Part 1 out of 3
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THE SKY PILOT
A TALE OF THE FOOTHILLS
by Ralph Connor
The measure of a man's power to help his brother is the measure of
the love in the heart of him and of the faith he has that at last
the good will win. With this love that seeks not its own and this
faith that grips the heart of things, he goes out to meet many
fortunes, but not that of defeat.
This story is of the people of the Foothill Country; of those men
of adventurous spirit, who left homes of comfort, often of luxury,
because of the stirring in them to be and to do some worthy thing;
and of those others who, outcast from their kind, sought to find in
these valleys, remote and lonely, a spot where they could forget
and be forgotten.
The waving skyline of the Foothills was the boundary of their
lookout upon life. Here they dwelt safe from the scanning of the
world, freed from all restraints of social law, denied the gentler
influences of home and the sweet uplift of a good woman's face.
What wonder if, with the new freedom beating in their hearts and
ears, some rode fierce and hard the wild trail to the cut-bank of
The story is, too, of how a man with vision beyond the waving
skyline came to them with firm purpose to play the brother's part,
and by sheer love of them and by faith in them, win them to believe
that life is priceless, and that it is good to be a man.
I. The Foothills Country
II. The Company of the Noble Seven
III. The Coming of the Pilot
IV. The Pilot's Measure
V. First Blood
VI. His Second Wind
VII. The Last of the Permit Sundays
VIII. The Pilot's Grip
X. Gwen's First Prayers
XI. Gwen's Challenge
XII. Gwen's Canyon
XIII. The Canyon Flowers
XIV. Bill's Bluff
XV. Bill's Partner
XVI. Bill's Financing
XVII. How the Pinto Sold
XVIII. The Lady Charlotte
XIX. Through Gwen's Window
XX. How Bill Favored "Home-Grown Industries"
XXI. How Bill Hit the Trail
XXII. How the Swan Creek Church was Opened
XXIII. The Pilot's Last Port
THE SKY PILOT
THE FOOTHILLS COUNTRY
Beyond the great prairies and in the shadow of the Rockies lie the
Foothills. For nine hundred miles the prairies spread themselves
out in vast level reaches, and then begin to climb over softly
rounded mounds that ever grow higher and sharper till, here and
there, they break into jagged points and at last rest upon the
great bases of the mighty mountains. These rounded hills that join
the prairies to the mountains form the Foothill Country. They
extend for about a hundred miles only, but no other hundred miles
of the great West are so full of interest and romance. The natural
features of the country combine the beauties of prairie and of
mountain scenery. There are valleys so wide that the farther side
melts into the horizon, and uplands so vast as to suggest the
unbroken prairie. Nearer the mountains the valleys dip deep and
ever deeper till they narrow into canyons through which mountain
torrents pour their blue-gray waters from glaciers that lie
glistening between the white peaks far away. Here are the great
ranges on which feed herds of cattle and horses. Here are the
homes of the ranchmen, in whose wild, free, lonely existence there
mingles much of the tragedy and comedy, the humor and pathos, that
go to make up the romance of life. Among them are to be found the
most enterprising, the most daring, of the peoples of the old
lands. The broken, the outcast, the disappointed, these too have
found their way to the ranches among the Foothills. A country it
is whose sunlit hills and shaded valleys reflect themselves in the
lives of its people; for nowhere are the contrasts of light and
shade more vividly seen than in the homes of the ranchmen of the
The experiences of my life have confirmed in me the orthodox
conviction that Providence sends his rain upon the evil as upon the
good; else I should never have set my eyes upon the Foothill
country, nor touched its strangely fascinating life, nor come to
know and love the most striking man of all that group of striking
men of the Foothill country--the dear old Pilot, as we came to call
him long afterwards. My first year in college closed in gloom. My
guardian was in despair. From this distance of years I pity him.
Then I considered him unnecessarily concerned about me--"a fussy
old hen," as one of the boys suggested. The invitation from Jack
Dale, a distant cousin, to spend a summer with him on his ranch in
South Alberta came in the nick of time. I was wild to go. My
guardian hesitated long; but no other solution of the problem of my
disposal offering, he finally agreed that I could not well get into
more trouble by going than by staying. Hence it was that, in the
early summer of one of the eighties, I found myself attached to a
Hudson's Bay Company freight train, making our way from a little
railway town in Montana towards the Canadian boundary. Our train
consisted of six wagons and fourteen yoke of oxen, with three
cayuses, in charge of a French half-breed and his son, a lad of
about sixteen. We made slow enough progress, but every hour of the
long day, from the dim, gray, misty light of dawn to the soft glow
of shadowy evening, was full of new delights to me. On the evening
of the third day we reached the Line Stopping Place, where Jack
Dale met us. I remember well how my heart beat with admiration of
the easy grace with which he sailed down upon us in the loose-
jointed cowboy style, swinging his own bronco and the little cayuse
he was leading for me into the circle of the wagons, careless of
ropes and freight and other impedimenta. He flung himself off
before his bronco had come to a stop, and gave me a grip that made
me sure of my welcome. It was years since he had seen a man from
home, and the eager joy in his eyes told of long days and nights of
lonely yearning for the old days and the old faces. I came to
understand this better after my two years' stay among these hills
that have a strange power on some days to waken in a man longings
that make his heart grow sick. When supper was over we gathered
about the little fire, while Jack and the half-breed smoked and
talked. I lay on my back looking up at the pale, steady stars in
the deep blue of the cloudless sky, and listened in fullness of
contented delight to the chat between Jack and the driver. Now and
then I asked a question, but not too often. It is a listening
silence that draws tales from a western man, not vexing questions.
This much I had learned already from my three days' travel. So I
lay and listened, and the tales of that night are mingled with the
warm evening lights and the pale stars and the thoughts of home
that Jack's coming seemed to bring.
Next morning before sun-up we had broken camp and were ready for
our fifty-mile ride. There was a slight drizzle of rain and,
though rain and shine were alike to him, Jack insisted that I
should wear my mackintosh. This garment was quite new and had a
loose cape which rustled as I moved toward my cayuse. He was an
ugly-looking little animal, with more white in his eye than I cared
to see. Altogether, I did not draw toward him. Nor did he to me,
apparently. For as I took him by the bridle he snorted and sidled
about with great swiftness, and stood facing me with his feet
planted firmly in front of him as if prepared to reject overtures
of any kind soever. I tried to approach him with soothing words,
but he persistently backed away until we stood looking at each
other at the utmost distance of his outstretched neck and my
outstretched arm. At this point Jack came to my assistance, got
the pony by the other side of the bridle, and held him fast till I
got into position to mount. Taking a firm grip of the horn of the
Mexican saddle, I threw my leg over his back. The next instant I
was flying over his head. My only emotion was one of surprise, the
thing was so unexpected. I had fancied myself a fair rider, having
had experience of farmers' colts of divers kinds, but this was
something quite new. The half-breed stood looking on, mildly
interested; Jack was smiling, but the boy was grinning with
"I'll take the little beast," said Jack. But the grinning boy
braced me up and I replied as carelessly as my shaking voice would
"Oh, I guess I'll manage him," and once more got into position.
But no sooner had I got into the saddle than the pony sprang
straight up into the air and lit with his back curved into a bow,
his four legs gathered together and so absolutely rigid that the
shock made my teeth rattle. It was my first experience of
"bucking." Then the little brute went seriously to work to get rid
of the rustling, flapping thing on his back. He would back
steadily for some seconds, then, with two or three forward plunges,
he would stop as if shot and spring straight into the upper air,
lighting with back curved and legs rigid as iron. Then he would
walk on his hind legs for a few steps, then throw himself with
amazing rapidity to one side and again proceed to buck with vicious
"Stick to him!" yelled Jack, through his shouts of laughter.
"You'll make him sick before long."
I remember thinking that unless his insides were somewhat more
delicately organized than his external appearance would lead one to
suppose the chances were that the little brute would be the last to
succumb to sickness. To make matters worse, a wilder jump than
ordinary threw my cape up over my head, so that I was in complete
darkness. And now he had me at his mercy, and he knew no pity. He
kicked and plunged and reared and bucked, now on his front legs,
now on his hind legs, often on his knees, while I, in the darkness,
could only cling to the horn of the saddle. At last, in one of the
gleams of light that penetrated the folds of my enveloping cape, I
found that the horn had slipped to his side, so the next time he
came to his knees I threw myself off. I am anxious to make this
point clear, for, from the expression of triumph on the face of the
grinning boy, and his encomiums of the pony, I gathered that he
scored a win for the cayuse. Without pause that little brute
continued for some seconds to buck and plunge even after my
dismounting, as if he were some piece of mechanism that must run
down before it could stop.
By this time I was sick enough and badly shaken in my nerve, but
the triumphant shouts and laughter of the boy and the complacent
smiles on the faces of Jack and the half-breed stirred my wrath. I
tore off the cape and, having got the saddle put right, seized
Jack's riding whip and, disregarding his remonstrances, sprang on
my steed once more, and before he could make up his mind as to his
line of action plied him so vigorously with the rawhide that he set
off over the prairie at full gallop, and in a few minutes came
round to the camp quite subdued, to the boy's great disappointment
and to my own great surprise. Jack was highly pleased, and even
the stolid face of the half-breed showed satisfaction.
"Don't think I put this up on you," Jack said. "It was that cape.
He ain't used to such frills. But it was a circus," he added,
going off into a fit of laughter, "worth five dollars any day."
"You bet!" said the half-breed. "Dat's make pretty beeg fun, eh?"
It seemed to me that it depended somewhat upon the point of view,
but I merely agreed with him, only too glad to be so well out of
All day we followed the trail that wound along the shoulders of the
round-topped hills or down their long slopes into the wide, grassy
valleys. Here and there the valleys were cut through by coulees
through which ran swift, blue-gray rivers, clear and icy cold,
while from the hilltops we caught glimpses of little lakes covered
with wild-fowl that shrieked and squawked and splashed, careless of
danger. Now and then we saw what made a black spot against the
green of the prairie, and Jack told me it was a rancher's shack.
How remote from the great world, and how lonely it seemed!--this
little black shack among these multitudinous hills.
I shall never forget the summer evening when Jack and I rode into
Swan Creek. I say into--but the village was almost entirely one of
imagination, in that it consisted of the Stopping Place, a long log
building, a story and a half high, with stables behind, and the
store in which the post-office was kept and over which the owner
dwelt. But the situation was one of great beauty. On one side the
prairie rambled down from the hills and then stretched away in
tawny levels into the misty purple at the horizon; on the other it
clambered over the round, sunny tops to the dim blue of the
In this world, where it is impossible to reach absolute values, we
are forced to hold things relatively, and in contrast with the
long, lonely miles of our ride during the day these two houses,
with their outbuildings, seemed a center of life. Some horses were
tied to the rail that ran along in front of the Stopping Place.
"Hello!" said Jack, "I guess the Noble Seven are in town."
"And who are they?" I asked.
"Oh," he replied, with a shrug, "they are the elite Of Swan Creek;
and by Jove," he added, "this must be a Permit Night."
"What does that mean?" I asked, as we rode up towards the tie rail.
"Well," said Jack, in a low tone, for some men were standing about
the door, "you see, this is a prohibition country, but when one of
the boys feels as if he were going to have a spell of sickness he
gets a permit to bring in a few gallons for medicinal purposes; and
of course, the other boys being similarly exposed, he invites them
to assist him in taking preventive measures. And," added Jack,
with a solemn wink, "it is remarkable, in a healthy country like
this, how many epidemics come near ketching us."
And with this mystifying explanation we joined the mysterious
company of the Noble Seven.
THE COMPANY OF THE NOBLE SEVEN
As we were dismounting, the cries, "Hello, Jack!" "How do, Dale?"
"Hello, old Smoke!" in the heartiest of tones, made me see that my
cousin was a favorite with the men grouped about the door. Jack
simply nodded in reply and then presented me in due form. "My
tenderfoot cousin from the effete," he said, with a flourish. I
was surprised at the grace of the bows made me by these roughly-
dressed, wild-looking fellows. I might have been in a London
drawing-room. I was put at my ease at once by the kindliness of
their greeting, for, upon Jack's introduction, I was admitted at
once into their circle, which, to a tenderfoot, was usually closed.
What a hardy-looking lot they were! Brown, spare, sinewy and hard
as nails, they appeared like soldiers back from a hard campaign.
They moved and spoke with an easy, careless air of almost lazy
indifference, but their eyes had a trick of looking straight out at
you, cool and fearless, and you felt they were fit and ready.
That night I was initiated into the Company of the Noble Seven--but
of the ceremony I regret to say I retain but an indistinct memory;
for they drank as they rode, hard and long, and it was only Jack's
care that got me safely home that night.
The Company of the Noble Seven was the dominant social force in the
Swan Creek country. Indeed, it was the only social force Swan
Creek knew. Originally consisting of seven young fellows of the
best blood of Britain, "banded together for purposes of mutual
improvement and social enjoyment," it had changed its character
during the years, but not its name. First, its membership was
extended to include "approved colonials," such as Jack Dale and
"others of kindred spirit," under which head, I suppose, the two
cowboys from the Ashley Ranch, Hi Keadal and "Bronco" Bill--no one
knew and no one asked his other name--were admitted. Then its
purposes gradually limited themselves to those of a social nature,
chiefly in the line of poker-playing and whisky-drinking. Well
born and delicately bred in that atmosphere of culture mingled with
a sturdy common sense and a certain high chivalry which surrounds
the stately homes of Britain, these young lads, freed from the
restraints of custom and surrounding, soon shed all that was
superficial in their make-up and stood forth in the naked
simplicity of their native manhood. The West discovered and
revealed the man in them, sometimes to their honor, often to their
shame. The Chief of the Company was the Hon. Fred Ashley, of the
Ashley Ranch, sometime of Ashley Court, England--a big, good-
natured man with a magnificent physique, a good income from home,
and a beautiful wife, the Lady Charlotte, daughter of a noble
English family. At the Ashley Ranch the traditions of Ashley Court
were preserved as far as possible. The Hon. Fred appeared at the
wolf-hunts in riding-breeches and top boots, with hunting crop and
English saddle, while in all the appointments of the house the
customs of the English home were observed. It was characteristic,
however, of western life that his two cowboys, Hi Kendal and Bronco
Bill, felt themselves quite his social equals, though in the
presence of his beautiful, stately wife they confessed that they
"rather weakened." Ashley was a thoroughly good fellow, well up to
his work as a cattle-man, and too much of a gentleman to feel, much
less assert, any superiority of station. He had the largest ranch
in the country and was one of the few men making money.
Ashley's chief friend, or, at least, most frequent companion, was a
man whom they called "The Duke." No one knew his name, but every
one said he was "the son of a lord," and certainly from his style
and bearing he might be the son of almost anything that was high
enough in rank. He drew "a remittance," but, as that was paid
through Ashley, no one knew whence it came nor how much it was. He
was a perfect picture of a man, and in all western virtues was
easily first. He could rope a steer, bunch cattle, play poker or
drink whisky to the admiration of his friends and the confusion of
his foes, of whom he had a few; while as to "bronco busting," the
virtue par excellence of western cattle-men, even Bronco Bill was
heard to acknowledge that "he wasn't in it with the Dook, for it
was his opinion that he could ride anythin' that had legs in under
it, even if it was a blanked centipede." And this, coming from one
who made a profession of "bronco busting," was unquestionably high
praise. The Duke lived alone, except when he deigned to pay a
visit to some lonely rancher who, for the marvellous charm of his
talk, was delighted to have him as guest, even at the expense of
the loss of a few games at poker. He made a friend of no one,
though some men could tell of times when he stood between them and
their last dollar, exacting only the promise that no mention should
be made of his deed. He had an easy, lazy manner and a slow
cynical smile that rarely left his face, and the only sign of
deepening passion in him was a little broadening of his smile. Old
Latour, who kept the Stopping Place, told me how once The Duke had
broken into a gentle laugh. A French half-breed freighter on his
way north had entered into a game of poker with The Duke, with the
result that his six months' pay stood in a little heap at his
enemy's left hand. The enraged freighter accused his smiling
opponent of being a cheat, and was proceeding to demolish him with
one mighty blow. But The Duke, still smiling, and without moving
from his chair, caught the descending fist, slowly crushed the
fingers open, and steadily drew the Frenchman to his knees,
gripping him so cruelly in the meantime that he was forced to cry
aloud in agony for mercy. Then it was that The Duke broke into a
light laugh and, touching the kneeling Frenchman on his cheek with
his finger-tips, said: "Look here, my man, you shouldn't play the
game till you know how to do it and with whom you play." Then,
handing him back the money, he added: "I want money, but not
yours." Then, as he sat looking at the unfortunate wretch dividing
his attention between his money and his bleeding fingers, he once
more broke into a gentle laugh that was not good to hear.
The Duke was by all odds the most striking figure in the Company of
the Noble Seven, and his word went farther than that of any other.
His shadow was Bruce, an Edinburgh University man, metaphysical,
argumentative, persistent, devoted to The Duke. Indeed, his chief
ambition was to attain to The Duke's high and lordly manner; but,
inasmuch as he was rather squat in figure and had an open, good-
natured face and a Scotch voice of the hard and rasping kind, his
attempts at imitation were not conspicuously successful. Every
mail that reached Swan Creek brought him a letter from home. At
first, after I had got to know him, he would give me now and then a
letter to read, but as the tone became more and more anxious he
ceased to let me read them, and I was glad enough of this. How he
could read those letters and go the pace of the Noble Seven I could
not see. Poor Bruce! He had good impulses, a generous heart, but
the "Permit" nights and the hunts and the "roundups" and the poker
and all the wild excesses of the Company were more than he could
Then there were the two Hill brothers, the younger, Bertie, a fair-
haired, bright-faced youngster, none too able to look after
himself, but much inclined to follies of all degrees and sorts.
But he was warm-hearted and devoted to his big brother, Humphrey,
called "Hump," who had taken to ranching mainly with the idea of
looking after his younger brother. And no easy matter that was,
for every one liked the lad and in consequence helped him down.
In addition to these there were two others of the original seven,
but by force of circumstances they were prevented from any more
than a nominal connection with the Company. Blake, a typical wild
Irishman, had joined the police at the Fort, and Gifford had got
married and, as Bill said, "was roped tighter'n a steer."
The Noble Company, with the cowboys that helped on the range and
two or three farmers that lived nearer the Fort, composed the
settlers of the Swan Creek country. A strange medley of people of
all ranks and nations, but while among them there were the evil-
hearted and evil-living, still, for the Noble Company I will say
that never have I fallen in with men braver, truer, or of warmer
heart. Vices they had, all too apparent and deadly, but they were
due rather to the circumstances of their lives than to the native
tendencies of their hearts. Throughout that summer and the winter
following I lived among them, camping on the range with them and
sleeping in their shacks, bunching cattle in summer and hunting
wolves in winter, nor did I, for I was no wiser than they, refuse
my part on "Permit" nights; but through all not a man of them ever
failed to be true to his standard of honor in the duties of
comradeship and brotherhood.
THE COMING OF THE PILOT
He was the first missionary ever seen in the country, and it was the
Old Timer who named him. The Old Timer's advent to the Foothill
country was prehistoric, and his influence was, in consequence,
immense. No one ventured to disagree with him, for to disagree with
the Old Timer was to write yourself down a tenderfoot, which no one,
of course, cared to do. It was a misfortune which only time could
repair to be a new-comer, and it was every new-comer's aim to assume
with all possible speed the style and customs of the aristocratic
Old Timers, and to forget as soon as possible the date of his own
arrival. So it was as "The Sky Pilot," familiarly "The Pilot," that
the missionary went for many a day in the Swan Creek country.
I had become schoolmaster of Swan Creek. For in the spring a kind
Providence sent in the Muirs and the Bremans with housefuls of
children, to the ranchers' disgust, for they foresaw ploughed
fields and barbed-wire fences cramping their unlimited ranges. A
school became necessary. A little log building was erected and I
was appointed schoolmaster. It was as schoolmaster that I first
came to touch The Pilot, for the letter which the Hudson Bay
freighters brought me early one summer evening bore the inscription:
There was altogether a fine air about the letter; the writing was
in fine, small hand, the tone was fine, and there was something
fine in the signature--"Arthur Wellington Moore." He was glad to
know that there was a school and a teacher in Swan Creek, for a
school meant children, in whom his soul delighted; and in the
teacher he would find a friend, and without a friend he could not
live. He took me into his confidence, telling me that though he
had volunteered for this far-away mission field he was not much of
a preacher and he was not at all sure that he would succeed. But
he meant to try, and he was charmed at the prospect of having one
sympathizer at least. Would I be kind enough to put up in some
conspicuous place the enclosed notice, filling in the blanks as I
"Divine service will be held at Swan creek
in ---- ----- at ---- o'clock.
All are cordially invited.
Arthur Wellington Moore."
On the whole I liked his letter. I liked its modest self-
depreciation and I liked its cool assumption of my sympathy and co-
operation. But I was perplexed. I remembered that Sunday was the
day fixed for the great baseball match, when those from "Home," as
they fondly called the land across the sea from which they had
come, were to "wipe the earth" with all comers. Besides, "Divine
service" was an innovation in Swan Creek and I felt sure that, like
all innovations that suggested the approach of the East, it would
be by no means welcome.
However, immediately under the notice of the "Grand Baseball Match
for 'The Pain Killer' a week from Sunday, at 2:30, Home vs. the
World," I pinned on the door of the Stopping Place the
"Divine service will be held at Swan Creek, in the Stopping Place
Parlor, a week from Sunday, immediately upon the conclusion of the
"Arthur Wellington Moore."
There was a strange incongruity in the two, and an unconscious
challenge as well.
All next day, which was Saturday, and, indeed, during the following
week, I stood guard over my notice, enjoying the excitement it
produced and the comments it called forth. It was the advance wave
of the great ocean of civilization which many of them had been glad
to leave behind--some could have wished forever.
To Robert Muir, one of the farmers newly arrived, the notice was a
harbinger of good. It stood for progress, markets and a higher
price for land; albeit he wondered "hoo he wad be keepit up." But
his hard-wrought, quick-spoken little wife at his elbow "hooted"
his scruples and, thinking of her growing lads, welcomed with
unmixed satisfaction the coming of "the meenister." Her
satisfaction was shared by all the mothers and most of the fathers
in the settlement; but by the others, and especially by that
rollicking, roistering crew, the Company of the Noble Seven, the
missionary's coming was viewed with varying degrees of animosity.
It meant a limitation of freedom in their wildly reckless living.
The "Permit" nights would now, to say the least, be subject to
criticism; the Sunday wolf-hunts and horse-races, with their
attendant delights, would now be pursued under the eye of the
Church, and this would not add to the enjoyment of them. One great
charm of the country, which Bruce, himself the son of an Edinburgh
minister, and now Secretary of the Noble Seven, described as
"letting a fellow do as he blanked pleased," would be gone. None
resented more bitterly than he the missionary's intrusion, which he
declared to be an attempt "to reimpose upon their freedom the
trammels of an antiquated and bigoted conventionality." But the
rest of the Company, while not taking so decided a stand, were
agreed that the establishment of a church institution was an
objectionable and impertinent as well as unnecessary proceeding.
Of course, Hi Kendal and his friend Bronco Bill had no opinion one
way or the other. The Church could hardly affect them even
remotely. A dozen years' stay in Montana had proved with
sufficient clearness to them that a church was a luxury of
civilization the West might well do without.
Outside the Company of the Noble Seven there was only one whose
opinion had value in Swan Creek, and that was the Old Timer. The
Company had sought to bring him in by making him an honorary
member, but he refused to be drawn from his home far up among the
hills, where he lived with his little girl Gwen and her old half-
breed nurse, Ponka. The approach of the church he seemed to resent
as a personal injury. It represented to him that civilization from
which he had fled fifteen years ago with his wife and baby girl,
and when five years later he laid his wife in the lonely grave that
could be seen on the shaded knoll just fronting his cabin door, the
last link to his past was broken. From all that suggested the
great world beyond the run of the Prairie he shrank as one shrinks
from a sudden touch upon an old wound.
"I guess I'll have to move back," he said to me gloomily.
"Why?" I said in surprise, thinking of his grazing range, which was
ample for his herd.
"This blank Sky Pilot." He never swore except when unusually
"Sky Pilot?" I inquired.
He nodded and silently pointed to the notice.
"Oh, well, he won't hurt you, will he?"
"Can't stand it," he answered savagely, "must get away."
"What about Gwen?" I ventured, for she was the light of his eyes.
"Pity to stop her studies." I was giving her weekly lessons at the
old man's ranch.
"Dunno. Ain't figgered out yet about that baby." She was still
his baby. "Guess she's all she wants for the Foothills, anyway.
What's the use?" he added, bitterly, talking to himself after the
manner of men who live much alone.
I waited for a moment, then said: "Well, I wouldn't hurry about
doing anything," knowing well that the one thing an old-timer hates
to do is to make any change in his mode of life. "Maybe he won't
He caught at this eagerly. "That's so! There ain't much to keep
him, anyway," and he rode off to his lonely ranch far up in the
I looked after the swaying figure and tried to picture his past
with its tragedy; then I found myself wondering how he would end
and what would come to his little girl. And I made up my mind that
if the missionary were the right sort his coming might not be a bad
thing for the Old Timer and perhaps for more than him.
THE PILOT'S MEASURE
It was Hi Kendal that announced the arrival of the missionary. I
was standing at the door of my school, watching the children ride
off home on their ponies, when Hi came loping along on his bronco
in the loose-jointed cowboy style.
"Well," he drawled out, bringing his bronco to a dead stop in a
single bound, "he's lit."
"Lit? Where? What?" said I, looking round for an eagle or some
other flying thing.
"Your blanked Sky Pilot, and he's a beauty, a pretty kid--looks too
tender for this climate. Better not let him out on the range." Hi
was quite disgusted, evidently.
"What's the matter with him, Hi?"
"Why, HE ain't no parson! I don't go much on parsons, but when I
calls for one I don't want no bantam chicken. No, sirree, horse!
I don't want no blankety-blank, pink-and-white complected nursery
kid foolin' round my graveyard. If you're goin' to bring along a
parson, why bring him with his eye-teeth cut and his tail feathers
That Hi was deeply disappointed was quite clear from the selection
of the profanity with which he adorned this lengthy address. It
was never the extent of his profanity, but the choice, that
indicated Hi's interest in any subject.
Altogether, the outlook for the missionary was not encouraging.
With the single exception of the Muirs, who really counted for
little, nobody wanted him. To most of the reckless young bloods of
the Company of the Noble Seven his presence was an offence; to
others simply a nuisance, while the Old Timer regarded his advent
with something like dismay; and now Hi's impression of his personal
appearance was not cheering.
My first sight of him did not reassure me. He was very slight,
very young, very innocent, with a face that might do for an angel,
except for the touch of humor in it, but which seemed strangely out
of place among the rough, hard faces that were to be seen in the
Swan Creek Country. It was not a weak face, however. The forehead
was high and square, the mouth firm, and the eyes were luminous, of
some dark color--violet, if there is such a color in eyes--dreamy
or sparkling, according to his mood; eyes for which a woman might
find use, but which, in a missionary's head, appeared to me one of
those extraordinary wastes of which Nature is sometimes guilty.
He was gazing far away into space infinitely beyond the Foothills
and the blue line of the mountains behind them. He turned to me as
I drew near, with eyes alight and face glowing.
"It is glorious," he almost panted. "You see this everyday!"
Then, recalling himself, he came eagerly toward me, stretching out
his hand. "You are the schoolmaster, I know. Do you know, it's a
great thing? I wanted to be one, but I never could get the boys
on. They always got me telling them tales. I was awfully
disappointed. I am trying the next best thing. You see, I won't
have to keep order, but I don't think I can preach very well. I am
going to visit your school. Have you many scholars? Do you know,
I think it's splendid? I wish I could do it."
I had intended to be somewhat stiff with him, but his evident
admiration of me made me quite forget this laudable intention, and,
as he talked on without waiting for an answer, his enthusiasm, his
deference to my opinion, his charm of manner, his beautiful face,
his luminous eyes, made him perfectly irresistible; and before I
was aware I was listening to his plans for working his mission with
eager interest. So eager was my interest, indeed, that before I
was aware I found myself asking him to tea with me in my shack.
But he declined, saying:
"I'd like to, awfully; but do you know, I think Latour expects me."
This consideration of Latour's feelings almost upset me.
"You come with me," he added, and I went.
Latour welcomed us with his grim old face wreathed in unusual
smiles. The pilot had been talking to him, too.
"I've got it, Latour!" he cried out as he entered; "here you are,"
and he broke into the beautiful French-Canadian chanson, "A la
Claire Fontaine," to the old half-breed's almost tearful delight.
"Do you know," he went on, "I heard that first down the Mattawa,"
and away he went into a story of an experience with French-Canadian
raftsmen, mixing up his French and English in so charming a manner
that Latour; who in his younger days long ago had been a shantyman
himself, hardly knew whether he was standing on his head or on his
After tea I proposed a ride out to see the sunset from the nearest
rising ground. Latour, with unexampled generosity, offered his own
"I can't ride well," protested The Pilot.
"Ah! dat's good ponee, Louis," urged Latour. "He's quiet lak wan
leetle mouse; he's ride lak--what you call?--wan horse-on-de-rock."
Under which persuasion the pony was accepted.
That evening I saw the Swan Creek country with new eyes--through
the luminous eyes of The Pilot. We rode up the trail by the side
of the Swan till we came to the coulee mouth, dark and full of
"Come on," I said, "we must get to the top for the sunset."
He looked lingeringly into the deep shadows and asked: "Anything
live down there?"
"Coyotes and wolves and ghosts."
"Ghosts?" he asked, delightedly. "Do you know, I was sure there
were, and I'm quite sure I shall see them."
Then we took the Porcupine trail and climbed for about two miles
the gentle slope to the top of the first rising ground. There we
stayed and watched the sun take his nightly plunge into the sea of
mountains, now dimly visible. Behind us stretched the prairie,
sweeping out level to the sky and cut by the winding coulee of the
Swan. Great long shadows from the hills were lying upon its yellow
face, and far at the distant edge the gray haze was deepening into
purple. Before us lay the hills, softly curving like the shoulders
of great sleeping monsters, their tops still bright, but the
separating valleys full of shadow. And there, far beyond them, up
against the sky, was the line of the mountains--blue, purple, and
gold, according as the light fell upon them. The sun had taken his
plunge, but he had left behind him his robes of saffron and gold.
We stood long without a word or movement, filling our hearts with
the silence and the beauty, till the gold in the west began to grow
dim. High above all the night was stretching her star-pierced,
blue canopy, and drawing slowly up from the east over the prairie
and over the sleeping hills the soft folds of a purple haze. The
great silence of the dying day had fallen upon the world and held
"Listen," he said, in a low tone, pointing to the hills. "Can't
you hear them breathe?" And, looking at their curving shoulders, I
fancied I could see them slowly heaving as if in heavy sleep, and I
was quite sure I could hear them breathe. I was under the spell of
his voice and his eyes, and nature was all living to me then.
We rode back to the Stopping Place in silence, except for a word of
mine now and then which he heeded not; and, with hardly a good
night, he left me at the door. I turned away feeling as if I had
been in a strange country and among strange people.
How would he do with the Swan Creek folk? Could he make them see
the hills breathe? Would they feel as I felt under his voice and
eyes? What a curious mixture he was! I was doubtful about his
first Sunday, and was surprised to find all my indifference as to
his success or failure gone. It was a pity about the baseball
match. I would speak to some of the men about it to-morrow.
Hi might be disappointed in his appearance, but, as I turned into
my shack and thought over my last two hours with The Pilot and how
he had "got" old Latour and myself, I began to think that Hi might
be mistaken in his measure of The Pilot.
One is never so enthusiastic in the early morning, when the emotions
are calmest and the nerves at their steadiest. But I was determined
to try to have the baseball match postponed. There could be no
difficulty. One day was as much of a holiday as another to these
easy-going fellows. But The Duke, when I suggested a change in the
day, simply raised his eyebrows an eighth of an inch and said:
"Can't see why the day should be changed." Bruce stormed and swore
all sorts of destruction upon himself if he was going to change his
style of life for any man. The others followed The Duke's lead.
That Sunday was a day of incongruities. The Old and the New, the
East and the West, the reverential Past and iconoclastic Present
were jumbling themselves together in bewildering confusion. The
baseball match was played with much vigor and profanity. The
expression on The Pilot's face, as he stood watching for a while,
was a curious mixture of interest, surprise, doubt and pain. He
was readjusting himself. He was so made as to be extremely
sensitive to his surroundings. He took on color quickly. The
utter indifference to the audacious disregard of all he had
hitherto considered sacred and essential was disconcerting. They
were all so dead sure. How did he know they were wrong? It was
his first near view of practical, living skepticism. Skepticism in
a book did not disturb him; he could put down words against it.
But here it was alive, cheerful, attractive, indeed fascinating;
for these men in their western garb and with their western swing
had captured his imagination. He was in a fierce struggle, and in
a few minutes I saw him disappear into the coulee.
Meantime the match went uproariously on to a finish, with the
result that the champions of "Home" had "to stand The Painkiller,"
their defeat being due chiefly to the work of Hi and Bronco Bill as
pitcher and catcher.
The celebration was in full swing; or as Hi put it, "the boys were
takin' their pizen good an' calm," when in walked The Pilot. His
face was still troubled and his lips were drawn and blue, as if he
were in pain. A silence fell on the men as he walked in through
the crowd and up to the bar. He stood a moment hesitating, looking
round upon the faces flushed and hot that were now turned toward
him in curious defiance. He noticed the look, and it pulled him
together. He faced about toward old Latour and asked in a high,
"Is this the room you said we might have?"
The Frenchman shrugged his shoulders and said:
"There is not any more."
The lad paused for an instant, but only for an instant. Then,
lifting a pile of hymn books he had near him on the counter, he
said in a grave, sweet voice, and with the quiver of a smile about
"Gentlemen, Mr. Latour has allowed me this room for a religious
service. It will give me great pleasure if you will all join," and
immediately he handed a book to Bronco Bill, who, surprised, took
it as if he did not know what to do with it. The others followed
Bronco's lead till he came to Bruce, who refused, saying roughly:
"No! I don't want it; I've no use for it."
The missionary flushed and drew back as if he had been struck, but
immediately, as if unconsciously, The Duke, who was standing near,
stretched out his hand and said, with a courteous bow, "I thank
you; I should be glad of one."
"Thank you," replied The Pilot, simply, as he handed him a book.
The men seated themselves upon the bench that ran round the room,
or leaned up against the counter, and most of them took off their
hats. Just then in came Muir, and behind him his little wife.
In an instant The Duke was on his feet, and every hat came off.
The missionary stood up at the bar, and announced the hymn, "Jesus,
Lover of My Soul." The silence that followed was broken by the
sound of a horse galloping. A buckskin bronco shot past the
window, and in a few moments there appeared at the door the Old
Timer. He was about to stride in when the unusual sight of a row
of men sitting solemnly with hymn books in their hands held him
fast at the door. He gazed in an amazed, helpless way upon the
men, then at the missionary, then back at the men, and stood
speechless. Suddenly there was a high, shrill, boyish laugh, and
the men turned to see the missionary in a fit of laughter. It
certainly was a shock to any lingering ideas of religious propriety
they might have about them; but the contrast between his frank,
laughing face and the amazed and disgusted face of the shaggy old
man in the doorway was too much for them, and one by one they gave
way to roars of laughter. The Old Timer, however, kept his face
unmoved, strode up to the bar and nodded to old Latour, who served
him his drink, which he took at a gulp.
"Here, old man!" called out Bill, "get into the game; here's your
deck," offering him his book. But the missionary was before him,
and, with very beautiful grace, he handed the Old Timer a book and
pointed him to a seat.
I shall never forget that service. As a religious affair it was a
dead failure, but somehow I think The Pilot, as Hi approvingly
said, "got in his funny work," and it was not wholly a defeat. The
first hymn was sung chiefly by the missionary and Mrs. Muir, whose
voice was very high, with one or two of the men softly whistling an
accompaniment. The second hymn was better, and then came the
Lesson, the story of the feeding of the five thousand. As the
missionary finished the story, Bill, who had been listening with
great interest, said:
"I say, pard, I think I'll call you just now."
"I beg your pardon!" said the startled missionary.
"You're givin' us quite a song and dance now, ain't you?"
"I don't understand," was the puzzled reply.
"How many men was there in the crowd?" asked Bill, with a judicial
"And how much grub?"
"Five loaves and two fishes," answered Bruce for the missionary.
"Well," drawled Bill, with the air of a man who has reached a
conclusion, "that's a little too unusual for me. Why," looking
pityingly at the missionary, "it ain't natarel."
"Right you are, my boy," said Bruce, with a laugh. "It's deucedly
"Not for Him," said the missionary, quietly. Then Bruce joyfully
took him up and led him on into a discussion of evidences, and from
evidences into metaphysics, the origin of evil and the freedom of
the will, till the missionary, as Bill said, "was rattled worse nor
a rooster in the dark." Poor little Mrs. Muir was much scandalized
and looked anxiously at her husband, wishing him to take her out.
But help came from an unexpected quarter, and Hi suddenly called
"Here you, Bill, shut your blanked jaw, and you, Bruce, give the
man a chance to work off his music."
"That's so! Fair play! Go on!" were the cries that came in
response to Hi's appeal.
The missionary, who was all trembling and much troubled, gave Hi a
grateful look, and said:
"I'm afraid there are a great many things I don't understand, and I
am not good at argument." There were shouts of "Go on! fire ahead,
play the game!" but he said, "I think we will close the service
with a hymn." His frankness and modesty, and his respectful,
courteous manner gained the sympathy of the men, so that all joined
heartily in singing, "Sun of My Soul." In the prayer that followed
his voice grew steady and his nerve came back to him. The words
were very simple, and the petitions were mostly for light and for
strength. With a few words of remembrance of "those in our homes
far away who think of us and pray for us and never forget," this
strange service was brought to a close.
After the missionary had stepped out, the whole affair was
discussed with great warmth. Hi Kendal thought "The Pilot didn't
have no fair show," maintaining that when he was "ropin' a steer he
didn't want no blanked tenderfoot to be shovin' in his rope like
Bill there." But Bill steadily maintained his position that "the
story of that there picnic was a little too unusual" for him.
Bruce was trying meanwhile to beguile The Duke into a discussion of
the physics and metaphysics of the case. But The Duke refused with
quiet contempt to be drawn into a region where he felt himself a
stranger. He preferred poker himself, if Bruce cared to take a
hand; and so the evening went on, with the theological discussion
by Hi and Bill in a judicial, friendly spirit in one corner, while
the others for the most part played poker.
When the missionary returned late there were only a few left in the
room, among them The Duke and Bruce, who was drinking steadily and
losing money. The missionary's presence seemed to irritate him,
and he played even more recklessly than usual, swearing deeply at
every loss. At the door the missionary stood looking up into the
night sky and humming softly "Sun of My Soul," and after a few
minutes The Duke joined in humming a bass to the air till Bruce
could contain himself no longer.
"I say," he called out, "this isn't any blanked prayer-meeting, is
The Duke ceased humming, and, looking at Bruce, said quietly:
"Well, what is it? What's the trouble?"
"Trouble!" shouted Bruce. "I don't see what hymn-singing has to do
with a poker game."
"Oh, I see! I beg pardon! Was I singing?" said The Duke. Then
after a pause he added, "You're quite right. I say, Bruce, let's
quit. Something has got on to your nerves." And coolly sweeping
his pile into his pocket, he gave up the game. With an oath Bruce
left the table, took another drink, and went unsteadily out to his
horse, and soon we heard him ride away into the darkness, singing
snatches of the hymn and swearing the most awful oaths.
The missionary's face was white with horror. It was all new and
horrible to him.
"Will he get safely home?" he asked of The Duke.
"Don't you worry, youngster," said The Duke, in his loftiest
manner, "he'll get along."
The luminous, dreamy eyes grew hard and bright as they looked The
Duke in the face.
"Yes, I shall worry; but you ought to worry more."
"Ah!" said The Duke, raising his brows and smiling gently upon the
bright, stern young face lifted up to his. "I didn't notice that I
had asked your opinion."
"If anything should happen to him," replied the missionary, quickly,
"I should consider you largely responsible."
"That would be kind," said The Duke, still smiling with his lips.
But after a moment's steady look into the missionary's eyes he
nodded his head twice or thrice, and, without further word, turned
The missionary turned eagerly to me:
"They beat me this afternoon," he cried, "but thank God, I know now
they are wrong and I am right! I don't understand! I can't see my
way through! But I am right! It's true! I feel it's true! Men
can't live without Him, and be men!"
And long after I went to my shack that night I saw before me the
eager face with the luminous eyes and heard the triumphant cry: "I
feel it's true! Men can't live without Him, and be men!" and I
knew that though his first Sunday ended in defeat there was victory
yet awaiting him.
HIS SECOND WIND
The first weeks were not pleasant for The Pilot. He had been
beaten, and the sense of failure damped his fine enthusiasm, which
was one of his chief charms. The Noble Seven despised, ignored, or
laughed at him, according to their mood and disposition. Bruce
patronized him; and, worst of all, the Muirs pitied him. This last
it was that brought him low, and I was glad of it. I find it hard
to put up with a man that enjoys pity.
It was Hi Kendal that restored him, though Hi had no thought of
doing so good a deed. It was in this way: A baseball match was on
with The Porcupines from near the Fort. To Hi's disgust and the
team's dismay Bill failed to appear. It was Hi's delight to stand
up for Bill's pitching, and their battery was the glory of the Home
"Try The Pilot, Hi," said some one, chaffing him.
Hi looked glumly across at The Pilot standing some distance, away;
then called out, holding up the ball:
"Can you play the game?"
For answer Moore held up his hands for a catch. Hi tossed him the
ball easily. The ball came back so quickly that Hi was hardly
ready, and the jar seemed to amaze him exceedingly.
"I'll take him," he said, doubtfully, and the game began. Hi
fitted on his mask, a new importation and his peculiar pride, and
"How do you like them?" asked The Pilot.
"Hot!" said Hi. "I hain't got no gloves to burn."
The Pilot turned his back, swung off one foot on to the other and
discharged his ball.
"Strike!" called the umpire.
"You bet!" said Hi, with emphasis, but his face was a picture of
amazement and dawning delight.
Again The Pilot went through the manoeuvre in his box and again the
Hi stopped the ball without holding it and set himself for the
third. Once more that disconcerting swing and the whip-like action
of the arm, and for the third time the umpire called:
"Strike! Striker out!"
"That's the hole," yelled Hi.
The Porcupines were amazed. Hi looked at the ball in his hand,
then at the slight figure of The Pilot.
"I say! where do you get it?"
"What?" asked Moore innocently.
"The gait! the speed, you know!"
"Oh! I used to play in Princeton a little."
"Did, eh? What the blank blank did you quit for?"
He evidently regarded the exchange of the profession of baseball
for the study of theology as a serious error in judgment, and in
this opinion every inning of the game confirmed him. At the bat
The Pilot did not shine, but he made up for light hitting by his
base-running. He was fleet as a deer, and he knew the game
thoroughly. He was keen, eager, intense in play, and before the
innings were half over he was recognized as the best all-round man
on the field. In the pitcher's box he puzzled the Porcupines till
they grew desperate and hit wildly and blindly, amid the jeers of
the spectators. The bewilderment of the Porcupines was equaled
only by the enthusiasm of Hi and his nine, and when the game was
over the score stood 37 to 7 in favor of the Home team. They
carried The Pilot off the field.
From that day Moore was another man. He had won the unqualified
respect of Hi Kendal and most of the others, for he could beat them
at their own game and still be modest about it. Once more his
enthusiasm came back and his brightness and his courage. The Duke
was not present to witness his triumph, and, besides, he rather
despised the game. Bruce was there, however, but took no part in
the general acclaim; indeed, he seemed rather disgusted with
Moore's sudden leap into favor. Certainly his hostility to The
Pilot and to all that he stood for was none the less open and
The hostility was more than usually marked at the service held on
the Sunday following. It was, perhaps, thrown into stronger relief
by the open and delighted approval of Hi, who was prepared to back
up anything The Pilot would venture to say. Bill, who had not
witnessed The Pilot's performance in the pitcher's box, but had
only Hi's enthusiastic report to go upon, still preserved his
judicial air. It is fair to say, however, that there was no mean-
spirited jealousy in Bill's heart even though Hi had frankly
assured him that The Pilot was "a demon," and could "give him
points." Bill had great confidence in Hi's opinion upon baseball,
but he was not prepared to surrender his right of private judgment
in matters theological, so he waited for the sermon before
committing himself to any enthusiastic approval. This service was
an undoubted success. The singing was hearty, and insensibly the
men fell into a reverent attitude during prayer. The theme, too,
was one that gave little room for skepticism. It was the story of
Zaccheus, and story-telling was Moore's strong point. The thing
was well done. Vivid portraitures of the outcast, shrewd,
converted publican and the supercilious, self-complacent, critical
Pharisee were drawn with a few deft touches. A single sentence
transferred them to the Foothills and arrayed them in cowboy garb.
Bill was none too sure of himself, but Hi, with delightful winks,
was indicating Bruce as the Pharisee, to the latter's scornful
disgust. The preacher must have noticed, for with a very clever
turn the Pharisee was shown to be the kind of man who likes to fit
faults upon others. Then Bill, digging his elbows into Hi's ribs,
said in an audible whisper:
"Say, pardner, how does it fit now?"
"You git out!" answered Hi, indignantly, but his confidence in his
interpretation of the application was shaken. When Moore came to
describe the Master and His place in that ancient group, we in the
Stopping Place parlor fell under the spell of his eyes and voice,
and our hearts were moved within us. That great Personality was
made very real and very winning. Hi was quite subdued by the story
and the picture. Bill was perplexed; it was all new to him; but
Bruce was mainly irritated. To him it was all old and filled with
memories he hated to face. At any rate he was unusually savage
that evening, drank heavily and went home late, raging and cursing
at things in general and The Pilot in particular--for Moore, in a
timid sort of way, had tried to quiet him and help him to his
"Ornery sort o' beast now, ain't he?" said Hi, with the idea of
comforting The Pilot, who stood sadly looking after Bruce
disappearing in the gloom.
"No! no!" he answered, quickly, "not a beast, but a brother."
"Brother! Not much, if I know my relations!" answered Hi,
"The Master thinks a good deal of him," was the earnest reply.
"Git out!" said Hi, "you don't mean it! Why," he added, decidedly,
"he's more stuck on himself than that mean old cuss you was tellin'
about this afternoon, and without half the reason."
But Moore only said, kindly, "Don't be hard on him, Hi," and turned
away, leaving Hi and Bill gravely discussing the question, with the
aid of several drinks of whisky. They were still discussing when,
an hour later, they, too, disappeared into the darkness that
swallowed up the trail to Ashley Ranch. That was the first of many
such services. The preaching was always of the simplest kind,
abstract questions being avoided and the concrete in those
wonderful Bible tales, dressed in modern and in western garb, set
forth. Bill and Hi were more than ever his friends and champions,
and the latter was heard exultantly to exclaim to Bruce:
"He ain't much to look at as a parson, but he's a-ketchin' his
second wind, and 'fore long you won't see him for dust."
THE LAST OF THE PERMIT SUNDAYS
The spring "round-ups" were all over and Bruce had nothing to do
but to loaf about the Stopping Place, drinking old Latour's bad
whisky and making himself a nuisance. In vain The Pilot tried to
win him with loans of books and magazines and other kindly
courtesies. He would be decent for a day and then would break
forth in violent argumentation against religion and all who held to
it. He sorely missed The Duke, who was away south on one of his
periodic journeys, of which no one knew anything or cared to ask.
The Duke's presence always steadied Bruce and took the rasp out of
his manners. It was rather a relief to all that he was absent from
the next fortnightly service, though Moore declared he was ashamed
to confess this relief.
"I can't touch him," he said to me, after the service; "he is far
too clever, but," and his voice was full of pain, "I'd give
something to help him."
"If he doesn't quit his nonsense," I replied, "he'll soon be past
helping. He doesn't go out on his range, his few cattle wander
everywhere, his shack is in a beastly state, and he himself is
going to pieces, miserable fool that he is." For it did seem a
shame that a fellow should so throw himself away for nothing.
"You are hard," said Moore, with his eyes upon me.
"Hard? Isn't it true?" I answered, hotly. "Then, there's his
mother at home."
"Yes, but can he help it? Is it all his fault?" he replied, with
his steady eyes still looking into me.
"His fault? Whose fault, then?"
"What of the Noble Seven? Have they anything to do with this?"
His voice was quiet, but there was an arresting intensity in it.
"Well," I said, rather weakly, "a man ought to look after himself."
"Yes!--and his brother a little." Then, he added: "What have any
of you done to help him? The Duke could have pulled him up a year
ago if he had been willing to deny himself a little, and so with
all of you. You all do just what pleases you regardless of any
other, and so you help one another down."
I could not find anything just then to say, though afterwards many
things came to me; for, though his voice was quiet and low, his
eyes were glowing and his face was alight with the fire that burned
within, and I felt like one convicted of a crime. This was
certainly a new doctrine for the West; an uncomfortable doctrine to
practice, interfering seriously with personal liberty, but in The
Pilot's way of viewing things difficult to escape. There would be
no end to one's responsibility. I refused to think it out.
Within a fortnight we were thinking it out with some intentness.
The Noble Seven were to have a great "blow-out" at the Hill
brothers' ranch. The Duke had got home from his southern trip a
little more weary-looking and a little more cynical in his smile.
The "blow-out" was to be held on Permit Sunday, the alternate to
the Preaching Sunday, which was a concession to The Pilot, secured
chiefly through the influence of Hi and his baseball nine. It was
something to have created the situation involved in the distinction
between Preaching and Permit Sundays. Hi put it rather graphically.
"The devil takes his innin's one Sunday and The Pilot the next,"
adding emphatically, "He hain't done much scorin' yit, but my
money's on The Pilot, you bet!" Bill was more cautious and
preferred to wait developments. And developments were rapid.
The Hill brothers' meet was unusually successful from a social
point of view. Several Permits had been requisitioned, and whisky
and beer abounded. Races all day and poker all night and drinks
of various brews both day and night, with varying impromptu
diversions--such as shooting the horns off wandering steers--were
the social amenities indulged in by the noble company. On Monday
evening I rode out to the ranch, urged by Moore, who was anxious
that someone should look after Bruce.
"I don't belong to them," he said, "you do. They won't resent your
Nor did they. They were sitting at tea, and welcomed me with a
"Hello, old domine!" yelled Bruce, "where's your preacher friend?"
"Where you ought to be, if you could get there--at home," I
replied, nettled at his insolent tone.
"Strike one!" called out Hi, enthusiastically, not approving
Bruce's attitude toward his friend, The Pilot.
"Don't be so acute," said Bruce, after the laugh had passed, "but
have a drink."
He was flushed and very shaky and very noisy. The Duke, at the
head of the table, looked a little harder than usual, but, though
pale, was quite steady. The others were all more or less nerve-
broken, and about the room were the signs of a wild night. A bench
was upset, while broken bottles and crockery lay strewn about over
a floor reeking with filth. The disgust on my face called forth an
apology from the younger Hill, who was serving up ham and eggs as
best he could to the men lounging about the table.
"It's my housemaid's afternoon out," he explained gravely.
"Gone for a walk in the park," added an other.
"Hope MISTER Connor will pardon the absence," sneered Bruce, in his
most offensive manner.
"Don't mind him," said Hi, under his breath, "the blue devils are
runnin' him down."
This became more evident as the evening went on. From hilarity
Bruce passed to sullen ferocity, with spasms of nervous terror.
Hi's attempts to soothe him finally drove him mad, and he drew his
revolver, declaring he could look after himself, in proof of which
he began to shoot out the lights.
The men scrambled into safe corners, all but The Duke, who stood
quietly by watching Bruce shoot. Then saying:
"Let me have a try, Bruce," he reached across and caught his hand.
"No! you don't," said Bruce, struggling. "No man gets my gun."
He tore madly at the gripping hand with both of his, but in vain,
calling out with frightful oaths:
"Let go! let go! I'll kill you! I'll kill you!"
With a furious effort he hurled himself back from the table,
dragging The Duke partly across. There was a flash and a report
and Bruce collapsed, The Duke still gripping him. When they lifted
him up he was found to have an ugly wound in his arm, the bullet
having passed through the fleshy part. I bound it up as best I
could and tried to persuade him to go to bed. But he would go
home. Nothing could stop him. Finally The Duke agreed to go with
him, and off they set, Bruce loudly protesting that he could get
home alone and did not want anyone.
It was a dismal break-up to the meet, and we all went home feeling
rather sick, so that it gave me no pleasure to find Moore waiting
in my shack for my report of Bruce. It was quite vain for me to
make light of the accident to him. His eyes were wide open with
anxious fear when I had done.
"You needn't tell me not to be anxious," he said, "you are anxious
yourself. I see it, I feel it."
"Well, there's no use trying to keep things from you," I replied,
"but I am only a little anxious. Don't you go beyond me and work
yourself up into a fever over it."
"No," he answered quietly, "but I wish his mother were nearer."
"Oh, bosh, it isn't coming to that; but I wish he were in better
shape. He is broken up badly without this hole in him."
He would not leave till I had promised to take him up the next day,
though I was doubtful enough of his reception. But next day The
Duke came down, his black bronco, Jingo, wet with hard riding.
"Better come up, Connor," he said, gravely, "and bring your
bromides along. He has had a bad night and morning and fell asleep
only before I came away. I expect he'll wake in delirium. It's
the whisky more than the bullet. Snakes, you know."
In ten minutes we three were on the trail, for Moore, though not
invited, quietly announced his intention to go with us.
"Oh, all right," said The Duke, indifferently, "he probably won't
recognize you any way."
We rode hard for half an hour till we came within sight of Bruce's
shack, which was set back into a little poplar bluff.
"Hold up!" said The Duke. "Was that a shot?" We stood listening.
A rifle-shot rang out, and we rode hard. Again The Duke halted us,
and there came from the shack the sound of singing. It was an old
"The twenty-third Psalm," said Moore, in a low voice.
We rode into the bluff, tied up our horses and crept to the back of
the shack. Looking through a crack between the logs, I saw a
gruesome thing. Bruce was sitting up in bed with a Winchester
rifle across his knees and a belt of cartridges hanging over the
post. His bandages were torn off, the blood from his wound was
smeared over his bare arms and his pale, ghastly face; his eyes
were wild with mad terror, and he was shouting at the top of his
voice the words:
"The Lord's my shepherd, I'll not want,
He makes me down to lie
In pastures green, He leadeth me
The quiet waters by."
Now and then he would stop to say in an awesome whisper, "Come out
here, you little devils!" and bang would go his rifle at the
stovepipe, which was riddled with holes. Then once more in a loud
voice he would hurry to begin the Psalm,
"The Lord's my Shepherd."
Nothing that my memory brings to me makes me chill like that
picture--the low log shack, now in cheerless disorder; the ghastly
object upon the bed in the corner, with blood-smeared face and arms
and mad terror in the eyes; the awful cursings and more awful
psalm-singing, punctuated by the quick report of the deadly rifle.
For some moments we stood gazing at one another; then The Duke
said, in a low, fierce tone, more to himself than to us:
"This is the last. There'll be no more of this cursed folly among
And I thought it a wise thing in The Pilot that he answered not a
THE PILOT'S GRIP
The situation was one of extreme danger--a madman with a Winchester
rifle. Something must be done and quickly. But what? It would be
death to anyone appearing at the door.
"I'll speak; you keep your eyes on him," said The Duke.
"Hello, Bruce! What's the row?" shouted The Duke.
Instantly the singing stopped. A look of cunning delight came over
his face as, without a word, he got his rifle ready pointed at the
"Come in!" he yelled, after waiting for some moments. "Come in!
You're the biggest of all the devils. Come on, I'll send you down
where you belong. Come, what's keeping you?"
Over the rifle-barrel his eyes gleamed with frenzied delight. We
consulted as to a plan.
"I don't relish a bullet much," I said.
"There are pleasanter things," responded The Duke, "and he is a
fairly good shot."
Meantime the singing had started again, and, looking through the
chink, I saw that Bruce had got his eye on the stovepipe again.
While I was looking The Pilot slipped away from us toward the door.
"Come back!" said the Duke, "don't be a fool! Come back, he'll
shoot you dead!"
Moore paid no heed to him, but stood waiting at the door. In a few
moments Bruce blazed away again at the stovepipe. Immediately the
Pilot burst in, calling out eagerly:
"Did you get him?"
"No!" said Bruce, disappointedly, "he dodged like the devil, as of
course he ought, you know."
"I'll get him," said Moore. "Smoke him out," proceeding to open
the stove door.
"Stop!" screamed Bruce, "don't open that door! It's full, I tell
you." Moore paused. "Besides," went on Bruce, "smoke won't touch
"Oh, that's all right," said Moore, coolly and with admirable
quickness, "wood smoke, you know--they can't stand that."
This was apparently a new idea in demonology for Bruce, for he sank
back, while Moore lighted the fire and put on the tea-kettle. He
looked round for the tea-caddy.
"Up there," said Bruce, forgetting for the moment his devils, and
pointing to a quaint, old-fashioned tea-caddy upon the shelf.
Moore took it down, turned it in his hands and looked at Bruce.
"Old country, eh?"
"My mother's," said Bruce, soberly.
"I could have sworn it was my aunt's in Balleymena," said Moore.
"My aunt lived in a little stone cottage with roses all over the
front of it." And on he went into an enthusiastic description of
his early home. His voice was full of music, soft and soothing,
and poor Bruce sank back and listened, the glitter fading from his
The Duke and I looked at each other.
"Not too bad, eh?" said The Duke, after a few moments' silence.
"Let's put up the horses," I suggested. "They won't want us for
half an hour."
When we came in, the room had been set in order, the tea-kettle was
singing, the bedclothes straightened out, and Moore had just
finished washing the blood stains from Bruce's arms and neck.
"Just in time," he said. "I didn't like to tackle these," pointing
to the bandages.
All night long Moore soothed and tended the sick man, now singing
softly to him, and again beguiling him with tales that meant
nothing, but that had a strange power to quiet the nervous
restlessness, due partly to the pain of the wounded arm and partly
to the nerve-wrecking from his months of dissipation. The Duke
seemed uncomfortable enough. He spoke to Bruce once or twice, but
the only answer was a groan or curse with an increase of
"He'll have a close squeak," said The Duke. The carelessness of
the tone was a little overdone, but The Pilot was stirred up by it.
"He has not been fortunate in his friends," he said, looking
straight into his eyes.
"A man ought to know himself when the pace is too swift," said The
Duke, a little more quickly than was his wont.
"You might have done anything with him. Why didn't you help him?"
Moore's tones were stern and very steady, and he never moved his
eyes from the other man's face, but the only reply he got was a
shrug of the shoulders.
When the gray of the morning was coming in at the window The Duke
rose up, gave himself, a little shake, and said:
"I am not of any service here. I shall come back in the evening."
He went and stood for a few moments looking down upon the hot,
fevered face; then, turning to me, he asked:
"What do you think?"
"Can't say! The bromide is holding him down just now. His blood
is bad for that wound."
"Can I get anything?" I knew him well enough to recognize the
anxiety under his indifferent manner.
"The Fort doctor ought to be got."
He nodded and went out.
"Have breakfast?" called out Moore from the door.
"I shall get some at the Fort, thanks. They won't take any hurt
from me there," he said, smiling his cynical smile.
Moore opened his eyes in surprise.
"What's that for?" he asked me.
"Well, he is rather cut up, and you rather rubbed it into him, you
know," I said, for I thought Moore a little hard.
"Did I say anything untrue?"
"Well, not untrue, perhaps; but truth is like medicine--not always
good to take." At which Moore was silent till his patient needed
It was a weary day. The intense pain from the wound, and the high
fever from the poison in his blood kept the poor fellow in delirium
till evening, when The Duke rode up with the Fort doctor. Jingo
appeared as nearly played out as a horse of his spirit ever allowed
himself to become.
"Seventy miles," said The Duke, swinging himself off the saddle.
"The doctor was ten miles out. How is he?"
I shook my head, and he led away his horse to give him a rub and a
Meantime the doctor, who was of the army and had seen service, was
examining his patient. He grew more and more puzzled as he noted
the various symptoms. Finally he broke out:
"What have you been doing to him? Why is he in this condition?
This fleabite doesn't account for all," pointing to the wound.
We stood like children reproved. Then The Duke said, hesitatingly:
"I fear, doctor, the life has been a little too hard for him. He
had a severe nervous attack--seeing things, you know."
"Yes, I know," stormed the old doctor. "I know you well enough,
with your head of cast-iron and no nerves to speak of. I know the
crowd and how you lead them. Infernal fools! You'll get your turn
some day. I've warned you before."
The Duke was standing up before the doctor during this storm,
smiling slightly. All at once the smile faded out and he pointed
to the bed. Bruce was sitting up quiet and steady. He stretched
out his hand to The Duke.
"Don't mind the old fool," he said, holding The Duke's hand and
looking up at him as fondly as if he were a girl. "It's my own
funeral--funeral?" he paused--"Perhaps it may be--who knows?--feel
queer enough--but remember, Duke--it's my own fault--don't listen
to those bally fools," looking towards Moore and the doctor. "My
own fault"--his voice died down--"my own fault."
The Duke bent over him and laid him back on the pillow, saying,
"Thanks, old chap, you're good stuff. I'll not forget. Just keep
quiet and you'll be all right." He passed his cool, firm hand over
the hot brow of the man looking up at him with love in his eyes,
and in a few moments Bruce fell asleep. Then The Duke lifted
himself up, and facing the doctor, said in his coolest tone:
"Your words are more true than opportune, doctor. Your patient
will need all your attention. As for my morals, Mr. Moore kindly
entrusts himself with the care of them." This with a bow toward
"I wish him joy of his charge," snorted the doctor, turning again
to the bed, where Bruce had already passed into delirium.
The memory of that vigil was like a horrible nightmare for months.
Moore lay on the floor and slept. The Duke rode off somewhither.
The old doctor and I kept watch. All night poor Bruce raved in the
wildest delirium, singing, now psalms, now songs, swearing at the
cattle or his poker partners, and now and then, in quieter moments,
he was back in his old home, a boy, with a boy's friends and
sports. Nothing could check the fever. It baffled the doctor, who
often, during the night, declared that there was "no sense in a
wound like that working up such a fever," adding curses upon the
folly of The Duke and his Company.
"You don't think he will not get better, doctor?" I asked, in
answer to one of his outbreaks.
"He ought to get over this," he answered, impatiently, "but I
believe," he added, deliberately, "he'll have to go."
Everything stood still for a moment. It seemed impossible. Two
days ago full of life, now on the way out. There crowded in upon
me thoughts of his home; his mother, whose letters he used to show
me full of anxious love; his wild life here, with all its generous
impulses, its mistakes, its folly.
"How long will he last?" I asked, and my lips were dry and numb.
"Perhaps twenty-four hours, perhaps longer. He can't throw off the
The old doctor proved a true prophet. After another day of
agonized delirium he sank into a stupor which lasted through the
Then the change came. As the light began to grow at the eastern
rim of the prairie and up the far mountains in the west, Bruce
opened his eyes and looked about upon us. The doctor had gone; The
Duke had not come back; Moore and I were alone. He gazed at us
steadily for some moments; read our faces; a look of wonder came
into his eyes.
"Is it coming?" he asked in a faint, awed voice. "Do you really
think I must go?"
The eager appeal in his voice and the wistful longing in the wide-
open, startled eyes were too much for Moore. He backed behind me
and I could hear him weeping like a baby. Bruce heard him, too.
"Is that The Pilot?" he asked. Instantly Moore pulled himself up,
wiped his eyes and came round to the other side of the bed and
looked down, smiling.
"Do YOU say I am dying?" The voice was strained in its earnestness.
I felt a thrill of admiration go through me as the Pilot answered in
a sweet, clear voice: "They say so, Bruce. But you are not afraid?"
Bruce kept his eyes on his face and answered with grave hesitation:
"No--not--afraid--but I'd like to live a little longer. I've made
such a mess of it, I'd like to try again." Then he paused, and his
lips quivered a little. "There's my mother, you know," he added,
apologetically, "and Jim." Jim was his younger brother and sworn
"Yes, I know, Bruce, but it won't be very long for them, too, and
it's a good place."
"Yes, I believe it all--always did--talked rot--you'll forgive me
"Don't; don't," said Moore quickly, with sharp pain in his voice,
and Bruce smiled a little and closed his eyes, saying: "I'm tired."
But he immediately opened them again and looked up.
"What is it?" asked Moore, smiling down into his eyes.
"The Duke," the poor lips whispered.
"He is coming," said Moore, confidently, though how he knew I could
not tell. But even as he spoke, looking out of the window, I saw
Jingo come swinging round the bluff. Bruce heard the beat of his
hoofs, smiled, opened his eyes and waited. The leap of joy in his
eyes as The Duke came in, clean, cool and fresh as the morning,
went to my heart.
Neither man said a word, but Bruce took hold of The Duke's hand in
both of his. He was fast growing weaker. I gave him brandy, and
he recovered a little strength.
"I am dying, Duke," he said, quietly. "Promise you won't blame
"I can't, old man," said The Duke, with a shudder. "Would to
heaven I could."
"You were too strong for me, and you didn't think, did you?" and
the weak voice had a caress in it.
"No, no! God knows," said The Duke, hurriedly.
There was a long silence, and again Bruce opened his eyes and
Moore came to him.
"Read 'The Prodigal,'" he said faintly, and in Moore's clear, sweet
voice the music of that matchless story fell upon our ears.
Again Bruce's eyes summoned me. I bent over him.
"My letter," he said, faintly, "in my coat--"
I brought to him the last letter from his mother. He held the
envelope before his eyes, then handed it to me, whispering:
I opened the letter and looked at the words, "My darling Davie."
My tongue stuck and not a sound could I make. Moore put out his
hand and took it from me. The Duke rose to go out, calling me with
his eyes, but Bruce motioned him to stay, and he sat down and bowed
his head, while Moore read the letter.
His tones were clear and steady till he came to the last words,
when his voice broke and ended in a sob:
"And oh, Davie, laddie, if ever your heart turns home again,
remember the door is aye open, and it's joy you'll bring with you
to us all."
Bruce lay quite still, and, from his closed eyes, big tears ran
down his cheeks. It was his last farewell to her whose love had
been to him the anchor to all things pure here and to heaven
He took the letter from Moore's hand, put it with difficulty to his
lips, and then, touching the open Bible, he said, between his
"It's--very like--there's really--no fear, is there?"
"No, no!" said Moore, with cheerful, confident voice, though his,
tears were flowing. "No fear of your welcome."
His eyes met mine. I bent over him. "Tell her--" and his voice
"What shall I tell her?" I asked, trying to recall him. But the
message was never given. He moved one hand slowly toward The Duke
till it touched his head. The Duke lifted his face and looked down
at him, and then he did a beautiful thing for which I forgave him
much. He stooped over and kissed the lips grown so white, and then
the brow. The light came back into the eyes of the dying man, he
smiled once more, and smilingly faced toward the Great Beyond. And
the morning air, fresh from the sun-tipped mountains and sweet with
the scent of the June roses, came blowing soft and cool through the
open window upon the dead, smiling face. And it seemed fitting so.
It came from the land of the Morning.
Again The Duke did a beautiful thing; for, reaching across his dead
friend, he offered his hand to The Pilot. "Mr. Moore," he said,
with fine courtesy, "you are a brave man and a good man; I ask your
forgiveness for much rudeness."
But Moore only shook his head while he took the outstretched hand,
and said, brokenly:
"Don't! I can't stand it."
"The Company of the Noble Seven will meet no more," said The Duke,
with a faint smile.
They did meet, however; but when they did, The Pilot was in the
chair, and it was not for poker.
The Pilot had "got his grip," as Bill said.
It was not many days after my arrival in the Foothill country that
I began to hear of Gwen. They all had stories of her. The details
were not many, but the impression was vivid. She lived remote from
that centre of civilization known as Swan Creek in the postal
guide, but locally as Old Latour's, far up among the hills near the
Devil's Lake, and from her father's ranch she never ventured. But
some of the men had had glimpses of her and had come to definite
opinions regarding her.
"What is she like?" I asked Bill one day, trying to pin him down to
something like a descriptive account of her.
"Like! She's a terrer," he said, with slow emphasis, "a holy
"But what is she like? What does she look like?" I asked
"Look like?" He considered a moment, looked slowly round as if
searching for a simile, then answered: "I dunno."
"Don't know? What do you mean? Haven't you seen her?"
"Yeh! But she ain't like nothin'."
Bill was quite decided upon this point.
I tried again.
"Well, what sort of hair has she got? She's got hair, I suppose?"
"Hayer! Well, a few!" said Bill, with some choice combinations of
profanity in repudiation of my suggestion. "Yards of it! Red!"
"Git out!" contradicted Hi. "Red! Tain't no more red than mine!"
Bill regarded Hi's hair critically.
"What color do you put onto your old brush?" he asked cautiously.
"'Tain't no difference. 'Tain't red, anyhow."
"Red! Well, not quite exactly," and Bill went off into a low,
long, choking chuckle, ejaculating now and then, "Red! Jee-mi-ny
"No, Hi," he went on, recovering himself with the same abruptness
as he used with his bronco, and looking at his friend with a face
even more than usually solemn, "your hayer ain't red, Hi; don't let
any of your relatives persuade you to that. 'Tain't red!" and he
threatened to go off again, but pulled himself up with dangerous
suddenness. "It may be blue, cerulyum blue or even purple, but
red--!" He paused violently, looking at his friend as if he found
him a new and interesting object of study upon which he could not
trust himself to speak. Nor could he be induced to proceed with
the description he had begun.
But Hi, paying no attention to Bill's oration, took up the subject
"She kin ride--she's a reg'lar buster to ride, ain't she, Bill?"
Bill nodded. "She kin bunch cattle an' cut out an' yank a steer up
to any cowboy on the range."
"Why, how big is she?"
"Big? Why, she's just a kid! 'Tain't the bigness of her, it's the
nerve. She's got the coldest kind of nerve you ever seen. Hain't
she, Bill?" And again Bill nodded.
"'Member the day she dropped that steer, Bill?" went on Hi.
"What was that?" I asked, eager for a yarn.
"Oh, nuthin'," said Bill.
"Nuthin'!" retorted Hi. "Pretty big nuthin'!"
"What was it?" I urged.
"Oh, Bill here did some funny work at old Meredith's round-up, but
he don't speak of it. He's shy, you see," and Hi grinned.
"Well, there ain't no occasion for your proceedin' onto that tact,"
said Bill disgustedly, and Hi loyally refrained, so I have never
yet got the rights of the story. But from what I did hear I
gathered that Bill, at the risk of his life, had pulled The Duke
from under the hoofs of a mad steer, and that little Gwen had, in
the coolest possible manner, "sailed in on her bronco" and, by
putting two bullets into the steer's head, had saved them both from
great danger, perhaps from death, for the rest of the cattle were
crowding near. Of course Bill could never be persuaded to speak of
the incident. A true western man will never hesitate to tell you
what he can do, but of what he has done he does not readily speak.
The only other item that Hi contributed to the sketch of Gwen was
that her temper could blaze if the occasion demanded.
"'Member young Hill, Bill?"
"Didn't she cut into him sudden? Sarved him right, too."
"What did she do?"
"Cut him across the face with her quirt in good style."
"Knockin' about her Indian Joe."
Joe was, as I came to learn, Ponka's son and Gwen's most devoted
"Oh, she ain't no refrigerator."
"Yes," assented Bill. "She's a leetle swift." Then, as if fearing
he had been apologizing for her, he added, with the air of one
settling the question: "But she's good stock! She suits me!"
The Duke helped me to another side of her character.
"She is a remarkable child," he said, one day. "Wild and shy as a
coyote, but fearless, quite; and with a heart full of passions.
Meredith, the Old Timer, you know, has kept her up there among the
hills. She sees no one but himself and Ponka's Blackfeet
relations, who treat her like a goddess and help to spoil her
utterly. She knows their lingo and their ways--goes off with them
for a week at a time."
"What! With the Blackfeet?"
"Ponka and Joe, of course, go along; but even without them she is
as safe as if surrounded by the Coldstream Guards, but she has
given them up for some time now."
"And at home?" I asked. "Has she any education? Can she read or