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The Light of Western Stars by Zane Grey

Part 4 out of 8

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She held it out, the blood making her conscious of her weakness.
Stewart's fingers felt so firm and sure. Swiftly he ripped the
wet sleeve. Her forearm had been cut or scratched. He washed off
the blood.

"Why, Stewart, it's nothing. I was only a little nervous. I
guess that's the first time I ever saw my own blood."

He made no reply as he tore her handkerchief into strips and
bound her arm. His swift motions and his silence gave her a hint
of how he might meet a more serious emergency. She felt safe.
And because of that impression, when he lifted his head and she
saw that he was pale and shaking, she was surprised. He stood
before her folding his scarf, which was still wet, and from which
he made no effort to remove the red stains.

"Miss Hammond," he said, hoarsely, "it was a man's hands--a
Greaser's finger-nails--that cut your arm. I know who he was. I
could have killed him. But I mightn't have got your freedom.
You understand? I didn't dare."

Madeline gazed at Stewart, astounded more by his speech than his
excessive emotion.

"My dear boy!" she exclaimed. And then she paused. She could not
find words.

He was making an apology to her for not killing a man who had
laid a rough hand upon her person. He was ashamed and seemed to
be in a torture that she would not understand why he had not
killed the man. There seemed to be something of passionate scorn
in him that he had not been able to avenge her as well as free

"Stewart, I understand. You were being my kind of cowboy. I
thank you."

But she did not understand so much as she implied. She had heard
many stories of this man's cool indifference to peril and death.
He had always seemed as hard as granite. Why should the sight of
a little blood upon her arm pale his cheek and shake his hand and
thicken his voice? What was there in his nature to make him
implore her to see the only reason he could not kill an outlaw?
The answer to the first question was that he loved her. It was
beyond her to answer the second. But the secret of it lay in the
same strength from which his love sprang--an intensity of feeling
which seemed characteristic of these Western men of simple,
lonely, elemental lives. All at once over Madeline rushed a tide
of realization of how greatly it was possible for such a man as
Stewart to love her. The thought came to her in all its singular
power. All her Eastern lovers who had the graces that made them
her equals in the sight of the world were without the only great
essential that a lonely, hard life had given to Stewart. Nature
here struck a just balance. Something deep and dim in the
future, an unknown voice, called to Madeline and disturbed her.
And because it was not a voice to her intelligence she deadened
the ears of her warm and throbbing life and decided never to

"Is it safe to rest a little?" she asked. "I am so tired.
Perhaps I'll be stronger if I rest."

"We're all right now," he said. "The horse will be better, too.
I ran him out. And uphill, at that."

"Where are we?"

"Up in the mountains, ten miles and more from the ranch. There's
a trail just below here. I can get you home by midnight.
They'll be some worried down there."

"What happened?"

"Nothing much to any one but you. That's the--the hard luck of
it. Florence caught us out on the slope. We were returning from
the fire. We were dead beat. But we got to the ranch before any
damage was done. We sure had trouble in finding a trace of you.
Nick spotted the prints of your heels under the window. And then
we knew. I had to fight the boys. If they'd come after you we'd
never have gotten you without a fight. I didn't want that. Old
Bill came out packing a dozen guns. He was crazy. I had to rope
Monty. Honest, I tied him to the porch. Nels and Nick promised
to stay and hold him till morning. That was the best I could do.
I was sure lucky to come up with the band so soon. I had figured
right. I knew that guerrilla chief. He's a bandit in Mexico.
It's a business with him. But he fought for Madero, and I was
with him a good deal. He may be a Greaser, but he's white."

"How did you effect my release?"

"I offered them money. That's what the rebels all want. They
need money. They're a lot of poor, hungry devils."

"I gathered that you offered to pay ransom. How much?"

"Two thousand dollars Mex. I gave my word. I'll have to take
the money. I told them when and where I'd meet them."

"Certainly. I'm glad I've got the money." Madeline laughed.
"What a strange thing to happen to me! I wonder what dad would
say to that? Stewart, I'm afraid he'd say two thousand dollars
is more than I'm worth. But tell me. That rebel chieftain did
not demand money?"

"No. The money is for his men."

"What did you say to him? I saw you whisper in his ear."

Stewart dropped his head, averting her direct gaze.

"We were comrades before Juarez. One day I dragged him out of a
ditch. I reminded him. Then I--I told him something I--I

"Stewart, I know from the way he looked at me that you spoke of

Her companion did not offer a reply to this, and Madeline did not
press the point.

"I heard Don Carlos's name several times. That interests me.
What have Don Carlos and his vaqueros to do with this?"

"That Greaser has all to do with it," replied Stewart, grimly.
"He burned his ranch and corrals to keep us from getting them.
But he also did it to draw all the boys away from your home.
They had a deep plot, all right. I left orders for some one to
stay with you. But Al and Stillwell, who're both hot-headed,
rode off this morning. Then the guerrillas came down."

"Well, what was the idea--the plot--as you call it?"

"To get you," he said, bluntly.

"Me! Stewart, you do not mean my capture--whatever you call it--
was anything more than mere accident?"

"I do mean that. But Stillwell and your brother think the
guerrillas wanted money and arms, and they just happened to make
off with you because you ran under a horse's nose."

"You do not incline to that point of view?"

"I don't. Neither does Nels nor Nick Steele. And we know Don
Carlos and the Greasers. Look how the vaqueros chased Flo for

"What do you think, then?"

"I'd rather not say."

"But, Stewart, I would like to know. If it is about me, surely I
ought to know," protested Madeline. "What reason have Nels and
Nick to suspect Don Carlos of plotting to abduct me?"

"I suppose they've no reason you'd take. Once I heard Nels say
he'd seen the Greaser look at you, and if he ever saw him do it
again he'd shoot him."

"Why, Stewart, that is ridiculous. To shoot a man for looking at
a woman! This is a civilized country."

"Well, maybe it would be ridiculous in a civilized country.
There's some things about civilization I don't care for."

"What, for instance?"

"For one thing, I can't stand for the way men let other men treat

"But, Stewart, this is strange talk from you, who, that night I

She broke off, sorry that she had spoken. His shame was not
pleasant to see. Suddenly he lifted his head, and she felt
scorched by flaming eyes.

"Suppose I was drunk. Suppose I had met some ordinary girl.
Suppose I had really made her marry me. Don't you think I would
have stopped being a drunkard and have been good to her?"

"Stewart, I do not know what to think about you," replied

Then followed a short silence. Madeline saw the last bright rays
of the setting sun glide up over a distant crag. Stewart
rebridled the horse and looked at the saddle-girths.

"I got off the trail. About Don Carlos I'll say right out, not
what Nels and Nick think, but what I know. Don Carlos hoped to
make off with you for himself, the same as if you had been a poor
peon slave-girl down in Sonora. Maybe he had a deeper plot than
my rebel friend told me. Maybe he even went so far as to hope
for American troops to chase him. The rebels are trying to stir
up the United States. They'd welcome intervention. But, however
that may be, the Greaser meant evil to you, and has meant it ever
since he saw you first. That's all."

"Stewart, you have done me and my family a service we can never
hope to repay."

"I've done the service. Only don't mention pay to me. But
there's one thing I'd like you to know, and I find it hard to
say. It's prompted, maybe, by what I know you think of me and
what I imagine your family and friends would think if they knew.
It's not prompted by pride or conceit. And it's this: Such a
woman as you should never have come to this God-forsaken country
unless she meant to forget herself. But as you did come, and as
you were dragged away by those devils, I want you to know that
all your wealth and position and influence--all that power behind
you--would never have saved you from hell to-night. Only such a
man as Nels or Nick Steele or I could have done that."

Madeline Hammond felt the great leveling force of the truth.
Whatever the difference between her and Stewart, or whatever the
imagined difference set up by false standards of class and
culture, the truth was that here on this wild mountain-side she
was only a woman and he was simply a man. It was a man that she
needed, and if her choice could have been considered in this
extremity it would have fallen upon him who had just faced her in
quiet, bitter speech. Here was food for thought.

"I reckon we'd better start now," he said, and drew the horse
close to a large rock. "Come."

Madeline's will greatly exceeded her strength. For the first
time she acknowledged to herself that she had been hurt. Still,
she did not feel much pain except when she moved her shoulder.
Once in the saddle, where Stewart lifted her, she drooped weakly.
The way was rough; every step the horse took hurt her; and the
slope of the ground threw her forward on the pommel. Presently,
as the slope grew rockier and her discomfort increased, she
forgot everything except that she was suffering.

"Here is the trail," said Stewart, at length.

Not far from that point Madeline swayed, and but for Stewart's
support would have fallen from the saddle. She heard him swear
under his breath.

"Here, this won't do," he said. "Throw your leg over the pommel.
The other one--there."

Then, mounting, he slipped behind her and lifted and turned her,
and then held her with his left arm so that she lay across the
saddle and his knees, her head against his shoulder.

As the horse started into a rapid walk Madeline gradually lost
all pain and discomfort when she relaxed her muscles. Presently
she let herself go and lay inert, greatly to her relief. For a
little while she seemed to be half drunk with the gentle swaying
of a hammock. Her mind became at once dreamy and active, as if
it thoughtfully recorded the slow, soft impressions pouring in
from all her senses.

A red glow faded in the west. She could see out over the
foothills, where twilight was settling gray on the crests, dark
in the hollows. Cedar and pinon trees lined the trail, and there
were no more firs. At intervals huge drab-colored rocks loomed
over her. The sky was clear and steely. A faint star twinkled.
And lastly, close to her, she saw Stewart's face, once more dark
and impassive, with the inscrutable eyes fixed on the trail.

His arm, like a band of iron, held her, yet it was flexible and
yielded her to the motion of the horse. One instant she felt the
brawn, the bone, heavy and powerful; the next the stretch and
ripple, the elasticity of muscles. He held her as easily as if
she were a child. The roughness of his flannel shirt rubbed her
cheek, and beneath that she felt the dampness of the scarf he had
used to bathe her arm, and deeper still the regular pound of his
heart. Against her ear, filling it with strong, vibrant beat,
his heart seemed a mighty engine deep within a great cavern. Her
head had never before rested on a man's breast, and she had no
liking for it there; but she felt more than the physical contact.
The position was mysterious and fascinating, and something
natural in it made her think of life. Then as the cool wind blew
down from the heights, loosening her tumbled hair, she was
compelled to see strands of it curl softly into Stewart's face,
before his eyes, across his lips. She was unable to reach it
with her free hand, and therefore could not refasten it. And
when she shut her eyes she felt those loosened strands playing
against his cheeks.

In the keener press of such sensations she caught the smell of
dust and a faint, wild, sweet tang on the air. There was a low,
rustling sigh of wind in the brush along the trail. Suddenly the
silence ripped apart to the sharp bark of a coyote, and then,
from far away, came a long wail. And then Majesty's metal-rimmed
hoof rang on a stone.

These later things lent probability to that ride for Madeline.
Otherwise it would have seemed like a dream. Even so it was hard
to believe. Again she wondered if this woman who had begun to
think and feel so much was Madeline Hammond. Nothing had ever
happened to her. And here, playing about her like her hair
played about Stewart's face, was adventure, perhaps death, and
surely life. She could not believe the evidence of the day's
happenings. Would any of her people, her friends, ever believe
it? Could she tell it? How impossible to think that a cunning
Mexican might have used her to further the interests of a forlorn
revolution. She remembered the ghoulish visages of those starved
rebels, and marveled at her blessed fortune in escaping them.
She was safe, and now self-preservation had some meaning for her.
Stewart's arrival in the glade, the courage with which he had
faced the outlawed men, grew as real to her now as the iron arm
that clasped her. Had it been an instinct which had importuned
her to save this man when he lay ill and hopeless in the shack at
Chiricahua? In helping him had she hedged round her forces that
had just operated to save her life, or if not that, more than
life was to her? She believed so.

Madeline opened her eyes after a while and found that night had
fallen. The sky was a dark, velvety blue blazing with white
stars. The cool wind tugged at her hair, and through waving
strands she saw Stewart's profile, bold and sharp against the

Then, as her mind succumbed to her bodily fatigue, again her
situation became unreal and wild. A heavy languor, like a
blanket, began to steal upon her. She wavered and drifted. With
the last half-conscious sense of a muffled throb at her ear, a
something intangibly sweet, deep-toned, and strange, like a
distant calling bell, she fell asleep with her head on Stewart's

XII Friends from the East

Three days after her return to the ranch Madeline could not
discover any physical discomfort as a reminder of her adventurous
experiences. This surprised her, but not nearly so much as the
fact that after a few weeks she found she scarcely remembered the
adventures at all. If it had not been for the quiet and
persistent guardianship of her cowboys she might almost have
forgotten Don Carlos and the raiders. Madeline was assured of
the splendid physical fitness to which this ranch life had
developed her, and that she was assimilating something of the
Western disregard of danger. A hard ride, an accident, a day in
the sun and dust, an adventure with outlaws--these might once
have been matters of large import, but now for Madeline they were
in order with all the rest of her changed life.

There was never a day that something interesting was not brought
to her notice. Stillwell, who had ceaselessly reproached himself
for riding away the morning Madeline was captured, grew more like
an anxious parent than a faithful superintendent. He was never
at ease regarding her unless he was near the ranch or had left
Stewart there, or else Nels and Nick Steele. Naturally, he
trusted more to Stewart than to any one else.

"Miss Majesty, it's sure amazin' strange about Gene," said the
old cattleman, as he tramped into Madeline's office.

"What's the matter now?" she inquired.

"Wal, Gene has rustled off into the mountains again."

"Again? I did not know he had gone. I gave him money for that
band of guerrillas. Perhaps he went to take it to them."

"No. He took that a day or so after he fetched you back home.
Then in about a week he went a second time. An' he packed some
stuff with him. Now he's sneaked off, an' Nels, who was down to
the lower trail, saw him meet somebody that looked like Padre
Marcos. Wal, I went down to the church, and, sure enough, Padre
Marcos is gone. What do you think of that, Miss Majesty?"

"Maybe Stewart is getting religious," laughed Madeline. You told
me so once.

Stillwell puffed and wiped his red face.

"If you'd heerd him cuss Monty this mawnin' you'd never guess it
was religion. Monty an' Nels hev been givin' Gene a lot of
trouble lately. They're both sore an' in fightin' mood ever
since Don Carlos hed you kidnapped. Sure they're goin' to break
soon, an' then we'll hev a couple of wild Texas steers ridin' the
range. I've a heap to worry me."

"Let Stewart take his mysterious trips into the mountains. Here,
Stillwell, I have news for you that may give you reason for
worry. I have letters from home. And my sister, with a party of
friends, is coming out to visit me. They are society folk, and
one of them is an English lord."

"Wal, Miss Majesty, I reckon we'll all be glad to see them," said
Stillwell. "Onless they pack you off back East."

"That isn't likely," replied Madeline, thoughtfully. "I must go
back some time, though. Well, let me read you a few extracts
from my mail."

Madeline took up her sister's letter with a strange sensation of
how easily sight of a crested monogram and scent of delicately
perfumed paper could recall the brilliant life she had given up.
She scanned the pages of beautiful handwriting. Helen's letter
was in turn gay and brilliant and lazy, just as she was herself;
but Madeline detected more of curiosity in it than of real
longing to see the sister and brother in the Far West. Much of
what Helen wrote was enthusiastic anticipation of the fun she
expected to have with bashful cowboys. Helen seldom wrote
letters, and she never read anything, not even popular novels of
the day. She was as absolutely ignorant of the West as the
Englishman, who, she said, expected to hunt buffalo and fight
Indians. Moreover, there was a satiric note in the letter that
Madeline did not like, and which roused her spirit. Manifestly,
Helen was reveling in the prospect of new sensation.

When she finished reading aloud a few paragraphs the old
cattleman snorted and his face grew redder.

"Did your sister write that?" he asked.


"Wal, I--I beg pawdin, Miss Majesty. But it doesn't seem like
you. Does she think we're a lot of wild men from Borneo?"

"Evidently she does. I rather think she is in for a surprise.
Now, Stillwell, you are clever and you can see the situation. I
want my guests to enjoy their stay here, but I do not want that
to be at the expense of the feelings of all of us, or even any
one. Helen will bring a lively crowd. They'll crave excitement-
-the unusual. Let us see that they are not disappointed. You
take the boys into your confidence. Tell them what to expect,
and tell them how to meet it. I shall help you in that. I want
the boys to be on dress-parade when they are off duty. I want
them to be on their most elegant behavior. I do not care what
they do, what measures they take to protect themselves, what
tricks they contrive, so long as they do not overstep the limit
of kindness and courtesy. I want them to play their parts
seriously, naturally, as if they had lived no other way. My
guests expect to have fun. Let us meet them with fun. Now what
do you say?"

Stillwell rose, his great bulk towering, his huge face beaming.

"Wal, I say it's the most amazin' fine idee I ever heerd in my

"Indeed, I am glad you like it," went on Madeline.

"Come to me again, Stillwell, after you have spoken to the boys.
But, now that I have suggested it, I am a little afraid. You
know what cowboy fun is. Perhaps--"

"Don't you go back on that idee," interrupted Stillwell. He was
assuring and bland, but his hurry to convince Madeline betrayed
him. "Leave the boys to me. Why, don't they all swear by you,
same as the Mexicans do to the Virgin? They won't disgrace you,
Miss Majesty. They'll be simply immense. It'll beat any show
you ever seen."

"I believe it will," replied Madeline. She was still doubtful of
her plan, but the enthusiasm of the old cattleman was infectious
and irresistible. "Very well, we will consider it settled. My
guests will arrive on May ninth. Meanwhile let us get Her
Majesty's Rancho in shape for this invasion."

On the afternoon of the ninth of May, perhaps half an hour after
Madeline had received a telephone message from Link Stevens
announcing the arrival of her guests at El Cajon, Florence called
her out upon the porch. Stillwell was there with his face
wrinkled by his wonderful smile and his eagle eyes riveted upon
the distant valley. Far away, perhaps twenty miles, a thin
streak of white dust rose from the valley floor and slanted

"Look!" said Florence, excitedly.

"What is that?" asked Madeline.

"Link Stevens and the automobile!"

"Oh no! Why, it's only a few minutes since he telephoned saying
the party had just arrived."

"Take a look with the glasses," said Florence.

One glance through the powerful binoculars convinced Madeline
that Florence was right. And another glance at Stillwell told
her that he was speechless with delight. She remembered a little
conversation she had had with Link Stevens a short while

"Stevens, I hope the car is in good shape," she had said. "Now,
Miss Hammond, she's as right as the best-trained hoss I ever
rode," he had replied.

"The valley road is perfect," she had gone on, musingly. "I
never saw such a beautiful road, even in France. No fences, no
ditches, no rocks, no vehicles. Just a lonely road on the

"Shore, it's lonely," Stevens had answered, with slowly
brightening eyes. "An' safe, Miss Hammond."

"My sister used to like fast riding. If I remember correctly,
all of my guests were a little afflicted with the speed mania.
It is a common disease with New-Yorkers. I hope, Stevens, that
you will not give them reason to think we are altogether steeped
in the slow, dreamy manana languor of the Southwest."

Link doubtfully eyed her, and then his bronze face changed its
dark aspect and seemed to shine.

"Beggin' your pardon, Miss Hammond, thet's shore tall talk fer
Link Stevens to savvy. You mean--as long as I drive careful an'
safe I can run away from my dust, so to say, an' get here in
somethin' less than the Greaser's to-morrow?"

Madeline had laughed her assent. And now, as she watched the
thin streak of dust, at that distance moving with snail pace, she
reproached herself. She trusted Stevens; she had never known so
skilful, daring, and iron-nerved a driver as he was. If she had
been in the car herself she would have had no anxiety. But,
imagining what Stevens would do on forty miles and more of that
desert road, Madeline suffered a prick of conscience.

"Oh, Stillwell!" she exclaimed. "I am afraid I will go back on
my wonderful idea. What made me do it?"

"Your sister wanted the real thing, didn't she? Said they all
wanted it. Wal, I reckon they've begun gettin' it," replied

That statement from the cattleman allayed Madeline's pangs of
conscience. She understood just what she felt, though she could
not have put it in words. She was hungry for a sight of
well-remembered faces; she longed to hear the soft laughter and
gay repartee of old friends; she was eager for gossipy first-hand
news of her old world. Nevertheless, something in her sister's
letter, in messages from the others who were coming, had touched
Madeline's pride. In one sense the expected guests were hostile,
inasmuch as they were scornful and curious about the West that
had claimed her. She imagined what they would expect in a
Western ranch. They would surely get the real thing, too, as
Stillwell said; and in that certainty was satisfaction for a
small grain of something within Madeline which approached
resentment. She wistfully wondered, however, if her sister or
friends would come to see the West even a little as she saw it.
That, perhaps, would he hoping too much. She resolved once for
all to do her best to give them the sensation their senses
craved, and equally to show them the sweetness and beauty and
wholesomeness and strength of life in the Southwest.

"Wal, as Nels says, I wouldn't be in that there ottomobile right
now for a million pesos," remarked Stillwell.

"Why? Is Stevens driving fast?"

"Good Lord! Fast? Miss Majesty, there hain't ever been anythin'
except a streak of lightnin' run so fast in this country. I'll
bet Link for once is in heaven. I can jest see him now, the
grim, crooked-legged little devil, hunchin' down over that wheel
as if it was a hoss's neck."

"I told him not to let the ride be hot or dusty," remarked

"Haw, haw!" roared Stillwell. "Wal, I'll be goin'. I reckon I'd
like to be hyar when Link drives up, but I want to be with the
boys down by the bunks. It'll be some fun to see Nels an' Monty
when Link comes flyin' along."

"I wish Al had stayed to meet them," said Madeline.

Her brother had rather hurried a shipment of cattle to
California: and it was Madeline's supposition that he had
welcomed the opportunity to absent himself from the ranch.

"I am sorry he wouldn't stay," replied Florence. "But Al's all
business now. And he's doing finely. It's just as well,

"Surely. That was my pride speaking. I would like to have all
my family and all my old friends see what a man Al has become.
Well, Link Stevens is running like the wind. The car will be
here before we know it. Florence, we've only a few moments to
dress. But first I want to order many and various and
exceedingly cold refreshments for that approaching party."

Less than a half-hour later Madeline went again to the porch and
found Florence there.

"Oh, you look just lovely!" exclaimed Florence, impulsively, as
she gazed wide-eyed up at Madeline. "And somehow so different!"

Madeline smiled a little sadly. Perhaps when she had put on that
exquisite white gown something had come to her of the manner
which befitted the wearing of it. She could not resist the
desire to look fair once more in the eyes of these hypercritical
friends. The sad smile had been for the days that were gone.
For she knew that what society had once been pleased to call her
beauty had trebled since it had last been seen in a drawing-room.
Madeline wore no jewels, but at her waist she had pinned two
great crimson roses. Against the dead white they had the life
and fire and redness of the desert.

"Link's hit the old round-up trail," said Florence, "and oh,
isn't he riding that car!"

With Florence, as with most of the cowboys, the car was never
driven, but ridden.

A white spot with a long trail of dust showed low down in the
valley. It was now headed almost straight for the ranch.
Madeline watched it growing larger moment by moment, and her
pleasurable emotion grew accordingly. Then the rapid beat of a
horse's hoofs caused her to turn.

Stewart was riding in on his black horse. He had been absent on
an important mission, and his duty had taken him to the
international boundary-line. His presence home long before he was
expected was particularly gratifying to Madeline, for it meant
that his mission had been brought to a successful issue. Once
more, for the hundredth time, the man's reliability struck
Madeline. He was a doer of things. The black horse halted
wearily without the usual pound of hoofs on the gravel, and the
dusty rider dismounted wearily. Both horse and rider showed the
heat and dust and wind of many miles.

Madeline advanced to the porch steps. And Stewart, after taking
a parcel of papers from a saddle-bag, turned toward her.

"Stewart, you are the best of couriers," she said. "I am

Dust streamed from his sombrero as he doffed it. His dark face
seemed to rise as he straightened weary shoulders.

"Here are the reports, Miss Hammond," he replied.

As he looked up to see her standing there, dressed to receive her
Eastern guests, he checked his advance with a violent action
which recalled to Madeline the one he had made on the night she
had met him, when she disclosed her identity. It was not fear nor
embarrassment nor awkwardness. And it was only momentary. Yet,
slight as had been his pause, Madeline received from it an
impression of some strong halting force. A man struck by a
bullet might have had an instant jerk of muscular control such as
convulsed Stewart. In that instant, as her keen gaze searched
his dust-caked face, she met the full, free look of his eyes.
Her own did not fall, though she felt a warmth steal to her
cheeks. Madeline very seldom blushed. And now, conscious of her
sudden color a genuine blush flamed on her face. It was
irritating because it was incomprehensible. She received the
papers from Stewart and thanked him. He bowed, then led the
black down the path toward the corrals.

"When Stewart looks like that he's been riding," said Florence.
"But when his horse looks like that he's sure been burning the

Madeline watched the weary horse and rider limp down the path.
What had made her thoughtful? Mostly it was something new or
sudden or inexplicable that stirred her mind to quick analysis.
In this instance the thing that had struck Madeline was Stewart's
glance. He had looked at her, and the old burning, inscrutable
fire, the darkness, had left his eyes. Suddenly they had been
beautiful. The look had not been one of surprise or admiration;
nor had it been one of love. She was familiar, too familiar with
all three. It had not been a gaze of passion, for there was
nothing beautiful in that. Madeline pondered. And presently she
realized that Stewart's eyes had expressed a strange joy of
pride. That expression Madeline had never before encountered in
the look of any man. Probably its strangeness had made her notice
it and accounted for her blushing. The longer she lived among
these outdoor men the more they surprised her. Particularly, how
incomprehensible was this cowboy Stewart! Why should he have
pride or joy at sight of her?

Florence's exclamation made Madeline once more attend to the
approaching automobile. It was on the slope now, some miles down
the long gradual slant. Two yellow funnel-shaped clouds of dust
seemed to shoot out from behind the car and roll aloft to join
the column that stretched down the valley.

"I wonder what riding a mile a minute would be like," said
Florence. "I'll sure make Link take me. Oh, but look at him

The giant car resembled a white demon, and but for the dust would
have appeared to be sailing in the air. Its motion was steadily
forward, holding to the road as if on rails. And its velocity
was astounding. Long, gray veils, like pennants, streamed in the
wind. A low rushing sound became perceptible, and it grew
louder, became a roar. The car shot like an arrow past the
alfalfa-field, by the bunk-houses, where the cowboys waved and
cheered. The horses and burros in the corrals began to snort and
tramp and race in fright. At the base of the long slope of the
foothill Link cut the speed more than half. Yet the car roared
up, rolling the dust, flying capes and veils and ulsters, and
crashed and cracked to a halt in the yard before the porch.

Madeline descried a gray, disheveled mass of humanity packed
inside the car. Besides the driver there were seven occupants,
and for a moment they appeared to be coming to life, moving and
exclaiming under the veils and wraps and dust-shields.

Link Stevens stepped out and, removing helmet and goggles, coolly
looked at his watch.

"An hour an' a quarter, Miss Hammond," he said. "It's
sixty-three miles by the valley road, an' you know there's a
couple of bad hills. I reckon we made fair time, considerin' you
wanted me to drive slow an' safe."

From the mass of dusty-veiled humanity in the car came low
exclamations and plaintive feminine wails.

Madeline stepped to the front of the porch. Then the deep voices
of men and softer voices of women united in one glad outburst, as
much a thanksgiving as a greeting, "MAJESTY!"

Helen Hammond was three years younger than Madeline, and a
slender, pretty girl. She did not resemble her sister, except in
whiteness and fineness of skin, being more of a brown-eyed,
brown-haired type. Having recovered her breath soon after
Madeline took her to her room, she began to talk.

"Majesty, old girl, I'm here; but you can bet I would never have
gotten here if I had known about that ride from the railroad.
You never wrote that you had a car. I thought this was out West-
-stage-coach, and all that sort of thing. Such a tremendous car!
And the road! And that terrible little man with the leather
trousers! What kind of a chauffeur is he?"

"He's a cowboy. He was crippled by falling under his horse, so I
had him instructed to run the car. He can drive, don't you

"Drive? Good gracious! He scared us to death, except Castleton.
Nothing could scare that cold-blooded little Englishman. I am
dizzy yet. Do you know, Majesty, I was delighted when I saw the
car. Then your cowboy driver met us at the platform. What a
queer-looking individual! He had a big pistol strapped to those
leather trousers. That made me nervous. When he piled us all in
with our grips, he put me in the seat beside him, whether I liked
it or not. I was fool enough to tell him I loved to travel fast.
What do you think he said? Well, he eyed me in a rather cool and
speculative way and said, with a smile, 'Miss, I reckon anything
you love an' want bad will be coming to you out here!' I didn't
know whether it was delightful candor or impudence. Then he said
to all of us: 'Shore you had better wrap up in the veils an'
dusters. It's a long, slow, hot, dusty ride to the ranch, an'
Miss Hammond's order was to drive safe.' He got our baggage
checks and gave them to a man with a huge wagon and a four-horse
team. Then he cranked the car, jumped in, wrapped his arms round
the wheel, and sank down low in his seat. There was a crack, a
jerk, a kind of flash around us, and that dirty little town was
somewhere on the map behind. For about five minutes I had a
lovely time. Then the wind began to tear me to pieces. I
couldn't hear anything but the rush of wind and roar of the car.
I could see only straight ahead. What a road! I never saw a
road in my life till to-day. Miles and miles and miles ahead,
with not even a post or tree. That big car seemed to leap at the
miles. It hummed and sang. I was fascinated, then terrified.
We went so fast I couldn't catch my breath. The wind went through
me, and I expected to be disrobed by it any minute. I was afraid
I couldn't hold any clothes on. Presently all I could see was a
flashing gray wall with a white line in the middle. Then my eyes
blurred. My face burned. My ears grew full of a hundred thousand
howling devils. I was about ready to die when the car stopped.
I looked and looked, and when I could see, there you stood!"

"Helen, I thought you were fond of speeding," said Madeline, with
a laugh.

"I was. But I assure you I never before was in a fast car; I
never saw a road; I never met a driver."

"Perhaps I may have a few surprises for you out here in the wild
and woolly West."

Helen's dark eyes showed a sister's memory of possibilities.

"You've started well," she said. "I am simply stunned. I expected
to find you old and dowdy. Majesty, you're the handsomest thing
I ever laid eyes on. You're so splendid and strong, and your
skin is like white gold. What's happened to you? What's changed
you? This beautiful room, those glorious roses out there, the
cool, dark sweetness of this wonderful house! I know you,
Majesty, and, though you never wrote it, I believe you have made
a home out here. That's the most stunning surprise of all.
Come, confess. I know I've always been selfish and not much of a
sister; but if you are happy out here I am glad. You were not
happy at home. Tell me about yourself and about Alfred. Then I
shall give you all the messages and news from the East."

It afforded Madeline exceeding pleasure to have from one and all
of her guests varied encomiums of her beautiful home, and a real
and warm interest in what promised to be a delightful and
memorable visit.

Of them all Castleton was the only one who failed to show
surprise. He greeted her precisely as be had when he had last
seen her in London. Madeline, rather to her astonishment, found
meeting him again pleasurable. She discovered she liked this
imperturbable Englishman. Manifestly her capacity for liking any
one had immeasurably enlarged. Quite unexpectedly her old
girlish love for her younger sister sprang into life, and with it
interest in these half-forgotten friends, and a warm regard for
Edith Wayne, a chum of college days.

Helen's party was smaller than Madeline had expected it to be.
Helen had been careful to select a company of good friends, all
of whom were well known to Madeline. Edith Wayne was a patrician
brunette, a serious, soft-voiced woman, sweet and kindly, despite
a rather bitter experience that had left her worldly wise. Mrs.
Carrollton Beck, a plain, lively person, had chaperoned the
party. The fourth and last of the feminine contingent was Miss
Dorothy Coombs--Dot, as they called her--a young woman of
attractive blond prettiness.

For a man Castleton was of very small stature. He had a
pink-and-white complexion, a small golden mustache, and his heavy
eyelids, always drooping, made him look dull. His attire, cut to
what appeared to be an exaggerated English style, attracted
attention to his diminutive size. He was immaculate and
fastidious. Robert Weede was a rather large florid young man,
remarkable only for his good nature. Counting Boyd Harvey, a
handsome, pale-faced fellow, with the careless smile of the man
for whom life had been easy and pleasant, the party was complete.

Dinner was a happy hour, especially for the Mexican women who
served it and who could not fail to note its success. The
mingling of low voices and laughter, the old, gay, superficial
talk, the graciousness of a class which lived for the pleasure of
things and to make time pass pleasurably for others--all took
Madeline far back into the past. She did not care to return to
it, but she saw that it was well she had not wholly cut herself
off from her people and friends.

When the party adjourned to the porch the heat had markedly
decreased and the red sun was sinking over the red desert. An
absence of spoken praise, a gradually deepening silence, attested
to the impression on the visitors of that noble sunset. Just as
the last curve of red rim vanished beyond the dim Sierra Madres
and the golden lightning began to flare brighter Helen broke the
silence with an exclamation.

"It wants only life. Ah, there's a horse climbing the hill!
See, he's up! He has a rider!"

Madeline knew before she looked the identity of the man riding up
the mesa. But she did not know until that moment how the habit
of watching for him at this hour had grown upon her. He rode
along the rim of the mesa and out to the point, where, against
the golden background, horse and rider stood silhouetted in bold

"What's he doing there? Who is he?" inquired the curious Helen.

"That is Stewart, my right-hand man," replied Madeline. "Every
day when he is at the ranch he rides up there at sunset. I think
he likes the ride and the scene; but he goes to take a look at
the cattle in the valley."

"Is he a cowboy?" asked Helen.

"Indeed yes!" replied Madeline, with a little laugh. "You will
think so when Stillwell gets hold of you and begins to talk."

Madeline found it necessary to explain who Stillwell was, and
what he thought of Stewart, and, while she was about it, of her
own accord she added a few details of Stewart's fame.

"El Capitan. How interesting!" mused Helen. "What does he look

"He is superb."

Florence handed the field-glass to Helen and bade her look.

"Oh, thank you!" said Helen, as she complied. "There. I see him.
Indeed, he is superb. What a magnificent horse! How still he
stands! Why, he seems carved in stone."

"Let me look?" said Dorothy Coombs, eagerly.

Helen gave her the glass.

"You can look, Dot, but that's all. He's mine. I saw him

Whereupon Madeline's feminine guests held a spirited contest over
the field-glass, and three of them made gay, bantering boasts not
to consider Helen's self-asserted rights. Madeline laughed with
the others while she watched the dark figure of Stewart and his
black outline against the sky. There came over her a thought not
by any means new or strange--she wondered what was in Stewart's
mind as he stood there in the solitude and faced the desert and
the darkening west. Some day she meant to ask him. Presently he
turned the horse and rode down into the shadow creeping up the

"Majesty, have you planned any fun, any excitement for us?" asked
Helen. She was restless, nervous, and did not seem to be able to
sit still a moment.

"You will think so when I get through with you," replied

"What, for instance?" inquired Helen and Dot and Mrs. Beck, in
unison. Edith Wayne smiled her interest.

"Well, I am not counting rides and climbs and golf; but these are
necessary to train you for trips over into Arizona. I want to
show you the desert and the Aravaipa Canon. We have to go on
horseback and pack our outfit. If any of you are alive after
those trips and want more we shall go up into the mountains. I
should like very much to know what you each want particularly."

"I'll tell you," replied Helen, promptly. "Dot will be the same
out here as she was in the East. She wants to look bashfully
down at her hand--a hand imprisoned in another, by the way--and
listen to a man talk poetry about her eyes. If cowboys don't
make love that way Dot's visit will be a failure. Now Elsie Beck
wants solely to be revenged upon us for dragging her out here.
She wants some dreadful thing to happen to us. I don't know
what's in Edith's head, but it isn't fun. Bobby wants to be near
Elsie, and no more. Boyd wants what he has always wanted--the
only thing he ever wanted that he didn't get. Castleton has a
horrible bloodthirsty desire to kill something."

"I declare now, I want to ride and camp out, also," protested

"As for myself," went on Helen, "I want-- Oh, if I only knew what
it is that I want! Well, I know I want to be outdoors, to get
into the open, to feel sun and wind, to burn some color into my
white face. I want some flesh and blood and life. I am tired
out. Beyond all that I don't know very well. I'll try to keep
Dot from attaching all the cowboys to her train."

"What a diversity of wants!" said Madeline.

"Above all, Majesty, we want something to happen," concluded
Helen, with passionate finality.

"My dear sister, maybe you will have your wish fulfilled,"
replied Madeline, soberly. "Edith, Helen has made me curious
about your especial yearning."

"Majesty, it is only that I wanted to be with you for a while,"
replied this old friend.

There was in the wistful reply, accompanied by a dark and
eloquent glance of eyes, what told Madeline of Edith's
understanding, of her sympathy, and perhaps a betrayal of her own
unquiet soul. It saddened Madeline. How many women might there
not be who had the longing to break down the bars of their cage,
but had not the spirit!

XIII Cowboy Golf

In the whirl of the succeeding days it was a mooted question
whether Madeline's guests or her cowboys or herself got the
keenest enjoyment out of the flying time. Considering the
sameness of the cowboys' ordinary life, she was inclined to think
they made the most of the present. Stillwell and Stewart,
however, had found the situation trying. The work of the ranch
had to go on, and some of it got sadly neglected. Stillwell could
not resist the ladies any more than he could resist the fun in
the extraordinary goings-on of the cowboys. Stewart alone kept
the business of cattle-raising from a serious setback. Early and
late he was in the saddle, driving the lazy Mexicans whom he had
hired to relieve the cowboys.

One morning in June Madeline was sitting on the porch with her
merry friends when Stillwell appeared on the corral path. He had
not come to consult Madeline for several days--an omission so
unusual as to be remarked.

"Here comes Bill--in trouble," laughed Florence.

Indeed, he bore some faint resemblance to a thundercloud as he
approached the porch; but the greetings he got from Madeline's
party, especially from Helen and Dorothy, chased away the
blackness from his face and brought the wonderful wrinkling

"Miss Majesty, sure I'm a sad demoralized old cattleman," he
said, presently. "An' I'm in need of a heap of help."

"What's wrong now?" asked Madeline, with her encouraging smile.

"Wal, it's so amazin' strange what cowboys will do. I jest am
about to give up. Why, you might say my cowboys were all on
strike for vacations. What do you think of that? We've changed
the shifts, shortened hours, let one an' another off duty, hired
Greasers, an', in fact, done everythin' that could be thought of.
But this vacation idee growed worse. When Stewart set his foot
down, then the boys begin to get sick. Never in my born days as a
cattleman have I heerd of so many diseases. An' you ought to see
how lame an' crippled an' weak many of the boys have got all of a
sudden. The idee of a cowboy comin' to me with a sore finger an'
askin' to be let off for a day! There's Booly. Now I've knowed
a hoss to fall all over him, an' onct he rolled down a canon.
Never bothered him at all. He's got a blister on his heel, a
ridin' blister, an' he says it's goin' to blood-poisonin' if he
doesn't rest. There's Jim Bell. He's developed what he says is
spinal mengalootis, or some such like. There's Frankie Slade.
He swore he had scarlet fever because his face burnt so red, I
guess, an' when I hollered that scarlet fever was contagious an'
he must be put away somewhere, he up an' says he guessed it
wasn't that. But he was sure awful sick an' needed to loaf
around an' be amused. Why, even Nels doesn't want to work these
days. If it wasn't for Stewart, who's had Greasers with the
cattle, I don't know what I'd do."

"Why all this sudden illness and idleness?" asked Madeline.

"Wal, you see, the truth is every blamed cowboy on the range
except Stewart thinks it's his bounden duty to entertain the

"I think that is just fine!" exclaimed Dorothy Coombs; and she
joined in the general laugh.

"Stewart, then, doesn't care to help entertain us?" inquired
Helen, in curious interest. "Wal, Miss Helen, Stewart is sure
different from the other cowboys," replied Stillwell. "Yet he
used to be like them. There never was a cowboy fuller of the
devil than Gene. But he's changed. He's foreman here, an' that
must be it. All the responsibility rests on him. He sure has no
time for amusin' the ladies."

"I imagine that is our loss," said Edith Wayne, in her earnest
way. "I admire him."

"Stillwell, you need not be so distressed with what is only
gallantry in the boys, even if it does make a temporary confusion
in the work," said Madeline.

"Miss Majesty, all I said is not the half, nor the quarter, nor
nuthin' of what's troublin' me," answered he, sadly.

"Very well; unburden yourself."

"Wal, the cowboys, exceptin' Gene, have gone plumb batty, jest
plain crazy over this heah game of gol-lof."

A merry peal of mirth greeted Stillwell's solemn assertion.

"Oh, Stillwell, you are in fun," replied Madeline.

"I hope to die if I'm not in daid earnest," declared the
cattleman. "It's an amazin' strange fact. Ask Flo. She'll tell
you. She knows cowboys, an' how if they ever start on somethin'
they ride it as they ride a hoss."

Florence being appealed to, and evidently feeling all eyes upon
her, modestly replied that Stillwell had scarcely misstated the

"Cowboys play like they work or fight," she added. "They give
their whole souls to it. They are great big simple boys."

"Indeed they are," said Madeline. "Oh, I'm glad if they like the
game of golf. They have so little play."

"Wal, somethin's got to be did if we're to go on raisin' cattle
at Her Majesty's Rancho," replied Stillwell. He appeared both
deliberate and resigned.

Madeline remembered that despite Stillwell's simplicity he was as
deep as any of his cowboys, and there was absolutely no gaging
him where possibilities of fun were concerned. Madeline fancied
that his exaggerated talk about the cowboys' sudden craze for
golf was in line with certain other remarkable tales that had
lately emanated from him. Some very strange things had occurred
of late, and it was impossible to tell whether or not they were
accidents, mere coincidents, or deep-laid, skilfully worked-out
designs of the fun-loving cowboys. Certainly there had been
great fun, and at the expense of her guests, particularly
Castleton. So Madeline was at a loss to know what to think about
Stillwell's latest elaboration. From mere force of habit she
sympathized with him and found difficulty in doubting his
apparent sincerity.

"To go back a ways," went on Stillwell, as Madeline looked up
expectantly, "you recollect what pride the boys took in fixin' up
that gol-lof course out on the mesa? Wal, they worked on that
job, an' though I never seen any other course, I'll gamble yours
can't be beat. The boys was sure curious about that game. You
recollect also how they all wanted to see you an' your brother
play, an' be caddies for you? Wal, whenever you'd quit they'd go
to work tryin' to play the game. Monty Price, he was the leadin'
spirit. Old as I am, Miss Majesty, an' used as I am to cowboy
excentrikities, I nearly dropped daid when I heered that little
hobble-footed, burned-up Montana cow-puncher say there wasn't any
game too swell for him, an' gol-lof was just his speed. Serious
as a preacher, mind you, he was. An' he was always practisin'.
When Stewart gave him charge of the course an' the club-house an'
all them funny sticks, why, Monty was tickled to death. You see,
Monty is sensitive that he ain't much good any more for cowboy
work. He was glad to have a job that he didn't feel he was
hangin' to by kindness. Wal, he practised the game, an' he read
the books in the club-house, an' he got the boys to doin' the
same. That wasn't very hard, I reckon. They played early an'
late an' in the moonlight. For a while Monty was coach, an' the
boys stood it. But pretty soon Frankie Slade got puffed on his
game, an' he had to have it out with Monty. Wal, Monty beat him
bad. Then one after another the other boys tackled Monty. He
beat them all. After that they split up an' begin to play
matches, two on a side. For a spell this worked fine. But
cowboys can't never be satisfied long onless they win all the
time. Monty an' Link Stevens, both cripples, you might say,
joined forces an' elected to beat all comers. Wal, they did, an'
that's the trouble. Long an' patient the other cowboys tried to
beat them two game legs, an' hevn't done it. Mebbe if Monty an'
Link was perfectly sound in their legs like the other cowboys
there wouldn't hev been such a holler. But no sound cowboys'll
ever stand for a disgrace like that. Why, down at the bunks in
the evenin's it's some mortifyin' the way Monty an' Link crow
over the rest of the outfit. They've taken on superior airs.
You couldn't reach up to Monty with a trimmed spruce pole. An'
Link--wal, he's just amazin' scornful.

"'It's a swell game, ain't it?' says Link, powerful sarcastic.
'Wal, what's hurtin' you low-down common cowmen? You keep harpin'
on Monty's game leg an' on my game leg. If we hed good legs we'd
beat you all the wuss. It's brains that wins in gol-lof. Brains
an' airstoocratik blood, which of the same you fellers sure hev

"An' then Monty he blows smoke powerful careless an' superior,
an' he says:

"'Sure it's a swell game. You cow-headed gents think beef an'
brawn ought to hev the call over skill an' gray matter. You'll
all hev to back up an' get down. Go out an' learn the game. You
don't know a baffy from a Chinee sandwich. All you can do is
waggle with a club an' fozzle the ball.'

"Whenever Monty gets to usin' them queer names the boys go round
kind of dotty. Monty an' Link hev got the books an' directions
of the game, an' they won't let the other boys see them. They
show the rules, but that's all. An', of course, every game ends
in a row almost before it's started. The boys are all turrible
in earnest about this gol-lof. An' I want to say, for the good
of ranchin', not to mention a possible fight, that Monty an' Link
hev got to be beat. There'll be no peace round this ranch till
that's done."

Madeline's guests were much amused. As for herself, in spite of
her scarcely considered doubt, Stillwell's tale of woe occasioned
her anxiety. However, she could hardly control her mirth.

"What in the world can I do?"

"Wal, I reckon I couldn't say. I only come to you for advice.
It seems that a queer kind of game has locoed my cowboys, an' for
the time bein' ranchin' is at a standstill. Sounds ridiculous, I
know, but cowboys are as strange as wild cattle. All I'm sure of
is that the conceit has got to be taken out of Monty an' Link.
Onct, just onct, will square it, an' then we can resoome our

"Stillwell, listen," said Madeline, brightly. "We'll arrange a
match game, a foursome, between Monty and Link and your best
picked team. Castleton, who is an expert golfer, will umpire.
My sister, and friends, and I will take turns as caddies for your
team. That will be fair, considering yours is the weaker.
Caddies may coach, and perhaps expert advice is all that is
necessary for your team to defeat Monty's."

"A grand idee," declared Stillwell, with instant decision. "When
can we have this match game?"

"Why, to-day--this afternoon. We'll all ride out to the links."

"Wal, I reckon I'll be some indebted to you, Miss Majesty, an'
all your guests," replied Stillwell, warmly. He rose with
sombrero in hand, and a twinkle in his eye that again prompted
Madeline to wonder. "An' now I'll be goin' to fix up for the
game of cowboy gol-lof. Adios."

The idea was as enthusiastically received by Madeline's guests as
it had been by Stillwell. They were highly amused and
speculative to the point of taking sides and making wagers on
their choice. Moreover, this situation so frankly revealed by
Stillwell had completed their deep mystification. They were now
absolutely nonplussed by the singular character of American
cowboys. Madeline was pleased to note how seriously they had
taken the old cattleman's story. She had a little throb of wild
expectancy that made her both fear and delight in the afternoon's

The June days had set in warm; in fact, hot during the noon
hours: and this had inculcated in her insatiable visitors a
tendency to profit by the experience of those used to the
Southwest. They indulged in the restful siesta during the heated
term of the day.

Madeline was awakened by Majesty's well-known whistle and
pounding on the gravel. Then she heard the other horses. When
she went out she found her party assembled in gala golf attire,
and with spirits to match their costumes. Castleton, especially,
appeared resplendent in a golf coat that beggared description.
Madeline had faint misgivings when she reflected on what Monty
and Nels and Nick might do under the influence of that blazing

"Oh. Majesty," cried Helen, as Madeline went up to her horse,
"don't make him kneel! Try that flying mount. We all want to
see it. It's so stunning."

"But that way, too, I must have him kneel," said Madeline, "or I
can't reach the stirrup. He's so tremendously high."

Madeline had to yield to the laughing insistence of her friends,
and after all of them except Florence were up she made Majesty go
down on one knee. Then she stood on his left side, facing back,
and took a good firm grip on the bridle and pommel and his mane.
After she had slipped the toe of her boot firmly into the stirrup
she called to Majesty. He jumped and swung her up into the

"Now just to see how it ought to be done watch Florence," said

The Western girl was at her best in riding-habit and with her
horse. It was beautiful to see the ease and grace with which she
accomplished the cowboys' flying mount. Then she led the party
down the slope and across the flat to climb the mesa.

Madeline never saw a group of her cowboys without looking them
over, almost unconsciously, for her foreman, Gene Stewart. This
afternoon, as usual, he was not present. However, she now had a
sense--of which she was wholly conscious--that she was both
disappointed and irritated. He had really not been attentive to
her guests, and he, of all her cowboys, was the one of whom they
wanted most to see something. Helen, particularly, had asked to
have him attend the match. But Stewart was with the cattle.
Madeline thought of his faithfulness, and was ashamed of her
momentary lapse into that old imperious habit of desiring things
irrespective of reason.

Stewart, however, immediately slipped out of her mind as she
surveyed the group of cowboys on the links. By actual count
there were sixteen, not including Stillwell. And the same number
of splendid horses, all shiny and clean, grazed on the rim in the
care of Mexican lads. The cowboys were on dress-parade, looking
very different in Madeline's eyes, at least, from the way cowboys
usually appeared. But they were real and natural to her guests;
and they were so picturesque that they might have been stage
cowboys instead of real ones. Sombreros with silver buckles and
horsehair bands were in evidence; and bright silk scarfs,
embroidered vests, fringed and ornamented chaps, huge swinging
guns, and clinking silver spurs lent a festive appearance.

Madeline and her party were at once eagerly surrounded by the
cowboys, and she found it difficult to repress a smile. If these
cowboys were still remarkable to her, what must they be to her

"Wal, you-all raced over, I seen," said Stillwell, taking
Madeline's bridle. "Get down--get down. We're sure amazin' glad
an' proud. An', Miss Majesty, I'm offerin' to beg pawdin for the
way the boys are packin' guns. Mebbe it ain't polite. But it's
Stewart's orders."

"Stewart's orders!" echoed Madeline. Her friends were suddenly

"I reckon he won't take no chances on the boys bein' surprised
sudden by raiders. An' there's raiders operatin' in from the
Guadalupes. That's all. Nothin' to worry over. I was just

Madeline, with several of her party, expressed relief, but Helen
showed excitement and then disappointment.

"Oh, I want something to happen!" she cried.

Sixteen pairs of keen cowboy eyes fastened intently upon her
pretty, petulant face; and Madeline divined, if Helen did not,
that the desired consummation was not far off.

"So do I," said Dot Coombs. "It would be perfectly lovely to
have a real adventure."

The gaze of the sixteen cowboys shifted and sought the demure
face of this other discontented girl. Madeline laughed, and
Stillwell wore his strange, moving smile.

"Wal, I reckon you ladies sure won't have to go home unhappy," he
said. "Why, as boss of this heah outfit I'd feel myself
disgraced forever if you didn't have your wish. Just wait. An'
now, ladies, the matter on hand may not be amusin' or excitin' to
you; but to this heah cowboy outfit it's powerful important. An'
all the help you can give us will sure be thankfully received.
Take a look across the links. Do you-all see them two apologies
for human bein's prancin' like a couple of hobbled broncs? Wal,
you're gazin' at Monty Price an' Link Stevens, who have of a
sudden got too swell to associate with their old bunkies.
They're practisin' for the toornament. They don't want my boys
to see how they handle them crooked clubs."

"Have you picked your team?" inquired Madeline.

Stillwell mopped his red face with an immense bandana, and showed
something of confusion and perplexity.

"I've sixteen boys, an' they all want to play," he replied.
"Pickin' the team ain't goin' to be an easy job. Mebbe it won't
be healthy, either. There's Nels and Nick. They just stated
cheerful-like that if they didn't play we won't have any game at
all. Nick never tried before, an' Nels, all he wants is to get a
crack at Monty with one of them crooked clubs."

"I suggest you let all your boys drive from the tee and choose
the two who drive the farthest," said Madeline.

Stillwell's perplexed face lighted up.

"Wal, that's a plumb good idee. The boys'll stand for that."

Wherewith he broke up the admiring circle of cowboys round the

"Grap a rope--I mean a club--all you cow-punchers, an' march over
hyar an' take a swipe at this little white bean."

The cowboys obeyed with alacrity. There was considerable
difficulty over the choice of clubs and who should try first.
The latter question had to be adjusted by lot. However, after
Frankie Slade made several ineffectual attempts to hit the ball
from the teeing-ground, at last to send it only a few yards, the
other players were not so eager to follow. Stillwell had to push
Booly forward, and Booly executed a most miserable shot and
retired to the laughing comments of his comrades. The efforts of
several succeeding cowboys attested to the extreme difficulty of
making a good drive.

"Wal, Nick, it's your turn," said Stillwell.

"Bill, I ain't so all-fired particular about playin'," replied

"Why? You was roarin' about it a little while ago. Afraid to show
how bad you'll play?"

"Nope, jest plain consideration for my feller cow-punchers,"
answered Nick, with spirit. "I'm appreciatin' how bad they play,
an' I'm not mean enough to show them up."

"Wal, you've got to show me," said Stillwell. "I know you never
seen a gol-lof stick in your life. What's more, I'll bet you
can't hit that little ball square--not in a dozen cracks at it."

"Bill, I'm also too much of a gent to take your money. But you
know I'm from Missouri. Gimme a club."

Nick's angry confidence seemed to evaporate as one after another
he took up and handled the clubs. It was plain that he had never
before wielded one. But, also, it was plain that he was not the
kind of a man to give in. Finally he selected a driver, looked
doubtfully at the small knob, and then stepped into position on
the teeing-ground.

Nick Steele stood six feet four inches in height. He had the
rider's wiry slenderness, yet he was broad of shoulder. His arms
were long. Manifestly he was an exceedingly powerful man. He
swing the driver aloft and whirled it down with a tremendous
swing. Crack! The white ball disappeared, and from where it had
been rose a tiny cloud of dust.

Madeline's quick sight caught the ball as it lined somewhat to
the right. It was shooting low and level with the speed of a
bullet. It went up and up in swift, beautiful flight, then lost
its speed and began to sail, to curve, to drop; and it fell out
of sight beyond the rim of the mesa. Madeline had never seen a
drive that approached this one. It was magnificent, beyond
belief except for actual evidence of her own eyes.

The yelling of the cowboys probably brought Nick Steele out of
the astounding spell with which he beheld his shot. Then Nick,
suddenly alive to the situation, recovered from his trance and,
resting nonchalantly upon his club, he surveyed Stillwell and the
boys. After their first surprised outburst they were dumb.

You-all seen thet?" Nick grandly waved his hand. "Thaught I was
joshin', didn't you? Why, I used to go to St. Louis an' Kansas
City to play this here game. There was some talk of the golf
clubs takin' me down East to play the champions. But I never
cared fer the game. Too easy fer me! Them fellers back in
Missouri were a lot of cheap dubs, anyhow, always kickin' because
whenever I hit a ball hard I always lost it. Why, I hed to hit
sort of left-handed to let 'em stay in my class. Now you-all can
go ahead an' play Monty an' Link. I could beat 'em both, playin'
with one hand, if I wanted to. But I ain't interested. I jest
hit thet ball off the mesa to show you. I sure wouldn't be seen
playin' on your team."

With that Nick sauntered away toward the horses. tillwell
appeared crushed. And not a scornful word was hurled after Nick,
which fact proved the nature of his victory. Then Nels strode
into the limelight. As far as it was possible for this
iron-faced cowboy to be so, he was bland and suave. He remarked
to Stillwell and the other cowboys that sometimes it was painful
for them to judge of the gifts of superior cowboys such as
belonged to Nick and himself. He picked up the club Nick had
used and called for a new ball. Stillwell carefully built up a
little mound of sand and, placing the ball upon it, squared away
to watch. He looked grim and expectant.

Nels was not so large a man as Nick, and did not look so
formidable as he waved his club at the gaping cowboys. Still he
was lithe, tough, strong. Briskly, with a debonair manner, he
stepped up and then delivered a mighty swing at the ball. He
missed. The power and momentum of his swing flung him off his
feet, and he actually turned upside down and spun round on his
head. The cowboys howled. Stillwell's stentorian laugh rolled
across the mesa. Madeline and her guests found it impossible to
restrain their mirth. And when Nels got up he cast a reproachful
glance at Madeline. His feelings were hurt.

His second attempt, not by any means so violent, resulted in as
clean a miss as the first, and brought jeers from the cowboys.
Nels's red face flamed redder. Angrily he swung again. The
mound of sand spread over the teeing-ground and the exasperating
little ball rolled a few inches. This time he had to build up
the sand mound and replace the ball himself. Stillwell stood
scornfully by, and the boys addressed remarks to Nels.

"Take off them blinders," said one.

"Nels, your eyes are shore bad," said another.

"You don't hit where you look."

"Nels, your left eye has sprung a limp."

"Why, you dog-goned old fule, you cain't hit thet bawl."

Nels essayed again, only to meet ignominious failure. Then
carefully he gathered himself together, gaged distance, balanced
the club, swung cautiously. And the head of the club made a
beautiful curve round the ball.

"Shore it's jest thet crooked club," he declared.

He changed clubs and made another signal failure. Rage suddenly
possessing him, he began to swing wildly. Always, it appeared,
the illusive little ball was not where he aimed. Stillwell
hunched his huge bulk, leaned hands on knees, and roared his
riotous mirth. The cowboys leaped up and down in glee.

"You cain't hit thet bawl," sang out one of the noisiest. A few
more whirling, desperate lunges on the part of Nels, all as
futile as if the ball had been thin air, finally brought to the
dogged cowboy a realization that golf was beyond him.

Stillwell bawled: "Oh, haw, haw, haw! Nels, you're--too old--
eyes no good!"

Nels slammed down the club, and when he straightened up with the
red leaving his face, then the real pride and fire of the man
showed. Deliberately he stepped off ten paces and turned toward
the little mound upon which rested the ball. His arm shot down,
elbow crooked, hand like a claw.

"Aw, Nels, this is fun!" yelled Stillwell.

But swift as a gleam of light Nels flashed his gun, and the
report came with the action. Chips flew from the golf-ball as it
tumbled from the mound. Nels had hit it without raising tile
dust. Then he dropped the gun back in its sheath and faced the

"Mebbe my eyes ain't so orful bad," he said, coolly, and started
to walk off.

"But look ah-heah, Nels," yelled Stillwell, "we come out to play
gol-lof! We can't let you knock the ball around with your gun.
What'd you want to get mad for? It's only fun. Now you an' Nick
hang round heah an' be sociable. We ain't depreciatin' your
company none, nor your usefulness on occasions. An' if you just
hain't got inborn politeness sufficient to do the gallant before
the ladies, why, remember Stewart's orders."

"Stewart's orders?" queried Nels, coming to a sudden halt.

"That's what I said," replied Stillwell, with asperity. "His
orders. Are you forgettin' orders? Wal, you're a fine cowboy.
You an' Nick an' Monty, 'specially, are to obey orders."

Nels took off his sombrero and scratched his head. "Bill, I
reckon I'm some forgetful. But I was mad. I'd 'a' remembered
pretty soon, an' mebbe my manners."

"Sure you would," replied Stillwell. "Wal, now, we don't seem to
be proceedin' much with my gol-lof team. Next ambitious player
step up."

In Ambrose, who showed some skill in driving, Stillwell found one
of his team. The succeeding players, however, were so poor and
so evenly matched that the earnest Stillwell was in despair. He
lost his temper just as speedily as Nels had. Finally Ed Linton's
wife appeared riding up with Ambrose's wife, and perhaps this
helped, for Ed suddenly disclosed ability that made Stillwell
single him out.

"Let me coach you a little," said Bill.

"Sure, if you like," replied Ed. "But I know more about this
game than you do."

"Wal, then, let's see you hit a ball straight. Seems to me you
got good all-fired quick. It's amazin' strange." ere Bill
looked around to discover the two young wives modestly casting
eyes of admiration upon their husbands. "Haw, haw! It ain't so
darned strange. Mebbe that'll help some. Now, Ed, stand up and
don't sling your club as if you was ropin' a steer. Come round
easy-like an' hit straight."

Ed made several attempts which, although better than those of his
predecessors, were rather discouraging to the exacting coach.
Presently, after a particularly atrocious shot, Stillwell strode
in distress here and there, and finally stopped a dozen paces or
more in front of the teeing-ground. Ed, who for a cowboy was
somewhat phlegmatic, calmly made ready for another attempt.

"Fore!" he called.

Stillwell stared.

"Fore!" yelled Ed.

"Why're you hollerin' that way at me?" demanded Bill.

"I mean for you to lope off the horizon. Get back from in

"Oh, that was one of them durned crazy words Monty is always
hollerin'. Wal, I reckon I'm safe enough hyar. You couldn't hit
me in a million years."

"Bill, ooze away," urged Ed.

"Didn't I say you couldn't hit me? What am I coachin' you for?
It's because you hit crooked, ain't it? Wal, go ahaid an' break
your back."

Ed Linton was a short, heavy man, and his stocky build gave
evidence of considerable strength. His former strokes had not
been made at the expense of exertion, but now he got ready for a
supreme effort. A sudden silence clamped down upon the exuberant
cowboys. It was one of those fateful moments when the air was
charged with disaster. As Ed swung the club it fairly whistled.

Crack! Instantly came a thump. But no one saw the ball until it
dropped from Stillwell's shrinking body. His big hands went
spasmodically to the place that hurt, and a terrible groan
rumbled from him.

Then the cowboys broke into a frenzy of mirth that seemed to find
adequate expression only in dancing and rolling accompaniment to
their howls. Stillwell recovered his dignity as soon as he
caught his breath, and he advanced with a rueful face.

"Wal, boys, it's on Bill," he said. "I'm a livin' proof of the
pig-headedness of mankind. Ed, you win. You're captain of the
team. You hit straight, an' if I hadn't been obstructin' the
general atmosphere that ball would sure have gone clear to the

Then making a megaphone of his huge hands, he yelled a loud blast
of defiance at Monty and Link.

"Hey, you swell gol-lofers! We're waitin'. Come on if you ain't

Instantly Monty and Link quit practising, and like two emperors
came stalking across the links.

"Guess my bluff didn't work much," said Stillwell. Then he turned
to Madeline and her friends. "Sure I hope, Miss Majesty, that
you-all won't weaken an' go over to the enemy. Monty is some
eloquent, an', besides, he has a way of gettin' people to agree
with him. He'll be plump wild when he heahs what he an' Link are
up against. But it's a square deal, because he wouldn't help us
or lend the book that shows how to play. An', besides, it's
policy for us to beat him. Now, if you'll elect who's to be
caddies an' umpire I'll be powerful obliged."

Madeline's friends were hugely amused over the prospective match;
but, except for Dorothy and Castleton, they disclaimed any
ambition for active participation. Accordingly, Madeline
appointed Castleton to judge the play, Dorothy to act as caddie
for Ed Linton, and she herself to be caddie for Ambrose. While
Stillwell beamingly announced this momentous news to his team and
supporters Monty and Link were striding up.

Both were diminutive in size, bow-legged, lame in one foot, and
altogether unprepossessing. Link was young, and Monty's years,
more than twice Link's, had left their mark. But it would have
been impossible to tell Monty's age. As Stillwell said, Monty
was burned to the color and hardness of a cinder. He never
minded the heat, and always wore heavy sheepskin chaps with the
wool outside. This made him look broader than he was long.
Link, partial to leather, had, since he became Madeline's
chauffeur, taken to leather altogether. He carried no weapon, but
Monty wore a huge gun-sheath and gun. Link smoked a cigarette and
looked coolly impudent. Monty was dark-faced, swaggering, for
all the world like a barbarian chief.

"That Monty makes my flesh creep," said Helen, low-voiced.
"Really, Mr. Stillwell, is he so bad--desperate--as I've heard?
Did he ever kill anybody?"

"Sure. 'Most as many as Nels," replied Stillwell, cheerfully.

"Oh! And is that nice Mr. Nels a desperado, too? I wouldn't
have thought so. He's so kind and old-fashioned and

"Nels is sure an example of the dooplicity of men, Miss Helen.
Don't you listen to his soft voice. He's really as bad as a
side-winder rattlesnake."

At this juncture Monty and Link reached the teeing-ground, and
Stillwell went out to meet them. The other cowboys pressed
forward to surround the trio. Madeline heard Stillwell's voice,
and evidently he was explaining that his team was to have skilled
advice during the play. Suddenly there came from the center of
the group a loud, angry roar that broke off as suddenly. Then
followed excited voices all mingled together. Presently Monty
appeared, breaking away from restraining hands, and he strode
toward Madeline.

Monty Price was a type of cowboy who had never been known to
speak to a woman unless he was first addressed, and then he
answered in blunt, awkward shyness. Upon this great occasion,
however, it appeared that he meant to protest or plead with
Madeline, for he showed stress of emotion. Madeline had never
gotten acquainted with Monty. She was a little in awe, if not in
fear, of him, and now she found it imperative for her to keep in
mind that more than any other of the wild fellows on her ranch
this one should be dealt with as if he were a big boy.

Monty removed his sombrero--something he had never done before--
and the single instant when it was off was long enough to show
his head entirely bald. This was one of the hall-marks of that
terrible Montana prairie fire through which he had fought to save
the life of a child. Madeline did not forget it, and all at once
she wanted to take Monty's side. Remembering Stillwell's wisdom,
however, she forebore yielding to sentiment, and called upon her

"Miss--Miss Hammond," began Monty, stammering, "I'm extendin'
admirin' greetin's to you an' your friends. Link an' me are
right down proud to play the match game with you watchin'. But
Bill says you're goin' to caddie for his team an' coach 'em on
the fine points. An' I want to ask, all respectful, if thet's
fair an' square?"

"Monty, that is for you to say," replied Madeline. "It was my
suggestion. But if you object in the least, of course we shall
withdraw. It seems fair to me, because you have learned the
game; you are expert, and I understand the other boys have no
chance with you. Then you have coached Link. I think it would
be sportsmanlike of you to accept the handicap."

"Aw, a handicap! Thet was what Bill was drivin' at. Why didn't
he say so? Every time Bill comes to a word thet's pie to us old
golfers he jest stumbles. Miss Majesty, you've made it all clear
as print. An' I may say with becomin' modesty thet you wasn't
mistaken none about me bein' sportsmanlike. Me an' Link was born
thet way. An' we accept the handicap. Lackin' thet handicap, I
reckon Link an' me would have no ambish to play our most
be-ootiful game. An' thankin' you, Miss Majesty, an' all your
friends, I want to add thet if Bill's outfit couldn't beat us
before, they've got a swell chanct now, with you ladies
a-watchin' me an' Link."

Monty had seemed to expand with pride as he delivered this
speech, and at the end he bowed low and turned away. He joined
the group round Stillwell. Once more there was animated
discussion and argument and expostulation. One of the cowboys
came for Castleton and led him away to exploit upon ground rules.

It seemed to Madeline that the game never would begin. She
strolled on the rim of the mesa, arm in arm with Edith Wayne, and
while Edith talked she looked out over the gray valley leading to
the rugged black mountains and the vast red wastes. In the
foreground on the gray slope she saw cattle in movement and
cowboys riding to and fro. She thought of Stewart. Then Boyd
Harvey came for them, saying all details had been arranged.
Stillwell met them half-way, and this cool, dry, old cattleman,
whose face and manner scarcely changed at the announcement of a
cattle-raid, now showed extreme agitation.

"Wal, Miss Majesty, we've gone an' made a foozle right at the
start," he said, dejectedly.

"A foozle? But the game has not yet begun," replied Madeline.

"A bad start, I mean. It's amazin' bad, an' we're licked

"What in the world is wrong?"

She wanted to laugh, but Stillwell's distress restrained her.

"Wal, it's this way. That darn Monty is as cute an' slick as a
fox. After he got done declaimin' about the handicap he an' Link
was so happy to take, he got Castleton over hyar an' drove us all
dotty with his crazy gol-lof names. Then he borrowed Castleton's
gol-lof coat. I reckon borrowed is some kind word. He just
about took that blazin' coat off the Englishman. Though I ain't
sayin' but that Casleton was agreeable when he tumbled to Monty's
meanin'. Which was nothin' more 'n to break Ambrose's heart.
That coat dazzles Ambrose. You know how vain Ambrose is. Why,
he'd die to get to wear that Englishman's gol-lof coat. An'
Monty forestalled him. It's plumb pitiful to see the look in
Ambrose's eyes. He won't be able to play much. Then what do you
think? Monty fixed Ed Linton, all right. Usually Ed is
easy-goin' an' cool. But now he's on the rampage. Wal, mebbe
it's news to you to learn that Ed's wife is powerful, turrible
jealous of him. Ed was somethin' of a devil with the wimmen.
Monty goes over an' tells Beulah--that's Ed's wife--that Ed is
goin' to have for caddie the lovely Miss Dorothy with the goo-goo
eyes. I reckon this was some disrespectful, but with all doo
respect to Miss Dorothy she has got a pair of unbridled eyes.
Mebbe it's just natural for her to look at a feller like that.
Oh, it's all right; I'm not sayin' any-thin'! I know it's all
proper an' regular for girls back East to use their eyes. But
out hyar it's bound to result disastrous. All the boys talk
about among themselves is Miss Dot's eyes, an' all they brag
about is which feller is the luckiest. Anyway, sure Ed's wife
knows it. An' Monty up an' told her that it was fine for her to
come out an' see how swell Ed was prancin' round under the light
of Miss Dot's brown eyes. Beulah calls over Ed, figgertively
speakin', ropes him for a minnit. Ed comes back huggin' a grouch
as big as a hill. Oh, it was funny! He was goin' to punch
Monty's haid off. An' Monty stands there an' laughs. Says
Monty, sarcastic as alkali water: 'Ed, we-all knowed you was a
heap married man, but you're some locoed to give yourself away.'
That settled Ed. He's some touchy about the way Beulah henpecks
him. He lost his spirit. An' now he couldn't play marbles, let
alone gol-lof. Nope, Monty was too smart: An' I reckon he was
right about brains bein' what wins."

The game began. At first Madeline and Dorothy essayed to direct
the endeavors of their respective players. But all they said and
did only made their team play the worse. At the third hole they
were far behind and hopelessly bewildered. What with Monty's
borrowed coat, with its dazzling effect upon Ambrose, and Link's
oft-repeated allusion to Ed's matrimonial state, and Stillwell's
vociferated disgust, and the clamoring good intention and pursuit
of the cowboy supporters, and the embarrassing presence of the
ladies, Ambrose and Ed wore through all manner of strange play
until it became ridiculous.

"Hey, Link," came Monty's voice booming over the links, "our
esteemed rivals are playin' shinny."

Madeline and Dorothy gave up, presently, when the game became a
rout, and they sat down with their followers to watch the fun.
Whether by hook or crook, Ed and Ambrose forged ahead to come
close upon Monty and Link. Castleton disappeared in a mass of
gesticulating, shouting cowboys. When that compact mass
disintegrated Castleton came forth rather hurriedly, it appeared,
to stalk back toward his hostess and friends.

"Look!" exclaimed Helen, in delight. "Castleton is actually
excited. Whatever did they do to him? Oh, this is immense!"

Castleton was excited, indeed, and also somewhat disheveled.

"By Jove! that was a rum go," he said, as he came up. "Never saw
such blooming golf! I resigned my office as umpire."

Only upon considerable pressure did he reveal the reason. "It
was like this, don't you know. They were all together over
there, watching each other. Monty Price's ball dropped into a
hazard, and he moved it to improve the lie. By Jove! they've all
been doing that. But over there the game was waxing hot.
Stillwell and his cowboys saw Monty move the ball, and there was
a row. They appealed to me. I corrected the play, showed the
rules. Monty agreed he was in the wrong. However, when it came
to moving his ball back to its former lie in the hazard there was
more blooming trouble. Monty placed the ball to suit him, and
then he transfixed me with an evil eye.

"'Dook,' he said. I wish the bloody cowboy would not call me
that. 'Dook, mebbe this game ain't as important as international
politics or some other things relatin', but there's some health
an' peace dependin' on it. Savvy? For some space our opponents
have been dead to honor an' sportsmanlike conduct. I calculate
the game depends on my next drive. I'm placin' my ball as near
to where it was as human eyesight could. You seen where it was
same as I seen it. You're the umpire, an', Dook, I take you as a
honorable man. Moreover, never in my born days has my word been
doubted without sorrow. So I'm askin' you, wasn't my ball layin'
just about here?'

"The bloody little desperado smiled cheerfully, and he dropped
his right hand down to the butt of his gun. By Jove, he did!
Then I had to tell a blooming lie!"

Castleton even caught the tone of Monty's voice, but it was plain
that he had not the least conception that Monty had been fooling.
Madeline and her friends divined it, however; and, there being no
need of reserve, they let loose the fountains of mirth.

XIV Bandits

When Madeline and her party recovered composure they sat up to
watch the finish of the match. It came with spectacular
suddenness. A sharp yell pealed out, and all the cowboys turned
attentively in its direction. A big black horse had surmounted
the rim of the mesa and was just breaking into a run. His rider
yelled sharply to the cowboys. They wheeled to dash toward their
grazing horses.

"That's Stewart. There is something wrong," said Madeline, in

Castleton stared. The other men exclaimed uneasily. The women
sought Madeline's face with anxious eyes.

The black got into his stride and bore swiftly down upon them.

"Oh, look at that horse run!" cried Helen. "Look at that fellow

Helen was not alone in her admiration, for Madeline divided her
emotions between growing alarm of some danger menacing and a
thrill and quickening of pulse-beat that tingled over her
whenever she saw Stewart in violent action. No action of his was
any longer insignificant, but violent action meant so much. It
might mean anything. For one moment she remembered Stillwell and
all his talk about fun, and plots, and tricks to amuse her guest.
Then she discountenanced the thought. Stewart might lend himself
to a little fun, but he cared too much for a horse to run him at
that speed unless there was imperious need. That alone sufficed
to answer Madeline's questioning curiosity. And her alarm
mounted to fear not so much for herself as for her guests. But
what danger could there be? She could think of nothing except
the guerrillas.

Whatever threatened, it would be met and checked by this man
Stewart, who was thundering up on his fleet horse; and as he
neared her, so that she could see the dark gleam of face and
eyes, she had a strange feeling of trust in her dependence upon

The big black was so close to Madeline and her friends that when
Stewart pulled him the dust and sand kicked up by his pounding
hoofs flew in their faces.

"Oh, Stewart, what is it?" cried Madeline.

"Guess I scared you, Miss Hammond," he replied. "But I'm pressed
for time. There's a gang of bandits hiding on the ranch, most
likely in a deserted hut. They held up a train near Agua Prieta.
Pat Hawe is with the posse that's trailing them, and you know Pat
has no use for us. I'm afraid it wouldn't be pleasant for you or
your guests to meet either the posse or the bandits."

"I fancy not," said Madeline, considerably relieved. "We'll hurry
back to the house."

They exchanged no more speech at the moment, and Madeline's
guests were silent. Perhaps Stewart's actions and looks belied
his calm words. His piercing eyes roved round the rim of the
mesa, and his face was as hard and stern as chiseled bronze.

Monty and Nick came galloping up, each leading several horses by
the bridles. Nels appeared behind them with Majesty, and he was
having trouble with the roan. Madeline observed that all the
other cowboys had disappeared.

One sharp word from Stewart calmed Madeline's horse; the other
horses, however, were frightened and not inclined to stand. The
men mounted without trouble, and likewise Madeline and Florence.
But Edith Wayne and Mrs. Beck, being nervous and almost helpless,
were with difficulty gotten into the saddle.

"Beg pardon, but I'm pressed for time," said Stewart, coolly, as
with iron arm he forced Dorothy's horse almost to its knees.
Dorothy, who was active and plucky, climbed astride; and when
Stewart loosed his hold on bit and mane the horse doubled up and
began to buck. Dorothy screamed as she shot into the air.
Stewart, as quick as the horse, leaped forward and caught Dorothy
in his arms. She had slipped head downward and, had he not
caught her, would have had a serious fall. Stewart, handling her
as if she were a child, turned her right side up to set her upon
her feet. Dorothy evidently thought only of the spectacle she
presented, and made startled motions to readjust her
riding-habit. It was no time to laugh, though Madeline felt as
if she wanted to. Besides, it was impossible to be anything but
sober with Stewart in violent mood. For he had jumped at
Dorothy's stubborn mount. All cowboys were masters of horses.
It was wonderful to see him conquer the vicious animal. He was
cruel, perhaps, yet it was from necessity. When, presently, he
led the horse back to Dorothy she mounted without further
trouble. Meanwhile, Nels and Nick had lifted Helen into her

"We'll take the side trail," said Stewart, shortly, as he swung
upon the big black. Then he led the way, and the other cowboys
trotted in the rear.

It was only a short distance to the rim of the mesa, and when
Madeline saw the steep trail, narrow and choked with weathered
stone, she felt that her guests would certainly flinch.

"That's a jolly bad course," observed Castleton.

The women appeared to be speechless.

Stewart checked his horse at the deep cut where the trail started

"Boys, drop over, and go slow," he said, dismounting. "Flo, you
follow. Now, ladies, let your horses loose and hold on. Lean
forward and hang to the pommel. It looks bad. But the horses
are used to such trails."

Helen followed closely after Florence; Mrs. Beck went next, and
then Edith Wayne. Dorothy's horse balked.

"I'm not so--so frightened," said Dorothy. "If only he would

She began to urge him into the trail, making him rear, when
Stewart grasped the bit and jerked the horse down.

"Put your foot in my stirrup," said Stewart. "We can't waste

He lifted her upon his horse and started him down over the rim.

"Go on, Miss Hammond. I'll have to lead this nag down. It'll
save time."

Then Madeline attended to the business of getting down herself.
It was a loose trail. The weathered slopes seemed to slide under
the feet of the horses. Dust-clouds formed; rocks rolled and
rattled down; cactus spikes tore at horse and rider. Mrs. Beck
broke into laughter, and there was a note in it that suggested
hysteria. Once or twice Dorothy murmured plaintively. Half the
time Madeline could not distinguish those ahead through the
yellow dust. It was dry and made her cough. The horses snorted.
She heared Stewart close behind, starting little avalanches that
kept rolling on Majesty's fetlocks. She feared his legs might he
cut or bruised, for some of the stones cracked by and went
rattling down the slope. At length the clouds of dust thinned and
Madeline saw the others before her ride out upon a level. Soon
she was down, and Stewart also.

Here there was a delay, occasioned by Stewart changing Dorothy
from his horse to her own. This struck Madeline as being
singular, and made her thoughtful. In fact, the alert, quiet
manner of all the cowboys was not reassuring. As they resumed
the ride it was noticeable that Nels and Nick were far in
advance, Monty stayed far in the rear, and Stewart rode with the
party. Madeline heard Boyd Harvey ask Stewart if lawlessness
such as he had mentioned was not unusual. Stewart replied that,
except for occasional deeds of outlawry such as might break out
in any isolated section of the country, there had been peace and
quiet along the border for years. It was the Mexican revolution
that had revived wild times, with all the attendant raids and
holdups and gun-packing. Madeline knew that they were really
being escorted home under armed guard.

When they rounded the head of the mesa, bringing into view the
ranch-house and the valley, Madeline saw dust or smoke hovering
over a hut upon the outskirts of the Mexican quarters. As the sun
had set and the light was fading, she could not distinguish which
it was. Then Stewart set a fast pace for the house. In a few
minutes the party was in the yard, ready and willing to dismount.

Stillwell appeared, ostensibly cheerful, too cheerful to deceive
Madeline. She noted also that a number of armed cowboys were
walking with their horses just below the house.

"Wal, you-all had a nice little run," Stillwell said, speaking
generally. "I reckon there wasn't much need of it. Pat Hawe
thinks he's got some outlaws corralled on the ranch. Nothin' at
all to be fussed up about. Stewart's that particular he won't
have you meetin' with any rowdies."

Many and fervent were the expressions of relief from Madeline's

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