Part 4 out of 5
one could see how his fingers must itch for the feel of the
"Your old dad will sweat blood for this--and you'll be packing
your blanket on your back and looking for work before snow
flies," was his way of summing up.
Still, he did not shoot.
It was like throwing pebbles at the bowlder in the Malad, the day
When Phoebe came running in terror toward the fusillade, with
Marie and her swollen face, and Evadna and her red eyes following
in great trepidation far behind, they found four claim-jumpers
purple from long swearing, and the boys gleefully indulging in
revolver practice with various camp utensils for the targets.
They stopped when their belts were empty as well as their guns,
and they went back to the house with the women, feeling much
better. Afterward they searched the house for more "shells,"
clattering from room to room, and looking into cigar boxes and
upon out-of-the-way shelves, while Phoebe expostulated in the
"Your father would put a stop to it pretty quick if he was here,"
she declared over and over. "Just because they didn't shoot back
this time is no sign they won't next time you boys go to
hectoring them." All the while she knew she was wasting her
breath, and she had a secret fear that her manner and her tones
were unconvincing. If she had been a man, she would have been
their leader, perhaps. So she retreated at last to her favorite
refuge, the milk-house, and tried to cover her secret approval
with grumbling to herself.
There was a lull in the house. The boys, it transpired, had gone
in a body to Hartley after more cartridges, and the cloud of dust
which hovered long over the trail testified to their haste. They
returned surprisingly soon, and they would scarcely wait for
their supper before they hurried back through the garden. One
would think that they were on their way to a dance, so eager they
They dug themselves trenches in various parts of the garden, laid
themselves gleefully upon their stomachs, and proceeded to
exchange, at the top of their strong, young voices, ideas upon
the subject of claim-jumping, and to punctuate their remarks with
leaden periods planted neatly and with precision in the immediate
vicinity of one of the four.
They had some trouble with Donny, because he was always jumping
up that he might yell the louder when one of the enemy was seen
to step about uneasily whenever a bullet pinged closer than
usual, and the rifles began to bark viciously now and then. It
really was unsafe for one to dance a clog, with flapping arms and
taunting laughter, within range of those rises, and they told
They ordered him back to the house; they threw clods of earth at
his bare legs; they threatened and they swore, but it was not
until Wally got him by the collar and shook him with brotherly
thoroughness that Donny retreated in great indignation to the
They were just giving themselves wholly up to the sport of
sending little spurts of loose earth into the air as close as was
safe to Stanley, and still much too close for his peace of mind
or that of his fellows, when Donny returned unexpectedly with the
shotgun and an enthusiasm for real bloodshed.
He fired once from the thicket of currant bushes, and, from the
remarks which Stanley barked out in yelping staccato, he
punctured that gentleman's person in several places with the fine
shot of which the charge consisted. He would have fired again if
the recoil had not thrown him quite off his balance, and it is
possible that someone would have been killed as a result. For
Stanley began firing with murderous intent, and only the dusk and
Good Indian's opportune arrival prevented serious trouble.
Good Indian had talked long with Miss Georgie, and had agreed
with her that, for the present at least, there must be no
violence. He had promised her flatly that he would do all in his
power to keep the peace, and he had gone again to the Indian camp
to see if Peppajee or some of his fellows could give him any
information about Saunders.
Saunders had disappeared unaccountably, after a surreptitious
conference with Baumberger the day before, and it was that which
Miss Georgie had to tell him. Saunders was in the habit of
sleeping late, so that she did not know until noon that he was
gone. Pete was worried, and garrulously feared the worst. The
worst, according to Pete Hamilton, was sudden death of a
Miss Georgie asserted unfeelingly that Saunders was more in
danger of dying from sheer laziness than of consumption, and she
even went so far as to hint cynically, that even his laziness was
"I don't believe there's a single honest thing about the fellow,"
she said to Good Indian. "When he coughs, it sounds as if he
just did it for effect. When he lies in the shade asleep, I've
seen him watching people from under his lids. When he reads, his
ears seem always pricked up to hear everything that's going on,
and he gives those nasty little slanty looks at everybody within
sight. I don't believe he's really gone--because I can't imagine
him being really anything. But I do believe he's up to something
mean and sneaky, and, since Peppajee has taken this matter to
heart, maybe he can find out something. I think you ought to go
and see him, anyway, Mr. Imsen."
So Good Indian had gone to the Indian camp, and had afterward
ridden along the rim of the bluff, because Sleeping Turtle had
seen someone walking through the sagebrush in that direction.
From the rim-rock above the ranch, Good Indian had heard the
shooting, though the trees hid from his sight what was taking
place, and he had given over his search for Saunders and made
haste to reach home.
He might have gone straight down the bluff afoot, through a rift
in the rim-rock where it was possible to climb down into the
fissure and squeeze out through a narrow opening to the
bowlder-piled bluff. But that took almost as much time as he
would consume in riding around, and so he galloped back to the
grade and went down at a pace to break his neck and that of Keno
as well if his horse stumbled.
He reached home in time to see Donny run across the road with the
shotgun, and the orchard in time to prevent a general rush upon
Stanley and his fellows--which was fortunate. He got them all
out of the garden and into the house by sheer determination and
biting sarcasm, and bore with surprising patience their angry
upbraidings. He sat stoically silent while they called him a
coward and various other things which were unpleasant in the
extreme, and he even smiled when they finally desisted and
trailed off sullenly to bed.
But when they were gone he sat alone upon the porch, brooding
over the day and all it had held of trouble and perplexity.
Evadna appeared tentatively in the open door, stood there for a
minute or two waiting for some overture upon his part, gave him a
chilly good-night when she realized he was not even thinking of
her, and left him. So great was his absorption that he let her
go, and it never occurred to him that she might possibly consider
herself ill-used. He would have been distressed if he could have
known how she cried herself to sleep but, manlike, he would also
have been puzzled.
A SHOT FROM THE RIM-ROCK
Good Indian was going to the stable to feed the horses next
morning, when something whined past him and spatted viciously
against the side of the chicken-house. Immediately afterward he
thought he heard the sharp crack which a rifle makes, but the
wind was blowing strongly up the valley, and he could not be
He went over to the chicken-house, probed with his knife-blade
into the plank where was the splintered hole, and located a
bullet. He was turning it curiously in his fingers when another
one plunked into the boards, three feet to one side of him; this
time he was sure of the gun-sound, and he also saw a puff of blue
smoke rise up on the rim-rock above him. He marked the place
instinctively with his eyes, and went on to the stable, stepping
rather more quickly than was his habit.
Inside, he sat down upon the oats-box, and meditated upon what he
should do. He could not even guess at his assailant, much less
reach him. A dozen men could be picked off by a rifle in the
hands of one at the top, while they were climbing that bluff.
Even if one succeeded in reaching the foot of the rim-rock, there
was a forty-foot wall of unscalable rock, with just the one
narrow fissure where it was possible to climb up to the level
above, by using both hands to cling to certain sharp projections
while the feet sought a niche here and there in the wall. Easy
enough--if one were but left to climb in peace, but absolutely
suicidal if an enemy stood above.
He scowled through the little paneless window at what he could
see of the bluff, and thought of the mile-long grade to be
climbed and the rough stretch of lava rock, sage, and scattered
bowlders to be gone over before one could reach the place upon a
horse. Whoever was up there, he would have more than enough time
to get completely away from the spot before it would be possible
to gain so much as a glimpse of him.
And who could he be? And why was he shooting at Good Indian, so
far a non-combatant, guiltless of even firing a single shot since
the trouble began?
Wally came in, his hat far back on his head, a cigarette in the
corner of his mouth, and his manner an odd mixture of
conciliation and defiance, ready to assume either whole-heartedly
at the first word from the man he had cursed so unstintingly
before he slept. He looked at Good Indian, caught sight of the
leaden pellet he was thoughtfully turning round and round in his
fingers, and chose to ignore for the moment any unpleasantness in
their immediate past.
"Where you ketchum?" he asked, coming a bit closer.
"In the side of the chicken-house." Good Indian's tone was
Wally reached out, and took the bullet from him that he might
juggle it curiously in his own fingers. "I don't think!" he
"There's another one there to match this," Good Indian stated
calmly, "and if I should walk over there after it, I'll gamble
there'd be more."
Wally dropped the flattened bullet, stooped, and groped for it in
the litter on the floor, and when he had found it he eyed it more
curiously than before. But he would have died in his tracks
rather than ask a question.
"Didn't anybody take a shot at you, as you came from the house?"
Good Indian asked when he saw the mood of the other.
"If he did, he was careful not to let me find it out." Wally's
"He was more careless a while ago," said Good Indian. "Some
fellow up on the bluff sent me a little morning salute. But," he
added slowly, and with some satisfaction, "he's a mighty poor
Jack sauntered in much as Wally had done, saw Good Indian sitting
there, and wrinkled his eyes shut in a smile.
"Please, sir, I never meant a word I said!" he began, with
exaggerated trepidation. "Why the dickens didn't you murder the
whole yapping bunch of us, Grant?" He clapped his hand
affectionately upon the other's shoulder. "We kinda run amuck
yesterday afternoon," he confessed cheerfully, "but it sure was
fun while it lasted!"
"There's liable to be some more fun of the same kind," Wally
informed him shortly. "Good Injun says someone on the bluff took
a shot at him when he was coming to the stable. If any of them
"It's easy to find out if it was one of them," Grant cut in, as
if the idea had just come to him. We can very soon see if
they're all on their little patch of soil. Let's go take a
They went out guardedly, their eyes upon the rim-rock. Good
Indian led the way through the corral, into the little pasture,
and across that to where the long wall of giant poplars shut off
"I admire courage," he grinned, "but I sure do hate a fool."
Which was all the explanation he made for the detour that hid
them from sight of anyone stationed upon the bluff, except while
they were passing from the stable-door to the corral; and that,
Jack said afterward, didn't take all day.
Coming up from the rear, they surprised Stanley and one other
peacefully boiling coffee in a lard pail which they must have
stolen in the night from the ranch junk heap behind the
blacksmith shop. The three peered out at them from a distant
ambush, made sure that there were only two men there, and went on
to the disputed part of the meadows. There the four were
pottering about, craning necks now and then toward the ranch
buildings as if they half feared an assault of some kind. Good
Indian led the way back to the stable.
"If there was any way of getting around up there without being
seen," he began thoughtfully, "but there isn't. And while I
think of it," he added, "we don't want to let the women know
"They're liable to suspect something," Wally reminded dryly, "if
one of us gets laid out cold."
Good Indian laughed. "It doesn't look as if he could hit
anything smaller than a haystack. And anyway, I think I'm the
boy he's after, though I don't see why. I haven't done a
"Let's feed the horses and then pace along to the house, one at
a time, and find out," was Jack's reckless suggestion. "Anybody
that knows us at all can easy tell which is who. And I guess it
would be tolerably safe."
Foolhardy as the thing looked to be, they did it, each after his
own manner of facing a known danger. Jack went first because, as
he said, it was his idea, and he was willing to show his heart
was in the right place. He rolled and lighted a cigarette,
wrinkled his eyes shut in a laugh, and strolled nonchalantly out
of the stable.
"Keep an eye on the rim-rock, boys," he called back, without
turning his head. A third of the way he went, stopped dead
still, and made believe inspect something upon the ground at his
"Ah, go ON!" bawled Wally, his nerves all on edge.
Jack dug his heel into the dust, blew the ashes from his
cigarette, and went on slowly to the gate, passed through, and
stood well back, out of sight under the trees, to watch.
Wally snorted disdain of any proceeding so spectacular, but he
was as he was made, and he could not keep his dare-devil spirit
quite in abeyance. He twitched his hat farther back on his head,
stuck his hands deep into his pockets, and walked deliberately
out into the open, his neck as stiff as a newly elected
politician on parade. He did not stop, as Jack had done, but he
facetiously whistled "Tramp, tramp, tramp, the boys are
marching," and he went at a pace which permitted him to finish
the tune before he reached the gate. He joined Jack in the
shade, and his face, when he looked back to the stable, was
"It must be Grant he wants, all right," he muttered, resting one
hand on Jack's shoulder and speaking so he could not be overheard
from the house. "And I wish to the Lord he'd stay where he's
But Good Indian was already two paces from the door, coming
steadily up the path, neither faster nor slower than usual, with
his eyes taking in every object within sight as he went, and his
thumb hooked inside his belt, near where his gun swung at his
hip. It was not until his free hand was upon the gate that lack
and Wally knew they had been holding their breath.
"Well--here I am," said Good Indian, after a minute, smiling down
at them with the sunny look in his eyes. "I'm beginning to think
I had a dream. Only"--he dipped his fingers into the pocket of
his shirt and brought up the flattened bullet--"that is pretty
blamed realistic--for a dream." His eyes searched involuntarily
the rim-rock with a certain incredulity, as if he could not bring
himself to believe in that bullet, after all.
"But two of the jumpers are gone," said Wally. "I reckon we
stirred 'em up some yesterday, and they're trying to get back at
"They've picked a dandy place," Good Indian observed. "I think
maybe it would be a good idea to hold that fort ourselves. We
should have thought of that; only I never thought--"
Phoebe, heavy-eyed and pale from wakefulness and worry, came
then, and called them in to breakfast. Gene and Clark came in,
sulky still, and inclined to snappishness when they did speak.
Donny announced that he had been in the garden, and that Stanley
told him he would blow the top of his head off if he saw him
there again. "And I never done a thing to him!" he declared
Phoebe set down the coffee-pot with an air of decision.
"I want you boys to remember one thing," she said firmly, "and
that is that there must be no more shooting going on around here.
It isn't only what Baumberger thinks--I don't know as ho's got
anything to say about it--it's what _I_ think. I know I'm only a
woman, and you all consider yourselves men, whether you are or
not, and it's beneath your dignity, maybe, to listen to your
"But your mother has seen the day when she was counted on as
much, almost, as if she'd been a man. Why, great grief! I've
stood for hours peeking out a knot-hole in the wall, with that
same old shotgun Donny got hold of, ready to shoot the first
Injun that stuck his nose from behind a rock."
The color came into her cheeks at the memory, and a sparkle into
her eyes. "I've seen real fighting, when it was a life-and-death
matter. I've tended to the men that were shot before my eyes,
and I've sung hymns over them that died. You boys have grown up
on some of the stories about the things I've been through.
"And here last night," she reproached irritatedly, I heard
someone say: 'Oh, come on--we're scaring Mum to death!' The idea!
'scaring Mum!' I can tell you young jackanapes one thing: If I
thought there was anything to be gained by it, or if it would
save trouble instead of MAKING trouble,'MUM' could go down there
right now, old as she is, and SCARED as she is, and clean out the
whole, measly outfit!" She stared sternly at the row of faces
bent over their plates.
"Oh, you can laugh--it's only your mother!" she exclaimed
indignantly, when she saw Jack's eyes go shut and Gene's mouth
pucker into a tight knot. "But I'll have you to know I'm boss of
this ranch when your father's gone, and if there's any more of
that kid foolishness to-day--laying behind a currant bush and
shooting COFFEE-POTS!--I'll thrash the fellow that starts it! It
isn't the kind of fighting I'VE been used to. I may be away
behind the times--I guess I am!--but I've always been used to the
idea that guns weren't to be used unless you meant business.
This thing of getting out and PLAYING gun-fight is kinda
sickening to a person that's seen the real thing.
"'Scaring Mum to death!"' She seemed to find it very hard to
forget that, or to forgive it. "'SCARING MUM'--and Jack, there,
was born in the time of an Indian uprising, and I laid with your
father's revolver on the pillow where I could put my hand on it,
day or night! YOU scare Mum! MUM will scare YOU, if there's any
more of that let's-play-Injun business going on around this
ranch. Why, I'd lead you down there by the ear, every mother's
son of you, and tell that man Stanley to SPANK you!"
"Mum can whip her weight in wildcats any old time," Wally
announced after a heavy silence, and glared aggressively from one
foolish-looking face to another.
As was frequently the case, the wave of Phoebe's wrath ebbed
harmlessly away in laughter as the humorous aspect of her tirade
was brought to her attention.
"Just the same, I want you should mind what I tell you," she
said, in her old motherly tone, "and keep away from those
ruffians down there. You can't do anything but make 'em mad,
and give 'em an excuse for killing someone. When your father
gets back, we'll see what's to be done."
"All right, Mum. We won't look toward the garden to-day," Wally
promised largely, and held out his cup to her to be refilled."
You can keep my gun, if you want to make dead sure."
"No, I can trust my boys, I hope," and she glowed with real pride
in them when she said it.
Good Indian lingered on the porch for half an hour or so, waiting
for Evadna to appear. She may have seen him through the
window--at any rate she slipped out very quietly, and had her
breakfast half eaten before he suspected that she was up; and
when he went into the kitchen, she was talking animatedly with
Marie about Mexican drawn-work, and was drawing intricate little
diagrams of certain patterns with her fork upon the tablecloth.
She looked up, and gave him a careless greeting, and went back to
discussing certain "wheels" in the corner of an imaginary
lunch-cloth and just how one went about making them. He made a
tentative remark or two, trying to win her attention to himself,
but she pushed her cup and saucer aside to make room for further
fork drawings, and glanced at him with her most exaggerated
"Don't interrupt, please," she said mincingly. "This is
IMPORTANT. And," she troubled to explain, "I'm really in a
hurry, because I'm going to help Aunt Phoebe make strawberry
If she thought that would fix his determination to remain and
have her to himself for a few minutes, she was mistaken in her
man. Good Indian turned on his heel, and went out with his chin
in the air, and found that Gene and Clark had gone off to the
meadow, with Donny an unwelcome attendant, and that Wally and
Jack were keeping the dust moving between the gate and the
stable, trying to tempt a shot from the bluff. They were much
inclined to be skeptical regarding the bullet which Good Indian
carried in his breast-pocket.
"WE can't raise anybody," Wally told him disgustedly, "and I've
made three round trips myself. I'm going to quit fooling around,
and go to work."
Whether he did or not, Good Indian did not wait to prove. He did
not say anything, either, about his own plans. He was hurt most
unreasonably because of Evadna's behavior, and he felt as if he
were groping about blindfolded so far as the Hart trouble was
concerned. There must be something to do, but he could not see
what it was. It reminded him oddly of when he sat down with his
algebra open before him, and scowled at a problem where the x y
z's seemed to be sprinkled through it with a diabolical
frequency, and there was no visible means of discovering what the
unknown quantities could possibly be.
He saddled Keno, and rode away in that silent preoccupation which
the boys called the sulks for want of a better understanding of
it. As a matter of fact, he was trying to put Evadna out of his
mind for the present, so that he could think clearly of what he
ought to do. He glanced often up at the rim-rock as he rode
slowly to the Point o' Rocks, and when he was halfway to the turn
he thought he saw something moving up there.
He pulled up to make sure, and a little blue ball puffed out like
a child's balloon, burst, and dissipated itself in a thin,
trailing ribbon, which the wind caught and swept to nothing. At
the same time something spatted into the trail ahead of him,
sending up a little spurt of fine sand.
Keno started, perked up his ears toward the place, and went on,
stepping gingerly. Good Indian's lips drew back, showing his
teeth set tightly together. "Still at it, eh?" he muttered
aloud, pricked Keno's flanks with his rowels, and galloped around
There, for the time being, he was safe. Unless the shooter upon
the rim-rock was mounted, he must travel swiftly indeed to reach
again a point within range of the grade road before Good Indian
would pass out of sight again. For the trail wound in and out,
looping back upon itself where the hill was oversleep, hidden
part of the time from the receding wall of rock by huge bowlders
and giant sage.
Grant knew that he was safe from that quarter, and was wondering
whether he ought to ride up along the top of the bluff before
going to Hartley, as he had intended.
He had almost reached the level, and was passing a steep, narrow,
little gully choked with rocks, when something started up so
close beside him that Keno ducked away and squatted almost upon
his haunches. His gun was in his hand, and his finger crooked
upon the trigger, when a voice he faintly recognized called to
"Yo' no shoot--no shoot--me no hurtum. All time yo' frien'."
She stood trembling beside the trail, a gay, plaid shawl about
her shoulders in place of the usual blanket, her hair braided
smoothly with bright, red ribbons entwined through it. Her dress
was a plain slip of bright calico, which had four-inch roses,
very briery and each with a gaudy butterfly poised upon the
topmost petals running over it in an inextricable tangle. Beaded
moccasins were on her feet, and her eyes were frightened eyes,
with the wistfulness of a timid animal. Yet she did not seem to
be afraid of Good Indian.
"I sorry I scare yo' horse," she said hesitatingly, speaking
better English than before. "I heap hurry to get here. I speak
"Well, what is it?" Good Indian's tone was not as brusque as his
words; indeed, he spoke very gently, for him. This was the
good-looking young squaw he had seen at the Indian camp. "What's
your name?" he asked, remembering suddenly that he had never
"Rachel. Peppajee, he my uncle." She glanced up at him shyly,
then down to where the pliant toe of her moccasin was patting a
tiny depression into the dust. "Bad mans like for shoot yo',"
she said, not looking directly at him again. "Him up there, all
time walk where him can look down, mebbyso see you, mebbyso
"I know--I'm going to ride around that way and round him up."
Unconsciously his manner had the arrogance of strength and power
to do as he wished, which belongs to healthy young males.
"N-o, no-o!" She drew a sharp breath " o' no good there! Dim
shoot yo'. Yo' no go! Ah-h--I sorry I tellum yo' now. Bad mans,
him. I watch, I take care him no shoot. Him shoot, mebbyso _I_
With a little laugh that was more a plea for gentle judgment than
anything else, she raised the plaid shawl, and gave him a glimpse
of a rather battered revolver, cheap when it was new and
obviously well past its prime.
"I want yo'--" she hesitated; "I want yo'--be heap careful. I
want yo' no ride close by hill. Ride far out!" She made a
sweeping gesture toward the valley. "All time I watch."
He was staring at her in a puzzled way. She was handsome, after
her wild, half-civilized type, and her anxiety for his welfare
touched him and besought his interest.
"Indians go far down--" She swept her arm down the narrowing
river valley. "Catch fish. Peppajee stay--no can walk far. I
stay. All go, mebbyso stay five days." Her hand lifted
involuntarily to mark the number.
He did not know why she told him all that, and he could not learn
from her anything about his assailant. She had been walking
along the bluff, he gathered--though why, she failed to make
clear to him. She had, from a distance, caught a glimpse of a
man watching the valley beneath him. She had seen him raise a
rifle, take long aim, and shoot--and she had known that he was
shooting at Good Indian.
When he asked her the second time what was her errand up
there--whether she was following the man, or had suspected that
he would be there--she shook her head vaguely and took refuge
behind the stolidity of her race.
In spite of her pleading, he put his horse to scrambling up the
first slope which it was possible to climb, and spent an hour
riding, gun in hand, along the rim of the bluff, much as he had
searched it the evening before.
But there was nothing alive that he could discover, except a hawk
which lifted itself languorously off a high, sharp rock, and
flapped lazily out across the valley when he drew near. The man
with the rifle had disappeared as completely as if he had never
been there, and there was not one chance in a hundred of hunting
him out, in all that rough jumble.
When he was turning back at last toward Hartley, he saw Rachel
for a moment standing out against the deep blue of the sky, upon
the very rim of the bluff. He waved a hand to her, but she gave
no sign; only, for some reason, he felt that she was watching him
ride away, and he had a brief, vagrant memory of the wistfulness
he had seen in her eyes.
On the heels of that came a vision of Evadna swinging in the
hammock which hung between the two locust trees, and he longed
unutterably to be with her there. He would be, he promised
himself, within the next hour or so, and set his pace in
accordance with his desire, resolved to make short work of his
investigations in Hartley and his discussion of late events with
He had not, it seemed to him, had more than two minutes with
Evadna since that evening of rapturous memory when they rode home
together from the Malad, and afterward sat upon the stone bench
at the head of the pond, whispering together so softly that they
did not even disturb the frogs among the lily-pads within ten
feet of them. It was not so long ago, that evening. The time
that had passed since might be reckoned easily in hours, but to
Good Indian it seemed a month, at the very least.
EVADNA GOES CALLING
"I have every reason to believe that your two missing jumpers
took the train for Shoshone last night," Miss Georgie made answer
to Good Indian's account of what had happened since he saw her."
Two furtive-eyed individuals answering your description bought
round-trip tickets and had me flag sixteen for them. They got
on, all right. I saw them. And if they got off before the next
station they must have landed on their heads, because Sixteen was
making up time and Shorty pulled the throttle wide open at the
first yank, I should judge, from the way he jumped out of town.
I've been expecting some of them to go and do their filing
stunt--and if the boys have begun to devil them any, the chances
are good that they'd take turns at it, anyway. They'd leave
someone always on the ground, that's a cinch.
"And Saunders," she went on rapidly, "returned safe enough. He
sneaked in just before I closed the office last night, and asked
for a telegram. There wasn't any, and he sneaked out again and
went to bed--so Pete told me this morning. And most of the
Indians have pulled out--squaws, dogs, papooses, and all--on some
fishing or hunting expedition. I don't know that it has anything
to do with your affairs, or would even interest you, though. And
there has been no word from Peaceful, and they can't possibly get
back now till the four-thirty--five.
"And that's all I can tell you, Mr. Imsen," she finished crisply,
and took up a novel with a significance which not even the
dullest man could have ignored.
Good Indian stared, flushed hotly, and made for the door.
"Thank you for the information. I'm afraid this has been a lot
of bother for you," he said stiffly, gave her a ceremonious
little bow, and went his way stiff-necked and frowning.
Miss Georgie leaned forward so that she could see him through the
window. She watched him cross to the store, go up the three
rough steps to the platform, and disappear into the yawning
blackness beyond the wide-open door.
She did not open the novel and begin reading, even then. She
dabbed her handkerchief at her eyes, muttered: "My Heavens, what
a fool!" apropos of nothing tangible, and stared dully out at the
forlorn waste of cinders with rows of shining rails running
straight across it upon ties half sunken in the black
desolation, and at the red abomination which was the pump-house
squatting beside the dripping tank, the pump breathing
asthmatically as it labored to keep the sliding water gauge from
standing at the figure which meant reproach for the grimy
"What a fool--what a fool!" she repeated at the end of ten moody
minutes. Then she threw the novel into a corner of the room, set
her lower jaw into the square lines of stubbornness, went over to
the sleeping telegraph instrument which now and then clicked and
twittered in its sleep, called up Shoshone, and commanded the
agent there to send down a quart freezer of ice cream, a banana
cake, and all the late magazines he could find,
including--especially including--the alleged "funny" ones.
"You certainly--are--the prize--fool!" she said, when she
switched off the current, and she said it with vicious emphasis.
Whereupon she recovered the novel, seated herself determinedly in
the beribboned rocker, flipped the leaves of the book spitefully
until she found one which had a corner turned down, and read a
garden-party chapter much as she used to study her multiplication
table when she was ten and hated arithmetic.
A freight was announced over the wire, arrived with a great
wheezing and snorting, which finally settled to a rhythmic
gasping of the air pump, while a few boxes of store supplies were
being dumped unceremoniously upon the platform. Miss Georgie was
freight agent as well as many other things, and she went out and
stood bareheaded in the sun to watch the unloading.
She performed, with the unthinking precision which comes of long
practice, the many little duties pertaining to her several
offices, and when the wheels began once more to clank, and she
had waved her hand to the fireman, the brakeman, and the
conductor, and had seen the dirty flags at the rear of the
swaying caboose flap out of sight around the low, sage-covered
hill, she turned rather dismally to the parlor end of the office,
and took up the book with her former air of grim determination.
So for an hour, perhaps.
"Is Miss Georgie Howard at home?" It was Evadna standing in the
doorway, her indigo eyes fixed with innocent gayety--which her
mouth somehow failed to meet halfway in mirth--upon the reader.
"She is, chicken, and overjoyed at the sight of you!" Miss
Georgie rose just as enthusiastically as if she had not seen
Evadna slip from Huckleberry's back, fuddle the tie-rope into
what looked like a knot, and step lightly upon the platform. She
had kept her head down--had Miss Georgie--until the last
possible second, because she was still being a fool and had
permitted a page of her book to fog before her eyes. There was
no fog when she pushed Evadna into the seat of honor, however,
and her mouth abetted her eyes in smiling.
"Everything at tho ranch is perfectly horrid," Evadna complained
pathetically, leaning back in the rocking-chair. "I'd just as
soon be shut up in a graveyard. You can't IMAGINE what it's
like, Georgie, since those horrible men came and camped around
all over the place! All yesterday afternoon and till dark, mind
you, the boys were down there shooting at everything but the men,
and they began to shoot back, and Aunt Phoebe was afraid the boys
would be hit, and so we all went down and--oh, it was awful! If
Grant hadn't come home and stopped them, everybody would have
been murdered. And you should have heard how they swore at Grant
afterward! They just called him everything they could think of
for making them stop. I had to sit around on the other side of
the house--and even then I couldn't help hearing most of it.
"And to-day it is worse, because they just go around like a lot
of dummies and won't do anything but look mean. Aunt Phoebe was
so cross--CROSS, mind you!--because I burnt the jam. And some of
the jumpers are missing, and nobody knows where they went-- and
Marie has got the toothache worse than ever, and won't go and
have it pulled because it will HURT! I don't see how it can hurt
much worse than it does now--she just goes around with tears
running down into the flannel around her face till I could SHAKE
her!" Evadna laughed--a self-pitying laugh, and rocked her small
person violently. "I wish I could have an office and live in it
and telegraph things to people," she sighed, and laughed again
most adorably at her own childishness. "But really and truly,
it's enough to drive a person CRAZY, down at the ranch!"
"For a girl with a brand-new sweetheart--" Miss Georgie reproved
quizzically, and reached for the inevitable candy box.
"A lot of good that does, when he's never there!" flashed Evadna,
unintentionally revealing her real grievance. "He just eats and
goes--and he isn't even there to eat, half the time. And when
he's there, he's grumpy, like all the rest." She was saying the
things she had told herself, on the way up, that she would DIE
rather than say; to Miss Georgie, of all people.
"I expect he's pretty worried, chicken, over that land business."
Miss Georgie offered her candy, and Evadna waved the box from her
impatiently, as if her spirits were altogether too low for
"Well, I'm very sure I'M not to blame for those men being there,"
she retorted petulantly. "He"-- she hesitated, and then plunged
heedlessly on--"he acts just as if I weren't anybody at all. I'm
sure, if he expects me to be a doll to be played with and then
dumped into a corner where I'm to smile and smile until he comes
and picks me up again--"
"Now, chicken, what's the use of being silly?" Miss Georgie
turned her head slightly away, and stared out of the window.
"He's worried, I tell you, and instead of sulking because he
doesn't stay and make love--"
"Well, upon my word! Just as if I wanted--"
"You really ought to help him by being kind and showing a little
"It appears that the supply of sympathy--"
"Instead of making it harder for him by feeling neglected and
letting him see that you do. My Heavens above!" Miss Georgie
faced her suddenly with pink cheeks. "When a man is up against a
problem--and carries his life in his hand--"
"You don't know a thing about it!" Evadna stopped rocking, and
sat up very straight in the chair. "And even if that were true,
is that any reason why he should AVOID me? I'M not threatening
"He doesn't avoid you. And you're acting sillier than I ever
supposed you could. He can't be in two places at once, can he?
Now, let's be sensible, chicken. Grant--"
"Oh--h!" There was a peculiar, sliding inflection upon that word,
which made Miss Georgie's hand shut into a fist.
"Grant"--Miss Georgie put a defiant emphasis upon it--"is doing
all he can to get to the bottom of that jumping business.
There's something crooked about it, and he knows it, and is
"I know all that." Evadna interrupted without apology.
"Well, of course, if you DO--then I needn't tell you how silly it
is for you to complain of being neglected, when you know his time
is all taken up with trying to ferret out a way to block their
little game. He feels in a certain sense responsible--"
"Yes, I know. He thinks he should have been watching somebody or
something instead of--of being with me. He took the trouble to
make that clear to me, at least!" Evadna's eyes were very blue
and very bright, but there was no look of an angel in her face.
Miss Georgie pressed her lips together tightly for a minute.
When she spoke, she was cheerfully impersonal as to tone and
"Chicken, you're a little goose. The man is simply crazy about
you, and harassed to death with this ranch business. Once that's
settled--well, you'll see what sort of a lover he can be!"
"Thank you so much for holding out a little hope and
encouragement, my dear!" Evadna, by the way, looked anything but
thankful; indeed, she seemed to resent the hope and the
encouragement as a bit of unwarranted impertinence. She glanced
toward the door as if she meditated an immediate departure, but
ended by settling back in the chair and beginning to rock again.
"It's a nasty, underhand business from start to finish," said
Miss Georgie, ignoring the remark. "It has upset everybody--me
included, and I'm sure it isn't my affair. It's just one of
those tricky cases that you know is rotten to the core, and yet
you can't seem to get hold of anything definite. My dad had one
or two experiences with old Baumberger--and if ever there was a
sly old mole of a man, he's one.
"Did you ever take after a mole, chicken? They used to get in
our garden at home. They burrow underneath the surface, you
know, and one never sees them. You can tell by the ridge of
loose earth that they're there, and if you think you've located
Mr. Mole, and jab a stick down, why--he's somewhere else, nine
times in ten. I used to call them Baumbergers, even then. Dad,"
she finished reminiscently, "was always jabbing his law stick
down where the earth seemed to move--but he never located old
Baumberger, to my knowledge."
She stopped, because Evadna, without a shadow of doubt, was
looking bored. Miss Georgie regarded her with the frown she used
when she was applying her mental measuring-stick. She began to
suspect that Evadna was, after all, an extremely self-centered
little person; she was sorry for the suspicion, and she was also
conscious of a certain disappointment which was not altogether
"Ah, well"--she dismissed analysis and the whole subject with a
laugh that was partly yawn--"away with dull care. Away with dull
everything. It's too hot to think or feel. A real emotion is as
superfluous and oppressive as a--a 'camel petticoat!" This time
her laugh was real and infectiously carefree. "Take off your
hat, chicken. I'll go beg a hunk of ice from my dear friend
Peter, and make some lemonade as is lemonade; or claret punch, if
you aren't a blue ribboner, or white-ribboner, or some other kind
of a good-ribboner." Miss Georgie hated herself for sliding into
sheer flippancy, but she preferred that extreme to the other, and
she could not hold her ground just then at the "happy medium."
Evadna, however, seemed to disapprove of the flippancy. She did
not take off her hat, and she stated evenly that she must go, and
that she really did not care for lemonade, or claret punch,
"What, in Heaven's name, DO you care for--besides yourself?"
flared Miss Georgie, quite humanly exasperated. "There,
chicken--the heat always turns me snappy," she repented
instantly. "Please pinch me." She held out a beautiful,
tapering forearm, and smiled.
"I'm the snappy one," said Evadna, but she did not smile as she
began drawing on her gauntlets slowly and deliberately.
If she were waiting for Miss Georgie to come back to the subject
of Grant, she was disappointed, for Miss Georgie did not come to
any subject whatever. A handcar breezed past the station, the
four section-men pumping like demons because of the slight down
grade and their haste for their dinner.
Huckleberry gave one snort and one tug backward upon the tie rope
and then a coltish kick into the air when he discovered that he
was free. After that, he took off through the sagebrush at a
lope, too worldly-wise to follow the trail past the store, where
someone might rush out and grab him before he could dodge away.
He was a wise little pinto--Huckleberry.
"And now, I suppose I'll have the pleasure of walking home,"
grumbled Evadna, standing upon the platform and gazing, with much
self-pity, after her runaway.
"It's noon--stay and eat dinner with me, chicken. Some of the
boys will bring him back after you the minute he gets to the
ranch. It's too hot to walk." Miss Georgie laid a hand
coaxingly upon her arm.
But Evadna was in her mood of perversity. She wouldn't stay to
dinner, because Aunt Phoebe would be expecting her. She wouldn't
wait for Huckleberry to be brought back to her, because she would
never hear the last of it. She didn't mind the heat the least
bit, and she would walk. And no, she wouldn't borrow Miss
Georgie's parasol; she hated parasols, and she always had and
always would. She gathered up her riding-skirt, and went slowly
down the steps.
Miss Georgie could be rather perverse herself upon occasion. She
waited until Evadna was crunching cinders under her feet before
she spoke another word, and then she only called out a flippant,
Evadna knew no Spanish at all. She lifted her shoulders in what
might be disdain, and made no reply whatever.
"Little idiot!" gritted Miss Georgie--and this time she was not
speaking of herself.
MISS GEORGIE ALSO MAKES A CALL
Saunders, limp and apathetic and colorless, shuffled over to the
station with a wheelbarrow which had a decrepit wheel, that left
an undulating imprint of its drunken progress in the dust as it
went. He loaded the boxes of freight with the abused air of one
who feels that Fate has used him hardly, and then sidled up to
the station door with the furtive air which Miss Georgie always
She took the shipping bill from him with her fingertips, reckoned
the charges, and received the money without a word, pushing a few
pieces of silver toward him upon the table. As he bent to pick
them up clawing unpleasantly with vile finger-nails--she glanced
at him contemptuously, looked again more attentively, pursed her
lips with one corner between her teeth, and when he had clawed
the last dime off the smooth surface of the table, she spoke to
him as if he were not the reptile she considered him, but a live
"Horribly hot, isn't it? I wish _I_ could sleep till noon. It
would make the days shorter, anyway."
"I opened up the store, and then I went back to bed," Saunders
replied limply. "Just got up when the freight pulled in. Made
so blamed much noise it woke me. I seem to need a good deal of
sleep." He coughed behind his hand, and lingered inside the
door. It was so unusual for Miss Georgie to make conversation
with him that Saunders was almost pitifully eager to be
"If it didn't sound cruel, this weather," said Miss Georgie
lightly, still looking at him--or, more particularly, at the
crumpled, soiled collar of his coarse blue shirt--"I'd advise you
to get out of Hartley once a day, if it was no more than to take
a walk. Though to be sure," she smiled, "the prospect is not
inviting, to say the least. Put it would be a change; I'd run up
and down the track, if I didn't have to stick here in this office
"I can't stand walking," Saunders whined. "It makes me cough."
To illustrate, he gave another little hack behind his hand. "I
went up to the stable yesterday with a book, and laid down in the
hay. And I went to sleep, and Pete thought I was lost, I guess."
He grinned, which was not pleasant, for he chewed tobacco and had
ugly, discolored teeth into the bargain.
"I like to lay in the hay," he added lifelessly. "I guess I'll
take my bed up there; that lean-to is awful hot."
"Well, you're lucky that you can do exactly as you please, and
sleep whenever you please." Miss Georgie turned to her telegraph
instrument, and began talking in little staccato sparks of
electricity to the agent at Shoshone, merely as a hint to
Saunders to take himself away.
"Ain't been anything for me?" he asked, still lingering.
Miss Georgie shook her head. He waited a minute longer, and then
sidled out, and when he was heard crunching over the cinders with
his barrow-load of boxes, she switched off the current abruptly,
and went over to the window to watch him.
"Item," she began aloud, when he was quite gone, her eyes staring
vacantly down the scintillating rails to where they seemed to
meet in one glittering point far away in the desert." Item--"
But whatever the item was, she jotted it down silently in that
mental memorandum book which was one of her whims. "Once I put a
thing in that little blue book of mine," she used to tell her
father, "it's there for keeps. And there's the advantage that I
never leave it lying around to be lost, or for other people to
pick up and read to my everlasting undoing. It's better than
cipher--for I don't talk in my sleep."
The four- thirty- five train came in its own time, and brought
the two missing placer miners. But it did not bring Baumberger,
nor Peaceful Hart, nor any word of either. Miss Georgie spent a
good deal of time staring out of the window toward the store that
day, and when she was not doing that she was moving restlessly
about the little office, picking things up without knowing why
she did so, and laying them down again when she discovered them
in her hands and had no use for them. The ice cream came, and
the cake, and the magazines; and she left the whole pile just
inside the door without undoing a wrapping.
At five o'clock she rose abruptly from the rocker, in which she
had just deposited herself with irritated emphasis, and wired her
chief for leave of absence until seven.
"It's important, Mr. Gray. Business which can't wait," she
clicked urgently. "I'll be back before Eight is due. Please."
Miss Georgie did not often send that last word of her own
volition. All up and down the line she was said to be
"Independent as a hog on ice"--a simile not pretty, perhaps, nor
even exact, but frequently applied, nevertheless, to self-reliant
souls like the Hartley operator.
Be that as it may, she received gracious permission to lock the
office door from the outside, and she was not long in doing so,
and heaved a great sigh of relief when it was done. She went
straight to the store, and straight back to where Pete Hamilton
was leaning over a barrel redolent of pickled pork. He came up
with dripping hands and a treasure-trove of flabby meat, and
while he was dangling it over the barrel until the superfluous
brine dripped away, she asked him for a horse.
"I dunno where Saunders is again," he said, letting his consent
be taken for granted. "But I'll go myself and saddle up, if
you'll mind the store. Soon as I finish waitin' on this
customer," he added, casting a glance toward a man who sat upon
the counter and dangled his legs while he apathetically munched
stale pretzels and waited for his purchases.
"Oh, I can saddle, all right, Pete. I've got two hours off, and
I want to ride down to see how the Harts are getting along.
Exciting times down there, from all accounts."
"Maybe I can round up Saunders. He must be somewheres around,"
Pete suggested languidly, wrapping the pork in a piece of brown
paper and reaching for the string which dangled from the ball
hung over his head.
"Saunders is asleep, very likely. If he isn't in his room, never
mind hunting him. The horse is in the stable, I suppose. I can
saddle better than Saunders."
Pete tied the package, wiped his hands, and went heavily out. He
returned immediately, said that Saunders must be up at the
stable, and turned his attention to weighing out five pounds of
Miss Georgie helped herself to a large bag of mixed candy, and
put the money in the drawer, laid her key upon the desk for
safe-keeping, repinned her white sailor hat so that the hot wind
which blew should not take it off her head, and went cheerfully
away to the stable.
She did not saddle the horse at once. She first searched the
pile of sweet-smelling clover in the far end, made sure that no
man was there, assured herself in the same manner of the fact
that she was absolutely alone in the stable so far as humans were
concerned, and continued her search; not for Saunders now, but
for sagebrush. She went outside, and looked carefully at her
"There's hardly a root of it anywhere around close," she said to
herself. "Nor around the store, either--nor any place where one
would be apt to go ordinarily."
She stood there meditatively for a few minutes, remembered that
two hours do not last long, and saddled hurriedly. Then,
mounting awkwardly because of the large, lumpy bag of candy
which she must carry in her hands for want of a pocket large
enough to hold it, she rode away to the Indian camp.
The camp was merely a litter of refuse and the ashes of various
campfires, with one wikiup standing forlorn in the midst. Miss
Georgie never wasted precious time on empty ceremony, and she
would have gone into that tent unannounced and stated her errand
without any compunction whatever. Put Peppajee was lying
outside, smoking in the shade, with his foot bandaged and
disposed comfortably upon a folded blanket. She tossed him the
bag of candy, and stayed upon her horse.
"Howdy, Peppajee? How your foot? Pretty well, mebbyso?"
"Mebbyso bueno. Sun come two time, mebbyso walk all same no
snake biteum." Peppajee's eyes gloated over the gift as he laid
it down beside him.
"That's good. Say, Peppajee," Miss Georgie reached up to feel
her hatpins and to pat her hair, "I wish you'd watch Saunders.
Him no good. I think him bad. I can't keep an eye on him. Can
"No can walk far." Peppajee looked meaningly at his bandages.
"No can watchum."
"Well, but you could tell somebody else to watch him. I think he
do bad thing to the Harts. You like Harts. You tell somebody to
"Indians pikeway--ketchum fish. Come back, mebbyso tellum
Miss Georgie drew in her breath for further argument, decided
that it was not worth while, and touched up her horse with the
whip. "Good-by," she called back, and saw that Peppajee was
looking after her with his eyes, while his face was turned
impassively to the front.
"You're just about as satisfying to talk to as a stump," she paid
tribute to his unassailable calm. "There's four bits wasted,"
she sighed, "to say nothing of the trouble I had packing that
candy to you--you ungrateful old devil." With which unladylike
remark she dismissed him from her mind as a possible ally.
At the ranch, the boys were enthusiastically blistering palms and
stiffening the muscles of their backs, turning the water away
from the ditches that crossed the disputed tracts so that the
trespassers there should have none in which to pan gold--or to
pretend that they were panning gold. Since the whole ranch was
irrigated by springs running out here and there from under the
bluff, and all the ditches ran to meadow and orchard and patches
of small fruit, and since the springs could not well be stopped
from flowing, the thing was not to be done in a minute.
And since there were four boys with decided ideas upon the
subject--ideas which harmonized only in the fundamental desire to
harry the interlopers, the thing was not to be done without much
time being wasted in fruitless argument.
Wally insisted upon running the water all into a sandy hollow
where much of it would seep away and a lake would do no harm, the
main objection to that being that it required digging at least a
hundred yards of new ditch, mostly through rocky soil.
Jack wanted to close all the headgates and just let the water go
where it wanted to--which was easy enough, but ineffective,
because most of it found its way into the ditches farther down
Gene and Clark did not much care how the thing was done--so long
as it was done their way. At least, that is what they said.
It was Good Indian who at length settled the matter. There were
five springs altogether; he proposed that each one make himself
responsible for a certain spring, and see to it that no water
reached the jumpers.
"And I don't care a tinker's dam how you do it," he said. "Drink
it all, if you want to. I'll take the biggest--that one under
the milk-house." Whereat they jeered at him for wanting to be
close to Evadna.
"Well, who has a better right?" he challenged, and then
inconsiderately left them before they could think of a
sufficiently biting retort.
So they went to work, each in his own way, agreeing mostly in
untiring industry. That is how Miss Georgie found them
occupied--except that Good Indian had stopped long enough to
soothe Evadna and her aunt, and to explain that the water would
really not rise much higher in the milk-house, and that he didn't
believe Evadna's pet bench at the head of the pond would be
inaccessible because of his efforts.
Phoebe was sloshing around upon the flooded floor of her
milk-house, with her skirts tucked up and her indignation growing
greater as she gave it utterance, rescuing her pans of milk and
her jars of cream. Evadna, upon the top step, sat with her feet
tucked up under her as if she feared an instant inundation. She,
also, was giving utterance to her feminine irritation at the
discomfort--of her aunt presumably, since she herself was high
"And it won't do a BIT of good. They'll just knock that dam
business all to pieces to-night--" She was scolding Grant.
"Swearing, chicken? Things must be in a great state!"
Grant grinned at Miss Georgie, forgetting for the moment his
rebuff that morning. "She did swear, didn't she?" he confirmed
wickedly. "And she's been working overtime, trying to reform me.
Wanted to pin me down to 'my goodness!' and 'oh, dear!'--with all
this excitement taking place on the ranch!"
"I wasn't swearing at all. Grant has been shoveling sand all
afternoon, building a dam over by the fence, and the water has
been rising and rising till--" She waved her hand gloomily at her
bedraggled Aunt Phoebe working like a motherly sort of gnome in
its shadowy grotto. "Oh, if I were Aunt Phoebe, I should just
shake you, Grant Imsen!"
"Try it," he invited, his eyes worshiping her in her pretty
petulance. "I wish you would."
As Miss Georgie went past them down the steps, her face had the
set look of one who is consciously and deliberately cheerful
under trying conditions.
"Don't quarrel, children," she advised lightly. "Howdy, Mrs.
Hart? What are they trying to do--drown you?"
"Oh, these boys of mine! They'll be the death of me, what with
the things they won't do, and the things they WILL do. They're
trying now to create a water famine for the jumpers, and they're
making their own mother swim for the good of the cause." Phoebe
held out a plump hand, moist and cold from lifting cool crocks of
milk, and laughed at her own predicament.
"The water won't rise any more, Mother Hart," Grant called down
to her from the top step, where he was sitting unblushingly
beside Evadna. "I told you six inches would be the limit, and
then it would run off in the new ditch. You know I explained
"Oh, yes, I know you explained just WHY," Phoebe cut in
disconsolately and yet humorously, "but explanations don't seem
to help my poor milk-house any. And what about the garden, and
the fruit, if you turn tho water all down into the pasture? And
what about the poor horses getting their feet wet and catching
their death of cold? And what's to hinder that man Stanley and
his gang from packing water in buckets from the lake you're going
to have in the pasture?"
She looked at Miss Georgie whimsically. "I'm an ungrateful,
bad-tempered old woman, I guess, for they're doing it because
it's the only thing they can do, since I put my foot down on all
this bombarding and burning good powder just to ease their minds.
They've got to do something, I suppose, or they'd all burst. And
I don't know but what it's a good thing for 'em to work off their
energy digging ditches, even if it don't do a mite of good."
Good Indian was leaning forward with his elbows on his knees,
murmuring lover's confidences behind the shield of his tilted
hat, which hid from all but Evadna his smiling lips and his
telltale, glowing eyes. He looked up at that last sentence,
though it is doubtful if he had heard much of what she had been
"It's bound to do good if it does anything," he said. with an
optimism which was largely the outgrowth of his beatific mood,
which in its turn was born of his nearness to Evadna and her
gracious manner toward him. "We promised not to molest them on
their claims. But if they get over the line to meddle with our
water system, or carry any in buckets--which they can't, because
they all leak like the deuce"--he grinned as he thought of the
bullet holes in them--"why, I don't know but what someone might
object to that, and send them back on their own side of the
He picked up a floating ribbon-end which was a part of Evadna's
belt, and ran it caressingly through his fingers in a way which
set Miss Georgie's teeth together. "I'm afraid," he added dryly,
his eyes once more seeking Evadna's face with pure love hunger,
"they aren't going to make much of a stagger at placer mining, if
they haven't any water." He rolled the ribbon up tightly, and
then tossed it lightly toward her face. "ARE they, Goldilocks?"
"Are they what? I've told you a dozen times to stop calling me
that. I had a doll once that I named Goldilocks, and I melted
her nose off--she was wax--and you always remind me of the
horrible expression it gave to her face. I'd go every day and
take her out of the bureau-drawer and look at her, and then cry
my eyes out. Won't you come and sit down, Georgie? There's
room. Now, what was the discussion, and how far had we got?
Aunt Phoebe, I don't believe it has raised a bit lately. I've
been watching that black rock with the crack in it." Evadna
moved nearer to Good Indian, and pulled her skirts close upon the
other side, thereby making a space at least eight inches wide for
Miss Georgie's accommodation.
"I can't sit anywhere," said Miss Georgie, looking at her watch.
"By the way, chicken, did you have to walk all the way home?"
Evadna looked sidelong at Good Indian, as if a secret had been
betrayed." No," she said, "I didn't. I just got to the top of
the grade when a squaw came along, and she was leading
Huckleberry. A gaudy young squaw, all red and purple and yellow.
She was awfully curious about you, Grant. She wanted to know
where you were and what you were doing. I hope you aren't a
flirtatious young man. She seemed to know you pretty well, I
She had to explain to her Aunt Phoebe and Grant just how she
came to be walking, and she laughed at the squaw's vivid
costume, and declared she would have one like it, because Grant
must certainly admire colors. She managed, innocently enough, to
waste upon such trivialities many of Miss Georgie's precious
At last that young woman, after glancing many times at her watch,
and declining an urgent invitation to stay to supper, declared
that she must go, and tried to give Good Indian a significant
look without being detected in the act by Evadna. But Good
Indian, for the time being wholly absorbed by the smiles of his
lady, had no eyes for her, and seemed to attach no especial
meaning to her visit. So that Miss Georgie, feminine to her
finger-tips and oversensitive perhaps where those two were
concerned, suddenly abandoned her real object in going to the
ranch, and rode away without saying a word of what she had come
She was a direct young woman who was not in the habit of mincing
matters with herself, or of dodging an issue, and she bluntly
called herself a fool many times that evening, because she had
not said plainly that she would like to talk with Grant "and
taken him off to one side--by the ear, if necessary--and talked
to him, and told him what I went down there to tell him," she
said to herself angrily. "And if Evadna didn't like it, she
could do the other thing. It does seem as if girls like that are
always having the trail smoothed down for them to dance their
way through life, while other people climb over rocks--mostly
with packs on their shoulders that don't rightly belong to them."
She sighed impatiently. "It must be lovely to be absolutely
selfish--when you're pretty enough and young enough to make it
stick!" Miss Georgie was, without doubt, in a nasty temper that
SOMEBODY SHOT SAUNDERS
The hot days dropped, one by one, into the past like fiery beads
upon a velvety black cord. Miss Georgie told them silently in
the meager little office, and sighed as they slipped from under
her white, nervous fingers. One--nothing happened that could be
said to bear upon the one big subject in her mind, the routine
work of passing trains and dribbling business in the express and
freight departments, and a long afternoon of heat and silence
save for the asthmatic pump, fifty yards down the main track.
Two--this exactly like the first, except that those inseparables,
Hagar, Viney, and Lucy, whom Miss Georgie had inelegantly dubbed
"the Three Greases," appeared, silent, blanket-enshrouded, and
perspiring, at the office door in mid-afternoon. Half a box of
soggy chocolates which the heat had rendered a dismally sticky
mass won from them smiles and half-intelligible speech. Fishing
was poor--no ketchum. Three--not even the diversion of the
squaws to make her forget the dragging hours.
Nothing--nothing--nothing, she told herself apathetically when
that third day had slipped upon the black cord of a soft, warm
night, star-sprinkled and unutterably lonely as it brooded over
On the morning of the fourth day, Miss Georgie woke with the
vague sense that something had gone wrong. True railroader as
she had come to be, she thought first that there had been a
wreck, and that she was wanted at the telegraph instrument. She
was up and partly dressed before the steps and the voices which
had broken her sleep had reached her door.
Pete Hamilton's voice, trembling with excitement, called to her.
"What is it? What has happened?" she cried from within, beset by
a hundred wild conjectures.
"Saunders--somebody shot Saunders. Wire for a doctor, quick as
yuh can. He ain't dead yet--but he's goin' t' die, sure. Hurry
up and wire--" Somebody at the store called to him, and he broke
off to run lumberingly in answer to the summons. Miss Georgie
made haste to follow him.
Saunders was lying upon a blanket on the store platform, and Miss
Georgie shuddered as she looked at him.
He was pasty white, and his eyes looked glassy under his
half-closed lids. He had been shot in the side-- at the stable,
he had gasped out when Pete found him lying in the trail just
back of the store. Now he seemed beyond speech, and the little
group of section-hands, the Chinese cook at the section-house,
and the Swede foreman, and Pete seemed quite at a loss what to
"Take him in and put him to bed," Miss Georgie commanded, turning
away. "See if he's bleeding yet, and--well, I should put a cold
compress on the wound, I think. I'll send for a doctor--but he
can't get here till nine o'clock unless you want to stand the
expense of a special. And by that time--"
Saunders moved his head a trifle, and lifted his heavy lids to
look at her, which so unnerved Miss Georgie that she turned and
ran to the office. When she had sent the message she sat
drumming upon the table while she waited for an answer.
"G-r-a-n-" her fingers had spelled when she became conscious of
the fact, flushed hotly, and folded her hands tightly together in
"The doctor will come--Hawkinson, I sent for," she announced
later to Pete, holding out the telegram. She glanced reluctantly
at the wrinkled blanket where Saunders had lain, caught a corner
of her under lip between her teeth, and, bareheaded though she
was, went down the steps and along the trail to the stable.
"I've nearly an hour before I need open the office," she said to
herself, looking at her watch. She did not say what she meant to
do with that hour, but she spent a quarter of it examining the
stable and everything in it. Especially did she search the
loose, sandy soil in its vicinity for tracks.
Finally she lifted her skirts as a woman instinctively does at a
street crossing, and struck off through the sagebrush, her eyes
upon a line of uncertain footsteps as of a drunken man reeling
that way. They were not easy to follow--or they would not have
been if she had not felt certain of the general direction which
they must take. More than once she lost sight of them for
several rods, but she always picked them up farther along. At
one place she stopped, and stood perfectly still, her skirts held
back tightly with both hands, while she stared fascinatedly at a
red smear upon a broken branch of sage and the smooth-packed
hollow in the sand where he must have lain.
"He's got nerve--I'll say that much for him," she observed aloud,
and went on.
The footprints were plain where he crossed the grade road near
the edge of the bluff, but from there on it was harder to follow
them because of the great patches of black lava rock lying even
with the surface of the ground, where a dozen men might walk
abreast and leave no sign that the untrained eye, at least, could
"This is a case for Indians," she mused, frowning over an open
space where all was rock. "Injun Charlie would hunt tracks all
day for a dollar or two; only he'd make tracks just to prove
himself the real goods." She sighed, stood upon her tiptoes, and
peered out over the sage to get her bearings, then started on at
a hazard. She went a few rods, found herself in a thick tangle
of brush through which she could not force her way, started to
back out, and caught her hair on a scraggly scrub which seemed to
have as many prongs as there are briers on a rosebush. She was
struggling there with her hands fumbling unavailingly at the back
of her bowed head, when she was pounced upon by someone or
something through the sage. She screamed.
"The--deuce!" Good Indian brought out the milder expletive with
the flat intonation which the unexpected presence of a lady
frequently gives to a man's speech. "Lucky I didn't take a shot
at you through the bushes. I did, almost, when I saw somebody
moving here. Is this your favorite place for a morning ramble?"
He had one hand still upon her arm, and he was laughing openly at
her plight. But he sobered when he stooped a little so that he
could see her face, for there were tears in her eyes, and Miss
Georgie was not the sort of young woman whom one expects to shed
tears for slight cause.
"If you did it--and you must have--I don't see how you can laugh
about it, even if he is a crawling reptile of a man that ought to
be hung!" The tears were in her voice as well as her eyes, and
there were reproach and disappointment also.
"Did what--to whom--to where, to why?" Good Indian let go her
arm, and began helpfully striving with the scraggly scrub and its
prongs. "Say, I'll just about have to scalp you to get you
loose. Would you mind very much, Squaw-talk-far-off?" He ducked
and peered into her face again, and again his face sobered.
"What's the matter?" he asked, in an entirely different
tone--which Miss Georgie, in spite of her mood, found less
satisfying than his banter.
"Saunders--OUCH; I'd as soon be scalped and done with, as to have
you pull out a hair at a time--Saunders crawled home with a
bullet in his ribs. And I thought--"
"Saunders!" Good Indian stared down at her, his hands dropped
upon her head.
Miss Georgie reached up, caught him by the wrists, and held him
so while she tilted her head that she might look up at him.
"Grant!" she cried softly. "He deserved it. You couldn't help
it--he would have shot you down like a dog, just because he was
hired to do it, or because of some hold over him. Don't think I
blame you--or that anyone would if they knew the truth. I came
out to see--I just HAD to make sure--but you must get away from
here. You shouldn't have stayed so long--" Miss Georgie gave a
most unexpected sob, and stopped that she might grit her teeth in
anger over it.
"You think I shot him." As Good Indian said it, the sentence was
merely a statement, rather than an accusation or a reproach.
"I don't blame you. I suspected he was the man up here with the
rifle. That day--that first day, when you told me about someone
shooting at you--he came over to the station. And I saw two or
three scraps of sage sticking under his shirt-collar, as if he
had been out in the brush; you know how it breaks off and sticks,
when you go through it. And he said he had been asleep. And
there isn't any sage where a man would have to go through it
unless he got right out in it, away from the trails. I thought
then that he was the man--"
"You didn't tell me." And this time he spoke reproachfully.
"It was after you had left that I saw it. And I did go down to
the ranch to tell you. But I--you were so--occupied--in other
directions--" She let go his wrists, and began fumbling at her
hair, and she bowed her head again so that her face was hidden
"You could have told me, anyway," Good Indian said constrainedly.
"You didn't want her to know. I couldn't, before her. And I
didn't want to--hurt her by--" Miss Georgie fumbled more with her
words than with her hair.
"Well, there's no use arguing about that." Good Indian also
found that subject a difficult one. "You say he was shot. Did
"He wasn't able to talk when I saw him. Pete said Saunders
claimed he was shot at the stable, but I know that to be a lie."
Miss Georgie spoke with unfeeling exactness. "That was to save
himself in case he got well, I suppose. I believe the man is
going to die, if he hasn't already; he had the look--I've seen
them in wrecks, and I know. He won't talk; he can't. But
there'll be an investigation--and Baumberger, I suspect, will be
just as willing to get you in this way as in any other. More so,
maybe. Because a murder is always awkward to handle."
"I can't see why he should want to murder me." Good Indian took
her hands away from her hair, and set himself again to the work
of freeing her. "You've been fudging around till you've got
about ten million more hairs wound up," he grumbled.
"Wow! ARE you deliberately torturing me?" she complained, winking
with the pain of his good intentions. "I don't believe he does
want to murder you. I think that was just Saunders trying to
make a dandy good job of it. He doesn't like you,
anyway--witness the way you bawled him out that day you
roped--ow-w!--roped the dog. Baumberger may have wanted him to
keep an eye on you--My Heavens, man! Do you think you're plucking
"I wouldn't be surprised," he retorted, grinning a little.
"Honest! I'm trying to go easy, but this infernal bush has sure
got a strangle hold on you--and your hair is so fluffy it's a
deuce of a job. You keep wriggling and getting it caught in new
places. If you could only manage to stand still--but I suppose
"By the way," he remarked casually, after a short silence, save
for an occasional squeal from Miss Georgie, "speaking of
Saunders--I didn't shoot him."
Miss Georgie looked up at him, to the further entanglement of her
hair. "You DIDN'T? Then who did?"
"Search ME," he offered figuratively and briefly.
"Well, I will." Miss Georgie spoke with a certain decisiveness,
and reaching out a sage-soiled hand, took his gun from the
holster at his hip. He shrank away with a man's instinctive
dislike of having anyone make free with his weapons, but it was
a single movement, which he controlled instantly.
"Stand still, can't you?" he admonished, and kept at work while
she examined the gun with a dexterity and ease of every motion
which betrayed her perfect familiarity with firearms. She
snapped the cylinder into place, sniffed daintily at the end of
the barrel, and slipped the gun back into its scabbard.
"Don't think I doubted your word," she said, casting a slanting
glance up at him without moving her head. "But I wanted to be
able to swear positively, if I should happen to be dragged into
the witness-box--I hope it won't be by the hair of the
head!--that your gun has not been fired this morning. Unless you
carry a cleaning rod with you," she added, "which would hardly be
"You may search me if you like," Good Indian suggested, and for
an engaged young man, and one deeply in love withal, he displayed
a contentment with the situation which was almost reprehensible.
"No use. If you did pack one with you, you'd be a fool not to
throw it away after you had used it. No, I'll swear to the gun
as it is now. Are you ever going to get my hair loose? I'm due
at the office right this minute, I'll bet a molasses cooky." She
looked at her watch, and groaned. "I'd have to telegraph myself
back to get there on time now," she said. "Twenty-four--that
fast freight--is due in eighteen minutes exactly. I've got to be
there. Take your jackknife and cut what won't come loose.
Really, I mean it, Mr. Imsen."
"I was under the impression that my name is Grant--to friends."
"My name is 'Dennis,' if I don't beat that freight," she retorted
curtly. "Take your knife and give me a hair cut--quick! I can do
it a different way, and cover up the place."
"Oh, all right--but it's a shame to leave a nice bunch of hair
like this hanging on a bush."
"Tell me, what were you doing up here, Grant? And what are you
going to do now? We haven't much time, and we've been fooling
when we should have been discussing 'ways and means.'"
"Well, I got up early, and someone took a shot at me again. This
time he clipped my hat-brim." He took off his hat, and showed
her where the brim had a jagged tear half an inch deep. "I
ducked, and made up my mind I'd get him this time, or know the
reason why. So I rode up the other way and back behind the
orchard, and struck the grade below the Point o' Rocks, and so
came up here hunting him. I kept pretty well out of sight--we've
done that before; Jack and I took sneak yesterday, and came up
here at sunrise, but we couldn't find anything. I was beginning
to think he had given it up. So I was just scouting around here
when I heard you rustling the bushes over here. I was going to
shoot, but I changed my mind, and thought I'd land on you and
trust to the lessons I got in football and the gun. And the
rest," he declaimed whimsically, "you know.
"Now, duck away down--oh, wait a minute." He gave a jerk at the
knot of his neckerchief, flipped out the folds, spread it
carefully over her head, and tied it under her chin, patting it
into place and tucking stray locks under as if he rather enjoyed
doing it." Better wear it till you're out of the brush," he
advised, "if you don't want to get hung up somewhere again."
She stood up straight, with a long, deep sigh of relief.
"Now, pikeway," he smiled. "And don't run bareheaded through the
bushes again. You've still got time to beat that train.
And--about Saunders-- don't worry. I can get to the ranch
without being seen, and no one will know I was up here, unless
you tell them."
"Oh, I shall of course!" Miss Georgie chose to be very sarcastic.
"I think I shall wire the information to the sheriff. Don't come
with me--and leave tracks all over the country. Keep on the
lava rock. Haven't you got any sense at all?"
"You made tracks yourself, madam, and you've left a fine lot of
incriminating evidence on that bush. I'll have to waste an hour
picking off the hair, so they won't accuse you of shooting
Saunders." Good Indian spoke lightly, but they both stopped,
nevertheless, and eyed the offending bush anxiously.
"You haven't time," Miss Georgie decided. "I can easily get
around that, if it's put up to me. You go on back. Really, you
must!" her eyes implored him.
"Oh, vey-ree well. We haven't met this morning. Good-by,
Squaw-talk-far-off. I'll see you later, perhaps."
Miss Georgie still had that freight heavy on her conscience, but
she stood and watched him stoop under an overhanging branch and
turn his head to smile reassuringly back at her; then, with a
pungent stirring of sage odors, the bushes closed in behind him,
and it was as if he had never been there at all. Whereupon Miss
Georgie once more gathered her skirts together and ran to the
trail, and down that to the station.
She met a group of squaws, who eyed her curiously, but she was
looking once more at her watch, and paid no attention, although
they stood huddled in the trail staring after her. She
remembered that she had left the office unlocked and she rushed
in, and sank panting into the chair before her telegraph table
just as the smoke of the fast freight swirled around the nose of
the low, sage-covered hill to the west.
A BIT OF PAPER
Good Indian came out upon the rim-rock, looked down upon the
ranch beneath him, and knew, by various little movements about
the place, that breakfast was not yet ready. Gene was carrying
two pails of milk to the house, and Wally and Jack were watering
the horses that had been stabled overnight. He was on the point
of shouting down to them when his arm was caught tightly from
behind. He wheeled about and confronted Rachel. Clothed all in
dull gray she was, like a savage young Quakeress. Even the red
ribbons were gone from her hair, which was covered by the gray
blanket wrapped tightly around her slim body. She drew him back
from the rim of the bluff.
"You no shout," she murmured gravely. "No lettum see you here.
You go quick. Ketchum you cayuse, go to ranch. You no tellum
you be this place."
Good Indian stood still, and looked at her. She stood with her
arms folded in her blanket, regarding him with a certain yearning
"You all time think why," she said, shrewdly reading his
thoughts, "I no take shame. I glad." She flushed, and looked
away to the far side of the Snake. "Bad mans no more try for
shoot you, mebbyso. I heap--"
Good Indian reached out, and caught her by both shoulders.
"Rachel--if you did that, don't tell me about it. Don't tell me
anything. I don't ask you--I don't want to know." He spoke
rapidly, in the grip of his first impulse to shield her from what
she had done. But he felt her begin to tremble under his
fingers, and he stopped as suddenly as he had begun.
"You no glad? You think shame for me? You think I--all
time--very--bad!" Tragedy was in her voice, and in her great,
dark eyes. Good Indian gulped.
"No, Rachel. I don't think that. I want to help you out of
this, if I can, and I meant that if you didn't tell me anything
about it, why--I wouldn't know anything about it. You sabe."
"I sabe." Her lips curved into a pathetic little smile. "I sabe
you know all what I do. You know for why, me thinkum. You think
shame. I no take shame. I do for you no get kill-dead. All
time Man-that-coughs try for shootum you. All time I try for--"
She broke off to stare questioningly up into his face. "I no
tell, you no like for tell," she said quietly. "All same, you
go. You ketchum you hoss, you go ranch. I think sheriff mans
mebbyso come pretty quick. No find out you be here. I no like
you be here this time."
Good Indian turned, yielding to the pleading of her eyes. The
heart of him ached dully with the weight of what she had done,
and with an uneasy comprehension of her reason for doing it. He
walked as quickly as the rough ground would permit, along the
bluff toward the grade; and she, with the instinctive deference
to the male which is the heritage of primitive woman, followed
soft-footedly two paces behind him. Once where the way was clear
he stopped, and waited for her to come alongside, but Rachel
stopped and waited also, her eyes hungrily searching his face
with the look a dog has for his master. Good Indian read the
meaning of that look, and went on, and turned no more toward her
until he reached his horse.
"You'd better go on to camp, and stay there, Rachel," he said, as
casually as he could. "No trouble will come to you." He
hesitated, biting his lip and plucking absently the tangles from
the forelock of his horse. "You sabe grateful?" he asked
finally. And when she gave a quick little nod, he went on:
"Well, I'm grateful to you. You did what a man would do for his
friend. I sabe. I'm heap grateful, and I'll not forget it. All
time I'll be your friend. Good--by." He mounted, and rode away.
He felt, just then, that it was the kindest thing he could do.
He looked back once, just as he was turning into the grade road.
She was standing, her arms folded in her gray blanket, where he
had left her. His fingers tightened involuntarily the reins, so
that Keno stopped and eyed his master inquiringly. But there was
nothing that he might say to her. It was not words that she
wanted. He swung his heels against Keno's flanks, and rode home.
Evadna rallied him upon his moodiness at breakfast, pouted a
little because he remained preoccupied under her teasing, and
later was deeply offended because he would not tell her where he
had been, or what was worrying him.
"I guess you better send word to the doctor he needn't come," the
pump man put his head in at the office door to say, just as the
freight was pulling away from the water-tank. "Saunders died a
few minutes ago. Pete says you better notify the coroner--and I
reckon the sheriff, too. Pretty tough to be shot down like that
in broad daylight."
"I think I'd rather be shot in daylight than in the dark," Miss
Georgie snapped unreasonably because her nerves were all
a-jangle, and sent the messages as requested.
Saunders was neither a popular nor a prominent citizen, and there
was none to mourn beside him. Peter Hamilton, as his employer
and a man whose emotions were easily stirred, was shocked a shade
lighter as to his complexion and a tone lower as to his voice
perhaps, and was heard to remark frequently that it was "a
turrible thing," but the chief emotion which the tragedy roused
was curiosity, and that fluttering excitement which attends death
in any form.
A dozen Indians hung about the store, the squaws peering
inquisitively in at the uncurtained window of the lean-to--where
the bed held a long immovable burden with a rumpled sheet over
it--and the bucks listening stolidly to the futile gossip on the
Pete Hamilton, anxious that the passing of his unprofitable
servant should be marked by decorum if not by grief, mentally
classed the event with election day, in that he refused to sell
any liquor until the sheriff and coroner arrived. He also, after
his first bewilderment had passed, conceived the idea that
Saunders had committed suicide, and explained to everyone who
would listen just why he believed it. Saunders was sickly, for
one thing. For another, Saunders never seemed to get any good
out of living. He had read everything he could get his hands
on--and though Pete did not say that Saunders chose to die when
the stock of paper novels was exhausted, he left that impression
upon his auditors.
The sheriff and the coroner came at nine. All the Hart boys,
including Donny, were there before noon, and the group of Indians
remained all day wherever the store cast its shadow. Squaws and
bucks passed and repassed upon the footpath between Hartley and
their camp, chattering together of the big event until they came
under the eye of strange white men, whereupon they. were
stricken deaf and dumb, as is the way of our nation's wards.
When the sheriff inspected the stable and its vicinity, looking
for clews, not a blanket was in sight, though a dozen eyes
watched every movement suspiciously. When at the inquest that
afternoon, he laid upon the table a battered old revolver of
cheap workmanship and long past its prime, and testified that he
had found it ten feet from the stable-door, in a due line
southeast from the hay-corral, and that one shot had been fired
from it, there were Indians in plenty to glance furtively at the
weapon and give no sign.
The coroner showed the bullet which he had extracted from the
body of Saunders, and fitted it into the empty cartridge which
had been under the hammer in the revolver, and thereby proved to
the satisfaction of everyone that the gun was intimately
connected with the death of the man. So the jury arrived
speedily, and without further fussing over evidence, at the
verdict of suicide.
Good Indian drew a long breath, put on his hat, and went over to
tell Miss Georgie. The Hart boys lingered for a few minutes at
the store, and then rode on to the ranch without him, and the
Indians stole away over the hill to their camp. The coroner and
the sheriff accepted Pete's invitation into the back part of the
store, refreshed themselves after the ordeal, and caught the next
train for Shoshone. So closed the incident of Saunders' passing,
so far as the law was concerned.
"Well," Miss Georgie summed up the situation, "Baumberger hasn't
made any sign of taking up the matter. I don't believe, now,
that he will. I wired the news to the papers in Shoshone, so he
must know. I think perhaps he's glad to get Saunders out of the
way--for he certainly must have known enough to put Baumberger
behind the bars.
"But I don't see," she said, in a puzzled way, "how that gun came
onto the scene. I looked all around the stable this morning, and
I could swear there wasn't any gun."
"Well, he did pick it up--fortunately," Good Indian returned
grimly. "I'm glad the thing was settled so easily."
She looked up at him sharply for a moment, opened her lips to ask
a question, and then thought better of it.
"Oh, here's your handkerchief," she said quietly, taking it from
the bottom of her wastebasket. "As you say, the thing is
settled. I'm going to turn you out now. The four-thirty-five is
due pretty soon--and I have oodles of work."
He looked at her strangely, and went away, wondering why Miss
Georgie hated so to have him in the office lately.
On the next day, at ten o'clock, they buried Saunders on a
certain little knoll among the sagebrush; buried him without much
ceremony, it is true, but with more respect than he had received
when he was alive and shambling sneakily among them. Good Indian
was there, saying little and listening attentively to the
comments made upon the subject, and when the last bit of yellow
gravel had been spatted into place he rode down through the
Indian camp on his way home, thankful that everyone seemed to
accept the verdict of suicide as being final, and anxious that
Rachel should know it. He felt rather queer about Rachel; sorry
for her, in an impersonal way; curious over her attitude toward
life in general and toward himself in particular, and ready to do
her a good turn because of her interest.
But Rachel, when he reached the camp, was not visible. Peppajee
Jim was sitting peacefully in the shade of his wikiup when Grant
rode up, and he merely grunted in reply to a question or two.
Good Indian resolved to be patient. He dismounted, and squatted
upon his heels beside Peppajee, offered him tobacco, and dipped a
shiny, new nickel toward a bright-eyed papoose in scanty raiment,
who stopped to regard him inquisitively.
"I just saw them bury Saunders," Good Indian remarked, by way of
opening a conversation. "You believe he shot himself?"
Peppajee took his little stone pipe from his lips, blew a thin
wreath of smoke, and replaced the stem between his teeth, stared
stolidly straight ahead of him, and said nothing.
"All the white men say that," Good Indian persisted, after he had
waited a minute. Peppajee did not seem to hear.
"Sheriff say that, too. Sheriff found the gun."
"Mebbyso sheriff mans heap damfool. Mebbyso heap smart. No
Good Indian studied him silently. Reticence was not a general
characteristic of Peppajee; it seemed to indicate a thorough
understanding of the whole affair. He wondered if Rachel had
told her uncle the truth.
"Where's Rachel?" he asked suddenly, the words following
involuntarily his thought.
Peppajee sucked hard upon his pipe, took it away from his mouth,
and knocked out the ashes upon a pole of the wikiup frame.
"Yo' no speakum Rachel no more," he said gravely. "Yo' ketchum
'Vadnah; no ketchum otha squaw. Bad medicine come. Heap much
troubles come. Me no likeum. My heart heap bad."
"I'm Rachel's friend, Peppajee." Good Indian spoke softly so
that others might not hear. "I sabe what Rachel do. Rachel good
girl. I don't want to bring trouble. I want to help."
"Yo' make heap bad heart for Rachel," he said sourly. "Yo' like
for be friend, yo' no come no more, mebbyso. No speakum. Bimeby
mebbyso no have bad heart no more. Kay bueno. Yo' white mans.
Rachel mebbyso thinkum all time yo' Indian. Mebbyso thinkum be
yo' squaw. Kay bueno. Yo' all time white mans. No speakum
Rachel no more, yo' be friend.
Yo' speakum, me like to kill yo', mebbyso." He spoke calmly, but
none the less his words carried conviction of his sincerity.
Within the wikiup Good Indian heard a smothered sob. He
listened, heard it again, and looked challengingly at Peppajee.
But Peppajee gave no sign that he either heard the sound or saw
the challenge in Good Indian's eyes.
"I Rachel's friend," he said, speaking distinctly with his face
half turned toward the wall of deerskin. "I want to tell Rachel
what the sheriff said. I want to thank Rachel, and tell her I'm
her friend. I don't want to bring trouble." He stopped and
listened, but there was no sound within.
Peppajee eyed him comprehendingly, but there was no yielding in
his brown, wrinkled face.
"Yo' Rachel's frien', yo' pikeway," he insisted doggedly.
From under the wall of the wikiup close to Good Indian on the
side farthest from Peppajee, a small, leafless branch of sage was
thrust out, and waggled cautiously, scraping gently his hand.
Good Indian's fingers closed upon it instinctively, and felt it
slowly withdrawn until his hand was pressed against the hide
wall. Then soft fingers touched his own, fluttered there
timidly, and left in his palm a bit of paper, tightly folded.
Good Indian closed his hand upon it, and stood up.
"All right, I go," he said calmly to Peppajee, and mounted.
Peppajee looked at him stolidly, and said nothing.
"One thing I would like to know." Good Indian spoke again. "You
don't care any more about the men taking Peaceful's ranch.
Before they came, you watch all the time, you heap care. Why you
no care any more? Why you no help?"
Peppajee's mouth straightened in a grin of pure irony.
"All time Baumberga try for ketchum ranch, me try for stoppum,"
he retorted. "Yo' no b'lievum, Peacefu' no b'lievum. Me tellum
yo' cloud sign, tellum yo' smoke sign, tellum yo' hear much bad
talk for ketchum ranch. Yo' all time think for ketchum 'Vadnah
squaw. No think for stoppum mens. Yo' all time let mens come,
ketchum ranch. Yo' say fightum in co't. Cloud sign say me do
notting. Yo' lettum come. Yo' mebbyso makum go. Me no care."
"I see. Well, maybe you're right." He tightened the reins, and
rode away, the tight little wad of paper still hidden in his
palm. When he was quite out of sight from the camp and jogging
leisurely down the hot trail, he unfolded it carefully and looked
at it long.
His face was grave and thoughtful when at last he tore it into
tiny bits and gave it to the hot, desert wind. It was a pitiful
little message, printed laboriously upon a scrap of brown
wrapping--paper. It said simply:
"God by i lov yo."
THE MALICE OF A SQUAW