Part 2 out of 5
next above it as high as it would go, and thus made it easier for
her to pass through. She seemed to hesitate for a moment, as
though tempted to reject even that slight favor, then stooped,
and went through.
As the wires snapped into place, she halted and looked back at
"Maybe I've been mean--but you're been meaner," she summed up, in
self-justification. "I suppose the next thing you will do will
be to tell the boys. Well, I don't care what you do, so long as
you never speak to me again. Go and tell them if you want
to--tell. TELL, do you hear ? I don't want even the favor of
your silence!" She dexterously tucked the bundle of white under
the uninjured arm, caught the loose folds of her skirt up in her
hands, and ran away up the path, not once stopping to see whether
he still followed her.
Grant did not follow. He stood leaning against the fence-post,
and watched her until her flying form grew indistinct in the
shade of the poplar hedge; watched it reappear in a broad strip
of white moonlight, still running; saw it turn, slacken speed to
a walk, and then lose itself in the darkness of the grove.
Five minutes, ten minutes, he stood there, staring across the
level bit of valley lying quiet at the foot of the jagged-rimmed
bluff standing boldly up against the star-flecked sky. Then he
shook himself impatiently, muttered something which had to do
with a "doddering fool," and retraced his steps quickly through
tho orchard, the currant bushes, and the strawberry patch,
jumped the ditch, and so entered the grove and returned to his
"We thought the spook had got yuh, sure." Gene lifted his head
turtlewise and laughed deprecatingly. "We was just about ready
to start out after the corpse, only we didn't know but what you
might get excited and take a shot at us in the dark. We heard
yuh shoot--what was it? Did you find out?"
"It wasn't anything," said Grant shortly, tugging at a boot.
"Ah--there was, too! What was it you shot at?" Clark joined in
the argument from the blackness under the locust tree.
"The moon," Grant told him sullenly. "There wasn't anything else
that I could see."
"And that's a lie," Gene amended, with the frankness of a
foster-brother. "Something yelled like--"
"You never heard a screech-owl before, did you, Gene?" Grant
crept between his blankets and snuggled down, as if his mind held
nothing more important than sleep.
"Screech-owl my granny! You bumped into something you couldn't
handle--if you want to know what _I_ think about it," Clark
guessed shrewdly. "I wish now I'd taken the trouble to hunt the
thing down; it didn't seem worth while getting up. But I leave
it to Gene if you ain't mad enough to murder whatever it was.
What was it?"
He waited a moment without getting a reply.
"Well, keep your teeth shut down on it, then, darn yuh!" he
growled. "That's the Injun of it--I know YOU! Screech-owl--huh!
You said when you left it was an Indian--and that's why we didn't
take after it ourselves. We don't want to get the whole bunch
down on us like they are on you--and if there was one acting up
around here, we knew blamed well it was on your account for what
happened to-day. I guess you found out, all right. I knew the
minute you heaved in sight that you was just about as mad as you
can get--and that's saying a whole lot. If it WAS an Indian, and
you killed him, you better let us--"
"Oh, for the lord's sake, WILL YOU SHUT UP!" Grant raised to an
elbow, glared a moment, and lay down again.
The result proved the sort of fellow he was. Clark shut up
without even trailing off into mumbling to himself, as was his
habit when argument brought him defeat.
MISS GEORGIE HOWARD, OPERATOR
"Where is the delightful Mr. Good Indian off to?" Evadna stopped
drumming upon the gatepost and turned toward the person she heard
coming up behind her, who happened to be Gene. He stopped to
light a match upon the gate and put his cigarette to work before
he answered her; and Evadna touched tentatively the wide, blue
ribbon wound round her arm and tied in a bow at her elbow, and
eyed him guardedly.
"Straight up, he told me," Gene answered sourly. "He's sore over
something that happened last night, and he didn't seem to have
any talk to give away this morning. He can go to the dickens,
for all I care."
"WHAT--happened last night?" Evadna wore her Christmas-angel
expression; and her tone was the sweet, insipid tone of childlike
Gene hesitated. It seemed a sheer waste of opportunity to tell
her the truth when she would believe a falsehood just as readily;
but, since the truth happened to be quite as improbable as a lie,
he decided to speak it.
"There was a noise when the moon had just come up--didn't you
hear it? The ghost I told you about. Good Injun went after it
with a gun, and I guess they mixed, all right, and he got the
worst of it. He was sure on the fight when he came back, and
he's pulled out this morning--"
"Do you mean to tell me--did you see it, really?"
"Well, you ask Clark, when you see him," Gene hinted darkly.
"You just ask him what was in the grove last night. Ask him what
he HEARD." He moved closer, and laid his hand impressively upon
her arm. Evadna winced perceptibly. "What yuh jumping for? You
didn't see anything, did you?"
"No; but--was there REALLY something?" Evadna freed herself as
unobtrusively as possible, and looked at him with wide eyes.
"You ask Clark. He'll tell you--maybe. Good Injun's scared
clean off the ranch--you can see that for yourself. He said he
couldn't be hired to spend another night here. He thinks it's a
bad sign. That's the Injun of it. They believe in spirits and
signs and things."
Evadna turned thoughtful. "And didn't he tell you what he--that
is, if he found out--you said he went after it--"
"He wouldn't say a blamed thing about it," Gene complained
sincerely. "He said there wasn't anything--he told us it was a
"Oh!" Evadna gave a sigh of relief. "Well, I'm going to ask
Clark what it was--I'm just crazy about ghost stories, only I
never would DARE leave the house after dark if there are funny
noises and things, really. I think you boys must be the bravest
fellows, to sleep out there--without even your mother with you!"
She smiled the credulous smile of ignorant innocence and pulled
the gate open.
"Jack promised to take me up to Hartley to-day," she explained
over her shoulder. "When I come back, you'll show me just where
it was, won't you, Gene? You don't suppose it would walk in the
grove in the daytime, do you? Because I'm awfully fond of the
grove, and I do hope it will be polite enough to confine its
perambulations entirely to the conventional midnight hour."
Gene did not make any reply. Indeed, he seemed wholly absorbed
in staring after her and wondering just how much or how little of
it she meant.
Evadna looked back, midway between the gate and the stable, and,
when she saw him standing exactly as she had left him, she waved
her hand and smiled. She was still smiling when she came up to
where Jack was giving those last, tentative twitches and pats
which prove whether a saddle is properly set and cinched; and she
would not say what it was that amused her. All the way up the
grade, she smiled and grew thoughtful by turns; and, when Jack
mentioned the fact that Good Indian had gone off mad about
something, she contented herself with the simple, unqualified
statement that she was glad of it.
Grant's horse dozed before the store, and Grant himself sat upon
a bench in the narrow strip of shade on the porch. Evadna,
therefore, refused absolutely to dismount there, though her
errand had been a post-office money order. Jack was already on
the ground when she made known her decision; and she left him in
the middle of his expostulations and rode on to the depot. He
followed disapprovingly afoot; and, when she brought her horse to
a stand, he helped her from the saddle, and took the bridle reins
with an air of weary tolerance.
"When you get ready to go home, you can come to the store," he
said bluntly. "Huckleberry wouldn't stand here if you hog-tied
him. Just remember that if you ever ride up here alone--it might
save you a walk back. And say," he added, with a return of his
good-natured grin, "it looks like you and Good Injun didn't get
acquainted yesterday. I thought I saw mum give him an
introduction to you--but I guess I made a mistake. When you come
to the store, don't let me forget, and I'll do it myself."
"Oh, thank you, Jack--but it isn't necessary," chirped Evadna,
and left him with the smile which he had come to regard with
vague suspicion of what it might hide of her real feelings.
Two squaws sat cross-legged on the ground in the shade of the
little red depot; and them she passed by hastily, her eyes upon
them watchfully until she was well upon the platform and was
being greeted joyfully by Miss Georgie Howard, then in one of her
daily periods of intense boredom.
"My, my, but you're an angel of deliverance--and by rights you
should have a pair of gauze wings, just to complete the picture,"
she cried, leading her inside and pushing her into a beribboned
wicker rocker. "I was just getting desperate enough to haul in
those squaws out there and see if I couldn't teach 'em whist or
something." She sat down and fingered her pompadour absently.
"And that sure would have been interesting," she added musingly.
"Don't let me interrupt you," Evadna began primly. "I only came
for a money order--Aunt Phoebe's sending for--"
"Never mind what you came for," Miss Georgie cut in decisively,
and laughed. "The express agent is out. You can't get your
order till we've had a good talk and got each other tagged
mentally--only I've tagged you long ago."
"I thought you were the express agent. Aunt Phoebe said--"
"Nice, truthful Aunt Phoebe! I am, but I'm out--officially. I'm
several things, my dear; but, for the sake of my own dignity and
self-respect, I refuse to be more than one of them at a time.
When I sell a ticket to Shoshone, I'm the ticket agent, and
nothing else. Telegrams, I'm the operator. At certain times I'm
the express agent. I admit it. But this isn't one of the
She stopped and regarded her visitor with whimsical appraisement.
"You'll wait till the agent returns, won't you?" And added, with
a grimace: "You won't be in the way--I'm not anything official
right now. I'm a neighbor, and this is my parlor--you see, I
planted you on that rug, with the books at your elbow, and that
geranium also; and you're in the rocker, so you're really and
truly in my parlor. I'm over the line myself, and you're calling
on me. Sabe? That little desk by the safe is the express
office, and you can see for yourself that the agent is out."
"Well, upon my word!" Evadna permitted herself that much
emotional relief. Then she leaned her head against the
cherry-colored head-rest tied to the chair with huge,
cherry-colored bows, and took a deliberate survey of the room.
It was a small room, as rooms go. One corner was evidently the
telegraph office, for it held a crude table, with the instruments
clicking spasmodically, form pads, letter files, and mysterious
things which piqued her curiosity. Over it was a railroad map
and a makeshift bulletin board, which seemed to give the time of
certain trains. And small-paned windows gave one sitting before
tho instruments an unobstructed view up and down the track. In
the corner behind the door was a small safe, with door ajar, and
a desk quite as small, with, "Express Office: Hours, 8 A.M. to 6
P.M." on a card above it.
Under a small window opening upon the platform was another little
table, with indications of occasional ticket-selling upon it.
And in the end of the room where she sat were various little
adornments--"art" calendars, a few books, fewer potted plants, a
sewing-basket, and two rugs upon the floor, with a rocker for
each. Also there was a tiny, square table, with a pack of cards
scattered over it.
"Exactly. You have it sized up correctly, my dear." Miss
Georgie Howard nodded her--head three times, and her eyes were
mirthful." It's a game. I made it a game. I had to, in
self-defense. Otherwise--" She waved a hand conspicuous for its
white plumpness and its fingers tapering beautifully to little,
pink nails immaculately kept. "I took at the job and the place
just as it stands, without anything in the way of mitigation.
Can you see yourself holding it down for longer than a week?
I've been here a month."
"I think," Evadna ventured, "it must be fun."
"Oh, yes. It's fun--if you make fun OF it. However, before we
settle down for a real visit, I've a certain duty to perform, if
you will excuse my absence for a moment. Incidentally," she
added, getting lazily out of the chair, "it will illustrate just
how I manage my system."
Her absence was purely theoretical. She stepped off the rug,
went to the "express office," and took a card from the desk.
When she had stood it upright behind the inkwell, Evadna read in
large, irregular capitals:
"OUT. WILL BE BACK LATER."
Miss Georgie Howard paid no attention to the little giggle which
went with the reading, but stepped across to the ticket desk and
to the telegraph table, and put similar cards on display. Then
she came back to the rug, plumped down in her rocker with a sigh
of relief, and reached for a large, white box--the five pounds of
chocolates which she had sent for.
"I never eat candy when I'm in the office," she observed soberly.
"I consider it unprofessional. Help yourself as liberally as
your digestion will stand--and for Heaven's sake, gossip a
little! Tell me all about that bunch of nifty lads I see
cavorting around the store occasionally--and especially about the
polysyllabic gentleman who seems to hang out at the Peaceful Hart
ranch. I'm terribly taken with him. He--excuse me, chicken.
There's a fellow down the line hollering his head off. Wait till
I see what he wants."
Again she left the rug, stepped to the telegraph instrument, and
fingered the key daintily until she had, with the other hand,
turned down the "out" card. Then she threw the switch, rattled
an impatient reply, and waited, listening to the rapid clicking
of the sounder. Her eyes and her mouth hardened as she read.
"Cad!" she gritted under her breath. Her fingers were spiteful
as they clicked the key in answer. She slammed the current off,
set up the "out" notice again, kicked the desk chair against the
wall, and came back to the "parlor" breathing quickly.
"I think it must be perfectly fascinating to talk that way to
persons miles off," said Evadna, eying the chittering sounder
with something approaching awe. "I watched your fingers, and
tried to imagine what it was they were saying--but I couldn't
Miss Georgie Howard laughed queerly. "No, I don't suppose you
could," she murmured, and added, with a swift glance at the
other: "They said, 'You go to the devil.'" She held up the
offending hand and regarded it intently. "You wouldn't think it
of them, would you? But they have to say things sometimes--in
self-defense. There are two or three fresh young men along the
line that can't seem to take a hint unless you knock them in the
head with it."
She cast a malevolent look at the clicking instrument. "He's
trying to square himself," she observed carelessly. "But,
unfortunately, I'm out. He seems on the verge of tears, poor
She poked investigatingly among the chocolates, and finally
selected a delectable morsel with epicurean care.
"You haven't told me about the polysyllabic young man," she
reminded. "He has held my heart in bondage since he said to Pete
Hamilton yesterday in the store--ah--" She leaned and barely
reached a slip of paper which was lying upon a row of books. "I
wrote it down so I wouldn't forget it," she explained
parenthetically. "He said to Pete, in the store, just after Pete
had tried to say something funny with the usual lamentable
failure--um--'You are mentally incapable of recognizing the line
of demarcation between legitimate persiflage and objectionable
familiarity.' Now, I want to know what sort of a man, under fifty
and not a college professor, would--or could--say that without
studying it first. It sounded awfully impromptu and easy--and
yet he looks--well, cowboyish. What sort of a young man is he?"
"He's a perfectly horrid young man." Evadna leaned to help
herself to more chocolates. "He--well, just to show you how
horrid, he calls me a--a Christmas angel! And--"
"Did he!" Miss Georgie eyed her measuringly between bites. "Tag
him as being intelligent, a keen observer, with the ability to
express himself--" She broke off, and turned her head
ungraciously toward the sounder, which seemed to be repeating
something over and over with a good deal of insistence. "That's
Shoshone calling," she said, frowning attentively. "They've got
an old crank up there in the office--I'd know his touch among a
million--and when he calls he means business. I'll have to speak
up, I suppose." She sighed, tucked a chocolate into her cheek,
and went scowling to the table. "Can't the idiot see I'm out?"
she complained whimsically. "What's that card for, I wonder?"
She threw the switch, rattled a reply, and then, as the sounder
settled down to a steady click-clickety-click-click, she drew a
pad toward her, pulled up the chair with her foot, sat down, and
began to write the message as it came chattering over the wire.
When it was finished and the sounder quiet, her hand awoke to
life upon the key. She seemed to be repeating the message, word
for word. When she was done, she listened, got her answer, threw
off the switch with a sweep of her thumb, and fumbled among the
papers on the table until she found an envelope. She addressed
it with a hasty scrawl of her pencil, sealed it with a vicious
little spat of her hand, and then sat looking down upon it
"I suppose I've got to deliver that immediately, at once, without
delay," she said. "There's supposed to be an answer. Chicken,
some queer things happen in this business. Here's that
weak-eyed, hollow-chested Saunders, that seems to have just life
enough to put in about ten hours a day reading 'The Duchess,'
getting cipher messages like the hero of a detective story. And
sending them, too, by the way. We operators are not supposed to
think; but all the same--" She got her receipt-book, filled
rapidly a blank line, tucked it under her arm, and went up and
tapped Evadna lightly upon the head with the envelope. "Want to
come along? Or would you rather stay here? I won't be more than
She was gone five; and she returned with a preoccupied air which
lasted until she had disposed of three chocolates and was
carefully choosing a fourth.
"Chicken," she said then, quietly, "do you know anything about
your uncle and his affairs?" And added immediately: "The chances
are ten to one you don't, and wouldn't if you lived there till
you were gray?"
"I know he's perfectly lovely," Evadna asserted warmly. "And so
is Aunt Phoebe."
"To be sure." Miss Georgie smiled indulgently. "I quite agree
with you. And by the way, I met that polysyllabic cowboy
again--and I discovered that, on the whole, my estimate was
incorrect. He's emphatically monosyllabic. I said sixteen nice
things to him while I was waiting for Pete to wake up Saunders;
and he answered in words of one syllable; one word, of one
syllable. I'm beginning to feel that I've simply got to know
that young man. There are deeps there which I am wild to
explore. I never met any male human in the least like him. Did
you? So absolutely--ah--inscrutable, let us say."
"That's just because he's part Indian," Evadna declared, with the
positiveness of youth and inexperience. "It isn't
inscrutability, but stupidity. I simply can't bear him. He's
brutal, and rude. He told me--told me, mind you--that he doesn't
like women. He actually warned me against thinking his
politeness--if he ever is polite, which I doubt--means more than
just common humanity. He said he didn't want me to misunderstand
him and think he liked me, because he doesn't. He's a perfect
savage. I simply loathe him!"
"I'd certainly see that he repented, apologized, and vowed
eternal devotion," smiled Miss Georgie. "That should be my
"I don't want any revenge. I simply want nothing to do with him.
I don't want to speak to him, even."
"He's awfully good--looking," mused Miss Georgie.
"He looks to me just like an Indian. He ought to wear a blanket,
like the rest."
"Then you're no judge. His eyes are dark; but they aren't snaky,
my dear. His hair is real wavy, did you notice? And he has the
dearest, firm mouth. I noticed it particularly, because I admire
a man who's a man. He's one. He'd fight and never give up, once
he started. And I think"--she spoke hesitatingly-- "I think he'd
love--and never give up; unless the loved one disappointed him in
some way; and then he'd be strong enough to go his way and not
whine about it. I do hate a whiner! Don't you?"
A shadow fell upon the platform outside the door, and Saunders
appeared, sidling deprecatingly into the room. He pulled off his
black, slouched hat and tucked it under his arm, smoothed his
lank, black hair, ran his palm down over his lank, unshaven face
with a smoothing gesture, and sidled over to the telegraph table.
"Here's the answer to that message," he said, in a limp tone,
without any especial emphasis or inflection. "If you ain't too
busy, and could send it right off--it's to go C.O.D. and make
'em repeat it, so as to be sure--"
"Certainly, Mr. Saunders." Miss Georgie rose, the crisp,
businesslike operator, and went to the table. She took the sheet
of paper from him with her finger tips, as if he were some
repulsive creature whose touch would send her shuddering, and
glanced at the message. "Write it on the regular form," she
said, and pushed a pad and pencil toward him." I have to place
it on file." Whereupon she turned her back upon him, and stood
staring down the railroad track through the smoke-grimed window
until a movement warned her that he was through.
"Very well--that is all," she said, after she had counted the
words twice. "Oh--you want to wait for the repeat."
She laid her fingers on the key and sent the message in a whirl
of chittering little sounds, waited a moment while the sounder
spoke, paused, and then began a rapid clicking, which was the
repeated message, and wrote it down upon its form.
"There--if it's correct, that's all," she told him in a tone of
dismissal, and waited openly for him to go. Which he did, after
a sly glance at Evadna, a licking of pale lips, as if he would
speak but lacked the courage, and a leering grin at Miss Georgie.
He was no sooner over the threshold than she slammed the door
shut, in spite of the heat. She walked to the window, glanced
down the track again, turned to the table, and restlessly
arranged the form pads, sticking the message upon the file. She
said something under her breath, snapped the cover on the
inkwell, sighed, patted her pompadour, and finally laughed at her
"Whenever that man comes in here," she observed impatiently, "I
always feel as if I ought to clean house after him. If ever
there was a human toad--or snake, or--ugh! And what does he
mean--sending twenty-word messages that don't make sense when you
read them over, and getting others that are just a lot of words
jumbled together, hit or miss? I wish--only it's unprofessional
to talk about it--but, just the same, there's some nasty business
brewing, and I know it. I feel guilty, almost, every time I send
one of those cipher messages."
"Maybe he's a detective," Evadna hazarded.
"Maybe." Miss Georgie's tone, however, was extremely skeptical.
"Only, so far as I can discover, there's never been anything
around here to detect. Nobody has been murdered, or robbed, or
kidnapped that I ever heard of. Pete Hamilton says not. And--I
wonder, now, if Saunders could be watching somebody! Wouldn't it
be funny, if old Pete himself turned out to be a Jesse James
brand of criminal? Can you imagine Pete doing anything more
brutal than lick a postage stamp?"
"He might want to," Evadna guessed shrewdly, "but it would be too
"Besides," Miss Georgie went on speculating, "Saunders never does
anything that anyone ever heard of. Sweeps out the store, they
say--but I'd hate to swear to that. _I_ never could catch it
when it looked swept--and brings the mail sack over here twice a
day, and gets one to take back. And reads novels. Of course,
the man's half dead with consumption; but no one would object to
that, if these queer wires hadn't commenced coming to him."
"Why don't you turn detective yourself and find out?" Plainly,
Evadna was secretly laughing at her perturbed interest in the
"Thanks. I'm too many things already, and I haven't any false
hair or dark lantern. And, by the way, I'm going to have the day
off, Sunday. Charlie Green is coming up to relieve me.
And--couldn't we do something?" She glanced wearily around the
little office. "Honest, I'd go crazy if I stayed here much
longer without a play spell. I want to get clear out, away from
the thing--where I can't even hear a train whistle."
"Then you shall come down to the ranch the minute you can get
away, and we'll do something or go somewhere. The boys said
they'd take me fishing--but they only propose things so they can
play jokes on me, it seems to me. They'd make me fall in the
river, or something, I just know. But if you'd like to go along,
there'd be two of us--"
"Chicken, we'll go. I ought to be ashamed to fish for an
invitation the way I did, but I'm not. I haven't been down to
the Hart ranch yet; and I've heard enough about it to drive me
crazy with the desire to see it. Your Aunt Phoebe I've met, and
fallen in love with--that's a matter of course. She told me to
visit her just any time, without waiting to be invited
especially. Isn't she the dearest thing? Oh! that's a train
order, I suppose--sixteen is about due. Excuse me, chicken."
She was busy then until the train came screeching down upon the
station, paused there while the conductor rushed in, got a thin
slip of paper for himself and the engineer, and rushed out again.
When the train grumbled away from the platform and went its way,
it left man standing there, a fish-basket slung from one
shoulder, a trout rod carefully wrapped in its case in his hand,
a box which looked suspiciously like a case of some bottled joy
at his feet, and a loose-lipped smile upon his face.
"Howdy, Miss Georgie?" he called unctuously through the open
Miss Georgie barely glanced at him from under her lashes, and her
shoulders indulged themselves in an almost imperceptible twitch.
"How do you do, Mr. Baumberger?" she responded coolly, and very,
very gently pushed the door shut just as he had made up his mind
THE AMIABLE ANGLER
Baumberger--Johannes was the name he answered to when any of his
family called, though to the rest of the world he was simply
Baumberger--was what he himself called a true sport. Women, he
maintained, were very much like trout; and so, when this
particular woman calmly turned her back upon the smile cast at
her, he did not linger there angling uselessly, but betook
himself to the store, where his worldly position, rather than his
charming personality, might be counted upon to bring him his meed
Good Indian and Jack, sitting side by side upon the porch and
saying very little, he passed by with a careless nod, as being
not worth his attention. Saunders, glancing up from the
absorbing last chapter of "The Brokenhearted Bride," also
received a nod, and returned it apathetically. Pete Hamilton,
however, got a flabby handshake, a wheezy laugh, and the
announcement that he was down from Shoshone for a good, gamy
tussle with that four-pounder he had lost last time.
"And I don't go back till I get him--not if I stay here a week,"
he declared, with jocular savagery. "Took half my leader and my
pet fly--I got him with a peacock-bodied gray hackle that I
revised to suit my own notions--and, by the great immortal
Jehosaphat, he looked like a whale when he jumped up clear of tho
riffle, turned over, and--" His flabby, white hand made a soaring
movement to indicate the manner in which the four-pounder had
"Better take a day off and go with me, Pete," he suggested,
getting an unwieldy-looking pipe from the pocket of his canvas
fishing-coat, and opening his eyes at a trout-fly snagged in the
mouthpiece. "Now, how did that fly come there?" he asked
aggrievedly, while he released it daintily for all his fingers
looked so fat and awkward. He stuck the pipe in the corner of
his mouth, and held up the fly with that interest which seems
fatuous to one who has no sporting blood in his veins.
"Last time I used that fly was when I was down here three weeks
ago--the day I lost the big one. Ain't it a beauty, eh? Tied it
myself. And, by the great immortal Jehosaphat, it fetches me the
rainbows, too. Good mind to try it on the big one. Don't see
how I didn't miss it out of my book--I must be getting
absent-minded. Sign of old age, that. Failing powers and the
like." He shook his head reprovingly and grinned, as if he
considered the idea something of a joke. "Have to buck up--a
lawyer can't afford to grow absent-minded. He's liable to wake
up some day and find himself without his practice."
He got his fly-book from the basket swinging at his left hip,
opened it, turned the leaves with the caressing touch one gives
to a cherished thing, and very carefully placed the fly upon the
page where it belonged; gazed gloatingly down at the tiny, tufted
hooks, with their frail-looking five inches of gut leader, and
then returned the book fondly to the basket.
"Think I'll go on down to the Harts'," he said, "so as to be that
much closer to the stream. Daylight is going to find me whipping
the riffles, Peter. You won't come along? You better. Plenty
of--ah--snake medicine," he hinted, chuckling so that the whole,
deep chest of him vibrated. "No? Well, you can let me have a
horse, I suppose--that cow-backed sorrel will do--he's gentle, I
know. I think I'll go out and beg an invitation from that Hart
boy--never can remember those kids by name--Gene, is it, or
He went out upon the porch, laid a hand upon Jack's shoulder, and
beamed down upon him with what would have passed easily for real
affection while he announced that he was going to beg supper and
a bed at the ranch, and wanted to know, as a solicitous
after-thought, if Jack's mother had company, or anything that
would make his presence a burden.
"Nobody's there--and, if there was, it wouldn't matter," Jack
assured him carelessly. "Go on down, if you want to. It'll be
all right with mother."
"One thing I like about fishing down here," chuckled Baumberger,
his fat fingers still resting lightly upon Jack's shoulder, "is
the pleasure of eating my fish at your house. There ain't
another man, woman, or child in all Idaho can fry trout like your
mother. You needn't tell her I said so--but it's a fact, just
the same. She sure is a genius with the frying-pan, my boy."
He turned and called in to Pete, to know if he might have the
sorrel saddled right away. Since Pete looked upon Baumberger
with something of the awed admiration which he would bestow upon
the President, he felt convinced that his horses were to be
congratulated that any one of them found favor in his eyes.
Pete, therefore, came as near to roaring at Saunders as his good
nature and his laziness would permit, and waited in the doorway
until Saunders had, with visible reluctance, laid down his book
and started toward the stable.
"Needn't bother to bring the horse down here, my man," Baumberger
called after him. "I'll get him at the stable and start from
there. Well, wish me luck, Pete--and say! I'll expect you to
make a day of it with me Sunday. No excuses, now. I'm going to
stay over that long, anyhow. Promised myself three good
days--maybe more. A man's got to break away from his work once
in a while. If I didn't, life wouldn't be worth living. I'm
willing to grind--but I've got to have my playtime, too. Say, I
want you to try this rod of mine Sunday. You'll want one like it
yourself, if I'm any good at guessing. Just got it, you
know--it's the one I was talking to yuh about last time I was
"W-ell--I reckon my means of conveyance is ready for me--so long,
Peter, till Sunday. See you at supper, boys."
He hooked a thumb under the shoulder-strap of his basket, pulled
it to a more comfortable position, waved his hand in a farewell,
which included every living thing within sight of him, and went
away up the narrow, winding trail through the sagebrush to the
stable, humming something under his breath with the same impulse
of satisfaction with life which sets a cat purring.
Some time later, he appeared, in the same jovial mood, at the
Hart ranch, and found there the welcome which he had counted
upon--the welcome which all men received there upon demand.
When Evadna and Jack rode up, they found Mr. Baumberger taking
his ease in Peaceful's armchair on the porch, discussing, with
animated gravity, the ins and outs of county politics; his
fishing-basket lying on its flat side close to his chair, his rod
leaning against the house at his elbow, his heavy pipe dragging
down one corner of his loose-lipped mouth; his whole gross person
surrounded by an atmosphere of prosperity leading the simple life
transiently and by choice, and of lazy enjoyment in his own
physical and mental well-being.
PEPPAJEE JIM "HEAP SABES"
Peppajee Jim had meditated long in the shade of his wikiup, and
now, when the sun changed from a glaring ball of intense, yellow
heat to a sullen red disk hanging low over the bluffs of Snake
River, he rose, carefully knocked the ashes from his little stone
pipe, with one mechanical movement of his arms, gathered his
blanket around him, pushed a too-familiar dog from him with a
shove of moccasined foot, and stalked away through the sagebrush.
On the brow of the hill, just where the faint footpath dipped
into a narrow gully at the very edge, almost, of the bluff, he
stopped, and lifted his head for an unconsciously haughty stare
at his surroundings.
Beneath him and half a mile or so up the river valley, the mellow
green of Peaceful's orchard was already taking to itself the
vagueness of evening shadows. Nearer, the meadow of alfalfa and
clover lay like a soft, green carpet of velvet, lined here and
there with the irrigation ditches which kept it so. And in the
center of the meadow, a small inclosure marked grimly the spot
where lay the bones of old John Imsen. All around the man-made
oasis of orchards and meadows, the sage and the sand, pushed from
the river by the jumble of placer pits, emphasized by sharp
contrast what man may do with the most unpromising parts of the
earth's surface, once he sets himself heart and muscle to the
With the deliberation of his race, Peppajee stood long minutes
motionless, gazing into the valley before ho turned with a true
Indian shrug and went down into the gully, up the steep slope
beyond, and then, after picking his way through a jumble of great
bowlders, came out eventually into the dust-ridden trail of the
white man. Down that he walked, erect, swift, purposeful, his
moccasins falling always with the precision of a wild animal upon
the best footing among the loose rocks, stubs of sage-roots, or
patches of deep dust and sand beside the wagon-road, his sharp,
high-featured face set in the stony calm which may hide a tumult
of elemental passions beneath and give no sign.
Where the trail curved out sharply to round the Point o' Rocks,
he left it, and kept straight on through the sage, entered a
rough pass through the huge rock tongue, and came out presently
to the trail again, a scant two hundred yards from the Hart
haystacks. When he reached the stable, he stopped and looked
warily about him, but there was no sight or sound of any there
save animals, and he went on silently to the house, his shadow
stretching long upon the ground before him until it merged into
the shade of the grove beyond the gate, and so was lost for that
"Hello, Peppajee," called Wally over his cigarette. "Just in
time for supper."
Peppajee grunted, stopped in the path two paces from the porch,
folded his arms inside his blanket, and stood so while his eyes
traveled slowly and keenly around the group lounging at ease
above him. Upon the bulky figure of Baumberger they dwelt
longest, and while he looked his face hardened until nothing
seemed alive but his eyes.
"Peppajee, this my friend, Mr. Baumberger. You heap sabe
Baumberger--come all time from Shoshone, mebbyso catchum heap
many fish." Peaceful's mild, blue eyes twinkled over his old
meerschaum. He knew the ways of Indians, and more particularly
he knew the ways of Peppajee; Baumberger, he guessed shrewdly,
had failed to find favor in his eyes.
"Huh!" grunted Peppajee non-commitally, and made no motion to
shake hands, thereby confirming Peaceful's suspicion. "Me heap
sabe Man-that-catchum-fish." After which he stood as before, his
arms folded tightly in his blanket, his chin lifted haughtily,
his mouth a straight, stern line of bronze.
"Sit down, Peppajee. Bimeby eat supper," Peaceful invited
pacifically, while Baumberger chuckled at the Indian's attitude,
which he attributed to racial stupidity.
Peppajee did not even indicate that he heard or, hearing,
"Bothered much with Injuns?" Baumberger asked carelessly, putting
away his pipe. "I see there's quite a camp of 'em up on the
hill. Hope you've got good watchdogs--they're a thieving lot.
If they're a nuisance, Hart, I'll see what can be done about
slapping 'em back on their reservation, where they belong. I
happen to have some influence with the agent."
"I guess you needn't go to any trouble about it," Peaceful
returned dryly. "I've had worse neighbors."
"Oh--if you're stuck on their company!" laughed Baumberger
wheezily. "'Every fellow to his taste, as the old woman said
when she kissed her cow.' There may be good ones among the lot,"
he conceded politely when he saw that his time-worn joke had met
with disfavor, even by the boys, who could--and usually
did--laugh at almost anything. "They all look alike to me, I
must admit; I never had any truck with 'em."
"No, I guess not," Peaceful agreed in his slow way, holding his
pipe three inches from his face while he eyed Peppajee
quizzically. "Don't pay to have any truck with 'em while you
feel that way about it." He smoothed down his snow-white beard
with his free hand, pushed the pipe-stem between his teeth, and
went on smoking.
"I never liked the breed, any way you look at 'em," Baumberger
"Say, you'll queer yourself good and plenty, if you keep on,"
Wally interrupted bluntly. "Peppajee's ears aren't plugged with
cotton--are they, Jim?"
Neither Peppajee nor Baumberger made reply of any sort, and
Peaceful turned his mild eyes reproachfully toward his untactful
son. But the supper summons clanged insistently from the iron
triangle on the back porch and saved the situation from becoming
too awkward. Even Baumberger let his tilted chair down upon its
four legs with a haste for which his appetite was not alone
responsible, and followed the boys into the house as if he were
glad to escape from the steady, uncompromising stare of the
"Better come and eat, Peppajee," Peaceful lingered upon the porch
to urge hospitably. "You no get mad. You come eat supper."
"No!" Peppajee jerked the word out with unmistakable finality.
"No eat. Bimeby mebbyso makum big talk yo'."
Peaceful studied his face, found it stern and unyielding, and
nodded assent. "All right. I eat, then I talk with you." He
turned somewhat reluctantly and followed the others inside,
leaving Peppajee to pass the time away as pleased him best.
Peppajee stood still for a moment listening to the clatter of
dishes from the kitchen, and then with dignity end deliberation
seated himself upon the lowest step of the porch, and, pulling
his blanket tight around him, resettled his disreputable old
sombrero upon his head and stared fixedly at the crimson glow
which filled all the west and made even the rugged bluff a
wonderful thing of soft, rose tints and shadows of royal purple.
Peaceful, coming out half an hour after with Baumberger at his
heels, found him so and made a movement to sit down beside him.
But Peppajee rose and stalked majestically to the gate, then
turned and confronted the two.
"I talk yo'. Mebbyso no talk Man-with-big-belly." He waited
"All right, Jim." Peaceful turned apologetically toward his
guest. "Something he wants to tell me, Baumberger; kinda
private, I guess. I'll be back in a minute, anyway."
"Now don't mind me at all," Baumberger protested generously. "Go
ahead just as if I wasn't here--that's what'll please me best. I
hope I ain't so much of a stranger you've got to stand on
ceremony. Go on, and find out what the old buck wants; he's got
something on his mind, that's sure. Been stealing fruit, maybe,
and wants to square himself before you catch him at it." He
laughed his laziest, and began leisurely to fill his pipe.
Peppajee led the way to the stable, where he stopped short and
faced Peaceful, his arms folded, one foot thrust forward in the
pose he affected when about to speak of matters important.
"Long time ago, when yo' hair black," he began deliberately, with
a sonorous lingering upon his vowels, "yo' all time my frien'. I
yo' frien' all same. Yo' no likum otha white man. Yo' all time
bueno. Yo' house all same my wikiup. Me come eat at yo' house,
talk yo' all same brotha. Yo' boys all same my boys--all time my
frien'. Me speakum all time no lie, mebbyso."
"No," Peaceful assented unhesitatingly, "you no tell lies,
Peppajee. We good friends, many years."
"Huh! Man-that-catchum-fish, him no yo' frien'. Shont-isham.
All time him speakum lies--tellum frien' yo', no frien'. Yo' no
more tellum stop yo' wikiup. Kay bueno. Yo' thinkum frien'.
All time him have bad heart for yo'. Yo' got ranch. Got plenty
hay, plenty apple, plenty all thing for eat. All time him think
bad for yo'. All time him likum steal yo' ranch."
Peaceful laughed indulgently. "You no sabe," he explained. "Him
like my ranch. Him say, long time ago, pay much money for my
ranch. Me no sell--me like for keep all time. Baumberger good
man. Him no steal my ranch. Me got one paper from government
--you sabe?--one paper say ranch all time b'longum me all same.
Big white chief say ranch b'longum me all time. I die, ranch
b'longum my boys. You sabe?"
Peppajee considered. "Me sabe," he said at length. "Me sabe
paper, sabe ranch all time b'longum yo'. All same, him like for
ketchum yo' ranch. Me hear much talk, him talk Man-that-coughs,
tellum him ketchum ranch. Much white man come, so--" He lifted
one hand with thumb and fingers outspread, made a downward
gesture, and then raised three fingers. "Catchum ranch."
Peaceful shook his head while he smiled. "No can do that.
Mebbyso much men come, heap fight, mebbyso killum me, ranch all
same b'longum my boys. Men that fights go to jail, mebbyso
hangum." He indicated by signs his exact meaning.
Peppajee scowled, and shook his head stubbornly. "Me heap sabe.
All same, ketchum yo' ranch. Man-that-catchum-fish kay bueno.
Yo' thinkum frien', yo' damfool. Him all same rattlesnake.
Plenty foolum yo'. Yo' see. Yo' thinkum Peppajee Jim heap big
fool. Peaceful Hart, him all time one heap big damfool. Him
ketchum yo' ranch. Yo' see." He stopped and stared hard at the
dim bulk of the grove, whence came the faint odor of smoke from
"Yo' be smart man," he added grimly, "yo' all same kickum dat
mans off yo' ranch." For emphasis he thrust out a foot
vigorously in the direction of the house and the man he maligned,
and turned his face toward camp. Peaceful watched until the
blanketed form merged into the dusk creeping over the valley, and
when it disappeared finally into the short cut through the sage,
he shook his gray head in puzzlement over the absurd warning, and
went back to talk politics with Baumberger.
CHAPTER X MIDNIGHT PROWLERS
Came midnight and moonlight together, and with them came also
Good Indian riding somewhat sullenly down the trail to the ranch.
Sullen because of Evadna's attitude, which seemed to him
permanently antagonistic, and for very slight cause, and which
made the ranch an unpleasant abiding place.
He decided that he would not stop at the ranch, but would go on
up the valley to where one Abuer Hicks lived by himself in a
half-dugout, half-board shack, and by mining a little where his
land was untillable, and farming a little where the soil took
kindly to fruit and grasses, managed to exist without too great
hardship. The pension he received for having killed a few of his
fellow-men at the behest of his government was devoted solely to
liquid relief from the monotony of his life, and welcome indeed
was the man who brought him a bottle of joy between times.
Wherefore Good Indian had thoughtfully provided himself with a
quart or so and rode with his mind at ease so far as his welcome
at the Hicks dwelling place was concerned.
Once again the Peaceful Hart ranch lay in brooding silence under
the shadow of the bluff. A few crickets chirped shrilly along
the trail, and from their sudden hush as he drew near marked
unerringly his passing. Along the spring-fed creek the frogs
croaked a tuneless medley before him, and, like the crickets,
stopped abruptly and waited in absolute silence to take up their
night chant again behind him. His horse stepped softly in the
deep sand of the trail, and, when he found that his rider refused
to let him stop at the stable-door, shook his head in mute
displeasure, and went quietly on. As he neared the silent house,
the faint creak of saddle-leather and the rattle of spur-chains
against his iron stirrups were smothered in the whispering of the
treetops in the grove, so that only the quick hushing of night
noises alone betrayed him to any wakeful ear.
He was guilty of staring hard at that corner of the house where
he knew Evadna slept, and of scowling over the vague disquiet
which the thought of her caused him. No girl had ever troubled
his mind before. It annoyed him that the face and voice of
Evadna obtruded, even upon his thoughts of other things.
The grove was quiet, and he could hear Gene's unmistakable snore
over by the pond--the only sound save the whispering of the
trees, which went on, unmindful of his approach. It was evident,
he thought, that the ghost was effectually laid--and on the heels
of that, as he rode out from the deep shade of the grove and on
past the garden to the meadows beyond, he wondered if, after all,
it was again hardily wandering through the night; for he thought
he glimpsed a figure which flitted behind a huge rock a few rods
in advance of him, and his eyes were not used to playing him
He gave a twitch of his fingers upon the reins, and turned from
the trail to investigate. He rode up to the rock, which stood
like an island of shade in that sea of soft moonlight, and,
peering into the shadows, spoke a guarded challenge:
A figure detached itself without sound from the blot of darkness
there, and stood almost at his stirrup.
"Yo' Good Injun--me likum for talk yo'."
Good Indian was conscious of a distinct disappointment, though he
kept it from his voice when he answered:
"Oh, it's you, Peppajee. What you do here? Why you no sleepum
Peppajee held up a slim, brown hand for silence, and afterward
rested it upon the saddle-fork.
"Yo' heap frien' Peaceful. Me heap frien' all same. Mebbyso we
talk. Yo' get down. No can see yo', mebbyso; yo' no likum bad
man for se--" He stepped back a pace, and let Good Indian
dismount; then with a gesture he led him back into the shadow of
"Well, what's the row?" Good Indian asked impatiently, and
curiously as well.
Peppajee spoke more hastily than was usual. "Me watchum
Man-that-catchum-fish. Him hee-eeap kay bueno. Me no sabe why
him walk, walk in night--me heap watchum."
"You mean Baumberger? He's all right. He comes down here to
catchum many fish--trout, up in the Malad, you sabe. Heap friend
Peaceful. You no likum?"
"Kay bueno." Peppajee rested a forefinger upon Good Indian's
arm. "Sun up there," he pointed high in the west. "Me go all
same Hartley. Come stable--Pete stable--me walkum close--no
makum noise. Me hear talk. Stoppum--no can see--me hear much
bad talk. All time me hear, heap likum for steal dis ranch. Me
no sabe"--his tone was doubtful for a space--"all same, me hear
stealum this ranch. Man, you callum--"
"Baumberger?" suggested Grant.
"Him. All same Baumberga, him talk Man-that-coughs. All time
say stealum ranch. Makum much bad talk, them mans. Me come
ranch, me tellum Peaceful, him all time laugh, me. All time
shakum head. Mebbyso thinkum I lie--shont-isham!"
"What more you do?" Good Indian, at least, did not laugh.
"Me go camp. Me thinkum, thinkum all time. Dat man have bad
heart. Kay bueno. No can sleep--thinkum mebbyso do bad for
Peaceful. Come ranch, stop all time dark, all time heap watchum.
Bimeby, mebbyso man--all same yo' callum Baumberga--him come,
look, so--" He indicated, by a great craning of neck in all
directions, the wariness of one who goes by stealth. "Him walk
still all time, go all time ova there." He swept his arm toward
the meadows. "Me go still, for watchum. Yo' come, mebbyso make
heap much noise--kay bueno. Dat mans, him hear, him heap scare.
Me tellum, yo' mebbyso go still." He folded his arms with a
gesture of finality, and stood statue-like in the deep gloom
beside the rock.
Good Indian fingered his horse's mane while he considered the
queer story. There must be something in it, he thought, to bring
Peppajee from his blankets at midnight and to impel him,
unfriendly as he usually seemed, to confide his worry to him at
once and without urging. And yet, to steal the Peaceful Hart
ranch--the idea was ludicrous. Still, there was no harm in
looking around a bit. He sought a sagebrush that suited his
purpose, tied his horse to it, stooped, and took tho clanking
Mexican spurs from his heels, and touched Peppajee on the
"All right," he murmured close to his ear, "we go see."
Without a word, Peppajee turned, and stole away toward the
meadows, keeping always in the shadow of rock or bush,
silent-footed as a prowling bobcat. Close behind him, not quite
so silent because of his riding-boots, which would strike now and
then upon a rock, however careful he was of his footing, went
So they circled the meadow, came into sand and sage beyond,
sought there unavailingly, went on to the orchard, and skirted
it, keen of eye and ear, struck quietly through it, and came at
last to the place where, the night before, Grant had overtaken
Evadna--and it surprised him not a little to feel his heart
pounding unreasonably against his ribs when he stopped beside the
rock where they had sat and quarreled.
Peppajee looked back to see why Grant paused there, and then,
wrapping his blanket tightly around him, crawled through the
fence, and went on, keeping to the broad belt of shade cast upon
the ground by the row of poplars. Where the shade stopped
abruptly, and beyond lay white moonlight with the ranch buildings
blotching it here and there, he stopped and waited until Good
Indian stood close beside him. Even then he did not speak, but,
freeing an arm slowly from the blanket folds, pointed toward the
Grant looked, saw nothing, stared harder, and so; feeling sure
there must be something hidden there, presently believed that a
bit of the shadow at that end which was next the corral wavered,
stopped, and then moved unmistakably. All the front of the
stable was distinctly visible in the white light, and, while they
looked, something flitted across it, and disappeared among the
sage beyond the trail.
Again they waited; two minutes, three minutes, five. Then
another shadow detached itself slowly from the shade of the
stable, hesitated, walked out boldly, and crossed the white sand
on the path to the house. Baumberger it was, and he stopped
midway to light his pipe, and so, puffing luxuriously, went on
into the blackness of the grove.
They heard him step softly upon the porch, heard also the bovine
sigh with which he settled himself in the armchair there. They
caught the aromatic odor of tobacco smoke ascending, and knew
that his presence there had all at once become the most innocent,
the most natural thing in the world; for any man, waking on such
a night, needs no justification for smoking a nocturnal pipe upon
the porch while he gazes dreamily out upon the moon-bathed world
Peppajee touched Grant's arm, and turned back, skirting the
poplars again until they were well away from the house, and there
was no possibility of being heard. He stopped there, and
confronted the other.
"What for you no stoppum stable?" he questioned bluntly. "What
for you no stoppum ranch, for sleepum?"
"I go for stoppum Hicks' ranch," said Good Indian, without any
attempt at equivocation.
Peppajee grunted." What for yo' no stoppum all same Peaceful?"
Good Indian scorned a subterfuge, and spoke truly. "That girl,
Evadna, no likum me. All time mad me. So I no stoppum ranch, no
Peppajee grinned briefly and understandingly, and nodded his
head. "Me heap sabe. Yo' all time heap like for catchum that
girl, be yo' squaw. Bimeby that girl heap likum yo'. Me sabe."
He stood a moment staring at the stars peeping down from above
the rim-rock which guarded the bluff. "All same, yo' no go
stoppum Hicks," he commanded. "Yo' stoppum dis ranch all time.
Yo' all time watchum man--yo' callum Baumberga." He seemed to
remember and speak the name with some difficulty. "Where him go,
yo' go, for heap watchum. All time mebbyso me watchum
Man-that-coughs. Me no sabe catchum ranch--all same, me watchum.
Them mans heap kay bueno. Yo' bet yo' life!"
A moment he stood there after he was through speaking, and then
he was not there. Good Indian did not hear him go, though he had
stood beside him; neither could he, catching sight of a wavering
shadow, say positively that there went Peppajee.
He waited for a space, stole back to where he could hear any
sound from the porch even if he could not see, and when he was
certain that Baumberger had gone back to his bed, he got his
horse, took him by a roundabout way to the stable, and himself
slept in a haystack. At least, he made himself a soft place
beside one, and lay there until the sun rose, and if he did not
sleep it was not his fault, for he tried hard enough.
That is how Good Indian came to take his usual place at the
breakfast table, and to touch elbows with Evadna and to greet her
with punctilious politeness and nothing more. That is why he got
out his fishing-tackle and announced that he thought he would
have a try at some trout himself, and so left the ranch not much
behind Baumberger. That is why he patiently whipped the Malad
riffles until he came up with the portly lawyer from Shoshone,
and found him gleeful over a full basket and bubbling with
innocent details of this gamy one and that one still gamier.
They rode home together, and together they spent the hot
afternoon in the cool depths of the grove.
By sundown Good Indian was ready to call himself a fool and
Peppajee Jim a meddlesome, visionary old idiot. Steal the
Peaceful Hart ranch? The more he thought of it, the more
ridiculous the thing seemed.
"YOU CAN'T PLAY WITH ME"
Good Indian was young, which means that he was not always
logical, nor much given to looking very far into the future
except as he was personally concerned in what he might see there.
By the time Sunday brought Miss Georgie Howard and the stir of
preparation for the fishing trip, he forgot that he had taken
upon himself the responsibility of watching the obviously
harmless movements of Baumberger, or had taken seriously the
warnings of Peppajee Jim; or if he did not forget, he at least
pushed it far into the background of his mind with the assertion
that Peppajee was a meddlesome old fool and Baumberger no more
designing than he appeared--which was not at all.
What did interest him that morning was the changeful mood of
Evadna; though he kept his interest so well hidden that no one
suspected it--not even the young lady herself. It is possible
that if Evadna had known that Good Indian's attitude of calm
oblivion to her moods was only a mask, she might have continued
longer her rigorous discipline of averted face and frigid tones.
As it was, she thawed toward him as he held himself more aloof,
until she actually came to the point of addressing him directly,
with a flicker of a smile for good measure; and, although he
responded with stiff civility, he felt his blood pulse faster,
and suddenly conceived the idea that women are like the creatures
of the wild. If one is very quiet, and makes no advance
whatever, the hunted thing comes closer and closer, and then a
sudden pounce--he caught his breath. After that he was wary and
watchful and full of his purpose.
Within ten minutes Evadna walked into the trap. They had
started, and were fifty yards up the trail, when Phoebe shouted
frantically after them. And because she was yet a timid rider
and feared to keep the pace set by the others, it was Evadna who
heard and turned back to see what was the trouble. Aunt Phoebe
was standing beside the road, waving a flask.
"It's the cream for your coffee," she cried, going to meet
Evadna. "You can slip it into your jacket-pocket, can't you,
honey? Huckleberry is so steady--and you won't do any wild
riding like the boys."
"I've got my veil and a box of bait and two handkerchiefs and a
piece of soap," the girl complained, reaching down for the
bottle, nevertheless. "But I can carry it in my hand till I
overtake somebody to give it to."
The somebody proved to be Good Indian, who had found it necessary
to stop and inspect carefully the left forefoot of his horse,
without appearing aware of the girl's approach. She ambled up at
Huckleberry's favorite shuffling gait, struck him with her
whip--a blow which would not have perturbed a mosquito--when he
showed a disposition to stop beside Grant, and then, when
Huckleberry reluctantly resumed his pacing, pulled him up, and
looked back at the figure stooped over the hoof he held upon his
knee. He was digging into the caked dirt inside the hoof with
his pocketknife, and, though Evadna waited while she might have
spoken a dozen words, he paid not the slightest attention--and
that in spite of the distinct shadow of her head and shoulders
which lay at his feet.
"Oh--Grant," she began perfunctorily, "I'm sorry to trouble
you--but do you happen to have an empty pocket?"
Good Indian gave a final scrape with his knife, and released the
foot, which Keno immediately stamped pettishly into the dust. He
closed the knife, after wiping the blade upon his trousers leg,
and returned it to his pocket before he so much as glanced toward
"I may have. Why?" He picked up the bridle-reins, caught the
saddle-horn, and thrust his toe into the stirrup. From under his
hat-brim he saw that she was pinching her under lip between her
teeth, and the sight raised his spirits considerably.
"Oh, nothing. Aunt Phoebe called me back, and gave me a bottle
of cream, is all. I shall have to carry it in my hand, I
suppose." She twitched her shoulders, and started Huckleberry
off again. She had called him Grant, instead of the formal Mr.
Imsen she had heretofore clung to, and he had not seemed to
notice it even.
He mounted with perfectly maddening deliberation, but for all
that he overtook her before she had gone farther than a few rods,
and he pulled up beside her with a decision which caused
Huckleberry to stop also; Huckleberry, it must be confessed, was
never known to show any reluctance in that direction when his
head was turned away from home. He stood perfectly still while
Good Indian reached out a hand.
"I'll carry it--I'm more used to packing bottles," he announced
"Oh, but if you must carry it in your hand, I wouldn't dream
of--" She was holding fast the bottle, and trying to wear her
Good Indian laid hold of the flask, and they stood there
stubbornly eying each other.
"I thought you wanted me to carry it," he said at last, pulling
"I merely asked if you had an empty pocket." Evadna clung the
"Now, what's the use--"
"Just what I was thinking!" Evadna was so impolite as to
Good Indian was not skilled in the management of women, but he
knew horses, and to his decision he added an amendment.
Instinctively he followed the method taught him by experience,
and when he fancied he saw in her eyes a sign of weakening, he
followed up the advantage he had gained.
"Let go--because I'm going to have it anyway, now," he said
quietly, and took the flask gently from her hands. Then he
smiled at her for yielding, and his smile was a revelation to the
girl, and brought the blood surging up to her face. She rode
meekly beside him at the pace he himself set--which was not
rapid, by any means. He watched her with quick, sidelong
glances, and wondered whether he would dare say what he wanted to
say--or at least a part of it.
She was gazing with a good deal of perseverance at the trail,
down the windings of which the others could be seen now and then
galloping through the dust, so that their progress was marked
always by a smothering cloud of gray. Then she looked at Grant
unexpectedly, met one of his sharp glances, and flushed hotly
"How about this business of hating each other, and not speaking
except to please Aunt Phoebe?" he demanded, with a suddenness
which startled himself. He had been thinking it, but he hadn't
intended to say it until the words spoke themselves. "Are we
supposed to keep on acting the fool indefinitely?"
"I was not aware that I, at least, was acting the fool," she
retorted, with a washed-out primness.
"Oh, I can't fight the air, and I'm not going to try. What I've
got to say, I prefer to say straight from the shoulder. I'm sick
of this standing off and giving each other the bad eye over
nothing. If we're going to stay on the same ranch, we might as
well be friends. What do you say?"
For a time he thought she was not going to say anything. She was
staring at the dust-cloud ahead, and chewing absently at the
corner of her under lip, and she kept it up so long that Good
Indian began to scowl and call himself unseemly names for making
any overture whatever. But, just as he turned toward her with
lips half opened for a bitter sentence, he saw a dimple appear in
the cheek next to him, and held back the words.
"You told me you didn't like me," she reminded, looking at him
briefly, and afterward fumbling her reins. "You can't expect a
"I suppose you don't remember coming up to me that first night,
and calling me names, and telling me how you hated me, and--and
winding up by pinching me?" he insinuated with hypocritical
reproach, and felt of his arm. "If you could see the mark--" he
Evadna replied by pushing up her sleeve and displaying a scratch
at least an inch in length, and still roughened and red. "I
suppose you don't remember trying to MURDER me?" she inquired,
sweetly triumphant. "If you could shoot as well as Jack, I'd
have been killed very likely. And you'd be in jail this minute,"
she added, with virtuous solemnity.
"But you're not killed, and I'm not in jail."
"And I haven't told a living soul about it--not even Aunt
Phoebe," Evadna remarked, still painfully virtuous. "If I had--"
"She'd have wondered, maybe, what you were doing away down there
in the middle of the night," Good Indian finished. "I didn't
tell a soul, either, for that matter."
They left the meadowland and the broad stretch of barren sand and
sage, and followed, at a leisurely pace, the winding of the trail
through the scarred desolation where the earth had been washed
for gold. Evadna stared absently at the network of deep gashes,
evidently meditating very seriously. Finally she turned to
Grant with an honest impulse of friendliness.
"Well, I'm sure I'm willing to bury the tomahawk--er--that is, I
mean--" She blushed hotly at the slip, and stammered
"Never mind." His eyes laughed at her confusion. "I'm not as
bad as all that; it doesn't hurt my feelings to have tomahawks
mentioned in my presence."
Her cheeks grew redder, if that were possible, but she made no
attempt to finish what she had started to say.
Good Indian rode silent, watching her unobtrusively and wishing
he knew how to bring the conversation by the most undeviating
path to a certain much-desired conclusion. After all, she was
not a wild thing, but a human being, and he hesitated. In
dealing with men, he had but one method, which was to go straight
to the point regardless of consequences. So he half turned in
the saddle and rode with one foot free of the stirrup that he
might face her squarely.
"You say you're willing to bury the tomahawk; do you mean it?"
His eyes sought hers, and when they met her glance held it in
spite of her blushes, which indeed puzzled him. But she did not
answer immediately, and so he repeated the question.
"Do you mean that? We've been digging into each other pretty
industriously, and saying how we hate each other--but are you
willing to drop it and be friends? It's for you to say--and
you've got to say it now."
Evadna hung up her head at that. "Are you in the habit of laying
down the law to everyone who will permit it?" she evaded.
"Am I to take it for granted you meant what you said?" He stuck
stubbornly to the main issue. "Girls seem to have a way of
saying things, whether they mean anything or not. Did you?"
"Did I what?" She was wide-eyed innocence again.
Good Indian muttered something profane, and kicked his horse in
the ribs. When it had taken no more than two leaps forward,
however, he pulled it down to a walk again, and his eyes boded
ill for the misguided person who goaded him further. He glanced
at the girl sharply.
"This thing has got to be settled right now, without any more
fooling or beating about the bush," he said--and he said it so
quietly that she could scarcely be blamed for not realizing what
lay beneath. She was beginning to recover her spirits and her
composure, and her whole attitude had become demurely impish.
"Settle it then, why don't you?" she taunted sweetly. "I'm sure
I haven't the faintest idea what there is to settle--in that
solemn manner. I only know we're a mile behind the others, and
Miss Georgie will be wondering--"
"You say I'm to settle it, the way I want it settled?"
If Evadna did not intend anything serious, she certainly was a
fool not to read aright his ominously calm tone and his tensely
quiet manner. She must have had some experience in coquetry, but
it is very likely that she had never met a man just like this
one. At all events, she tilted her blonde head, smiled at him
daringly, and then made a little grimace meant to signify her
defiance of him and his unwarranted earnestness.
Good Indian leaned unexpectedly, caught her in his arms, and
kissed her three times upon her teasing, smiling mouth, and while
she was gasping for words to voice her amazement he drew back his
head, and gazed sternly into her frightened eyes.
"You can't play with ME," he muttered savagely, and kissed her
again. "This is how I settle it. You've made me want you for
mine. It's got to be love or--hate now. There isn't anything
between, for me and you." His eyes passed hungrily from her
quivering lips to her eyes, and the glow within his own made her
breath come faster. She struggled weakly to free herself, and
his clasp only tightened jealously.
"If you had hated me, you wouldn't have stopped back there, and
spoken to me," he said, the words coming in a rush. "Women like
to play with love, I think. But you can't play with me. I want
you. And I'm going to have you. Unless you hate me. But you
don't. I'd stake my life on it." And he kissed her again.
Evadna reached up, felt for her hat, and began pulling it
straight, and Good Indian, recalled to himself by the action,
released her with manifest reluctance. He felt then that he
ought never to let her go out of his arms; it was the only way,
it seemed to him, that he could be sure of her. Evadna found
words to express her thoughts, and her thoughts were as wholly
conventional as was the impulse to straighten her hat.
"We've only known each other a week!" she cried tremulously,
while her gloved fingers felt inquiringly for loosened hairpins.
"You've no right--you're perfectly horrid! You take everything
Good Indian laughed at her, a laugh of pure, elemental joy in
life and in love.
"A man's heart does not beat by the calendar. Nature made the
heart to beat with love, ages before man measured time, and
prattled of hours and days and weeks," he retorted. "I'm not the
same man I was a week ago. Nor an hour ago. What does it matter
~ I am--the man I am NOW." He looked at her more calmly. "An
hour ago," he pointed out, "I didn't dream I should kiss you.
Nor you, that you would let me do it."
"I didn't! I couldn't help myself. You--oh, I never saw such
a--a brute!" The tears in her eyes were, perhaps, tears of rage
at the swiftness with which he had mastered the situation and
turned it in a breath from the safe channel of petty argument.
She struck Huckleberry a blow with her whip which sent that
astonished animal galloping down the slope before them, his ears
laid back and his white eyelashes blinking resentment against the
Good Indian laughed aloud, spurred Keno into a run, and passed
her with a scurry of dust, a flash of white teeth and laughing
black eyes, and a wave of his free hand in adieu. He was still
laughing when he overtook the others, passed by the main group,
and singled out Jack, his particular chum. He refused to explain
either his hurry or his mirth further than to fling out a vague
sentence about a race, and thereafter he ambled contentedly along
beside Jack in the lead, and told how he had won a hundred and
sixty dollars in a crap game the last time he was in Shoshone,
and how he had kept on until he had "quit ten dollars in the
hole." The rest of the boys, catching a few words here and
there, crowded close, and left the two girls to themselves, while
Good Indian recounted in detail the fluctuations of the game;
how he had seesawed for an hour, winning and losing alternately;
and how his luck had changed suddenly just when he had made up
his mind to play a five-dollar gold piece he had in his hand and
"I threw naturals three times in succession," he said, "and let
my bets ride. Then I got Big Dick, made good, and threw another
natural. I was seeing those Spanish spurs and that peach of a
headstall in Fernando's by that time; seeing them on Keno and
me--they're in the window yet, Jack, and I went in when I first
hit town and looked them over and priced them; a hundred and
fifty, just about what we guessed he'd hold them at. And say,
those conchos--you remember the size of 'em, Jack?--they're solid
silver, hammered out and engraved by hand. Those Mexicans sure
do turn out some fine work on their silver fixings!" He felt in
his pocket for a match.
"Pity I didn't let well enough alone," he went on. "I had the
price of the outfit, and ten dollars over. But then I got
hoggish. I thought I stood a good chance of making seven lucky
passes straight--I did once, and I never got over it, I guess. I
was going to pinch down to ten--but I didn't; I let her ride.
And SHOT CRAPS!"
He drew the match along the stamped saddle-skirt behind the
cantle, because that gave him a chance to steal a look behind him
without being caught in the act. Good, wide hat-brims have more
uses than to shield one's face from the sun. He saw that Evadna
was riding in what looked like a sulky silence beside her friend,
but he felt no compunction for what he had done; instead he was
exhilarated as with some heady wine, and he did not want to do
any thinking about it--yet. He did not even want to be near
Evadna. He faced to the front, and lighted his cigarette while
he listened to the sympathetic chorus from the boys.
"What did you do then?" asked Gene.
"Well, I'd lost the whole blamed chunk on a pair of measly aces,"
he said. "I was pretty sore by that time, I'm telling you! I was
down to ten dollars, but I started right in to bring back that
hundred and sixty. Funny, but I felt exactly as if somebody had
stolen that headstall and spurs right out of my hand, and I just
had to get it back pronto. I started in with a dollar, lost it
on craps--sixes, that time--sent another one down the same trail
trying to make Little Joe come again, third went on craps, fourth
I doubled on nine, lost 'em both on craps--say, I never looked so
many aces and sixes in the face in my life! It was sure kay
bueno, the luck I had that night. I got up broke, and had to
strike Riley for money to get out of town with."
So for a time he managed to avoid facing squarely this new and
very important factor which must henceforth have its place in the
problem of his life.
"THEM DAMN SNAKE"
Three hundred yards up the river, in the shade of a huge bowlder,
round an end of which the water hurried in a green swirl that it
might the sooner lie quiet in the deep, dark pool below, Good
Indian, picking his solitary way over the loose rocks, came
unexpectedly upon Baumberger, his heavy pipe sagging a corner of
his flabby mouth, while he painstakingly detached a fly from his
leader, hooked it into the proper compartment of his fly-book,
and hesitated over his selection of another to take its place.
Absorption was writ deep on his gross countenance, and he
recognized the intruder by the briefest of flickering glances and
the slightest of nods.
"Keep back from that hole, will yuh?" he muttered, jerking his
head toward the still pool. "I ain't tried it yet."
Good Indian was not particularly interested in his own fishing.
The sight of Baumberger, bulking there in the shade with his
sagging cheeks and sagging pipe, his flopping old hat and baggy
canvas fishing-coat, with his battered basket slung over his
slouching shoulder and sagging with the weight of his catch; the
sloppy wrinkles of his high, rubber boots shining blackly from
recent immersion in the stream, caught his errant attention, and
stayed him for a few minutes to watch.
Loosely disreputable looked Lawyer Baumberger, from the snagged
hole in his hat-crown where a wisp of graying hair fluttered
through, to the toes of his ungainly, rubber-clad feet; loosely
disreputable, but not commonplace and not incompetent. Though
his speech might be a slovenly mumble, there was no purposeless
fumbling of the fingers that chose a fly and knotted it fast upon
the leader. There was no bungling movement of hand or foot when
he laid his pipe upon the rock, tiptoed around the corner, sent a
mechanical glance upward toward the swaying branches of an
overhanging tree, pulled out his six feet of silk line with a
sweep of his arm, and with a delicate fillip, sent the fly
skittering over the glassy center of the pool.
Good Indian, looking at him, felt instinctively that a part, at
least, of the man's nature was nakedly revealed to him then. It
seemed scarcely fair to read the lust of him and the utter
abandonment to the hazard of the game. Pitiless he looked, with
clenched teeth just showing between the loose lips drawn back in
a grin that was half-snarl, half-involuntary contraction of
muscles sympathetically tense.
That was when a shimmering thing slithered up, snapped at the
fly, and flashed away to the tune of singing reel and the dance
of the swaying rod. The man grew suddenly cruel and crafty and
full of lust; and Good Indian, watching him, was conscious of an
inward shudder of repulsion. He had fished all his life--had
Good Indian--and had found joy in the sport. And here was he
inwardly condemning a sportsman who stood self-revealed,
repelling, hateful; a man who gloated over the struggle of
something alive and at his mercy; to whom sport meant power
indulged with impunity. Good Indian did not try to put the thing
in words, but he felt it nevertheless.
"Brute!" he muttered aloud, his face eloquent of cold disgust.
At that moment Baumberger drew the tired fish gently into the
shallows, swung him deftly upon the rocks, and laid hold of him
"Ain't he a beaut?" he cried, in his wheezy chuckle. "Wait a
minute while I weigh him. He'll go over a pound, I'll bet money
on it." Gloatingly he held it in his hands, removed the hook,
and inserted under the gills the larger one of the little scales
he carried inside his basket.
"Pound and four ounces," he announced, and slid the fish into his
basket. He was the ordinary, good-natured, gross Baumberger now.
Ho reached for his pipe, placed it in his mouth, and held out a
hand to Good Indian for a match.
"Say, young fella, have you got any stand-in with your noble red
brothers?" he asked, after he had sucked life into the charred
"Cousins twice or three times removed, you mean," said Good
Indian coldly, too proud and too lately repelled to meet the man
on friendly ground. "Why do you ask?"
Baumberger eyed him speculatively while he smoked, and chuckled
"One of 'em--never mind placing him on his own p'ticular limb of
the family tree--has been doggin' me all morning," he said at
last, and waved a fishy hand toward the bluff which towered high
above them. "Saw him when I was comin' up, about sunrise, pokin'
along behind me in the sagebrush. Didn't think anything of
that--thought maybe he was hunting or going fishing--but he's
been sneakin' around behind me ever since. I don't reckon he's
after my scalp--not enough hair to pay--but I'd like to know what
the dickens he does mean."
"Nothing probably," Good Indian told him shortly, his eyes
nevertheless searching the rocks for a sight of the watcher.
"Well, I don't much like the idea," complained Baumberger,
casting an eye aloft in fear of snagging his line when he made
another cast. "He was right up there a few minutes ago." He
pointed his rod toward a sun-ridden ridge above them. "I got a
flicker of his green blanket when he raised up and scowled down
at me. He ducked when he saw me turn my head--looked to me like
the surly buck that blew in to the ranch the night I came; Jim
something-or-other. By the great immortal Jehosaphat!" he swore
humorously, "I'd like to tie him up in his dirty blanket and
heave him into the river--only it would kill all the fish in the
Good Indian laughed.
"Oh, I know it's funny, young fella," Baumberger growled. "About
as funny as being pestered by a mosquito buzzing under your nose
when you're playing a fish that keeps cuttin' figure eights in a
hole the size uh that one there."
"I'll go up and take a look," Good Indian offered carelessly.
"Well, I wish you would. I can't keep my mind on m'
fishing--just wondering what the deuce he's after. And say! You
tell him I'll stand him on his off ear if I catch him doggie' me
ag'in. Folks come with yuh?" he remembered to ask as he prepared
for another cast into the pool.
"They're down there getting a campfire built, ready to fry what
fish they catch," Good Indian informed him, as he turned to climb
the bluff. "They're going to eat dinner under that big ledge by
the rapids. You better go on down."
He stood for a minute, and watched Baumberger make a dexterous
cast, which proved fruitless, before he began climbing up the
steep slope of jumbled bowlders upon which the bluff itself
seemed to rest. He was not particularly interested in his quest,
but he was in the mood for purposeless action; he still did not
want to think.
He climbed negligently, scattering loose rocks down the hill
behind him. He had no expectation of coming upon
Peppajee--unless Peppajee deliberately put himself in his
way--and so there was no need of caution. He stopped once, and
stood long minutes with his head turned to catch the faint sound
of high-keyed laughter and talk which drifted up to him. If he
went higher, he thought, he might get a glimpse of them--of her,
to tell his thought honestly. Whereupon he forgot all about
finding and expostulating with Peppajee, and thought only a point
of the ridge which would give him a clear view downstream.
To be sure, he might as easily have retraced his steps and joined
the group, and seen every changing look in her face. But he did
not want to be near her when others were by; he wanted her to
himself, or not at all. So he went on, while the sun beat hotly
down upon him and the rocks sent up dry waves of heat like an
A rattlesnake buzzed its strident warning between two rocks, but
before he turned his attention to the business of killing it, the
snake had crawled leisurely away into a cleft, where he could not
reach it with the stones he threw. His thoughts, however, were
brought back to his surroundings so that he remembered Peppajee.
He stood still, and scanned carefully the jumble of rocks and
bowlders which sloped steeply down to the river, looking for a
betraying bit of color or dirty gray hat-crown.
"But I could look my eyes out and welcome, if he didn't want to
be seen," he concluded, and sat down while he rolled a cigarette.
"And I don't know as I want to see him, anyway." Still, he did
not move immediately. He was in the shade, which was a matter
for congratulation on such a day. He had a cigarette between his
lips, which made for comfort; and he still felt the exhilarating
effects of his unpremeditated boldness, without having come to
the point of sober thinking. He sat there, and blew occasional
mouthfuls of smoke into the quivering heat waves, and stared down
at the river rushing over the impeding rocks as if its very
existence depended upon reaching as soon as possible the broader
sweep of the Snake.
He finished the first cigarette, and rolled another from sheer
force of habit rather than because he really wanted one. He
lifted one foot, and laid it across his knee, and was drawing a
match along the sole of his boot when his eyes chanced to rest
for a moment upon a flutter of green, which showed briefly around
the corner of a great square rock poised insecurely upon one
corner, as if it were about to hurl its great bulk down upon the
river it had watched so long. He held the blazing match poised
midway to its destination while he looked; then he put it to the
use he had meant it for, pulled his hat-brim down over his right
eye and ear to shield them from the burn of the sun, and went
picking his way idly over to the place.
"HUL-lo!" he greeted, in the manner of one who refuses to
acknowledge the seriousness of a situation which confronts him
suddenly. "What's the excitement?"
There was no excitement whatever. There was Peppajee, hunched up
against the rock in that uncomfortable attitude which permits a
man to come at the most intimate relations with the outside of
his own ankle, upon which he was scowling in seeming malignity.
There was his hunting-knife lying upon a flat stone near to his
hand, with a fresh red blotch upon the blade, and there was his
little stone pipe clenched between his teeth and glowing red
within the bowl. Also there was the ankle, purple and swollen
from the ligature above it--for his legging was off and torn into
strips which formed a bandage, and a splinter of rock was twisted
ingeniously in the wrappings for added tightness. From a
crisscross of gashes a sluggish, red stream trickled down to the
ankle-bone, and from there drip-dropped into a tiny, red pool in
the barren, yellow soil.
"Catchum rattlesnake bite?" queried Good Indian inanely, as is
the habit of the onlooker when the scene shouts forth eloquently
its explanation, and questions are almost insultingly
"Huh!" grunted Peppajee, disdaining further speech upon the
subject, and regarded sourly the red drip.
"Want me to suck it?" ventured Good Indian unenthusiastically,
eying the wound.
"Huh!" Peppajee removed the pipe, his eyes still upon his ankle.
"Plenty blood come, mebbyso." To make sure, however, he kneaded
the swollen flesh about the wound, thus accelerating slightly
the red drip.
Then deliberately he took another turn with the rock, sending the
buckskin thongs deeper into the flesh, and held the burning pipe
against the skin above the wound until Good Indian sickened and
turned away his head. When he looked again, Peppajee was sucking
hard at the pipe, and gazing impersonally at the place. He bent
again, and hid the glow of his pipe against his ankle. His thin
lips tightened while he held it there, but the lean, brown
fingers were firm as splinters of the rock behind him. When the
fire cooled, he fanned it to life again with his breath, and when
it winked redly at him he laid it grimly against his flesh.
So, while Good Indian stood and looked on with lips as tightly
drawn as the other's, he seared a circle around the wound--a
circle which bit deep and drew apart the gashes like lips opened
for protest. He regarded critically his handiwork, muttered a
"Bueno" under his breath, knocked the ashes from his pipe, and
returned it to some mysterious hiding-place beneath his blanket.
Then he picked up his moccasin.
"Them damn' snake, him no speakum," he observed disgustedly.
"Heap fool me; him biteum"--he made a stabbing gesture with thumb
and finger in the air by way of illustration--"then him go
quick." He began gingerly trying to force the moccasin upon his
foot, his mouth drawn down with the look of one who considers
that he has been hardly used.
"How you get home?" Good Indian's thoughts swung round to
practical things. "You got horse?"
Peppajee shook his head, reached for his knife, and slit the
moccasin till it was no more than a wrapping. "Mebbyso heap
walk," he stated simply.
"Mebbyso you won't do anything of the kind," Good Indian
retorted. "You come down and take a horse. What for you all
time watchum Baumberger?" he added, remembering then what had
brought them both upon the bluff. "Baumberger all time fish--no
more." He waved his hand toward the Malad. "Baumberger
bueno--catchum fish--no more."
Peppajee got slowly and painfully upon his feet--rather, upon one
foot. When Good Indian held out a steadying arm, he accepted it,
and leaned rather heavily.
"Yo' eyes sick," said Peppajee, and grinned sardonically. "Yo'
eyes see all time Squaw-with-sun-hair. Fillum yo' eyes, yo' see
notting. Yo' catchum squaw, bimeby mebbyso see plenty mo'. Me
no catchum sick eye. Mebbyso me see heap plenty."
"What you see, you all time watchum Baumberger?"
But Peppajee, hobbling where he must walk, crawling where he
might, sliding carefully where a slanting bowlder offered a few
feet of smooth descent, and taking hold of Good Indian's offered
arm when necessity impelled him, pressed his thin lips together,
and refused to answer. So they came at last to the ledge beside
the rapids, where a thin wisp of smoke waved lazily in the
vagrant breeze which played with the ripples and swayed languidly
the smaller branches of the nearby trees.
Only Donny was there, sitting disgruntled upon the most
comfortable rock he could find, sulking because the others had
taken all the fishing-tackle that was of any account, and had
left him to make shift with one bent, dulled hook, a lump of fat
pork, and a dozen feet of line.
"And I can catch more fish than anybody in the bunch!" he began
complainingly and without preface, waving a dirty hand
contemptuously at the despised tackle when the two came slowly
up. "That's the way it goes when you take a lot of girls along!
They've got to have the best rods and tackle, and all they'll do
will be to snag lines and lose leaders and hooks, and giggle alla
squeal. Aw--DARN girls!"
"And I'm going to pile it on still thicker, Donny!" Good Indian
grinned down at him. "I'm going to swipe your Pirate Chief for a
while, till I take Peppajee into camp. He's gentle, and
Peppajee's got a snake-bite. I'll be back before you get ready
to go home."
"I'm ready to go home right now," growled Donny, sinking his chin
between his two palms. "But I guess the walkin' ain't all taken
Good Indian regarded him frowningly, gave a little snort, and
turned away. Donny in that mood was not to be easily placated,
and certainly not to be ignored. He went over to the little
flat, and selected Jack's horse, saddled him, and discovered that
it had certain well-defined race prejudices, and would not let
Peppajee put foot to the stirrup. Keno he knew would be no more
tractable, so that he finally slapped Jack's saddle on
Huckleberry, and so got Peppajee mounted and headed toward camp.
"You tell Jack I borrowed his saddle and Huckleberry," he called
out to the drooping little figure on the rock. "But I'll get
back before they want to go home."
But Donny was glooming over his wrongs, and neither heard nor
wanted to hear. Having for his legacy a temper cumulative in its
heat, he was coming rapidly to the point where he, too, started
home, and left no word or message behind; a trivial enough
incident in itself, but one which opened the way for some
misunderstanding and fruitless speculation upon the part of
CLOUD-SIGN VERSUS CUPID
Few men are ever called upon by untoward circumstance to know the
sensations caused by rattlesnake bite, knife gashes, impromptu
cauterization, and, topping the whole, the peculiar torture of
congested veins and swollen muscles which comes from a
tourniquet. The feeling must be unpleasant in the extreme, and
the most morbid of sensation-seekers would scarcely put himself
in the way of that particular experience.
Peppajee Jim, therefore, had reason in plenty for glowering at
the world as he saw it that day. He held Huckleberry rigidly
down to his laziest amble that the jar of riding might be
lessened, kept his injured foot free from the stirrup, and merely
grunted when Good Indian asked him once how he felt.
When they reached the desolation of the old placer-pits, however,
he turned his eyes from the trail where it showed just over
Huckleberry's ears, and regarded sourly the deep gashes and
dislodged bowlders which told where water and the greed of man
for gold had raged fiercest. Then, for the first time during the
whole ride, he spoke.
"All time, yo' sleepum," he said, in the sonorous, oracular tone
which he usually employed when a subject held his serious
thought. "Peaceful Hart, him all same sleepum. All same sleepum
'longside snake. No seeum snake, no thinkum mebbyso catchum
bite." He glanced down at his own snake-bitten foot. "Snake
bite, make all time much hurt." His eyes turned, and dwelt
sharply upon the face of Good Indian.
"Yo' all time thinkum Squaw-with-sun-hair. Me tell yo' for
watchum, yo' no think for watchum. Baumberga, him all same
snake. Yo' think him all time catchum fish. HUH! Yo' heap big
fool, yo' thinkum cat. Rattlesnake, mebbyso sleepum in sun one
time. Yo' no thinkum bueno, yo' seeum sleep in sun. Yo' heap
sabe him all time kay bueno jus' same. Yo' heap sabe yo' come
close, him biteum. Mebbyso biteum hard, for killum yo' all
time." He paused, then drove home his point like the true
orator. "Baumberga catchum fish. All same rattlesnake sleepum
in sun. Kay bueno."
Good Indian jerked his mind back from delicious recollection of
one sweet, swift-passing minute, and half opened his lips for
reply. But he did not speak; he did not know what to say, and it
is ill-spent time--that passed in purposeless speech with such as
Peppajee. Peppajee roused himself from meditation brief as it
seemed deep, lifted a lean, brown hand to push back from his eyes
a fallen lock of hair, and pointed straight away to the west.
"Las' night, sun go sleepum. Clouds come all same blanket, sun
wrappum in blanket. Cloud look heap mad--mebbyso make much
storm. Bimeby much mens come in cloud, stand so--and so--and
so." With pointing finger he indicated a half circle. "Otha man
come, heap big man. Stoppum 'way off, all time makeum sign, for
fight. Me watchum. Me set by fire, watchum cloud makeum sign.
Fire smoke look up for say, 'What yo' do all time, mebbyso?'
Cloud man shakeum hand, makeum much sign. Fire smoke heap sad,
bend down far, lookum me, lookum where cloud look. All time
lookum for Peaceful Hart ranch. Me lay down for sleepum, me
dream all time much fight. All time bad sign come. Kay bueno."
Peppajee shook his head slowly, his leathery face set in deep,
"Much trouble come heap quick," he said gravely, hitching his
blanket into place upon his shoulder. "Me no sabe--all same,
heap trouble come. Much mens, mebbyso much fight, much
shootum--mebbyso kill. Peaceful Hart him all time laugh me. All
same, me sabe smoke sign, sabe cloud sign, sabe--Baumberga. Heap
Good Indian's memory dashed upon him a picture of bright
moonlight and the broody silence of a night half gone, and of a
figure forming sharply and suddenly from the black shadow of the
stable and stealing away into the sage, and of Baumberger
emerging warily from that same shadow and stopping to light his
pipe before he strolled on to the house and to the armchair upon
There might be a sinister meaning in that picture, but it was so
well hidden that he had little hope of ever finding it. Also, it
occurred to him that Peppajee, usually given over to creature
comforts and the idle gossip of camp and the ranches he visited,
was proving the sincerity of his manifest uneasiness by a
watchfulness wholly at variance with his natural laziness. On
the other hand, Peppajee loved to play the oracle, and a waving
wisp of smoke, or the changing shapes in a wind-riven cloud meant
to him spirit-sent prophecies not to be ignored.
He turned the matter over in his mind, was the victim of
uneasiness for five minutes, perhaps, and then drifted off into
wondering what Evadna was doing at that particular moment, and to
planning how he should manage to fall behind with her when they
all rode home, and so make possible other delicious moments. He
even took note of certain sharp bends in the trail, where a
couple riding fifty yards, say, behind a group would be for the
time being quite hidden from sight and to all intents and
purposes alone in the world for two minutes, or three--perhaps
the time might be stretched to five.
The ranch was quiet, with even the dogs asleep in the shade.
Peppajee insisted in one sentence upon going straight on to camp,
so they did not stop. Without speaking, they plodded through the
dust up the grade, left it, and followed the dim trail through
the sagebrush and rocks to the Indian camp which seemed asleep
also, except where three squaws were squatting in the sharply
defined, conical shadow of a wikiup, mumbling desultorily the
gossip of their little world, while their fingers moved with
mechanical industry--one shining black head bent over a
half-finished, beaded moccasin, another stitching a crude gown of