wanted to treat the subject very
seriously. "I want you to promise me, honey, that you will be
particularly nice to Grant; PARTICULARLY nice. He's so alone,
and he's very proud and sensitive, because he feels his
loneliness. No one understands him as I do--"
"I hate him!" gritted Evadna, in an emphatic whisper which her
Aunt Phoebe thought it wise not to seem to hear.
Phoebe settled herself comfortably for a long talk. The murmur
of her voice as she explained and comforted and advised came
soothingly from the room, with now and then an interruption while
she waited for a tardy answer to some question. Finally she rose
and stood in the doorway, looking back at a huddled figure on the
"Now dry your eyes and be a good girl, and remember what you've
promised," she admonished kindly. "Aunt Phoebe didn't mean to
scold you, honey; she only wants you to feel that you belong
here, and she wants you to like her boys and have them like you.
They've always wanted a sister to pet; and Aunt Phoebe is hoping
you'll not disappoint her. You'll try; won't you, Vadnie?"
"Y--yes," murmured Vadnie meekly from the pillow. "I know you
will." Phoebe looked at her for a moment longer rather
wistfully, and turned away. "I do wish she had some spunk," she
muttered complainingly, not thinking that Evadna might hear her.
"She don't take after the Ramseys none--there wasn't anything
mushy about them that I ever heard of."
"Mushy! MUSHY!" Evadna sat up and stared at nothing at all while
she repeated the word under her breath. "She wants me to be
gentle--she preached gentleness in her letters, and told how her
boys need it, and then--she calls it being MUSHY!"
She reached mechanically for her hair-brush, and fumbled in a
tumbled mass of shining, yellow hair quite as unbelievable in its
way as were her eyes--Grant had shown a faculty for observing
keenly when he called her a Christmas angel--and drew out a half-
dozen hairpins, letting them slide from her lap to the floor.
"MUSHY!" she repeated, and shook down her hair so that it framed
her face and those eyes of hers. "I suppose that's what they all
say behind my back. And how can a girl be nice WITHOUT being
mushy?" She drew the brush meditatively through her hair. "I am
scared to death of Indians," she admitted, with analytical
frankness, "and tarantulas and snakes--but--MUSHY!"
Grant stood smoking in the doorway of the sitting-room, where he
could look out upon the smooth waters of the pond darkening under
the shade of the poplars and the bluff behind, when Evadna came
out of her room. He glanced across at her, saw her hesitate, as
if she were meditating a retreat, and gave his shoulders a twitch
of tolerant amusement that she should be afraid of him. Then he
stared out over the pond again. Evadna walked straight over to
"So you're that other savage whose manners I'm supposed to
smooth, are you?" she asked abruptly, coming to a stop within
three feet of him, and regarding him carefully, her hands clasped
"Please don't tease the animals," Grant returned, in the same
impersonal tone which she had seen fit to employ--but his eyes
turned for a sidelong glance at her, although he appeared to be
watching the trout rise lazily to the insects skimming over the
surface of the water.
"I'm supposed to be nice to you--par-TIC-ularly nice--because you
need it most. I dare say you do, judging from what I've seen of
you. At any rate, I've promised. But I just want you to
understand that I'm not going to mean one single bit of it. I
don't like you--I can't endure you!--and if I'm nice, it will
just be because I've promised Aunt Phoebe. You're not to take my
politeness at its face value, for back of it I shall dislike you
all the time."
Grant's lips twitched, and there was a covert twinkle in his
eyes, though he looked around him with elaborate surprise.
"It's early in the day for mosquitoes," he drawled; "but I was
sure I heard one buzzing somewhere close."
"Aunt Phoebe ought to get a street roller to smooth your
manners," Evadna observed pointedly.
"Instead it's as if she hung her picture of a Christmas angel up
before the wolf's den, eh?" he suggested calmly, betraying his
Indian blood in the unconsciously symbolic form of expression.
"No doubt the wolf's nature will be greatly benefited--his teeth
will be dulled for his prey, his voice softened for the
nightcry--if he should ever, by chance, discover that the
Christmas angel is there."
"I don't think he'll be long in making the discovery." The blue
of Evadna's eyes darkened and darkened until they were almost
black. "Christmas angel,--well, I like that! Much you know about
Grant turned his head indolently and regarded her.
"If it isn't a Christmas angel--they're always very blue and very
golden, and pinky-whitey--if it isn't a Christmas angel, for the
Lord's sake what is it?" He gave his head a slight shake, as if
the problem was beyond his solving, and flicked the ashes from
"Oh, I could pinch you!" She gritted her teeth to prove she meant
what she said.
"It says it could pinch me." Grant lazily addressed the trout.
"I wonder why it didn't, then, when it was being squashed?"
"I just wish to goodness I had! Only I suppose Aunt Phoebe--"
"I do believe it's got a temper. I wonder, now, if it could be a
LIVE angel?" Grant spoke to the softly swaying poplars.
"Oh, you--there now!" She made a swift little rush at him, nipped
his biceps between a very small thumb and two fingers, and stood
back, breathing quickly and regarding him in a shamed defiance.
"I'll show you whether I'm alive!" she panted vindictively.
"It's alive, and it's a humming-bird. Angels don't pinch."
Grant laid a finger upon his arm and drawled his solution of a
trivial mystery. "It mistook me for a honeysuckle, and gave me a
peck to make sure." He smiled indulgently, and exhaled a long
wreath of smoke from his nostrils. "Dear little
humming-birds--so simple and so harmless!"
"And I've promised to be nice to--THAT!" cried Evadna, in
bitterness, and rushed past him to the porch.
Being a house built to shelter a family of boys, and steps being
a superfluity scorned by their agile legs, there was a sheer drop
of three feet to the ground upon that side. Evadna made it in a
jump, just as the boys did, and landed lightly upon her slippered
"I hate you--hate you--HATE YOU!" she cried, her eyes blazing up
at his amused face before she ran off among the trees.
"It sings a sweet little song," he taunted, and his laughter
followed her mockingly as she fled from him into the shadows.
"What's the joke, Good Injun? Tell us, so we can laugh too."
Wally and Jack hurried in from the kitchen and made for the
doorway where he stood.
From under his straight, black brows Grant sent a keen glance
into the shade of the grove, where, an instant before, had
flickered the white of Evadna's dress. The shadows lay there
quietly now, undisturbed by so much as a sleepy bird's fluttering
"I was just thinking of the way I yanked that dog down into old
Wolfbelly's camp," he said, though there was no tangible reason
for lying to them. "Mister!" he added, his eyes still searching
the shadows out there in the grove, "we certainly did go some!"
"I DON'T CARE MUCH ABOUT GIRLS"
"There's no use asking the Injuns to go on the warpath," Gene
announced disgustedly, coming out upon the porch where the rest
of the boys were foregathered, waiting for the ringing tattoo
upon the iron triangle just outside the back door which would be
the supper summons. "They're too lazy to take the trouble--and,
besides, they're scared of dad. I was talking to Sleeping Turtle
just now--met him down there past the Point o' Rocks."
"What's the matter with us boys going on the warpath ourselves?
We don't need the Injuns. As long as she knows they're hanging
around close, it's all the same. If we could just get mum off
"If we could kidnap her--say, I wonder if we couldn't!" Clark
looked at the others tentatively.
"Good Injun might do the rescue act and square himself with her
for what happened at the milk-house," Wally suggested dryly.
"Oh, say, you'd scare her to death. There's no use in piling it
on quite so thick," Jack interposed mildly. "I kinda like the
kid sometimes. Yesterday, when I took her part way up the bluff,
she acted almost human. On the dead, she did!"
"Kill the traitor! Down with him! Curses on the man who betrays
us!" growled Wally, waving his cigarette threateningly.
Whereupon Gene and Clark seized the offender by heels and
shoulders, and with a brief, panting struggle heaved him bodily
off the porch.
"Over the cliff he goes--so may all traitors perish!" Wally
declaimed approvingly, drawing up his legs hastily out of the way
of Jack's clutching fingers.
"Say, old Peppajee's down at the stable with papa," Donny
informed them breathlessly. "I told Marie to put him right next
to Vadnie if he stays to supper--and, uh course, he will. If
mamma don't get next and change his place, it'll be fun to watch
her; watch Vad, I mean. She's scared plum to death of anything
that wears a blanket, and to have one right at her elbow--wonder
where she is--"
"That girl's got to be educated some if she's going to live in
this family," Wally observed meditatively. "There's a whole lot
she's got to learn, and the only way to learn her thorough is--"
"You forget," Grant interrupted him ironically, "that she's going
to make gentlemen of us all."
"Oh, yes--sure. Jack's coming down with it already. You oughta
be quarantined, old-timer; that's liable to be catching." Wally
snorted his disdain of the whole proceeding. "I'd rather go to
Evadna by a circuitous route had reached the sitting-room without
being seen or heard; and it was at this point in the conversation
that she tiptoed out again, her hands doubled into tight little
fists, and her teeth set hard together. She did not look, at
that moment, in the least degree "mushy."
When the triangle clanged its supper call, however, she came
slowly down from her favorite nook at the head of the pond, her
hands filled with flowers hastily gathered in the dusk.
"Here she comes--let's get to our places first, so mamma can't
change Peppajee around," Donny implored, in a whisper; and the
group on the porch disappeared with some haste into the kitchen.
Evadna was leisurely in her movements that night. The tea had
been poured and handed around the table by the Portuguese girl,
Marie, and the sugar-bowl was going after, when she settled
herself and her ruffles daintily between Grant and a braided,
green-blanketed, dignifiedly loquacious Indian.
The boys signaled each another to attention by kicking
surreptitiously under the table, but nothing happened. Evadna
bowed a demure acknowledgment when her Aunt Phoebe introduced the
two, accepted the sugar-bowl from Grant and the butter from
Peppajee, and went composedly about the business of eating her
supper. She seemed perfectly at ease; too perfectly at ease,
decided Grant, who had an instinct for observation and was
covertly watching her. It was unnatural that she should rub
elbows with Peppajee without betraying the faintest trace of
surprise that he should be sitting at the table with them.
"Long time ago," Peppajee was saying to Peaceful, taking up the
conversation where Evadna had evidently interrupted it, "many
winters ago, my people all time brave. A]1 time hunt, all time
fight, all time heap strong. No drinkum whisky all same now."
He flipped a braid back over his shoulder, buttered generously a
hot biscuit, and reached for the honey." No brave no more--kay
bueno. All time ketchum whisky, get drunk all same likum hog.
Heap lazy. No hunt no more, no fight. Lay all time in sun,
sleep. No sun come, lay all time in wikiup. Agent, him givum
flour, givum meat, givum blanket, you thinkum bueno. He tellum
you, kay bueno. Makum Injun lazy. Makum all same wachee-typo"
(tramp). "All time eat, all time sleep, playum cards all time,
drinkum whisky. Kay bueno. Huh." The grunt stood for disgust
of his tribe, always something of an affectation with Peppajee.
"My brother, my brother's wife, my brother's wife's--ah--" He
searched his mind, frowning, for an English word, gave it up, and
substituted a phrase. "All the folks b'longum my brother's wife,
heap lazy all time. Me no likum. Agent one time givum plenty
flour, plenty meat, plenty tea. Huh. Them damn' folks no eatum.
All time playum cards, drinkum whisky. All time otha fella
ketchum flour, ketchum meat, ketchum tea--ketchum all them thing
b'longum." In the rhetorical pause he made there, his black eyes
wandered inadvertently to Evadna's face. And Evadna, the timid
one, actually smiled back.
"Isn't it a shame they should do that," she murmured
"Huh." Peppajee turned his eyes and his attention to Peaceful,
as if the opinion and the sympathy of a mere female were not
worthy his notice. "Them grub all gone, them Injuns mebbyso
ketchum hungry belly." Evadna blushed, and looked studiously at
"Come my wikiup. Me got plenty flour, plenty meat, plenty tea.
Stay all time my wikiup. Sleepum my wikiup. Sun come up"--he
pointed a brown, sinewy hand toward the east--"eatum my grub.
Sun up there"--his finger indicated the zenith--"eatum some more.
Sun go 'way, eatum some more. Then sleepum all time my wikiup.
Bimeby, mebbyso my flour all gone, my meat mebbyso gone, mebbyso
tea--them folks all time eatum grub, me no ketchum. Me no playum
cards, all same otha fella ketchum my grub. Kay bueno. Better
me playum cards mebbyso all time.
"Bimeby no ketchum mo' grub, no stopum my wikiup. Them folks
pikeway. Me tellum 'Yo' heap lazy, heap kay bueno. Yo' all time
eatum my grub, yo' no givum me money, no givum hoss, no givum
notting. Me damn' mad all time yo'. Yo' go damn' quick!'"
Peppajee held out his cup for more tea. "Me tellum my brother,"
he finished sonorously, his black eyes sweeping lightly the faces
of his audience, "yo' no come back, yo'--"
Evadna caught her breath, as if someone had dashed cold water in
her face. Never before in her life had she heard the epithet
unprintable, and she stared fixedly at the old-fashioned, silver
castor which always stood in the exact center of the table.
Old Peaceful Hart cleared his throat, glanced furtively at
Phoebe, and drew his hand down over his white beard. The boys
puffed their cheeks with the laughter they would, if possible,
restrain, and eyed Evadna's set face aslant. It was Good Indian
who rebuked the offender.
"Peppajee, mebbyso you no more say them words," he said quietly.
"Heap kay bueno. White man no tellum where white woman hear.
White woman no likum hear; all time heap shame for her."
"Huh," grunted Peppajee doubtingly, his eyes turning to Phoebe.
Times before had he said them before Phoebe Hart, and she had
passed them by with no rebuke. Grant read the glance, and
"Mother Hart live long time in this place," he reminded him.
"Hear bad talk many times. This girl no hear; no likum hear.
You sabe? You no make shame for this girl." He glanced
challengingly across the table at Wally, whose grin was growing
"Huh. Mebbyso you boss all same this ranch?" Peppajee retorted
sourly. "Mebbyso Peacefu' tellum, him no likum."
Peaceful, thus drawn into the discussion, cleared his throat
"Wel-l-l--WE don't cuss much before the women," he admitted
apologetically "We kinda consider that men's talk. I reckon
Vadnie'll overlook it this time." He looked across at her
beseechingly. "You no feelum bad, Peppajee."
"Huh. Me no makum squaw-talk." Peppajee laid down his knife,
lifted a corner of his blanket, and drew it slowly across his
stern mouth. He muttered a slighting sentence in Indian.
In the same tongue Grant answered him sharply, and after that was
silence broken only by the subdued table sounds. Evadna's eyes
filled slowly until she finally pushed back her chair and hurried
out into the yard and away from the dogged silence of that
blanketed figure at her elbow.
She was scarcely settled, in the hammock, ready for a comforting
half hour of tears, when someone came from the house, stood for a
minute while he rolled a cigarette, and then came straight toward
She sat up, and waited defensively. More baiting, without a
doubt--and she was not in the mood to remember any promises about
being a nice, gentle little thing. The figure came close,
stooped, and took her by the arm. In the half--light she knew
him then. It was Grant.
"Come over by the pond," he said, in what was almost a command."
I want to talk to you a little."
"Does it occur to you that I might not want to talk t to you?"
Still, she let him help her to her feet.
"Surely. You needn't open your lips if you don't want to. Just
'lend me your ears, and be silent that ye may hear.' The boys
will be boiling out on tho porch, as usual, in a minute; so
"I hope it's something very important," Evadna hinted
ungraciously." Nothing else would excuse this ~high--handed
When they had reached the great rock where the i pond had its
outlet, and where was a rude seat hidden away in a clump of young
willows just across the bridge, he answered her.
"I don't know that it's of any importance at all," he said
calmly." I got to feeling rather ashamed of myself, is all, and
it seemed to me the only decent thing was to tell you so. I'm
not making any bid for your favor--I don't know that I want it.
I don't care much about girls, one way or the other. But, for
all I've got the name of being several things--a savage among the
rest--I don't like to feel such a brute as to make war on a girl
that seems to be getting it handed to her right along."
He tardily lighted his cigarette and sat smoking beside her, the
tiny glow lighting his face briefly now and then.
"When I was joshing you there before supper," he went on,
speaking low that he might not be overheard--and ridiculed--from
the house, "I didn't know the whole outfit was making a practice
of doing the same thing. I hadn't heard about the dead tarantula
on your pillow, or the rattler coiled up on the porch, or any of
those innocent little jokes. But if the rest are making it their
business to devil the life out of you, why--common humanity
forces me to apologize and tell you I'm out of it from now on."
"Oh! Thank you very much." Evadna's tone might be considered
ironical. "I suppose I ought to say that your statement lessens
my dislike of you--"
"Not at all." Grant interrupted her. "Go right ahead and hate
me, if you feel that way. It won't matter to me--girls never did
concern me much, one way or the other. I never was susceptible
to beauty, and that seems to be a woman's trump card, always--"
"Well, upon my word!"
"Sounds queer, does it? But it's the truth, and so what's the
use of lying, just to be polite? I won't torment you any more;
and if the boys rig up too strong a josh, I'm liable to give you
a hint beforehand. I'm willing to do that--my sympathies are
always with the under dog, anyway, and they're five to one. But
that needn't mean that I'm--that I--" He groped for words that
would not make his meaning too bald; not even Grant could quite
bring himself to warn a girl against believing him a victim of
"You needn't stutter. I'm not really stupid. You don't like me
any better than I like you. I can see that. We're to be as
decent as possible to each other--you from 'common humanity,' and
I because I promised Aunt Phoebe."
"We-e-l!--that's about it, I guess." Grant eyed her sidelong."
Only I wouldn't go so far as to say I actually dislike you. I
never did dislike a girl, that I remember. I never thought
enough about them, one way or the other." He seemed rather fond
of that statement, he repeated it so often." The life I live
doesn't call for girls. Put that's neither here nor there. What
I wanted to say was, that I won't bother you any more. I
wouldn't have said a word to you tonight, if you hadn't walked
right up to me and started to dig into me. Of course, I had to
fight back--tho man who won't isn't a normal human being."
"Oh, I know." Evadna's tone was resentful. "From Adam down to
you, it has always been 'The woman, she tempted me.' You're
perfectly horrid, even if you have apologized. 'The woman, she
tempted me,' and --"
"I beg your pardon; the woman didn't," he corrected blandly.
"The woman insisted on scrapping. That's different."
"Oh, it's different! I see. I have almost forgotten something I
ought to say, Mr. Imsen. I must thank you for--well, for
defending me to that Indian."
"I didn't. Nobody was attacking you, so I couldn't very well
defend you, could I? I had to take a fall out of old Peppajee,
just on principle. I don't get along very well with my noble red
cousins. I wasn't doing it on your account, in particular."
"Oh, I see." She rose rather suddenly from the bench. "It
wasn't even common humanity, then--"
"Not even common humanity," he echoed affirmatively. "Just a
chance I couldn't afford to pass up, of digging into Peppajee."
"That's different." She laughed shortly and left him, running
swiftly through the warm dusk to the murmur of voices at the
Grant sat where she left him, and smoked two cigarettes
meditatively before he thought of returning to the house. When
he finally did get upon his feet, he stretched his arms high
above his head, and stared for a moment up at the treetops
swaying languidly just under the stars.
"Girls must play the very deuce with a man if he ever lets them
get on his mind," he mused. "I see right now where a fellow
about my size and complexion had better watch out." But he
smiled afterward, as if he did not consider the matter very
serious, after all.
THE CHRISTMAS ANGEL PLAYS GHOST
At midnight, the Peaceful Hart ranch lay broodily quiet under its
rock-rimmed bluff. Down in tho stable the saddle-horses were but
formless blots upon the rumpled bedding in their stalls--except
Huckleberry, the friendly little pinto with the white eyelashes
and the blue eyes, and the great, liver-colored patches upon his
sides, and the appetite which demanded food at unseasonable
hours, who was now munching and nosing industriously in the
depths of his manger, and making a good deal of noise about it.
Outside, one of the milch cows drew a long, sighing breath of
content with life, lifted a cud in mysterious, bovine manner, and
chewed dreamily. Somewhere up the bluff a bobcat squalled among
the rocks, and the moon, in its dissipated season of late rising,
lifted itself indolently up to where it could peer down upon the
In the grove where the tiny creek gurgled under the little stone
bridge, someone was snoring rhythmically in ~his blankets, for
the boys had taken to sleeping in the open air before the
earliest rose had opened buds in the sunny shelter of the porch.
Three feet away, a sleeper stirred restlessly, lifted his head
from the pillow, and slapped half-heartedly at an early mosquito
that was humming in his ear. He reached out, and jogged the
shoulder of him who snored.
"Say, Gene, if you've got to sleep at the top of your voice, you
better drag your bed down into the orchard," he growled. "Let up
a little, can't yuh?"
"Ah, shut up and let a fellow sleep!" mumbled Gene, snuggling the
covers up to his ears.
"Just what I want YOU to do. You snore like a sawmill. Darn it,
you've got to get out of the grove if yuh can't--"
"Ah-h-EE-EE!" wailed a voice somewhere among the trees, the sound
rising weirdly to a subdued crescendo, clinging there until one's
flesh went creepy, and then sliding mournfully down to silence.
"What's that?" The two jerked themselves to a sitting position,
and stared into the blackness of the grove.
"Bobcat," whispered Clark, in a tone which convinced not even
"In a pig's ear," flouted Gene, under his breath. He leaned far
over and poked his finger into a muffled form. "D'yuh hear that
Grant sat up instantly. "What's tho matter?" he demanded, rather
ill-naturedly, if the truth be told.
"Did you hear anything--a funny noise, like--"
The cry itself finished the sentence for him. It came from
nowhere, it would seem, since they could see nothing; rose slowly
to a subdued shriek, clung there nerve-wrackingly, and then
wailed mournfully down to silence. Afterward, while their ears
were still strained to the sound, the bobcat squalled an answer
from among the rocks.
"Yes, I heard it," said Grant. "It's a spook. It's the wail of
a lost spirit, loosed temporarily from the horrors of purgatory.
It's sent as a warning to repent you of your sins, and it's
howling because it hates to go back. What you going to do about
He made his own intention plain beyond any possibility of
misunderstanding. He lay down and pulled the blanket over his
shoulders, cuddled his pillow under his head, and disposed
himself to sleep.
The moon climbed higher, and sent silvery splinters of light
quivering down among the trees. A frog crawled out upon a great
lily--pad and croaked dismally.
Again came the wailing cry, nearer than before, more subdued, and
for that reason more eerily mournful. Grant sat up, muttered to
himself, and hastily pulled on some clothes. The frog cut
himself short in the middle of a deep-throated ARR-RR-UMPH and
dove headlong into the pond; and the splash of his body cleaving
the still surface of the water made Gene shiver nervously. Grant
reached under his pillow for something, and freed himself
stealthily from a blanketfold.
"If that spook don't talk Indian when it's at home, I'm very much
mistaken," he whispered to Clark, who was nearest. "You boys
Since they had no intention of doing anything else, they obeyed
him implicitly and without argument, especially as a flitting
white figure appeared briefly and indistinctly in a
shadow-flecked patch of moonlight. Crouching low in the shade of
a clump of bushes, Grant stole toward the spot.
When he reached the place, the thing was not there. Instead, he
glimpsed it farther on, and gave chase, taking what precautions
he could against betraying himself. Through the grove and the
gate and across the road he followed, in doubt half the time
whether it was worth the trouble. Still, if it was what he
suspected, a lesson taught now would probably insure against
future disturbances of the sort, he thought, and kept stubbornly
on. Once more he heard the dismal cry, and fancied it held a
"I'll settle that mighty quick," he promised grimly, as he jumped
a ditch and ran toward the place.
Somewhere among the currant bushes was a sound of eery laughter.
He swerved toward the place, saw a white form rise suddenly from
the very ground, as it seemed, and lift an arm with a slow,
beckoning gesture. Without taking aim, he raised his gun and
fired a shot at it. The arm dropped rather suddenly, and the
white form vanished. He hurried up to where it had stood, knelt,
and felt of the soft earth. Without a doubt there were
footprints there--he could feel them. But he hadn't a match with
him, and the place was in deep shade.
He stood up and listened, thought he heard a faint sound farther
along, and ran. There was no use now in going quietly; what
counted most was speed.
Once more he caught sight of the white form fleeing from him like
the very wraith it would have him believe it. Then he lost it
again; and when he reached the spot where it disappeared, he fell
headlong, his feet tangled in some white stuff. He swore
audibly, picked himself up, and held the cloth where the moon
shone full upon it. It looked like a sheet, or something of the
sort, and near one edge was a moist patch of red. He stared at
it dismayed, crumpled the cloth into a compact bundle, tucked it
under his arm, and ran on, his ears strained to catch some sound
to guide him.
"Well, anyhow, I didn't kill him," he muttered uneasily as he
crawled through a fence into the orchard. "He's making a pretty
swift get-away for a fellow that's been shot."
In the orchard the patches of moonlight were larger, and across
one of them he glimpsed a dark object, running wearily. Grant
repressed an impulse to shout, and used the breath for an extra
burst of speed. The ghost was making for the fence again, as if
it would double upon its trail and reach some previously chosen
refuge. Grant turned and ran also toward the fence, guessing
shrewdly that the fugitive would head for the place where the
wire could be spread about, and a beaten trail led from there
straight out to the road which passed the house. It was the
short cut from the peach orchard; and it occurred to him that
this particular spook seemed perfectly familiar with the byways
of the ranch. Near the fence he made a discovery that startled
him a little.
"It's a squaw, by Jove!" he cried when he caught an unmistakable
flicker of skirts; and the next moment he could have laughed
aloud if he had not been winded from the chase. The figure
reached the fence before him, and in the dim light he could see
it stoop to pass through. Then it seemed as if the barbs had
caught in its clothing and held it there. It struggled to free
itself; and in the next minute he rushed up and clutched it fast.
"Why don't you float over the treetops?" he panted ironically.
"Ghosts have no business getting their spirit raiment tangled up
in a barbed-wire fence."
It answered with a little exclamation, with a sob following close
upon it. There was a sound of tearing cloth, and he held his
captive upright, and with a merciless hand turned her face so
that the moonlight struck it full. They stared at each other,
breathing hard from more than the race they had run.
"Well--I'll--be--" Grant began, in blank amazement.
She wriggled her chin in his palm, trying to free herself from
his pitiless staring. Failing that, she began to sob angrily
without any tears in her wide eyes.
"You--shot me, you brute!" she cried accusingly at last.
"You--SHOT me!" And she sobbed again.
Before he answered, he drew backward a step or two, sat down upon
the edge of a rock which had rolled out from a stone-heap, and
pulled her down beside him, still holding her fast, as if he half
believed her capable of soaring away over the treetops, after
"I guess I didn't murder you--from the chase you gave me. Did I
hit you at all?"
"Yes, you did! You nearly broke my arm--and you might have killed
me, you big brute! Look what you did--and I never harmed you at
all!" She pushed up a sleeve, and held out her arm accusingly in
the moonlight, disclosing a tiny, red furrow where the skin was
broken and still bleeding. "And you shot a big hole right
through Aunt Phoebe's sheet!" she added, with tearful severity.
He caught her arm, bent his head over it--and for a moment he was
perilously near to kissing it; an impulse which astonished him
considerably, and angered him more. He dropped the arm rather
precipitately; and she lifted it again, and regarded the wound
with mournful interest.
"I'd like to know what right you have to prowl around shooting at
people," she scolded, seeing how close she could come to touching
the place with her fingertips without producing any but a
"Just as much right as you have to get up in the middle of the
night and go ahowling all over the ranch wrapped up in a sheet,"
he retorted ungallantly.
"Well, if I want to do it, I don't see why you need concern
yourself about it. I wasn't doing it for your benefit, anyway."
"Will you tell me what you DID do it for? Of all the silly
An impish smile quite obliterated the Christmas-angel look for an
instant, then vanished, and left her a pretty, abused maiden who
is grieved at harsh treatment.
"Well, I wanted to scare Gene," she confessed. "I did, too. I
just know he's a cowardy-cat, because he's always trying to scare
ME. It's Gene's fault--he told me the grove is haunted. He said
a long time ago, before Uncle Hart settled here, a lot of Indians
waylaid a wagon-train here and killed a girl, and he says that
when the moon is just past the full, something white walks
through the grove and wails like a lost soul in torment. He says
sometimes it comes and moans at the corner of the house where my
room is. I just know he was going to do it himself; but I guess
he forgot. So I thought I'd see if he believed his own yarns. I
was going to do it every night till I scared him into sleeping in
the house. I had a perfectly lovely place to disappear into,
where he couldn't trace me if he took to hunting around--only he
wouldn't dare." She pulled down her sleeve very carefully, and
then, just as carefully, she pushed it up again, and took another
"My best friend TOLD me I'd get shot if I came to Idaho," she
reminded herself, with a melancholy satisfaction.
"You didn't get shot," Grant contradicted for the sake of drawing
more sparks of temper where temper seemed quaintly out of place,
and stared hard at her drooping profile. "You just got nicely
missed; a bullet that only scrapes off a little skin can't be
said to hit. I'd hate to hit a bear like that."
"I believe you're wishing you HAD killed me! You might at least
have some conscience in the matter, and be sorry you shot a lady.
But you're not. You just wish you had murdered me. You hate
girls--you said so. And I don't know what business it is of
yours, if I want to play a joke on my cousin, or why you had to
be sleeping outside, anyway. I've a perfect right to be a ghost
if I choose--and I don't call it nice, or polite, or gentlemanly
for you to chase me all over the place with a gun, trying to kill
me! I'll never speak to you again as long as I live. When I say
that I mean it. I never liked you from the very start, when I
first saw you this afternoon. Now I hate and despise you. I
suppose I oughtn't to expect you to apologize or be sorry because
you almost killed me. I suppose that's just your real nature
coming to the surface. Indians love to hurt and torture people!
I shouldn't have expected anything else of you, I suppose. I
made the mistake of treating you like a white man."
"Don't you think you're making another mistake right now?"
Grant's whole attitude changed, as well as his tone. "Aren't you
afraid to push the white man down into the dirt, and raise
She cast a swift, half-frightened glance up into his face and the
eyes that glowed ominously in the moonlight.
"When people make the blunder of calling up the Indian," he went
on steadily, "they usually find that they have to deal with--the
Evadna looked at him again, and turned slowly white before her
temper surged to the surface again.
"I didn't call up the Indian," she defended hotly; "but if the
Indian wants to deal with me according to his nature--why, let
him! But you don't ACT like other people! I don't know another
man who wouldn't have been horrified at shooting me, even such a
tiny little bit; but you don't care at all. You never even said
you were sorry."
"I'm not in the habit of saying all I think and feel."
"You were quick enough to apologize, after supper there, when you
hadn't really done anything; and now, when one would expect you
to be at least decently sorry, you--you--well, you act like the
savage you are! There, now! It may not be nice to say it, but
it's the truth."
Grant smiled bitterly. "All men are savages under the skin," he
said. "How do YOU know what I think and feel? If I fail to come
through with the conventional patter, I am called an
Indian--because my mother was a half-breed." He threw up his
head proudly, let his eyes rest for a moment upon the moon,
swimming through a white river of clouds just over the tall
poplar hedge planted long ago to shelter the orchard from the
sweeping west winds; and, when he looked down at her again, he
caught a glimpse of repentant tears in her eyes, and softened.
"Oh, you're a girl, and you demand the usual amount of poor-pussy
talk," he told her maliciously. "So I'm sorry. I'm heartbroken.
If it will help any, I'll even kiss the hurt to make it well--and
I'm not a kissing young man, either, let me tell you."
"I'd die before I'd let you touch me!" Her repentance, if it was
that, changed to pure rage. She snatched the torn sheet from him
and turned abruptly toward the fence. He followed her,
apparently unmoved by her attitude; placed his foot upon the
lower wire and pressed it into the soft earth, lifted the one