Part 3 out of 5
bright-flowered calico, and the third braiding her hair afresh
with leisurely care for its perfect smoothness. Good Indian took
note of the group before it stirred to activity, and murmured
anxiety over the bandaged foot of Peppajee.
"Me no can watchum more, mebbyso six days. Yo' no sleepum all
time yo' walk--no thinkum all time squaw. Mebbyso yo' think for
man-snake. Mebbyso yo' watchum," Peppajee said, as he swung
slowly down from Huckleberry's back.
"All right. I'll watchum plenty," Good Indian promised lightly,
gave a glance of passing, masculine interest at the squaw who was
braiding her hair, and who was young and fresh-cheeked and
bright-eyed and slender, forgot her the instant his eyes left
her, and made haste to return to the Malad and the girl who held
all his thoughts and all his desire.
That girl was sitting upon the rock which Donny had occupied, and
she looked very much as if she were sulking, much as Donny had
sulked. She had her chin in a pink palm and was digging little
holes in the sand with the tip of her rod, which was not at all
beneficial to the rod and did not appear even to interest the
digger; for her wonderfully blue eyes were staring at the
green-and-white churn of the rapids, and her lips were pursed
moodily, as if she did not even see what she was looking at so
Good Indian's eyes were upon her while he was dismounting, but he
did not go to her immediately. Instead, he busied himself with
unsaddling, and explained to the boys just why he had left so
unaccountably. Secretly he was hoping that Evadna heard the
explanation, and he raised his voice purposely. But Evadna was
not listening, apparently; and, if she had been, the noise of the
rapids would have prevented her hearing what he said.
Miss Georgie Howard was frying fish and consistently snubbing
Baumberger, who hulked loosely near the campfire, and between
puffs at his pipe praised heavily her skill, and professed to own
a ravenous appetite. Good Indian heard him as he passed close by
them, and heard also the keen thrust she gave in return; and he
stopped and half turned, looking at her with involuntary
appreciation. His glance took in Baumberger next, and he lifted
a shoulder and went on. Without intentionally resorting to
subterfuge, he felt an urge to wash his hands, and he chose for
his ablutions that part of the river's edge which was nearest
First he stooped and drank thirstily, his hat pushed back, while
his lips met full the hurrying water, clear and cold, yet with
the chill it had brought from the mountain springs which fed it,
and as he lifted his head he looked full at her.
Evadna stared stonily over him to where the water boiled fastest.
He might have been one of the rocks, for all the notice she took
Good Indian frowned with genuine puzzlement, and began slowly to
wash his hands, glancing at her often in hope that he might meet
her eyes. When she did not seem to see him at all, the smile of
a secret shared joyously with her died from his own eyes, and
when he had dried his hands upon his handkerchief he cast aside
his inward shyness in the presence of the Hart boys and Miss
Georgie and Baumberger, and went boldly over to her.
"Aren't you feeling well?" he asked, with tender proprietorship
in his tone.
"I'm feeling quite well, thank you," returned Evadna frigidly,
neglecting to look at him.
"What is the matter, then? Aren't you having a good time?"
"I'm enjoying myself very much--except that your presence annoys
me. I wish you'd go away."
Good Indian turned on his heel and went; he felt that at last
Evadna was looking at him, though he would not turn to make sure.
And his instinct told him withal that he must ignore her mood if
he would win her from it. With a freakish impulse, he headed
straight for the campfire and Miss Georgie, but when he came up
to her the look she gave him of understanding, with sympathy to
soften it, sent him away again without speaking.
He wandered back to the river's edge--this time some distance
from where Evadna sat--and began throwing pebbles at the black
nose of a wave-washed bowlder away toward the other side. Clark
and Gene, loitered up, watched him lazily, and, picking up other
pebbles, started to do the same thing. Soon all the boys were
throwing at the bowlder, and were making a good deal of noise
over the various hits and misses, and the spirit of rivalry waxed
stronger and stronger until it was like any other game wherein
full-blooded youths strive against one another for supremacy.
They came to the point of making bets, at first extravagant and
then growing more and more genuinely in earnest, for we're
gamblers all, at heart.
Miss Georgie burned a frying-panful of fish until they sent up an
acrid, blue smoke, while she ran over to try her luck with a
stone or two. Even Baumberger heaved himself up from where he
was lounging, and strolled over to watch. But Evadna could not
have stuck closer to her rock if she had been glued there, and if
she had been blind and deaf she would not have appeared more
Good Indian grew anxious, and then angry. The savage stirred
within him, and counseled immediate and complete mastery of
her--his woman. But there was the white man of him who said the
thought was brute] and unchivalrous, and reminded the savage that
one must not look upon a woman as a chattel, to be beaten or
caressed, as the humor seized the master. And, last of all,
there was the surface of him laughing with the others, fleering
at those who fell short of the mark, and striving his utmost to
be first of them all in accuracy.
He even smiled upon Miss Georgie when she hit the bowlder fairly,
and, when the stench of the burning fish drifted over to them, he
gave his supply of pebbles into her two hands, and ran to the
rescue. He caught Evadna in the act of regarding him sidelong,
just as a horse sometimes will keep an eye on the man with the
rope in a corral; so he knew she was thinking of him, at least,
and was wondering what he meant to do next, and the savage in him
laughed and lay down again, knowing himself the master.
What he did was to throw away the burnt fish, clean the
frying-pan, and start more sizzling over the fire, which he
kicked into just the right condition. He whistled softly to
himself while he broke dry sticks across his knee for the fire,
and when Miss Georgie cried out that she had made three hits in
succession, he called back: "Good shot!" and took up the tune
where he had left off. Never, for one instant, was he
unconscious of Evadna's secret watchfulness, and never, for one
instant, did he let her see that she was in his thoughts.
He finished frying the fish, set out the sandwiches and
doughnuts, and pickled peaches and cheese, and pounded upon a tin
plate to announce that dinner was ready. He poured the coffee
into the cups held out to him, and got the flask of cream from a
niche between two rocks at the water's edge. He said "Too bad,"
when it became generally known that the glare of the sun upon the
water had given Evadna a headache, and he said it exactly as he
would have spoken if Jack, for instance, had upset the sugar.
He held up the broken-handled butcher knife that was in the camp
kit, and declaimed tragically: "Is this a dagger that I see
before me?" and much more of the kind that was eery. He saw the
reluctant dimple which showed fleetingly in Evadna's cheek, and
also the tears which swelled her eyelids immediately after, but
she did not know that he saw them, though another did.
He was taken wholly by surprise when Miss Georgie, walking past
him afterward on her way to an enticing pool, nipped his arm for
attention and murmured:
"You're doing fine--only don't overdo it. She's had just about
all she can stand right now. Give her a chance to forgive
you--and let her think she came out ahead! Good luck!" Whereupon
she finished whatever she pretended to have been doing to her
fishing-tackle, and beckoned Wally and Jack to come along.
"We've just got to catch that big one," she laughed, "so Mr.
Baumberger can go home and attend to his own business!" It took
imagination to feel sure there had been a significant accent on
the last of the sentence, and Baumberger must have been
imaginative. He lowered his head like a bull meditating assault,
and his leering eyes shot her a glance of inquiry and suspicion.
But Miss Georgie Howard met his look with a smile that was
nothing more than idle amusement.
"I'd like nothing better than to get that four-pounder on my
line," she added. "It would be the joke of the season--if a
woman caught him."
"Bet you couldn't land him," chuckled Baumberger, breathing a
sigh which might have been relief, and ambled away contentedly."I
may not see you folks again till supper," he bethought him to
call back. "I'm going to catch a dozen more--and then I thought
I'd take 'em up to Pete Hamilton; I'm using his horse, yuh see,
and--" He flung out a hand to round off the sentence, turned, and
went stumbling over a particularly rocky place.
Miss Georgie stood where she was, and watched him with her mouth
twisted to one side and three perpendicular creases between her
eyebrows. When he was out of sight, she glanced at Evadna--once
more perched sulkily upon the rock.
"Head still bad, chicken?" she inquired cheerfully. "Better stay
here in the shade--I won't be gone long."
"I'm going to fish," said Evadna, but she did not stir, not even
when Miss Georgie went on, convoyed by all the Hart boys.
Good Indian had volunteered the information that he was going to
fish downstream, but he was a long time in tying his leader and
fussing with his reel. His preparations were finished just when
the last straggler of the group was out of sight. Then he laid
down his rod, went over to Evadna, took her by the arm, and drew
her back to the farther shelter of the ledge.
"Now, what's the trouble?" he asked directly. "I hope you're not
trying to make yourself think I was only-- You know what I meant,
don't you? And you said yes. You said it with your lips, and
with your eyes. Did you want more words? Tell me what it is
that bothers you."
There was a droop to Evadna's shoulders, and a tremble to her
mouth. She would not look at him. She kept her eyes gazing
downward, perhaps to hide tears. Good Indian waited for her to
speak, and when it seemed plain that she did not mean to do so,
he yielded to his instinct and took her in his arms.
"Sweetheart!" he murmured against her ear, and it was the first
time he had ever spoken the word to any woman. "You love me, I
know it. You won't say it, but I know you do. I should have
felt it this morning if you hadn't cared. You--you let me kiss
"And after that you--you rode off and left me--and you went away
by yourself, just as if--just as if nothing had happened, and
you've acted ever since as if--" She bit her lips, turned her
face away from him, plucked at his hands to free herself from his
clasping arms, and then she laid her face down against him, and
Good Indian tried his best to explain his mood and his actions
that day, and if he did not make himself very clear--which could
scarcely be expected, since he did not quite understand it
himself--he at least succeeded in lifting from her the weight of
doubt and of depression.
They were astonished when Wally and Jack and Miss Georgie
suddenly confronted them and proved, by the number of fish which
they carried, that they had been gone longer than ten minutes or
so. They were red as to their faces, and embarrassed as to
manner, and Good Indian went away hurriedly after the horses,
without meeting the quizzical glances of the boys, or replying t
to certain pointed remarks which they fired after him.
"And he's the buckaroo that's got no use for girls!" commented
Wally, looking after him, and ran his tongue meditatively along
the loose edge of his cigarette. "Kid, I wish you'd tell me how
you done it. It worked quick, anyhow."
"And thorough," grinned Jack. "I was thinking some of falling in
love with you myself, Vad. Soon as some of the shine wore off,
and you got so you acted like a real person."
"I saw it coming, when it first heaved in sight," chirped Miss
Georgie, in a more cheerful tone than she had used that day; in
too cheerful a tone to be quite convincing, if any one there had
been taking notice of mere tones.
"Guess that bobcat was after my ducks again, last night,"
commented Phoebe Hart, when she handed Baumberger his cup of
coffee. "The way the dogs barked all night--didn't they keep you
"Never slept better in my life," drawled Baumberger, his voice
sliding upward from the first word to the last. His blood-shot
eyes, however, rather gave the lie to his statement. "I'm going
to make one more try, 'long about noon, for that big one--girls
didn't get him, I guess, for all their threats, or I'd heard
about it. And I reckon I'll take the evening train home.
Shoulda gone yesterday, by rights. I'd like to get a basket uh
fish to take up with me. Great coffee, Mrs. Hart, and such cream
I never did see. I sure do hate to leave so many good things and
go back to a boardin' house. Look at this honey, now!" He sighed
gluttonously, leaning slightly over the table while he fed.
"Dogs were barking at something down in the orchard," Wally
volunteered, passing over Baumberger's monologue. "I was going
down there, but it was so dark--and I thought maybe it was Gene's
ghost. That was before the moon came up. Got any more biscuits,
"My trap wasn't sprung behind the chicken-house," said Donny. "I
looked, first thing."
"Dogs," drawled Baumberger, his enunciation muffled by the food
in his mouth, "always bark. And cats fight on shed-roofs. Next
door to where I board there's a dog that goes on shift as regular
as a policeman. Every night at--"
"Oh, Aunt Phoebe!" Evadna, crisp and cool in a summery dress of
some light-colored stuff, and looking more than ever like a
Christmas angel set a-flutter upon the top of a holiday fir in a
sudden gust of wind, threw open the door, rushed halfway into the
room, and stopped beside the chair of her aunt. Her hands
dropped to the plump shoulder of the sitter. "Aunt Phoebe,
there's a man down at the farther end of the strawberry patch!
He's got a gun, Aunt Phoebe, and he's camped there, and when he
heard me he jumped up and pointed the gun straight at me!"
"Why, honey, that can't be--you must have seen an Indian prowling
after windfalls off the apricot trees there. He wouldn't hurt
you." Phoebe reached up, and caught the hands in a reassuring
Evadna's eyes strayed from one face to another around the table
till they rested upon Good Indian, as having found sanctuary
"But, Aunt Phoebe, he was WASN'T. He was a white man. And he
has a camp there, right by that tree the lightning peeled the
bark off. I was close before I saw him, for he was sitting down
and the currant bushes were between. But I went through to get
round where Uncle Hart has been irrigating and it's all mud, and
he jumped up and pointed the gun AT me. Just as if he was going
to shoot me. And I turned and ran." Her fingers closed upon the
hand of her aunt, but her eyes clung to Good Indian, as though it
was to him she was speaking.
"Tramp," suggested Baumberger, in a tone of soothing finality, as
when one hushes the fear of a child. "Sick the dogs on him.
He'll go--never saw the hobo yet that wouldn't run from a dog."
He smiled leeringly up at her, and reached for a second helping
Good Indian pulled his glance from Evadna, and tried to bore
through the beefy mask which was Baumberger's face, but all he
found there was a gross interest in his breakfast and a certain
indulgent sympathy for Evadna's fear, and he frowned in a baffled
"Who ever heard of a tramp camped in our orchard!" flouted
Phoebe. "They don't get down here once a year, and then they
always come to the house. You couldn't know there WAS any
strawberry patch behind that thick row of trees--or a garden, or
"He's got a row of stakes running clear across tho patch," Evadna
recalled suddenly. "Just like they do for a new street, or a
railroad, or something. And--"
Good Indian pushed back his chair with a harsh, scraping noise,
and rose. He was staring hard at Baumberger, and his whole face
had sharpened till it had the cold, unyielding look of an Indian.
And suddenly Baumberger raised his head and met full that look.
For two breaths their eyes held each other, and then Baumberger
glanced casually at Peaceful.
"Sounds queer--must be some mistake, though. You must have seen
something, girl, that reminded you of stakes. The stub off a
sagebrush maybe?" He ogled her quite frankly. "When a little
girl gets scared--Sick the dogs on him," he advised the family
collectively, his manner changing to a blustering anxiety that
her fright should be avenged.
Evadna seemed to take his tone as a direct challenge. "I was
scared, but I know quite well what I saw. He wasn't a tramp. He
had a regular camp, with a coffee-pot and frying-pan and
blankets. And there a line of stakes across the strawberry
Before, the breakfast had continued to seem an important incident
temporarily suspended. Now Peaceful Hart laid hand to his beard,
eyed his wife questioningly, let his glance flicker over the
faces of his sons, and straightened his shoulders unconsciously.
Good Indian was at the door, his mouth set in a thin, straight,
fighting line. Wally and Jack were sliding their chairs back
from the table preparing to follow him.
"I guess it ain't anything much," Peaceful opined optimistically.
"They can't do anything but steal berries, and they're most gone,
anyhow. Go ask him what he wants, down there." The last
sentence was but feeble sort of fiction that his boys would await
his commands; as a matter of fact, they were outside before he
"Take the dogs along," called out Baumberger, quite as futilely,
for not one of the boys was within hearing.
Until they heard footsteps returning at a run, the four stayed
where they were. Baumberger rumbled on in a desultory sort of
way, which might have caused an observant person to wonder where
was his lawyer training, and the deep cunning and skill with
which he was credited, for his words were as profitless and
inconsequential as an old woman's. He talked about tramps, and
dogs that barked o' nights, and touched gallantly upon feminine
timidity and the natural, protective instincts of men.
Peaceful Hart may have heard half of what he said--but more
likely he heard none of it. He sat drawing his white beard
through his hand, and his mild, blue eyes were turned often to
Phoebe in mute question. Phoebe herself was listening, but not
to Baumberger; she was permitting Evadna to tuck in stray locks
of her soft, brown hair, but her face was turned to the door
which opened upon the porch. At the first clatter of running
footsteps on the porch, she and Peaceful pushed back their chairs
The runner was Donny, and every freckle stood out distinctly upon
"There's four of 'em, papa!" he shouted, all in one breath.
"They're jumpin' the ranch for placer claims. They said so.
Each one's got a claim, and they're campin' on the corners, so
they'll be close together. They're goin' to wash gold. Good
"Oh!" screamed Evadna suddenly. "Don't let him--don't let them
hurt him, Uncle Hart!"
"Aw, they ain't fightin'," Donny assured her disgustedly.
"They're chewin' the rag down there, is all. Good Injun knows
one of 'em."
Peaceful Hart stood indecisively, and stared, one and gripping
the back of his chair. His lips were working so that his beard
bristled about his mouth.
"They can't do nothing--the ranch belongs to me," he said, his
eyes turning rather helplessly to Baumberger. "I've got my
"Jumping our ranch!--for placer claims!" Phoebe stood up, leaning
hard upon the table with both hands. "And we've lived here ever
since Clark was a baby!"
"Now, now, let's not get excited over this," soothed Baumberger,
getting out of his chair slowly, like the overfed glutton he was.
He picked up a crisp fragment of biscuit, crunched it between his
teeth, and chewed it slowly. "Can't be anything serious--and if
it is, why--I'm here. A lawyer right on the spot may save a lot
of trouble. The main thing is, let's not get excited and do
something rash. Those boys--"
"Not excited?--and somebody jumping--our--ranch?" Phoebe's soft
eyes gleamed at him. She was pale, so that her face had a
peculiar, ivory tint.
"Now, now!" Baumberger put out a puffy hand admonishingly.
"Let's keep cool--that's half the battle won. Keep cool." He
reached for his pipe, got out his twisted leather tobacco pouch,
and opened it with a twirl of his thumb and finger.
"You're a lawyer, Mr. Baumberger," Peaceful turned to him, still
helpless in his manner. "What's the best thing to be done?"
"Don't--get--excited." Baumberger nodded his head for every
word. "That's what I always say when a client comes to me all
worked up. We'll go down there and see just how much there is to
this, and--order 'em off. Calmly, calmly! No violence--no
threats--just tell 'em firmly and quietly to leave." He stuffed
his pipe carefully, pressing down the tobacco with the tip of a
finger. "Then," he added with slow emphasis, "if they don't go,
after--say twenty-four hours' notice--why, we'll proceed to serve
an injunction." He drew a match along the back of his chair, and
lighted his pipe.
"I reckon we'd better go and look after those boys of yours," he
suggested, moving toward the door rather quickly, for all his
apparent deliberation. "They're inclined to be hot-headed, and
we must have no violence, above all things. Keep it a civil
matter right through. Much easier to handle in court, if there's
no violence to complicate the case."
"They're looking for it," Phoebe reminded him bluntly. "The man
had a gun, and threw down on Vadnie."
"He only pointed it at me, auntie," Evadna corrected, ignorant of
the Western phrase.
The two women followed the men outside and into the shady yard,
where the trees hid completely what lay across the road and
beyond the double row of poplars. Donny, leaning far forward and
digging his bare toes into the loose soil for more speed, raced
on ahead, anxious to see and hear all that took place.
"If the boys don't stir up a lot of antagonism," Baumberger kept
urging Peaceful and Phoebe, as they hurried into the garden, "the
matter ought to be settled without much trouble. You can get an
"The idea of anybody trying to hold our place for mineral land!"
Phoebe's indignation was cumulative always, and was now bubbling
into wrath. "Why, my grief! Thomas spent one whole summer
washing every likely spot around here. He never got anything
better than colors on this ranch--and you can get them anywhere
in Idaho, almost. And to come right into our garden, in the
right--and stake a placer claim!" Her anger seemed beyond further
utterance. "The idea!" she finished weakly.
"Well--but we mustn't let ourselves get excited," soothed
Baumberger, the shadow of him falling darkly upon Peaceful and
Phoebe as he strode along, upon the side next the sun. Peppajee
would have called that an evil thing, portending much trouble and
"That's where people always blunder in a thing like this. A
little cool-headedness goes farther than hard words or lead.
And," he added cheeringly, "it may be a false alarm, remember.
We won't borrow trouble. We'll just make sure of our ground,
first thing we do."
"It's always easy enough to be calm over the other fellow's
trouble," said Phoebe sharply, irritated in an indefinable way by
the oily optimism of the other. "It ain't your ox that's gored,
They skirted the double row of grapevines, picked their way over
a spot lately flooded from the ditch, which they crossed upon two
planks laid side by side, went through an end of the currant
patch, made a detour around a small jungle of gooseberry bushes,
and so came in sight of the strawberry patch and what was taking
place near the lightning-scarred apricot tree. Baumberger
lengthened his stride, and so reached the spot first.
The boys were grouped belligerently in the strawberry patch, just
outside a line of new stakes, freshly driven in the ground.
Beyond that line stood a man facing them with a .45-.70 balanced
in the hollow of his arm. In the background stood three other
men in open spaces in the shrubbery, at intervals of ten rods or
so, and they also had rifles rather conspicuously displayed.
They were grinning, all three. The man just over the line was
listening while Good Indian spoke; the voice of Good Indian was
even and quiet, as if he were indulging in casual small talk of
the country, but that particular claim-jumper was not smiling.
Even from a distance they could see that he was fidgeting
uncomfortably while he listened, and that his breath was
beginning to come jerkily.
"Now, roll your blankets and GIT!" Good Indian finished sharply,
and with the toe of his boot kicked the nearest stake clear of
the loose soil. He stooped, picked it up, and cast it
contemptuously from him. It landed three feet in front of the
man who had planted it, and he jumped and shifted the rifle
significantly upon his arm, so that the butt of it caressed his
"Now, now, we don't want any overt acts of violence here,"
wheezed Baumberger, laying hand upon Good Indian's shoulder from
behind. Good Indian shook off the touch as if it were a
tarantula upon him.
"You go to the devil," he advised chillingly.
"Tut, tut!" Baumberger reproved gently. "The ladies are within
hearing, my boy. Let's get at this thing sensibly and calmly.
Violence only makes things worse. See how quiet Wally and Jack
and Clark and Gene are! THEY realize how childishly spiteful it
would be for them to follow your example. They know better.
They don't want--"
Jack grinned, and hitched his gun into plainer view. "When we
start in, it won't be STICKS we're sending to His Nibs," he
observed placidly. "We're just waiting for him to ante."
"This," said Baumberger, a peculiar gleam coming into his
leering, puffy-lidded eyes, and a certain hardness creeping into
his voice, "this is a matter for your father and me to settle.
It's just-a-bide-beyond you youngsters. This is a civil case.
Don't foolishly make it come under the criminal code. But
there!" His voice purred at them again. "You won't. You're all
too clear-headed and sensible."
"Oh, sure!" Wally gave his characteristic little snort."We're
only just standing around to see how fast the cabbages grow!"
Baumberger advanced boldly across the dead line.
"Stanley, put down that gun, and explain your presence here and
your object," he rumbled. "Let's get at this thing right end to.
First, what are you doing here?"
The man across the line did not put down his rifle, except that
he let the butt of it drop slightly away from his shoulder so
that the sights were in alignment with an irrigating shovel
thrust upright into the ground ten feet to one side of the
group. His manner lost little of its watchfulness, and his voice
was surly with defiance when he spoke. But Good Indian,
regarding him suspiciously through half-closed lids, would have
sworn that a look of intelligence flashed between those two.
There was nothing more than a quiver of his nostrils to betray
him as he moved over beside Evadna--for the pure pleasure of
being near her, one would think; in reality, while the pleasure
was there, that he might see both Baumberger's face and Stanley's
without turning more than his eyes.
"All there is to it," Stanley began blustering, "you see before
yuh. I've located twenty acres here as a placer claim. That
there's the northwest corner--ap-prox'm'tley--close as I could
come by sightin'. Your fences are straight with yer land, and I
happen to sabe all yer corners. I've got a right here. I
believe this ground is worth more for the gold that's in it than
for the turnips you can make grow on top--and that there makes
mineral land of it, and as such, open to entry. That's accordin'
to law. I ain't goin' to build no trouble--but I sure do aim to
defend my prope'ty rights if I have to. I realize yuh may think
diffrunt from me. You've got a right to prove, if yuh can, that
all this ain't mineral land. I've got jest as much right to
prove it is."
He took a breath so deep it expanded visibly his chest--a broad,
muscular chest it was--and let his eyes wander deliberately over
"That there's where _I_ stand," he stated, with arrogant
self-assurance. His mouth drew down at the corners in a smile
which asked plainly what they were going to do about it, and
intimated quite as plainly that he did not care what they did,
though he might feel a certain curiosity as an onlooker.
"I happen to know--" Peaceful began, suddenly for him. But
Baumberger waved him into silence.
"You'll have to prove there's gold in paying quantities here," he
"That's what I aim to do," Stanley told him imperturbably.
"_I_ proved, over fifteen years ago, that there WASN'T," Peaceful
drawled laconically, and sucked so hard upon his pipe that his
cheeks held deep hollows.
Stanley grinned at him. "Sorry I can't let it go at that," he
said ironically. "I reckon I'll have to do some washin' myself,
though, before I feel satisfied there ain't."
"Then you haven't panned out anything yet?" Phoebe caught him up.
Stanley's eyes flickered a questioning glance at Baumberger, and
Baumberger puffed out his chest and said:
"The law won't permit you to despoil this man's property without
good reason. We can serve an injunction--"
"You can serve and be darned." Stanley's grin returned, wider
"As Mr. Hart's legal adviser," Baumberger began, in the tone he
employed in the courtroom--a tone which held no hint of his
wheezy chuckle or his oily reassurance--"I hereby demand that you
leave this claim which you have staked out upon Thomas Hart's
ranch, and protest that your continued presence here, after
twenty-four hours have expired, will be looked upon as malicious
trespass, and treated as such."
Stanley still grinned. "As my own legal adviser," he returned
calmly, "I hereby declare that you can go plumb to HEL-ena."
Stanley evidently felt impelled to adapt his vocabulary to
feminine ears, for he glanced at them deprecatingly and as if he
wished them elsewhere.
If either Stanley or Baumberger had chanced to look toward Good
Indian, he might have wondered why that young man had come, of a
sudden, to resemble so strongly his mother's people. He had that
stoniness of expression which betrays strong emotion held rigidly
in check, with which his quivering nostrils and the light in his
half-shut eyes contrasted strangely. He had missed no fleeting
glance, no guarded tone, and he was thinking and weighing and
measuring every impression as it came to him. Of some things he
felt sure; of others he was half convinced; and there was more
which he only suspected. And all the while he stood there
quietly beside Evadna, his attitude almost that of boredom.
"I think, since you have been properly notified to leave," said
Baumberger, with the indefinable air of a lawyer who gathers up
his papers relating to one case, thrusts them into his pocket,
and turns his attention to the needs of his next client, "we'll
just have it out with these other fellows, though I look upon
Stanley," he added half humorously, "as a test case. If he goes,
they'll all go."
"Better say he's a TOUGH case," blurted Wally, and turned on his
heel. "What the devil are they standing around on one foot for,
making medicine?" he demanded angrily of Good Indian, who
unceremoniously left Evadna and came up with him. "I'D run him
off the ranch first, and do my talking about it afterward. That
hunk uh pork is kicking up a lot uh dust, but he ain't GETTING
"Exactly." Good Indian thrust both hands deep into his trousers
pockets, and stared at the ground before him.
Wally gave another snort. "I don't know how it hits you,
Grant--but there's something fishy about it."
"Ex-actly." Good Indian took one long step over the ditch, and
went on steadily.
Wally, coming again alongside, turned his head, and regarded him
"Injun's on top," he diagnosed sententiously after a minute.
"Looks like he's putting on a good, thick layer uh war-paint,
too." He waited expectantly. "You might hand me the brush when
you're through," he hinted grimly. "I might like to get out
after some scalps myself."
"That so?" Good Indian asked inattentively, and went on without
waiting for any reply. They left the garden, and went down the
road to the stable, Wally passively following Grant's lead.
Someone came hurrying after them, and they turned to see Jack.
The others had evidently stayed to hear the legal harangue to a
"Say, Stanley says there's four beside the fellows we saw," Jack
announced, rather breathlessly, for he had been running through
the loose, heavy soil of the garden to overtake them. "They've
located twenty acres apiece, he says--staked 'em out in the night
and stuck up their notices--and everyone's going to STICK.
They're all going to put in grizzlies and mine the whole thing,
he told dad. He just the same as accused dad right out of
covering up valuable mineral land on purpose. And he says the
law's all on their side." He leaned hard against the stable, and
drew his fingers across his forehead, white as a girl's when he
pushed back his hat. "Baumberger," he said cheerlessly, "was
still talking injunction when I left, but--" He flung out his
"I wish dad wasn't so--" began Wally moodily, and let it go at
Good Indian threw up his head with that peculiar tightening of
lips which meant much in the way of emotion.
"He'll listen to Baumberger, and he'll lose the ranch listening,"
he stated distinctly. "If there's anything to do, we've got to
"We can run 'em off--maybe," suggested Jack, his fighting
instincts steadied by the vivid memory of four rifles held by
four men, who looked thoroughly capable of using them.
"This isn't a case of apple-stealing," Good Indian quelled
sharply, and got his rope from his saddle with the manner of a
man who has definitely made up his mind.
"What CAN we do, then?" Wally demanded impatiently.
"Not a thing at present." Good Indian started for the little
pasture, where Keno was feeding and switching methodically at the
flies. "You fellows can do more by doing nothing to-day than if
you killed off the whole bunch."
He came back in a few minutes with his horse, and found the two
still moodily discussing the thing. He glanced at them casually,
and went about the business of saddling.
"Where you going?" asked Wally abruptly, when Grant was looping
up the end of his latigo.
"Just scouting around a little," was the unsatisfactory reply he
got, and he scowled as Good Indian rode away.
SQUAW-TALK-FAR-OFF HEAP SMART
Good Indian spoke briefly with the good-looking young squaw, who
had a shy glance for him when he came up; afterward he took hold
of his hat by the brim, and ducked through the low opening of a
wikiup which she smilingly pointed out to him.
"Howdy, Peppajee? How you foot?" he asked, when his unaccustomed
eyes discerned the old fellow lying back against the farther
"Huh! Him heap sick all time." Having his injury thus brought
afresh to his notice, Peppajee reached down with his hands, and
moved the foot carefully to a new position.
"Last night," Good Indian began without that ceremony of long
waiting which is a part of Indian etiquette, "much men come to
Hart ranch. Eight." He held up his two outspread hands, with
the thumbs tucked inside his palms. "Come in dark, no seeum till
sun come back. Makeum camp. One man put sticks in ground, say
that part belong him. Twenty acres." He flung up his hands,
lowered them, and immediately raised them again. "Eight men do
that all same. Have guns, grub, blankets--stop there all time.
Say they wash gold. Say that ranch have much gold, stake placer
claims. Baumberger"--he saw Peppajee's eyelids draw
together--"tell men to go away. Tell Peaceful he fight those
men--in court. You sabe~ Ask Great Father to tell those men they
go away, no wash gold on ranch." He waited.
There is no hurrying the speech of an Indian. Peppajee smoked
stolidly, his eyes half closed and blinking sleepily. The veneer
of white men's ways dropped from him when he entered his own
wikiup, and he would not speak quickly.
"Las' night--mebbyso yo' watchum?" he asked, as one who holds his
judgment in abeyance.
"I heap fool. I no watch. I let those men come while I think
of--a girl. My eyes sleep." Good Indian was too proud to parry,
too bitter with himself to deny. He had not said the thing
before, even to himself, but it was in his heart to hate his
love, because it had cost this catastrophe to his friends.
"Kay bueno." Peppajee's voice was harsh. But after a time he
spoke more sympathetically. "Yo' no watchum. Yo' let heap
trouble come. This day yo' heart bad, mebbyso. This day yo' no
thinkum squaw all time. Mebbyso yo' thinkum fight, no sabe how
Grant nodded silently. It would seem that Peppajee understood,
even though his speech was halting. At that moment much of the
unfounded prejudice, which had been for a few days set aside
because of bigger things, died within him. He had disliked
Peppajee as a pompous egotist among his kind. His latent
antagonism against all Indians because they were unwelcomely his
blood relatives had crystallized here and there against; certain
individuals of the tribe. Old Hagar he hated coldly. Peppajee's
staginess irritated him. In his youthful arrogance he had not
troubled to see the real man of mettle under that dingy green
blanket. Now he looked at Peppajee with a startled sense that he
had never known him at all, and that Peppajee was not only a
grimy Indian--he was also a man.
"Me no sabe one thing. One otha thing me sabe. Yo' no b'lieve
Baumberga one frien'. Him all same snake. Them mens come,
Baumberga tellum come all time. All time him try for foolum
Peaceful. Yo' look out. Yo' no sleepum mo'. All time yo'
"I come here," said Good Indian; "I think you mebbyso hear talk,
you tell me. My heart heap sad, I let this trouble come. I want
to kill that trouble. Mebbyso make my friends laugh, be heap
glad those men no stealum ranch. You hear talk, mebbyso you tell
Peppajee smoked imperturbably what time his dignity demanded. At
length he took the pipe from his mouth, stretched out his arm
toward Hartley, and spoke in his sonorous tone, calculated to add
weight to his words.
"Yo' go speakum Squaw-talk-far-off," he commanded. "All time
makum talk--talk--" He drummed with his fingers upon his left
forearm. "Mebbyso heap sabe. Heap sabe Baumberga kay bueno. He
thinkum sabe stealum ranch. All time heap talk come Man-that-
coughs, come all same Baumberga. Heap smart, dat squaw." A
smile laid its faint light upon his grim old lips, and was gone.
"Thinkum yo' heap bueno, dat squaw. All time glad for talkum
yo'. Yo' go."
Good Indian stood up, his head bent to avoid scraping his hat
against the sloping roof of the wikiup.
"You no hear more talk all time you watch?" he asked, passing
over Miss Georgie's possible aid or interest in the affair.
"Much talkum--no can hear. All time them damn' Baumberga shut
door--no talkum loud. All time Baumberga walkum in dark. Walkum
where apples grow, walkum grass, walkum all dat ranch all time.
All time me heap watchum. Snake come, bitum foot--no can watchum
mo'. Dat time, much mens come. Yo' sabe. Baumberga all time
talkum, him heap frien' Peacefu'--heap snake all time. Speakum
two tongue Yo' no b'lievum. All time heap big liar, him. Yo'
go, speakum Squaw-talk-far-off. Bueno, dat squaw. Heap smart,
all same mans. Yo' go. Pikeway." He settled back with a
gesture of finality, and so Good Indian left him.
Old Hagar shrilled maledictions after him when he passed through
the littered camp on his way back to where he had left his horse,
but for once he was deaf to her upbraidings. Indeed, he never
heard her--or if he did, her clamor was to him as the yelping of
the dogs which filled his ears, but did not enter his thoughts.
The young squaw smiled at him shy-eyed as he went by her, and
though his physical eyes saw her standing demurely there in the
shade of her wikiup, ready to shrink coyly away from too bold a
glance, the man-mind of him was blind and took no notice. He
neither heard the baffled screaming of vile epithets when old
Hagar knew that her venom could not strike through the armor of
his preoccupation, nor saw the hurt look creep into the soft eyes
of the young squaw when his face did not turn toward her after
the first inattentive glance.
Good Indian was thinking how barren had been his talk with
Peppajee, and was realizing keenly how much he had expected from
the interview. It is frequently by the depth of our
disappointment only that we can rightly measure the height of
our hope. He had come to Peppajee for something tangible, some
thing that might be called real evidence of the conspiracy he
suspected. He had got nothing but suspicion to match his own.
As for Miss Georgie Howard--
"What can she do?" he thought resentfully, feeling as if he had
been offered a willow switch with which to fight off a grizzly.
It seemed to him that he might as sensibly go to Evadna herself
for assistance, and that, even his infatuation was obliged to
admit, would be idiotic. Peppajee, he told himself when he
reached his horse, was particularly foolish sometimes.
With that in his mind, he mounted--and turned Keno's head toward
Hartley. The distance was not great--little more than half a
mile--but when he swung from the saddle in the square blotch of
shade east by the little, red station house upon the parched sand
and cinders, Keno's flanks were heaving like the silent sobbing
of a woman with the pace his master's spurred heels had required
Miss Georgie gave her hair a hasty pat or two, pushed a novel out
of sight under a Boise newspaper, and turned toward him with a
breezily careless smile when he stepped up to the open door and
stopped as if he were not quite certain of his own mind, or of
He was secretly thinking of Peppajee's information that Miss
Georgie thought he was "bueno," and he was wondering if it were
true. Not that he wanted it to be true! But he was man enough to
look at her with a keener interest than he had felt before. And
Miss Georgie, if one might judge by her manner, was woman enough
to detect that interest and to draw back her skirts, mentally,
ready for instant flight into unapproachableness.
"Howdy, Mr. Imsen?" she greeted him lightly. "In what official
capacity am I to receive you, please? Do YOU want to send a
telegram?" The accent upon the pronoun was very faint, but it was
there for him to notice if he liked. So much she helped him.
She was a bright young woman indeed, that she saw he wanted help.
"I don't believe I came to see you officially at all," he said,
and his eyes lighted a little as he looked at her. "Peppajee Jim
told me to come. He said you're a 'heap smart squaw, all same
"Item: One pound of red-and-white candy for Peppajee Jim next
time I see him." Miss Georgie laughed--but she also sat down so
that her face was turned to the window. "Are you in urgent need
of a heap smart squaw?" she asked. "I thought"--she caught
herself up, and then went recklessly on--"I thought yesterday
that you had found one!"
"It's brains I need just now." After the words were out, Good
Indian wanted to swear at himself for seeming to belittle Evadna.
"I mean," he corrected quickly--"do you know what I mean? I'll
tell you what has happened, and if you don't know then, and can't
help me, I'll just have to apologize for coming, and get out."
"Yes, I think you had better tell me why you need me
particularly. I know the chicken's perfect, and doesn't lack
brains, and you didn't mean that she does. You're all stirred up
over something. What's wrong?" Miss Georgie would have spoken in
just that tone if she had been a man or if Grant had been a
So Good Indian told her.
"And you imagine that it's partly your fault, and that it
wouldn't have happened if you had spent more time keeping your
weather eye open, and not so much making love?" Miss Georgie
could be very blunt, as well as keen. "Well, I don't see how you
could prevent it, or what you could have done--unless you had
kicked old Baumberger into the Snake. He's the god in this
machine. I'd swear to that."
Good Indian had been fiddling with his hat and staring hard at a
pile of old ties just outside the window. He raised his head,
and regarded her steadily. It was beginning to occur to him
that there was a good deal to this Miss Georgie, under that
offhand, breezy exterior. He felt himself drawn to her as a
person whom he could trust implicitly.
"You're right as far as I'm concerned," he owned, with his queer,
inscrutable smile. "I think you're also right about him. What
makes you think so, anyway?"
Miss Georgie twirled a ring upon her middle finger for a moment
before she looked up at him.
"Do you know anything about mining laws?" she asked, and when he
swung his head slightly to one side in a tacit negative, she went
on: "You say there are eight jumpers. Concerted action, that.
Premeditated. My daddy was a lawyer," she threw in by way of
explanation. "I used to help him in the office a good deal.
When he--died, I didn't know enough to go on and be a lawyer
myself, so I took to this." She waved her hand impatiently
toward the telegraph instrument.
"So it's like this: Eight men can take placer claims--can hold
them, you know--for one man. That's the limit, a hundred and
sixty acres. Those eight men aren't jumping that ranch as eight
individuals; they're in the employ of a principal who is
engineering the affair. If I were going to shy a pebble at the
head mogul, I'd sure try hard to hit our corpulent friend with
the fishy eye. And that," she added, "is what all these cipher
messages for Saunders mean, very likely. Baumberger had to have
someone here to spy around for him and perhaps help him
choose--or at least get together--those eight men. They must
have come in on the night train, for I didn't see them. I'll bet
they're tough customers, every mother's son of them! Fighters
down to the ground, aren't they?"
"I only saw four. They were heeled, and ready for business, all
right," he told her. "Soon as I saw what the game was, and that
Baumberger was only playing for time and a free hand, I pulled
out. I thought Peppajee might give me something definite to go
on. He couldn't, though."
"Baumberger's going to steal that ranch according to law, you
see," Miss Georgie stated with conviction. "They've got to pan
out a sample of gold to prove there's pay dirt there, before they
can file their claims. And they've got to do their filing in
Shoshone. I suppose their notices are up O.K. I wonder, now,
how they intend to manage that? I believe," she mused, "they'll
have to go in person--I don't believe Baumberger can do that all
himself legally. I've got some of daddy's law-books over in my
trunk, and maybe I can look it up and make sure. But I know they
haven't filed their claims yet. They've GOT to take possession
first, and they've got to show a sample of ore, or dust, it would
be in this case. The best thing to do--" She drew her eyebrows
together, and she pinched her under lip between her thumb and
forefinger, and she stared abstractedly at Good Indian. "Oh,
hurry up, Grant!" she cried unguardedly. "Think--think HARD,
what's best to do!"
"The only thing I can think of," he scowled, "is to kill that--"
"And that won't do, under the circumstances," she cut in airily."
There'd still be the eight. I'D like," she declared viciously,
"to put rough-on-rats in his dinner, but I intend to refrain from
doing as I'd like, and stick to what's best."
Good Indian gave her a glance of grateful understanding. "This
thing has hit me hard," he confided suddenly. "I've been holding
myself in all day. The Harts are like my own folks. They're all
I've had, and she's been--they've all been--" Then the instinct
of repression walled in his emotion, and he let the rest go in a
long breath which told Miss Georgie all she needed to know. So
much of Good Indian would never find expression in speech; all
that was best of him would not, one might be tempted to think.
"By the way, is there any pay dirt on that ranch?" Miss Georgie
kept herself rigidly to the main subject.
"No, there isn't. Not," he added dryly, "unless it has grown
gold in the last few years. There are colors, of course. All
this country practically can show colors, but pay dirt? No!"
"Look out," she advised him slowly, "that pay dirt doesn't grow
over night! Sabe?"
Good Indian's eyes spoke admiration of her shrewdness.
"I must be getting stupid, not to have thought of that," he said.
"Can't give me credit for being 'heap smart'?" she bantered.
"Can't even let me believe I thought of something beyond the ken
of the average person? Not," she amended ironically, "that I
consider YOU an average person! Would you mind"--she became
suddenly matter of fact--"waiting here while I go and rummage for
a book I want? I'm almost sure I have one on mining laws. Daddy
had a good deal of that in his business, being in a mining
country. We've got to know just where we stand, it seems to me,
because Baumberger's going to use the laws himself, and it's with
the law we've got to fight him."
She had to go first and put a stop to the hysterical chattering
of the sounder by answering the summons. It proved to be a
message for Baumberger, and she wrote it down in a spiteful
scribble which left it barely legible.
"Betraying professional secrets, but I don't care," she
exclaimed, turning swiftly toward him. "Listen to this:
"'How's fishing? Landed the big one yet? Ready for fry?"'
She threw it down upon the table with a pettish gesture that was
wholly feminine. "Sounds perfectly innocent, doesn't it? Too
perfectly innocent, if you ask me." She stared out of the window
abstractedly, her brows pinched together and her lips pursed with
a corner between her teeth, much as she had stared after
Baumberger the day before; and when she spoke she seemed to have
swung her memory back to him then.
"He came up yesterday--with fish for Pete, he SAID, and of course
he really did have some--and sent a wire to Shoshone. I found it
on file when I came back. That was perfectly innocent, too. It
"'Expect to land big one to-night. Plenty of small fry. Smooth
"I've an excellent memory, you see." She laughed shortly.
"Well, I'll go and hunt up that book, and we'll proceed to glean
the wisdom of the serpent, so that we won't be compelled to
remain as harmless as the dove! You won't mind waiting here?"
He assured her that he would not mind in the least, and she ran
out bareheaded into the hot sunlight. Good Indian leaned forward
a little in his chair so that he could watch her running across
to the shack where she had a room or two, and he paid her the
compliment of keeping her in his thoughts all the time she was
gone. He felt, as he had done with Peppajee, that he had not
known Miss Georgie at all until to-day, and he was a bit startled
at what he was finding her to be.
"Of course," she laughed, when she rustled in again like a whiff
of fresh air, "I had to go clear to the bottom of the last trunk
I looked in. Lucky I only have three to my name, for it would
have been in the last one just the same, if I'd had two dozen and
had ransacked them all. But I found it, thank Heaven!"
She came eagerly up to him--he was sitting in the beribboned
rocker dedicated to friendly callers, and had the rug badly
rumpled with his spurs, which he had forgotten to remove--and
with a sweep of her forearm she cleared the little table of
novel, newspaper, and a magazine and deck of cards, and barely
saved her box of chocolates from going bottom up on the floor.
"Like candy? Help yourself, if you do," she said, and tucked a
piece into her mouth absent-mindedly before she laid the
leather-bound book open on the table. "Now, we'll see what
information Mr. Copp can give us. He's a high authority--General
Land Office Commissioner, if you please. He's a few years
old--several years old, for that matter--but I don't think he's
out of date; I believe what he says still goes. M-m-m!-'Liens on
Mines'--'Clause Inserted in Patents'--'Affidavits Taken Without
Notice to Opposing'--oh, it must be here--it's GOT to be here!"
She was running a somewhat sticky forefinger slowly down the
index pages. "It isn't alphabetically arranged, which I consider
sloppy of Mr. Copp. Ah-h! 'Minerals Discovered After Patent Has
Issued to Agricultural Claimant'--two hundred and eight. We'll
just take a look at that first. That's what they're claiming,
you know." She hitched her chair closer, and flipped the leaves
eagerly. When she found the page, they touched heads over it,
though Miss Georgie read aloud.
"Oh, it's a letter--but it's a decision, and as such has weight.
"SIR: In reply to your letter of inquiry . . . I have to state
that all mineral deposits discovered on land after United States
Patent therefor has issued to a party claiming under the laws
regulating the disposal of agricultural lands, pass with the
patent, and this office has no further jurisdiction in the
premise. Very respectfully,"
"'PASS WITH THE PATENT!'" Miss Georgie turned her face so that
she could look into Grant's eyes, so close to her own. "Old
Peaceful must surely have his patent--Baumberger can't be much of
a lawyer, do you think? Because that's a flat statement.
There's no chance for any legal quibbling in that--IS there?"
"That's about as straight as he could put it," Good Indian
agreed, his face losing a little of its anxiety.
"Well, we'll just browse along for more of the same," she
suggested cheerfully, and went back to the index. But first she
drew a lead pencil from where it had been stabbed through her
hair, and marked the letter with heavy brackets, wetting the lead
on her tongue for emphasis.
"'Agricultural Claimants Entitled to Full Protection,'" she read
hearteningly from the index, and turned hastily to see what was
to be said about it. It happened to be another decision rendered
in a letter, and they jubilated together over the sentiment
"Now, here is what I was telling you, Grant," she said suddenly,
after another long minute of studying silently the index.
"'Eight Locaters of Placer Ground May Convey to One Party'--and
Baumberger's certainly that party!--'Who Can Secure Patent for
One Hundred and Sixty Acres.' We'll just read up on that, and
find out for sure what the conditions are. Now, here"--she had
found the page quickly--"listen to this:
"'I have to state that if eight bona-fide locaters'
("Whether they're that remains to be proven, Mr. Baumberger!")
'each having located twenty acres, in accordance with the
congressional rules and regulations, should convey all their
right, title, and interest in said locations to one person, such
person might apply for a patent--'
"And so on into tiresomeness. Really, I'm beginning to think
Baumberger's awfully stupid, to even attempt such a silly thing.
He hasn't a legal leg to stand on. 'Goes with the patent'--that
sounds nice to me. They're not locating in good faith--those
eight jumpers down there." She fortified herself with another
piece of candy. "All you need," she declared briskly, "is a good
lawyer to take this up and see it through."
"You seem to be doing pretty well," he remarked, his eyes
dwelling rather intently upon her face, and smiling as they did
"I can read what's in the book," she remarked lightly, her eyes
upon its pages as if she were consciously holding them from
meeting his look. "But it will take a lawyer to see the case
through the courts. And let me tell you one thing very
emphatically." She looked at him brightly. "Many a case as
strong as this has been lost, just by legal quibbling and
ignorance of how to handle it properly. Many a case without a
leg to stand on has been won, by smooth work on the part of some
lawyer. Now, I'll just jot down what they'll have to do, and
prove, if they get that land--and look here, Mr. Man, here's
another thing to consider. Maybe Baumberger doesn't expect to
get a patent. Maybe he means to make old Peaceful so deucedly
sick of the thing that he'll sell out cheap rather than fight the
thing to a finish. Because this can be appealed, and taken up
and up, and reopened because of some technical error--oh, as
Jenny Wren says in--in--"
"'Our Mutual Friend?'" Good Indian suggested unexpectedly.
"Oh, you've read it!--where she always says: '_I_ know their
tricks and their manners!' And I do, from being so much with
daddy in the office and hearing him talk shop. I know that,
without a single bit of justice on their side, they could carry
this case along till the very expense of it would eat up the
ranch and leave the Harts flat broke. And if they didn't fight
and keep on fighting, they could lose it--so there you are."
She shut the book with a slam. "But," she added more brightly
when she saw the cloud of gloom settle blacker than before on his
face, and remembered that he felt himself at least partly to
blame, "it helps a lot to have the law all on our side, and--"
She had to go then, because the dispatcher was calling, and she
knew it must be a train order. "We'll read up a little more, and
see just what are the requirements of placer mining laws--and
maybe we can make it a trifle difficult for those eight to
comply!" she told him over her shoulder, while her fingers
chittered a reply to the call, and then turned her attention
wholly to receiving the message.
Good Indian, knowing well the easy custom of the country which
makes smoking always permissible, rolled himself a cigarette
while he waited for her to come back to his side of the room. He
was just holding the match up and waiting for a clear blaze
before setting his tobacco afire, when came a tap-tap of feet on
the platform, and Evadna appeared in the half-open doorway.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, and widened her indigo eyes at him sitting
there and looking so much at home.
"Come right in, chicken," Miss Georgie invited cordially. "Don't
stand there in the hot sun. Mr. Imsen is going to turn the seat
of honor over to you this instant. Awfully glad you came. Have
Evadna sat down in the rocker, thrust her two little feet out so
that the toe, of her shoes showed close together beyond the hem
of her riding-skirt, laid her gauntleted palms upon the arms of
the chair and rocked methodically, and looked at Grant and then
at Miss Georgie, and afterward tilted up her chin and smiled
superciliously at an insurance company's latest offering to the
public in the way of a calendar two feet long.
"When did you come up?" Good Indian asked her, trying so hard to
keep a placating note out of his voice that he made himself sound
"Oh--about an hour ago, I think," Evadna drawled sweetly--the
sweet tones which always mean trouble, when employed by a woman.
Good Indian bit his lip, got up, and threw his cigarette out of
the window, and looked at her reproachfully, and felt vaguely
that he was misunderstood and most unjustly placed upon the
"I only came over," Evadna went on, as sweetly as before, "to say
that there's a package at the store which I can't very well
carry, and I thought perhaps you wouldn't mind taking it--when
"I'm going now, if you're ready," he told her shortly, and
reached for his hat.
Evadna rocked a moment longer, making him wait for her reply.
She glanced at Miss Georgie still busy at the telegraph table,
gave a little sigh of resignation, and rose with evident
"Oh--if you're really going," she drawled, and followed him
"DON'T GET EXCITED!"
Lovers, it would seem, require much less material for a quarrel
than persons in a less exalted frame of mind.
Good Indian believed himself very much in love with his Christmas
angel, and was very much inclined to let her know it, but at the
same time he saw no reason why he should not sit down in Miss
Georgie's rocking-chair, if he liked, and he could not quite
bring himself to explain even to Evadna his reason for doing so.
It humiliated him even to think of apologizing or explaining, and
he was the type of man who resents humiliation more keenly than a
As to Evadna, her atmosphere was that of conscious and
magnanimous superiority to any feeling so humanly petty as
jealousy--which is extremely irritating to anyone who is at all
sensitive to atmospheric conditions.
She stopped outside the window long enough to chirp a commonplace
sentence or two to Miss Georgie, and to explain just why she
couldn't stay a minute longer. "I told Aunt Phoebe I'd be back
to lunch--dinner, I mean--and she's so upset over those horrible
men planted in the orchard--did Grant tell you about it?--that I
feel I ought to be with her. And Marie has the toothache again.
So I really must go. Good-by--come down whenever you can, won't
you?" She smiled, and she waved a hand, and she held up her
riding-skirt daintily as she turned away. "You didn't say goodby
to Georgie," she reminded Grant, still making use of the chirpy
tone. "I hope I am not in any way responsible."
"I don't see how you could be," said Good Indian calmly; and
that, for some reason, seemed to intensify the atmosphere with
which Evadna chose to surround herself.
She led Huckleberry up beside the store platform without giving
Grant a chance to help, mounted, and started on while he was in
after the package--a roll not more than eight inches long, and
weighing at least four ounces, which brought an ironical smile to
his lips. But she could not hope to outrun him on Huckleberry,
even when Huckleberry's nose was turned toward home, and he
therefore came clattering up before she had passed the straggling
outpost of rusty tin cans which marked, by implication, the
boundary line between Hartley and the sagebrush waste surrounding
"You seem to be in a good deal of a hurry," Good Indian observed.
"Not particularly," she replied, still chirpy as to tone and
supercilious as to her manner.
It would be foolish to repeat all that was said during that ride
home, because so much meaning was conveyed in tones and glances
and in staring straight ahead and saying nothing. They were
sparring politely before they were over the brow of the hill
behind the town; they were indulging in veiled sarcasm--which
came rapidly out from behind the veil and grew sharp and
bitter--before they started down the dusty grade; they were not
saying anything at all when they rounded the Point o' Rocks and
held their horses rigidly back from racing home, as was their
habit, and when they dismounted at the stable, they refused to
look at each other upon any pretext whatsoever.
Baumberger, in his shirt-sleeves and smoking his big pipe,
lounged up from the pasture gate where he had been indolently
rubbing the nose of a buckskin two-year-old with an affectionate
disposition, and wheezed out the information that it was warm.
He got the chance to admire a very stiff pair of shoulders and a
neck to match for his answer.
"I wasn't referring to your manner, m' son," he chuckled, after
he had watched Good Indian jerk the latigo loose and pull off the
saddle, showing the wet imprint of it on Keno's hide. "I wish
the weather was as cool!"
Good Indian half turned with the saddle in his hands, and slapped
it down upon its side so close to Baumberger that he took a hasty
step backward, seized Keno's dragging bridle-reins, and started
for the stable. Baumberger happened to be in the way, and he
backed again, more hastily than before, to avoid being run over.
"Snow blind?" he interrogated, forcing a chuckle which had more
the sound of a growl.
Good Indian stopped in the doorway, slipped off the bridle, gave
Keno a hint by slapping him lightly on the rump, and when the
horse had gone on into the cool shade of the stable, and taking
his place in his stall, began hungrily nosing the hay in his
manger, he came back to unsaddle Huckleberry, who was nodding
sleepily with his under lip sagging much like Baumberger's while
he waited. That gentleman seemed to be once more obstructing the
path of Good Indian. He dodged back as Grant brushed past him.
"By the great immortal Jehosaphat!" swore Baumberger, with an
ugly leer in his eyes, "I never knew before that I was so small I
couldn't be seen with the naked eye!"
"You're so small in my estimation that a molecule would look like
a hay-stack alongside you!" Good Indian lifted the skirt of
Evadna's side-saddle, and proceeded calmly to loosen the cinch.
His forehead smoothed a trifle, as if that one sentence had
relieved him of some of his bottled bitterness.
"YOU ain't shrunk up none--in your estimation," Baumberger forgot
his pose of tolerant good nature to say. His heavy jaw trembled
as if he had been overtaken with a brief attack of palsy; so also
did the hand which replaced his pipe between his loosely
quivering lips. "That little yellow-haired witch must have given
yuh the cold shoulder; but you needn't take it out on me. Had a
quarrel?" He painstakingly brushed some ashes from his sleeve,
once more the wheezing, chuckling fat man who never takes
anything very seriously.
"Did you ever try minding your own business?" Grant inquired with
much politeness of tone.
"We-e-ell, yuh see, m' son, it's my business to mind other
people's business!" He chuckled at what he evidently considered a
witty retort. "I've been pouring oil on the troubled waters all
forenoon--maybe I've kinda got the habit."
"Only you're pouring it on a fire this time."
"That dangerous, yuh mean?"
"You're liable to start a conflagration you can't stop, and that
may consume yourself, is all."
"Say, they sure do teach pretty talk in them colleges!" he
purred, grinning loosely, his own speech purposely uncouth.
Good Indian turned upon him, stopped as quickly, and let his
anger vent itself in a sneer. It had occurred to him that
Baumberger was not goading him without purpose--because
Baumberger was not that kind of man. Oddly enough, he had a
short, vivid, mental picture of him and the look on his face when
he was playing the trout; it seemed to him that there was
something of that same cruel craftiness now in his eyes and
around his mouth. Good Indian felt for one instant as if he were
that trout, and Baumberger was playing him skillfully. "He's
trying to make me let go all holds and tip my hand," he thought,
keenly reading him, and he steadied himself.
"What d'yuh mean by me pouring oil on fire!" Baumberger urged
banteringly. "Sounds like the hero talking to the villain in one
of these here save-him-he's-my-sweetheart plays."
"You go to the devil," said Good Indian shortly.
"Don't repeat yourself, m' son; it's a sign uh failing powers.
You said that to me this morning, remember?
And--don't--get--excited!" His right arm raised slightly when he
said that, as if he expected a blow for his answer.
Good Indian saw that involuntary arm movement, but he saw it from
the tail of his eye, and he drew his lips a little tighter.
Clearly Baumberger was deliberately trying to force him into a
rage that would spend some of its force in threats, perhaps. He
therefore grew cunningly calm, and said absolutely nothing. He
led Huckleberry into the stable, came out, and shut the door, and
walked past Baumberger as if he were not there at all. And
Baumberger stood with his head lowered so that his flabby jaw was
resting upon his chest, and stared frowningly after him until the
yard gate swung shut behind his tall, stiffly erect figure.
"I gotta WATCH that jasper," he mumbled over his pipe, as a sort
of summing up, and started slowly to the house. Halfway there he
spoke again in the same mumbling undertone. "He's got the Injun
look in his eyes t'-day. I gotta WATCH him."
He did watch him. It is astonishing how a family can live for
months together, and not realize how little real privacy there is
for anyone until something especial comes up for secret
discussion. It struck Good Indian forcibly that afternoon,
because he was anxious for a word in private with Peaceful, or
with Phoebe, and also with Evadna--if it was only to continue
At dinner he could not speak without being heard by all. After
dinner, the family showed an unconscious disposition to "bunch."
Peaceful and Baumberger sat and smoked upon that part of the
porch which was coolest, and the boys stayed close by so that
they could hear what might be said about the amazing state of
affairs down in the orchard.
Evadna, it is true, strolled rather self-consciously off to the
head of the pond, carefully refraining, as she passed, from
glancing toward Good Indian. He felt that she expected him to
follow, but he wanted first to ask Peaceful a few questions, and
to warn him not to trust Baumberger, so he stayed where he was,
sprawled upon his back with a much-abused cushion under his head
and his hat tilted over his face, so that he could see
Baumberger's face without the scrutiny attracting notice.
He did not gain anything by staying, for Peaceful had little to
say, seeming to be occupied mostly with dreamy meditations. He
nodded, now and then, in response to Baumberger's rumbling
monologues, and occasionally he removed his pipe from his mouth
long enough to reply with a sentence where the nod was not
sufficient. Baumberger droned on, mostly relating the details of
cases he had won against long odds--cases for the most part
similar to this claim-jumping business.
Nothing had been done that day, Grant gathered, beyond giving the
eight claimants due notice to leave. The boys were evidently
dissatisfied about something, though they said nothing. They
shifted their positions with pettish frequency, and threw away
cigarettes only half smoked, and scowled at dancing leaf-shadows
on the ground.
When he could no longer endure the inaction, he rose, stretched
his arms high above his head, settled his hat into place, gave
Jack a glance of meaning, and went through the kitchen to the
milk~house. He felt sure that Baumberger's ears were pricked
toward the sound of his footsteps, and he made them purposely
"Hello, Mother Hart," he called out cheerfully to Phoebe,
pottering down in the coolness. "Any cream going to waste, or
buttermilk, or cake?" He went down to her, and laid his hand upon
her shoulder with a caressing touch which brought tears into her
eyes. "Don't you worry a bit, little mother," he said softly.
"I think we can beat them at their own game. They've stacked the
deck, but we'll beat it, anyhow." His hand slid down to her arm,
and gave it a little, reassuring squeeze.
"Oh, Grant, Grant!" She laid her forehead against him for a
moment, then looked up at him with a certain whimsical
solicitude. "Never mind our trouble now. What's this about you
and Vadnie? The boys seem to think you two are going to make a
match of it. And HAVE you been quarreling, you two? I only
want," she added, deprecatingly, "to see my biggest boy happy,
and if I can do anything in any way to help--"
"You can't, except just don't worry when we get to scrapping."
His eyes smiled down at her with their old, quizzical humor,
which she had not seen in them for some days. "I foresee that
we're due to scrap a good deal of the time," he predicted.
"We're both pretty peppery. But we'll make out, all right. You
didn't"--he blushed consciously--"you didn't think I was going
to--to fall dead in love--"
"Didn't I?" Phoebe laughed at him openly. "I'd have been more
surprised if you hadn't. Why, my grief! I know enough about
human nature, I hope, to expect--"
"Churning?" The voice of Baumberger purred down to them. There
he stood bulkily at the top of the steps, good-naturedly
regarding them. "Mr. Hart and I are goin' to take a ride up to
the station--gotta send a telegram or two about this little
affair"--he made a motion with his pipe toward the orchard--"and
I just thought a good, cold drink of buttermilk before we start
wouldn't be bad." His glance just grazed Good Indian, and passed
him over as being of no consequence.
"If you don't happen to have any handy, it don't matter in the
least," he added, and turned to go when Phoebe shook her head.
"Anything we can get for yuh at the store, Mrs. Hart? Won't be
any trouble at all--Oh, all right." He had caught another shake
of the head.
"We may be gone till supper-time," he explained further, "and I
trust to your good sense, Mrs. Hart, to see that the boys keep
away from those fellows down there." The pipe, and also his
head, again indicated the men in the orchard. "We don't want any
ill feeling stirred up, you understand, and so they'd better just
keep away from 'em. They're good boys--they'll do as you say."
He leered at her ingratiatingly, shot a keen, questioning look at
Good Indian, and went his lumbering way.
Grant went to the top of the steps, and made sure that he had
really gone before he said a word. Even then he sat down upon
the edge of the stairway with his back to the pond, so that he
could keep watch of the approaches to the spring-house; he had
become an exceedingly suspicious young man overnight.
"Mother Hart, on the square, what do you think of Baumberger?" he
asked her abruptly. "Come and sit down; I want to talk with
you--if I can without having the whole of Idaho listening."
"Oh, Grant--I don't know what to think! He seems all right, and I
don't know why he shouldn't be just what he seems; he's got the
name of being a good lawyer. But something--well, I get notions
about things sometimes. And I can't, somehow, feel just right
about him taking up this jumping business. I don't know why. I
guess it's just a feeling, because I can see you don't like him.
And the boys don't seem to, either, for some reason. I guess
it's because he won't let 'em get right after those fellows and
drive 'em off the ranch. They've been uneasy as they could be
all day." She sat down upon a rough stool just inside the door,
and looked up at him with troubled eyes. "And I'm getting it,
too--seems like I'd go all to pieces if I can't do SOMETHING!"
She sighed, and tried to cover the sigh with a laugh--which was
not, however, a great success. "I wish I could be as cool-headed
as Thomas," she said, with a tinge of petulance. "It don't seem
to worry him none!"
"What does he think of Baumberger? Is he going to let him take
the case and handle it to please himself?" Good Indian was
tapping his boot-toe thoughtfully upon the bottom step, and
glancing up now and then as a precaution against being overheard.
"I guess so," she admitted, answering the last question first.
"I haven't had a real good chance to talk to Thomas all day.
Baumberger has been with him most of the time. But I guess he
is; anyway, Baumberger seems to take it for granted he's got the
case. Thomas hates to hurt anybody's feelings, and, even if he
didn't want him, he'd hate to say so. But he's as good a lawyer
as any, I guess. And Thomas seems to like him well enough.
Thomas," she reminded Good Indian unnecessarily, "never does say
much about anything."
"I'd like to get a chance to talk to him," Good Indian observed.
"I'll have to just lead him off somewhere by main strength, I
guess. Baumberger sticks to him like a bur to a dog's tail.
What are those fellows doing down there now ? Does anybody
"You heard what he said to me just now," Phoebe said,
impatiently. "He don't want anybody to go near. It's terribly
aggravating," she confessed dispiritedly, "to have a lot of
ruffians camped down, cool as you please, on your own ranch, and
not be allowed to drive 'em off. I don't wonder the boys are all
sulky. If Baumberger wasn't here at all, I guess we'd have got
rid of 'em before now. I don't know as I think very much of
lawyers, anyhow. I believe I'd a good deal rather fight first
and go,to law about it afterward if I had to. But Thomas is
"I think I'll go down and have a look," said Good Indian
suddenly. "I'm not under Baumberger's orders, if the rest of the
bunch is. And I wish you'd tell Peaceful I want to talk to him,
Mother Hart--will you? Tell him to ditch his guardian angel
somehow. I'd like to see him on the quiet if I can, but if I
"Can't be nice, and forgiving, and repentant, and--a dear?"
Evadna had crept over to him by way of the rocks behind the pond,
and at every pause in her questioning she pushed him forward by
his two shoulders. "I'm so furious I could beat you! What do you
mean, savage, by letting a lady stay all afternoon by herself,
waiting for you to come and coax her into being nice to you?
Don't you know I H-A-ATE you?" She had him by the ears, then,
pulling his head erratically from side to side, and she finished
by giving each ear a little slap and laid her arms around his
neck. "Please don't look at me that way, Aunt Phoebe," she said,
when she discovered her there inside the door. "Here's a
horrible young villain who doesn't know how to behave, and makes
me do all the making up. I don't like him one bit, and I just
came to tell him so and be done. And I don't suppose," she
added, holding her two hands tightly over his mouth, "he has a
word to say for himself."
Since he was effectually gagged, Grant had not a word to say.
Even when he had pulled her hands away and held them prisoners in
his own, he said nothing. This was Evadna in a new and
unaccountable mood, it seemed to him. She had certainly been
very angry with him at noon. She had accused him, in that
roundabout way which seems to be a woman's favorite method of
reaching a real grievance, of being fickle and neglectful and
inconsiderate and a brute.
The things she had said to him on the way down the grade had
rankled in his mind, and stirred all the sullen pride in his
nature to life, and he could not forget them as easily as she
appeared to have done. Good Indian was not in the habit of
saying things, even in anger, which he did not mean, and he could
not understand how anyone else could do so. And the things she
But here she was, nevertheless, laughing at him and blushing
adorably because he still held her fast, and making the blood of
him race most unreasonably.
"Don't scold me, Aunt Phoebe," she begged, perhaps because there
was something in Phoebe's face which she did not quite
understand, and so mistook for disapproval of her behavior. "I
should have told you last night that we're--well, I SUPPOSE we're
supposed to be engaged!" She twisted her hands away from him, and
came down the steps to her aunt. "It all happened so
unexpectedly--really, I never dreamed I cared anything for him,
Aunt Phoebe, until he made me care. And last night I couldn't
tell you, and this morning I was going to, but all this horrible
trouble came up--and, anyway," she finished with a flash of
pretty indignation, "I think Grant might have told you himself! I
don't think it's a bit nice of him to leave everything like that
for me. He might have told you before he went chasing off to--to
Hartley." She put her arms around her aunt's neck. "You aren't
angry, are you, Aunt Phoebe?" she coaxed. "You--you know you
said you wanted me to be par-TIC-ularly nice to Grant!"
"Great grief, child! You needn't choke me to death. Of course
I'm not angry." But Phoebe's eyes did not brighten.
"You look angry," Evadna pouted, and kissed her placatingly.
"I've got plenty to be worked up over, without worrying over your
love affairs, Vadnie." Phoebe's eyes sought Grant's anxiously.
"I don't doubt but what it's more important to you than anything
else on earth, but I'm thinking some of the home I'm likely to
Evadna drew back, and made a movement to go.
"Oh, I'm sorry I interrupted you then, Aunt Phoebe. I suppose
you and Grant were busy discussing those men in the orchard--"
"Don't be silly, child. You aren't interrupting anybody, and
there's no call for you to run off like that. We aren't talking
secrets that I know of."
In some respects the mind of Good Indian was extremely simple and
direct. His knowledge of women was rudimentary and based largely
upon his instincts rather than any experience he had had with
them. He had been extremely uncomfortable in the knowledge that
Evadna was angry, and strongly impelled, in spite of his hurt
pride, to make overtures for peace. He was puzzled, as well as
surprised, when she seized him by the shoulders and herself made
peace so bewitchingly that he could scarcely realize it at first.
But since fate was kind, and his lady love no longer frowned upon
him, he made the mistake of taking it for granted she neither
asked nor expected him to explain his seeming neglect of her and
his visit to Miss Georgie at Hartley.
She was not angry with him. Therefore, he was free to turn his
whole attention to this trouble which had come upon his closest
friends. He reached out, caught Evadna by the hand, pulled her
close to him, and smiled upon her in a way to make her catch her
breath in a most unaccountable manner.
But he did not say anything to her; he was a young man unused to
dalliance when there were serious things at hand.
"I'm going down there and see what they're up to," he told
Phoebe, giving Evadna's hand a squeeze and letting it go. "I
suspect there's something more than keeping the peace behind
Baumberger's anxiety to have them left strictly alone. The boys
had better keep away, though."
"Are you going down in the orchard?" Evadna rounded her
unbelievably blue eyes at him. "Then I'm going along."
"You'll do nothing of the kind, little Miss Muffit," he declared
from the top step.
"I might want to do some swearing." He grinned down at her, and
"Now, Grant, don't you do anything rash!" Phoebe called after him
"'Don't--get--excited!'" he retorted, mimicking Baumberger.
"I'm going a little way, whether you want me to or not," Evadna
threatened, pouting more than ever.
She did go as far as the porch with him, and was kissed and sent
back like a child. She did not, however, go back to her aunt,
but ran into her own room, where she could look out through the
grove toward the orchard--and to the stable as well, though that
view did not interest her particularly at first. It was pure
accident that made her witness what took place at the gate.
A LITTLE TARGET-PRACTICE
A grimy buck with no hat of any sort and with his hair straggling
unbraided over one side of his face to conceal a tumor which grew
just over his left eye like a large, ripe plum, stood outside the
gate, in doubt whether to enter or remain where he was. When he
saw Good Indian he grunted, fumbled in his blanket, and held out
a yellowish envelope.
"Ketchum Squaw-talk-far-off," he explained gutturally.
Good Indian took the envelope, thinking it must be a telegram,
though he could not imagine who would be sending him one. His
name was written plainly upon the outside, and within was a short
note scrawled upon a telegraph form:
"Come up as soon as you possibly can. I've something to tell
That was what she had written. He read it twice before he looked
"What time you ketchum this?" he asked, tapping the message with
"Mebbyso one hour." The buck pulled a brass watch ostentatiously
from under his blanket, held it to his ear a moment, as if he
needed auricular assurance that it was running properly, and
pointed to the hour of three. "Ketchum one dolla, mebbyso
pikeway quick. No stoppum," he said virtuously.
"You see Peaceful in Hartley?" Good Indian asked the question
from an idle impulse; in reality, he was wondering what it was
that Miss Georgie had to tell him.
"Peacefu', him go far off. On train. All same heap fat man go
'long. Mebbyso Shoshone, mebbyso Pocatello."
Good Indian looked down at the note, and frowned; that, probably,
was what she had meant to tell him, though he could not see where
the knowledge was going to help him any. If Peaceful had gone to
Shoshone, he was gone, and that settled it. Undoubtedly he would
return the next day--perhaps that night, even. He was beginning
to feel the need of a quiet hour in which to study the tangle,
but he had a suspicion that Baumberger had some reason other than
a desire for peace in wanting the jumpers left to themselves, and
he started toward the orchard, as he had at first intended.
"Mebbyso ketchum one dolla, yo'," hinted Charlie, the buck.
But Good Indian went on without paying any attention to him. At
the road he met Jack and Wally, just returning from the orchard.
"No use going down there," Jack informed him sulkily. "They're
just laying in the shade with their guns handy, doing nothing.
They won't let anybody cross their line, and they won't say
anything--not even when you cuss 'em. Wally and I got black in
the face trying to make them come alive. Baumberger got back
yet? Wally and I have got a scheme--"
"He and your dad took the train for Shoshone. Say, does anyone
know what that bunch over in the meadow is up to?" Good Indian
leaned his back against a tree, and eyed the two morosely.
"Clark and Gene are over there," said Wally. "But I'd gamble
they aren't doing any more than these fellows are. They haven't
started to pan out any dirt--they haven't done a thing, it looks
like, but lay around in the shade. I must say I don't sabe their
play. And the worst of it is," he added desperately, "a fellow
can't do anything."
"I'm going to break out pretty darned sudden," Jack observed
calmly. "I feel it coming on." He smiled, but there was a look
of steel in his eyes.
Good Indian glanced at him sharply.
"Now, you fellows' listen to me," he said. "This thing is partly
my fault. I could have prevented it, maybe, if I hadn't been so
taken up with my own affairs. Old Peppajee told me Baumberger
was up to some devilment when he first came down here. He heard
him talking to Saunders in Pete Hamilton's stable. And the first
night he was here, Peppajee and I saw him down at the stable at
midnight, talking to someone. Peppajee kept on his trail till he
got that snake bite, and he warned me a plenty. But I didn't
take much stock in it--or if I did--" He lifted his shoulders
"So," he went on, after a minute of bitter thinking, "I want you
to keep out of this. You know how your mother would feel--You
don't want to get foolish. You can keep an eye on them--to-night
especially. I've an idea they're waiting for dark; and if I knew
why, I'd be a lot to the good. And if I knew why old Baumberger
took your father off so suddenly, why--I'd be wiser than I am
now." He lifted his hat, brushed the moisture from his forehead,
and gave a grunt of disapproval when his eyes rested on Jack.
"What yuh loaded down like that for?" he demanded. "You fellows
better put those guns in cold storage. I'm like Baumberger in
one respect--we don't want any violence!" He grinned without any
feeling of mirth.
"Something else is liable to be put in cold storage first," Wally
hinted, significantly. "I must say I like this standing around
and looking dangerous, without making a pass! I wish something
would break loose somewhere."
"I notice you're packing yours, large as life," Jack pointed out.
"Maybe you're just wearing it for an ornament, though."
"Sure!" Good Indian, feeling all at once the utter futility of
standing there talking, left them grumbling over their forced
inaction, without explaining where he was going, or what he meant
to do. Indeed, he scarcely knew himself. He was in that
uncomfortable state of mind where one feels that one must do
something, without having the faintest idea of what that
something is, or how it is to be done. It seemed to him that
they were all in the same mental befuddlement, and it seemed
impossible to stay on the ranch another hour without making a
hostile move of some sort--and he knew that, when he did make a
move, he at least ought to know why he did it.
The note in his pocket gave him an excuse for action of some
sort, even though he felt sure that nothing would come of it; at
least, he thought, he would have a chance to discuss the thing
with Miss Georgie again--and while he was not a man who must have
everything put into words, he had found comfort and a certain
clarity of thought in talking with her.
"Why don't you invite me to go along?" Evadna challenged from the
gate, when he was ready to start. She laughed when she said it,
but there was something beneath the laughter, if he had only been
close enough to read it.
"I didn't think you'd want to ride through all that dust and heat
again to-day," he called back. "You're better off in the shade."
"Going to call on 'Squaw-talk-far-off'--AGAIN?" She was still
laughing, with something else beneath the laugh.
He glanced at her quickly, wondering where she had gotten the
name, and in his wonder neglected to make audible reply. Also he
passed over the change to ride back to the gate and tell her
good-by--with a hasty kiss, perhaps, from the saddle--as a lover
should have done.
He was not used to love-making. For him, it was settled that
they loved each other, and would marry some day--he hoped the day
would be soon. It did not occur to him that a girl wants to be
told over and over that she is the only woman in the whole world
worth a second thought or glance; nor that he should stop and say
just where he was going, and what he meant to do, and how
reluctant he was to be away from her. Trouble sat upon his mind
like a dead weight, and dulled his perception, perhaps. He waved
his hand to her from the stable, and galloped down the trail to
the Point o' Rocks, and his mind, so far as Evadna was concerned,
was at ease.
Evadna, however, was crying, with her arms folded upon the top of
the gate, before the cloud which marked his passing had begun to
sprinkle the gaunt, gray sagebushes along the trail with a fresh
layer of choking dust. Jack and Wally came up, scowling at the
world and finding no words to match their gloom. Wally gave her
a glance, and went on to the blacksmith shop, but Jack went
straight up to her, for he liked her well.
"What's the matter?" he asked dully. "Mad because you can't
smoke up the ranch?"
Evadna fumbled blindly for her handkerchief, scoured her eyes
well when she found it, and put up the other hand to further
shield her face.
"Oh, the whole place is like a GRAVEYARD," she complained.
"Nobody will talk, or do anything but just wander around! I just
can't STAND it!" Which was not frank of her.
"It's too hot to do much of anything," he said apologetically.
"We might take a ride, if you don't mind the heat."
"You don't want to ride," she objected petulantly. "Why didn't
you go with Good Indian?" he countered.
"Because I didn't want to. And I do wish you'd quit calling him
that; he has a real name, I believe."
"If you're looking for a scrap," grinned Jack, "I'll stake you to
my six gun, and you can go down and kill off a few of those
claim-jumpers. You seem to be in just about the proper frame uh
mind to murder the whole bunch. Fly at it!"
"It begins to look as if we women would have to do something,"
she retorted cruelly. "There doesn't seem to be a man on the
ranch with spirit enough to stop them from digging up the
"I guess that'll be about enough," Jack interrupted her, coldly.
"Why didn't you say that to Good Indian?"
"I told you not to call him that. I don't see why everybody is
so mean to-day. There isn't a person--"
When Jack laughed, he shut his eyes until he looked through
narrow slits under heavy lashes, and showed some very nice teeth,
and two deep dimples besides the one which always stood in his
chin. He laughed then, for the first time that day, and if
Evadna had been in a less vixenish temper she would have laughed
with him just as everyone else always did. But instead of that,
she began to cry again, which made Jack feel very much a brute.
"Oh, come on and be good," he urged remorsefully. But Evadna
turned and ran back into the house and into her room, and cried
luxuriously into her pillow. Jack, peeping in at the window
which opened upon the porch, saw her there, huddled upon the bed.
In the spring-house his mother sat crying silently over her
helplessness, and failed to respond to his comforting pats upon
the shoulder. Donny struck at him viciously when Jack asked him
an idle question, and Charlie, the Indian with the tumor over his
eye, scowled from the corner of the house where he was squatting
until someone offered him fruit, or food, or tobacco. He was of
an acquisitive nature, was Charlie--and the road to his favor
must be paved with gifts.
"This is what I call hell," Jack stated aloud, and went straight
away to the strawberry patch, took up his stand with his toes
against Stanley's corner stake, cursed him methodically until he
had quite exhausted his vocabulary, and put a period to his
forceful remarks by shooting a neat, round hole through Stanley's
coffee-pot. And Jack was the mild one of the family.
By the time he had succeeded in puncturing recklessly the
frying-pan, and also the battered pan in which Stanley no doubt
meant to wash his samples of soil, his good humor returned. So
also did the other boys, running in long leaps through the garden
and arriving at the spot very belligerent and very much out of
"Got to do something to pass away the time," Jack grinned,
bringing his front sight once more to bear upon the coffee--pot,
already badly dented and showing three black holes. "And I ain't
offering any violence to anybody. You can't hang a man, Mr.
Stanley, for shooting up a frying-pan. And I wouldn't--hurt--
you--for--anything!" He had just reloaded, so that his bullets
saw him to the end of the sentence.
Stanley watched his coffee-pot dance and roll like a thing in
pain, and swore when all was done. But he did not shoot, though