I.   The Coming of a Native Son
II.  "When Greek Meets Greek"
III.  Bad News
IV.   Some Hopes
V.    Sheep
VI.   What Happened to  Andy
VII.  Truth Crushed to Earth, etc.
VIII. The Dot Outfit
IX.   More Sheep
X.    The Happy Family Herd Sheep
XI.   Weary Unburdens
XII.  Two of a Kind
XIII. The Happy Family Learn Something
XIV.  Happy Jack
XV.   Oleson
XVI.  The End of the Dots
XVII. Good News


CHAPTER I. The Coming of a Native Son

The Happy Family, waiting for the Sunday supper call, were
grouped around the open door of the bunk-house, gossiping idly of
things purely local, when the Old Man returned from the Stock
Association at Helena; beside him on the buggy seat sat a
stranger. The Old Man pulled up at the bunk-house, the stranger
sprang out over the wheel with the agility which bespoke youthful
muscles, and the Old Man introduced him with a quirk of the lips:

"This is Mr. Mig-u-ell Rapponi, boys--a peeler straight from the
Golden Gate. Throw out your war-bag and make yourself to home,
Mig-u-ell; some of the boys'll show you where to bed down."

The Old Man drove on to the house with his own luggage, and Happy
Jack followed to take charge of the team; but the remainder of
the Happy Family unobtrusively took the measure of the foreign
element. From his black-and-white horsehair hatband, with tassels
that swept to the very edge of his gray hatbrim, to the crimson
silk neckerchief draped over the pale blue bosom of his shirt;
from the beautifully stamped leather cuffs, down to the
exaggerated height of his tan boot-heels, their critical eyes
swept in swift, appraising glances; and unanimous disapproval was
the result. The Happy Family had themselves an eye to picturesque
garb upon occasion, but this passed even Pink's love of display.

"He's some gaudy to look at," Irish murmured under his breath to
Cal Emmett.

"All he lacks is a spot-light and a brass band," Cal returned, in
much the same tone with which a woman remarks upon a last
season's hat on the head of a rival.

Miguel was not embarrassed by the inspection. He was tall,
straight, and swarthily handsome, and he stood with the
complacence of a stage favorite waiting for the applause to cease
so that he might speak his first lines; and, while he waited, he
sifted tobacco into a cigarette paper daintily, with his little
finger extended. There was a ring upon that finger; a ring with a
moonstone setting as large and round as the eye of a startled
cat, and the Happy Family caught the pale gleam of it and drew a
long breath. He lighted a match nonchalantly, by the artfully
simple method of pinching the head of it with his fingernails,
leaned negligently against the wall of the bunk-house, and
regarded the group incuriously while he smoked.

"Any pretty girls up this way?" he inquired languidly, after a
moment, fanning a thin smoke-cloud from before his face while he

The Happy Family went prickly hot. The girls in that neighborhood
were held in esteem, and there was that in his tone which gave

"Sure, there's pretty girls here!" Big Medicine bellowed
unexpectedly, close beside him. "We're all of us engaged to `em,
by cripes!"

Miguel shot an oblique glance at Big Medicine, examined the end
of his cigarette, and gave a lift of shoulder, which might mean
anything or nothing, and so was irritating to a degree. He did
not pursue the subject further, and so several belated retorts
were left tickling futilely the tongues of the Happy Family--
which does not make for amiability.

To a man they liked him little, in spite of their easy
friendliness with mankind in general. At supper they talked with
him perfunctorily, and covertly sneered because he sprinkled his
food liberally with cayenne and his speech with Spanish words
pronounced with soft, slurred vowels that made them sound
unfamiliar, and against which his English contrasted sharply with
its crisp, American enunciation. He met their infrequent glances
with the cool stare of absolute indifference to their opinion of
him, and their perfunctory civility with introspective calm.

The next morning, when there was riding to be done, and Miguel
appeared at the last moment in his working clothes, even Weary,
the sunny-hearted, had an unmistakable curl of his lip after the
first glance.

Miguel wore the hatband, the crimson kerchief tied loosely with
the point draped over his chest, the stamped leather cuffs and
the tan boots with the highest heels ever built by the cobbler
craft. Also, the lower half of him was incased in chaps the like
of which had never before been brought into Flying U coulee.
Black Angora chaps they were; long-haired, crinkly to the very
hide, with three white, diamond-shaped patches running down each
leg of them, and with the leather waistband stamped elaborately
to match the cuffs. The bands of his spurs were two inches wide
and inlaid to the edge with beaten silver, and each concho was
engraved to represent a large, wild rose, with a golden center. A
dollar laid upon the rowels would have left a fringe of prongs
all around.

He bent over his sacked riding outfit, and undid it, revealing a
wonderful saddle of stamped leather inlaid on skirt and cantle
with more beaten silver. He straightened the skirts, carefully
ignoring the glances thrown in his direction, and swore softly to
himself when he discovered where the leather had been scratched
through the canvas wrappings and the end of the silver scroll
ripped up. He drew out his bridle and shook it into shape, and
the silver mountings and the reins of braided leather with
horsehair tassels made Happy Jack's eyes greedy with desire. His
blanket was a scarlet Navajo, and his rope a rawhide lariat.

Altogether, his splendor when he was mounted so disturbed the
fine mental poise of the Happy Family that they left him jingling
richly off by himself, while they rode closely grouped and
discussed him acrimoniously.

"By gosh, a man might do worse than locate that Native Son for a
silver mine," Cal began, eyeing the interloper scornfully. "It's
plumb wicked to ride around with all that wealth and fussy stuff.
He must 'a' robbed a bank and put the money all into a riding

"By golly, he looks to me like a pair uh trays when he comes
bow-leggin' along with them white diamonds on his legs," Slim
stated solemnly.

"And I'll gamble that's a spot higher than he stacks up in the
cow game," Pink observed with the pessimism which matrimony had
given him. "You mind him asking about bad horses, last night?
That Lizzie-boy never saw a bad horse; they don't grow 'em where
he come from. What they don't know about riding they make up for
with a swell rig--"

"And, oh, mamma! It sure is a swell rig!" Weary paid generous
tribute. "Only I will say old Banjo reminds me of an Irish cook
rigged out in silk and diamonds. That outfit on Glory, now--" He
sighed enviously.

"Well, I've gone up against a few real ones in my long and varied
career," Irish remarked reminiscently, "and I've noticed that a
hoss never has any respect or admiration for a swell rig. When he
gets real busy it ain't the silver filigree stuff that's going to
help you hold connections with your saddle, and a silver-mounted
bridle-bit ain't a darned bit better than a plain one."

"Just take a look at him!" cried Pink, with intense disgust.
"Ambling off there, so the sun can strike all that silver and
bounce back in our eyes. And that braided lariat--I'd sure love
to see the pieces if he ever tries to anchor anything bigger than
a yearling!"

"Why, you don't think for a minute he could ever get out and rope
anything, do yuh ?" Irish laughed. "That there Native Son throws
on a-w-l-together too much dog to really get out and do

"Aw," fleered Happy Jack, "he ain't any Natiff Son. He's a dago!"

"He's got the earmarks uh both," Big Medicine stated
authoritatively. "I know 'em, by cripes, and I know their ways."
He jerked his thumb toward the dazzling Miguel. "I can tell yuh
the kinda cow-puncher he is; I've saw 'em workin' at it. Haw-haw-
haw! They'll start out to move ten or a dozen head uh tame old
cows from one field to another, and there'll be six or eight
fellers, rigged up like this here tray-spot, ridin' along,
important as hell, drivin' them few cows down a lane, with peach
trees on both sides, by cripes, jingling their big, silver spurs,
all wearin' fancy chaps to ride four or five miles down the road.
Honest to grandma, they call that punchin' cows! Oh, he's a
Native Son, all right. I've saw lots of 'em, only I never saw one
so far away from the Promised Land before. That there looks queer
to me. Natiff Sons--the real ones, like him--are as scarce
outside Calyforny as buffalo are right here in this coulee."

"That's the way they do it, all right," Irish agreed. "And then
they'll have a 'rodeo'--"

"Haw-haw-haw!" Big Medicine interrupted, and took up the tale,
which might have been entitled "Some Cowpunching I Have Seen."

"They have them rodeos on a Sunday, mostly, and they invite
everybody to it, like it was a picnic. And there'll be two or
three fellers to every calf, all lit up, like Mig-u-ell, over
there, in chaps and silver fixin's, fussin' around on horseback
in a corral, and every feller trying to pile his rope on the same
calf, by cripes! They stretch 'em out with two ropes--calves,
remember! Little, weenty fellers you could pack under one arm!
Yuh can't blame 'em much. They never have more'n thirty or forty
head to brand at a time, and they never git more'n a taste uh
real work. So they make the most uh what they git, and go in
heavy on fancy outfits. And this here silver-mounted fellow
thinks he's a real cowpuncher, by cripes!"

The Happy Family laughed at the idea; laughed so loud that Miguel
left his lonely splendor and swung over to them, ostensibly to
borrow a match.

"What's the joke?" he inquired languidly, his chin thrust out and
his eyes upon the match blazing at the end of his cigarette.

The Happy Family hesitated and glanced at one another. Then Cal
spoke truthfully.

"You're it," he said bluntly, with a secret desire to test the
temper of this dark-skinned son of the West.

Miguel darted one of his swift glances at Cal, blew out his match
and threw it away.

"Oh, how funny. Ha-ha." His voice was soft and absolutely
expressionless, his face blank of any emotion whatever. He merely
spoke the words as a machine might have done.

If he had been one of them, the Happy Family would have laughed
at the whimsical humor of it. As it was, they repressed the
impulse, though Weary warmed toward him slightly.

"Don't you believe anything this innocent-eyed gazabo tells you,
Mr. Rapponi," he warned amiably. "He's known to be a liar."

"That's funny, too. Ha-ha some more." Miguel permitted a thin
ribbon of smoke to slide from between his lips, and gazed off to
the crinkled line of hills.

"Sure, it is--now you mention it," Weary agreed after a
perceptible pause.

"How fortunate that I brought the humor to your attention,"
drawled Miguel, in the same expressionless tone, much as if he
were reciting a text.

"Virtue is its own penalty," paraphrased Pink, not stopping to
see whether the statement applied to the subject.

"Haw-haw-haw!" roared Big Medicine, quite as irrelevantly.

"He-he-he," supplemented the silver-trimmed one.

Big Medicine stopped laughing suddenly, reined his horse close to
the other, and stared at him challengingly, with his pale,
protruding eyes, while the Happy Family glanced meaningly at one
another. Big Medicine was quite as unsafe as he looked, at that
moment, and they wondered if the offender realized his precarious

Miguel smoked with the infinite leisure which is a fine art when
it is not born of genuine abstraction, and none could decide
whether he was aware of the unfriendly proximity of Big Medicine.
Weary was just on the point of saying something to relieve the
tension, when Miguel blew the ash gently from his cigarette and
spoke lazily.

"Parrots are so common, out on the Coast, that they use them in
cheap restaurants for stew. I've often heard them gabbling
together in the kettle."

The statement was so ambiguous that the Happy Family glanced at
him doubtfully. Big Medicine's stare became more curious than
hostile, and he permitted his horse to lag a length. It is
difficult to fight absolute passivity. Then Slim, who ever
tramped solidly over the flowers of sarcasm, blurted one of his
unexpected retorts.

"I was just wonderin', by golly, where yuh learnt to talk!"

Miguel turned his velvet eyes sleepily toward the speaker. "From
the boarders who ate those parrots, amigo," he smiled serenely.

At this, Slim--once justly accused by Irish of being a
"single-shot" when it came to repartee--turned purple and dumb.
The Happy Family, forswearing loyalty in their enjoyment of his
discomfiture, grinned and left to Miguel the barren triumph of
the last word.

He did not gain in popularity as the days passed. They tilted
noses at his beautiful riding gear, and would have died rather
than speak of it in his presence. They never gossiped with him of
horses or men or the lands he knew. They were ready to snub him
at a moment's notice--and it did not lessen their dislike of him
that he failed to yield them an opportunity. It is to be hoped
that he found his thoughts sufficient entertainment, since he was
left to them as much as is humanly possible when half a dozen men
eat and sleep and work together. It annoyed them exceedingly that
Miguel did not seem to know that they held him at a distance;
they objected to his manner of smoking cigarettes and staring off
at the skyline as if he were alone and content with his dreams.
When he did talk they listened with an air of weary tolerance.
When he did not talk they ignored his presence, and when he was
absent they criticized him mercilessly.

They let him ride unwarned into an adobe patch one day--at least,
Big Medicine, Pink, Cal Emmett and Irish did, for they were with
him--and laughed surreptitiously together while he wallowed there
and came out afoot, his horse floundering behind him, mud to the
ears, both of them.

"Pretty soft going, along there, ain't it?" Pink commiserated

"It is, kinda," Miguel responded evenly, scraping the adobe off
Banjo with a flat rock. And the subject was closed.

"Well, it's some relief to the eyes to have the shine taken off
him, anyway," Pink observed a little guiltily afterward.

"I betche he ain't goin' to forget that, though," Happy Jack
warned when he saw the caked mud on Miguel's Angora chaps and
silver spurs, and the condition of his saddle. "Yuh better watch
out and not turn your backs on him in the dark, none uh you guys.
I betche he packs a knife. Them kind always does."

"Haw-haw-haw!" bellowed Big Medicine uproariously. "I'd love to
see him git out an' try to use it, by cripes!"

"I wish Andy was here," Pink sighed. "Andy'd take the starch outa
him, all right."

"Wouldn't he be pickings for old Andy, though? Gee!" Cal looked
around at them, with his wide, baby-blue eyes, and laughed.
"Let's kinda jolly him along, boys, till Andy gets back. It sure
would be great to watch 'em. I'll bet he can jar the eternal calm
outa that Native Son. That's what grinds me worse than his
throwin' on so much dog; he's so blamed satisfied with himself!
You snub him, and he looks at yuh as if you was his hired man--
and then forgets all about yuh. He come outa that 'doby like he'd
been swimmin' a river on a bet, and had made good and was a
hee-ro right before the ladies. Kinda 'Oh, that's nothing to what
I could do if it was worth while,' way he had with him."

"It wouldn't matter so much if he wasn't all front," Pink
complained. "You'll notice that's always the way, though. The
fellow all fussed up with silver and braided leather can't get
out and do anything. I remember up on Milk river--" Pink trailed
off into absorbing reminiscence, which, however, is too lengthy
to repeat here.

"Say, Mig-u-ell's down at the stable, sweatin from every pore
trying to get his saddle clean, by golly!" Slim reported
cheerfully, just as Pink was relighting the cigarette which had
gone out during the big scene of his story. "He was cussin' in
Spanish, when I walked up to him--but he shut up when he seen me
and got that peaceful look uh hisn on his face. I wonder, by

"Oh, shut up and go awn," Irish commanded bluntly, and looked at
Pink. "Did he call it off, then? Or did you have to wade in--"

"Naw; he was like this here Native Son--all front. He could look
sudden death, all right; he had black eyes like Mig-u-ell-- but
all a fellow had to do was go after him, and he'd back up so
blamed quick--"

Slim listened that far, saw that he had interrupted a tale
evidently more interesting than anything he could say, and went
off, muttering to himself.

CHAPTER II. "When Greek Meets Greek"

The next morning, which was Sunday, the machinations of Big
Medicine took Pink down to the creek behind the bunk-house.
"What's hurtin' yuh?" he asked curiously, when he came to where
Big Medicine stood in the fringe of willows, choking between his
spasms of mirth.

"Haw-haw-haw!" roared Big Medicine; and, seizing Pink's arm in a
gorilla-like grip, he pointed down the bank.

Miguel, seated upon a convenient rock in a sunny spot, was
painstakingly combing out the tangled hair of his chaps, which he
had washed quite as carefully not long before, as the cake of
soap beside him testified.

"Combing--combing--his chaps, by cripes!" Big Medicine gasped,
and waggled his finger at the spectacle. "Haw-haw-haw! C-

Miguel glanced up at them as impersonally as if they were two
cackling hens, rather than derisive humans, then bent his head
over a stubborn knot and whistled La Paloma softly while he
coaxed out the tangle.

Pink's eyes widened as he looked, but he did not say anything. He
backed up the path and went thoughtfully to the corrals, leaving
Big Medicine to follow or not, as he chose.

"Combin'--his chaps, by cripes!" came rumbling behind him. Pink

"Say! Don't make so much noise about it," he advised guardedly.
"I've got an idea."

"Yuh want to hog-tie it, then," Big Medicine retorted, resentful
because Pink seemed not to grasp the full humor of the thing.
"Idees sure seems to be skurce in this outfit--or that there
lily-uh-the-valley couldn't set and comb no chaps in broad
daylight, by cripes; not and get off with it."

"He's an ornament to the Flying U," Pink stated dreamily. "Us
boneheads don't appreciate him, is all that ails us. What we
ought to do is--help him be as pretty as he wants to be, and--"

"Looky here, Little One." Big Medicine hurried his steps until he
was close alongside. "I wouldn't give a punched nickel for a
four-horse load uh them idees, and that's the truth." He passed
Pink and went on ahead, disgust in every line of his square-
shouldered figure. "Combin' his chaps, by cripes!" he snorted
again, and straightway told the tale profanely to his fellows,
who laughed until they were weak and watery-eyed as they

Afterward, because Pink implored them and made a mystery of it,
they invited Miguel to take a hand in a long-winded game--rather,
a series of games--of seven-up, while his chaps hung to dry upon
a willow by the creek bank--or so he believed.

The chaps, however, were up in the white-house kitchen, where
were also the reek of scorched hair and the laughing
expostulations of the Little Doctor and the boyish titter of Pink
and Irish, who were curling laboriously the chaps of Miguel with
the curling tongs of the Little Doctor and those of the Countess

"It's a shame, and I just hope Miguel thrashes you both for it,"
the Little Doctor told them more than once; but she laughed,
nevertheless, and showed Pink how to give the twist which made of
each lock a corkscrew ringlet. The Countess stopped, with her
dishcloth dangling from one red, bony hand, while she looked.
"You boys couldn't sleep nights if you didn't pester the life
outa somebody," she scolded. "Seems to me I'd friz them diamonds,
if I was goin' to be mean enough to do anything."

"You would, eh?" Pink glanced up at her and dimpled. "I'll find
you a rich husband to pay for that." He straightway proceeded to
friz the diamonds of white.

"Why don't you have a strip of ringlets down each leg, with tight
little curls between?" suggested the Little Doctor, not to be
outdone by any other woman.

"Correct you are," praised Irish.

"And, remember, you're not heating branding-irons, mister man,"
she added. "You'll burn all the hair off, if you let the tongs
get red-hot. Just so they'll sizzle; I've told you five times
already." She picked up the Kid, kissed many times the finger he
held up for sympathy--the finger with which he had touched the
tongs as Pink was putting them back into the grate of the kitchen
stove, and spoke again to ease her conscience. "I think it's
awfully mean of you to do it. Miguel ought to thrash you both."

"We're dead willing to let him try, Mrs. Chip. We know it's mean.
We're real ashamed of ourselves." Irish tested his tongs as he
had been told to do. "But we'd rather be ashamed than good, any
old time."

The Little Doctor giggled behind the Kid's tousled curls, and
reached out a slim hand once more to give Pink's tongs the expert
twist he was trying awkwardly to learn. "I'm sorry for Miguel;
he's got lovely eyes, anyway."

"Yes, ain't he?" Pink looked up briefly from his task. "How's
your leg, Irish? Mine's done."

"Seems to me I'd make a deep border of them corkscrew curls all
around the bottoms, if I was doin' it," said the Countess
peevishly, from the kitchen sink. "If I was that dago I'd murder
the hull outfit; I never did see a body so hectored in my life--
and him not ever ketchin' on. He must be plumb simple-minded."

When the curling was done to the hilarious satisfaction of Irish
and Pink, and, while Pink was dancing in them to show them off,
another entered with mail from town. And, because the mail-
bearer was Andy Green himself, back from a winter's journeyings,
Cal, Happy Jack and Slim followed close behind, talking all at
once, in their joy at beholding the man they loved well and hated
occasionally also. Andy delivered the mail into the hands of the
Little Doctor, pinched the Kid's cheek, and said how he had grown
good-looking as his mother, almost, spoke a cheerful howdy to the
Countess, and turned to shake hands with Pink. It was then that
the honest, gray eyes of him widened with amazement.

"Well, by golly!" gasped Slim, goggling at the chaps of Miguel.

"That there Natiff Son'll just about kill yuh for that," warned
Happy Jack, as mournfully as he might with laughing. "He'll knife
yuh, sure."

Andy, demanding the meaning of it all, learned all about Miguel
Rapponi--from the viewpoint of the Happy Family. At least, he
learned as much as it was politic to tell in the presence of the
Little Doctor; and afterward, while Pink was putting the chaps
back upon the willow, where Miguel had left them, he was told
that they looked to him, Andy Green, for assistance.

"Oh, gosh! You don't want to depend on me, Pink," Andy
expostulated modestly. "I can't think of anything--and, besides,
I've reformed. I don't know as it's any compliment to me, by
gracious--being told soon as I land that I'm expected to lie to a
perfect stranger."

"You come on down to the stable and take a look at his saddle and
bridle," urged Cal. "And wait till you see him smoking and
looking past you, as if you was an ornery little peak that didn't
do nothing but obstruct the scenery. I've seen mean cusses--lots
of 'em; and I've seen men that was stuck on themselves. But I

"Come outa that 'doby," Pink interrupted, "mud to his eyebrows,
just about. And he knew darned well we headed him in there
deliberate. And when I remarks it's soft going, he says: 'It is,
kinda,'--just like that." Pink managed to imitate the languid
tone of Miguel very well. "Not another word outa him. Didn't even
make him mad! He--"

"Tell him about the parrots, Slim," Cal suggested soberly. But
Slim only turned purple at the memory, and swore.

"Old Patsy sure has got it in for him," Happy Jack observed. "He
asked Patsy if he ever had enchiladas. Patsy won't speak to him
no more. He claims Mig-u-ell insulted him. He told Mig-u-ell--"

"Enchiladas are sure fine eating," said Andy. "I took to 'em like
a she-bear to honey, down in New Mexico this winter. Your Native
Son is solid there, all right."

"Aw, gwan! He ain't solid nowhere but in the head. Maybe you'll
love him to death when yuh see him--chances is you will, if
you've took to eatin' dago grub."

Andy patted Happy Jack reassuringly on the shoulder. "Don't get
excited," he soothed. "I'll put it all over the gentleman, just
to show my heart's in the right place. Just this once, though;
I've reformed. And I've got to have time to size him up. Where do
you keep him when he ain't in the show window?" He swung into
step with Pink. "I'll tell you the truth," he confided
engagingly. "Any man that'll wear chaps like he's got--even
leaving out the extra finish you fellows have given 'em--had
ought to be taught a lesson he'll remember. He sure must be a
tough proposition, if the whole bunch of yuh have had to give him
up. By gracious--"

"We haven't tried," Pink defended. "It kinda looked to us as if
he was aiming to make us guy him; so we didn't. We've left him
strictly alone. To-day"--he glanced over his shoulder to where
the becurled chaps swung comically from the willow
branch--"to-day's the first time anybody's made a move. Unless,"
he added, as an afterthought, "you count yesterday in the 'doby
patch--and even then we didn't tell him to ride into it; we just
let him do it."

"And kinda herded him over towards it," Cal amended slyly.

"Can he ride?" asked Andy, going straight to the main point, in
the mind of a cowpuncher.

"W-e-ell-he hasn't been piled, so far. But then," Pink qualified
hastily, "he hasn't topped anything worse than Crow- hop. He
ain't hard to ride. Happy Jack could--"

"Aw, I'm gittin' good and sick of' hearin' that there tune,"
Happy growled indignantly. "Why don't you point out Slim as the
limit, once in a while?"

"Come on down to the stable, and let's talk it over," Andy
suggested, and led the way. "What's his style, anyway? Mouthy, or

With four willing tongues to enlighten him, it would be strange,
indeed, if one so acute as Andy Green failed at last to have a
very fair mental picture of Miguel. He gazed thoughtfully at his
boots, laughed suddenly, and slapped Irish quite painfully upon
the back.

"Come on up and introduce me, boys," he said. "We'll make this
Native Son so hungry for home--you watch me put it on the
gentleman. Only it does seem a shame to do it."

"No, it ain't. If you'd been around him for two weeks, you'd want
to kill him just to make him take notice," Irish assured him.

"What gets me," Andy mused, "is why you fellows come crying to me
for help. I should think the bunch of you ought to be able to
handle one lone Native Son."

"Aw, you're the biggest liar and faker in the bunch, is why,"
Happy Jack blurted.

"Oh, I see." Andy hummed a little tune and pushed his hands deep
into his pockets, and at the corners of his lips there flickered
a smile.

The Native Son sat with his hat tilted slightly back upon his
head and a cigarette between his lips, and was reaching lazily
for the trick which made the fourth game his, when the group
invaded the bunk-house. He looked up indifferently, swept Andy's
face and figure with a glance too impersonal to hold even a shade
of curiosity, and began rapidly shuffling his cards to count the
points he had made.

Andy stopped short, just inside the door, and stared hard at
Miguel, who gave no sign. He turned his honest, gray eyes upon
Pink and Irish accusingly--whereat they wondered greatly.

"Your deal--if you want to play," drawled Miguel, and shoved his
cards toward Big Medicine. But the boys were already uptilting
chairs to grasp the quicker the outstretched hand of the
prodigal, so that Miguel gathered up the cards, evened their
edges mechanically, and deigned another glance at this stranger
who was being welcomed so vociferously. Also he sighed a bit--
for even a languid-eyed stoic of a Native Son may feel the twinge
of loneliness. Andy shook hands all round, swore amiably at
Weary, and advanced finally upon Miguel.

"You don't know me from Adam's off ox," he began genially, "but I
know you, all right, all right. I hollered my head off with the
rest of 'em when you played merry hell in that bull-ring, last
Christmas. Also, I was part of your bodyguard when them greasers
were trying to tickle you in the ribs with their knives in that
dark alley. Shake, old-timer! You done yourself proud, and I'm
glad to know yuh!"

Miguel, for the first time in two weeks, permitted himself the
luxury of an expressive countenance. He gave Andy Green one
quick, grateful look--and a smile, the like of which made the
Happy Family quiver inwardly with instinctive sympathy.

"So you were there, too, eh?" Miguel exclaimed softly, and rose
to greet him. "And that scrap in the alley--we sure had a hell of
a time there for a few minutes, didn't we? Are you that tall
fellow who kicked that squint-eyed greaser in the stomach? Muchos
gracios, senor! They were piling on me three deep, right then,
and I always believed they'd have got me, only for a tall vaquero
I couldn't locate afterward." He smiled again that wonderful
smile, which lighted the darkness of his eyes as with a flame,
and murmured a sentence or two in Spanish.

"Did you get the spurs me and my friends sent you afterward?"
asked Andy eagerly. "We heard about the Arizona boys giving you
the saddle--and we raked high and low for them spurs. And, by
gracious, they were beauts, too--did yuh get 'em?"

"I wear them every day I ride," answered Miguel, a peculiar,
caressing note in his voice.

"I didn't know--we heard you had disappeared off the earth.

Miguel laughed outright. "To fight a bull with bare hands is one
thing, amigo," he said. "To take a chance on getting a knife
stuck in your back is another. Those Mexicans--they don't love
the man who crosses the river and makes of their bull-fights a

"That's right; only I thought, you being a--"

"Not a Mexican." Miguel's voice sharpened a trifle. "My father
was Spanish, yes. My mother"--his eyes flashed briefly at the
faces of the gaping Happy Family--"my mother was born in

"And that sure makes a hard combination to beat," cried Andy
heartily. He looked at the others--at all, that is, save Pink and
Irish, who had disappeared. "Well, boys, I never thought I'd come
home and find--"

"Miguel Rapponi," supplied the Native Son quickly. "As well
forget that other name. And," he added with the shrug which the
Happy Family had come to hate, "as well forget the story, also. I
am not hungry for the feel of a knife in my back." He smiled
again engagingly at Andy Green. It was astonishing how readily
that smile had sprung to life with the warmth of a little
friendship, and how pleasant it was, withal.

"Just as you say," Andy agreed, not trying to hide his
admiration. "I guess nobody's got a better right to holler for
silence. But--say, you sure delivered the goods, old boy! You
musta read about it, you fellows; about the American puncher that
went over the line and rode one of their crack bulls all round
the ring, and then--" He stopped and looked apologetically at
Miguel, in whose dark eyes there flashed a warning light. "I
clean forgot," he confessed impulsively. "This meeting you here
unexpectedly, like this, has kinda got me rattled, I guess.
But--I never saw yuh before in my life," he declared
emphatically. "I don't know a darn thing about--anything that
ever happened in an alley in the city of--oh, come on, old-timer;
let's talk about the weather, or something safe!"

After that the boys of the Flying U behaved very much as do
children who have quarreled foolishly and are trying shamefacedly
to re-establish friendly relations without the preliminary
indignity of open repentance. They avoided meeting the
velvet-eyed glances of Miguel, and at the same time they were
plainly anxious to include him in their talk as if that had been
their habit from the first. A difficult situation to meet, even
with the fine aplomb of the Happy Family to ease the awkwardness.

Later Miguel went unobtrusively down to the creek after his
chaps; he did not get them, just then, but he stood for a long
time hidden behind the willow-fringe, watching Pink and Irish
feverishly combing out certain corkscrew ringlets, and dampening
their combs in the creek to facilitate the process of
straightening certain patches of rebellious frizzes. Miguel did
not laugh aloud, as Big Medicine had done. He stood until he
wearied of the sight, then lifted his shoulders in the gesture
which may mean anything, smiled and went his way.

Not until dusk did Andy get a private word with him. When he did
find him alone, he pumped Miguel's hand up and down and afterward
clutched at the manger for support, and came near strangling.
Miguel leaned beside him and smiled to himself.

"Good team work, old boy," Andy gasped at length, in a whisper.
"Best I ever saw in m'life, impromptu on the spot, like that. I
saw you had the makings in you, soon as I caught your eye. And
the whole, blame bunch fell for it--woo-oof!" He laid his face
down again upon his folded arms and shook in all the long length
of him.

"They had it coming," said Miguel softly, with a peculiar relish.
"Two whole weeks, and never a friendly word from one of them--oh,

"I know--I heard it all, soon as I hit the ranch," Andy replied
weakly, standing up and wiping his eyes. "I just thought I'd
learn 'em a lesson--and the way you played up--say, my hat's off
to you, all right!"

"One learns to seize opportunities without stuttering," Miguel
observed calmly--and a queer look came into his eyes as they
rested upon the face of Andy. "And, if the chance comes, I'll do
as much for you. By the way, did you see the saddle those Arizona
boys sent me? It's over here. It's a pip-pin--almost as fine as
the spurs, which I keep in the bunk-house when they're not on my
heels. And, if I didn't say so before, I'm sure glad to meet the
man that helped me through that alley. That big, fat devil would
have landed me, sure, if you hadn't--"

"Ah--what?" Andy leaned and peered into the face of Miguel, his
jaw hanging slack. "You don't mean to tell me--it's true?"

"True? Why, I thought you were the fellow--" Miguel faced him
steadily. His eyes were frankly puzzled.

"I'll tell you the truth, so help me," Andy said heavily. "I
don't know a darned thing about it, only what I read in the
papers. I spent the whole winter in Colorado and Wyoming. I was
just joshing the boys."

"Oh," said Miguel.

They stood there in the dusk and silence for a space, after which
Andy went forth into the night to meditate upon this thing.
Miguel stood and looked after him.

"He's the real goods when it comes to lying--but there are
others," he said aloud, and smiled a peculiar smile. But for all
that he felt that he was going to like Andy very much indeed.
And, since the Happy Family had shown a disposition to make him
one of themselves, he knew that he was going to become quite as
foolishly attached to the Flying U as was even Slim, confessedly
the most rabid of partisans.

In this wise did Miguel Rapponi, then, become a member of Jim
Whitmore's Happy Family, and play his part in the events which
followed his adoption.


Andy Green, that honest-eyed young man whom everyone loved, but
whom not a man believed save when he was indulging his love for
more or less fantastic flights of the imagination, pulled up on
the brow of Flying U coulee and stared somberly at the picture
spread below him. On the porch of the White House the hammock
swung gently under the weight of the Little Doctor, who pushed
her shipper-toe mechanically against a post support at regular
intervals while she read.

On the steps the Kid was crawling laboriously upward, only to
descend again quite as laboriously when he attained the top. One
of the boys was just emerging from the blacksmith shop; from the
build of him Andy knew it must be either Weary or Irish, though
it would take a much closer observation, and some familiarity
with the two to identify the man more exactly. In the corral were
a swirl of horses and an overhanging cloud of dust, with two or
three figures discernible in the midst, and away in the little
pasture two other figures were galloping after a fleeing dozen of
horses. While he looked, old Patsy came out of the messhouse, and
went, with flapping flour-sack apron, to the woodpile.

Peaceful it was, and home-like and contentedly prosperous; a
little world tucked away in its hills, with its own little
triumphs and defeats, its own heartaches and rejoicings; a lucky
little world, because its triumphs had been satisfying, its
defeats small, its heartaches brief, and its rejoicings untainted
with harassment or guilt. Yet Andy stared down upon it with a
frown; and, when he twitched the reins and began the descent, he
sighed impatiently.

Past the stable he rode with scarcely a glance toward Weary, who
shouted a casual "Hello" at him from the corral; through the big
gate and up the trail to the White House, and straight to the
porch, where the Little Doctor flipped a leaf of her magazine and
glanced at him with a smile, and the Kid turned his plump body
upon the middle step and wrinkled his nose in a smile of
recognition, while he threw out an arm in welcome, and made a
wobbling effort to get upon his feet.

Andy smiled at the Kid, but his smile did not reach his eyes, and
faded almost immediately. He glanced at the Little Doctor, sent
his horse past the steps and the Kid, and close to the railing,
so that he could lean and toss the mail into the Little Doctor's
lap. There was a yellow envelope among the letters, and her
fingers singled it out curiously. Andy folded his hands upon the
saddle-horn and watched her frankly.

"Must be from J. G.," guessed the Little Doctor, inserting a slim
finger under the badly sealed flap. "I've been wondering if he
wasn't going to send some word--he's been gone a week--Baby! He's
right between your horse's legs, Andy! Oh-h--baby boy, what won't
you do next?" She scattered letters and papers from her lap and
flew to the rescue. "Will he kick, Andy? You little ruffian." She
held out her arms coaxingly from the top of the steps, and her
face, Andy saw when he looked at her, had lost some of its color.

"The horse is quiet enough," he reassured her. "But at the same
time I wouldn't hand him out as a plaything for a kid." He leaned
cautiously and peered backward.

"Oh--did you ever see such a child! Come to mother, Baby!" Her
voice was becoming strained.

The Kid, wrinkling his nose, and jabbering unintelligibly at her,
so that four tiny teeth showed in his pink mouth, moved farther
backward, and sat down violently under the horse's sweat-
roughened belly. He wriggled round so that he faced forward,
reached out gleefully, caught the front fetlocks, and cried
"Dup!" while he pulled. The Little Doctor turned white.

"He's all right," soothed Andy, and, leaning with a twist of his
slim body, caught the Kid firmly by the back of his pink dress,
and lifted him clear of danger. He came up with a red face,
tossed the Kid into the eager arms of the Little Doctor, and
soothed his horse with soft words and a series of little slaps
upon the neck. He was breathing unevenly, because the Kid had
really been in rather a ticklish position; but the Little Doctor
had her face hidden on the baby's neck and did not see.

"Where's Chip?" Andy turned to ride back to the stable, glancing
toward the telegram lying on the floor of the porch; and from it
his eyes went to the young woman trying to laugh away her
trembling while she scolded adoringly her adventurous man-child.
He was about to speak again, but thought better of it, and

"Down at the stables somewhere--I don't know, really; the boys
can tell you. Mother's baby mustn't touch the naughty horses.
Naughty horses hurt mother's baby! Make him cry!"

Andy gave her a long look, which had in it much pity, and rode
away. He knew what was in that telegram, for the agent had told
him when he hunted him up at Rusty Brown's and gave it to him;
and the horse of Andy bore mute testimony to the speed with which
he had brought it to the ranch. Not until he had reached the
coulee had he slackened his pace. He decided, after that glance,
that he would not remind her that she had not read the telegram;
instead, he thought he ought to find Chip immediately and send
him to her.

Chip was rummaging after something in the store-house, and, when
Andy saw him there, he dismounted and stood blotting out the
light from the doorway. Chip looked up, said "Hello" carelessly,
and flung an old slicker aside that he might search beneath it.
"Back early, aren't you?" he asked, for sake of saying something.

Andy's attitude was not as casual as he would have had it.

"Say, maybe you better go on up to the house," he began
diffidently. "I guess your wife wants to see yuh, maybe."

"Just as a good wife should," grinned Chip. "What's the matter?
Kid fall off the porch?"

"N-o-o--I brought out a wire from Chicago. It's from a doctor
there--some hospital. The--Old Man got hurt. One of them cussed
automobiles knocked him down. They want you to come."

Chip had straightened up and was hooking at Andy blankly. "If
you're just--"

"Honest," Andy asserted, and flushed a little. "I'll go tell some
one to catch up the team--you'll want to make that 11:20, I take
it." He added, as Chip went by him hastily, "I had the agent wire
for sleeper berths on the 11:20 so--"

"Thanks. Yes, you have the team caught up, Andy." Chip was
already well on his way to the house.

Andy waited till he saw the Little Doctor come hurriedly to the
end of the porch overlooking the pathway, with the telegram
fluttering in her fingers, and then led his horse down through
the gate and to the stable. He yanked the saddle off, turned the
tired animal into a stall, and went on to the corral, where he
leaned elbows on a warped rail and peered through at the turmoil
within. Close beside him stood Weary, with his loop dragging
behind him, waiting for a chance to throw it over the head of a
buckskin three-year-old with black mane and tail.

"Get in here and make a hand, why don't you?" Weary bantered, his
eye on the buckskin. "Good chance to make a 'rep' for yourself,
Andy. Gawd greased that buckskin--he sure can slide out from
under a rope as easy--"

He broke off to flip the hoop dexterously forward, had the reward
of seeing the buckskin dodge backward, so that the rope barely
flicked him on the nose, and drew in his rope disgustedly. "Come
on, Andy--my hands are up in the air; I can't land him-- that's
the fourth throw."

Andy's interest in the buckskin, however, was scant. His face was
sober, his whole attitude one of extreme dejection.

"You got the tummy-ache?" Pink inquired facetiously, moving
around so that he got a fair look at his face.

"Naw--his girl's went back on him!" Happy Jack put in, coiling
his rope as he came up.

"Oh, shut up!" Andy's voice was sharp with trouble. "Boys, the
Old Man's--well, he's most likely dead by this time. I brought
out a telegram--"

"Go on!" Pink's eyes widened incredulously. "Don't you try that
kind of a load, Andy Green, or I'll just about--"

"Oh, you fellows make me sick!" Andy took his elbows off the rail
and stood straight. "Dammit, the telegram's up at the house--go
and read it yourselves, then!"

The three stared after him doubtfully, fear struggling with the
caution born of much experience.

"He don't act, to me, like he was putting up a josh," Weary
stated uneasily, after a minute of silence. "Run up to the house
and find out, Cadwalloper. The Old Man--oh, good Lord!" The tan
on Weary's face took a lighter tinge. "Scoot--it won't take but a
minute to find out for sure. Go on, Pink."

"So help me Josephine, I'll kill that same Andy Green if he's
lied about it," Pink declared, while he climbed the fence.

In three minutes he was back, and before he had said a word, his
face confirmed the bad news. Their eyes besought him for details,
and he gave them jerkily. "Automobile run over him. He ain't
dead, but they think--Chip and the Little Doctor are going to
catch the night train. You go haze in the team, Happy. And give
'em a feed of oats, Chip said."

Irish and Big Medicine, seeing the, three standing soberly
together there, and sensing something unusual, came up and heard
the news in stunned silence. Andy, forgetting his pique at their
first disbelief, came forlornly back and stood with them.

The Old Man--the thing could not be true! To every man of them
his presence, conjured by the impending tragedy, was almost a
palpable thing. His stocky figure seemed almost to stand in their
midst; he looked at them with his whimsical eyes, which had the
radiating crows-feet of age, humor and habitual squinting against
sun and wind; the bald spot on his head, the wrinkling
shirt-collar that seldom knew a tie, the carpet slippers which
were his favorite footgear because they were kind to his bunions,
his husky voice, good-naturedly complaining, were poignantly real
to them at that moment. Then Irish mentally pictured him lying
maimed, dying, perhaps, in a far-off hospital among strangers,
and swore.

"If he's got to die, it oughta be here, where folks know him
and--where he knows--" Irish was not accustomed to giving voice
to his deeper feelings, and he blundered awkwardly over it.

"I never did go much on them darned hospitals, anyway," Weary
observed gloomily. "He oughta be home, where folks can look after
him. Mam-ma! It sure is a fright."

"I betche Chip and the Little Doctor won't get there in time,"
Happy Jack predicted, with his usual pessimism. "The Old Man's
gittin' old--"

"He ain't but fifty-two; yuh call that old, consarn yuh? He's
younger right now than you'll be when you're forty."

"Countess is going along, too, so she can ride herd on the Kid,"
Pink informed then. "I heard the Little Doctor tell her to pack
up, and 'never mind if she did have sponge all set!' Countess
seemed to think her bread was a darned sight more important than
the Old Man. That's the way with women. They'll pass up--"

"Well, by golly, I like to see a woman take some interest in her
own affairs," Slim defended. "What they packin' up for, and where
they goin'?" Slim had just ridden up to the group in time to
overhear Pink's criticism.

They told him the news, and Slim swallowed twice, said "By
golly!" quite huskily, and then rode slowly away with his head
bowed. He had worked for the Flying U when it was strictly a
bachelor outfit, and with the tenacity of slow minds he held J.
G. Whitmore, his beloved "Old Man," as but a degree lower than
that mysterious power which made the sun to shine--and, if the
truth were known, he had accepted him as being quite as eternal.
His loyalty adjusted everything to the interests of the Flying U.
That the Old Man could die--the possibility stunned him.

They were a sorry company that gathered that night around the
long table with its mottled oil-cloth covering and benches
polished to a glass-like smoothness with their own vigorous
bodies. They did not talk much about the Old Man; indeed, they
came no nearer the subject than to ask Weary if he were going to
drive the team in to Dry Lake. They did not talk much about
anything, for that matter; even the knives and forks seemed to
share the general depression of spirits, and failed to give forth
the cheerful clatter which was a daily accompaniment of meals in
that room.

Old Patsy, he who had cooked for J. G. Whitmore when the Flying U
coulee was a wilderness and the brand yet unrecorded and the
irons unmade--Patsy lumbered heavily about the room and could not
find his dish-cloth when it was squeezed tight in one great, fat
hand, and unthinkingly started to fill their coffee cups from the

"Py cosh, I vould keel der fool vot made her first von of der
automo-beels, yet!" he exclaimed unexpectedly, after a long
silence, and cast his pipe vindictively toward his bunk in one

The Happy Family looked around at him, then understandingly at
one another.

"Same here, Patsy," Jack Bates agreed. "What they want of the
damned things when the country's full uh good horses gits me."

"So some Yahoo with just sense enough to put goggles on to cover
up his fool face can run over folks he ain't good enough to speak
to, by cripes!" Big Medicine glared aggressively up and down the

Weary got up suddenly and went out, and Slim followed him, though
his supper was half-uneaten.

"This goin' to be hard on the Little Doctor--only brother she's
got," they heard Happy Jack point out unnecessarily; and Weary,
the equable, was guilty of slamming the door so that the whole
building shook, by way of demonstrating his dislike of speech
upon the subject.

They were a sorry company who waved hands at the Little Doctor
and the Kid and the Countess, just when the afterglow of a red
sunset was merging into the vague, purple shadows of coming dusk.
They stood silent, for the most part, and let them go without the
usual facetious advice to "Be good to yourselves," and the
hackneyed admonition to Chip to keep out of jail if he could.
There must have been something very wistful in their faces, for
the Little Doctor smiled bravely down upon then from the buggy
seat, and lifted up the Kid for a four-toothed smile and an
ecstatic "Bye!" accompanied by a vigorous flopping of hands,
which included then all.

"We'll telegraph first thing, boys," the Little Doctor called
back, as the rig chucked into the pebbly creek crossing. "We'll
keep you posted, and I'll write all the particulars as soon as I
can. Don't think the worst--unless you have to. I don't." She
smiled again, and waved her hand hastily because of the Kid's
contortions; and, though the smile had tears close behind it,
though her voice was tremulous in spite of herself, the Happy
Family took heart from her courage and waved their hats gravely,
and smiled back as best they could.

"There's a lot uh cake you boys might just as well eat up," the
Countess called belatedly. "It'll all dry out, if yuh don't--and
there ain't no use wastin' it--and there's two lemon pies in the
brown cupboard, and what under the shinin' sun--" The wheels
bumped violently against a rock, and the Happy Family heard no

CHAPTER IV. Some Hopes

On the third day after the Happy Family decided that there should
be some word from Chicago; and, since that day was Sunday, they
rode in a body to Dry Lake after it. They had not discussed the
impending tragedy very much, but they were an exceedingly Unhappy
Family, nevertheless; and, since Flying U coulee was but a place
of gloom, they were not averse to leaving it behind them for a
few hours, and riding where every stick and stone did not remind
then of the Old Man.

In Dry Lake was a message, brief but heartening:

"J. G. still alive. Some hopes".

They left the station with lighter spirits after reading that;
rode to the hotel, tied their horses to the long hitching pole
there and went in. And right there the Happy Family unwittingly
became cast for the leading parts in one of those dramas of the
West which never is heard of outside the theater in which grim
circumstance stages it for a single playing--unless, indeed, the
curtain rings down on a tragedy that brings the actors before
their district judge for trial. And, as so frequently is the
case, the beginning was casual to the point of triviality.

Sary, Ellen, Marg'reet, Sybilly and Jos'phine Denson (spelled in
accordance with parental pronunciation) were swinging idly upon
the hitching pole, with the self-conscious sang froid of country
children come to town. They backed away from the Happy Family's
approach, grinned foolishly in response to their careless
greeting, and tittered openly at the resplendence of the Native
Son, who was wearing his black Angora chaps with the three white
diamonds down each leg, the gay horsehair hatband, crimson
neckerchief and Mexican spurs with their immense rowels and
ornate conchos of hand-beaten silver. Sary, Ellen, Marg'reet,
Jos'phine and Sybilly were also resplendent, in their way. Their
carroty hair was tied with ribbons quite aggressively new, their
freckles shone with maternal scrubbing, and there was a hint of
home-made "crochet-lace" beneath each stiffly starched dress.

"Hello, kids," Weary greeted them amiably, with a secret smile
over the memory of a time when they had purloined the Little
Doctor's pills and had made reluctant acquaintance with a stomach
pump. "Where's the circus going to be at?"

"There ain't goin' to be no circus," Sybilly retorted, because
she was the forward one of the family. "We're going away; on the
train. The next one that comes along. We're going to be on it all
night, too; and we'll have to eat on it, too."

"Well, by golly, you'll want something to eat, then!" Slim was
feeling abstractedly in his pocket for a coin, for these were the
nieces of the Countess, and therefore claimed more than a cursory
interest from Slim. "You take this up to the store and see if yuh
can't swop it for something good to eat." Because Sary was the
smallest of the lot he pressed the dollar into her shrinking,
amazed palm.

"Paw's got more money'n that," Sybilly announced proudly. "Paw's
got a million dollars. A man bought our ranch and gave him a lot
of money. We're rich now. Maybe paw'll buy us a phony-graft. He
said maybe he would. And maw's goin' to have a blue silk dress
with green onto it. And--"

"Better haze along and buy that grub stake," Slim interrupted the
family gift for profuse speech. He had caught the boys grinning,
and fancied that they were tracing a likeness between the
garrulity of Sybilly and the fluency of her aunt, the Countess.
"You don't want that train to go off and leave yuh, by golly."

"Wonder who bought Denson out?" Cal Emmett asked of no one in
particular, as the children went strutting off to the store to
spend the dollar which little Sary clutched so tightly it seemed
as if the goddess of liberty must surely have been imprinted upon
her palm.

When they went inside and found Denson himself pompously "setting
'em up to the house," Cal repeated the question in a slightly
different form to the man himself.

Denson, while he was ready to impress the beholders with his
unaccustomed affluence, became noticeably embarrassed at the
inquiry, and edged off into vague generalities.

"I jest nacherlly had to sell when I got m' price," he told the
Happy Family in a tone that savored strongly of apology. "I like
the country, and I like m' neighbors fine. Never'd ask for better
than the Flyin' U has been t' me. I ain't got no kick comin'
there. Sorry to hear the Old Man's hurt back East. Mary was real
put out at not bein' able to see Louise 'fore she went away"--
Louise being the Countess' and Mary Denson's sister--"but soon as
I sold I got oneasy like. The feller wanted p'session right away,
too, so I told Mary we might as well start b'fore we git outa the
notion. I wouldn't uh cared about sellin', maybe, but the kids
needs to be in school. They're growin' up in ign'rance out here,
and Mary's folks wants us to come back 'n' settle close handy
by--they been at us t' sell out and move fer the last five years,
now, and I told Mary--"

Even Cal forgot, eventually, that he had asked a question which
remained unanswered; what interest he had felt at first was
smothered to death beneath that blanket of words, and he eagerly
followed the boys out and over to Rusty Brown's place, where
Denson, because of an old grudge against Rusty, might be trusted
not to follow.

"Mamma!" Weary commented amusedly, when they were crossing the
street, "that Denson bunch can sure talk the fastest and longest,
and say the least, of any outfit I ever saw."

"Wonder who did buy him out?" Jack Bates queried. "Old
ginger-whiskers didn't pass out any facts, yuh notice. He
couldn't have,got much; his land's mostly gravel and 'doby
patches. He's got a water right on Flying U creek, you
know--first right, at that, seems to me--and a dandy fine spring
in that coulee. Wonder why our outfit didn't buy him out--seeing
he wanted to sell so bad?"

"This wantin' to sell is something I never heard of b'fore," Slim
said slowly. "To hear him tell it, that ranch uh hisn was worth a
dollar an inch, by golly. I don't b'lieve he's been wantin' to
sell out. If he had, Mis' Bixby woulda said something about it.
She don't know about this here sellin' business, or she'd a

"Yeah, you can most generally bank on the Countess telling all
she knows," Cal assented with some sarcasm; at which Slim grunted
and turned sulky afterward.

Denson and his affairs they speedily forgot for a time, in the
diversion which Rusty Brown's familiar place afforded to young
men with unjaded nerves and a zest for the primitive pleasures.
Not until mid-afternoon did it occur to them that Flying U coulee
was deserted by all save old Patsy, and that there were chores to
be done, if all the creatures of the coulee would sleep in
comfort that night. Pink, therefore, withdrew his challenge to
the bunch, and laid his billiard cue down with a sigh and the
remark that all he lacked was time, to have the scalps of every
last one of them hanging from his belt. Pink was figurative in
his speech, you will understand; and also a bit vainglorious over
beating Andy Green and Big Medicine twice in succession.

It occurred to Weary then that a word of cheer to the Old Man and
his anxious watchers might not cone amiss. Therefore the Happy
Family mounted and rode to the depot to send it, and on the way
wrangled over the wording of the message after their usual
contentious manner.

"Better tell 'em everything is fine, at this end uh the line,"
Cal suggested, and was hooted at for a poet.

"Just say," Weary began, when he was interrupted by the
discordant clamor from a trainload of sheep that had just pulled
in and stopped. "'Maa-aa, Ma-a-aaa,' darn yuh," he shouted
derisively, at the peering, plaintive faces, glimpsed between the
close-set bars. "Mamma, how I do love sheep!" Whereupon he put
spurs to his horse and galloped down to the station to rid his
ears of the turbulent wave of protest from the cars.

Naturally it required some time to compose the telegram in a
style satisfactory to all parties. Outside, cars banged together,
an engine snorted stertorously, and suffocating puffs of coal
smoke now and then invaded the waiting-room while the Happy
Family were sending that message of cheer to Chicago. If you are
curious, the final version of their combined sentiments was not
at all spectacular. It said merely:

"Everything fine here. Take good care of the Old Man. How's the
Kid stacking up?"

It was signed simply "The Bunch."

"Mary's little lambs are here yet, I see," the Native Son
remarked carelessly when they went out. "Enough lambs for all the
Marys in the country. How would you like to be Mary?"

"Not for me," Irish declared, and turned his face away from the
stench of them.

Others there were who rode the length of the train with faces
averted and looks of disdain; cowmen, all of them, they shared
the range prejudice, and took no pains to hide it.

The wind blew strong from the east, that day; it whistled through
the open, double-decked cars packed with gray, woolly bodies,
whose voices were ever raised in strident complaint; and the
stench of them smote the unaccustomed nostrils of the Happy
Family and put them to disgusted flight up the track and across
it to where the air was clean again.

"Honest to grandma, I'd make the poorest kind of a sheepherder,"
Big Medicine bawled earnestly, when they were well away from the
noise and smell of the detested animals. "If I had to herd sheep,
by cripes, do you know what I'd do? I'd haze 'em into a coulee
and turn loose with a good rifle and plenty uh shells, and call
in the coyotes to git a square meal. That's the way I'd herd
sheep. It's the only way you can shut 'em up. They just 'baa-aa,
baa-aa, baa-aa' from the time they're dropped till somebody kills
'em off. Honest, they blat in their sleep. I've heard 'em."

"When you and the dogs were shooting off coyotes?" asked Andy
Green pointedly, and so precipitated dissension which lasted for
ten miles.


Slim rising first from dinner on the next day but one opened the
door of the mess-house, and stood there idly picking his teeth
before he went about his work. After a minute of listening to the
boys "joshing" old Patsy about some gooseberry pies he had baked
without sugar, he turned his face outward, threw up his head like
a startled bull, and began to sniff.

"Say, I smell sheep, by golly!" he announced in the bellowing
tone which was his conversational voice, and sniffed again.

"Oh, that's just a left-over in your system from the dose yuh got
in town Sunday," Weary explained soothingly. "I've smelled sheep,
and tasted sheep, and dreamed sheep, ever since."

"No, by golly, it's sheep! It ain't no memory. I--I b'hieve I
hear 'em, too, by golly." Slim stepped out away from the building
and faced suspiciously down the coulee.

"Slim, I never suspected you of imagination before," the Native
Son drawled, and loitered out to where Slim stood still sniffing.
"I wonder if you're catching it from Andy and me. Don't you think
you ought to be vaccinated?"

"That ain't imagination," Pink called out from within. "When
anybody claims there's sheep in Flying U coulee, that's straight

"Come on out here and smell 'em yourself, then!" Slim bawled
indignantly. "I never seen such an outfit as this is gittin' to
be; you fellers don't believe nobody, no more. We ain't all Andy

Upon hearing this Andy pushed back his chair and strolled
outside. He clapped his hand down upon Slim's fat-cushioned
shoulder and swayed him gently. "Never mind, Slim; you can't all
be famous," he comforted. "Some day, maybe, I'll teach yuh the
fine art of lying more convincingly than the ordinary man can
tell the truth. It is a fine art; it takes a genius to put it
across. Now, the only time anybody doubts my word is when I'm
sticking to the truth hike a sand burr to a dog's tail."

From away to the west, borne on the wind which swept steadily
down the coulee, came that faint, humming sing-song, which can be
made only by a herd of a thousand or more sheep, all blatting in
different keys--or by a distant band playing monotonously upon
the middle octave of their varied instruments.

"Slim's right, by gracious! It's sheep, sure as yuh live." Andy
did not wait for more, but started at a fast walk for the stable
and his horse. After him went the Native Son, who had not been
with the Flying U long enough to sense the magnitude of the
affront, and Slim, who knew to a nicety just what "cowmen"
considered the unpardonable sin, and the rest of the Happy
Family, who were rather incredulous still.

"Must be some fool herder just crossing the coulee, on the move
somewhere," Weary gave as a solution. "Half of 'em don't know a
fence when they see it."

As they galloped toward the sound and the smell, they expressed
freely their opinion of sheep, the men who owned them, and the
lunatics who watched over the blatting things. They were
cattlemen to the marrow in their bones, and they gloried in their
prejudice against the woolly despoilers of the range.

All these years had the Flying U been immune from the nuisance,
save for an occasional trespasser, who was quickly sent about his
business. The Flying U range had been kept in the main inviolate
from the little, gray vandals, which ate the grass clean to the
sod, and trampled with their sharp-pointed hoofs the very roots
into lifelessness; which polluted the water-holes and creeks
until cattle and horses went thirsty rather than drink; which, in
that land of scant rainfall, devastated the range where they fed
so that a long-established prairie-dog town was not more barren.
What wonder if the men who owned cattle, and those who tended
them, hated sheep? So does the farmer dread an invasion of

A mile down the coulee they came upon the band with two herders
and four dogs keeping watch. Across the coulee and up the
hillsides they spread like a noisome gray blanket. "Maa-aa, maa-
aa, maa-aa," two thousand strong they blatted a strident medley
while they hurried here and there after sweeter bunches of grass,
very much like a disturbed ant-hill.

The herders loitered upon either slope, their dogs lying close
beside them. There was good grass in that part of the coulee; the
Flying U had saved it for the saddle horses that were to be
gathered and held temporarily at the ranch; for it would save
herding, and a week in that pasture would put a keen edge on
their spirits for the hard work of the calf roundup. A dozen or
two that ranged close had already been driven into the field and
were feeding disdainfully in a corner as far away from the sheep
as the fence would permit.

The Happy Family, riding close-grouped, stiffened in their
saddles and stared amazed at the outrage.

"Sheepherders never did have any nerve," Irish observed after a
minute. "They keep their places fine! They'll drive their sheep
right into your dooryard and tell 'en to help themselves to
anything that happens to look good to them. Oh, they're sure
modest and retiring!"

Weary, who had charge of the outfit during Chip's absence, was
making straight for the nearest herder. Pink and Andy went with
him, as a matter of course.

"You fellows ride up around that side, and put the run on them
sheep," Weary shouted back to the others. "We'll start the other
side moving. Make 'em travel--back where they came from." He
jerked his head toward the north. He knew, just as they all knew,
that there had been no sheep to the south, unless one counted
those that ranged across the Missouri river.

As the three forced their horses up the steep slope, the herder,
sitting slouched upon a rock, glanced up at them dully. He had a
long stick, with which he was apathetically turning over the
smaller stones within his reach, and as apathetically killing the
black bugs that scuttled out from the moist earth beneath. He
desisted from this unexciting pastime as they drew near, and eyed
them with the sullenness that comes of long isolation when the
person's nature forbids that other extreme of babbling garrulity,
for no man can live long months alone and remain perfectly
normal. Nature, that stern mistress, always exacts a penalty from
us foolish mortals who would ignore the instincts she has wisely
implanted within us for our good.

"Maybe," Weary began mildly and without preface, "you don't know
this is private property. Get busy with your dogs, and haze these
sheep back on the bench." He waved his hand to the north. "And,
when you get a good start in that direction," he added, "yuh
better keep right on going."

The herder surveyed him morosely, but he said nothing; neither
did he rise from the rock to obey the command. The dogs sat upon
their haunches and perked their ears inquiringly, as if they
understood better than did their master that these men were not
to be quite overlooked.

"I meant to-day," Weary hinted, with the manner of one who
deliberately holds his voice quiet.

"I never asked yuh what yuh meant," the herder mumbled, scowling.
"We got to keep 'em on water another hour, yet." He went back to
turning over the small rocks and to pursuing with his stick the
bugs, as if the whole subject were squeezed dry of interest.

For a minute Weary stared unwinkingly down at him, uncertain
whether to resent this as pure insolence, or to condone it as
imbecility. "Mamma!" he breathed eloquently, and grinned at Andy
and Pink. "This is a real talkative cuss, and obliging, too. Come
on, boys; he's too busy to bother with a little thing like

He led the way around to the far side of the band, the nearest
sheep scuttling away from then as they passed. "I don't suppose
we could work the combination on those dogs--what?" he considered
aloud, glancing back at them where they still sat upon their
haunches and watched the strange riders. "Say, Cadwalloper, you
took a few lessons in sheepherding, a couple of years ago, when
you was stuck on that girl--remember? Whistle 'em up here and set
'en to work."

"You go to the devil," Pink's curved hips replied amiably to his
boss. "I've got loss-uh-memory on the sheep business."

Whereat Weary grinned and said no more about it.

On the opposite side of the coulee, the boys seemed to be
laboring quite as fruitlessly with the other herder. They heard
Big Medicine's truculent bellow, as he leaned from the saddle and
waved a fist close to the face of the herder, but, though they
rode with their eyes fixed upon the group, they failed to see any
resultant movement of dogs, sheep or man.

There is, at times, a certain safety in being the hopeless
minority. Though seven indignant cowpunchers surrounded him, that
herder was secure from any personal molestation--and he knew it.
They were seven against one; therefore, after making some caustic
remarks, which produced as little effect as had Weary's command
upon the first man, the seven were constrained to ride here and
there along the wavering, gray line, and, with shouts and
swinging ropes, themselves drive the sheep from the coulee.

There was much clamor and dust and riding to and fro. There was
language which would have made the mothers of then weep, and
there were faces grown crimson from wrath. Eventually, however,
the Happy Family faced the north fence of the Flying U boundary,
and saw the last woolly back scrape under the lower wire, leaving
a toll of greasy wool hanging from the barbs.

The herders had drawn together, and were looking on from a
distance, and the four dogs were yelping uneasily over their
enforced inaction. The Happy Family went back and rounded up the
herders, and by sheer weight of numbers forced them to the fence
without laying so much as a finger upon then. The one who had
been killing black bugs gave then an ugly look as he crawled
through, but even he did not say anything.

"Snap them wires down where they belong," Weary commanded

The man hesitated a minute, then sullenly unhooked the barbs of
the two lower strands, so that the wires, which had thus been
lifted to permit the passing of the sheep, twanged apart and once
more stretched straight from post to post.

"Now, just keep in mind the fact that fences are built for use.
This is a private ranch, and sheep are just about as welcome as
smallpox. Haze them stinking things as far north as they'll
travel before dark, and at daylight start 'em going again.
Where's your camp, anyhow?"

"None of your business," mumbled the bugkiller sourly.

Weary scanned the undulating slope beyond the fence, saw no sign
of a camp, and glanced uncertainly at his fellows. "Well, it
don't matter much where it is; you see to it you don't sleep
within five miles of here, or you're liable to have bad dreams.
Hit the trail, now!"

They waited inside the fence until the retreating sheep lost
their individuality as blatting animals, ambling erratically here
and there, while they moved toward the brow of the hill, and
merged into a great, gray blotch against the faint green of the
new grass--a blotch from which rose again that vibrant, sing-song
humming of many voices mingled. Then they rode back down the
coulee to their own work, taking it for granted that the
trespassing was an incident which would not be repeated--by those
particular sheep, at any rate.

It was, therefore, with something of a shock that the Happy
Family awoke the next morning to hear Pink's melodious treble
shouting in the bunk-house at sunrise next morning:

"'G'wa-a-y round' 'em, Shep! Seven black ones in the coulee!" Men
who know well the West are familiar with that facetious call.

"Ah, what's the matter with yuh?" Irish raised a rumpled, brown
head from his pillow, and blinked sleepily at him. "I've been
dreaming I was a sheepherder, all night."

"Well, you've got the swellest chance in the world to 'make every
dream cone true, dearie,'" Pink retorted. "The whole blamed
coulee's full uh sheep. I woke up a while ago and thought I just
imagined I heard 'en again; so I went out to take a look--or a
smell, it was--and they're sure enough there!"

Weary swung one long leg out from under his blankets and reached
for his clothes. He did not say anything, but his face portended
trouble for the invaders.

"Say!" cried Big Medicine, coming out of his bunk as if it were
afire, "I tell yuh right now then blattin' human apes wouldn't
git gay around here if I was runnin' this outfit. The way I'd
have of puttin' them sheep on the run wouldn't be slow, by
cripes! I'll guarantee--"

By then the bunk-house was buzzing with voices, and there was
none to give heed to Big Medicine s blatant boasting. Others
there were who seemed rather inclined to give Weary good advice
while they pulled on their boots and sought for their gloves and
rolled early-morning cigarettes, and otherwise prepared
themselves for what Fate might have waiting for then outside the

"Are you sure they're in the coulee, Cadwalloper?" Weary asked,
during a brief lull. "They could be up on the hill--"

"Hell, yes!" was Pink's forceful answer. "They could be on the
hill, but they ain't. Why, darn it, they're straggling into the
little pasture! I could see 'em from the stable. They--"

"Come and eat your breakfast first, boys, anyway." Weary had his
hand upon the door-knob. "A few minutes more won't make any
difference, one way or the other." He went out and over to the
mess-house to see if Patsy had the coffee ready; for this was a
good three-quarters of an hour earlier than the Flying U outfit
usually bestirred themselves on these days of preparation for
roundup and waiting for good grass.

"I'll be darned if I'd be as calm as he is," Cal Emmett muttered
while the door was being closed. "Good thing the Old Man ain't
here, now. He'd go straight up in the air. He wouldn't wait for
no breakfast."

"I betche there'll be a killin' yet, before we're through with
them sheep," gloomed Happy Jack. "When sheepherders starts in
once to be ornery, there ain't no way uh stoppin' 'em except by
killin' 'em off. And that'll mean the pen for a lot of us

"Well, by golly, it won't be me," Slim declared loudly. "Yuh
wouldn't ketch me goin' t' jail for no doggone sheepherder. They
oughta be a bounty on 'en by rights."

"Seems queer they'd be right back here this morning, after being
hazed out yesterday afternoon," said Andy Green thoughtfully.
"Looks like they're plumb anxious to build a lot of trouble for

Patsy, thumping energetically the bottom of a tin pan, sent them
trooping to the mess-house. There it was evident that the
breakfast had been unduly hurried; there were no biscuits in
sight, for one thing, though Patsy was lumbering about the stove
frying hot-cakes. They were in too great a hurry to wait for
them, however. They swallowed their coffee hurriedly, bolted a
few mouthfuls of meat and fried eggs, and let it go at that.

Weary looked at then with a faint smile. "I'm going to give a few
of you fellows a chance to herd sheep to-day," he announced,
cooling his coffee so that it would not actually scald his
palate. "That's why I wanted you to get some grub into you. Some
of you fellows will have to take the trail up on the hill, and
meet us outside the fence, so when we chase 'em through you can
make a good job of it this time. I wonder--"

"You don't need to call out the troops for that job; one man is
enough to put the fear uh the Lord into then herders," Andy
remarked slightingly. "Once they're on the move--"

"All right, my boy; we'll let you be the man," Weary told him
promptly. "I was going to have a bunch of you take a packadero
outfit down toward Boiler Bottom and comb the breaks along there
for horses--and I sure do hate to spend the whole day chasing
sheepherders around over the country. So we'll haze 'em through
the fence again, and, seeing you feel that way about it, I'll let
you go around and keep 'em going. And, if you locate their camp,
kinda impress it on the tender, if you can round him up, that the
Flying U ain't pasturing sheep this spring. No matter what kinda
talk he puts up, you put the run on 'em till you see 'em across
One-Man coulee. Better have Patsy put you up a lunch--unless
you're fond of mutton."

Andy twisted his mouth disgustedly. "Say, I'm going to quit
handing out any valuable advice to you, Weary," he expostulated.

"Haw-haw-haw-w-w!" laughed Big Medicine, and slapped Andy on the
shoulder so that his face almost came in contact with his plate.
"Yuh will try to work some innercent man into sheepherdin', will
yuh? Haw-haw-haw-w! You'll come in tonight blattin'--if yuh don't
stay out on the range tryin' t' eat grass, by cripes! Andy had a
little lamb that follered him around--"

"Better let Bud take that herdin' job, Weary," Andy suggested.
"It won't hurt him--he's blattin' already."

"If you think you're liable to need somebody along," Weary began,
soft-heartedly relenting, "why, I guess--"

"If I can't handle two crazy sheepherders without any help, by
gracious, I'll get me a job holdin' yarn in an old ladies' hone,"
Andy cut in hastily, and got up from the table. "Being a truthful
man, I can't say I'm stuck on the job; but I'm game for it. And
I'll promise you there won't be no more sheep of that brand
lickin' our doorsteps. What darned outfit is it, anyway? I never
bumped into any Dot sheep before, to my knowledge."

"It's a new one on me," Weary testified, heading the procession
down to the stable. "If they belonged anywhere in this part of
the country, though, they wouldn't be acting the way they are.
They'd be wise to the fact that it ain't healthy."

Even while he spoke his eyes were fixed with cold intensity upon
a fringe of gray across the coulee below the little pasture. To
the nostrils of the outraged Happy Family was borne that
indescribable aroma which betrays the presence of sheep; that
aroma which sheepmen love and which cattlemen hate, and which a
favorable wind will carry a long way.

They slapped saddles on their horses in record time that morning,
and raced down the coulee ironically shouting commiserating
sentences to the unfortunate Andy, who rode slowly up to the
mess-house for the lunch which Patsy had waiting for him in a
flour sack, and afterward climbed the grade and loped along
outside the line fence to a point opposite the sheep and the
shouting horsemen, who forced them back by weight of numbers.

This morning the herders were not quite so passive. The
bug-killer still scowled, but he spoke without the preliminary
sulky silence of the day before,

"We're goin' across the coulee," he growled. "Them's orders. We
range south uh here."

"No, you don't," Weary dissented calmly. "Not by a long shot, you
don't. You're going back where you come from--if you ask me. And
you're going quick!"

CHAPTER VI. What Happened to Andy

With the sun shining comfortably upon his back, and with a
cigarette between his lips, Andy sat upon his horse and watched
in silent glee while the irate Happy Family scurried here and
there behind the band, swinging their ropes down upon the woolly
backs, and searching their vocabularies for new and terrible
epithets. Andy smiled broadly as a colorful phrase now and then
boomed across the coulee in that clear, snappy atmosphere, which
carries sounds so far. He did not expect to do much smiling upon
his own account, that day, and he was therefore grateful for the
opportunity to behold the spectacle before him.

There was Slim, for instance, unwillingly careening down hill
toward home, because, in his zeal to slap an old ewe smartly with
his rope, he drove her unexpectedly under his horse, and so
created a momentary panic that came near standing both horse and
rider upon their heads. And there was Big Medicine whistling
until he was purple, while the herder, with a single gesture,
held the dog motionless, though a dozen sheep broke back from the
band and climbed a slope so steep that Big Medicine was compelled
to go after them afoot, and turn them with stones and profane

It was very funny--when one could sit at ease upon the hilltop
and smoke a cigarette while others risked apoplexy and their
souls' salvation below. By the time they panted up the last
rock-strewn slope of the bluff, and sent the vanguard of the
invaders under the fence, Andy's mood was complacent in the
extreme, and his smile offensively wide.

"Oh, you needn't look so sorry for us," drawled the Native Son,
jingling over toward him until only the fence and a few feet of
space divided them. "Here's where you get yours, amigo. I wish
you a pleasant day--and a long one!" He waved his hand in mocking
adieu, touched his horse with his silver spurs, and rode gaily
away down the coulee.

"Here, sheepherder's your outfit. Ma-aa-a-a!" jeered Big
Medicine. "You'll wisht, by cripes, you was a dozen men just like
yuh before you're through with the deal. Haw-haw-haw-w!"

There were others who, seeing Andy's grin, had something to say
upon the subject before they left.

Weary rode up, and looked undecidedly from Andy to the sheep, and
back again.

"If you don't feel like tackling it single-handed, I'll send--"

"What do yuh think I am, anyway ?" Andy interrupted crisply, "a
Montgomery Ward two-for-a-quarter cowpuncher? Don't you fellows
waste any time worrying over me!"

The herders stared at Andy curiously when he swung in behind the
tail-end of the band and kept pace with their slow moving, but
they did not speak beyond shouting an occasional command to their
dogs. Neither did Andy have anything to say, until he saw that
they were swinging steadily to the west, instead of keeping
straight north, as they had been told to do. Then he rode over to
the nearest herder, who happened to be the bug-killer.

"You don't want to get turned around," he hinted quietly. "That's
north, over there."

"I'm workin' fer the man that pays my wages," the fellow retorted
glumly, and waved an arm to a collie that was waiting for orders.
The dog dropped his head, and ran around the right wing of the
band, with sharp yelps and dartings here and there, turning them
still more to the west.

Andy hesitated, decided to leave the man alone for the present,
and rode around to the other herder.

"You swing these sheep north!" he commanded, disdaining preface
or explanation.

"I'm workin' for the man that pays my wages," the herder made
answer stolidly, and chewed steadily upon a quid of tobacco that
had stained his lips unbecomingly.

So they had talked the thing over--had those two herders--and
were following a premeditated plan of defiance! Andy hooked at
the man a minute. "You turn them sheep, damn you," he commanded
again, and laid a hand upon his saddle-horn suggestively.

"You go to the devil, damn yuh," advised the herder, and cocked a
wary eye at him from under his hat-brim. Not all herders, let it
be said in passing, take unto themselves the mental attributes of
their sheep; there are those who believe that a bold front is
better than weak compliance, and who will back that belief by a
very bold front indeed.

Andy appraised him mentally, decided that he was an able-bodied
man and therefore fightable, and threw his right leg over the
cantle with a quite surprising alacrity.

"Are you going to turn them sheep?" Andy was taking off his coat
when he made that inquiry.

"Not for your tellin'. You keep back, young feller, or I'll sick
the dogs on yuh." He turned and whistled to the nearest one, and
Andy hit him on the ear.

They clinched and pummeled when they could and where they could.
The dog came up, circled the gyrating forms twice, then sat down
upon his haunches at a safe distance, tilted his head sidewise
and lifted his ears interestedly. He was a wise little dog; the
other dog was also wise, and remained phlegmatically at his post,
as did the bug-killer.

"Are you going to turn them sheep?" Andy spoke breathlessly, but
with deadly significance.


Andy took his fingers from the other's Adam's apple, his knee
from the other's diaphragm, and went over to where he had thrown
down his coat, felt in a pocket for his handkerchief, and, when
he had found it, applied it to his nose, which was bleeding

"Fly at it, then," he advised, eyeing the other sternly over the
handkerchief. "I'd hate to ask you a third time."

"I'd hate to have yuh," conceded the herder reluctantly. "I was
sure I c'd lick yuh, or I'd 'a' turned 'em before." He sent the
dog racing down the south line of the band.

Andy got thoughtfully back upon his horse, and sat looking hard
at the herder. "Say, you're grade above the general run uh lamb-
hickers," he observed, after a minute. "Who are you working for,
and what's your object in throwing sheep on Flying U land?
There's plenty of range to the north."

"I'm workin'," said the herder, "for the Dot outfit. I thought
you could read brands."

"Don't get sassy--I've got a punch or two I haven't used yet. Who
owns these woollies?"

"Well--Whittaker and Oleson, if yuh want to know."

"I do." Andy was keeping pace with him around the band, which
edged off from then and the dogs. "And what makes you so crazy
about Flying U grass?" he pursued.

"We've got to cross that coulee to git to where we're headed for;
we got a right to, and we're going to do it." The herder paused
and glanced up at Andy sourly. "We knowed you was a mean outfit;
the boss told us so. And he told us you was blank ca'tridges and
we needn't back up just 'cause you raised up on your hind legs
and howled a little. I've had truck with you cowmen before. I've
herded sheep in Wyoming." He walked a few steps with his head
down, considering.

"I better go over and talk some sense into the other fellow," he
said, looking up at Andy as if all his antagonism had oozed in
the fight. "You ride along this edge, so they won't scatter--we
ought to be grazin' 'em along, by rights; only you seem to be in
such an all-fired rush--"

"You go on and tell that loco son-of-a-gun over there what he's
up against," Andy urged. "Blank cartridges--I sure do like that!
If you only knew it, high power dum-dums would be a lot closer to
our brand. Run along--I am in a kinda hurry, this morning."

Andy, riding slowly upon the outskirts of the grazing, blatting
band, watched the two confer earnestly together a hundred yards
or so away. They seemed to be having some sort of argument; the
bug-killer gesticulated with the long stick he carried, and the
sheep, while the herders talked, scattered irresponsibly. Andy
wondered what made sheepmen so "ornery," particularly herders. He
wondered why the fellow he had thrashed was so insultingly
defiant at first, and, after the thrashing, so unresentful and
communicative, and so amenable to authority withal. He felt his
nose, and decided that it was, all things considered, a cheap
victory, and yet one of which he need not be ashamed.

The herder cane back presently and helped drive the sheep over
the edge of the bluff which bordered Antelope coulee. The
bug-killer, upon his side, also seemed imbued with the spirit of
obedience; Andy heard him curse a collie into frenzied zeal, and
smiled approvingly.

"Now you're acting a heap more human," he observed; and the man
from Wyoming grinned ruefully by way of reply.

Antelope coulee, at that point, was steep; too steep for riding,
so that Andy dismounted and dug his boot-heels into the soft
soil, to gain a foothold on the descent. When he was halfway
down, he chanced to look back, straight into the scowling gaze of
the bug-killer, who was sliding down behind him.

"Thought you were hazing down the other side of 'em," Andy called
back, but the herder did not choose to answer save with another

Andy edged his horse around an impracticable slope of shale stuff
and went on. The herder followed. When he was within twelve feet
or so of the bottom, there was a sound of pebbles knocked loose
in haste, a scrambling, and then came the impact of his body.
Andy teetered, lost his balance, and went to the bottom in one
glorious slide. He landed with the bug-killer on top--and the
bug-killer failed to remove his person as speedily as true
courtesy exacted.

Andy kicked and wriggled and tried to remember what was that
high-colored, vituperative sentence that Irish had invented over
a stubborn sheep, that he might repeat it to the bug-killer. The
herder from Wyoming ran up, caught Andy's horse, and untied
Andy's rope from the saddle.

"Good fer you, Oscar," he praised the bug-killer. "Hang onto him
while I take a few turns." He thereupon helped force Andy's arms
to his side, and wound the rope several times rather tightly
around Andy's outraged, squirming person.

"Oh, it ain't goin' to do yuh no good to buck 'n bawl,"
admonished the tier. "I learnt this here little trick down in
Wyoming. A bunch uh punchers done it to me--and I've been just
achin' all over fer a chance to return the favor to some uh you
gay boys. And," he added, with malicious satisfaction, while he
rolled Andy over and tied a perfectly unslippable knot behind,
"it gives me great pleasure to hand the dose out to you, in
p'ticular. If I was a mean man, I'd hand yuh the boot a few times
fer luck; but I'll save that up till next time."

"You can bet your sweet life there'll be a next time," Andy
promised earnestly, with embellishments better suited to the
occasion than to a children's party.

"Well, when it arrives I'm sure Johnny-on-the-spot. Them Wyoming
punchers beat me up after they'd got me tied. I'm tellin' yuh so
you'll see I ain't mean unless I'm drove to it. Turn him feet
down hill, Oscar, so he won't git a rush uh brains to the head
and die on our hands. Now you're goin' to mind your own business,
sonny. Next time yuh set out to herd sheep, better see the boss
first and git on the job right."

He rose to his feet, surveyed Andy with his hands on his hips,
mentally pronounced the job well done, and took a generous chew
of tobacco, after which he grinned down at the trussed one.

"That the language uh flowers you're talkin'?" he inquired
banteringly, before he turned his attention to the horse, which
he disposed of by tying up the reins and giving it a slap on the
rump. When it had trotted fifty yards down the coulee bottom, and
showed a disposition to go farther, he whistled to his dogs, and
turned again to Andy.

"This here is just a hint to that bunch you trot with, to leave
us and our sheep alone," he said. "We don't pick no quarrels, but
we're goin' to cross our sheep wherever we dern please, to git
where we want to go. Gawd didn't make this range and hand it over
to you cowmen to put in yer pockets--I guess there's a chance fer
other folks to hang on by their eyebrows, anyway."

Andy, lying there like a very good presentation of a giant
cocoon, roped round and round, with his arms pinned to his sides,
had the doubtful pleasure of seeing that noisome, foolish-faced
band trail down Antelope coulee and back upon the level they had
just left, and of knowing to a gloomy certainty that he could do
nothing about it, except swear; and even that palls when a man
has gone over his entire repertoire three times in rapid

Andy, therefore, when the last sheep had trotted out of sight,
hearing and smell, wriggled himself into as comfortable a
position as his bonds would permit, and took a nap.

CHAPTER VII. Truth Crushed to Earth, etc.

Andy, only half awake, tried to obey both instinct and habit and
reach up to pull his hat down over his eyes, so that the sun
could not shine upon his lids so hotly; when he discovered that
he could do no more than wiggle his fingers, he came back with a
jolt to reality and tried to sit up. It is surprising to a man to
discover suddenly just how important a part his arms play in the
most simple of body movements; Andy, with his arms pinioned
tightly the whole length of them, rolled over on his face, kicked
a good deal, and rolled back again, but he did not sit up, as he
had confidently expected to do.

He lay absolutely quiet for at least five minutes, staring up at
the brilliant blue arch above him. Then he began to speak rapidly
and earnestly; a man just close enough to hear his voice sweeping
up to a certain rhetorical climax, pausing there and commencing
again with a rhythmic fluency of intonation, might have thought
that he was repeating poetry; indeed, it sounded like some of
Milton's majestic blank verse, but it was not. Andy was engaged
in a methodical, scientific, reprehensibly soul-satisfying period
of swearing.

A curlew, soaring low, with long beak outstretched before him,
and long legs outstretched behind cast a beady eye upon him, and
shrilled "Cor-reck! Cor-reck!" in unregenerate approbation of the

Andy stopped suddenly and laughed. "Glad you agree with me, old
sport," he addressed the bird whimsically, with a reaction to his
normally cheerful outlook. "Sheepherders are all those things I
named over, birdie, and some that I can't think of at present."

He tried again, this time with a more careful realization of his
limitations, to assume an upright position; and being a
persevering young man, and one with a ready wit, he managed at
length to wriggle himself back upon the slope from which he had
slid in his sleep, and, by digging in his heels and going
carefully, he did at last rise upon his knees, and from there
triumphantly to his feet.

He had at first believed that one of the herders would, in the
course of an hour or so, return and untie him, when he hoped to
be able to retrieve, in a measure, his self-respect, which he had
lost when the first three feet of his own rope had encircled him.
To be tied and trussed by sheepherders! Andy gritted his teeth
and started down the coulee.

He was hungry, and his lunch was tied to his saddle. He looked
eagerly down the coulee, in the faint hope of seeing his horse
grazing somewhere along its length, until the numbness of his
arms and hands reminded him that forty lunches, tied upon forty
saddles at his side, would be of no use to him in his present
position. His hands he could not move from his thighs; he could
wiggle his fingers--which he did, to relieve as much as possible
that unpleasant, prickly sensation which we call a "going to
sleep" of the afflicted members. When it occurred to him that he
could not do anything with his horse if he found it, he gave up
looking for it and started for the ranch, walking awkwardly,
because of his bonds, the sun shining hotly upon his brown head,
because his hat had been knocked off in the scuffle, and he could
not pick it up and put it back where it belonged.

Taking a straight course across the prairie, he struck Flying U
coulee at the point where the sheep had left it. On the way there
he had crossed their trail where they went through the fence
farther along the coulee than before, and therefore with a better
chance of passing undetected; especially since the Happy Family,
believing that he was forcing them steadily to the north, would
not be watching for sheep. The barbed wire barrier bothered him
somewhat. He was compelled to lie down and roll under the fence,
in the most undignified manner, and, when he was through, there
was the problem of getting upon his feet again. But he managed it
somehow, and went on down the coulee, perspiring with the heat
and a bitter realization of his ignominy. What the Happy Family
would have to say when they saw him, even Andy Green's vivid
imagination declined to picture.

He knew by the sun that it was full noon when he came in sight of
the stable and corrals, and his soul sickened at the thought of
facing that derisive bunch of punchers, with their fiendish grins
and their barbed tongues. But he was hungry, and his arms had
reached the limit of prickly sensations and were numb to his
shoulders. He shook his hair back from his beaded forehead, cast
a wary glance at the silent stables, set his jaw, and went on up
the hill to the mess-house, wishing tardily that he had waited
until they were off at work again, when he might intimidate old
Patsy into keeping quiet about his predicament.

Within the mess-house was the clatter of knives and forks plied
by hungry men, the sound of desultory talk and a savory odor of
good things to eat. The door was closed. Andy stood before it as
a guilty-conscienced child stands before its teacher; clicked his
teeth together, and, since he could not open the door, lifted his
right foot and gave it a kick to strain the hinges.

Within were exclamations of astonishment, silence and then a
heavy tread. Patsy opened the door, gasped and stood still, his
eyes popping out like a startled rabbit.

"Well, what's eating you?" Andy demanded querulously, and pushed
past him into the room.

Not all of the Happy Family were there. Cal, Jack Bates, Irish
and Happy Jack had gone into the Bad Lands next to the river; but
there were enough left to make the soul of Andy quiver
forebodingly, and to send the flush of extreme humiliation to his

The Happy Family looked at him in stunned surprise; then they
glanced at one another in swift, wordless inquiry, grinned wisely
and warily, and went on with their dinner. At least they
pretended to go on with their dinner, while Andy glared at them
with amazed reproach in his misleadingly honest gray eyes.

"When you've got plenty of time," he said at last in a choked
tone, "maybe one of you obliging cusses will untie this damned

"Why, sure!" Pink threw a leg over the bench and got up with
cheerful alacrity. "I'll do it now, if you say so; I didn't know
but what that was some new fad of yours, like--"

"Fad!" Andy repeated the word like an explosion.

"Well, by golly, Andy needn't think I'm goin' to foller that
there style," Slim stated solemnly. "I need m' rope for something
else than to tie n' clothes on with."

"I sure do hate to see a man wear funny things just to make
himself conspicuous," Pink observed, while he fumbled at the
knot, which was intricate. Andy jerked away from him that he
might face him ragefully.

"Maybe this looks funny to you," he cried, husky with wrath. "But
I can't seem to see the joke, myself. I admit I let then herders
make a monkey of me.... They slipped up behind, going down into
Antelope coulee, and slid down the bluff onto me; and, before I
could get up, they got me tied, all right. I licked one of 'en
before that, and thought I had 'en gentled down--"

Andy stopped short, silenced by that unexplainable sense which
warns us when our words are received with cold disbelief.

"Mh-hm--I thought maybe you'd run up against a hostile
jackrabbit, or something," Pink purred, and went back to his
place on the bench.

"Haw-haw-haw-w-w!" came Big Medicine's tardy bellow. "That's more
reasonable than the sheepherder story, by cripes!"

Andy looked at them much as he had stared up at the sky before he
began to swear--speechlessly, with a trembling of the muscles
around his mouth. He was quite white, considering how tanned he
was, and his forehead was shiny, with beads of perspiration
standing thickly upon it.

"Weary, I wish you'd untie this rope. I can't." He spoke still in
that peculiar, husky tone, and, when the last words were out, his
teeth went together with a snap.

Weary glanced inquiringly across at the Native Son, who was
regarding Andy steadily, as one gazes upon a tangled rope,
looking for the end which will easiest lead to an untangling.

Miguel's brown eyes turned languidly to meet the look. "You'd
better untie him," he advised in his soft drawl. "He may not be
in the habit of doing it--but he's telling the truth."

"Untie me, Miguel," begged Andy, going over to him, "and let me
at this bunch."

"I'll do it," said Weary, and rose pacifically. "I kinda believe
you myself, Andy. But you can't blame the boys none; you've
fooled 'em till they're dead shy of anything they can't see
through. And, besides, it sure does look like a plant. I'd back
you single-handed against a dozen sheepherders like then two
we've been chasing around. If I hadn't felt that way I wouldn't
have sent yuh out alone with 'em."

"Well, Andy needn't think he's goin' to stick me on that there
story," Slim declared with brutal emphasis. "I've swallered too
many baits, by golly. He's figurin' on gettin' us all out on the
war-path, runnin' around in circles, so's't he can give us the
laugh. I'll bet, by golly, he paid then herders to tie him up
like that. He can't fool me!"

"Say, Slim, I do believe your brains is commencin' to sprout!"
Big Medicine thumped him painfully upon the back by way of
accenting the compliment. "You got the idee, all right."

Andy stood quiet while Weary unwound the rope; lifted his numbed
arms with some difficulty, and displayed to the doubters his
rope-creased wrists, and purple, swollen hands.

"I couldn't fight a caterpiller right now," he said thickly.
"Look at them hands! Do yuh call that a josh? I've been tied up
like a bed-roll for five hours, you--" Well, never mind, he
merely repeated a part of what he had recited aloud in Antelope
coulee, the only difference being that he applied the vitriolic
utterances to the Happy Family instead of to sheepherders, and
that with the second recitation he gained much in fluency and
dramatic delivery.

It is not nice for a man to swear; to swear the way Andy did, at
any rate. But the result perhaps atoned in a measure for the
wickedness, in that the Happy Family were absolutely convinced of
his sincerity, and the feelings of Andy greatly relieved, so
that, when he had for the third time that day completely
exhausted his vocabulary, he sat down and began to eat his dinner
with a keen appetite.

"I don't suppose you know where your horse is at, by this tine,"
Weary observed, as casually as possible, breaking a somewhat
constrained silence.

"I don't--and I don't give a darn," Andy snapped back. He ate a
few mouthfuls, and added less savagely: "He wasn't in sight, as I
came along. I didn't follow the trail; I struck straight across
and came down the coulee. He may be at the gate, and he may be
down toward Rogers'."

Pink reached for a toothpick, eyeing Andy side-long; dimpled his
cheeks disarmingly, and cleared his throat. "Please don't kill me
off when you get that pie swallowed," he began pacifically.
"Strange as it may seem, I believe you, Andy. What I want to know
is this: Who owns them Dots? And what are they chasing all over
the Flying U range for? It looks plumb malicious, to me. Did you
find out anything about 'en, Andy, while you--er--while they--"
His eyes twinkled and betrayed him for an arrant pretender. (Pink
was not afraid of anything on earth--least of all Andy Green.)

"I will kill yuh by inches, if I hear any remarks out of yuh that
ain't respectful," Andy promised, thawing to his normal tone,
which was pleasant to the ear. "I didn't find out much about 'em.
The fellow I licked told me that Whittaker and Oleson owned the
sheep. He didn't say--"

"Well--by--golly!" Shin thrust his head forward belligerently.
"Whittaker! Well, what d'yuh think uh that!" He glared from one
face to the other, his gaze at last resting upon Weary. "Say, do
yuh reckon it's--Dunk?"

Weary paid no heed to Slim. He leaned forward, his face turned to
Andy with that concentration of attention which means so much
more than mere exclamation. "You're sure he said Whittaker?" he

His tone and his attitude arrested Andy's cup midway to his
mouth. "Sure--Whittaker and Oleson. I never heard of the
outfit--who's this Whittaker person?"

Weary settled back in his place and smiled, but his eyes had
quite lost their habitually sunny expression.

"Up until four years ago," he explained evenly, "he was the Old
Man's partner. We caught him in some mighty dirty work,
and--well, he sold out to the Old Man. The old party with the
hoofs and tail can't be everywhere at once, the way I've got it
sized up, so he turns some of his business over to other folks.
Dunk Whittaker's his top hand."

"Why, by golly, he framed up a job on the Gordon boys, and
railroaded 'em to the pen, just--"

"Oh, that's the gazabo!" Andy's eyes shone with enlightenment.
"I've heard a lot about Dunk, but I didn't know his last name--"

"Say! I'll bet they're the outfit that bought out Denson. That's
why old Denson acted so queer, maybe. Selling to a sheep outfit
would make the old devil feel kinda uneasy, talking to us--"
Pink's eyes were big and purple with excitement. "And that
train-load of sheep we saw Sunday, I'll bet is the same identical

"Dunk Whittaker'd better not try to monkey with me, by golly!"
Slim's face was lowering. "And he'd better not monkey with the
Flying U either. I'd pump him so full uh holes he'd look like a
colander, by golly!"

Weary got up and started to the door, his face suddenly grown
careworn. "Slim, you and Miguel better go and hunt up Andy's
horse," he said with a hint of abstraction in his tone, as though
his mind was busy with more important things. "Maybe Andy'll feel
able to help you set those posts, Bud--and you'd better go along
the upper end of the little pasture with the wire stretchers and
tighten her up; the top wire is pretty loose, I noticed this
morning." His fingers fumbled with the door-knob.

"Want me to do anything?" Pink asked quizzically just behind him.
"I thought sure we'd go and remonstrate with then gay--"

Weary interrupted him. "The herders can wait--and, anyway, I've
kinda got an idea Andy wants to hand out his own brand of poison
to that bunch. You and I will take a ride over to Denson's and
see what's going on over there. Mamma!" he added fervently, under
his breath, "I sure do wish Chip and the Old Man were here!"

CHAPTER VIII. The Dot Outfit

Before he laid him down to sleep, that night, Weary had repeated
to himself many times and fervently that wish for old J. G.
Whitmore and the stout staff upon which he was beginning more and
more to lean, his brother-in-law, Chip Bennett. As matters stood,
Weary could not even bring himself to let then know anything
about his trouble--and that the thing was beginning to assume the
form and shape and general malevolent attributes of Trouble,
Weary was forced to admit to himself.

Just at present an unthinking, unobserving person might pass over
this sheep outfit as a mere unsavory incident; but Weary was
neither unobserving nor unthinking--nor, for the matter of that,
were the rest of the Happy Family. It needed no Happy Jack, with
his foreboding nature, to point out the unpleasant possibilities
that night when the committee of two made their informal report
at the supper table.

They had ridden to Denson coulee, which was in reality a
meandering branch of Flying U coulee itself. To reach it one rode
out of Flying U coulee and over a wide hill, and down again to
Denson's. But the creek--Flying U creek--followed the devious
turnings from Denson coulee down to the Flying U. A long mile of
Flying U coulee J. G. Whitmore owned outright. Another mile he
held under no other title save a fence. The creek flowed through
it all--but that creek had its source somewhere up near the head
of Denson coulee. J. G. Whitmore had, to his regret, been unable
to claim the whole earth--or at least that portion of it--for his
own; so, when he was constrained to make a choice, he settled
himself in the wider, more fertile coulee, which he thereafter
called the Flying U. While it is good policy to locate as near as
possible to the source of those erratic little creeks which water
certain garden spots of the northern range land, it is also well
to choose land that will grow plenty of hay. J. G. Whitmore chose
the hay land, and trusted that providence would insure the water
supply. Through all these years Flying U creek had never once
disappointed him. Denson, who settled in the tributary coulee,
had not made any difference in the water supply, and his stock
had consisted of thirty or forty head of cattle and horses.

When Denson sold, however, things might be different. And, if he
had sold to a sheepman, the change might be unpleasant If he had
sold to Dunk Whittaker--the Flying U boys faced that possibility
just as they would face any other disaster, undaunted, but grim
and unsmiling.

It was thus that Pink and Weary rode slowly down into Denson
coulee. Two miles back they had passed the band of Dot sheep,
feeding leisurely just without the Flying U fence, which was the
southern boundary. The bug-killer and the other were there, and
they noted that the features of that other bore witness to the
truth of Andy's story of the fight. He regarded them with one
perfectly good eye and one which was considerably swollen, and
grinned a swollen grin.

The two had ridden ten paces past him when Pink pulled up
suddenly. "I'm going to get off and lick that son-of-a-gun
myself, just for luck," he stated dispassionately. "I'm going to
lick 'em both," he revised while he dismounted.

"Oh, come on, Cadwalloper," Weary dissuaded. "You'll likely have
all the excitement you need, without that."

"Here, you hold this fool cayuse. No." He shook his head, cutting
short further protest. "You're the boss, and you don't want to
mix in, and that part is all right. But I ain't responsible--and
I sure am going to take a fall or two out of these geesers.
They're a-w-l together too stuck on themselves to suit me." Pink
did not say that he was thinking of Andy, but nevertheless a
vivid recollection of that unfortunate young man's rope-creased
wrists and swollen hands sent him toward the herder with long,
eager strides.

Pink was not tall, and he was slight and boyish of build; also,
his cherubic face, topped by tawny curls and lighted by eyes as
deeply blue and as innocent as a baby's, probably deceived that
herder, just as they had deceived many another. For Pink was a
good deal like a stick of dynamite wrapped in white tissue paper
and tied with blue ribbon; and Weary was not at all uneasy over
the outcome, as he watched Pink go clanking back, though he loved
him well.

Pink did not waste any time or words on the preliminaries. With a
delightful frankness of purpose he pulled off his coat and threw
it on the ground, as he came up, sent his hat after it, and
arrived fist first.

The herder had waited grinning, and he had shouted something to
Weary about spanking the kid if Weary didn't make him behave.
Speedily he became a very surprised herder, and a distressed one
as well.

"All right," Pink remarked, a little quick-breathed, when the
herder decided for the third time to get up. "A friend of mine
worked yuh over a little, this morning, and I just thought I'd
make a better job than he did. Your eyes didn't match. They will,

The herder mumbled maledictions after him, but Pink would not
even give him the satisfaction of resenting it.

"I'd like to have broken a knuckle against his teeth, darn him,"
he observed ruefully when he was in the saddle again. "Come on,
Weary. It won't take but a minute to hand a punch or two to that
bug-killer, and then I'll feel better. They've both got it
coming--come on!" This because Weary showed a strong inclination
to take the trail and keep it to his destination. "Well, I'll go
alone, then. I've got to kinda square myself for the way I threw
it into Andy; and you know blamed well, Weary, they played it
low-down on him, or they'd never have got that rope on him. And
I'm going to lick that--"

"Mamma! You sure are a rambunctious person when you feel that
way," Weary made querulous comment; but he rode over with Pink to
where the bug-killer was standing with his long stick held in a
somewhat menacing manner, and once more he held Pink's horse for

Pink was gone longer this time, and he came back with a cut lip
and a large lump on his forehead; the bug-killer had thrown a
small rock with the precision which comes of much practice--such
as stoning disobedient dogs, and the like--and, when Pink rushed
at him furiously, the herder caught him very neatly alongside the
head with his stick. These little amenities serving merely to
whet Pink's appetite for battle, he stopped long enough to thrash
that particular herder very thoroughly and to his own complete

"Well, I guess I'm ready to go on now," he observed, dimpling
rather one-sidedly as he got back on his horse.

"I thought maybe you'd want to whip the dogs, too," Weary told
him dryly; which was the nearest he came to expressing any
disapproval of the incident. Weary was a peace-loving soul,
whenever peace was compatible with self-respect; and it would
never have occurred to him to punish strange men as summarily as
Pink had done.

"I would, if the dogs were half as ornery as the men," Pink
retorted. "Say, they hang together like bull snakes and rattlers,
don't they? If they was human, they'd have helped each other
out--but nothing doing! Do you reckon a man could ride up to a
couple of our bunch, and thrash one at a time without the other
fellow having something to say about it?" He turned in the saddle
and looked back. "So help me, Josephine, I've got a good mind to
go back and lick them again, for not hanging together like they
ought to." But the threat was an idle one, and they went on to
Denson's, Weary still with that anxious look in his eyes, and
Pink quite complacent over his exploit.

In Denson coulee was an unwonted atmosphere of activity;
heretofore the place had been animated chiefly by young Densons
engaged in the pursuit of pleasure, but now a covered buggy,
evidently just arrived, bore mute witness to the new order of
things. There were more horses about the place, a covered wagon
or two, three or four men working upon the corral, and, lastly,
there was one whom Weary recognized the moment he caught sight of

"Looks like a sheep outfit, all right," he said somberly. "And,
if that ain't old Dunk himself, it's the devil, and that's next
thing to him."

Dunk, they judged, had just arrived with another man whom they
did not know: a tall man with light hair that hung lank to his
collar, a thin, sharp-nosed face and a wide mouth, which
stretched easily into a smile, but which was none the pleasanter
for that. When he turned inquiringly toward them they saw that he
was stoop-shouldered; though not from any deformity, but from
sheer, slouching lankness. Dunk gave them a swift, sour look from
under his eyebrows and went on.

Weary rode straight past the lank man, whom he judged to be
Oleson, and overtook Dunk Whittaker himself.

"Hello, Dunk," he said cheerfully, sliding over in the saddle so
that a foot hung free of the stirrup, as men who ride much have
learned to do when they stop for a chat, thereby resting while
they may. "Back on the old stamping ground, are you?"

"Since you see me here, I suppose I am," Dunk made churlish

"Do you happen to own those Dot sheep, back there on the hill?"
Weary tilted his head toward home.

"I happen to own half of them." By then they had reached the gate
and Dunk passed through and started on to the house.

"Oh, don't be in a rush--come on back and be sociable," Weary
called out, in the mildest of tones, twisting the reins around
his saddle-horn so that he might roll a cigarette at ease.

Dunk remembered, perhaps, certain things he had learned when he
was J. G. Whitmore's partner, and had more or less to do with the
charter members of the Happy Family. He came back and stood by
the gate, ungraciously enough, to be sure; still, he came back.
Weary smiled under cover of lighting his cigarette. Dunk, by that
reluctant compliance, betrayed something which Weary had been
rather anxious to know.

"We've been having a little trouble with those sheep of yours,"
Weary remarked between puffs. "You've got some poor excuses for
humans herding them. They drove the bunch across our coulee just
exactly three times. There ain't enough grass left in our lower
field to graze a prairie dog." He glanced back to see where Pink
was, saw that he was close behind, as was the lank man, and spoke
in a tone that included them all.

"The Flying U ain't pasturing sheep, this spring," he informed
them pleasantly. "But, seeing the grass is eat up, we'll let yuh
pay for it. Why didn't you bring them in along the trail,

"I didn't bring them in. I just came down from Butte to-day. I
suppose the herders brought them out where the feed was best;
they did if they're worth their wages."

"They happened to strike some feed that was pretty expensive.
And," he smiled down at Whittaker misleadingly, "you ought to
keep an eye on those herders, or they might let you in for
another grass bill. The Flying U has got quite a lot of range,
right around here, you recollect. And we've got plenty of cattle
to eat it. We don't need any help to keep the grass down so we
can ride through it."

"Now, look here," began the lank man with that sort of
persuasiveness which can turn instantly into bluster, "all this
is pure foolishness, you know. We're here to stay. We've bought
this place, and some other land to go with it, and we expect to
stay right here and make a living. It happens that we expect to
make a living off of sheep. Now, we don't want to start in by
quarreling with our neighbors, and we don't want our neighbors to
start any quarrel with us. All we want--"

"Mamma! You're taking a fine way to make us love yuh," Weary cut
in ironically. "I know what you want. You want the same as every
other meek and lovely sheepman wants. You want it all-- core,
seeds and peeling. Dunk," he said with a more impatient disgust
than he was in the habit of showing for his fellowmen, "this
man's a stranger; but I should think you'd know better than to
come in here with sheep."

"I don't know why a sheep outfit isn't exactly as good as a cow
outfit, and I don't know why they haven't as much right here.
You're welcome to what land you own, but it always seemed to me
that public land is open to the use of the public. Now, as Oleson
says, we expect to raise sheep here, and we expect your outfit to
leave us alone. As far as our sheep crossing your coulee is
concerned--I don't know that they did. But, if they did, and, if
they did any damage, let J. G. do the talking about that. I deal
with the owners--not with the hired men."

Weary, you must understand, was never a bellicose young man. But,
for all that, he leaned over and gave Dunk a slap on the jaw
which must have stung considerably--and the full reason for his
violence lay four years behind the two, when Dunk was part owner
of the Flying U, and when his sneering arrogance had been very
hard to endure.

"Are you going to swallow that--from a hired man?" Weary
inquired, after a minute during which nothing whatever occurred
beyond the slow reddening of Dunk's face.

"I'm not going to fight, if that's what you mean,," Dunk sneered.
"I decline to bring myself down to your level. One doesn't expect
anything from a jackass but a bray, you know--and one doesn't
feel compelled to bray because the jackass does." He smiled that
supercilious smile which Weary had hated of old, and which, he
knew, was well used to covering much treachery and small
meannesses of various sorts.

"As I said, if the Flying U has any claim against us, let the
owner present it in the usual way. Dunk drew down his black
brows, lifted a corner of his lip and turned his back
deliberately upon them.

Oleson let himself through the gate, which he closed somewhat
hastily behind him. "I'm sorry you fellows seem to want to make
trouble," he said, without looking up from the latch, which
seemed somewhat out of repair, like the rest of the Denson
property. "That's a poor way to start in with new neighbors." He
lifted his hat with what Pink considered insulting politeness,
and followed Dunk into the house.

Weary waited there until they had gone in and closed the door,
then turned and rode back home again, frowning thoughtfully at
the trail ahead of them all the way, and making no reply to
Pink's importunings for war.

"I'd hate to say you've lost your nerve, Weary," Pink cried at
last, in sheer desperation. "But why the devil didn't you get
down and thump the daylights out of that black son-of-a-gun? I
came pretty near walking into him myself, only I hate to butt
into another fellow's scrap. But, if I'd known you were going to
set there and let him walk off with that sneer on his face--"

"I can't fight a man that won't hit back," Weary protested. "You
couldn't either, Cadwalloper. You'd have done just what I did;
you'd have let him go."

"He will hit back, all right enough," Pink retorted passionately.
"He'll do it when you ain't looking, though. He--"

"I know it," Weary sighed. "I'm kinda sorry, now, I slapped him.
He'll hit back--but he won't hit me; he'll aim at the outfit. If
the Old Man was here, or Chip, I'd feel a whole lot easier in my

"They couldn't do anything you can't do," Pink assured him
loyally, forgetting his petulance when he saw the careworn look
in Weary's face. "All they can do is gobble all the range around
here--and I guess there's a few of us that will have a word or
two to say about that."

"What makes me sore," Weary confided, "is knowing that Dunk isn't
thinking altogether of the dollar end of it. He's tickled to
death to get a whack at the outfit. And I hate to see him get
away with it; but I guess we'll have to stand for it."

That sentiment did not please Pink; nor, when Weary repeated it
later that evening in the bunk-house, did it please the Happy
Family. The less pleasing it was because it was perfectly true
and every man of them knew it. Beyond keeping the sheep off
Flying U land, there was nothing they could do without stepping
over the line into lawlessness--and, while they were not in any
sense a meek Happy Family, they were far more law-abiding than
their conversation that night made them appear.

CHAPTER IX. More Sheep

The next week was a time of harassment for the Flying U; a week
filled to overflowing with petty irritations, traceable, directly
or indirectly, to their new neighbors, the Dot sheepmen. The band
in charge of the bug-chaser and that other unlovable man from
Wyoming fed just as close to the Flying U boundary as their
guardians dared let them feed; a great deal closer than was good
for the tempers of the Happy Family, who rode fretfully here and
there upon their own business and at the same time tried to keep
an eye upon their unsavory neighbors--a proceeding as
nerve-racking as it was futile.

The Native Son, riding home in jingling haste from Dry Lake,
whither he had hurried one afternoon in the hope of cheering news
from Chicago, reported another trainload of Dots on the wide
level beyond Antelope coulee. There were, he said, four men in
charge of the band, and he believed they carried guns, though he
was not positive of that. They were moving slowly, and he thought
they would not attempt to cross Flying U coulee before the next
day; though, from the course they were taking, he was sure they
meant to cross.

Coupled with that bit of ill-tidings, the brief note from Chip,
saying very little about the Old Man, but implying a good deal by
its very omissions, would have been enough to send the Happy
Family to sleepless beds that night if they had been the kind to
endure with silent fortitude their troubles.

"If you fellers would back me up," brooded Big Medicine down by
the corral after supper, "I'd see to it them sheep never gits
across the coulee, by cripes! I'd send 'em so far the other way
they'd git plumb turned around and forgit they ever wanted to go

"It's all Dunk's devilishness," Jack Bates declared. "He could
take them in the other way, even if the feed ain't so good along
the trail. It's most all prairie-dog towns--but that's good
enough for sheep." Jack, in his intense partisanship, spoke as if
sheep were not entitled to decent grass at any time or under any

"Them herders packin' guns looks to me like they're goin' to make
trouble if they kin," gloomed Happy Jack. "I betche they'll kill
somebody before they're through. When sheepmen gits mean--"

Pink picked up his rope and started for the large corral, where a
few saddle horses had been driven in just before supper and had
not yet been turned out.

"You fellows can stand around and chew the rag, if you want to,"
he said caustically, "and wait for Weary to make a war-talk. But
I'm going to keep cases on them Dots, if I have to stand an
all-night guard on 'em. I don't blame Weary; he's looking out for
the law-and-order business--and that's all right. But I'm not in
charge of the outfit. I'm going to do as I darn please, and, if
they don't like my style, they can give me my time."

"Good for you, Little One!" Big Medicine hurried to overtake him
so that he might slap him on the shoulder with his favorite,
sledge-hammer method of signifying his approval of a man's
sentiments. "Honest to grandma, I was just b'ginnin' to think
this bunch was gitting all streaked up with yeller. 'Course, we
ain't goin' to wait for no official orders, by cripes! I'd ruther
lock Weary up in the blacksmith shop than let him tell us to go
ahead. Go awn and tell him a good, stiff lie, Andy--just to keep
him interested while us fellers make a gitaway. He ain't in on
this; we don't want him in on it."

"What yuh goin' to do?" Happy Jack inquired suspiciously. "Yuh
can't go and monkey with them sheep, er them herders. They ain't
on our land. And, if you don't git killed, old Dunk'll fix yuh
like he fixed the Gordon boys--I know him--to a fare-you-well.
It'd tickle him to death to git something on us fellers. I betche
that's what he's aiming t'do. Git us to fightin' his outfit

"Oh, go off and lie down!" Andy implored him contemptuously.
"We're going to hang those herders, and drive the sheep all over
a cut-back somewhere, like Jesus done to the hogs, and then we're
going over and murder old Dunk, if he's at home, and burn the
house to hide the guilty deed. And, if the sheriff comes snooping
around, asking disagreeable questions, we'll all swear you done
it. So now you know our plans; shut your face and go on to bed.
And be sure," he added witheringly, "you pull the soogans over
your head, so you won't hear the dying shriek of our victims.
We're liable to get kinda excited and torture 'em a while before
we kill 'em."

"Aw, gwan!" gulped Happy Jack mechanically. "You make me sick! If
yuh think I'm goin' to swaller all that, you're away off! You
wouldn't dast do nothing of the kind; and, if yuh did, you'd sure
have a sweet time layin' it onto me!"

"Oh, I don't know," drawled the Native Son, with a slow,
velvet-eyed glance, "any jury in the country would hang you on
your looks, Happy. I knew a man down in the lower part of
California, who was arrested, tried and hanged for murder. And
all the evidence there was against him was the fact that he was
seen within five miles of the place on the same day the murder
was committed; and his face. They had an expert physiognomist
there, and he swore that the fellow had the face of a murderer;
the poor devil looked like a criminal--and, though he had one of
the best lawyers on the Coast, it was adios for him."

"I s'pose you mean I got the face of a criminal!" sputtered Happy
Jack. "It ain't always the purty fellers that wins out-- like you
'n' Pink. I never seen the purty man yit that was worth the
powder it'd take to blow him up! Aw, you fellers make me sick!"
He went off, muttering his opinion of them all, and particularly
of the Native Son, who smiled while he listened. "You go awn and
start something--and you'll wisht you hadn't," they heard him
croak from the big gate, and chuckled over his wrath.

As a matter of fact, the Happy Family, as a whole, or as
individuals, had no intention of committing any great violence
that evening. Pink wanted to see just where this new band of
sheep was spending the night, and to find out, if possible, what
were the herders' intentions. Since the boys were all restless
under their worry, and, since there is a contagious element in
seeking a trouble-zone, none save Happy Jack, who was "sore" at
them, and Weary stayed behind in the coulee with old Patsy while
the others rode away up the grade and out toward Antelope coulee

They meant only to reconnoiter, and to warn the herders against
attempting to cross Flying U coulee; though they were not exactly
sure that they would be perfectly polite, or that they would
confine themselves rigidly to the language they were wont to
employ at dances. Andy Green, in particular, seemed rather to
look forward with pleasure to the meeting. Andy, by the way, had
remained heartbrokenly passive during that whole week, because
Weary had extracted from him a promise which Andy, mendacious
though he had the name of being, felt constrained to keep intact.
Though of a truth it irked him much to think of two sheepherders
walking abroad unpunished for their outrage upon his person.

Weary, as he had made plain to them all, wanted to avoid trouble
if it were possible to do so. And, though they grinned together
in secret over his own affair with Dunk--which was not, in their
opinion, exactly pacific--they meant to respect his wishes as far
as human nature was able to do so. So that the Happy Family,
galloping toward the red sunset and the great, gray blot on the
prairie, just where the glory of the west tinged the grass blades
with red, were not one-half as blood-thirsty as they had
proclaimed themselves to be.

While they were yet afar off they could see two men walking
slowly in the immediate vicinity of the huddled band. A hundred
yards away was a small tent, with a couple of horses picketed
near by and feeding placidly. The men turned, gazed long at their
approach, and walked to the tent, which they entered somewhat

"Look at 'em dodge outa sight, will you!" cried Cal Emmett, and
lifted up his voice in the yell which sometimes announced the
Happy Family's arrival in Dry Lake after a long, thirsty absence
on roundup. Other voices joined in after that first, shrill
"Ow-ow-ow-eee!" of Cal's; so that presently the whole lot of them
were emitting nerve-crimping yells and spurring their horses into
a thunder of hoofbeats, as they bore down upon the tent. Between
howls they laughed, picturing to themselves four terrified
sheepherders cowering within those frail, canvas walls.

"I'm a rambler, and a gambler, and far from my ho-o-me, And if
yuh don't like me, jest leave me alo-o-ne!" chanted Big Medicine
most horribly, and finished with a yell that almost scared
himself and set his horse to plunging wildly.

"Come out of there, you lop-eared mutton-chewers, and let us pick
the wool outa your teeth!" shouted Andy Green, telling himself
hastily that this was not breaking his promise to Weary, and
yielding to the temptation of coming as close to the guilty
persons as he might; for, while these were not the men who had
tied him and left him alone on the prairie, they belonged to the
same outfit, and there was some comfort in giving them a few
disagreeable minutes.

Pink, in the lead, was turning to ride around the tent, still
yelling, when someone within the tent fired a rifle--and did not
aim as high as he should. The bullet zipped close over the head
of Big Medicine, who happened to be opposite the crack between
the tent-flaps. The hand of Big Medicine jerked back to his hip;
but, quick as he was, the Native Son plunged between him and the
tent before he could take aim.

"Steady, amigo," smiled Miguel. "You aren't a crazy sheepherder."

"No, but I'm goin' to kill off one. Git outa my way!" Big
Medicine was transformed into a cold-eyed, iron-jawed fighting
machine. He dug the spurs in, meaning to ride ahead of Miguel.
But Miguel's spurs also pressed home, so that the two horses
plunged as one. Big Medicine, bellowing one solitary oath, drew
his right leg from the stirrup to dismount. Miguel reached out,
caught him by the arm, and held him to the saddle. And, though
Big Medicine was a strong man, the grip held firm and unyielding.

"You must think of the outfit, you know," said Miguel, smiling
still. "There must be no shooting. Once that begins--" He
shrugged his shoulders with that slight, eloquent movement, which
the Happy Family had come to know so well. He was speaking to
them all, as they crowded up to the scuffle. "The man who feels
the trigger-itch had better throw his gun away," he advised
coolly. "I know, boys. I've seen these things start before. All
hell can't stop you, once you begin to shoot. Put it up, Bud, or
give it to me."

"The man don't live that can shoot at me, by cripes, and git away
with it. Not if he misses killin' me!" Big Medicine was shaking
with rage; but the Native Son saw that he hesitated,
nevertheless, and laughed outright.

"Call him out and give him a thumping. That's good enough for a
sheepherder," he suggested as a substitute.

Perhaps because the Native Son so seldom offered advice, and,
because of his cool courage in interfering with Big Medicine at
such a time, Bud's jaw relaxed and his pale eyes became more
human in their expression. He even permitted Miguel to remove the
big, wicked Colt from his hand, and slide it into his own pocket;
whereat the Happy Family gasped with astonishment. Not even Pink
would have dreamed of attempting such a thing.

"Well he's got to come out and take a lickin', anyway," shouted
Big Medicine vengefully, and rode close enough to slap the canvas
smartly with his quirt. By all the gods he knew by name he called
upon the offender to come forth, while the others drew up in a
rude half-circle to await developments. Heavy silence was the
reply he got. It was as though the men within were sitting tense
and watchful, like cougars crouched for a spring, with claws
unsheathed and muscles quivering.

"You better come out," called Andy sharply, after they had waited
a decent interval. "We didn't come here hunting trouble; we want
to know where you're headed for with these sheep. The fellow that
cut loose with the gun--"

"Aw, don't talk so purty! I'm gitting almighty tired, just
setting here lettin' m' legs hang down. Git your ropes, boys!"
With one sweeping gesture of his arm Big Medicine made plain his
meaning as he rode a few paces away, his fingers fumbling with
the string that held his rope. "I'm goin' to have a look at 'em,
anyway," he grinned. "I sure do hate to see men act so bashful."

With his rope free and ready for action, Big Medicine shook the
loop out, glanced around, and saw that Andy, Pink and Cal Emmett
were also ready, and, with a dexterous flip, settled the noose
neatly over the iron pin that thrust up through the end of the
ridge-pole in front. Andy's loop sank neatly over it a second
later, and the two wheeled and dashed away together, with Pink
and Irish duplicating their performance at the other end of the
tent. The dingy, smoke-stained canvas swayed, toppled, as the
pegs gave way, and finally lay flat upon the prairie fifty feet
from where it had stood, leaving the inmates exposed to the cruel
stare of eight unfriendly cowpunchers. Four cowering figures they
were, with guns in their hands that shook.

"Drop them guns!" thundered Big Medicine, flipping his rope loose
and recoiling it mechanically as he plunged up to the group.

One man obeyed. One gave a squawk of terror and permitted his gun
to go off at random before he fled toward the coulee. The other
two crouched behind their bed-rolls, set their jaws doggedly and
glared defiance.

Pink, Andy, Irish, Big Medicine and the Native Son slid off their
horses and made a rush at them. A rifle barked viciously, and
Slim, sitting prudently on his horse well in the rear, gave a
yell and started for home at a rapid pace.

Considering the provocation the Happy Family behaved with quite
praiseworthy self-control and leniency. They did not lynch those
two herders. They did not kill them, either by bullets, knives,
or beating to death. They took away the guns, however, and they
told them with extreme bluntness what sort of men they believed
them to be. They defined accurately their position in society at
large, in that neighborhood, and stated what would be their
future fate if they persisted in acting with so little caution
and common sense.

At Andy Green's earnest behest they also wound them round and
round with ropes, before they departed, and gave them some very
good advice upon the matter of range rules and the herding of
sheep, particularly of Dot sheep.

"You're playing big luck, if you only had sense enough to know
it," Andy pointed out to the recumbent three before they rode
away. "We didn't come over here on the warpath, and, if you
hadn't got in such a darned hurry to start something, you'd be a
whole lot more comfortable right now. We rode over to tell yuh
not to start them sheep across Flying U coulee; because, if you
do, you're going to have both hands and your hats plumb full uh
trouble. It has taken some little time and fussing to get yuh
gentled down so we can talk to you, and I sure do hope yuh
remember what I'm saying."

"Oh, we'll remember it, all right!" menaced one of the men,
lifting his head turtlewise that he might glare at the group.
"And our bosses'll remember it; you needn't worry about that
none. You wait till--"

The next man to him turned his head and muttered a sentence, and
the speaker dropped his head back upon the ground, silenced.

"It was your own outfit started this style of rope trimming, so
you can't kick about that part of the deal," Pink informed them
melodiously. "It's liable to get to be all the rage with us. So,
if you don't like it, don't come around where we are. And say!"
His dimples stood deep in his cheeks. "You send those ropes home
to-morrow, will yuh? We're liable to need 'em."

"by cripes!" Big Medicine bawled. "What say we haze them sheep a
few miles north, boys?"

"Oh, I guess they'll be all right where they are," Andy
protested, his thirst for revenge assuaged at sight of those
three trussed as he had been trussed, and apparently not liking
it any better than he had liked it. "They'll be good and careful
not to come around the Flying U--or I miss my guess a mile."

The others cast comprehensive glances at their immediate
surroundings, and decided that they had at least made their
meaning plain; there was no occasion for emphasizing their
disapproval any further. They confiscated the rifles, and they
told the fellows why they did so. They very kindly pulled a
tarpaulin over the three to protect them in a measure from the
chill night that was close upon them, and they wished them good
night and pleasant dreams, and rode away home.

On the way they met Weary and Happy Jack, galloping anxiously to
the battle scene. Slim, it appeared from Weary's rapid
explanation, had arrived at the ranch with his horse in a lather
and with a four-inch furrow in the fleshiest part of his leg,
where a bullet had flicked him in passing. The tale he told had
led Weary to believe that Slim was the sole survivor of that
reckless company.

"Mamma! I'm so glad to see you boys able to fork your horses and
swear natural, that I don't believe I can speak my little piece
about staying on your own side the fence and letting trouble do
some of the hunting," he exclaimed thankfully. "I wish you'd
stayed at home and left these blamed Dots alone. But, seeing yuh
didn't, I'm tickled to death to hear you didn't kill anybody off.
I don't want the folks to come home and find the whole bunch in
the pen. It might look as if--"

"You don't want the folks to come home and find the whole ranch
sheeped off, either, and the herders camping up in the white
house, do yuh?" Pink inquired pointedly. "I kinda think," he
added dryly, "those same herders will feel like going away around
Flying U fences with their sheep. I don't believe they'll do any
cutting across."

"I betche old Dunk'll make it interestin' fer this outfit, just
the same," Happy Jack predicted. "Tyin' up three men uh hisn,
like that, and ropin' their tent and draggin' it off, ain't
things he'll pass up. He'll have a possy out here--you see if he

"In that case, I'll be sorry for you, Happy," purred Miguel close
beside him. "You're the only one in the outfit that looks capable
of such a vile deed."

"Oh, Dunk won't do anything," Weary said cheerfully. "You'll have
to take those guns back, though. They might take a notion to call
that stealing!"

"You forget," the Native Son reminded calmly, "that we left them
three good ropes in exchange."

Whereupon the Happy Family laughed and went to offer their
unsought sympathy to Slim.

CHAPTER X. The Happy Family Herd Sheep

The boys of the Flying U had many faults in common, aside from
certain individual frailties; one of their chief weaknesses was
over-confidence in their own ability to cope with any situation
which might arise, unexpectedly or otherwise, and a belief that
others felt that same confidence in them, and that enemies were
wont to sit a long time counting the cost before venturing to
offer too great an affront. Also they believed--and made it
manifest in their conversation--that they could even bring the
Old Man back to health if they only had him on the ranch where
they could get at him. They maligned the hospitals and Chicago
doctors most unjustly, and were agreed that all he needed was to
be back on the ranch where somebody could look after him right.
They asserted that, if they ever got tired of living and wanted
to cash in without using a gun or anything, they'd go to a
hospital and tell the doctors to turn loose and try to cure them
of something.

This by way of illustration; also as an explanation of their
sleeping soundly that night, instead of watching for some hostile
demonstration on the part of the Dot outfit. To a man--one never
counted Happy Jack's prophecies of disaster as being anything
more than a personal deformity of thought--they were positive in
their belief that the Dot sheepherders would be very, very
careful not to provoke the Happy Family to further manifestations
of disapproval. They knew what they'd get, if they tried any more
funny business, and they'd be mighty careful where they drove
their sheep after this.

So, with the comfortable glow of victory in their souls, they
laid them down, and, when the animated discussion of that night's
adventure flagged, as their tongues grew sleep-clogged and their
eyelids drooped, they slept in peace; save when Slim, awakened by
the soreness of his leg, grunted a malediction or two before he
began snoring again.

They rose and ate their breakfast in a fair humor with the world.
One grows accustomed to the thought of sickness, even when it
strikes close to the affections, and, with the resilience of
youth and hope, life adjusts itself to make room for the specter
of fear, so that it does not crowd unduly, but stands
half-forgotten in the background of one's thoughts. For that
reason they no longer spoke soberly because of the Old Man lying
hurt unto death in Chicago. And, when they mentioned the Dot
sheep and men, they spoke as men speak of the vanquished.

With the taste of hot biscuits and maple syrup still lingering
pleasantly against their palates, they went out and were
confronted with sheep, blatting sheep, stinking sheep,
devastating sheep, Dot sheep. On the south side of the coulee, up
on the bluff, grazed the band. They fed upon the brow of the hill
opposite the ranch buildings; they squeezed under the fence and
spilled a ragged fringe of running, gray animals down the slope.
Half a mile away though the nearest of them were, the murmur of
them, the smell of them, the whole intolerable presence of them,
filled the Happy Family with an amazed loathing too deep for

Technically, that high, level stretch of land bounding Flying U
coulee on the south was open range. It belonged to the
government. The soil was not fertile enough even for the most
optimistic of "dry land" farmers to locate upon it; and this was
before the dry-land farming craze had swept the country,
gathering in all public land as claims. J. G. Whitmore had
contented himself with acquiring title to the whole of the Flying
U coulee, secure in his belief that the old order of things would
not change, in his life-time, at least, and that the unwritten
law of the range land, which leaves the vicinity of a ranch to
the use of the ranch owner, would never be repealed by new
customs imposed by a new class of people.

Legally, there was no trespassing of the Dots, beyond the two or
three hundred which had made their way through the fence.
Morally, however, and by right of custom, their offense would not
be much greater if they came on down the hill and invaded the Old
Man's pet meadows, just beyond the "little pasture."

Ladies may read this story, so I am not going to pretend to
repeat the things they said, once they were released from dumb
amazement. I should be compelled to improvise and substitute--
which would remove much of the flavor. Let bare facts suffice, at

They saddled in haste, and in haste they rode to the scene. This,
they were convinced, was the band herded by the bug-killer and
the man from Wyoming; and the nerve of those two almost excited
the admiration of the Happy Family. It did not, however, deter
them from their purpose.

Weary, to look at him, was no longer in the mood to preach
patience and a turning of the other cheek. He also made that
change of heart manifest in his speech when Pink, his eyes almost
black, rode up close and gritted at him:

"Well, what's the orders now? Want me to go back and get the wire
nippers so we can let them poor little sheep down into the
meadow? Maybe we better ask the herders down to have some of
Patsy's grub, too; I don't believe they had time to cook much
breakfast. And it wouldn't be a bad idea to haze our own stuff
clear off the range. I'm afraid Dunk's sheep are going to fare
kinda slim, if we go on letting our cattle eat all the good
grass!" Pink did not often indulge in such lengthy sarcasm,
especially toward his beloved Weary; but his exasperation toward
Weary's mild tactics had been growing apace.

Weary's reply, I fear, will have to be omitted. It was terribly

"I want you boys to spread out, around the whole bunch," was his
first printable utterance, "and haze these sheep just as far
south as they can get without taking to the river. Don't get all
het up chasing 'em yourself--make the men (Weary did not call
them men; he called them something very naughty) that's paid for
it do the driving."

"And, if they don't go," drawled the smooth voice of the Native
Son, "what shall we do, amigo? Slap them on the wrist?"

Weary twisted in the saddle and sent him a baleful glance, which
was not at all like Weary the sunny-hearted.

"If you can't figure that out for yourself," he snapped, "you had
better go back and wipe the dishes for Patsy; and, when that's
done, you can pull the weeds out of his radishes. Maybe he'll
give you a nickel to buy candy with, if you do it good." Before
he faced to the front again his harsh glance swept the faces of
his companions.

They were grinning, every man of them, and he knew why. To see
him lose his temper was something of an event with the Happy
Family, who used sometimes to fix the date of an incident by
saying, "It was right after that time Weary got mad, a year ago
last fall," or something of the sort. He grinned himself,
shamefacedly, and told them that they were a bunch of no-account
cusses, anyway, and he'd just about as soon herd sheep himself as
to have to run with such an outfit; which swept his anger from
him and left him his usual self, with but the addition of a
purpose from which nothing could stay him. He was going to settle
the sheep question, and he was going to settle it that day.

Only one injunction did he lay upon the Happy Family. "You
fellows don't want to get excited and go to shooting," he warned,
while they were still out of hearing of the herders. "We don't
want Dunk to get anything like that on us; savvy?"

They "savvied," and they told him so, each after his own
individual manner.

"I guess we ought to be able to put the run on a couple of
sheepherders, without wasting any powder," Pink said loftily,
remembering his meeting with them a few days before.

"One thing sure--we'll make a good job of it this time," promised
Irish, and spurred after Weary, who was leading the way around
the band.

The herders watched them openly and with the manner of men who
are expecting the worst to happen. Unlike the four whose camp had
been laid low the night before, these two were unarmed, as they
had been from the first; which, in Weary's opinion, was a bit of
guile upon the part of Dunk. If trouble came--trouble which it
would take a jury to settle--the fact that the sheepmen were
unarmed would tell heavily in their favor; for, while the petty
meanness of range-stealing and nagging trespass may be harder to
bear than the flourishing of a gun before one's face, it all
sounds harmless enough in the telling.

Weary headed straight for the nearest herder, told him to put his
dogs to work rounding up the sheep, which were scattered over an
area half a mile across while they fed, and, when the herder, who
was the bug-killer, made no move to obey, Weary deliberately
pulled his gun and pointed at his head.

"You move," he directed with grim intent, "and don't take too
much time about it, either."

The bug-killer, an unkempt, ungainly figure, standing with his
back to the morning sun, scowled up at Weary stolidly.

"Yuh dassent shoot," he stated sourly, and did not move.

For answer, Weary pulled back the hammer; also he smiled as
malignantly as it was in his nature to do, and hoped in his heart
that he looked sufficiently terrifying to convince the man. So
they faced each other in a silent clash of wills.

Big Medicine had not been saying much on the way over, which was
unusual. Now he rode forward until he was abreast of Weary, and
he grinned down at the bug-killer in a way to distract his
attention from the gun.

"Nobody don't have to shoot, by cripes!" he bawled. "We hain't
goin' to kill yuh. We'll make yuh wisht, by cripes, we had,
though, b'fore we git through. Git to work, boys, 'n' gether up
some dry grass an' sticks. Over there in them rose-bushes you
oughta find enough bresh. We'll give him a taste uh what we was
talkin' about comm' over, by cripes! I guess he'll be willin' to
drive sheep, all right, when we git through with him.
Haw-haw-haw-w-w!" He leaned forward in the saddle and ogled the
bug-killer with horrid significance.

"Git busy with that bresh!" he yelled authoritatively, when a
glance showed him that the Happy Family was hesitating and eyeing
him uncertainly. "Git a fire goin' quick's yuh kin--I'll do the
rest. Down in Coconino county we used to have a way uh fixin'

"Aw, gwan! We don't want no torture business!" remonstrated Happy
Jack uneasily, edging away.

"Yuh don't, hey?" Big Medicine turned in the saddle wrathfully
and glared. When he had succeeded in catching Andy Green's eye he
winked, and that young man's face kindled understandingly. "Well,
now, you hain't runnin' this here show. Honest to grandma, I've
saw the time when a little foot-warmin' done a sheepherder a
whole lot uh good; and, it looks to me, by cripes, as if this
here feller needed a dose to gentle him down. You git the fire
started. That's all I want you t' do, Happy. Some uh you boys
help me rope him--like him and that other jasper over there done
to Andy. C'me on, Andy--it ain't goin' to take long!"

"You bet your sweet life I'll come on!" exclaimed Andy,
dismounting eagerly. "Let me take your rope, Weary. Too bad we
haven't got a branding iron--"

"Aw, we don't need no irons." Big Medicine was also on the ground
by then, and untying his rope. "Lemme git his shoes off once, and
I'll show yuh."

The bug-killer lifted his stick, snarling like a mongrel dog when
a stranger tries to drive it out of the house; hurled the stick
hysterically, as Big Medicine, rope in hand, advanced implacably,
and, with a squawk of horror, turned suddenly and ran. After him,
bellowing terribly, lunged Big Medicine, straight through the
band like a snowplow, leaving behind them a wide, open trail.

"Say, we kinda overplayed that bet, by gracious," Andy commented
to Weary, while he watched the chase. "That gazabo's scared
silly; let's try the other one. That torture talk works fine."

In his enthusiasm Andy remounted and was about to lead the way to
the other herder when Big Medicine returned puffing, the
bug-killer squirming in his grasp. "Tell him what yuh want him to
do, Weary," he panted, with some difficulty holding his limp
victim upright by a greasy coat-collar. "And if he don't fall
over himself doin' it, why--by cripes--we'll take off his shoes!"

Whereupon the bug-killer gave another howl and professed himself
eager to drive the sheep--well, what he said was that he would
drive them to that place which ladies dislike to hear mentioned,
if the Happy Family wanted him to.

"That's all right, then. Start 'em south, and don't quit till
somebody tells you to." Weary carefully let down the hammer of
his six-shooter and shoved it thankfully into his scabbard.

"Now, you don't want to pile it on quite so thick, next time,"
Irish admonished Big Medicine, when they turned away from
watching the bug-killer set his dogs to work by gestures and a
shouted word or two. "You like to have sent this one plumb

"I betche Bud gets us all pinched for that," grumbled Happy Jack.
"Torturing folks is purty darned serious business. You might as
well shoot 'em up decent and be done with it."

"Haw-haw-haw-w-w!" Big Medicine ogled the group mirthfully.
"Nobody can't swear I done a thing, or said a thing. All I said
definite was that I'd take off his shoes. Any jury in the
country'd know that would be hull lot worse fer us than it would
fer him, by cripes. Haw-haw-haw-w-w!"

"Say, that's right; yuh didn't say nothin', ner do nothin'. By
golly, that was purty slick work, all right!" Slim forgot his
sore leg until he clapped his hand enthusiastically down upon the
place as comprehension of Bud's finesse dawned upon him. He
yelped, and the Happy Family laughed unfeelingly.

"You want to be careful and don't try to see through any jokes,
Slim, till that leg uh yours gets well," Irish bantered, and they
laughed the louder.

All this was mere byplay; a momentary swinging of their mood to
pleasantry, because they were a temperamentally cheerful lot, and
laughter came to them easily, as it always does to youth and
perfect mental and physical health. Their brief hilarity over
Slim's misfortune did not swerve them from their purpose, nor
soften the mood of them toward their adversaries. They were
unsmiling and unfriendly when they reached the man from Wyoming;
and, if they ever behaved like boys let out of school, they did
not show it then.

The Wyoming man was wiser than his fellow. He had been given
several minutes grace in which to meditate upon the unwisdom of
defiance; and he had seen the bug-killer change abruptly from
sullenness to terror, and afterward to abject obedience. He did
not know what they had said to him, or what they had done; but he
knew the bug-killer was a hard man to stampede. And he was one
man, and they were many; also he judged that, being human, and
this being the third offense of the Dot sheep under his care, it
would be extremely unsafe to trust that their indignation would
vent itself in mere words.

Therefore, when Weary told him to get the stragglers back through
the fence and up on the level, he stopped only long enough for a
good look at their faces. After that he called his dogs and
crawled through the fence.

It really did not require the entire Family to force those sheep
south that morning. But Weary's jaw was set, as was his heart,
upon a thorough cleaning of that particular bit of range; and,
since he did not definitely request any man to turn back, and
every fellow there was minded to see the thing to a finish, they
straggled out behind the trailing two thousand--and never had one
bunch of sheep so efficient a convoy.

After the first few miles the way grew rough. Sheep lagged, and
the blatting increased to an uproar. Old ewes and yearlings these
were mostly, and there were few to suffer more than hunger and
thirst, perhaps. So Weary was merciless, and drove them forward
without a stop until the first jumble of hills and deep-worn
gullies held them back from easy traveling.

But the Happy Family had not ridden those breaks for cattle, all
these years, to be hindered by rough going. Weary, when the band
stopped and huddled, blatting incessantly against a sheer wall of
sandstone and gravel, got the herders together and told them what
he wanted.

"You take 'em down that slope till you come to the second little
coulee. Don't go up the first one--that's a blind pocket. In the
second coulee, up a mile or so, there's a spring creek. You can
hold 'em there on water for half an hour. That's more than any of
yuh deserve. Haze 'em down there."

The herders did not know it, but that second coulee was the rude
gateway to an intricate system of high ridges and winding
waterways that would later be dry as a bleached bone--the real
beginning of the bad lands which border the Missouri river for
long, terrible miles. Down there, it is possible for two men to
reach places where they may converse quite easily across a chasm,
and yet be compelled to ride fifteen or twenty miles, perhaps, in
order to shake hands. Yet, even in that scrap-heap of Nature
there are ways of passing deep into the heart of the upheaval.

The Happy Family knew those ways as they knew the most
complicated figures of the quadrilles they danced so
lightfootedly with the girls of the Bear Paw country. When they
forced the sheep and their herders out of the coulee Weary had
indicated he sent Irish and Pink ahead to point the way, and he
told them to head for the Wash Bowl; which they did with
praiseworthy zeal and scant pity for the sheep.

When at last, after a slow, heartbreaking climb up a long, bare
ridge, Pink and Irish paused upon the brow of a slope and let the
trail-weary band spill itself reluctantly down the steep slope
beyond, the sun stood high in the blue above them and their
stomachs clamored for food; by which signs they knew that it must
be near noon.

When the last sheep had passed, blatting discordantly, down the
bluff, Weary halted the sweating herders for a parting

"We don't aim to deal you any more misery, for a while, if you
stay where you're at. You're only working for a living, like the
rest of us--but I must say I don't admire your trade none.
Anyway, I'll send some of your bunch down here with grub and
beds. This is good enough range for sheep. You keep away from the
Flying U and nobody'll bother you. Over there in them trees," he
added, pointing a gloved finger toward a little grove on the far
side of the basin, "you'll find a cabin, and water. And, farther
down the river there's pretty good grass, in the little bottoms.
Now, git."

The herders looked as if they would enjoy murdering them all, but
they did not say a word. With their dogs at heel they scrambled
down the bluff in the wake of their sheep, and the Happy Family,
rolling cigarettes while they watched them depart, told one
another that this settled that bunch; they wouldn't bed down in
the Flying U door-yard that night, anyway.

CHAPTER XI. Weary Unburdens

Hungry with the sharp, gnawing hunger of healthy stomachs
accustomed to regular and generous feeding; tired with the
weariness of healthy muscles pushed past their accustomed limit
of action; and hot with the unaccustomed heat of a blazing day
shunted unaccountably into the midst of soft spring weather, the
Happy Family rode out of the embrace of the last barren coulee
and up on the wide level where the breeze swept gratefully up
from the west, and where every day brought with it a deeper tinge
of green into its grassy carpet.

Only for this harassment of the Dot sheep, the roundup wagons
would be loaded and ready to rattle abroad over the land. Meadow
larks and curlews and little, pert-eyed ground sparrows called
out to them that roundup time was come. They passed a bunch of
feeding Flying U cattle, and flat-ribbed, bandy-legged calves
galloped in brief panic to their mothers and from the sanctuary
of grass-filled paunches watched the riders with wide,
inquisitive eyes.

"We ought to be starting out, by now," Weary observed a bit
gloomily to Andy and Pink, who rode upon either side of him. "The
calf crop is going to be good, if this weather holds on another
two weeks or so. But--" he waved his cigarette disgustedly
"--that darned Dot outfit would be all over the place, if we
pulled out on roundup and left 'em the run of things." He smoked
moodily for a minute. "My religion has changed a lot in the last
few days," he observed whimsically. "My idea of hell is a place
where there ain't anything but sheep and sheepherders; and
cowpunchers have got to spend thousands uh years right in the
middle of the corrals."

"If that's the case, I'm going to quit cussing, and say my
prayers every night," Andy Green asserted emphatically.

"What worries me," Weary confided, obeying the impulse to talk
over his troubles with those who sympathized, "is how I'm going
to keep the work going along like it ought to, and at the same
time keep them Dot sheep outa the house. Dunk's wise, all right.
He knows enough about the cow business to know we ye got to get
out on the range pretty quick, now. And he's so mean that every
day or every half day he can feed his sheep on Flying U grass, he
calls that much to the good. And he knows we won't go to opening
up any real gun-fights if we can get out of it; he counts on our
faunching around and kicking up a lot of dust, maybe--but we
won't do anything like what he'd do, in our places. He knows the
Old Man and Chip are gone, and he knows we've just naturally got
to sit back and swallow our tongues because we haven't any
authority. Mamma! It comes pretty tough, when a low-down skunk
like that just banks on your doing the square thing. He wouldn't
do it, but he knows we will; and so he takes advantage of white
men and gets the best of 'em. And if we should happen to break
out and do something, he knows the herders would be the ones to
get it in the neck; and he'd wait till the dust settled, and bob
up with the sheriff--" He waved his hand again with a hopeless
gesture. "It may not look that way on the face of it," he added
gloomily, "but Dunk has got us right where he wants us. From the
way they've been letting sheep on our land, time and time again,
I'd gamble he's just trying to make us so mad we'll break out.
He's got it in for the whole outfit, from the Old Man and the
Little Doctor down to Slim. If any of us boys got into trouble,
the Old Man would spend his last cent to clear us; and Dunk knows
that just as well as he knows the way from the house to the
stable. He'd see to it that it would just about take the Old
Man's last cent, too. And he's using these Dot sheep like you'd
use a red flag on a bull, to make us so crazy mad we'll kill off

"That's why," he said to them all when he saw that they had
ridden up close that they might hear what he was saying, "I've
been hollering so loud for the meek-and-mild stunt. When I
slapped him on the jaw, and he stood there and took it, I saw his
game. He had a witness to swear I hit him and he didn't hit back.
And when I saw them Dots in our field again, I knew, just as well
as if Dunk had told me, that he was kinda hoping we'd kill a
herder or two so he could cinch us good and plenty. I don't say,"
he qualified with a rueful grin, "that Dunk went into the sheep
business just to get r-re-venge, as they say in shows. But if he
can make money running sheep--and he can, all right, because
there's more money in them right now than there is in cattle--and
at the same time get a good whack at the Flying U, he's the lad
that will sure make a running jump at the chance." He spat upon
the burnt end of his cigarette stub from force of the habit that
fear of range fires had built, and cast it petulantly from him;
as if he would like to have been able to throw Dunk and his sheep
problem as easily out of his path.

"So I wish you boys would hang onto yourselves when you hear a
sheep blatting under your window," he summed up his unburdening
whimsically. "As Bud said this morning, you can't hang a man for
telling a sheepherder you'll take off his shoes. And they can't
send us over the road for moving that band of sheep onto new
range to-day. Last night you all were kinda disorderly, maybe,
but you didn't hurt anybody, or destroy any property. You see
what I mean. Our only show is to stop with our toes on the right
side of the dead line."

"If Andy, here, would jest git his think-wheels greased and going
good," Big Medicine suggested loudly, "he ought to frame up
something that would put them Dots on the run permanent. I d'no,
by cripes, why it is a feller can always think uh lies and joshes
by the dozens, and put 'em over O. K. when there ain't nothing to
be made out of it except hard feelin's; and then when a deal like
this here sheep deal comes up, he's got about as many idees, by
cripes, as that there line-back calf over there. Honest to
grandma, Andy makes me feel kinda faint. Only time he did have a
chanc't, he let them--" It occurred to Big Medicine at that point
that perhaps his remarks might be construed by the object of them
as being offensively personal. He turned his head and grinned
good-naturedly in Andy's direction, and refrained from finishing
what he was going to say. "I sure do like them wind- flowers
scattered all over the ground," he observed with such deliberate
and ostentatious irrelevance that the Happy Family laughed, even
to Andy Green, who had at first been inclined toward anger.

"Everything," declared Andy in the tone of a paid instructor,
"has its proper time and place, boys; I've told you that before.
For instance, I wouldn't try to kill a skunk by talking it to
death; and I wouldn't be hopeful of putting the run on this Dunk
person by telling him ghost stories. As to ideas--I'm plumb full
of them. But they're all about grub, just right at present."

That started Slim and Happy Jack to complaining because no one
had had sense enough to go back after some lunch before taking
that long trail south; the longer because it was a slow one, with
sheep to set the pace. And by the time they had presented their
arguments against the Happy Family's having enough brains to last
them overnight, and the Happy Family had indignantly pointed out
just where the mental deficiency was most noticeable, they were
upon that last, broad stretch of "bench" land beyond which lay
Flying U coulee and Patsy and dinner; a belated dinner, to be
sure, but for that the more welcome.

And when they reached the point where they could look away to the
very rim of the coulee, they saw sheep--sheep to the skyline,
feeding scattered and at ease, making the prairie look, in the
distance, as if it were covered with a thin growth of gray
sage-brush. Four herders moved slowly upon the outskirts, and the
dogs were little, scurrying, black dots which stopped
occasionally to wait thankfully until the master-minds again
urged them to endeavor.

The Happy Family drew up and stared in silence.

"Do I see sheep?" Pink inquired plaintively at last. "Tell me,

"It's that bunch you fellows tackled last night," said Weary
miserably. "I ought to have had sense enough to leave somebody on
the ranch to look out for this."

"They've got their nerve," stated Irish, "after the deal they got
last night. I'd have bet good money that you couldn't drag them
herders across Flying U coulee with a log chain."

"Say, by golly, do we have to drive this here bunch anywheres
before we git anything to eat?" Slim wanted to know

Weary considered briefly. "No, I guess we'll pass 'em up for the
present. An hour or so won't make much difference in the long
run, and our horses are about all in, right now--"

"So'm I, by cripes!" Big Medicine attested, grinning mirthlessly.
"This here sheep business is plumb wearin' on a man. 'Specially,"
he added with a fretful note, "when you've got to handle 'em
gentle. The things I'd like to do to them Dots is all ruled outa
the game, seems like. Honest to grandma, a little gore would look
better to me right now than a Dutch picnic before the foam's all
blowed off the refreshments. Lemme kill off jest one herder,
Weary?" he pleaded. "The one that took a shot at me las' night.
Purty, please!"

"If you killed one," Weary told him glumly. "you might as well
make a clean sweep and take in the whole bunch."

"Well, I won't charge nothin' extra fer that, either," Bud
assured him generously. "I'm willin' to throw in the other three
--and the dawgs, too, by cripes!" He goggled the Happy Family
quizzically. "Nobody can't say there's anything small about me.
Why, down in the Coconino country they used to set half a dozen
greasers diggin' graves, by cripes, soon as I started in to argy
with a man. It was a safe bet they'd need three or four, anyways,
if old Bud cut loose oncet. Sheepherders? Why, they jest
natcherly couldn't keep enough on hand, securely, to run their
sheep. They used to order sheepherders like they did woolsacks,
by cripes! You could always tell when I was in the country, by
the number uh extra herders them sheep outfits always kep' in
reserve. Honest to grandma, I've knowed two or three outfits to
club together and ship in a carload at a time, when they heard I
was headed their way. And so when it comes to killin' off four,
why that ain't skurcely enough to make it worth m'while to dirty
up m'gun!"

"Aw, I betche yuh never killed a man in your life!" Happy Jack
grumbled in his characteristic tone of disparagement; but such
was his respect for Big Medicine's prowess that he took care not
to speak loud enough to be overheard by that modest gentleman,
who continued with certain fearsome details of alleged murderous
exploits of his own, down in Coconino County, Arizona.

But as they passed the detested animals, thankful that the trail
permitted them to ride by at a distance sufficient to blur the
most unsavory details, even Big Medicine gave over his deliberate
boastings and relapsed into silence.

He had begun his fantastic vauntings from an instinctive impulse
to leaven with humor a situation which, at the moment, could not
be bettered. Just as they had, when came the news of the Old
Man's dire plight, sought to push the tragedy of it into the
background and cling to their creed of optimism, they had avoided
openly facing the sheep complication squarely with mutual
admissions of all it might mean to the Flying U.

Until Weary had unburdened his heart of worry on the ride home
that day, they had not said much about it, beyond a general
vilification of the sheep industry as a whole, of Dunk as the
chief of the encroaching Dots, and of the herders personally.

But there were times when they could not well avoid thinking
rather deeply upon the subject, even if they did refuse to put
their forebodings into speech. They were not children; neither
were they to any degree lacking in intelligence. Swearing, about
herders and at them, was all very well; bluffing, threatening,
pummeling even with willing fists, tearing down tents and binding
men with ropes might serve to relieve the emotions upon occasion.
But there was the grim economic problem which faced squarely the
Flying U as a "cow outfit"--the problem of range and water; the
Happy Family did not call it by name, but they realized to the
full what it meant to the Old Man to have sheep just over his
boundary line always. They realized, too, what it meant to have
the Old Man absent at this time--worse, to have him lying in a
hospital, likely to die at any moment; what it meant to have the
whole responsibility shifted to their shoulders, willing though
they might be to bear the burden; what it meant to have the
general of an army gone when the enemy was approaching in
overwhelming numbers.

Pink, when they were descending the first slope of the bluff
which was the southern rim of Flying U coulee, turned and glared
vindictively back at the wavering, gray blanket out there to the
west. When he faced to the front his face had the look it wore
when he was fighting.

"So help me, Josephine!" he gritted desperately, "we've got to
clean the range of them Dots before the Old Man comes back, or--"
He snapped his jaws shut viciously.

Weary turned haggard eyes toward him.

"How?" he asked simply. And Pink had no answer for him.

CHAPTER XII. Two of a Kind

Patsy, staunch old partisan that he was, placed before them much
food which he had tried his best to keep hot without burning
everything to a crisp, and while they ate with ravenous haste he
told, with German epithets and a trembling lower jaw, of his
troubles that day.

"Dem sheeps, dey coom by der leetle pasture," he lamented while
he poured coffee muddy from long boiling. "Looks like dey know so
soon you ride away, und dey cooms cheeky as you pleece, und eats
der grass und crawls under der fence and leafs der vool sthicking
by der vires. I goes out mit a club, py cosh, und der sheeps
chust looks und valks by some better place alreatty, und I throw
rocks and yells till mine neck iss sore.

"Und' dose herders, dey sets dem by der rock and laugh till I
felt like I could kill der whole punch, by cosh! Und von yells,
'Hey, dutchy, pring me some pie, alreatty!' Und he laughs some
more pecause der sheeps dey don't go avay; dey chust run around
und eat more grass and baa-aa!" He turned and went heavily back
to the greasy range with the depleted coffee pot, lifted the lid
of a kettle and looked in upon the contents with a purely
mechanical glance; gave a perfunctory prod or two with a long-
handled fork, and came back to stand uneasily behind Weary.

"If you poys are goin' to shtand fer dot," he began querulously,
"Py cosh I von't! Py myself I vill go and tell dot Dunk W'ittaker
vot lowdown skunk I t'ink he iss. Sheep's vool shtickin' by der
fences efferwhere on der ranch, py cosh! Dot vould sure kill der
Old Man quick if he see it. Shtinkin' off sheeps py our noses all
der time, till I can't eat no more mit der shmell of dem. Neffer
pefore did I see vool on der Flying U fences, py cosh, und sheeps
baa-aain' in der coulee!"

Never had they seen Patsy take so to heart a matter of mere
business importance. They did not say much to him; there was not
much that they could say. They ate their fill and went out
disconsolately to discuss the thing among themselves, away from
Patsy's throaty complainings. They hated it as badly as did he;
with Weary's urgent plea for no violence holding them in leash,
they hated it more, if that were possible.

The Native Son tilted his head unobtrusively stableward when he
caught Andy's eye, and as unobtrusively wandered away from the
group. Andy stopped long enough to roll and light a cigarette and
then strolled after him with apparent aimlessness, secretly
curious over the summons. He found Miguel in the stable waiting
for him, and Miguel led the way, rope in hand across the corral
and into the little pasture where fed a horse he meant to ride.
He did not say anything until he had turned to close the gate,
and to make sure that they were alone and that their departure
had not carried to the Happy Family any betraying air of

"You remember when you blew in here, a few weeks or so ago?" the
Native Son asked abruptly, a twinkle in his fathomless eyes. "You
put up a good one on the boys, that time, you remember. Bluffed
them into thinking I was a hero in disguise, and that you'd seen
me pull off a big stunt of bull-fighting and bull- dogging down
in Mexico. It was a fine josh. They believe it yet."

Andy glanced at him perplexedly. "Yes--but when it turned out to
be true," he amended, "the josh was on me, I guess; I thought I
was just lying, when I wasn't. I've wondered a good deal about
that. By gracious, it makes a man feel funny to frame up a yarn
out of his own think-machine, and then find out he's been telling
the truth all the while. It's like a fellow handing out a
twenty-four karat gold bar to a rube by mistake, under the
impression it only looks like one. Of course they believe it!
Only they don't know I just merely hit the truth by accident."

The Native Son smiled his slow, amused smile, that somehow never
failed to be impressive. "That's the funny part of it," he
drawled. "You didn't. I just piled another little josh on top of
yours, that's all. I never throwed a bull in my life, except with
my lariat. I'd heard a good deal about you, and--well, I thought
I'd see if I could go you one better. And you put that Mexico
yarn across so smooth and easy, I just simply couldn't resist the
temptation to make you think it was all straight goods. Sabe?"

Andy Green did not say a word, but he looked exceedingly foolish.

"So I think we can both safely consider ourselves top-hands when
it comes to lying," the Native Son went on shamelessly. "And if
you're willing to go in with me on it and help put Dunk on the
run--" He glanced over his shoulder, saw that Happy Jack, on
horseback, was coming out to haze in the saddle bunch, and turned
to stroll back as lazily as he had come. He continued to speak
smoothly and swiftly, in a voice that would not carry ten paces.
While Andy Green, with brown head bent attentively, listened
eagerly and added a sentence or two on his own account now and
then, and smiled--which he had not been in the habit of doing

"Say, you fellers are gittin' awful energetic, ain't
yuh?--wranglin' horses afoot!" Happy Jack bantered at the top of
his voice when he passed them by. "Better save up your strength
while you kin. Weary's goin' to set us herdin' sheep agin--and I
betche there's goin' to be something more'n herdin' on our hands
before we git through."

"I wouldn't be a bit surprised if there was," sang out Andy, as
cheerfully as if he had been invited to dance "Ladies' choice"
with the prettiest girl in the crowd. "Wonder what hole he's
going to dump this bunch into," he added to the Native Son. "By
gracious, he ought to send 'em just as far north as he can drive
'em without paying duty! I'd sure take 'em over into Canada, if
it was me running the show."

"It was a mistake," the Native Son volunteered, "for the whole
bunch to go off like we did to-day. They had those sheep up here
on the hill just for a bait. They knew we'd go straight up in the
air and come down on those two freaks herding 'em, and that gave
them the chance to cross the other bunch. I thought so all along,
but I didn't like to butt in."

"Well Weary's mad enough now to do things that will leave a dent,
anyway," Andy commented under his breath when, from the corral
gate, he got a good look at Weary's profile, which showed the set
of his mouth and chin. "See that mouth? It's hunt the top rail,
and do it quick, when old Weary straightens out his lips like

Behind them, Happy Jack bellowed for an open gate and no
obstructions, and they drew hastily to one side to let the saddle
horses gallop past with a great upflinging of dust. Pink, with a
quite obtrusive facetiousness, began lustily chanting that it
looked to him like a big night to-night--with occasional, furtive
glances at Weary's face; for he, also, had been quick to read
those close-pressed lips, which did not soften in response to the
ditty. Usually he laughed at Pink's drollery.

They rode rather quietly upon the hill again, to where fed the
sheep. During the hour or so that they had been absent the sheep
had not moved appreciably; they still grazed close enough to the
boundary to make their position seem a direct insult to the
Flying U, a virtual slap in the face. And these young men who
worked for the Flying U, and who made its interests right loyally
their own, were growing very, very tired of turning the other
cheek. With them, the time for profanity and for horseplay
bluffing and judicious temporizing was past. There were other
lips besides Weary's that were drawn tight and thin when they
approached that particular band of sheep. More than one pair of
eyes turned inquiringly toward him and away again when they met
no answering look.

They topped a rise of ground, and in the shallow wrinkle which
had hidden him until now they came full upon Dunk Whittaker,
riding a chunky black which stepped restlessly about while he
conferred in low tones with a couple of the herders. The Happy
Family recognized them as two of the fellows in whose safe
keeping they had left their ropes the night before. Dunk looked
around quickly when the group appeared over the little ridge,
scowled, hesitated and then came straight up to them.

"I want you rowdies to bring back those sheep you took the
trouble to drive off this morning," he began, with the even,
grating voice and the sneering lift of lip under his little,
black mustache which the older members of the Happy Family
remembered--and hated--so vividly. "I've stood just all I'm going
to stand, of these typically Flying U performances you've been
indulging in so freely during the past week. It's all very well
to terrorize a neighborhood of long-haired rubes who don't know
enough to teach you your places; but interfering with another
man's property is--"

"Interfering with another--what?" Big Medicine, his pale blue
eyes standing out more like a frog's than ever upon his face,
gave his horse a kick and lunged close that he might lean and
thrust his red face near to Dunk's. "Another what? I don't see
nothin' in your saddle that looks t'me like a man, by cripes! All
I can see is a smooth-skinned, slippery vermin I'd hate to name a
snake after, that crawls around in the dark and lets cheap rough-
necks do all his dirty work. I've saw dogs sneak up and grab a
man behind, but most always they let out a growl or two first.
And even a rattler is square enough to buzz at yuh and give yuh a
chanc't to side-step him. Honest to grandma, I don't hardly know
what kinda reptyle y'are. I hate to insult any of 'em, by cripes,
by namin' yuh after 'em. But don't, for Lordy's sake, ever call
yourself a man agin!"

Big Medicine turned his head and spat disgustedly into the grass
and looked back slightingly with other annihilating remarks close
behind his wide-apart teeth, but instead of speaking he made an
unbelievably quick motion with his hand. The blow smacked loudly
upon Dunk's cheek, and so nearly sent him out of the saddle that
he grabbed for the horn to save himself.

"Oh, I seert yuh keepin' yer hand next yer six-gun all the
while," Big Medicine bawled. "That's one reason I say yuh ain't
no man! Yuh wouldn't dast talk up to a prairie dog if yuh wasn't
all set to make a quick draw. Yuh got your face slapped oncet
before by a Flyin' U man, and yuh had it comm'. Now

If you have ever seen an irate, proletarian mother cuffing her
offspring over an empty wood-box, you may picture perhaps the
present proceeding of Big Medicine. To many a man the thing would
have been unfeasible, after the first blow, because of the
horses. But Big Medicine was very nearly all that he claimed to
be; and one of his pet vanities was his horsemanship; he managed
to keep within a fine slapping distance of Dunk. He stopped when
his hand began to sting through his glove.

"Now you keep your hand away from that gun--that you ain't honest
enough to carry where folks can see it, but 'ye got it cached in
your pocket!" he thundered. "And go on with what you was goin'
t'say. Only don't get swell-headed enough to think you're a man,
agin. You ain't."

"I've got this to say!" Mere type cannot reproduce the
malevolence of Dunk's spluttering speech. "I've sent for the
county sheriff and a dozen deputies to arrest you, and you, and
you, damn you!" He was pointing a shaking finger at the older
members of the Happy Family, whom he recognized not gladly, but
too well. "I'll have you all in Deer Lodge before that lying,
thieving, cattle-stealing Old Man of yours can lift a finger.
I'll sheep Flying U coulee to the very doors of the white house.
I'll skin the range between here and the river--and I'll have
every one of you hounds put where the dogs won't bite you!" He
drew a hand across his mouth and smiled as they say Satan himself
can smile upon occasion.

"You've done enough to send you all over the road; destroying
property and assaulting harmless men--you wait! There are other
and better ways to fight than with the fists, and I haven't
forgotten any of you fellows--there are a few more rounders among

"Hey! You apologize fer that, by cripes, er I'll kill yuh the
longest way I know. And that--" Big Medicine again laid violent
hands upon Dunk, "and that way won't feel good, now I'm tellin'
yuh. Apologize, er--"

"Say, all this don't do any good, Bud," Weary expostulated. "Let
Dunk froth at the mouth if he wants to; what we want is to get
these sheep off the range. And," he added recklessly, "so long as
the sheriff is headed for us anyway, we may as well get busy and
make it worth his while. So--" He stopped, silenced by a most
amazing interruption.

On the brow of the hill, when first they had sighted Dunk in the
hollow, something had gone wrong with Miguel's saddle so that he
had stopped behind; and, to keep him company, Andy had stopped
also and waited for him. Later, when Dunk was spluttering
threats, they had galloped up to the edge of the group and pulled
their horses to a stand. Now, Miguel rode abruptly close to Dunk
as rides one with a purpose.

He leaned and peered intently into Dunk's distorted countenance
until every man there, struck by his manner, was watching him
curiously. Then he sat back in the saddle, straightened his legs
in the stirrups and laughed. And like his smile when he would
have it so, or the little twitch of shoulders by which he could
so incense a man, that laugh brought a deeper flush to Dunk's
face, reddened though it was by Big Medicine's vigorous slapping.

"Say, you've got nerve," drawled the Native Son, "to let a
sheriff travel toward you. I can remember when you were more
timid, amigo." He turned his head until his eyes fell upon Andy.
"Say, Andy!" he called. "Come and take a look at this hombre.
You'll have to think back a few years," he assisted laconically.

In response, Andy rode up eagerly. Like the Native Son, he leaned
and peered into eyes that stared back defiantly, wavered, and
turned away. Andy also sat back in the saddle then, and snorted.

"So this is the Dunk Whittaker that's been raising merry hell
around here! And talks about sending for the sheriff, huh? I've
always heard that a lot uh gall is the best disguise a man can
hide under, but, by gracious, this beats the deuce!" He turned to
the astounded Happy Family with growing excitement in his manner.

"Boys, we don't have to worry much about this gazabo! We'll just
freeze onto him till the sheriff heaves in sight. Gee! There'll
sure be something stirring when we tell him who this Dunk person
really is! And you say he was in with the Old Man, once? Oh,
Lord!" He looked with withering contempt at Dunk; and Dunk's
glance flickered again and dropped, just as his hand dropped to
the pocket of his coat.

"No, yuh don't, by cripes!" Big Medicine's hand gripped Dunk's
arm on the instant. With his other he plucked the gun from Dunk's
pocket, and released him as he would let go of something foul
which he had been compelled to touch.

"He'll be good, or he'll lose his dinner quick," drawled the
Native Son, drawing his own silver-mounted six-shooter and
resting it upon the saddle horn so that it pointed straight at
Dunk's diaphragm. "You take Weary off somewhere and tell him
something about this deal, Andy. I'll watch this slippery
gentleman." He smiled slowly and got an answering grin from Andy
Green, who immediately rode a few rods away, with Weary and Pink
close behind.

"Say, by golly, what's Dunk wanted fer?" Slim blurted
inquisitively after a short silence.

"Not for riding or driving over a bridge faster than a walk
Slim," purred the Native Son, shifting his gun a trifle as Dunk
moved uneasily in the saddle. "You know the man. Look at his
face--and use your imagination, if you've got any."

CHAPTER XIII. The Happy Family Learn Something

"Well, I hope this farce is about over," Dunk sneered, with as
near an approach to his old, supercilious manner as he could
command, when the three who had ridden apart returned presently.
"Perhaps, Weary, you'll be good enough to have this fellow put up
his gun, and these--" he hesitated, after a swift glance, to
apply any epithet whatever to the Happy Family. "I have two
witnesses here to swear that you have without any excuse
assaulted and maligned and threatened me, and you may consider
yourselves lucky if I do not insist--"

"Ah, cut that out," Andy advised wearily. "I don't know how it
strikes the rest, but it sounds pretty sickening to me. Don't
overlook the fact that two of us happen to know all about you;
and we know just where to send word, to dig up a lot more
identification. So bluffing ain't going to help you out, a darned

"Miguel, you can go with Andy," Weary said with brisk decision.
"Take Dunk down to the ranch till the sheriff gets here--if it's
straight goods about Dunk sending for him. If he didn't, we can
take Dunk in to-morrow, ourselves." He turned and fixed a cold,
commanding eye upon the slack-jawed herders. "Come along, you
two, and get these sheep headed outa here."

"Say, we'll just lock him up in the blacksmith shop, and come on
back," Andy amended the order after his own free fashion. "He
couldn't get out in a million years; not after I'm through
staking him out to the anvil with a log-chain." He smiled
maliciously into Dunk's fear-yellowed countenance, and waved him
a signal to ride ahead, which Dunk did without a word of protest
while the Happy Family looked on dazedly.

"What's it all about, Weary?" Irish asked, when the three were
gone. "What is it they've got on Dunk? Must be something pretty
fierce, the way he wilted down into the saddle."

"You'll have to wait and ask the boys." Weary rode off to hurry
the herders on the far side of the band.

So the Happy Family remained perforce unenlightened upon the
subject and for that they said hard things about Weary, and about
Andy and Miguel as well. They believed that they were entitled to
know the truth, and they called it a smart-aleck trick to keep
the thing so almighty secret.

There is in resentment a crisis; when that crisis is reached, and
the dam of repression gives way, the full flood does not always
sweep down upon those who have provoked the disaster. Frequently
it happens that perfectly innocent victims are made to suffer.
The Happy Family had been extremely forbearing, as has been
pointed out before. They had frequently come to the boiling point
of rage and had cooled without committing any real act of
violence. But that day had held a long series of petty
annoyances; and here was a really important thing kept from them
as if they were mere outsiders. When Weary was gone, Irish asked
Pink what crime Dunk had committed in the past. And Pink shook
his head and said he didn't know. Irish mentally accused Pink of
lying, and his temper was none the better for the rebuff, as
anyone can readily understand.

When the herders, therefore, rounded up the sheep and started
them moving south, the Happy Family speedily rebelled against
that shuffling, nibbling, desultory pace that had kept them long,
weary hours in the saddle with the other band. But it was Irish
who first took measures to accelerate that pace.

He got down his rope and whacked the loop viciously down across
the nearest gray back. The sheep jumped, scuttled away a few
paces and returned to its nibbling progress. Irish called it
names and whacked another.

After a few minutes he grew tired of swinging his loop and seeing
it have so fleeting an effect, and pulled his gun. He fired close
to the heels of a yearling buck that had more than once stopped
to look up at him foolishly and blat, and the buck charged ahead
in a panic at the noise and the spat of the bullet behind him.

"Hit him agin in the same place!" yelled Big Medicine, and drew
his own gun. The Happy Family, at that high tension where they
were ready for anything, caught the infection and began shooting
and yelling like crazy men.

The effect was not at all what they expected. Instead of adding
impetus to the band, as would have been the case if they had been
driving cattle, the result was exactly the opposite. The sheep
ran--but they ran to a common center. As the shooting went on
they bunched tighter and tighter, until it seemed as though those
in the center must surely be crushed flat. From an ambling,
feeding company of animals, they become a lumpy gray blanket,
with here and there a long, vacuous face showing idiotically upon
the surface.

The herders grinned and drew together as against a common
enemy--or as with a new joke to be discussed among themselves.
The dogs wandered helplessly about, yelped half-heartedly at the
woolly mass, then sat down upon their haunches and lolled red
tongues far out over their pointed little teeth, and tilted
knowing heads at the Happy Family.

"Look at the darned things!" wailed Pink, riding twice around the
huddle, almost ready to shed tears of pure rage and helplessness.
"Git outa that! Hi! Woopp-ee!" He fired again and again, and gave
the range-old cattle-yell; the yell which had sent many a tired
herd over many a weary mile; the yell before which had fled fat
steers into the stockyards at shipping time, and up the chutes
into the cars; the yell that had hoarsened many a cowpuncher's
voice and left him with a mere croak to curse his fate with; a
yell to bring results--but it did not start those sheep.

The Happy Family, riding furiously round and round, fired every
cartridge they had upon their persons; they said every improper
thing they could remember or invent; they yelled until their eyes
were starting from their sockets; they glued that band of sheep
so tight together that dynamite could scarcely have pried them

And the herders, sitting apart with grimy hands clasped loosely
over hunched-up knees, looked on, and talked together in low
tones, and grinned.

Irish glanced that way and caught them grinning; caught them
pointing derisively, with heaving shoulders. He swore a great
oath and made for them, calling aloud that he would knock those
grins so far in that they would presently find themselves smiling
wrong-side-out from the back of their heads.

Pink, overhearing him, gave a last swat at the waggling tail of a
burrowing buck, and wheeled to overtake Irish and have a hand in
reversing the grins. Big Medicine saw them start, and came
bellowing up from the far side of the huddle like a bull
challenging to combat from across a meadow. Big Medicine did not
know what it was all about, but he scented battle, and that was
sufficient. Cal Emmett and Weary, equally ignorant of the cause,
started at a lope toward the trouble center.

It began to look as if the whole Family was about to fall upon
those herders and rend them asunder with teeth and nails; so much
so that the herders jumped up and ran like scared cottontails
toward the rim of Denson coulee, a hundred yards or so to the

"Mamma! I wish we could make the sheep hit that gait and keep
it," exclaimed Weary, with the first laugh they had heard from
him that day.

While he was still laughing, there was a shot from the ridge
toward which they were running; the sharp, vicious crack of a
rifle. The Happy Family heard the whistling hum of the bullet,
singing low over their heads; quite low indeed; altogether too
low to be funny. And they had squandered all their ammunition on
the prairie sod, to hurry a band of sheep that flatly refused to
hurry anywhere except under one another's odorous, perspiring

From the edge of the coulee the rifle spoke again. A tiny geyser
of dust, spurting up from the ground ten feet to one side of Cal
Emmett, showed them all where the bullet struck.

"Get outa range, everybody!" yelled Weary, and set the example by
tilting his rowels against Glory's smooth hide, and heading
eastward. "I like to be accommodating, all right, but I draw the
line on standing around for a target while my neighbors practise

The Happy Family, having no other recourse, therefore retreated
in haste toward the eastern skyline. Bullets followed them,
overtook them as the shooter raised his sights for the increasing
distance, and whined harmlessly over their heads. All save one.


Big Medicine, Irish and Pink, racing almost abreast, heard a
scream behind them and pulled up their horses with short,
stiff-legged plunges. A brown horse overtook them; a brown horse,
with Happy Jack clinging to the saddle-horn, his body swaying far
over to one side. Even as he went hurtling past them his hold
grew slack and he slumped, head foremost, to the ground. The
brown horse gave a startled leap away from him and went on with
empty stirrups flapping.

They sprang down and lifted him to a less awkward position, and
Big Medicine pillowed the sweat-dampened, carroty head in the
hollow of his arm. Those who had been in the lead looked back
startled when the brown horse tore past them with that empty
saddle; saw what had happened, wheeled and galloped back. They
dismounted and stood silently grouped about poor, ungainly Happy
Jack, lying there limp and motionless in Big Medicine's arms. Not
one of them remembered then that there was a man with a rifle not
more than two hundred yards away; or, if they did, they quite
forgot that the rifle might be dangerous to themselves. They were
thinking of Happy Jack.

Happy Jack, butt of all their jokes and jibes; Happy the croaker,
the lugubrious forecaster of trouble; Happy Jack, the ugliest,
the stupidest, the softest-hearted man of them all. He had
"betched" there would be someone killed, over these Dot sheep; he
had predicted trouble of every conceivable kind; and they had
laughed at him, swore at him, lied to him, "joshed" him
unmercifully, and kept him in a state of chronic indignation,
never dreaming that the memory of it would choke them and strike
them dumb with that horrible, dull weight in their chests with
which men suffer when a woman would find the relief of weeping.

"Where's he hurt?" asked Weary, in the repressed tone which only
tragedy can bring into a man's voice, and knelt beside Big

"I dunno--through the lungs, I guess; my sleeve's gitting soppy
right under his shoulder." Big Medicine did not bellow; his voice
was as quiet as Weary's.

Weary looked up briefly at the circle of staring faces. "Pink,
you pile onto Glory and go wire for a doctor. Try Havre first;
you may get one up on the nine o' clock train. If you can't, get
one down on the 'leven-twenty, from Great Falls. Or there's
Benton--anyway, git one. If you could catch MacPherson, do it.
Try him first, and never mind a Havre doctor unless you can't get
MacPherson. I'd rather wait a couple of hours longer, for him.
I'll have a rig--no, you better get a team from Jim. They'll be
fresh, and you can put 'em through. If you kill 'em," he added
grimly, "we can pay for 'em." He had his jack-knife out, and was
already slashing carefully the shirt of Happy Jack, that he might
inspect the wound.

Pink gave a last, wistful look at Happy Jack's face, which seemed
unfamiliar with all the color and all the expression wiped out of
it like that, and turned away. "Come and help me change saddles,
Cal," he said shortly. "Weary's stirrups are too darned long."
Even with the delay, he was mounted on Glory and galloping toward
Flying U coulee before Weary was through uncovering the wound;
and that does not mean that Weary was slow.

The rifle cracked again, and a bullet plucked into the sod twenty
feet beyond the circle of men and horses. But no one looked up or
gave any other sign of realization that they were still the
target; they were staring, with that frowning painfully intent
look men have at such moments, at a purplish hole not much bigger
than if punched by a lead pencil, just under the point of Happy
Jack's shoulder blade; and at the blood oozing sluggishly from it
in a tiny stream across the girlishly white flesh and dripping
upon Big Medicine's arm.

"Hadn't we better get a rig to take him home with?" Irish

Weary, exploring farther, had just disclosed a ragged wound under
the arm where the bullet had passed out; he made no immediate

"Well, he ain't got it stuck inside of 'im, anyway," Big Medicine
commented relievedly. "Don't look to me like it's so awful
bad--went through kinda anglin', and maybe missed his lungs. I've
saw men shot up before--"

"Aw--I betche you'd--think it was bad--if you had it--" murmured
Happy Jack peevishly, lifting his eyelids heavily for a resentful
glance when they moved him a little. But even as Big Medicine
grinned joyfully down at him he went off again into mental
darkness, and the grin faded into solicitude.

"You'd kick, by golly, if you was goin' to be hung," Slim
bantered tritely and belatedly, and gulped remorsefully when he
saw that he was "joshing" an unconscious man.

"We better get him home. Irish, you--" Weary looked up and
discovered that Irish and jack Bates were already headed for home
and a conveyance. He gave a sigh of approval and turned his
attention toward wiping the sweat and grime from Happy's face
with his handkerchief.

"Somebody else is goin' to git hit, by golly, if we stay here,"
Slim blurted suddenly, when another bullet dug up the dirt in
that vicinity.

"That gol-darned fool'll keep on till he kills somebody. I wisht
I had m' thirty-thirty here--I'd make him wisht his mother was a
man, by golly!"

Big Medicine looked toward the coulee rim. "I ain't got a shell
left," he growled regretfully. "I wisht we'd thought to tell the
boys to bring them rifles. Say, Slim, you crawl onto your hoss
and go git 'em. It won't take more'n a minute. There'll likely be
some shells in the magazines."

"Go on, Slim," urged Weary grimly. "We've got to do something.
They can't do a thing like this--"he glanced down at Happy Jack-
--"and get away with it."

"I got half a box uh shells for my thirty-thirty, I'll bring
that." Slim turned to go, stopped short and stared at the coulee
rim. "By golly, they're comm' over here!" he exclaimed.

Big Medicine glanced up, took off his hat, crumpled it for a
pillow and eased Happy Jack down upon it. He got up stiffly,
wiped his fingers mechanically upon his trouser legs, broke his
gun open just to make sure that it was indeed empty, put it back
and picked up a handful of rocks.

"Let 'em come," he said viciously. "I c'n kill every damn' one
with m' bare hands!"


"Say, ain't that Andy and Mig following along behind?" Cal asked
after a minute of watching the approach. "Sure, it is. Now

"They're drivin' 'em, by cripes!" Big Medicine, under the stress
of the moment, returned to his usual bellowing tone. "Who's that
tall, lanky feller in the lead? I don't call to mind ever seem
him before. Them four herders I'd know a mile off."

"That?" Weary shaded his eyes with his hat-brim, against the
slant rays of the westering sun. "That's Oleson, Dunk's partner."

"His mother'd be a-weepin'," Big Medicine observed bodefully, "if
she knowed what was due to happen to her son right away quick.
Must be him that done the shootin'."

They came on steadily, the four herders and Oleson walking
reluctantly ahead, with Andy Green and the Native Son riding
relentlessly in the rear, their guns held unwaveringly in a line
with the backs of their captives. Andy was carrying a rifle,
evidently taken from one of the men--Oleson, they judged for the
guilty one. Half the distance was covered when Andy was seen to
turn his head and speak briefly with the Native Son, after which
he lunged past the captives and galloped up to the waiting group.
His quick eye sought first the face of Happy Jack in anxious
questioning; then, miserably, he searched the faces of his

"Good Lord!" he exclaimed mechanically, dismounted and bent over
the figure on the ground. For a long minute he knelt there; he
laid his ear close to Happy Jack's mouth, took off his glove and
laid his hand over Happy's heart; reached up, twitched off his
neckerchief, shook out the creases and spread it reverently over
Happy Jack's face. He stood up then and spoke slowly, his eyes
fixed upon the stumbling approach of the captives.

"Pink told us Happy had been shot, so we rode around and come up
behind 'em. It was a cinch. And--say, boys, we've got the Dots in
a pocket. They've got to eat outa our hands, now. So don't think
about--our own feelings, or about--" he stopped abruptly and let
a downward glance finish the sentence. "We've got to keep our own
hands clean, and--now don't let your fingers get the itch, Bud!"
This, because of certain manifestations of a murderous intent on
the part of Big Medicine.

"Oh, it's all right to talk, if yuh feel like talking," Big
Medicine retorted savagely. "I don't." He made a catlike spring
at the foremost man, who happened to be Oleson, and got a
merciless grip with his fingers on his throat, snarling like a
predatory animal over its kill. From behind, Andy, with Weary to
help, pulled him off.

"I didn't mean to--to kill anybody," gasped Oleson, pasty white.
"I heard a lot of shooting, and so I ran up the hill--and the
herders came running toward me, and I thought I was defending my
property and men. I had a right to defend--"

"Defend hell!" Big Medicine writhed in the restraining grasp of
those who held him. "Look at that there! As good hearted a boy as
ever turned a cow! Never harmed a soul in 'is life. Is all your
dirty, stinkin' sheep, an' all your lousy herders, worth that
boy's life? Yuh shot 'im down like a dog--lemme go, boys." His
voice was husky. "Lemme tromp the life outa him."

"I thought you were killing my men, or I never--I never meant
to--to kill--" Oleson, shaking till he could scarcely stand,
broke down and wept; wept pitiably, hysterically, as men of a
certain fiber will weep when black tragedy confronts them all
unawares. He cowered miserably before the Happy Family, his face
hidden behind his two hands.

"Boys, I want to say a word or two. Come over here." Andy's
voice, quiet as ever, contrasted strangely with the man's
sobbing. He led them back a few paces--Weary, Cal, Big Medicine
and Slim, and spoke hurriedly. The Native Son eyed them sidelong
from his horse, but he was careful to keep Oleson covered with
his gun--and the herders too, although they were unarmed. Once or
twice he glanced at that long, ungainly figure in the grass with
the handkerchief of Andy Green hiding the face except where a
corner, fluttering in the faint breeze which came creeping out of
the west, lifted now and then and gave a glimpse of sunbrowned
throat and a quiet chin and mouth.

"Quit that blubbering, Oleson, and listen here." Andys voice
broke relentlessly upon the other's woe. "All these boys want to
hang yuh without any red tape; far as I'm concerned, I'm dead
willing. But we're going to give yuh a chance. Your partner, as
we told yuh coming over, we've got the dead immortal cinch on,
right now. And--well you can see what you're up against. But
we'll give yuh a chance. Have you got any family?"

Oleson, trying to pull himself together, shook his head.

"Well, then, you can get rid of them sheep, can't yuh? Sell 'em,
ship 'em outa here--we don't give a darn what yuh do, only so yuh
get 'em off the range."

"Y-yes, I'll do that." Oleson's consent was reluctant, but it was
fairly prompt. "I'll get rid of the sheep," he said, as if he was
minded to clinch the promise. "I'll do it at once."

"That's nice." Andy spoke with grim irony. "And you'll get rid of
the ranch, too. You'll sell it to the Flying U--cheap."

"But my partner--Whittaker might object--"

"Look here, old-timer. You'll fix that part up; you'll find a way
of fixing it. Look here--at what you're up against." He waited,
with pointing finger, for one terrible minute. "Will you sell to
the Flying U?"

"Y-yes!" The word was really a gulp. He tried to avoid looking
where Andy pointed; failed, and shuddered at what he saw.

"I thought you would. We'll get that in writing. And we're going
to wait just exactly twenty-four hours before we make a move.
It'll take some fine work, but we'll do it. Our boss, here, will
fix up the business end with you. He'll go with yuh right now,
and stay with yuh till you make good. And the first crooked move
you make--" Andy, in unconscious imitation of the Native Son,
shrugged a shoulder expressively and urged Weary by a glance to
take the leadership.

"Irish, you come with me. The rest of you fellows know about what
to do. Andy, I guess you'll have to ride point till I get back."
Weary hesitated, looked from Happy Jack to Oleson and the
herders, and back to the sober faces of his fellows. "Do what you
can for him, boys--and I wish one of you would ride over, after
Pink gets back, and--let me know how things stack up, will you?"

Incredible as was the situation on the face of it, nevertheless
it was extremely matter-of-fact in the handling; which is the way
sometimes with incredible situations; as if, since we know
instinctively that we cannot rise unprepared to the bigness of
its possibilities, we keep our feet planted steadfastly on the
ground and refuse to rise at all. And afterward, perhaps, we look
back and wonder how it all came about.

At the last moment Weary turned back and exchanged guns with Andy
Green, because his own was empty and he realized the possible
need of one--or at least the need of having the sheep-men
perfectly aware that he had one ready for use. The Native Son,
without a word of comment, handed his own silver-trimmed weapon
over to Irish, and rolled a cigarette deftly with one hand while
he watched them ride away.

"Does this strike anybody else as being pretty raw?" he inquired
calmly, dismounting among them. "I'd do a good deal for the
outfit, myself; but letting that man get off--Say, you fellows up
this way don't think killing a man amounts to much, do you?" He
looked from one to the other with a queer, contemptuous hostility
in his eyes.

Andy Green took a forward step and laid a hand familiarly on his
rigid shoulder. "Quit it, Mig. We would do a lot for the outfit;
that's the God's truth. And I played the game right up to the
hilt, I admit. But nobody's killed. I told Happy to play dead. By
gracious, I caught him just in the nick uh time; he'd been
setting up, in another minute." To prove it, he bent and twitched
the handkerchief from the face of Happy Jack, and Happy opened
his eyes and made shift to growl.

"Yuh purty near-smothered me t'death, darn yuh."

"Dios!" breathed the Native Son, for once since they knew him
jolted out of his eternal calm. "God, but I'm glad!"

"I guess the rest of us ain't," insinuated Andy softly, and
lifted his hat to wipe the sweat off his forehead. "I will say
that--" After all, he did not. Instead, he knelt beside Happy
Jack and painstakingly adjusted the crumpled hat a hair's breadth

"How do yuh feel, old-timer?" be asked with a very thin disguise
of cheerfulness upon the anxiety of his tone.

"Well, I could feel a lot--better, without hurtin' nothin," Happy
Jack responded somberly. "I hope you fellers--feel better, now.
Yuh got 'em--tryin' to murder--the hull outfit; jes' like I--told
yuh they would--" Gunshot wounds, contrary to the tales of
certain sentimentalists, do not appreciably sweeten, or even
change, a man's disposition. Happy Jack with a bullet hole
through one side of him was still Happy Jack.

"Aw, quit your beefin'," Big Medicine advised gruffly. "A feller
with a hole in his lung yuh could throw a calf through sideways
ain't got no business statin' his views on nothin', by cripes!"

"Aw gwan. I thought you said--it didn't amount t' nothin'," Happy
reminded him, anxiety stealing into his face.

"Well, it don't. May lay yuh up a day or two; wouldn't be
su'prised if yuh had to stay on the bed-ground two or three
meals. But look at Slim, here. Shot through the leg--shattered a
bone, by cripes!--las' night, only; and here he's makin' a hand
and ridin' and cussin' same as any of us t'day. We ain't goin' to
let yuh grouch around, that's all. We claim we got a vacation
comm' to us; you're shot up, now, and that's fun enough for one
man, without throwin' it into the whole bunch. Why, a little nick
like that ain't nothin'; nothin' a-tall. Why, I've been shot
right through here, by cripes"--Big Medicine laid an impressive
finger-tip on the top button of his trousers--"and it come out
back here"--he whirled and showed his thumb against the small of
his back--"and I never laid off but that day and part uh the
next. I was sore," he admitted, goggling Happy Jack earnestly,
"but I kep' a-goin'. I was right in fall roundup, an' I had to. A
man can't lay down an' cry, by cripes, jes' because he gets
pinked a little--"

"Aw, that's jest because--it ain't you. I betche you'd lay 'em
down--jest like other folks, if yuh got shot--through the lungs.
That ain't no--joke, lemme tell yuh!" Happy Jack was beginning to
show considerable spirit for a wounded man. So much spirit that
Andy Green, who had seen men stricken down with various ills,
read fever signs in the countenance and in the voice of Happy,
and led Big Medicine somewhat peremptorily out of ear-shot.

"Ain't you got any sense?" he inquired with fine candor. "What do
you want to throw it into him like that, for? You may not think
so, but he's pretty bad off--if you ask me."

Big Medicine's pale eyes turned commiseratingly toward Happy
Jack. "I know he is; I ain't no fool. I was jest tryin' to cheer
'im up a little. He was beginnin' to look like he was gittin'
scared about it; I reckon maybe I made a break, sayin' what I did
about it, so I jest wanted to take the cuss off. Honest to

"If you know anything at all about such things, you must know
what fever means in such a case. And, recollect, it's going to be
quite a while before a doctor can get here."

"Oh, I'll be careful. Maybe I did throw it purty strong; I won't,
no more." Big Medicine s meekness was not the least amazing
incident of the day. He was a big-hearted soul under his bellow
and bluff, and his sympathy for Happy Jack struck deep. He went
back walking on his toes, and he stood so that his sturdy body
shaded Happy Jack's face from the sun, and he did not open his
mouth for another word until Irish and Jack Bates came rattling
up with the spring wagon hurriedly transformed with mattress,
pillows and blankets into an ambulance.

They had been thoughtful to a degree. They brought with them a
jug of water and a tin cup, and they gave Happy Jack a long,
cooling drink of it and bathed his face before they lifted him
into the wagon. And of all the hands that ministered to his
needs, the hands of Big Medicine were the eagerest and gentlest,
and his voice was the most vibrant with sympathy; which was
saying a good deal.

CHAPTER XVI. The End of the Dots

Slim may not have been more curious than his fellows, but he was
perhaps more single-hearted in his loyalty to the outfit. To him
the shooting of Happy Jack, once he felt assured that the wound
was not necessarily fatal, became of secondary importance. It was
all in behalf of the Flying U; and if the bullet which laid Happy
Jack upon the ground was also the means of driving the hated Dots
from that neighborhood, he felt, in his slow, phlegmatic way,
that it wasn't such a catastrophe as some of the others seemed to
think. Of course, he wouldn't want Happy to die; but he didn't
believe, after all, that Happy was going to do anything like
that. Old Patsy knew a lot about sickness and wounds. (Who can
cook for a cattle outfit, for twenty years and more, and not know
a good deal of hurts?) Old Patsy had looked Happy over carefully,
and had given a grin and a snort.

"Py cosh, dot vos lucky for you, alreatty," he had pronounced.
"So you don't git plood-poisonings, mit fever, you be all right
pretty soon. You go to shleep, yet. If fix you oop till der
dochtor he cooms. I seen fellers shot plumb through der middle
off dem, und git yell. You ain't shot so bad. You go to shleep."

So, his immediate fears relieved, Slim's slow mind had swung back
to the Dots, and to Oleson, whom Weary was even now assisting to
keep his promise (Slim grinned widely to himself when he thought
of the abject fear which Oleson had displayed because of the
murder he thought he had done, while Happy Jack obediently
"played dead"). And of Dunk, whom Slim had hated most abominably
of old; Dunk, a criminal found out; Dunk, a prisoner right there
on the very ranch he had thought to despoil; Dunk, at that very
moment locked in the blacksmith shop. Perhape it was not
curiosity alone which sent him down there; perhaps it was partly
a desire to look upon Dunk humbled--he who had trodden so
arrogantly upon the necks of those below him; so arrogantly that
even Slim, the slow-witted one, had many a time trembled with
anger at his tone.

Slim walked slowly, as was his wont; with deadly directness, as
was his nature. The blacksmith shop was silent, closed--as grimly
noncommittal as a vault. You might guess whatever you pleased
about its inmate; it was like trying to imagine the emotions
pictured upon the face behind a smooth, black mask. Slim stopped
before the closed door and listened. The rusty, iron hasp
attracted his slow gaze, at first puzzling him a little, making
him vaguely aware that something about it did not quite harmonize
with his mental attitude toward it. It took him a full minute to
realize that he had expected to find the door locked, and that
the hasp hung downward uselessly, just as it hung every day in
the year.

He remembered then that Andy had spoken of chaining Dunk to the
anvil. That would make it unnecessary to lock the door, of
course. Slim seized the hanging strip of iron, gave it a jerk and
bathed all the dingy interior with a soft, sunset glow. Cobwebs
quivered at the inrush of the breeze, and glistened like threads
of fine gold. The forge remained a dark blot in the corner. A new
chisel, lying upon the earthen floor, became a bar of yellow

Slim's eyes went to the anvil and clung there in a widening
stare. His hands, white and soft when his gloves were off, drew
up convulsively into fighting fists, and as he stood looking, the
cords swelled and stood out upon his thick neck. For years he had
hated Dunk Whittaker--

The Happy Family, with rare good sense, had not hesitated to turn
the white house into an impromptu hospital. They knew that if the
Little Doctor and Chip and the Old Man had been at home Happy
Jack would have been taken unquestioningly into the guest
chamber--which was a square, three-windowed room off the big
livingroom. More than one of them had occupied it upon occasion.
They took Happy Jack up there and put him to bed quite as a
matter-of-course, and when he was asleep they lingered upon the
wide, front porch; the hammock of the Little Doctor squeaked
under the weight of Andy Green, and the wide-armed chairs
received the weary forms of divers young cowpunchers who did not
give a thought to the intrusion, but were thankful for the
comfort. Andy was swinging luxuriously and drawing the last few
puffs from a cigarette when Slim, purple and puffing audibly,
appeared portentously before him.

"I thought you said you was goin' to lock Dunk up in the
blacksmith shop," he launched accusingly at Andy.

"We did," averred that young man, pushing his toe against the
railing to accelerate the voluptuous motion of the hammock.

"He ain't there. He's broke loose. The chain--by golly, yuh went
an' used that chain that was broke an' jest barely hangin'
together! His horse ain't anywheres around, either. You fellers
make me sick. Lollin' around here an' not paying no attention, by
golly--he's liable to be ten mile from here by this time!" When
Slim stopped, his jaw quivered like a dish of disturbed jelly,
and I wish I could give you his tone; choppy, every sentence an
accusation that should have made those fellows wince.

Irish, Big Medicine and Jack Bates had sprung guiltily to their
feet and started down the steps. The drawling voice of the Native
Son stopped them, ten feet from the porch.

"Twelve, or fifteen, I should make it. That horse of his looked
to me like a drifter."

"Well--are yuh goin' t' set there on your haunches an' let him
GO?" Slim, by the look of him, was ripe for murder.

"You want to look out, or you'll get apoplexy sure," Andy
soothed, giving himself another luxurious push and pulling the
last, little whiff from his cigarette before he threw away the
stub. "Fat men can't afford to get as excited as skinny ones

"Aw, say! Where did you put him, Andy?" asked Big Medicine, his
first flurry subsiding before the absolute calm of those two on
the porch.

"In the blacksmith shop," said Andy, with a slurring accent on
the first word that made the whole sentence perfectly maddening.
"Ah, come on back here and sit down. I guess we better tell 'em
the how of it. Huh, Mig?"

Miguel cast a slow, humorous glance over the four. "Ye-es--
they'll have us treed in about two minutes if we don't," he
assented. "Go ahead."

"Well," Andy lifted his head and shoulders that he might readjust
a pillow to his liking, "we wanted him to make a getaway. Fact
is, if he hadn't, we'd have been--strictly up against it. Right!
If he hadn't--how about it, Mig? I guess we'd have been to the
Little Rockies ourselves."

"You've got a sweet little voice," Irish cut in savagely, "but
we're tired. We'd rather hear yuh say something!"

"Oh--all right. Well, Mig and I just ribbed up a josh on Dunk.
I'd read somewhere about the same kinda deal, so it ain't
original; I don't lay any claim to the idea at all; we just
borrowed it. You see, it's like this: We figured that a man as
mean as this Dunk person most likely had stepped over the line,
somewhere. So we just took a gambling chance, and let him do the
rest. You see, we never saw him before in our lives. All that
identification stunt of ours was just a bluff. But the minute I
shoved my chips to the center, I knew we had him dead to rights.
You were there. You saw him wilt. By gracious--"

"Yuh don't know anything against him?" gasped Irish.

"Not a darned thing--any more than what you all know," testified
Andy complacently.

It took a minute or two for that to sink in.

"Well, I'll be damned!" breathed Irish.

"We did chain him to the anvil," Andy went on. "On the way down,
we talked about being in a hurry to get back to you fellows, and
I told Mig--so Dunk could hear--that we wouldn't bother with the
horse. We tied him to the corral. And I hunted around for that
bum chain, and then we made out we couldn't find the padlock for
the door; so we decided, right out loud, that he'd be dead safe
for an hour or two, till the bunch of us got back. Not knowing a
darn thing about him, except what you boys have told us, we sure
would have been in bad if he hadn't taken a sneak. Fact is, we
were kinda worried for fear he wouldn't have nerve enough to try
it. We waited, up on the hill, till we saw him sneak down to the
corral and jump on his horse and take off down the coulee like a
scared coyote. It was," quoth the young man, unmistakably pleased
with himself, "pretty smooth work, if you ask me."

"I'd hate to ride as fast and far to-night as that hombre will,"
supplemented Miguel with his brief smile, that was just a flash
of white, even teeth and a momentary lightening of his languorous

Slim stood for five minutes, a stolid, stocky figure in the midst
of a storm of congratulatory comment. They forgot all about Happy
Jack, asleep inside the house, and so their voices were not
hushed. Indeed, Big Medicine's bull-like remarks boomed full-
throated across the coulee and were flung back mockingly by the
barren hills. Slim did not hear a word they were saying; he was
thinking it over, with that complete mental concentration which
is the chief recompense of a slow-working mind. He was
methodically thinking it all out--and, eventually, he saw the

"Well, by golly!" he bawled suddenly, and brought his palm down
with a terrific smack upon his sore leg--whereat his fellows
laughed uproariously.

"We told you not to try to see through any more jokes till your
leg gets well, Slim," Andy reminded condescendingly.

"Say, by golly, that's a good one on Dunk, ain't it? Chasin'
himself clean outa the country, by golly--scared plumb to
death---and you fellers was only jest makin' b'lieve yuh knowed
him! By golly, that sure is a good one, all right!"

"You've got it; give you time enough and you could see through a
barbed-wire fence," patronized Andy, from the hammock. "Yes,
since you mention it, I think myself it ain't so bad."

"Aw-w shut up, out there, an' let a feller sleep!" came a
querulous voice from within. "I'd ruther bed down with a corral
full uh calves at weanin' time, than be anywheres within ten mile
uh you darned, mouthy--" The rest was indistinguishable, but it
did not matter. The Happy Family, save Slim, who stayed to look
after the patient, tiptoed penitently off the porch and took
themselves and their enthusiasm down to the bunk-house.


Pink rolled over in his bed so that he might look--however
sleepily--upon his fellows, dressing more or less quietly in the
cool dawn-hour.

"Say, I got a letter for you, Weary," he yawned, stretching both
arms above his head. "I opened it and read it; it was from Chip,

"What did he have to say?"

"Old Man any better?"

"How they comm', back here?"

Several voices, speaking at once, necessitated a delayed reply.

"They'll be here, to-day or to-morrow," Pink replied without any
circumlocution whatever, while he fumbled in his coat pocket for
the letter. "He says the Old Man wants to come, and the doctors
think he might as well tackle it as stay there fussing over it.
They're coming in a special car, and we've got to rig up an
outfit to meet him. The Little Doctor tells just how she wants
things fixed. I thought maybe it was important--it come special
delivery," Pink added naively, "so I just played it was mine and
read it."

"That's all right, Cadwalloper," Weary assured him while he read
hastily the letter. "Well, we'll fix up the spring wagon and take
it in right away; somebody's got to go back anyway, with
MacPherson. Hello, Cal; how's Happy?"

"All right," answered Cal, who had watched over him during the
night and came in at that moment after someone to take his place
in the sickroom. "Waked up on the fight because I just happened
to be setting with my eyes shut. I wasn't asleep, but he said I
was; claimed I snored so loud I kept him awake all night. Gee
whiz! I'd ruther nurse a she bear with the mumps!"

"Old Man's coming home, Cal." Pink announced with more joy in his
tone and in his face than had appeared in either for many a weary
day. Whereupon Cal gave an exultant whoop. "Go tell that to
Happy," he shouted. "Maybe he'll forget a grouch or two. Say,
luck seems to be kinda casting loving glances our way again--

"By golly, seems to me Pink oughta told us when he come in, las'
night," grumbled Slim, when he could make himself heard.

"You were all dead to the world," Pink defended, "and I wanted to
be. Two o'clock in the morning is a mighty poor time for elegant
conversation, if you want my opinion."

"And the main point is, you knew all about it, and you didn't
give a darn whether we did or not," Irish said bluntly. "And
Weary sneaked in, too, and never let a yip outa him about things
over in Denson coulee."

"Oh, what was the use?" asked Weary blandly. "I got an option out
of Oleson for the ranch and outfit, and all his sheep, at a
mighty good figure--for the Flying U. The Old Man can do what he
likes about it; but ten to one he'll buy him out. That is,
Oleson's share, which was two-thirds. I kinda counted on Dunk
letting go easy. And," he added, reaching for his hat, "once I
got the papers for it, there wasn't anything to hang around for,
was there? Especially," he said with his old, sunny smile, "when
we weren't urged a whole lot to stay."

Remained therefore little, save the actual arrival of the Old
Man--a pitifully weak Old Man, bandaged and odorous with
antiseptics, and quite pathetically glad to be back home--and his
recovery, which was rather slow, and the recovery of Happy Jack,
which was rapid.

For a brief space the Flying U outfit owned the Dots; very brief
it was; not a day longer than it took Chip to find a buyer--at a
figure considerably above that named in the option, by the way.

So, after a season of worry and trouble and impending tragedy
such as no man may face unflinchingly, life dropped back to its
usual level, and the trail of the Flying U outfit once more led
through pleasant places.