Part 1 out of 8
The Light of Western Stars
by Zane Grey
I. A Gentleman of the Range
II. A Secret Kept
III. Sister and Brother
IV. A Ride From Sunrise to Sunset
V. The Round-up
VI. A Gift and a Purchase
VII. Her Majesty's Rancho
VIII. El Capitan
IX. The New Foreman
X. Don Carlo's Vaqueros
XI. A Band of Guerrillas
XII. Friends from the East
XIII. Cowboy Golf
XV. The Mountain Trail
XVI. The Crags
XVII. The Lost Mine of the Padres
XIX. Don Carlos
XX. The Sheriff of El Cajon
XXII. The Secret Told
XXIII.The Light of Western Stars
XXIV. The Ride
XXV. At the End of the Road
The Light of Western Stars
I A Gentleman of the Range
When Madeline Hammond stepped from the train at El Cajon, New
Mexico, it was nearly midnight, and her first impression was of a
huge dark space of cool, windy emptiness, strange and silent,
stretching away under great blinking white stars.
"Miss, there's no one to meet you," said the conductor, rather
"I wired my brother," she replied. "The train being so late--
perhaps he grew tired of waiting. He will be here presently.
But, if he should not come--surely I can find a hotel?"
"There's lodgings to be had. Get the station agent to show you.
If you'll excuse me--this is no place for a lady like you to be
alone at night. It's a rough little town--mostly Mexicans,
miners, cowboys. And they carouse a lot. Besides, the revolution
across the border has stirred up some excitement along the line.
Miss, I guess it's safe enough, if you--"
"Thank you. I am not in the least afraid."
As the train started to glide away Miss Hammond walked towards
the dimly lighted station. As she was about to enter she
encountered a Mexican with sombrero hiding his features and a
blanket mantling his shoulders.
"Is there any one here to meet Miss Hammond?" she asked.
"No sabe, Senora," he replied from under the muffling blanket,
and he shuffled away into the shadow.
She entered the empty waiting-room. An oil-lamp gave out a thick
yellow light. The ticket window was open, and through it she saw
there was neither agent nor operator in the little compartment.
A telegraph instrument clicked faintly.
Madeline Hammond stood tapping a shapely foot on the floor, and
with some amusement contrasted her reception in El Cajon with
what it was when she left a train at the Grand Central. The only
time she could remember ever having been alone like this was once
when she had missed her maid and her train at a place outside of
Versailles--an adventure that had been a novel and delightful
break in the prescribed routine of her much-chaperoned life. She
crossed the waiting-room to a window and, holding aside her veil,
looked out. At first she could descry only a few dim lights, and
these blurred in her sight. As her eyes grew accustomed to the
darkness she saw a superbly built horse standing near the window.
Beyond was a bare square. Or, if it was a street, it was the
widest one Madeline had ever seen. The dim lights shone from
low, flat buildings. She made out the dark shapes of many
horses, all standing motionless with drooping heads. Through a
hole in the window-glass came a cool breeze, and on it breathed a
sound that struck coarsely upon her ear--a discordant mingling of
laughter and shout, and the tramp of boots to the hard music of a
"Western revelry," mused Miss Hammond, as she left the window.
"Now, what to do? I'll wait here. Perhaps the station agent
will return soon, or Alfred will come for me."
As she sat down to wait she reviewed the causes which accounted
for the remarkable situation in which she found herself. That
Madeline Hammond should be alone, at a late hour, in a dingy
little Western railroad station, was indeed extraordinary.
The close of her debutante year had been marred by the only
unhappy experience of her life--the disgrace of her brother and
his leaving home. She dated the beginning of a certain
thoughtful habit of mind from that time, and a dissatisfaction
with the brilliant life society offered her. The change had been
so gradual that it was permanent before she realized it. For a
while an active outdoor life--golf, tennis, yachting--kept this
realization from becoming morbid introspection. There came a
time when even these lost charm for her, and then she believed
she was indeed ill in mind. Travel did not help her.
There had been months of unrest, of curiously painful wonderment
that her position, her wealth, her popularity no longer sufficed.
She believed she had lived through the dreams and fancies of a
girl to become a woman of the world. And she had gone on as
before, a part of the glittering show, but no longer blind to the
truth--that there was nothing in her luxurious life to make it
Sometimes from the depths of her there flashed up at odd moments
intimations of a future revolt. She remembered one evening at
the opera when the curtain bad risen upon a particularly
well-done piece of stage scenery--a broad space of deep
desolateness, reaching away under an infinitude of night sky,
illumined by stars. The suggestion it brought of vast wastes of
lonely, rugged earth, of a great, blue-arched vault of starry
sky, pervaded her soul with a strange, sweet peace.
When the scene was changed she lost this vague new sense of
peace, and she turned away from the stage in irritation. She
looked at the long, curved tier of glittering boxes that
represented her world. It was a distinguished and splendid
world--the wealth, fashion, culture, beauty, and blood of a
nation. She, Madeline Hammond, was a part of it. She smiled, she
listened, she talked to the men who from time to time strolled
into the Hammond box, and she felt that there was not a moment
when she was natural, true to herself. She wondered why these
people could not somehow, some way be different; but she could
not tell what she wanted them to be. If they had been different
they would not have fitted the place; indeed, they would not have
been there at all. Yet she thought wistfully that they lacked
something for her.
And suddenly realizing she would marry one of these men if she
did not revolt, she had been assailed by a great weariness, an
icy-sickening sense that life had palled upon her. She was tired
of fashionable society. She was tired of polished, imperturbable
men who sought only to please her. She was tired of being feted,
admired, loved, followed, and importuned; tired of people; tired
of houses, noise, ostentation, luxury. She was so tired of
In the lonely distances and the passionless stars of boldly
painted stage scenery she had caught a glimpse of something that
stirred her soul. The feeling did not last. She could not call it
back. She imagined that the very boldness of the scene had
appealed to her; she divined that the man who painted it had
found inspiration, joy, strength, serenity in rugged nature. And
at last she knew what she needed--to be alone, to brood for long
hours, to gaze out on lonely, silent, darkening stretches, to
watch the stars, to face her soul, to find her real self.
Then it was she had first thought of visiting the brother who had
gone West to cast his fortune with the cattlemen. As it
happened, she had friends who were on the eve of starting for
California, and she made a quick decision to travel with them.
When she calmly announced her intention of going out West her
mother had exclaimed in consternation; and her father, surprised
into pathetic memory of the black sheep of the family, had stared
at her with glistening eyes. "Why, Madeline! You want to see
that wild boy!" Then he had reverted to the anger he still felt
for his wayward son, and he had forbidden Madeline to go. Her
mother forgot her haughty poise and dignity. Madeline, however,
had exhibited a will she had never before been known to possess.
She stood her ground even to reminding them that she was
twenty-four and her own mistress. In the end she had prevailed,
and that without betraying the real state of her mind.
Her decision to visit her brother had been too hurriedly made and
acted upon for her to write him about it, and so she had
telegraphed him from New York, and also, a day later, from
Chicago, where her traveling friends had been delayed by illness.
Nothing could have turned her back then. Madeline had planned to
arrive in El Cajon on October 3d, her brother's birthday, and she
had succeeded, though her arrival occurred at the twenty-fourth
hour. Her train had been several hours late. Whether or not the
message had reached Alfred's hands she had no means of telling,
and the thing which concerned her now was the fact that she had
arrived and he was not there to meet her.
It did not take long for thought of the past to give way wholly
to the reality of the present.
"I hope nothing has happened to Alfred," she said to herself.
"He was well, doing splendidly, the last time he wrote. To be
sure, that was a good while ago; but, then, he never wrote often.
He's all right. Pretty soon he'll come, and how glad I'll be! I
wonder if he has changed."
As Madeline sat waiting in the yellow gloom she heard the faint,
intermittent click of the telegraph instrument, the low hum of
wires, the occasional stamp of an iron-shod hoof, and a distant
vacant laugh rising above the sounds of the dance. These
commonplace things were new to her. She became conscious of a
slight quickening of her pulse. Madeline had only a limited
knowledge of the West. Like all of her class, she had traveled
Europe and had neglected America. A few letters from her brother
had confused her already vague ideas of plains and mountains, as
well as of cowboys and cattle. She had been astounded at the
interminable distance she had traveled, and if there had been
anything attractive to look at in all that journey she had passed
it in the night. And here she sat in a dingy little station,
with telegraph wires moaning a lonely song in the wind.
A faint sound like the rattling of thin chains diverted
Madeline's attention. At first she imagined it was made by the
telegraph wires. Then she heard a step. The door swung wide; a
tall man entered, and with him came the clinking rattle. She
realized then that the sound came from his spurs. The man was a
cowboy, and his entrance recalled vividly to her that of Dustin
Farnum in the first act of "The Virginian."
"Will you please direct me to a hotel?" asked Madeline, rising.
The cowboy removed his sombrero, and the sweep he made with it
and the accompanying bow, despite their exaggeration, had a kind
of rude grace. He took two long strides toward her.
"Lady, are you married?"
In the past Miss Hammond's sense of humor had often helped her to
overlook critical exactions natural to her breeding. She kept
silence, and she imagined it was just as well that her veil hid
her face at the moment. She had been prepared to find cowboys
rather striking, and she had been warned not to laugh at them.
This gentleman of the range deliberately reached down and took up
her left hand. Before she recovered from her start of amaze he
had stripped off her glove.
"Fine spark, but no wedding-ring," he drawled. "Lady, I'm glad
to see you're not married."
He released her hand and returned the glove.
"You see, the only ho-tel in this here town is against boarding
"Indeed?" said Madeline, trying to adjust her wits to the
"It sure is," he went on. "Bad business for ho-tels to have
married women. Keeps the boys away. You see, this isn't Reno."
Then he laughed rather boyishly, and from that, and the way he
slouched on his sombrero, Madeline realized he was half drunk.
As she instinctively recoiled she not only gave him a keener
glance, but stepped into a position where a better light shone on
his face. It was like red bronze, bold, raw, sharp. He laughed
again, as if good-naturedly amused with himself, and the laugh
scarcely changed the hard set of his features. Like that of all
women whose beauty and charm had brought them much before the
world, Miss Hammond's intuition had been developed until she had
a delicate and exquisitely sensitive perception of the nature of
men and of her effect upon them. This crude cowboy, under the
influence of drink, had affronted her; nevertheless, whatever was
in his mind, he meant no insult.
"I shall be greatly obliged if you will show me to the hotel,"
"Lady, you wait here," he replied, slowly, as if his thought did
not come swiftly. "I'll go fetch the porter."
She thanked him, and as he went out, closing the door, she sat
down in considerable relief. It occurred to her that she should
have mentioned her brother's name, Then she fell to wondering
what living with such uncouth cowboys had done to Alfred. He had
been wild enough in college, and she doubted that any cowboy
could have taught him much. She alone of her family bad ever
believed in any latent good in Alfred Hammond, and her faith had
scarcely survived the two years of silence.
Waiting there, she again found herself listening to the moan of
the wind through the wires. The horse outside began to pound
with heavy hoofs, and once he whinnied. Then Madeline heard a
rapid pattering, low at first and growing louder, which presently
she recognized as the galloping of horses. She went to the
window, thinking, hoping her brother had arrived. But as the
clatter in-creased to a roar, shadows sped by--lean horses,
flying manes and tails, sombreroed riders, all strange and wild
in her sight. Recalling what the conductor had said, she was at
some pains to quell her uneasiness. Dust-clouds shrouded the dim
lights in the windows. Then out of the gloom two figures
appeared, one tall, the other slight. The cowboy was returning
with a porter.
Heavy footsteps sounded without, and lighter ones dragging along,
and then suddenly the door rasped open, jarring the whole room.
The cowboy entered, pulling a disheveled figure--that of a
priest, a padre, whose mantle had manifestly been disarranged by
the rude grasp of his captor. Plain it was that the padre was
Madeline Hammond gazed in bewilderment at the little man, so pale
and shaken, and a protest trembled upon her lips; but it was
never uttered, for this half-drunken cowboy now appeared to be a
cool, grim-smiling devil; and stretching out a long arm, he
grasped her and swung her back to the bench.
"You stay there!" he ordered.
His voice, though neither brutal nor harsh nor cruel, had the
unaccountable effect of making her feel powerless to move. No
man had ever before addressed her in such a tone. It was the
woman in her that obeyed--not the personality of proud Madeline
The padre lifted his clasped hands as if supplicating for his
life, and began to speak hurriedly in Spanish. Madeline did not
understand the language. The cowboy pulled out a huge gun and
brandished it in the priest's face. Then he lowered it,
apparently to point it at the priest's feet. There was a red
flash, and then a thundering report that stunned Madeline. The
room filled with smoke and the smell of powder. Madeline did not
faint or even shut her eyes, but she felt as if she were fast in
a cold vise. When she could see distinctly through the smoke she
experienced a sensation of immeasurable relief that the cowboy
had not shot the padre. But he was still waving the gun, and now
appeared to be dragging his victim toward her. What possibly
could be the drunken fool's intention? This must be, this surely
was a cowboy trick. She had a vague, swiftly flashing
recollection of Alfred's first letters descriptive of the
extravagant fun of cowboys. Then she vividly remembered a moving
picture she had seen--cowboys playing a monstrous joke on a lone
school-teacher. Madeline no sooner thought of it than she made
certain her brother was introducing her to a little wild West
amusement. She could scarcely believe it, yet it must be true.
Alfred's old love of teasing her might have extended even to this
outrage. Probably he stood just outside the door or window
laughing at her embarrassment.
Anger checked her panic. She straightened up with what composure
this surprise had left her and started for the door. But the
cowboy barred her passage--grasped her arms. Then Madeline
divined that her brother could not have any knowledge of this
indignity. It was no trick. It was something that was
happening, that was real, that threatened she knew not what. She
tried to wrench free, feeling hot all over at being handled by
this drunken brute. Poise, dignity, culture--all the acquired
habits of character--fled before the instinct to fight. She was
athletic. She fought. She struggled desperately. But he forced
her back with hands of iron. She had never known a man could be
so strong. And then it was the man's coolly smiling face, the
paralyzing strangeness of his manner, more than his strength,
that weakened Madeline until she sank trembling against the
"What--do you--mean?" she panted.
"Dearie, ease up a little on the bridle," he replied, gaily.
Madeline thought she must be dreaming. She could not think
clearly. It had all been too swift, too terrible for her to
grasp. Yet she not only saw this man, but also felt his powerful
presence. And the shaking priest, the haze of blue smoke, the
smell of powder-these were not unreal.
Then close before her eyes burst another blinding red flash, and
close at her ears bellowed another report. Unable to stand,
Madeline slipped down onto the bench. Her drifting faculties
refused clearly to record what transpired during the next few
moments; presently, however, as her mind steadied somewhat, she
heard, though as in a dream, the voice of the padre hurrying over
strange words. It ceased, and then the cowboy's voice stirred
"Lady, say Si--Si. Say it--quick! Say it--Si!"
From sheer suggestion, a force irresistible at this moment when
her will was clamped by panic, she spoke the word.
"And now, lady--so we can finish this properly--what's your
Still obeying mechanically, she told him.
He stared for a while, as if the name had awakened associations
in a mind somewhat befogged. He leaned back unsteadily.
Madeline heard the expulsion of his breath, a kind of hard puff,
not unusual in drunken men.
"What name?" he demanded.
"Madeline Hammond. I am Alfred Hammond's sister."
He put his hand up and brushed at an imaginary something before
his eyes. Then he loomed over her, and that hand, now shaking a
little, reached out for her veil. Before he could touch it,
however, she swept it back, revealing her face.
How strange--stranger than anything that had ever happened to her
before--was it to hear that name on the lips of this cowboy! It
was a name by which she was familiarly known, though only those
nearest and dearest to her had the privilege of using it. And
now it revived her dulled faculties, and by an effort she
regained control of herself.
"You are Majesty Hammond," he replied; and this time he affirmed
wonderingly rather than questioned.
Madeline rose and faced him.
"Yes, I am."
He slammed his gun back into its holster.
"Well, I reckon we won't go on with it, then."
"With what, sir? And why did you force me to say Si to this
"I reckon that was a way I took to show him you'd be willing to
"Oh! . . . You--you! . . ." Words failed her.
This appeared to galvanize the cowboy into action. He grasped the
padre and led him toward the door, cursing and threatening, no
doubt enjoining secrecy. Then he pushed him across the threshold
and stood there breathing hard and wrestling with himself.
"Here--wait--wait a minute, Miss--Miss Hammond," he said,
huskily. "You could fall into worse company than mine--though I
reckon you sure think not. I'm pretty drunk, but I'm--all right
otherwise. Just wait--a minute."
She stood quivering and blazing with wrath, and watched this
savage fight his drunkenness. He acted like a man who had been
suddenly shocked into a rational state of mind, and he was now
battling with himself to hold on to it. Madeline saw the dark,
damp hair lift from his brows as he held it up to the cool wind.
Above him she saw the white stars in the deep-blue sky, and they
seemed as unreal to her as any other thing in this strange night.
They were cold, brilliant, aloof, distant; and looking at them,
she felt her wrath lessen and die and leave her calm.
The cowboy turned and began to talk.
"You see--I was pretty drunk," he labored. "There was a fiesta--
and a wedding. I do fool things when I'm drunk. I made a fool
bet I'd marry the first girl who came to town. . . . If you
hadn't worn that veil--the fellows were joshing me--and Ed Linton
was getting married--and everybody always wants to gamble. . . .
I must have been pretty drunk."
After the one look at her when she had first put aside her veil
he had not raised his eyes to her face. The cool audacity had
vanished in what was either excessive emotion or the maudlin
condition peculiar to some men when drunk. He could not stand
still; perspiration collected in beads upon his forehead; he kept
wiping his face with his scarf, and he breathed like a man after
"You see--I was pretty--" he began.
"Explanations are not necessary," she interrupted. "I am very
tired--distressed. The hour is late. Have you the slightest
idea what it means to be a gentleman?"
His bronzed face burned to a flaming crimson.
"Is my brother here--in town to-night?" Madeline went on.
"No. He's at his ranch."
"But I wired him."
"Like as not the message is over in his box at the P.O. He'll be
in town to-morrow. He's shipping cattle for Stillwell."
"Meanwhile I must go to a hotel. Will you please--"
If he heard her last words he showed no evidence of it. A noise
outside had attracted his attention. Madeline listened. Low
voices of men, the softer liquid tones of a woman, drifted in
through the open door. They spoke in Spanish, and the voices
grew louder. Evidently the speakers were approaching the
station. Footsteps crunching on gravel attested to this, and
quicker steps, coming with deep tones of men in anger, told of a
quarrel. Then the woman's voice, hurried and broken, rising
higher, was eloquent of vain appeal.
The cowboy's demeanor startled Madeline into anticipation of
something dreadful. She was not deceived. From outside came the
sound of a scuffle--a muffled shot, a groan, the thud of a
falling body, a woman's low cry, and footsteps padding away in
Madeline Hammond leaned weakly back in her seat, cold and sick,
and for a moment her ears throbbed to the tramp of the dancers
across the way and the rhythm of the cheap music. Then into the
open door-place flashed a girl's tragic face, lighted by dark
eyes and framed by dusky hair. The girl reached a slim brown
hand round the side of the door and held on as if to support
herself. A long black scarf accentuated her gaudy attire.
"Senor--Gene!" she exclaimed; and breathless glad recognition
made a sudden break in her terror.
"Bonita!" The cowboy leaped to her. "Girl! Are you hurt?"
He took hold of her. "I heard--somebody got shot. Was it Danny?"
"Did Danny do the shooting? Tell me, girl."
"I'm sure glad. I thought Danny was mixed up in that. He had
Stillwell's money for the boys--I was afraid. . . . Say, Bonita,
but you'll get in trouble. Who was with you? What did you do?"
"Senor Gene--they Don Carlos vaqueros--they quarrel over me. I
only dance a leetle, smile a leetle, and they quarrel. I beg
they be good--watch out for Sheriff Hawe . . . and now Sheriff
Hawe put me in jail. I so frighten; he try make leetle love to
Bonita once, and now he hate me like he hate Senor Gene."
"Pat Hawe won't put you in jail. Take my horse and hit the
Peloncillo trail. Bonita, promise to stay away from El Cajon."
He led her outside. Madeline heard the horse snort and champ his
bit. The cowboy spoke low; only a few words were intelligible--
"stirrups . . . wait . . . out of town . . . mountain . . . trail
. . . now ride!"
A moment's silence ensued, and was broken by a pounding of hoofs,
a pattering of gravel. Then Madeline saw a big, dark horse run
into the wide space. She caught a glimpse of wind-swept scarf
and hair, a little form low down in the saddle. The horse was
outlined in black against the line of dim lights. There was
something wild and splendid in his flight.
Directly the cowboy appeared again in the doorway.
"Miss Hammond, I reckon we want to rustle out of here. Been bad
goings-on. And there's a train due."
She hurried into the open air, not daring to look back or to
either side. Her guide strode swiftly. She had almost to run to
keep up with him. Many conflicting emotions confused her. She
had a strange sense of this stalking giant beside her, silent
except for his jangling spurs. She had a strange feeling of the
cool, sweet wind and the white stars. Was it only her disordered
fancy, or did these wonderful stars open and shut? She had a
queer, disembodied thought that somewhere in ages back, in
another life, she had seen these stars. The night seemed dark,
yet there was a pale, luminous light--a light from the stars--and
she fancied it would always haunt her.
Suddenly aware that she had been led beyond the line of houses,
"Where are you taking me?"
"To Florence Kingsley," he replied.
"Who is she?"
"I reckon she's your brother's best friend out here." Madeline
kept pace with the cowboy for a few moments longer, and then she
stopped. It was as much from necessity to catch her breath as it
was from recurring fear. All at once she realized what little
use her training had been for such an experience as this. The
cowboy, missing her, came back the few intervening steps. Then
he waited, still silent, looming beside her.
"It's so dark, so lonely," she faltered. "How do I know . . .
what warrant can you give me that you--that no harm will befall
me if I go farther?"
"None, Miss Hammond, except that I've seen your face."
II A Secret Kept
Because of that singular reply Madeline found faith to go farther
with the cowboy. But at the moment she really did not think
about what he had said. Any answer to her would have served if
it had been kind. His silence had augmented her nervousness,
compelling her to voice her fear. Still, even if he had not
replied at all she would have gone on with him. She shuddered at
the idea of returning to the station, where she believed there
had been murder; she could hardly have forced herself to go back
to those dim lights in the street; she did not want to wander
around alone in the dark.
And as she walked on into the windy darkness, much relieved that
he had answered as he had, reflecting that he had yet to prove
his words true, she began to grasp the deeper significance of
them. There was a revival of pride that made her feel that she
ought to scorn to think at all about such a man. But Madeline
Hammond discovered that thought was involuntary, that there were
feelings in her never dreamed of before this night.
Presently Madeline's guide turned off the walk and rapped at a
door of a low-roofed house.
"Hullo--who's there?" a deep voice answered.
"Gene Stewart," said the cowboy. "Call Florence--quick!"
Thump of footsteps followed, a tap on a door, and voices.
Madeline heard a woman exclaim: "Gene! here when there's a dance
in town! Something wrong out on the range." A light flared up
and shone bright through a window. In another moment there came
a patter of soft steps, and the door opened to disclose a woman
holding a lamp.
"Gene! Al's not--"
"Al is all right," interrupted the cowboy.
Madeline had two sensations then--one of wonder at the note of
alarm and love in the woman's voice, and the other of unutterable
relief to he safe with a friend of her brother's.
"It's Al's sister--came on to-night's train," the cowboy was
saying. "I happened to be at the station, and I've fetched her
up to you."
Madeline came forward out of the shadow.
"Not--not really Majesty Hammond!" exclaimed Florence Kingsley.
She nearly dropped the lamp, and she looked and looked, astounded
"Yes, I am really she," replied Madeline. "My train was late,
and for some reason Alfred did not meet me. Mr.--Mr. Stewart saw
fit to bring me to you instead of taking me to a hotel."
"Oh, I'm so glad to meet you," replied Florence, warmly. "Do
come in. I'm so surprised, I forget my manners. Why, Al never
mentioned your coming."
"He surely could not have received my messages," said Madeline,
as she entered.
The cowboy, who came in with her satchel, had to stoop to enter
the door, and, once in, he seemed to fill the room. Florence set
the lamp down upon the table. Madeline saw a young woman with a
smiling, friendly face, and a profusion of fair hair hanging down
over her dressing-gown.
"Oh, but Al will be glad!" cried Florence. "Why, you are white
as a sheet. You must he tired. What a long wait you had at the
station! I heard the train come in hours ago as I was going to
bed. That station is lonely at night. If I had known you were
coming! Indeed, you are very pale. Are you ill?"
"No. Only I am very tired. Traveling so far by rail is harder
than I imagined. I did have rather a long wait after arriving at
the station, but I can't say that it was lonely."
Florence Kingsley searched Madeline's face with keen eyes, and
then took a long, significant look at the silent Stewart. With
that she deliberately and quietly closed a door leading into
"Miss Hammond, what has happened?" She had lowered her voice.
"I do not wish to recall all that has happened," replied
Madeline. "I shall tell Alfred, however, that I would rather
have met a hostile Apache than a cowboy."
"Please don't tell Al that!" cried Florence. Then she grasped
Stewart and pulled him close to the light. "Gene, you're drunk!"
"I was pretty drunk," he replied, hanging his head.
"Oh, what have you done?"
"Now, see here, Flo, I only--"
"I don't want to know. I'd tell it. Gene, aren't you ever going
to learn decency? Aren't you ever going to stop drinking?
You'll lose all your friends. Stillwell has stuck to you. Al's
been your best friend. Molly and I have pleaded with you, and
now you've gone and done--God knows what!"
"What do women want to wear veils for?" he growled. "I'd have
known her but for that veil."
"And you wouldn't have insulted her. But you would the next girl
who came along. Gene, you are hopeless. Now, you get out of
here and don't ever come back."
"Flo!" he entreated.
"I mean it."
"I reckon then I'll come back to-morrow and take my medicine," he
"Don't you dare!" she cried.
Stewart went out and closed the door.
"Miss Hammond, you--you don't know how this hurts me," said
Florence. "What you must think of us! It's so unlucky that you
should have had this happen right at first. Now, maybe you won't
have the heart to stay. Oh, I've known more than one Eastern
girl to go home without ever learning what we really are cut
here. Miss Hammond, Gene Stewart is a fiend when he's drunk.
All the same I know, whatever be did, he meant no shame to you.
Come now, don't think about it again to-night." She took up the
lamp and led Madeline into a little room. "This is out West,"
she went on, smiling, as she indicated the few furnishings; "but
you can rest. You're perfectly safe. Won't you let me help you
undress--can't I do anything for you?"
"You are very kind, thank you, but I can manage," replied
"Well, then, good night. The sooner I go the sooner you'll rest.
Just forget what happened and think how fine a surprise you're to
give your brother to-morrow."
With that she slipped out and softly shut the door.
As Madeline laid her watch on the bureau she noticed that the
time was past two o'clock. It seemed long since she had gotten
off the train. When she had turned out the lamp and crept
wearily into bed she knew what it was to be utterly spent. She
was too tired to move a finger. But her brain whirled.
She had at first no control over it, and a thousand thronging
sensations came and went and recurred with little logical
relation. There were the roar of the train; the feeling of being
lost; the sound of pounding hoofs; a picture of her brother's
face as she had last seen it five years before; a long, dim line
of lights; the jingle of silver spurs; night, wind, darkness,
stars. Then the gloomy station, the shadowy blanketed Mexican,
the empty room, the dim lights across the square, the tramp of
the dancers and vacant laughs and discordant music, the door
flung wide and the entrance of the cowboy. She did not recall
how he had looked or what he had done. And the next instant she
saw him cool, smiling, devilish--saw him in violence; the next
his bigness, his apparel, his physical being were vague as
outlines in a dream. The white face of the padre flashed along in
the train of thought, and it brought the same dull, half-blind,
indefinable state of mind subsequent to that last nerve-breaking
pistol-shot. That passed, and then clear and vivid rose memories
of the rest that had happened--strange voices betraying fury of
men, a deadened report, a moan of mortal pain, a woman's poignant
cry. And Madeline saw the girl's great tragic eyes and the wild
flight of the big horse into the blackness, and the dark,
stalking figure of the silent cowboy, and the white stars that
seemed to look down remorselessly.
This tide of memory rolled over Madeline again and again, and
gradually lost its power and faded. All distress left her, and
she felt herself drifting. How black the room was--as black with
her eyes open as it was when they were shut! And the silence--it
was like a cloak. There was absolutely no sound. She was in
another world from that which she knew. She thought of this
fair-haired Florence and of Alfred; and, wondering about them,
she dropped to sleep.
When she awakened the room was bright with sunlight. A cool wind
blowing across the bed caused her to put her hands under the
blanket. She was lazily and dreamily contemplating the mud walls
of this little room when she remembered where she was and how she
had come there.
How great a shock she had been subjected to was manifest in a
sensation of disgust that overwhelmed her. She even shut her
eyes to try and blot out the recollection. She felt that she had
Presently Madeline Hammond again awoke to the fact she had
learned the preceding night--that there were emotions to which
she had heretofore been a stranger. She did not try to analyze
them, but she exercised her self-control to such good purpose
that by the time she had dressed she was outwardly her usual
self. She scarcely remembered when she had found it necessary to
control her emotions. There had been no trouble, no excitement,
no unpleasantness in her life. It had been ordered for her--
tranquil, luxurious, brilliant, varied, yet always the same.
She was not surprised to find the hour late, and was going to
make inquiry about her brother when a voice arrested her. She
recognized Miss Kingsley's voice addressing some one outside, and
it had a sharpness she had not noted before.
"So you came back, did you? Well, you don't look very proud of
yourself this mawnin'. Gene Stewart, you look like a coyote."
"Say, Flo if I am a coyote I'm not going to sneak," he said.
"What 'd you come for?" she demanded.
"I said I was coming round to take my medicine."
"Meaning you'll not run from Al Hammond? Gene, your skull is as
thick as an old cow's. Al will never know anything about what
you did to his sister unless you tell him. And if you do that
he'll shoot you. She won't give you away. She's a thoroughbred.
Why, she was so white last night I thought she'd drop at my feet,
but she never blinked an eyelash. I'm a woman, Gene Stewart and
if I couldn't feel like Miss Hammond I know how awful an ordeal
she must have had. Why, she's one of the most beautiful, the
most sought after, the most exclusive women in New York City.
There's a crowd of millionaires and lords and dukes after her.
How terrible it 'd he for a woman like her to be kissed by a
drunken cowpuncher! I say it--"
"Flo, I never insulted her that way," broke out Stewart.
"It was worse, then?" she queried, sharply.
"I made a bet that I'd marry the first girl who came to town. I
was on the watch and pretty drunk. When she came--well, I got
Padre Marcos and tried to bully her into marrying me."
"Oh, Lord!" Florence gasped. "It's worse than I feared. . .
.Gene, Al will kill you."
"That'll be a good thing," replied the cowboy, dejectedly.
"Gene Stewart, it certainly would, unless you turn over a new
leaf," retorted Florence. "But don't be a fool." And here she
became earnest and appealing. "Go away, Gene. Go join the
rebels across the border--you're always threatening that.
Anyhow, don't stay here and run any chance of stirring Al up.
He'd kill you just the same as you would kill another man for
insulting your sister. Don't make trouble for Al. That'd only
make sorrow for her, Gene."
The subtle import was not host upon Madeline. She was distressed
because she could not avoid hearing what was not meant for her
ears. She made an effort not to listen, and it was futile.
"Flo, you can't see this a man's way," he replied, quietly.
"I'll stay and take my medicine."
"Gene, I could sure swear at you or any other pig-head of a
cowboy. Listen. My brother-in-law, Jack, heard something of
what I said to you last night. He doesn't like you. I'm afraid
he'll tell Al. For Heaven's sake, man, go down-town and shut him
up and yourself, too."
Then Madeline heard her come into the house and presently rap on
the door and call softly:
"Miss Hammond. Are you awake?"
"Awake and dressed, Miss Kingsley. Come in."
"Oh! You've rested. You look so--so different. I'm sure glad.
Come out now. We'll have breakfast, and then you may expect to
meet your brother any moment."
"Wait, please. I heard you speaking to Mr. Stewart. It was
unavoidable. But I am glad. I must see him. Will you please
ask him to come into the parlor a moment?"
"Yes," replied Florence, quickly; and as she turned at the door
she flashed at Madeline a woman's meaning glance. "Make him keep
his mouth shut!"
Presently there were slow, reluctant steps outside the front
door, then a pause, and the door opened. Stewart stood
bareheaded in the sunlight. Madeline remembered with a kind of
shudder the tall form, the embroidered buckskin vest, the red
scarf, the bright leather wristbands, the wide silver-buckled
belt and chaps. Her glance seemed to run over him swift as
lightning. But as she saw his face now she did not recognize it.
The man's presence roused in her a revolt. Yet something in her,
the incomprehensible side of her nature, thrilled in the look of
this splendid dark-faced barbarian.
"Mr. Stewart, will you please come in?" she asked, after that
"I reckon not," he said. The hopelessness of his tone meant that
he knew he was not fit to enter a room with her, and did not care
or cared too much.
Madeline went to the door. The man's face was hard, yet it was
sad, too. And it touched her.
"I shall not tell my brother of your--your rudeness to me," she
began. It was impossible for her to keep the chill out of her
voice, to speak with other than the pride and aloofness of her
class. Nevertheless, despite her loathing, when she had spoken
so far it seemed that kindness and pity followed involuntarily.
"I choose to overlook what you did because you were not wholly
accountable, and because there must be no trouble between Alfred
and you. May I rely on you to keep silence and to seal the lips
of that priest? And you know there was a man killed or injured
there last night. I want to forget that dreadful thing. I don't
want it known that I heard--"
"The Greaser didn't die," interrupted Stewart.
"Ah! then that's not so bad, after all. I am glad for the sake
of your friend--the little Mexican girl."
A slow scarlet wave overspread his face, and his shame was
painful to see. That fixed in Madeline's mind a conviction that
if he was a heathen he was not wholly bad. And it made so much
difference that she smiled down at him.
"You will spare me further distress, will you not, please?" His
hoarse reply was incoherent, but she needed only to see his
working face to know his remorse and gratitude.
Madeline went back to her room; and presently Florence came for
her, and directly they were sitting at breakfast. Madeline
Hammond's impression of her brother's friend had to be
reconstructed in the morning light. She felt a wholesome, frank,
sweet nature. She liked the slow Southern drawl. And she was
puzzled to know whether Florence Kingsley was pretty or striking
or unusual. She had a youthful glow and flush, the clear tan of
outdoors, a face that lacked the soft curves and lines of Eastern
women, and her eyes were light gray, like crystal, steady, almost
piercing, and her hair was a beautiful bright, waving mass.
Florence's sister was the elder of the two, a stout woman with a
strong face and quiet eyes. It was a simple fare and service
they gave to their guest; but they made no apologies for that.
Indeed, Madeline felt their simplicity to be restful. She was
sated with respect, sick of admiration, tired of adulation; and
it was good to see that these Western women treated her as very
likely they would have treated any other visitor. They were
sweet, kind; and what Madeline had at first thought was a lack of
expression or vitality she soon discovered to be the natural
reserve of women who did not live superficial lives. Florence
was breezy and frank, her sister quaint and not given much to
speech. Madeline thought she would like to have these women near
her if she were ill or in trouble. And she reproached herself
for a fastidiousness, a hypercritical sense of refinement that
could not help distinguishing what these women lacked.
"Can you ride?" Florence was asking. "That's what a Westerner
always asks any one from the East. Can you ride like a man--
astride, I mean? Oh, that's fine. You look strong enough to
hold a horse. We have some fine horses out here. I reckon when
Al comes we'll go out to Bill Stillwell's ranch. We'll have to
go, whether we want to or not, for when Bill learns you are here
he'll just pack us all off. You'll love old Bill. His ranch is
run down, but the range and the rides up in the mountains--they
are beautiful. We'll hunt and climb, and most of all we'll ride.
I love a horse--I love the wind in my face, and a wide stretch
with the mountains beckoning. You must have the best horse on
the ranges. And that means a scrap between Al and Bill and all
the cowboys. We don't all agree about horses, except in case of
Gene Stewart's iron-gray."
"Does Mr. Stewart own the best horse in the country?" asked
Madeline. Again she had an inexplicable thrill as she remembered
the wild flight of Stewart's big dark steed and rider.
"Yes, and that's all he does own," replied Florence. "Gene can't
keep even a quirt. But he sure loves that horse and calls him--"
At this juncture a sharp knock on the parlor door interrupted the
conversation. Florence's sister went to open it. She returned
presently and said:
"It's Gene. He's been dawdlin' out there on the front porch, and
he knocked to let us know Miss Hammond's brother is comin'."
Florence hurried into the parlor, followed by Madeline. The door
stood open, and disclosed Stewart sitting on the porch steps.
From down the road came a clatter of hoofs. Madeline looked cut
over Florence's shoulder and saw a cloud of dust approaching, and
in it she distinguished outlines of horses and riders. A warmth
spread over her, a little tingle of gladness, and the feeling
recalled her girlish love for her brother. What would he be like
after long years?
"Gene, has Jack kept his mouth shut?" queried Florence; and again
Madeline was aware of a sharp ring in the girl's voice.
"No," replied Stewart.
"Gene! You won't let it come to a fight? Al can be managed.
But Jack hates you and he'll have his friends with him."
"There won't be any fight."
"Use your brains now," added Florence; and then she turned to
push Madeline gently back into the parlor.
Madeline's glow of warmth changed to a blank dismay. Was she to
see her brother act with the violence she now associated with
cowboys? The clatter of hoofs stopped before the door. Looking
out, Madeline saw a bunch of dusty, wiry horses pawing the gravel
and tossing lean heads. Her swift glance ran over the lithe
horsemen, trying to pick out the one who was her brother. But
she could not. Her glance, however, caught the same rough dress
and hard aspect that characterized the cowboy Stewart. Then one
rider threw his bridle, leaped from the saddle, and came bounding
up the porch steps. Florence met him at the door.
"Hello, Flo. Where is she?" he called, eagerly. With that he
looked over her shoulder to espy Madeline. He actually jumped at
her. She hardly knew the tall form and the bronzed face, but the
warm flash of blue eyes was familiar. As for him, he had no
doubt of his sister, it appeared, for with broken welcome he
threw his arms around her, then held her off and looked
searchingly at her.
"Well, sister," he began, when Florence turned hurriedly from the
door and interrupted him.
"Al, I think you'd better stop the wrangling out there." He
stared at her, appeared suddenly to hear the loud voices from the
street, and then, releasing Madeline, he said:
"By George! I forgot, Flo. There is a little business to see
to. Keep my sister in here, please, and don't be fussed up now."
He went out on the porch and called to his men:
"Shut off your wind, Jack! And you, too, Blaze! I didn't want
you fellows to come here. But as you would come, you've got to
shut up. This is my business."
Whereupon he turned to Stewart, who was sitting on the fence.
"Hello, Stewart!" he said.
It was a greeting; but there was that in the voice which alarmed
Stewart leisurely got up and leisurely advanced to the porch.
"Hello, Hammond!" he drawled.
"Drunk again last night?"
"Well, if you want to know, and if it's any of your mix, yes, I
was-pretty drunk," replied Stewart.
It was a kind of cool speech that showed the cowboy in control of
himself and master of the situation--not an easy speech to follow
up with undue inquisitiveness. There was a short silence.
"Damn it, Stewart," said the speaker, presently, "here's the
situation: It's all over town that you met my sister last night
at the station and--and insulted her. Jack's got it in for you,
so have these other boys. But it's my affair. Understand, I
didn't fetch them here. They can see you square yourself, or
else--Gene, you've been on the wrong trail for some time,
drinking and all that. You're going to the bad. But Bill
thinks, and I think, you're still a man. We never knew you to
lie. Now what have you to say for yourself?"
"Nobody is insinuating that I am a liar?" drawled Stewart.
"Well, I'm glad to hear that. You see, Al, I was pretty drunk
last night, but not drunk enough to forget the least thing I did.
I told Pat Hawe so this morning when he was curious. And that's
polite for me to be to Pat. Well, I found Miss Hammond waiting
alone at the station. She wore a veil, but I knew she was a
lady, of course. I imagine, now that I think of it, that Miss
Hammond found my gallantry rather startling, and--"
At this point Madeline, answering to unconsidered impulse, eluded
Florence and walked out upon the porch.
Sombreros flashed down and the lean horses jumped.
"Gentlemen," said Madeline, rather breathlessly; and it did not
add to her calmness to feel a hot flush in her cheeks, "I am very
new to Western ways, but I think you are laboring under a
mistake, which, in justice to Mr. Stewart, I want to correct.
Indeed, he was rather--rather abrupt and strange when he came up
to me last night; but as I understand him now, I can attribute
that to his gallantry. He was somewhat wild and sudden and--
sentimental in his demand to protect me--and it was not clear
whether he meant his protection for last night or forever; but I
am happy to say be offered me no word that was not honorable. And
be saw me safely here to Miss Kingsley's home."
III Sister and Brother
Then Madeline returned to the little parlor with the brother whom
she had hardly recognized.
"Majesty!" he exclaimed. "To think of your being here!"
The warmth stole back along her veins. She remembered how that
pet name had sounded from the lips of this brother who bad given
it to her.
Then his words of gladness at sight of her, his chagrin at not
being at the train to welcome her, were not so memorable of him
as the way he clasped her, for he had held her that way the day
he left home, and she had not forgotten. But now he was so much
taller and bigger, so dusty and strange and different and
forceful, that she could scarcely think him the same man. She
even had a humorous thought that here was another cowboy bullying
her, and this time it was her brother.
"Dear old girl," he said, more calmly, as he let her go, "you
haven't changed at all, except to grow lovelier. Only you're a
woman now, and you've fulfilled the name I gave you. God! how
sight of you brings back home! It seems a hundred years since I
left. I missed you more than all the rest."
Madeline seemed to feel with his every word that she was
remembering him. She was so amazed at the change in him that she
could not believe her eyes. She saw a bronzed, strong-jawed,
eagle-eyed man, stalwart, superb of height, and, like the
cowboys, belted, booted, spurred. And there was something hard
as iron in his face that quivered with his words. It seemed that
only in those moments when the hard lines broke and softened
could she see resemblance to the face she remembered. It was his
manner, the tone of his voice, and the tricks of speech that
proved to her he was really Alfred. She had bidden good-by to a
disgraced, disinherited, dissolute boy. Well she remembered the
handsome pale face with its weakness and shadows and careless
smile, with the ever-present cigarette hanging between the lips.
The years had passed, and now she saw him a man--the West had
made him a man. And Madeline Hammond felt a strong, passionate
gladness and gratefulness, and a direct check to her suddenly
inspired hatred of the West.
"Majesty, it was good of you to come. I'm all broken up. How
did you ever do it? But never mind that now. Tell me about that
brother of mine."
And Madeline told him, and then about their sister Helen.
Question after question he fired at her; and she told him of her
mother; of Aunt Grace, who had died a year ago; of his old
friends, married, scattered, vanished. But she did not tell him
of his father, for he did not ask.
Quite suddenly the rapid-fire questioning ceased; he choked, was
silent a moment, and then burst into tears. It seemed to her
that a long, stored-up bitterness was flooding away. It hurt her
to see him--hurt her more to hear him. And in the succeeding few
moments she grew closer to him than she had ever been in the
past. Had her father and mother done right by him? Her pulse
stirred with unwonted quickness. She did not speak, but she
kissed him, which, for her, was an indication of unusual feeling.
And when he recovered command over his emotions he made no
reference to his breakdown, nor did she. But that scene struck
deep into Madeline Hammond's heart. Through it she saw what he
had lost and gained.
"Alfred, why did you not answer my last letters?" asked Madeline.
"I had not heard from you for two years."
"So long? How time flies! Well, things went bad with me about the
last time I heard from you. I always intended to write some day,
but I never did."
"Things went wrong? Tell me."
"Majesty, you mustn't worry yourself with my troubles. I want you
to enjoy your stay and not be bothered with my difficulties."
"Please tell me. I suspected something had gone wrong. That is
partly why I decided to come out."
"All right; if you must know," he began; and it seemed to
Madeline that there was a gladness in his decision to unburden
himself. "You remember all about my little ranch, and that for a
while I did well raising stock? I wrote you all that. Majesty,
a man makes enemies anywhere. Perhaps an Eastern man in the West
can make, if not so many, certainly more bitter ones. At any
rate, I made several. There was a cattleman, Ward by name--he's
gone now--and he and I had trouble over cattle. That gave me a
back-set. Pat Hawe, the sheriff here, has been instrumental in
hurting my business. He's not so much of a rancher, but he has
influence at Santa Fe and El Paso and Douglas. I made an enemy
of him. I never did anything to him. He hates Gene Stewart, and
upon one occasion I spoiled a little plot of his to get Gene in
his clutches. The real reason for his animosity toward me is that
he loves Florence, and Florence is going to marry me."
"What's the matter, Majesty? Didn't Florence impress you
favorably?" he asked, with a keen glance.
"Why--yes, indeed. I like her. But I did not think of her in
relation to you--that way. I am greatly surprised. Alfred, is
she well born? What connections?"
"Florence is just a girl of ordinary people. She was born in
Kentucky, was brought up in Texas. My aristocratic and wealthy
family would scorn--"
"Alfred, you are still a Hammond," said Madeline, with uplifted
Alfred laughed. "We won't quarrel, Majesty. I remember you, and
in spite of your pride you've got a heart. If you stay here a
month you'll love Florence Kingsley. I want you to know she's
had a great deal to do with straightening me up. . . . Well, to
go on with my story. There's Don Carlos, a Mexican rancher, and
he's my worst enemy. For that matter, he's as bad an enemy of
Bill Stillwell and other ranchers. Stillwell, by the way, is my
friend and one of the finest men on earth. I got in debt to Don
Carlos before I knew he was so mean. In the first place I lost
money at faro--I gambled some when I came West--and then I made
unwise cattle deals. Don Carlos is a wily Greaser, he knows the
ranges, he has the water, and he is dishonest. So he outfigured
me. And now I am practically ruined. He has not gotten
possession of my ranch, but that's only a matter of time, pending
lawsuits at Santa Fe. At present I have a few hundred cattle
running on Stillwell's range, and I am his foreman."
"Foreman?" queried Madeline.
"I am simply boss of Stillwell's cowboys, and right glad of my
Madeline was conscious of an inward burning. It required an
effort for her to retain her outward tranquillity. Annoying
consciousness she had also of the returning sense of new
disturbing emotions. She began to see just how walled in from
unusual thought-provoking incident and sensation had been her
"Cannot your property be reclaimed?" she asked. "How much do you
"Ten thousand dollars would clear me and give me another start.
But, Majesty, in this country that's a good deal of money, and I
haven't been able to raise it. Stillwell's in worse shape than I
Madeline went over to Alfred and put her hands on his shoulders.
"We must not be in debt."
He stared at her as if her words had recalled something long
forgotten. Then he smiled.
"How imperious you are! I'd fcrgotten just who my beautiful
sister really is. Majesty, you're not going to ask me to take
money from you?"
"Well, I'll not do it. I never did, even when I was in college,
and then there wasn't much beyond me."
"Listen, Alfred," she went on, earnestly, "this is entirely
different. I had only an allowance then. You had no way to know
that since I last wrote you I had come into my inheritance from
Aunt Grace. It was--well, that doesn't matter. Only, I haven't
been able to spend half the income. It's mine. It's not father's
money. You will make me very happy if you'll consent. Alfred,
I'm so--so amazed at the change in you. I'm so happy. You must
never take a backward step from now on. What is ten thousand
dollars to me? Sometimes I spend that in a month. I throw money
away. If you let me help you it will be doing me good as well as
you. Please, Alfred."
He kissed her, evidently surprised at her earnestness. And indeed
Madeline was surprised herself. Once started, her speech had
"You always were the best of fellows, Majesty. And if you really
care--if you really want to help me I'll be only too glad to
accept. It will be fine. Florence will go wild. And that
Greaser won't harass me any more. Majesty, pretty soon some
titled fellow will be spending your money; I may as well take a
little before he gets it all," he finished, jokingly.
"What do you know about me?" she asked, lightly.
"More than you think. Even if we are lost out here in the woolly
West we get news. Everybody knows about Anglesbury. And that
Dago duke who chased you all over Europe, that Lord Castleton has
the running now and seems about to win. How about it, Majesty?"
Madeline detected a hint that suggested scorn in his gay speech.
And deep in his searching glance she saw a flame. She became
thoughtful. She had forgotten Castleton, New York, society.
"Alfred," she began, seriously, "I don't believe any titled
gentleman will ever spend my money, as you elegantly express it."
"I don't care for that. It's you!" he cried, passionately, and
he grasped her with a violence that startled her. He was white;
his eyes were now like fire. "You are so splendid--so wonderful.
People called you the American Beauty, but you're more than that.
You're the American Girl! Majesty, marry no man unless you love
him, and love an American. Stay away from Europe long enough to
learn to know the men--the real men of your own country."
"Alfred, I'm afraid there are not always real men and real love
for American girls in international marriages. But Helen knows
this. It'll be her choice. She'll be miserable if she marries
"It'll serve her just right," declared her brother. "Helen was
always crazy for glitter, adulation, fame. I'll gamble she never
saw more of Anglesbury than the gold and ribbons on his breast."
"I am sorry. Anglesbury is a gentleman; but it is the money he
wanted, I think. Alfred, tell me how you came to know about me,
'way out here? You may be assured I was astonished to find that
Miss Kingsley knew me as Majesty Hammond."
"I imagine it was a surprise," he replied, with a laugh, "I told
Florence about you--gave her a picture of you. And, of course,
being a woman, she showed the picture and talked. She's in love
with you. Then, my dear sister, we do get New York papers out
here occasionally, and we can see and read. You may not be aware
that you and your society friends are objects of intense interest
in the U. S. in general, and the West in particular. The papers
are full of you, and perhaps a lot of things you never did."
"That Mr. Stewart knew, too. He said, 'You're not Majesty
"Never mind his impudence!" exclaimed Alfred; and then again he
laughed. "Gene is all right, only you've got to know him. I'll
tell you what he did. He got hold of one of those newspaper
pictures of you--the one in the Times; he took it away from here,
and in spite of Florence he wouldn't fetch it back. It was a
picture of you in riding-habit with your blue-ribbon horse, White
Stockings--remember? It was taken at Newport. Well, Stewart
tacked the picture up in his bunk-house and named his beautiful
horse Majesty. All the cowboys knew it. They would see the
picture and tease him unmercifully. But he didn't care. One day
I happened to drop in on him and found him just recovering from a
carouse. I saw the picture, too, and I said to him, 'Gene, if my
sister knew you were a drunkard she'd not be proud of having her
picture stuck up in your room.' Majesty, he did not touch a drop
for a month, and when he did drink again he took the picture
down, and he has never put it back."
Madeline smiled at her brother's amusement, but she did not
reply. She simply could not adjust herself to these queer free
Western' ways. Her brother had eloquently pleaded for her to
keep herself above a sordid and brilliant marriage, yet he not
only allowed a cowboy to keep her picture in his room, but
actually spoke of her and used her name in a temperance lecture.
Madeline just escaped feeling disgust. She was saved from this,
however, by nothing less than her brother's naive gladness that
through subtle suggestion Stewart had been persuaded to be good
for a month. Something made up of Stewart's effrontery to her;
of Florence Kingsley meeting her, frankly as it were, as an
equal; of the elder sister's slow, quiet, easy acceptance of this
visitor who had been honored at the courts of royalty; of that
faint hint of scorn in Alfred's voice, and his amused statement
in regard to her picture and the name Majesty--something made up
of all these stung Madeline Hammond's pride, alienated her for an
instant, and then stimulated her intelligence, excited her
interest, and made her resolve to learn a little about this
"Majesty, I must run down to the siding," he said, consulting his
watch. "We're loading a shipment of cattle. I'll be back by
supper-time and bring Stillwell with me. You'll like him. Give
me the check for your trunk."
She went into the little bedroom and, taking up her bag, she got
out a number of checks.
"Six! Six trunks!" he exclaimed. "Well, I'm very glad you
intend to stay awhile. Say, Majesty, it will take me as long to
realize who you really are as it'll take to break you of being a
tenderfoot. I hope you packed a riding-suit. If not you'll have
to wear trousers! You'll have to do that, anyway, when we go up
in the mountains."
"You sure will, as Florence says."
"We shall see about that. I don't know what's in the trunks. I
never pack anything. My dear brother, what do I have maids for?"
"How did it come that you didn't travel with a maid?"
"I wanted to be alone. But don't you worry. I shall be able to
look after myself. I dare say it will be good for me."
She went to the gate with him.
"What a shaggy, dusty horse! He's wild, too. Do you let him
stand that way without being haltered? I should think he would
"Tenderfoot! You'll be great fun, Majesty, especially for the
"Oh, will I?" she asked, constrainedly.
"Yes, and in three days they will be fighting one another over
you. That's going to worry me. Cowboys fall in love with a
plain woman, an ugly woman, any woman, so long as she's young.
And you! Good Lord! They'll go out of their heads."
"You are pleased to he facetious, Alfred. I think I have had
quite enough of cowboys, and I haven't been here twenty-four
"Don't think too much of first impressions. That was my mistake
when I arrived here. Good-by. I'll go now. Better rest awhile.
You look tired."
The horse started as Alfred put his foot in the stirrup and was
running when the rider slipped his leg over the saddle. Madeline
watched him in admiration. He seemed to be loosely fitted to the
saddle, moving with the horse.
"I suppose that's a cowboy's style. It pleases me," she said.
"How different from the seat of Eastern riders!"
Then Madeline sat upon the porch and fell to interested
observation of her surrounding. Near at hand it was decidedly
not prepossessing. The street was deep in dust, and the cool
wind whipped up little puffs. The houses along this street were
all low, square, flat-roofed structures made of some kind of red
cement. It occurred to her suddenly that this building-material
must be the adobe she had read about. There was no person in
sight. The long street appeared to have no end, though the line
of houses did not extend far. Once she heard a horse trotting at
some distance, and several times the ringing of a locomotive
bell. Where were the mountains, wondered Madeline. Soon low
over the house-roofs she saw a dim, dark-blue, rugged outline.
It seemed to charm her eyes and fix her gaze. She knew the
Adirondacks, she bad seen the Alps from the summit of Mont Blanc,
and had stood under the great black, white-tipped shadow of the
Himalayas. But they had not drawn her as these remote Rockies.
This dim horizon line boldly cutting the blue sky fascinated her.
Florence Kingsley's expression "beckoning mountains" returned to
Madeline. She could not see or feel so much as that. Her
impression was rather that these mountains were aloof,
unattainable, that if approached they would recede or vanish like
the desert mirage.
Madeline went to her room, intending to rest awhile, and she fell
asleep. She was aroused by Florence's knock and call.
"Miss Hammond, your brother has come back with Stillwell."
"Why, how I have slept!" exclaimed Madeline. "It's nearly six
"I'm sure glad. You were tired. And the air here makes
strangers sleepy. Come, we want you to meet old Bill. He calls
himself the last of the cattlemen. He has lived in Texas and
here all his life."
Madeline accompanied Florence to the porch. Her brother, who was
sitting near the door, jumped up and said:
"Hello, Majesty!" And as he put his arm around her he turned
toward a massive man whose broad, craggy face began to ripple and
wrinkle. "I want to introduce my friend Stillwell to you. Bill,
this is my sister, the sister I've so often told you about--
"Wal, wal, Al, this 's the proudest meetin' of my life," replied
Stillwell, in a booming voice. He extended a huge hand. "Miss--
Miss Majesty, sight of you is as welcome as the rain an' the
flowers to an old desert cattleman."
Madeline greeted him, and it was all she could do to repress a
cry at the way he crunched her baud in a grasp of iron. He was
old, white-haired, weather-beaten, with long furrows down his
checks and with gray eyes almost hidden in wrinkles. If he was
smiling she fancied it a most extraordinary smile. The next
instant she realized that it had been a smile, for his face
appeared to stop rippling, the light died, and suddenly it was
like rudely chiseled stone. The quality of hardness she had seen
in Stewart was immeasurably intensified in this old man's face.
"Miss Majesty, it's plumb humiliatin' to all of us thet we wasn't
on hand to meet you," Stillwell said. "Me an' Al stepped into
the P. O. an' said a few mild an' cheerful things. Them messages
ought to hev been sent out to the ranch. I'm sure afraid it was
a bit unpleasant fer you last night at the station."
"I was rather anxious at first and perhaps frightened," replied
"Wal, I'm some glad to tell you thet there's no man in these
parts except your brother thet I'd as lief hev met you as Gene
"Yes, an' thet's takin' into consideration Gene's weakness, too.
I'm allus fond of sayin' of myself thet I'm the last of the old
cattlemen. Wal, Stewart's not a native Westerner, but he's my
pick of the last of the cowboys. Sure, he's young, but he's the
last of the old style--the picturesque--an' chivalrous, too, I
make bold to say, Miss Majesty, as well as the old hard-ridin'
kind. Folks are down on Stewart. An' I'm only sayin' a good
word for him hecause he is down, an' mebbe last night he might
hev scared you, you bein' fresh from the East."
Madeline liked the old fellow for his loyalty to the cowboy he
evidently cared for; but as there did not seem anything for her
to say, she remained silent.
"Miss Majesty, the day of the cattleman is about over. An' the
day of the cowboy, such as Gene Stewart, is over. There's no
place for Gene. If these weren't modern days he'd come near
bein' a gun-man, same as we had in Texas, when I ranched there in
the 'seventies. But he can't fit nowhere now; he can't hold a
job, an' he's goin' down."
"I am sorry to hear it," murmured Madeline. "But, Mr. Stillwell,
aren't these modern days out here just a little wild--yet? The
conductor on my train told me of rebels, bandits, raiders. Then
I have had other impressions of--well, that were wild enough for
"Wal, it's some more pleasant an' excitin' these days than for
many years," replied Stillwell. "The boys hev took to packin'
guns again. But thet's owin' to the revolution in Mexico.
There's goin' to be trouble along the border. I reckon people in
the East don't know there is a revolution. Wal, Madero will oust
Diaz, an' then some other rebel will oust Madero. It means
trouble on the border an' across the border, too. I wouldn't
wonder if Uncle Sam hed to get a hand in the game. There's
already been holdups on the railroads an' raids along the Rio
Grande Valley. An' these little towns are full of Greasers, all
disturbed by the fightin' down in Mexico. We've been hevin'
shootin'-scrapes an' knifin'-scrapes, an' some cattle-raidin'. I
hev been losin' a few cattle right along. Reminds me of old
times; an' pretty soon if it doesn't stop, I'll take the old-time
way to stop it."
"Yes, indeed, Majesty," put in Alfred, "you have hit upon an
interesting time to visit us."
"Wal, thet sure 'pears to be so," rejoined Stillwell. "Stewart
got in trouble down heah to-day, an' I'm more than sorry to hev
to tell you thet your name figgered in it. But I couldn't blame
him, fer I sure would hev done the same myself."
"That so?" queried Aifred, laughing. "Well, tell us about it."
Madeline simply gazed at her brother, and, though he seemed
amused at her consternation, there was mortification in his face.
It required no great perspicuity, Madeline thought, to see that
Stillwell loved to talk, and the way he squared himself and
spread his huge hands over his knees suggested that he meant to
do this opportunity justice.
"Miss Majesty, I reckon, bein' as you're in the West now, thet
you must take things as they come, an' mind each thing a little
less than the one before. If we old fellers hedn't been thet way
we'd never hev lasted.
"Last night wasn't particular bad, ratin' with some other nights
lately. There wasn't much doin'. But, I had a hard knock.
Yesterday when we started in with a bunch of cattle I sent one of
my cowboys, Danny Mains, along ahead, carryin' money I hed to pay
off hands an' my bills, an' I wanted thet money to get in town
before dark. Wal, Danny was held up. I don't distrust the lad.
There's been strange Greasers in town lately, an' mebbe they knew
about the money comin'.
"Wal, when I arrived with the cattle I was some put to it to make
ends meet. An' to-day I wasn't in no angelic humor. When I bed
my business all done I went around pokin' my nose beak an' there,
tryin' to get scent of thet money. An' I happened in at a hall
we hev thet does duty fer' jail an' hospital an' election-post
an' what not. Wal, just then it was doin' duty as a hospital.
Last night was fiesta night--these Greasers hev a fiesta every
week or so--an' one Greaser who hed been bad hurt was layin' in
the hall, where he hed been fetched from the station. Somebody
hed sent off to Douglas fer a doctor, but be hedn't come yet.
I've hed some experience with gunshot wounds, an' I looked this
feller over. He wasn't shot up much, but I thought there was
danger of blood-poison-in'. Anyway, I did all I could.
"The hall was full of cowboys, ranchers, Greasers, miners, an'
town folks, along with some strangers. I was about to get
started up this way when Pat Hawe come in.
"Pat he's the sheriff. I reckon, Miss Majesty, thet sheriffs are
new to you, an' fer sake of the West I'll explain to you thet we
don't hev many of the real thing any more. Garrett, who killed
Billy the Kid an' was killed himself near a year or so ago--he
was the kind of sheriff thet helps to make a self-respectin'
country. But this Pat Hawe--wal, I reckon there's no good in me
sayin' what I think of him. He come into the hall, an' he was
roarin' about things. He was goin' to arrest Danny Mains on
sight. Wal, I jest polite-like told Pat thet the money was mine
an' he needn't get riled about it. An' if I wanted to trail the
thief I reckon I could do it as well as anybody. Pat howled thet
law was law, an' he was goin' to lay down the law. Sure it
'peared to me thet Pat was daid set to arrest the first man he
could find excuse to.
"Then he cooled down a bit an' was askin' questions about the
wounded Greaser when Gene Stewart come in. Whenever Pat an' Gene
come together it reminds me of the early days back in the
'seventies. Jest naturally everybody shut up. Fer Pat hates
Gene, an' I reckon Gene ain't very sweet on Pat. They're jest
natural foes in the first place, an' then the course of events
here in El Cajon has been aggravatin'.
"'Hello, Stewart! You're the feller I'm lookin' fer,' said Pat.
"Stewart eyed him an' said, mighty cool an' sarcastic, 'Hawe, you
look a good deal fer me when I'm hittin' up the dust the other
"Pat went red at thet, but he held in. 'Say, Stewart, you-all
think a lot of thet roan horse of yourn, with the aristocratic
"'I reckon I do,' replied Gene, shortly.
"'Wal, where is he?'
"'Thet's none of your business, Hawe.'
"'Oho! it ain't, hey? Wal, I guess I can make it my business.
Stewart, there was some queer goings-on last night thet you know
somethin' about. Danny Mains robbed--Stillwell's money gone--
your roan horse gone--thet little hussy Bonita gone--an' this
Greaser near gone, too. Now, seein' thet you was up late an'
prowlin' round the station where this Greaser was found, it ain't
onreasonable to think you might know how he got plugged--is it?'
"Stewart laughed kind of cold, an' he rolled a cigarette, all the
time eyin' Pat, an' then he said if he'd plugged the Greaser it
'd never hev been sich a bunglin' job.
"'I can arrest you on suspicion, Stewart, but before I go thet
far I want some evidence. I want to round up Danny Mains an'
thet little Greaser girl. I want to find out what's become of
your hoss. You've never lent him since you bed him, an' there
ain't enough raiders across the border to steal him from you.
It's got a queer look--thet hoss bein' gone.'
"'You sure are a swell detective, Hawe, an' I wish you a heap of
luck,' replied Stewart.
"Thet 'peared to nettle Pat beyond bounds, an' he stamped around
an' swore. Then he had an idea. It jest stuck out all over him,
an' he shook his finger in Stewart's face.
"'You was drunk last night?'
"Stewart never batted an eye.
'You met some woman on Number Eight, didn't you?' shouted Hawe.
"'I met a lady,' replied Stewart, quiet an' menacin' like.
"'You met Al Hammond's sister, an' you took her up to Kingsley's.
An' cinch this, my cowboy cavalier, I'm goin' up there an' ask
this grand dame some questions, an' if she's as close-mouthed as
you are I'll arrest her!'
"Gene Stewart turned white. I fer one expected to see him jump
like lightnin', as he does when he's riled sudden. But he was
calm an' he was thinkin' hard. Presently he said:
"'Pat, thet's a fool idee, an' if you do the trick it'll hurt you
all the rest of your life. There's absolutely no reason to
frighten Miss Hammond. An' tryin' to arrest her would be such a
damned outrage as won't be stood fer in El Cajon. If you're sore
on me send me to jail. I'll go. If you want to hurt Al Hammond,
go an' do it some man kind of way. Don't take your spite out on
us by insultin' a lady who has come hyar to hev a little visit.
We're bad enough without bein' low-down as Greasers.'
"It was a long talk for Gene, an' I was as surprised as the rest
of the fellers. Think of Gene Stewart talkin' soft an' sweet to
thet red-eyed coyote of a sheriff! An' Pat, he looked so
devilishly gleeful thet if somethin' about Gene hedn't held me
tight I'd hev got in the game my-self. It was plain to me an'
others who spoke of it afterwards thet Pat Hawe hed forgotten the
law an' the officer in the man an' his hate.
"'I'm a-goin', an' I'm a-goin' right now!' he shouted. "An' after
thet any one could hev heerd a clock tick a mile off. Stewart
seemed kind of chokin', an' he seemed to hev been bewildered by
the idee of Hawe's confrontin' you.
"An' finally he burst out: 'But, man, think who it is! It's Miss
Hammond! If you seen her, even if you was locoed or drunk, you--
you couldn't do it.'
"'Couldn't I? Wal, I'll show you damn quick. What do I care who
she is? Them swell Eastern women--I've heerd of them. They're
not so much. This Hamrnond woman--'
"Suddenly Hawe shut up, an' with his red mug turnin' green he
went for his gun."
Stillwell paused in his narrative to get breath, and he wiped his
moist brow. And now his face began to lose its cragginess. It
changed, it softened, it rippled and wrinkled, and all that
strange mobility focused and shone in a wonderful smile.
"An' then, Miss Majesty, then there was somethin' happened.
Stewart took Pat's gun away from him and throwed it on the floor.
An' what followed was beautiful. Sure it was the beautifulest
sight I ever seen. Only it was over so soon! A little while
after, when the doctor came, he hed another patient besides the
wounded Greaser, an' he said thet this new one would require
about four months to be up an' around cheerful-like again. An'
Gene Stewart hed hit the trail for the border."
IV A Ride From Sunrise To Sunset
Next morning, when Madeline was aroused by her brother, it was
not yet daybreak; the air chilled her, and in the gray gloom she
had to feel around for matches and lamp. Her usual languid
manner vanished at a touch of the cold water. Presently, when
Alfred knocked on her door and said he was leaving a pitcher of
hot water outside, she replied, with chattering teeth, "Th-thank
y-you, b-but I d-don't ne-need any now." She found it necessary,
however, to warm her numb fingers before she could fasten hooks
and buttons. And when she was dressed she marked in the dim
mirror that there were tinges of red in her cheeks.
"Well, if I haven't some color!" she exclaimed.
Breakfast waited for her in the dining-room. The sisters ate
with her. Madeline quickly caught the feeling of brisk action
that seemed to be in the air. From the back of the house sounded
the tramp of boots and voices of men, and from outside came a
dull thump of hoofs, the rattle of harness, and creak of wheels.
Then Alfred came stamping in.
"Majesty, here's where you get the real thing," he announced,
merrily. "We're rushing you off, I'm sorry to say; but we must
hustle back to the ranch. The fall round-up begins to-morrow.
You will ride in the buck-board with Florence and Stillwell.
I'll ride on ahead with the boys and fix up a little for you at
the ranch. Your baggage will follow, but won't get there till
to-morrow sometime. It's a long ride out--nearly fifty miles by
wagon-road. Flo, don't forget a couple of robes. Wrap her up
well. And hustle getting ready. We're waiting."
A little later, when Madeline went out with Florence, the gray
gloom was lightening. Horses were champing bits and pounding
"Mawnin', Miss Majesty," said Stillwell, gruffly, from the front
seat of a high vehicle.
Alfred bundled her up into the back seat, and Florence after her,
and wrapped them with robes. Then he mounted his horse and
started off. "Gid-eb!" growled Stillwell, and with a crack of
his whip the team jumped into a trot. Florence whispered into
"Bill's grouchy early in the mawnin'. He'll thaw out soon as it
It was still so gray that Madeline could not distinguish objects
at any considerable distance, and she left El Cajon without
knowing what the town really looked like. She did know that she
was glad to get out of it, and found an easier task of dispelling
persistent haunting memory.
"Here come the cowboys," said Florence.
A line of horsemen appeared coming from the right and fell in
behind Alfred, and gradually they drew ahead, to disappear from
sight. While Madeline watched them the gray gloom lightened into
dawn. All about her was bare and dark; the horizon seemed close;
not a hill nor a tree broke the monotony. The ground appeared to
be flat, but the road went up and down over little ridges.
Madeline glanced backward in the direction of El Cajon and the
mountains she had seen the day before, and she saw only bare and
dark ground, like that which rolled before.
A puff of cold wind struck her face and she shivered. Florence
noticed her and pulled up the second robe and tucked it closely
round her up to her chin.
"If we have a little wind you'll sure feel it," said the Western
Madeline replied that she already felt it. The wind appeared to
penetrate the robes. it was cold, pure, nipping. It was so thin
she had to breathe as fast as if she were under ordinary
exertion. It hurt her nose and made her lungs ache.
"Aren't you co-cold?" asked Madeline.
"I?" Florence laughed. "I'm used to it. I never get cold."
The Western girl sat with ungloved hands on the outside of the
robe she evidently did not need to draw up around her. Madeline
thought she had never seen such a clear-eyed, healthy, splendid
"Do you like to see the sun rise?" asked Florence.
"Yes, I think I do," replied Madeline, thoughtfully. "Frankly, I
have not seen it for years."
"We have beautiful sunrises, and sunsets from the ranch are
Long lines of pink fire ran level with the eastern horizon, which
appeared to recede as day brightened. A bank of thin, fleecy
clouds was turning rose. To the south and west the sky was dark;
but every moment it changed, the blue turning bluer. The eastern
sky was opalescent. Then in one place gathered a golden light,
and slowly concentrated till it was like fire. The rosy bank of
cloud turned to silver and pearl, and behind it shot up a great
circle of gold. Above the dark horizon gleamed an intensely
bright disk. It was the sun. It rose swiftly, blazing out the
darkness between the ridges and giving color and distance to the
sweep of land.
"Wal, wal," drawled Stillwell, and stretched his huge arms as if
he had just awakened, "thet's somethin' like."
Florence nudged Madeline and winked at her.
"Fine mawnin', girls," went on old Bill, cracking his whip.
"Miss Majesty, it'll be some oninterestin' ride all mawnin'. But
when we get up a bit you'll sure like it. There! Look to the
southwest, jest over thet farthest ridge."
Madeline swept her gaze along the gray, sloping horizon-line to
where dark-blue spires rose far beyond the ridge.
"Peloncillo Mountains," said Stillwell. "Thet's home, when we
get there. We won't see no more of them till afternoon, when
they rise up sudden-like."
Peloncillo! Madeline murmured the melodious name. Where had she
heard it? Then she remembered. The cowboy Stewart had told the
little Mexican girl Bonita to "hit the Peloncillo trail."
Probably the girl had ridden the big, dark horse over this very
road at night, alone. Madeline had a little shiver that was not
occasioned by the cold wind.
"There's a jack!" cried Florence, suddenly.
Madeline saw her first jack-rabbit. It was as large as a dog,
and its ears were enormous. It appeared to be impudently tame,
and the horses kicked dust over it as they trotted by. From then
on old Bill and Florence vied with each other in calling
Madeline's attention to many things along the way. Coyotes
stealing away into the brush; buzzards flapping over the carcass
of a cow that had been mired in a wash; queer little lizards
running swiftly across the road; cattle grazing in the hollows;
adobe huts of Mexican herders; wild, shaggy horses, with heads
high, watching from the gray ridges--all these things Madeline
looked at, indifferently at first, because indifference had
become habitual with her, and then with an interest that
flourished up and insensibly grew as she rode on. It grew until
sight of a little ragged; Mexican boy astride the most diminutive
burro she had ever seen awakened her to the truth. She became
conscious of faint, unmistakable awakening of long-dead feelings-
-enthusiasm and delight. When she realized that, she breathed
deep of the cold, sharp air and experienced an inward joy. And
she divined then, though she did not know why, that henceforth
there was to be something new in her life, something she had
never felt before, something good for her soul in the homely, the
commonplace, the natural, and the wild.
Meanwhile, as Madeline gazed about her and listened to her
companions, the sun rose higher and grew warm and soared and grew
hot; the horses held tirelessly to their steady trot, and mile
after mile of rolling land slipped by.
From the top of a ridge Madeline saw down into a hollow where a
few of the cowboys had stopped and were sitting round a fire,
evidently busy at the noonday meal. Their horses were feeding on
the long, gray grass.
"Wal, smell of thet burnin' greasewood makes my mouth water,"
said Stillwell. "I'm sure hungry. We'll noon hyar an' let the
hosses rest. It's a long pull to the ranch."
He halted near the camp-fire, and, clambering down, began to
unharness the team. Florence leaped out and turned to help
"Walk round a little," she said. "You must be cramped from
sitting still so long. I'll get lunch ready."
Madeline got down, glad to stretch her limbs, and began to stroll
about. She heard Stillwell throw the harness on the ground and
slap his horses. "Roll, you sons-of-guns!" he said. Both horses
bent their fore legs, heaved down on their sides, and tried to
roll over. One horse succeeded on the fourth try, and then
heaved up with a satisfied snort and shook off the dust and
gravel. The other one failed to roll over, and gave it up, half
rose to his feet, and then lay down on the other side.
"He's sure going to feel the ground," said Florence, smiling at
Madeline. "Miss Hammond, I suppose that prize horse of yours--
White Stockings--would spoil his coat if he were heah to roll in
this greasewood and cactus."
During lunch-time Madeline observed that she was an object of
manifestly great interest to the three cowboys. She returned the
compliment, and was amused to see that a g1ance their way caused
them painful embarrassment. They were grown men--one of whom had
white hair--yet they acted like boys caught in the act of
stealing a forbidden look at a pretty girl.
"Cowboys are sure all flirts," said Florence, as if stating an
uninteresting fact. But Madeline detected a merry twinkle in her
clear eyes. The cowboys heard, and the effect upon them was
magical. They fell to shamed confusion and to hurried useless
tasks. Madeline found it difficult to see where they had been
bold, though evidently they were stricken with conscious guilt.
She recalled appraising looks of critical English eyes, impudent
French stares, burning Spanish glances--gantlets which any
American girl had to run abroad. Compared with foreign eyes the
eyes of these cowboys were those of smiling, eager babies.
"Haw, haw!" roared Stillwell. "Florence, you jest hit the nail
on the haid. Cowboys are all plumb flirts. I was wonderin' why
them boys nooned hyar. This ain't no place to noon. Ain't no
grazin' or wood wuth burnin' or nuthin'. Them boys jest held up,
throwed the packs, an' waited fer us. It ain't so surprisin' fer
Booly an' Ned--they're young an' coltish--but Nels there, why,
he's old enough to be the paw of both you girls. It sure is
A silence ensued. The white-haired cowboy, Nels, fussed
aimlessly over the camp-fire, and then straightened up with a
very red face.
"Bill, you're a dog-gone liar," he said. "I reckon I won't stand
to be classed with Booly an' Ned. There ain't no cowboy on this
range thet's more appreciatin' of the ladies than me, but I shore
ain't ridin' out of my way. I reckon I hev enough ridin' to do.
Now, Bill, if you've sich dog-gone good eyes mebbe you seen
somethin' on the way out?"
"Nels, I hevn't seen nothin'," he replied, bluntly. His levity
disappeared, and the red wrinkles narrowed round his searching
"Jest take a squint at these hoss tracks," said Nels, and he drew
Stillwell a few paces aside and pointed to large hoofprints in
the dust. "I reckon you know the hoss thet made them?"
"Gene Stewart's roan, or I'm a son-of-a-gun!" exclaimed
Stillwell, and he dropped heavily to his knees and began to
scrutinize the tracks. "My eyes are sure pore; but, Nels, they
"I reckon them tracks was made early yesterday mornin'."
"Wal, what if they was?" Stillwell looked at his cowboy. "It's
sure as thet red nose of yourn Gene wasn't ridin' the roan."
"Who's sayin' he was? Bill, its more 'n your eyes thet's gettin'
old. Jest foller them tracks. Come on."
Stillwell walked slowly, with his head bent, muttering to
himself. Some thirty paces or more from the camp-fire he stopped