Progress is like the insidious change from youth to old age,
except that progress does not mean decay. The change that is
almost imperceptible and yet inexorable is much the same,
however. You will see a community apparently changeless as
the years pass by; and yet, when the years have gone and you
look back, there has been a change. It is not the same. It
never will be the same. It can pass through further change,
but it cannot go back. Men look back sick sometimes with
longing for the things that were and that can be no more;
they live the old days in memory--but try as they will they
may not go back. With intelligent, persistent effort they may
retard further change considerably, but that is the most that
they can hope to do. Civilization and Time will continue the
march in spite of all that man may do.

That is the way it was with the Flying U. Old J. G. Whitmore
fought doggedly against the changing conditions--and he
fought intelligently and well. When he saw the range
dwindling and the way to the watering places barred against
his cattle with long stretches of barbed wire, he sent his
herds deeper into the Badlands to seek what grazing was in
the hidden, little valleys and the deep, sequestered
canyons. He cut more hay for winter feeding, and he sowed his
meadows to alfalfa that he might increase the crops. He
shipped old cows and dry cows with his fat steers in the
fall, and he bettered the blood of his herds and raised
bigger cattle. Therefore, if his cattle grew fewer in number,
they improved in quality and prices went higher, so that the
result was much the same.

It began to look, then, as though J. G. Whitmore was
cunningly besting the situation, and was going to hold out
indefinitely against the encroachments of civilization upon
the old order of things on the range. And it had begun to
look as though he was going to best Time at his own game, and
refuse also to grow old; as though he would go on being the
same pudgy, grizzled, humorously querulous Old Man beloved of
his men, the Happy Family of the Flying U.

Sometimes, however, Time will fill a four-flush with the
joker, and then laugh while he rakes in the chips. J. G.
Whitmore had been going his way and refusing to grow old for
a long time--and then an accident, which is Time's joker,
turned the game against him. He stood for just a second too
long on a crowded crossing in Chicago, hesitating between
going forward or back. And that second gave Time a chance to
play an accident. A big seven-passenger touring car mowed him
down and left him in a heap for the ambulance from the
nearest hospital to gather on its stretcher.

The Old Man did not die; he had lived long on the open range
and he was pretty tough and hard to kill. He went back to his
beloved Flying U, with a crutch to help him shuffle from bed
to easy chair and back again.

The Little Doctor, who was his youngest sister, nursed him
tirelessly; but it was long before there came a day when the
Old Man gave his crutch to the Kid to use for a stick-horse,
and walked through the living room and out upon the porch
with the help of a cane and the solicitous arm of the Little
Doctor, and with the Kid galloping gleefully before him on
the crutch.

Later he discarded the help of somebody's arm, and hobbled
down to the corral with the cane, and with the Kid still
galloping before him on "Uncle Gee Gee's" crutch. He stood
for some time leaning against the corral watching some of the
boys halter-breaking a horse that was later to be sold--when
he was "broke gentle"--and then he hobbled back again,
thankful for the soft comfort of his big chair.

That was well enough, as far as it went. The Flying U took it
for granted that the Old Man was slowly returning to the old
order of life, when rheumatism was his only foe and he could
run things with his old energy and easy good management. But
there never came a day when the Old Man gave his cane to the
kid to play with. There never came a day when he was not
thankful for the soft comfort of his chair. There never came
a day when he was the same Old Man who joshed the boys and
scolded them and threatened them. The day was always coming--
of course!--when his back would quit aching if he walked to
the stable and back without a long rest between, but it never
actually arrived.

So, imperceptibly but surely, the Old Man began to grow old.
The thin spot on top of his head grew shiny, so that the Kid
noticed it and made blunt comments upon the subject. His
rheumatism was not his worst foe, now. He had to pet his
digestive apparatus and cut out strong coffee with three
heaping teaspoons of sugar in each cup, because the Little
Doctor told him his liver was torpid. He had to stop giving
the Kid jolty rides on his knees,--but that was because the
Kid was getting too big for baby play, the Old Man declared.
The Kid was big enough to ride real horses, now, and he ought
to be ashamed to ride knee-horses any more.

To two things the Old Man clung almost fiercely; the old
regime of ranging his cattle at large and starting out the
wagons in the spring just the same as if twenty-five men
instead of twelve went with them; and the retention of the
Happy Family on his payroll, just as if they were actually
needed. If one of the boys left to try other things and other
fields, the Old Man considered him gone on a vacation and
expected him back when spring roundup approached.

True, he was seldom disappointed in that. For the Happy
Family looked upon the Flying U as home, and six months was
about the limit for straying afar. Cowpunchers to the bone
though they were, they bent backs over irrigating ditches and
sweated in the hay fields just for the sake of staying
together on the ranch. I cannot say that they did it
uncomplainingly--for the bunk-house was saturated to the
ridge-pole with their maledictions while they compared
blistered hands and pitchfork callouses, and mourned the days
that were gone; the days when they rode far and free and
scorned any work that could not be done from the saddle. But
they stayed, and they did the ranch work as well as the range
work, which is the main point.

They became engaged to certain girls who filled their dreams
and all their waking thoughts--but they never quite came to
the point of marrying and going their way. Except Pink, who
did marry impulsively and unwisely, and who suffered himself
to be bullied and called Percy for seven months or so, and
who balked at leaving the Flying U for the city and a
vicarious existence in theaterdom, and so found himself free
quite as suddenly as he had been tied.

They intended to marry and settle down--sometime. But there
was always something in the way of carrying those intentions
to fulfillment, so that eventually the majority of the Happy
Family found themselves not even engaged, but drifting along
toward permanent bachelorhood. Being of the optimistic type,
however, they did not worry; Pink having set before them a
fine example of the failure of marriage and having returned
with manifest relief to the freedom of the bunk-house.


Andy Green, chief prevaricator of the Happy Family of the
Flying U--and not ashamed of either title or connection--
pushed his new Stetson back off his untanned forehead,
attempted to negotiate the narrow passage into a Pullman
sleeper with his suitcase swinging from his right hand, and
butted into a woman who was just emerging from the
dressingroom. He butted into her so emphatically that he was
compelled to swing his left arm out very quickly, or see her
go headlong into the window opposite; for a fullsized
suitcase propelled forward by a muscular young man may prove
a very efficient instrument of disaster, especially if it
catches one just in the hollow back of the knee. The woman
tottered and grasped Andy convulsively to save herself a
fall, and so they stood blocking the passage until the porter
arrived and took the suitcase from Andy with a tip-inviting

Andy apologized profusely, with a quaint, cowpunchery
phrasing that caused the woman to take a second look at him.
And, since Andy Green would look good to any woman capable of
recognizing--and appreciating--a real man when she saw him,
she smiled and said it didn't matter in the least.

That was the beginning of the acquaintance. Andy took her by
her plump, chiffon-veiled arm and piloted her to her seat,
and he afterward tipped the porter generously and had his own
belongings deposited in the section across the aisle. Then,
with the guile of a foreign diplomat, he betook himself to
the smoking-room and stayed there for three quarters of an
hour. He was not taking any particular risk of losing the
opportunity of an unusually pleasant journey, for the dollar
he had invested in the goodwill of the porter had yielded the
information that the lady was going through to Great Falls.
Since Andy had boarded the train at Harlem there was plenty
of time to kill between there and Dry Lake, which was his

The lady smiled at him rememberingly when finally he seated
himself across the aisle from her, and without any serious
motive Andy smiled back. So presently they were exchanging
remarks about the journey. Later on, Andy went over and sat
beside her and conversation began in earnest. Her name, it
transpired, was Florence Grace Hallman. Andy read it engraved
upon a card which added the information that she was engaged
in the real estate business--or so the three or
four words implied. "Homemakers' Syndicate, Minneapolis and
St. Paul," said the card. Andy was visibly impressed thereby.
He looked at her with swift appraisement and decided that she
was "all to the good."

Florence Grace Hallman was tall and daintily muscular as to
figure. Her hair was a light yellow--not quite the shade
which peroxide gives, and therefore probably natural. Her
eyes were brown, a shade too close together but cool and calm
and calculating in their gaze, and her eyebrows slanted
upward a bit at the outer ends and were as heavy as beauty
permitted. Her lips were very red, and her chin was very
firm. She looked the successful business woman to her
fingertips, and she was eminently attractive for a woman of
that self-assured type.

Andy was attractive also, in a purely Western way.
His gray eyes were deceivingly candid and his voice
was pleasant with a little, humorous drawl that matched
well the quirk of his lips when he talked. He was
headed for home--which was the Flying U--sober
and sunny and with enough money to see him through.
He told Florence Hallman his name, and said that he
lived "up the road a ways" without being too definite.
Florence Hallman lived in Minneapolis, she said; though she
traveled most of the time, in the interests of her firm.

Yes, she liked the real estate business. One had a chance to
see the world, and keep in touch with people and things. She
liked the West especially well. Since her firm had taken up
the homeseekers' line she spent most of her time in the West.

They had supper--she called it dinner, Andy observed--
together, and Andy Green paid the check, which was not so
small. It was after that, when they became more confidential,
that Florence Hallman, with the egotism of the successful
person who believes herself or himself to be of keen interest
to the listener spoke in greater detail of her present

Her firm's policy was, she said, to locate a large tract of
government land somewhere, and then organize a homeseekers'
colony, and settle the land-hungry upon the tract--at so much
per hunger. She thought it a great scheme for both sides of
the transaction. The men who wanted claims got them. The firm
got the fee for showing them the land--and certain other
perquisites at which she merely hinted.

She thought that Andy himself would be a success at the
business. She was quick to form her opinions of people whom
she met, and she knew that Andy was just the man for such
work. Andy, listening with his candid, gray eyes straying
often to her face and dwelling there, modestly failed to
agree with her. He did not know the first thing about the
real estate business, he confessed, nor very much about
ranching. Oh, yes--he lived in this country, and he knew THAT
pretty well, but--

"The point is right here," said Florence Grace Hallman,
laying her pink fingertips upon his arm and glancing behind
her to make sure that they were practically alone--their
immediate neighbors being still in the diner. "I'm speaking
merely upon impulse--which isn't a wise thing to do,
ordinarily. But--well, your eyes vouch for you, Mr. Green,
and we women are bound to act impulsively sometimes--or we
wouldn't be women, would we?" She laughed--rather, she gave a
little, infectious giggle, and took away her fingers, to the
regret of Andy who liked the feel of them on his forearm.

"The point is here. I've recognized the fact, all along, that
we need a man stationed right here, living in the country,
who will meet prospective homesteaders and talk farming; keep
up their enthusiasm; whip the doubters into line; talk
climate and soil and the future of the country; look the
part, you understand."

"So I look like a rube, do I?" Andy's lips quirked a half
smile at her.

"No, of course you don't!" She laid her fingers on his sleeve
again, which was what Andy wanted--what he had intended to
bait her into doing; thereby proving that, in some respects
at least, he amply justified Hiss Hallman in her snap
judgment of him.

"Of course you don't look like a rube! I don't want you to.
But you do look Western--because you are Western to the bone
Besides, you look perfectly dependable. Nobody could look
into your eyes and even think of doubting the truth of any
statement you made to them." Andy snickered mentally at that
though his eyes never lost their clear candor. "And," she
concluded, "being a bona fide resident of the country, your
word would carry more weight than mine if I were to talk
myself black in the face!"

"That's where you're dead wrong," Andy hastened to correct

"Well, you must let me have my own opinion, Mr. Green. You
would be convincing enough, at any rate. You see, there is a
certain per cent of--let us call it waste effort--in this
colonization business. We have to reckon on a certain number
of nibblers who won't bite--" Andy's honest, gray eyes
widened a hair's breadth at the frankness of her language--"
when they get out here. They swallow the folders we send out,
but when they get out here and see the country, they
can't see it as a rich farming district, and they won't
invest. They go back home and knock, if they do anything.

"My idea is to stop that waste; to land every homeseeker that
boards our excursion trains. And I believe the way to do that
is to have the right kind of a man out here, steer the
doubtfuls against him--and let his personality and his
experience do the rest. They're hungry enough to come, you
see; the thing is to keep them here. A man that lives right
here, that has all the earmarks of the West, and is not known
to be affiliated with our Syndicate (you could have rigs to
hire, and drive the doubtfuls to the tract)--don't you see
what an enormous advantage he'd have? The class I speak of
are the suspicious ones--those who are from Missouri. They're
inclined to want salt with what we say about the resources of
the country. Even our chemical analysis of the soil, and
weather bureau dope, don't go very far with those hicks. They
want to talk with someone who has tried it, you see."

"I--see," said Andy thoughtfully, and his eyes narrowed a
trifle. "On the square, Miss Hallman, what are the natural
advantages out here--for farming? What line of talk do you
give those come-ons?"

Miss Hallman laughed and made a very pretty gesture with her
two ringed hands. "Whatever sounds the best to them," she
said. "If they write and ask about spuds we come back with
illustrated folders of potato crops and statistics of average
yields and prices and all that. If it's dairy, we have dairy
folders. And so on. It isn't any fraud--there ARE sections of
the country that produce almost anything, from alfalfa to
strawberries. You know that," she challenged.

"Sure. But I didn't know there was much tillable land left
lying around loose," he ventured to say.

Again Miss Hallman made the pretty gesture, which might mean
much or nothing. "There's plenty of land 'lying around
loose,' as you call it. How do you know it won't produce,
till it has been tried?"

"That's right," Andy assented uneasily. "If there's water to
put on it--"

"And since there is the land, our business lies in getting
people located on it. The towns and the railroads are back of
us. That is, they look with favor upon bringing settlers into
the country. It increases the business of the country--the
traffic, the freights, the merchants' business, everything."

Andy puckered his eyebrows and looked out of the window upon
a great stretch of open, rolling prairie, clothed sparely in
grass that was showing faint green in the hollows, and with
no water for miles--as he knew well--except for the rivers
that hurried through narrow bottom lands guarded by high
bluffs that were for the most part barren. The land was
there, all right. But--

"What I can't see," he observed after a minute during which
Miss Florence Hallman studied his averted face, "what I can't
see is, where do the settlers get off at?"

"At Easy street, if they're lucky enough," she told him
lightly. "My business is to locate them on the land. Getting
a living off it is THEIR business. And," she added
defensively, "people do make a living on ranches out here."

"That's right," he agreed again--he was finding it very
pleasant to agree with Florence Grace Hallman. "Mostly off
stock, though."

"Yes, and we encourage our clients to bring out all the young
stock they possibly can; young cows and horses and--all that
sort of thing. There's quantities of open country around
here, that even the most optimistic of homeseekers would
never think of filing on. They can make out, all right, I
guess. We certainly urge them strongly to bring stock with
them. It's always been famous as a cattle country--that's one
of our highest cards. We tell them--"

"How do you do that? Do you go right to them and TALK to

"Yes, if they show a strong enough interest--and bank
account. I follow up the best prospects and visit them in
person. I've talked to fifty horny-handed he-men in the past

"Then I don't see what you need of anyone to bring up the
drag," Andy told her admiringly. "If you talk to 'em, there
oughtn't be any drag!"

"Thank you for the implied compliment. But there IS a 'drag,'
as you call it. There's going to be a big one, too, I'm
afraid--when they get out and see this tract we're going to
work off this spring." She stopped and studied him as a chess
player studies the board.

"I'm very much tempted to tell you something I shouldn't
tell," she said at length, lowering her voice a little.
Remember, Andy Green was a very good looking man, and his
eyes were remarkable for their clear, candid gaze straight
into your own eyes. Even as keen a business woman as Florence
Grace Hallman must be forgiven for being deceived by them."
I'm tempted to tell you where this tract is. You may know

"You better not, unless you're willing to take a chance," he
told her soberly. "If it looks too good, I'm liable to jump
it myself."

Miss Hallman laughed and twisted her red lips at him in what
might be construed as a flirtatious manner. She was really
quite taken with Andy Green. "I'll take a chance. I don't
think you'll jump it. Do you know anything about Dry Lake, up
above Havre, toward Great Falls--and the country out east of
there, towards the mountains?"

The fingers of Andy Green closed into his palms. His eyes,
however, continued to look into hers with his most guileless

"Y-es--that is, I've ridden over it," he acknowledged simply.

"Well--now this is a secret; at least we don't want those
mossback ranchers in there to get hold of it too soon, though
they couldn't really do anything, since it's all government
land and the lease has only just run out. There's a high
tract lying between the Bear Paws and--do you know where the
Flying U ranch is?"

"About where it is--yes."

"Well, it's right up there on that plateau--bench, you call
it out here. There are several thousand acres along in there
that we're locating settlers on this spring. We're just
waiting for the grass to get nice and green, and the prairie
to get all covered with those blue, blue wind flowers, and
the meadow larks to get busy with their nests, and then we're
going to bring them out and--" She spread her hands again. It
seemed a favorite gesture grown into a habit, and it surely
was more eloquent than words. "These prairies will be a dream
of beauty, in a little while," she said. "I'm to watch for
the psychological time to bring out the seekers. And if I
could just interest you, Mr. Green, to the extent of being
somewhere around Dry Lake, with a good team that you will
drive for hire and some samples of oats and dry-land spuds
and stuff that you raised on your claim--" She eyed him
sharply for one so endearingly feminine. "Would you do it?
There'd be a salary, and besides that a commission on each
doubter you landed. And I'd just love to have you for one of
my assistants."

"It sure sounds good," Andy flirted with the proposition, and
let his eyes soften appreciably to meet her last sentence and
the tone in which she spoke it. "Do you think I could get by
with the right line of talk with the doubters?"

"I think you could," she said, and in her voice there was a
cooing note. "Study up a little on the right dope, and I
think you could convince--even me."

"Could I?" Andy Green knew that cooing note, himself, and one
a shade more provocative. "I wonder!"

A man came down the aisle at that moment, gave Andy a keen
glance and went on with a cigar between his fingers. Andy
scowled frankly, sighed and straightened his shoulders.

"That's what I call hard luck," he grumbled got to see that
man before he gets off the train--and the h--worst of it is,
I don't know just what station he'll get off at." He sighed
again. "I've got a deal on," he told her confidentially,
"that's sure going to keep me humping if I pull loose so as
to go in with you. How long did you say?"

"Probably two weeks, the way spring is opening out here. I'd
want you to get perfectly familiar with our policy and the
details of our scheme before they land. I'd want you to be
familiar with that tract and be able to show up its best
points when you take seekers out there. You'd be so much
better than one of our own men, who have the word 'agent'
written all over them. You'll come back and--talk it over
won't you?" For Andy was showing unmistakable symptoms of
leaving her to follow the man.

"You KNOW it," he declared in a tone of "I won't sleep nights
till this thing is settled--and settled right." He gave her a
smile that rather dazzled the lady, got up with much
reluctance and with a glance that had in it a certain element
of longing went swaying down the aisle after the man who had
preceded him.

Andy's business with the man consisted solely in mixing
cigarette smoke with cigar smoke and of helping to stare
moodily out of the window. Words there were none, save when
Andy was proffered a match and muttered his thanks. The
silent session lasted for half an hour. Then the man got up
and went out, and the breath of Andy Green paused behind his
nostrils until he saw that the man went only to the first
section in the car and settled there behind a spread
newspaper, invisible to Florence Grace Hallman unless she
searched the car and peered over the top of the paper
to see who was behind.

After that Andy Green continued to stare out of the
window, seeing nothing of the scenery but the flicker
of telegraph posts before his eyes that were visioning
the future.

The Flying U ranch hemmed in by homesteaders from the East,
he saw; homesteaders who were being urged to bring all the
stock they could, and turn it loose upon the shrinking range.
Homesteaders who would fence the country into squares, and
tear up the grass and sow grain that might never bear a
harvest. Homesteaders who would inevitably grow poorer upon
the land that would suck their strength and all their
little savings and turn them loose finally to forage a
living where they might. Homesteaders who would ruin the land
that ruined them.... It was not a pleasing picture, but it
was more pleasing than the picture he saw of the Flying U
after these human grass hoppers had settled there.

The range that fed the Flying U stock would feed no more and
hide their ribs at shipping time. That he knew too well. Old
J. G. Whitmore and Chip would have to sell out. And that was
like death; indeed, it IS death of a sort, when one of the
old outfits is wiped out of existence. It had happened
before--happened too often to make pleasant memories for Andy
Green, who could name outfit after outfit that had been
forced out of business by the settling of the range land; who
could name dozens of cattle brands once seen upon the range,
and never glimpsed now from spring roundup until fall.

Must the Flying U brand disappear also? The good old Flying
U, for whose existence the Old Man had fought and schemed
since first was raised the cry that the old range was
passing? The Flying U that had become a part of his life?
Andy let his cigarette grow cold; he roused only to swear at
the porter who entered with dust cloth and a deprecating

After that, Andy thought of Florence Grace Hallman--and his
eyes were not particularly sentimental. There was a hard line
about his mouth also; though Florence Grace Hallman was but a
pawn in the game, after all, and not personally guilty of
half the deliberate crimes Andy laid upon her dimpled
shoulders. With her it was pure, cold-blooded business, this
luring of the land-hungry to a land whose fertility was at
best problematical; who would, for a price, turn loose the
victims of her greed to devastate what little grazing ground
was left.

The train neared Havre. Andy roused himself, rang for the
porter and sent him after his suitcase and coat. Then he
sauntered down the aisle, stopped beside Florence Grace
Hallman and smiled down at her with a gleam behind the clear
candor of his eyes.

"Hard luck, lady," he murmured, leaning toward her. "I'm just
simply loaded to the guards with responsibilities, and here's
where I get off. But I'm sure glad I met yuh, and I'll
certainly think day and night about you and--all you told me
about. I'd like to get in on this land deal. Fact is, I'm
going to make it my business to get in on it. Maybe my way of
working won't suit you--but I'll sure work hard for any boss
and do the best I know how."

"I think that will suit me," Miss Hallman assured him, and
smiled unsuspectingly up into his eyes, which she thought she
could read so easily. "When shall I see you again? Could you
come to Great Falls in the next ten days? I shall be stopping
at the Park. Or if you will leave me your address--"

"No use. I'll be on the move and a letter wouldn't get me.
I'll see yuh later, anyway. I'm bound to. And when I do,
we'll get down to cases. Good bye."

He was turning away when Miss Hallman put out a soft,
jewelled hand. She thought it was diffidence that made Andy
Green hesitate perceptibly before he took it. She thought it
was simply a masculine shyness and confusion that made him
clasp her fingers loosely and let them go on the instant. She
did not see him rub his palm down the leg of his dark gray
trousers as he walked down the aisle, and if she had she
would not have seen any significance in the movement.

Andy Green did that again before he stepped off the train.
For he felt that he had shaken hands with a traitor to
himself and his outfit, and it went against the grain. That
the traitor was a woman, and a charming woman at that, only
intensified his resentment against her. A man can fight a man
and keep his self respect; but a man does mortally dread
being forced into a position where he must fight a woman.


The Kid--Chip's Kid and the Little Doctor's--was six years
old and big for his age. Also he was a member in good
standing of the Happy Family and he insisted upon being
called Buck outside the house; within it the Little Doctor
insisted even more strongly that he answer to the many
endearing names she had invented for him, and to the more
formal one of Claude, which really belonged to Daddy Chip.

Being six years old and big for his age, and being called
Buck by his friends, the Happy Family, the Kid decided that
he should have a man's-sized horse of his own, to feed and
water and ride and proudly call his "string." Having settled
that important point, he began to cast about him for a horse
worthy his love and ownership, and speedily he decided that
matter also.

Therefore, he ran bareheaded up to the blacksmith shop where
Daddy Chip was hammering tunefully upon the anvil, and
delivered his ultimatum from the door way.

"Silver's going to be my string, Daddy Chip, and
I'm going to feed him myself and ride him myself and
nobody else can touch him 'thout I say they can."

"Yes?" Chip squinted along a dully-glowing iron
bar, laid it back upon the anvil and gave it another
whack upon the side that still bulged a little.

"Yes, and I'm going to saddle him myself and everything. And
I want you to get me some jingling silver spurs like Mig has
got, with chains that hang away down and rattle when you
walk." The Kid lifted one small foot and laid a grimy finger
in front of his heel by way of illustration.

"Yes?" Chip's eyes twinkled briefly and immediately became
intent upon his work.

"Yes, and Doctor Dell has got to let me sleep in the
bunk-house with the rest of the fellers. And I ain't
going to wear a nightie once more! I don't have to, do I,
Daddy Chip? Not with lace on it. Happy Jack says I'm a girl
long as I wear lace nighties, and I ain't a girl. Am I, Daddy

"I should say not!" Chip testified emphatically, and carried
the iron bar to the forge for further heating.

"I'm going on roundup too, tomorrow afternoon." The Kid's
conception of time was extremely sketchy and had no
connection whatever with the calendar. "I'm going to keep
Silver in the little corral and let him sleep in the box
stall where his leg got well that time he broke it. I 'member
when he had a rag tied on it and teased for sugar. And the
Countess has got to quit a kickin' every time I need sugar
for my string. Ain't she, Daddy Chip? She's got to let us men
alone or there'll be something doing!"

"I'd tell a man," said Chip inattentively, only half hearing
the war-like declaration of his offspring--as is the way
with busy fathers.

"I'm going to take a ride now on Silver. I guess I'll ride in
to Dry Lake and get the mail--and I'm 'pletely outa the
makings, too."

"Uh-hunh--a--what's that? You keep off Silver. He'll kick
the daylights out of you, Kid. Where's your hat? Didn't your
mother tell you she'd tie a sunbonnet on you if you didn't
keep your hat on? You better hike back and get it, young man,
before she sees you."

The Kid stared mutinously from the doorway. "You said I could
have Silver. What's the use of having a string if a feller
can't ride it? And I CAN ride him, and he don't kick at all.
I rode him just now, in the little pasture to see if I liked
his gait better than the others. I rode Banjo first and I
wouldn't own a thing like him, on a bet. Silver'll do me till
I can get around to break a real one."

Chip's hand dropped from the bellows while he stared hard at
the Kid. "Did you go down in the pasture and--Words failed
him just then.

"I'd TELL a man I did!" the Kid retorted, with a perfect
imitation of Chip's manner and tone when crossed. "I've been
trying out all the darned benchest you've got--and there
ain't a one I'd give a punched nickel for but Silver. I'd a
rode Shootin' Star, only he wouldn't stand still so I could
get onto him. whoever broke him did a bum job. The horse I
break will stand, or I'll know the reason why. Silver'll
stand, all right. And I can guide him pretty well by slapping
his neck. You did a pretty fair job when you broke Silver,"
the Kid informed his father patronizingly.

Chip said something which the Kid was not supposed to hear,
and sat suddenly down upon the stone rim of the forge. It had
never before occurred to Chip that his Kid was no longer a
baby, but a most adventurous man-child who had lived all his
life among men and whose mental development had more than
kept pace with his growing body. He had laughed with the
others at the Kid's quaint precociousness of speech and at
his frank worship of range men and range life. He had gone to
some trouble to find a tractable Shetland pony the size of a
burro, and had taught the Kid to ride, decorously and fully
protected from accident.

He and the Little Doctor had been proud of the Kid's
masculine traits as they manifested themselves in the
management of that small specimen of horse flesh. That the
Kid should have outgrown so quickly his content with Stubby
seemed much more amazing than it really was. He eyed the Kid
doubtfully for a minute, and then grinned.

"All that don't let you out on the hat question," he said,
evading the real issue and laying stress upon the small
matter of obedience, as is the exasperating habit of parents.
"You don't see any of the bunch going around bareheaded. Only
women and babies do that."

"The bunch goes bareheaded when they get their hats blowed
off in the creek," the Kid pointed out unmoved. "I've seen
you lose your hat mor'n once, old timer. That's nothing." He
sent Chip a sudden, adorable smile which proclaimed him the
child of his mother and which never failed to thrill Chip
secretly,--it was so like the Little Doctor. "You lend me
your hat for a while, dad," he said. "She never said what hat
I had to wear, just so it's a hat. Honest to gran'ma, my
hat's in the creek and I couldn't poke it out with a stick or
anything. It sailed into the swimmin' hole. I was goin' to go
after it," he explained further, "but--a snake was swimmin
--and I hated to 'sturb him."

Chip drew a sharp breath and for one panicky moment
considered imperative the hiring of a body-guard for his Kid.

"You keep out of the pasture, young man!" His tone was stern
to match his perturbation. "And you leave Silver alone--"

The Kid did not wait for more. He lifted up his voice and
wept in bitterness of spirit. Wept so that one could hear him
a mile. Wept so that J. G. Whitmore reading the Great Falls
Tribune on the porch, laid down his paper and asked the world
at large what ailed that doggoned kid now.

"Dell, you better go see what's wrong," he called afterwards
through the open door to the Little Doctor, who was examining
a jar of germ cultures in her "office." "Chances is he's
fallen off the stable or something--though he sounds more
mad than hurt. If it wasn't for my doggoned back--"

The Little Doctor passed him hurriedly. When her man-child
wept, it Needed no suggestion from J. G. or anyone else to
send her flying to the rescue. So presently she arrived
breathless at the blacksmith shop' and found Chip within,
looking in urgent Need of reinforcements, and the Kid yelling
ragefully beside the door and kicking the log wall with
vicious boot-tees.

"Shut up now or I'll spank you!" Chip was saying desperately
when his wife appeared. "I wish you'd take that Kid and tie
him up, Dell," he added snappishly. "Here he's been riding
all the horses in the little pasture--and taking a chance on
breaking his neck! And he ain't satisfied with Stubby--he
thinks he's entitled to Silver!"

"Well, why not? There, there, honey--men don't cry when
things go wrong--"

"No--because they can take it out in cussing!" wailed the
Kid." I wouldn't cry either, if you'd let me swear all I want

Chip turned his back precipitately and his shoulders were
seen to shake. The Little Doctor looked shocked.

"I want Silver for my string!" cried the Kid, artfully
transferring his appeal to the higher court. "I can ride
him--'cause I have rode him, in the pasture; and he never
bucked once or kicked or anything. Doggone it, he likes to
have me ride him! He comes a-runnin' up to me when I go down
there, and I give him sugar. And then he waits till I climb
on his back, and then we chase the other horses and play ride
circle He wants to be my string!" Something in the feel of
his mother's arm around his shoulder whispered hope to the
Kid. He looked up at her with his most endearing smile. "You
come down there and I'll show you," he wheedled. "We're pals.
And I guess YOU wouldn't like to have the boys call you Tom
Thumb, a-ridin' Stubby. He's nothing but a five-cent sample
of a horse. Big Medicine says so. I--I'd rather walk than
ride Stubby. And I'm going on roundup. The boys said I could
go when I get a real horse under me--and I want Silver. Daddy
Chip said 'yes' I could have him. And now he's Injun-giver.
Can't I have him, Doctor Dell?"

The gray-blue eyes clashed with the brown. "It wouldn't hurt
anything to let the poor little tad show us what he can do,"
said the gray-blue eyes.

"Oh--all right," yielded the brown, and their owner threw the
iron bar upon the cooling forge and began to turn down his
sleeves. "Why don't you make him wear a hat?" he asked
reprovingly. "A little more and he won't pay any attention to
anything you tell him. I'd carry out that sunbonnet bluff,
anyway, if I were you."

"Now, Daddy Chip! I 'splained to you how I lost my hat,"
reproached the Kid, clinging fast to the Little Doctor's

"Yes--and you 'splained that you'd have gone into that deep
hole and drowned--with nobody there to pull you out--if you
hadn't been scared of a water snake," Chip pointed out

"I wasn't 'zactly scared," amended the Kid gravely.
"He was havin' such a good time, and he was swimmin' around
so--comf'table--and it wasn't polite to 'sturb him. Can't I
have Silver?"

"We'll go down and ask Silver what he thinks about it," said
the Little Doctor, anxious to make peace between her two
idols. "And we'll see if Daddy Chip can get the hat. You must
wear a hat, honey; you know what mother told you--and you
know mother keeps her word."

"I wish dad did," the Kid commented, passing over the hat
question. "He said I could have Silver, and keep him in a box
stall and feed him my own self and water him my own self and
nobody's to touch him but me."

"Well, if daddy said all that--we'll have to think it over,
and consult Silver and see what he has to say about it."

Silver, when consulted, professed at least a willingness to
own the Kid for his master. He did indeed come trotting up
for sugar; and when he had eaten two grimy lumps from the
Kid's grimier hand, he permitted the Kid to entice him up to
a high rock, and stood there while the Kid clambered upon the
rock and from there to his sleek back. Ho even waited until
the Kid gathered a handful of silky mane and kicked him on
the ribs; then he started off at a lope, while the Kid risked
his balance to cast a triumphant grin--that had a gap in the
middle--back at his astonished parents.

"Look how the little devil guides him!" exclaimed Chip
surrenderingly. "I guess he's safe enough old Silver seems to
sabe he's got a kid to take care of. He sure would strike a
different gait with me! Lord how the time slides by; I can't
seem to get it through me that the Kid's growing up."

The Little Doctor sighed a bit. And the Kid, circling grandly
on the far side of the little pasture, came galloping back to
hear the verdict. It pleased him--though he was inclined to
mistake a great privilege for a right that must not be
denied. He commanded his Daddy Chip to open the gate for him
so he could ride Silver to the stable and put him in the box
stall; which was a superfluous kindness, as Chip tried to
point out and failed to make convincing.

The Kid wanted Silver in the box stall, where he could feed
him and water him his own self. So into the box stall Silver
reluctantly went, and spent a greater part of the day with
his head stuck out through the window, staring enviously at
his mates in the pasture.

For several days Chip watched the Kid covertly whenever his
small feet strayed stableward; watched and was full of secret
pride at the manner in which the Kid rose to his new
responsibility. Never did a "string" receive the care which
Silver got, and never did rider sit more proudly upon his
steed than did the Kid sit upon Silver. There seemed to be
practically no risk--Chip was amazed at the Kid's ability to
ride. Besides, Silver was growing old--fourteen years being
considered ripe old age in a horse. He was more given to
taking life with a placid optimism that did not startle
easily. He carried the Kid's light weight easily, and he had
not lost all his springiness of muscle. The Little Doctor
rode him sometimes, and loved his smooth gallop and his even
temper; now she loved him more when she saw how careful he
was of the Kid. She besought the Kid to be careful of Silver
also, and was most manfully snubbed for her solicitude.

The Kid had owned Silver for a week, and considered that he
was qualified to give advice to the Happy Family, including
his Daddy Chip, concerning the proper care of horses. He
stood with his hands upon his hips and his feet far apart,
and spat into the corral dust and told Big Medicine that
nobody but a pilgrim ever handled a horse the way Big
Medicine was handling Deuce. Whereat Big Medicine gave a
bellowing haw-haw-haw and choked it suddenly when he saw that
the Kid desired him to take the criticism seriously.

"All right, Buck," he acceded humbly, winking openly at the
Native Son. "I'll try m'best, old-timer. Trouble with me is,
I never had nobody to learn me how to handle a hoss."

"Well, you've got me, now," Buck returned calmly. "I don't
ride MY string without brushing the hay out of his tail.
There's a big long hay stuck in your horse's tail." He
pointed an accusing finger, and Big Medicine silently edged
close to Douce's rump and very carefully removed the big,
long hay. He took a fine chance of getting himself kicked,
but he did not tell the Kid that.

"That all right now, Buck?" Big Medicine wanted to know,
when he had accomplished the thing without accident.

"Oh, it'll do," was the frugal praise he got. "I've
got to go and feed my string, now. And after a while I'll
water him. You want to feed your horse always
before you water him, 'cause eatin' makes him firsty.
You 'member that, now."

"I'll sure try to, Buck," Big Medicine promised soberly, and
watched the Kid go striding away with his hat tilted at the
approved Happy-Family angle and his small hands in his
pockets. Big Medicine was thinking of his own kid, and
wondering what he was like, and if he remembered his dad. He
waved his hand in cordial farewell when the Kid looked back
and wrinkled his nose in the adorable, Little-Doctor smile he
had, and turned his attention to Deuce.

The Kid made straight for the box stall and told Silver hello
over the half door. Silver turned from gazing out of the
window, and came forward expectantly, and the Kid told him to
wait a minute and not be so impatience Then he climbed upon a
box, got down a heavy canvas nose-bag with leather bottom,
and from a secret receptacle behind the oats box he brought a
paper bag of sugar and poured about a teacupful into the bag.
Daddy Chip had impressed upon him what would be the tragic
consequences if he fed oats to Silver five times a day.
Silver would die, and it would be the Kid that killed him.
Daddy Chip had not said anything about sugar being fatal,
however, and the Countess could not always stand guard over
the sugar sack. So Silver had a sweet taste in his mouth
twelve hours of the twenty-four, and was getting a habit of
licking his lips reminiscently during the other twelve.

The Kid had watched the boys adjust nose bags ever since he
could toddle. He lugged it into the stall, set it artfully
upon the floor and let Silver thrust in his head to the eyes:
then he pulled the strap over Silver's neck and managed to
buckle it very securely. He slapped the sleek neck afterward
as his Daddy Chip did, hugged it the way Doctor Dell did, and
stood back to watch Silver revel in the bag.

"'S good lickums?" he asked gravely, because he had once
heard his mother ask Silver that very question, in almost
that very tone.

At that moment an uproar outside caught his youthful
attention. He listened a minute, heard Pink's voice and a
shout of laughter, and ran to see what was going on; for
where was excitement, there the Kid was also, as nearly in
the middle of it as he could manage. His going would not have
mattered to Silver, had he remembered to close the half-door
of the stall behind him; even that would not have mattered,
had he not left the outer door of the stable open also.

The cause of the uproar does not greatly matter, except that
the Kid became so rapturously engaged in watching the foolery
of the Happy Family that he forgot all about Silver. And
since sugar produces thirst, and Silver had not smelled water
since morning, he licked the last sweet grain from the inside
of the nose bag and then walked out of the stall and the
stable and made for the creek--and a horse cannot drink with
a nose bag fastened over his face. All he can do, if he
succeeds in getting his nose into the water, is to drown
himself most expeditiously and completely.

Silver reached the creek unseen, sought the deepest hole and
tried to drink. Since his nose was covered with the bag ho
could not do so but he fussed and splashed and thrust his
head deeper until the water ran into the bag from the top. He
backed and snorted and strangled, and in a minute he fell.
Fortunately he struggled a little, and in doing so he slid
backward down the bank so that his head was up the slope a
and the water ran out of the bag, which was all that saved

He was a dead horse, to all appearances at least, when Slim
spied him and gave a yell to bring every human being on the
ranch at a run. The Kid came with the rest, gave one scream
and hid his face in the Little Doctor's skirts, and trembled
so that his mother was more frightened for him than for the
horse, and had Chip carry him to the house where he could not
watch the first-aid efforts of the Happy Family.

They did not say anything, much. By their united strength
they pulled Silver up the bank so that his limp head hung
downward. Then they began to work over him exactly as if he
had been a drowned man, except that they did not, of course,
roll him over a barrel. They moved his legs backward and
forward, they kneaded his paunch, they blew into his
nostrils, they felt anxiously for heart-beats. They sweated
and gave up the fight, saying that it was no use. They saw a
quiver of the muscles over the chest and redoubled their
efforts, telling one another hopefully that he was alive, all
right. They saw finally a quiver of the nostrils as well, and
one after another they laid palms upon his heart, felt there
a steady beating and proclaimed the fact profanely.

They pulled him then into a more comfortable position where
the sun shone warmly and stood around him in a crude circle
and watched for more pronounced symptoms of recovery, and
sent word to the Kid that his string was going to be all
right in a little while.

The information was lost upon the Kid, who wept hysterically
in his Daddy Chip's arms listen to anything they told him. He
had seen Silver stretched out dead, with his back in the edge
of the creek and his feet sprawled at horrible angles, and
the sight obsessed him and forbade comfort. He had killed his
string; nothing was clear in his mind save that, and he
screamed with his face hidden from his little world.

The Little Doctor, with anxious eyes and puckered eyebrows,
poured something into a teaspoon and helped Chip fight to get
it down the Kid's throat. And the Kid shrieked and struggled
and strangled, as is the way of kids the world over, and
tried to spit out the stuff and couldn't, so he screamed the
louder and held his breath until he was purple, and his
parents were scared stiff. The Old Man hobbled to the door in
the midst of the uproar and asked them acrimoniously why they
didn't make that doggoned Kid stop his howling; and when
Chip, his nerves already strained to the snapping point, told
him bluntly to get out and mind his own business, he hobbled
away again muttering anathemas against the whole outfit.

The Countess rushed in from out of doors and wanted to know
what under the shinin' sun was the matter with that kid, and
advised his frantic parents to throw water in his face. Chip
told her exactly what he had told the Old Man, in exactly the
same tone; so the Countess retreated, declaring that he
wouldn't be let to act that way if he was her kid, and that
he was plumb everlastingly spoiled.

The Happy Family heard the disturbance and thought the Kid
was being spanked for the accident, which put every man of
them in a fighting humor toward Chip, the Little Doctor, the
Old Man and the whole world. Pink even meditated going up to
the White House to lick Chip--or at least tell him what he
thought of him--and he had plenty of sympathizers; though
they advised him half-heartedly not to buy in to any family

It was into this storm centre that Andy Green rode headlong
with his own burden of threatened disaster.


Andy Green was a day late in arriving at the Flying U. First
he lost time by leaving the train thirty miles short of the
destination marked on his ticket, and when he did resume his
journey on the next train, he traveled eighty-four miles
beyond Dry Lake, which landed him in Great Falls in the early
morning. There, with the caution of a criminal carefully
avoiding a meeting with Miss Hallman, he spent an hour in
poring over a plat of a certain section of Chouteau County,
and in copying certain description of unoccupied land.

He had not slept very well the night before and he looked it.
He had cogitated upon the subject of land speculations and
the welfare of his outfit until his head was one great, dull
ache; but he stuck to his determination to do something to
block the game of the Homeseekers' Syndicate. Just what that
something would be he had not yet decided. But on general
principles it seemed wise to learn all he could concerning
the particular tract of land about which Florence Grace
Hallman had talked.

The day was past when range rights might be defended
honorably with rifles and six-shooters and iron nerved men to
use them--and I fear that Andy Green sighed because it was
so. Give him the "bunch" and free swing, and he thought the
Homeseekers would lose their enthusiasm before even the first
hot wind blew up from the southwest to wither their crops.
But such measures were not to be thought of; if they fought
at all they must fight with the law behind them--and even
Andy's optimism did not see much hope from the law; none, in
fact, since both the law and the moneyed powers were eager
for the coming of homebuilders into that wide land. All up
along the Marias they had built their board shacks, and back
over the benches as far as one could see. There was nothing
to stop them, everything to make their coming easy.

Andy scowled at the plat he was studying, and admitted to
himself that it looked as though the Home Seekers' Syndicate
were going to have things their own way; unless--There he
stuck. There must be some way out; never in his life had he
faced a situation which had been absolutely hopeless; always
there had been some chance to win, if a man only saw it in
time and took it. In this case it was the clerk in the office
who pointed the way with an idle remark.

"Going to take up a claim, are you?"

Andy looked up at him with the blank stare of preoccupation,
and changed expression as the question filtered into his
brain and fitted somehow into the puzzle. He grinned, said
maybe he would, folded the sheet of paper filled with what
looked like a meaningless jumble of letters and figures,
bought a plat of that township and begged some government
pamphlets, and went out humming a little tune just above a
whisper. At the door he tilted his hat down at an angle over
his right eye and took long, eager steps toward an obscure
hotel and his meagre baggage.

There was no train going east until midnight, and he caught
that train. This time he actually got off at Dry Lake, ate a
hurried breakfast, got his horse out of the livery stable and
dug up the dust of the lane with rapid hoof-beats so that he
rode all the way to the first hill followed by a rolling,
gray cloud that never quite caught him.

When he rode down the Hog's Back he saw the Happy Family
bunched around some object on the creek-bank, and he heard
the hysterical screaming of the Kid up in the house, and saw
the Old Man limping excitedly up and down the porch. A man
less astute than Andy Green would have known that some thing
had happened. He hurried down the last slope, galloped along
the creek-bottom, crossed the ford in a couple of leaps and
pulled up beside the group that surrounded Silver.

"What's been taking place here?" he demanded curiously,
skipping the usual greetings.

"Hell," said the Native Son succinctly, glancing up at him.

"Old Silver looked over the fence into Kingdom Come," Weary
enlarged the statement a little. "Tried to take a drink with
a nose bag on. I guess he'll come through all right."

"What ails the Kid?" Andy demanded, glancing toward the house
whence issued a fresh outburst of shrieks.

The Happy Family looked at one another and then at the White

"Aw, some folks hain't got a lick of sense when it comes to
kids," Big Medicine accused gruffly.

"The Kid," Weary explained, "put the nose bag on Silver and
then left the stable door open."

"They ain't--spanking him for it, are they?" Andy demanded
belligerently. "By gracious, how'd a kid know any better?
Little bit of a tad like that--"

"Aw, they don't never spank the Kid!" Slim defended the
parents loyally. "By golly, they's been times when I would-a
spanked him, if it'd been me. Countess says it's plumb
ridiculous the way that Kid runs over 'em--rough shod. If
he's gittin' spanked now, it's the first time."

"Well," said Andy, looking from one to another and reverting
to his own worry as he swung down from his sweating horse,
"there's something worse than a spanked kid going to happen
to this outfit if you fellows don't get busy and do
something. There's a swarm of dry-farmers coming in on us,
with their stock to eat up the grass and their darned fences
shutting off the water--"

"Oh, for the Lord's sake, cut it out!" snapped Pink. "We
ain't in the mood for any of your joshes. We've had about
enough excitement for once."

"Ah, don't be a damn' fool," Andy snapped back. "There's no
josh about it. I've got the whole scheme, just as they framed
it up in Minneapolis. I got to talking with a she-agent on
the train, and she gave the whole snap away; wanted me to go
in with her and help land the suckers. I laid low, and made a
sneak to the land office and got a plat of the land, and all
the dope--"

"Get any mail?" Pink interrupted him, in the tone that took
no notice whatever of Andy's ill news.

"Time I was hearing from them spurs I sent for." Andy
silently went through his pockets and produced what mail he
had gleaned from the post-office, and led his horse into the
shade of the stable and pulled off the saddle. Every movement
betrayed the fact that he was in the grip of unpleasant
emotions, but to the Happy Family he said not another word.

The Happy Family did not notice his silence at the time. But
afterwards, when the Kid had stopped crying and Silver had
gotten to his feet and wobbled back to the stable, led by
Chip, who explained briefly and satisfactorily the cause of
the uproar at the house, and the boys had started up to their
belated dinner, they began to realize that for a returned
traveler Andy Green was not having much to say.

They asked him about his trip, and received brief answers.
Had he been anyone else they would have wanted to know
immediately what was eatin' on him; but since it was Andy
Green who sat frowning at his toes and smoking his cigarette
as though it had no comfort or flavor, the boldest of them
were cautious. For Andy Green, being a young man of vivid
imagination and no conscience whatever, had fooled them too
often with his lies. They waited, and they watched him
covertly and a bit puzzled.

Silence and gloom were not boon companions of Andy Green, at
any time. So Weary, having the most charitable nature of any
among them, sighed and yielded the point of silent

"What was all that you started to tell us about the dry-
farmers, Andy?" he asked indulgently.

"All straight goods. But there's no use talking to you bone-
heads. You'll set around chewing the rag and looking wise
till it's too late to do anything but holler your heads off."
He got up from where he had been lounging on a bench just
outside the mess house and walked away, with his hands thrust
deep into his pockets and his shoulders drooped forward.

The Happy Family looked after him doubtfully.

"Aw, it's just some darned josh uh his," Happy Jack declared.
"I know HIM."

"Look at the way he slouches along--like he was loaded to the
ears with trouble!" Pink pointed out amusedly. "He'd fool
anybody that didn't know him, all right."

"And he fools the fellows that do know him, oftener than
anybody else," added the Native Son negligently. "You're
fooled right now if you think that's all acting. That HOMBRE
has got something on his mind."

"Well, by golly, it ain't dry-farmers," Slim asserted boldly.

"If you fellows wouldn't say it was a frame-up between us
two, I'd go after him and find out. But . . ."

"But as it stands, we'd believe Andy Green a whole lot
quicker'n what we would you," supplemented Big Medicine
loudly. "You're dead right there."

"What was it he said about it?" Weary wanted to know. "I
wasn't paying much attention, with the Kid yelling his head
off and old Silver gaping like a sick turkey, and all. What
was it about them dryfarmers?"

"He said," piped Pink, "that he'd got next to a scheme to
bring a big bunch of dry-farmers in on this bench up here,
with stock that they'd turn loose on the range. That's what
he said. He claims the agent wanted him to go in on it."

"Mamma!" Weary held a match poised midway between his thigh
and his cigarette while he stared at Pink. "That would be
some mixup--if it was to happen." His sunny blue eyes--that
were getting little crow's-feet at their corners--turned to
look after the departing Andy. "Where's the josh?" he
questioned the group.

"The josh is, that he'd like to see us all het up over it,
and makin' war-talks and laying for the pilgrims some dark
night with our six-guns, most likely," retorted Pink, who
happened to be in a bad humor because in ten minutes he was
due at a line of post-holes that divided the big pasture into
two unequal parts. "He can't agitate me over anybody's
troubles but my own. Happy, I'll help Bud stretch wire this
afternoon if you'll tamp the, rest uh them posts."

"Aw, you stick to your own job! How was it when I wanted you
to help pull the old wire off that hill fence and git it
ready to string down here? You wasn't crazy about workin'
with bob wire then, I noticed. You said--"

"What I said wasn't a commencement to what I'll say again,"
Pink began truculently, and so the subject turned effectually
from Andy Green.

Weary smoked meditatively while they wrangled, and when the
group broke up for the afternoon's work he went unobtrusively
in search of Andy. He was not quite easy in his mind
concerning the alleged joke. He had looked full at the
possibilities of the situation--granting Andy had told the
truth, as he sometimes did--and the possibilities had not
pleased him. He found Andy morosely replacing some broken
strands in his cinch, and he went straight at the mooted

Andy looked up from his work and scowled. "This ain't any
joke with me," he stated grimly. "It's something that's going
to put the Flying U out of business if it ain't stopped
before it gets started. I've been worrying my head of[, ever
since day before yesterday; I ain't in the humor to take
anything off those imitation joshers up there--I'll tell yuh
that much"

"Well, but how do you figure it can be stopped?" Weary sat
soberly down on the oats box and absently watched Andy's
expert fingers while they knotted the heavy cotton cord
through the cinch-ring. "We can't stand 'em off with guns."

Andy dropped the cinch and stood up, pushing back his hat and
then pulling it forward into place with the gesture he used
when he was very much in earnest. "No, we can't. But if the
bunch is game for it there's a way to block their play--and
the law does all our fighting for us. We don't have to yeep.
It's like this, Weary counting Chip and the Little Doctor and
the Countess there's eleven of us that can use our rights up
here on the bench. I've got it all figured out. If we can get
Irish and Jack Bates to come back and help us out, there's
thirteen of us. And we can take homesteads along the creeks
and deserts back on the bench, and--say, do you know how much
land we can corral, the bunch of us? Four thousand acres and
if we take our claims right, that's going to mean that we get
a dead immortal cinch on all the bench land that's worth
locating, around here, and we'll have the creeks, and also
we'll have the breaks corralled for our own stock.

"I've gone over the plat--I brought a copy to show you
fellows what we can do. And by taking up our claims right, we
keep a deadline from the Bear Paws to the Flying U. Now the
Old Man owns Denson's ranch, all south uh here is fairly
safe--unless they come in between his south line and the
breaks; and there ain't room for more than two or three
claims there. Maybe we can get some of the boys to grab what
there is, and string ourselves out north uh here too.

"That's the only way on earth we can save what little feed
there is left. This way, we get the land ourselves and hold
it, so there don't any outside stock come in on us. If
Florence Grace Hallman and her bunch lands any settlers here,
they'll be between us and Dry Lake; and they're dead welcome
to squat on them dry pinnacles--so long as we keep their
stock from crossing our claims to get into the breaks. Savvy
the burro?"

"Yes-s--but how'd yuh KNOW they're going to do all this?
Mamma! I don't want to turn dry-farmer if I don't have to!"

Andy's face clouded. "That's just what'll block the game, I'm
afraid. I don't want to, either. None of the boys'll want to.
It'll mean going up there and baching, six or seven months of
the year, by our high lonesomes. We'll have to fulfill the
requirements, if we start in--because them pilgrims'll be
standing around like dogs at a picnic, waiting for something
to drop so they can grab it and run. It ain't going to be any

"And there's another thing bothers me, Weary. It's going to
be one peach of a job to make the boys believe it hard enough
to make their entries in time." Andy grinned wrily. "By
gracious, this is where I could see a gilt-edged reputation
for telling the truth!"

"You could, all right," Weary agreed sympathetically. "It's
going to strain our swallowers to get all that down, and
that's a fact. You ought to have some proof, if you want the
boys to grab it, Andy." His face sobered. "Who is this
Florence person? If you could get some kinda proof--a letter,
say . . ."

"Easiest thing in the world!" Andy brightened at the
suggestion. "She's stopping at the Park, in Great Falls, and
she wanted me to come up or write. Anybody going to town
right away? I'll send that foxy dame a letter that'll produce
proof enough. You've helped ma a lot, Weary."

Weary scrutinized him sharply and puckered his lips into a
doubtful expression. "I wish I knew for a fact whether all
this is straight goods, Andy," he "said pensively. "Chances
are you're just stringing me. But if you are, old boy, I'm
going to take it outa your hide--and don't you forget that."
He grinned at his own mental predicament. "Honest, Andy, is
this some josh, or do you mean it?"

"By gracious, I wish it was a josh! But it ain't, darn it. In
about two weeks or so you'll all see the point of this joke--
but whether the joke's on us or on the homeseekers' Syndicate
depends on you fellows. Lord! I wish I'd never told a lie!"

Weary sat knocking his heels rhythmically against the side of
the box while he thought the matter over from start to
hypothetical finish and back again. Meanwhile Andy Green went
on with his work and scowled over his well-earned reputation
that hampered him now just when he needed the confidence of
his fellows in order to save their beloved Flying U from slow
annihilation. Perhaps his mental suffering could not rightly
be called remorse, but a poignant regret it most certainly
was, and a sense of complete bafflement which came out in his
next sentence.

"Even if she wrote me a letter, the boys'd call it a frame-up
just the same. They'd say I had it fixed before I left town.
Doctor Cecil's up at the Falls. They'd lay it to her."

"I was thinking of that, myself. What's the matter with
getting Chip to go up with you? Couldn't you ring him in on
the agent somehow, so he can get the straight of it?"

Andy stood up and looked at Weary a minute. "How'd I make
Chip believe me enough to GO?" he countered. "Darn it,
everything looked all smooth sailing till I got back here to
the ranch and the boys come at me with that same old smart-
aleck brand uh talk. I kinda forgot how I've lied to 'em and
fooled 'em right along till they duck every time I open my
face." His eyes were too full of trouble to encourage levity
in his listener. "You remember that time the boys' rode off
and left me laying out here on the prairie with my leg
broke?" he went on dismally. "I'd rather have that happen to
me a dozen times than see 'em set back and give me the laugh
now, just when--Oh, hell!" He dropped the finished cinch and
walked moodily to the door. "Weary, if them dry-farmers come
flockin' in on us while this bunch stands around callin' me a
liar, I--" He did not attempt to finish the sentence; but
Weary, staring curiously at Andy's profile, saw a quivering
of the muscles around his lips and felt a responsive thrill
of sympathy and belief that rose above his long training in

Spite of past experience he believed, at that moment, every
word which Andy Green had uttered upon the subject of the
proposed immigration. He was about to tell Andy so, when Chip
walked unexpectedly out of Silver's stall and glanced from
Weary to Andy standing still in the doorway. Weary looked at
him enquiringly; for Chip must have heard every word they
said, and if Chip believed it--

"Have you got that plat with you, Andy?" Chip asked tersely
and with never a doubt in his tone.

Andy swung toward him like a prisoner who has just heard a
jury return a verdict of not guilty to the judge. "I've got
it, yes," he answered simply, with only his voice betraying
the emotions he felt--and his eye? "Want it?"

"I'll take a look at it, if it's handy," said Chip.

Andy felt in his inside coat pocket, drew out a thin, folded
map of that particular part of the county with all the
government land marked upon it, and handed it to Chip without
a word. He singled out a couple of pamphlets from a bunch of
old letters such as men are in the habit of carrying upon
their persons, and gave them to Chip also.

"That's a copy of the homestead and desert laws," he said.
"I guess you heard me telling Weary what kinda deal we're up
against, here. Better not say anything to the Old Man till
you have to; no use worrying him--he can't do nothing." It
was amazing, the change that had come over Andy's face and
manner since Chip first spoke. Now he grinned a little.

"If you want to go in on this deal," he said quizzically,
"maybe it'll be just as well if you talk to the bunch
yourself about it, Chip. You ain't any tin, angel, but I'm
willing to admit the boys'll believe you; a whole lot quicker
than they would me."

"Yes--and they'll probably hand me a bunch of pity for
getting stung by you," Chip retorted. "I'll take a chance,
anyway--but the Lord help you, Andy if you can't produce
proof when the time comes."


Say, Andy, where's them dry-farmers?" Big Medicine inquired
at the top of his voice when the Happy Family had reached the
biscuit-and-syrup stage of supper that evening.

"Oh, they're trying to make up their minds whether to bring
the old fannin'-mill along or sell it and buy new when they
get here," Andy informed him imperturbably. "The women-folks
are busy going through their rag bags, cutting the buttons
off all the pants that ain't worth patching no more, and
getting father's socks all darned up."

The Happy Family snickered appreciatively; this was more like
the Andy Green with whom they were accustomed to deal.

"What's daughter doin', about now?" asked Cal Emmett, fixing
his round, baby-blue stare upon Andy.

"Daughter? Why, daughter's leaning over the gate telling him
she wouldn't never LOOK at one of them wild cowboys--the
idea! She's heard all about 'em, and they're too rough and
rude for HER. And she's promising to write every day, and
giving him a lock of hair to keep in the back of his dollar
watch. Pass the cane Juice, somebody."

"Yeah--all right for daughter. If she's a good looker we'll
see if she don't change her verdict about cowboys."

"Who will? You don't call yourself one, do yuh?" Pink flung
at him quickly.

"Well, that depends; I know I ain't any LADY broncho--hey,
cut it out!" This last because of half a biscuit aimed
accurately at the middle of his face. If you want to know
why, search out the history of a certain War Bonnet Roundup,
wherein Pink rashly impersonated a lady broncho-fighter.

"Wher'e they going to live when they git here?" asked Happy
Jack, reverting to the subject of dry farmers.

"Close enough so you can holler from here to their back door,
my boy--if they have their say about it," Andy assured him
cheerfully. Andy felt that he could afford to be facetious
now that he had Chip and Weary on his side.

"Aw, gwan! I betche there ain't a word of truth in all that
scarey talk," Happy Jack fleered heavily.

"Name your bet. I'll take it." Andy filled his mouth with hot
biscuit and stirred up the sugar in his coffee like a man who
is occupied chiefly with the joys of the table.

"Aw, you ain't going to git me that way agin," Happy Jack
declared. "They's some ketch to it."

"There sure is, Happy. The biggest ketch you ever seen in
your life. It's ketch the Flying U outfit and squeeze the
life out of it; that's the ketch." Andy's tone had in it no
banter, but considerable earnestness. For, though Chip would
no doubt convince the boys that the danger was very real,
there was a small matter of personal pride to urge Andy into
trying to convince, them himself, without aid from Chip or
any one else.

"Well, by golly, I'd like to see anybody try that there
scheme," blurted Slim. "That's all--I'd just like to see 'em
TRY it once!"

"Oh, you'll see it, all right--and you won't have to wait
long, either. Just set around on your haunches a couple of
weeks or so. That's all you'll have to do, Slim; you'll see
it tried, fast enough."

Pink eyed him with a wide, purple glance. "You'd like to make
us fall for that, wouldn't you?" he challenged warily.

Andy gave him a level look. "No, I wouldn't. I'd like to put
one over on you smart gazabos that think you know it all; but
I don't want to bad enough to see the Flying U go outa
business just so I could holler didn't-I-tell-you. There's a
limit to what I'll pay for a, josh."

"Well," put in the Native Son with his easy drawl, "I'm
coming to the centre with my ante, just for the sake of
seeing the cards turned. Deal 'em out, amigo; state your case
once more, so we can take a good, square look at these dry-

"Yeah--go ahead and tell us what's bustin' the buttons off
your vest," Cal Emmett invited.

"What's the use?" Andy argued. "You'd all just raise up on
your hind legs and holler your heads off. You wouldn't DO
anything about it--not if you knew it was the truth!" This,
of course, was pure guile upon his part.

"Oh, wouldn't we? I guess, by golly, we'd do as much for the
outfit as what you would--and a hull lot more if it come to a
show-down." Slim swallowed the bait.

"Maybe you would, if you could take it out in talking,"
snorted Andy. "My chips are in. I've got three-hundred-and-
twenty acres picked out, up here, and I'm going to file on
'em before these damned nesters get off the train. Uh course,
that won't be more'n a flea bite--but I can make it
interesting for my next door neighbors, anyway; and every
flea bite helps to keep a dog moving, yuh know."

"I'll go along and use my rights," Weary offered suddenly and
seriously. "That'll make one section they won't get, anyway."

Pink gave him a startled look across the table. "You ain't
going to grab it, are yuh?" he demanded disappointedly.

"I sure am--if it's three-hundred-and-twenty acres of land
you mean. If I don't, somebody else will." He sighed
humorously. "Next summer you'll see me hoeing spuds, most
likely--if the law says I GOT to."

"Haw-haw-haw-w!" laughed Big Medicine suddenly. "It'd sure be
worth the price, jest to ride up and watch you two marks down
on all fours weedin' onions." He laughed again with his big,
bull-like bellow.

"We don't have to do anything like that if we don't want to,"
put in Andy Green calmly. "I've been reading up on the law.
There's one little joker in it I've got by heart. It says
that homestead land can be used for grazing purposes if it's
more valuable for pasture than for crops, and that actual
grazing will be accepted instead of cultivation--if it is
grazing land. So--"

"I betche you can't prove that," Happy lack interrupted him.
"I never heard of that before--"

"The world's plumb full of things you never heard of, Happy,"
Andy told him witheringly. "I gave Chip my copy of the
homestead laws, and a plat of the land up here; soon as he
hands 'em back I can show you in cold print where it says
that very identical thing.

"That's what makes it look good to me, just on general
principles," he went on, his honest, gray eyes taking in the
circle of attentive faces. "If the bunch of us could pool our
interests and use what rights we got, we can corral about
four thousand acres--and we can head off outsiders from
grazing in the Badlands, if we take our land right. We've
been overlooking a bet, and don't you forget it. We've been
fooling around, just putting in our time and drawing wages,
when we could be owning our own grazing land by now and
shipping our own cattle, if we had enough sense to last us

"A-course, I ain't crazy about turning nester, myself--but
we've let things slide till we've got to come through or get
outa the game. It's a fact, boys, about them dry-farmers
coming in on us. That Minneapolis bunch that the blonde lady
works for is sending out a colony of farmers to take up this
land between here and the Bear Paws. The lady tipped her
hand, not knowing where I ranged and thinking I wouldn't be
interested in anything but her. She's a real nice lady, too,
and goodlooking--but a grafter to her last eye winker. And
she hit too close home to suit me, when she named the place
where they're going to dump their colony."

"Where does the graft come in?" inquired Pink cautiously.
"The farmers get the land, don't they?"

"Sure, they get the land. And they pungle up a good-sized fee
to Florence Grace Hallman and her outfit, for locating 'em.
Also there's side money in it, near as I can find out. They
skin the farmers somehow on the fare out here. That's their
business, according to the lady. They prowl around through
the government plats till they spot a few thousand acres of
land in a chunk; they take a look at it, maybe, and then they
boom it like hell, and get them eastern marks hooked--them
with money, the lady said. Then they ship a bunch out here,
locate 'em on the land and leave it up to THEM, whether they
scratch a living or not. She said they urge the rubes to
bring all the stock they can, because there's plenty of range
left. She says they play that up big. You can see for
yourself how that'll work out, around here!"

Pink eyed him attentively, and suddenly his dimples stood
deep. "All right, I'm It," he surrendered.

"It'd be a sin not to fall for a yarn like that, Andy. I
expect you made it all up outa your own head, but that's all
right. It's a pleasure to be fooled by a genius like you.
I'll go raising turnips and cabbages myself."

By golly, you couldn't raise nothing but hell up on that dry
bench," Slim observed ponderously. "There ain't any water.
What's the use uh talking foolish?"

"They're going to tackle it, just the same," Andy pointed out

"Well, by golly, if you ain't just lyin' to hear yourself,
that there graftin' bunch had oughta be strung up!"

"Sure, they had. Nobody's going to argue about that. But
seeing we can't do that, the next best thing is to beat them
to it. If they came out here with their herd of pilgrims and
found the land all took up--" Andy smiled hypnotically upon
the goggling group.

"Haw-haw-haw-w!" bawled Big Medicine. "It'd be wuth it, by

"Yeah--it would, all right. If that talk Andy's been giving
us is straight, about grazing the land instead uh working

"You can mighty quick find out," Andy retorted. "Go up and
ask Chip for them land laws, and that plat. And ask him what
he thinks about the deal. You don't have to take my word for
it." Andy grinned virtuously and pushed back his chair. From
their faces, and the remarks they had made, he felt very
confident of the ultimate decision. "What about you, Patsy?"
he asked suddenly, turning to the bulky, bald German cook who
was thumping bread dough in a far corner. "You got any
homestead or desert rights you ain't used?"

"Py cosh, I got all der rights dere iss," Patsy returned
querulously. "I got more rights as you shmartys. I got
soldier's rights mit fightin'. Und py cosh, I use him too if
dem fellers coom by us mit der dry farms alreatty!"

"Well, you son-of-a-gun!" Andy smote him elatedly upon a fat
shoulder. "What do you know about old Patsy for a dead game
sport? By gracious, that makes another three hundred and
twenty to the good. Gee, it's lucky this bunch has gone along
turning up their noses at nesters and thinkin' they couldn't
be real punchers and hold down claims too. If any of us had
had sense enough to grab a piece of land and settle down to
raise families, we'd be right up against it now. We'd have to
set back and watch a bunch of down-east rubes light down on
us like flies on spilt molasses, and we couldn't do a thing."

"As it is, we'll all turn nesters for the good of the cause!"
finished Pink somewhat cynically, getting up and following
Cal and Slim to the door.

"Aw, I betche they's some ketch to it!" gloomed Happy Jack.
"I betche Andy jest wants to see us takin' up claims on that
dry bench, and then set back and laugh at us fer bitin' on
his josh."

"Well, you'll have the claims, won't you. And if you hang
onto them there'll be money in the deal some day. Why, darn
your bomb-proof skull, can't you get it into your system that
all this country's bound to settle up?" Andy's eyes snapped
angrily. "Can't you see the difference between us owning the
land between here and the mountains, and a bunch of outsiders
that'll cut it all up into little fields and try to farm it.
If you can't see that, you better go hack a hole in your head
with an axe, so an idea can squeeze in now and then when you
ain't looking!"

"Well, I betche there ain't no colony comin' to settle that
there bench," Happy Jack persisted stubbornly.

"Yes there is, by cripes!" trumpeted Big Medicine behind him.
"Yes there is! And that there colony is goin' to be us, and
don't you forget it. It's time I was doin' somethin' fer that
there boy uh mine, by cripes! And soon as we git that fence
strung I'm goin' to hit the trail fer the nearest land
office. Honest to grandma, if Andy's lyin' it's goin' to be
the prof't'blest lie HE ever told, er anybody else. I don't
care a cuss about whether them dry-farmers is fixin' to light
here or not. That there land-pool looks good to ME, and I'm
comin' in on it with all four feet!"

Big Medicine was nothing less than a human land slide when
once he threw himself into anything, be it a fight or a
frolic. Now ho blocked the way to the door with his broad
shoulders and his big bellow and his enthusiasm, and his
pale, frog-like eyes fixed their protruding stare accusingly
upon the reluctant ones.

"Cal, you git up there and git that plat and bring it here,"
he ordered. "And fer criminy sakes git that table cleared
off, Patsy, so's't we kin have a place to lay it! What's
eatin' on you fellers, standin' around like girls to a party,
waitin' fer somebody to come up and ast you to dance! Ain't
you got head enough to see what a cinch we got, if we only
got sense enough to play it! Honest to grandma you make me
sick to look at yuh! Down in Conconino County the boys
wouldn't stand back and wait to be purty-pleased into a thing
like this. You're so scared Andy's got a josh covered up
somewheres, you wouldn't take a drink uh whisky if he ast yuh
up to the bar! You'd pass up a Chris'mas turkey, by cripes,
if yuh seen Andy washin' his face and lookin' hungry!

What further reproach he would have heaped upon them was
interrupted by Chip, who opened the door just then and bumped
Big Medicine in the back. In his hand Chip carried the land
plat and the pamphlets, and in his keen, brown eyes he
carried the light of battle for his outfit. The eyes of Andy
Green sent bright glances from him to Big Medicine, and on to
the others. He was too wise then to twit those others with
their unbelief. His wisdom went farther than that; for he
remained very much in the background of the conversation and
contented himself with answering, briefly and truthfully, the
questions they put to him about Florence Grace Hallman and
the things she had so foolishly divulged concerning her

Chip spread the plat upon an end of the table hastily and
effectually cleared by a sweep of Big Medicine's arm, and the
Happy Family crowded close to stare down at the checker-board
picture of their own familiar bench land. They did not doubt,
now--nor did they Hang back reluctantly. Instead they
followed eagerly the trail Chip's cigarette-yellowed finger
took across the map, and they listened intently to what he
said about that trail.

The clause about grazing the land, he said, simplified
matters a whole lot. It was a cinch you couldn't turn loose
and dry-farm that land and have even a fair chance of reaping
a harvest. But as grazing land they could hold all the land
along One Man Creek--and that was a lot. And the land lying
back of that, and higher up toward the foothills, they could
take as desert. And he maintained that Andy had been right in
his judgment: If they all went into it and pulled together
they could stretch a line of claims that would protect the
Badland grazing effectually.

"I wouldn't ask you fellows to go into this," said Chip,
straightening from his stooping over the map and looking from
one sober face to another, "just to help the outfit. But
it'll be a good thing for you boys. It'll give you a
foothold--something better than wages, if you stay with your
claims and prove up. Of course, I can't say anything about us
buying out your claims--that's fraud, according to Hoyle; but
you ain't simple-minded--you know your land won't be begging
for a buyer, in case you should ever want to sell.

"There's another thing. This will not only head off the dry-
farmers from overstocking what little range is left--it'll
make a dead-line for sheep, too. We've been letting 'em graze
back and forth on the bench back here beyond our leased land,
and not saying much, so long as they didn't crowd up too
close, and kept going. With all our claims under fence, do
you realize what that'll mean for the grass?"

"Josephine! There's feed for considerable stock, right over
there on our claims, to say nothing of what we'll cover,"
exclaimed Pink.

"I'd tell a man! And if we get water on the desert claims--"
Chip grinned down at him. "See what we've been passing up,
all this time. We've had some of it leased, of course--but
that can't be done again. There's been some wire-pulling, and
because we ain't politicians we got turned down when the Old
Man wanted to renew the lease. I can see now why it was,
maybe. This dry-farm business had something to do with it, if
you ask me."

"Gee whiz! And here we've been calling Andy a liar," sighed
Cal Emmett.

"Aw, jest because he happened to tell the truth once, don't
cut no ice," Happy Jack maintained with sufficient ambiguity
to avert the natural consequences.

"Of course, it won't be any gold-mine," Chip added
dispassionately. "But it's worth picking up, all right; and
if it'll keep out a bunch of tight-fisted settlers that don't
give a darn for anything but what's inside their own fence,
that's worth a lot, too."

"Say, my dad's a farmer," Pink declared defiantly in his soft
treble." And while I think of it, them eastern farmers ain't
so worse--not the brand I've seen, anyway. They're narrow,
maybe--but they're human. Damn it, you fellows have got to
quit talking about 'em as if they were blackleg stock or
grasshoppers or something."

"We ain't saying nothing aginst farmers AS farmers, Little
One" Big Medicine explained forebearingly. "As men, and as
women, and as kids, they're mighty nice folks. My folks have
got an eighty-acre farm in Wisconsin," he confessed
unexpectedly, "and I think a pile of 'em. But if they was to
come out here, trying to horn in on our range, I'd lead 'em
gently to the railroad, by cripes, and tell 'em goodbye
so's't they'd know I meant it! Can't yuh see the difference?"
he bawled, goggling at Pink with misleading savageness in his
ugly face.

"Oh, I see," Pink admitted mildly. "I only just wanted to
remind you fellows that I don't mean anything personal and I
don't want you to. Say, what about One Man Coulee?" he asked
suddenly. "That's marked vacant on the map. I always

"Sure, you did!" Chip grinned at him wisely, "because we used
it for a line camp, you thought we owned a deed to it. Well,
we don't. We had that land leased, is all."

"Say, by golly, I'll file on that, then," Slim declared
selfishly. For One Man coulee, although a place of gruesome
history, was also desirable for one or two reasons. There was
wood, for instance, and water, and a cabin that was
habitable. There was also a fence on the place, a corral and
a small stable. "If Happy's ghost don't git to playin' music
too much," he added with his heavy-handed wit.

"No, sir! You ain't going to have One Man coulee unless Andy,
here, says he don't want it!" shouted Big Medicine. "I leave
it to Chip if Andy hadn't oughta have first pick. He's the
feller that's put us onto this, by cripes, and he's the
feller that's going to pick his claim first."

Chip did not need to sanction that assertion. The whole Happy
Family agreed unanimously that it should be so, except Slim,
who yielded a bit unwillingly.

Till midnight and after, they bent heads over the plat and
made plans for the future and took no thought whatever of the
difficulties that might lie before them. For the coming
colony they had no pity, and for the balked schemes of the
Homeseekers' Syndicate no compunctions whatever.

So Andy Green, having seen his stratagem well on the way to
success, and feeling once more the well-earned confidence of
his fellows, slept soundly that night in his own bed,
serenely sure of the future.


Letters went speeding to Irish and Jack Bates, absent members
of the Happy Family of the Flying U; letters that explained
the situation with profane completeness, set forth briefly
the plan of the proposed pool, and which importuned them to
come home or make haste to the nearest land-office and file
upon certain quarter-sections therein minutely described.
Those men who would be easiest believed wrote and signed the
letters, and certain others added characteristic postscripts
best calculated to bring results.

After that, the Happy Family debated upon the boldness of
going in a body to Great Falls to file upon their claims, or
the caution of proceeding instead to Glasgow where the next
nearest land-office might be found. Slim and Happy Jack
favored caution and Glasgow. The others sneered at their
timidity, as they were wont to do.

"Yuh think Florence Grace Hallman is going to stand guard
with a six-gun?" Andy challenged at last." She's tied up
till her colony gets there. She can't file on all that land
herself, can she?" He smiled reminiscently. "The lady asked
me to come up to the Falls and see her," he said softly. "I'm
going. The rest of you can take the same train, I reckon--she
won't stop you from it, and I won't. And who's to stop you
from filing? The land's there, open for settlement. At least
it was open, day before yesterday.

"Well, by golly, the sooner we go the better," Slim declared
fussily. "That fencin' kin wait. We gotta go and git back
before Chip wants to start out the wagons, too."

"Listen here, hombres," called the Native Son from the
window, where he had been studying the well-thumbed pamphlet
containing the homestead law. "If we want to play dead safe
on this, we all better quit the outfit before we go. Call for
our time. I don't like the way some of this stuff reads."

"I don't like the way none of it reads," grumbled Happy Jack.
"I betche we can't make it go; they's some ketch to it. We'll
never git a patent. I'll betche anything yuh like."

"Well, pull out of the game, then!" snapped Andy Green, whose
nerves were beginning to feel the strain put upon them.

"I ain't in it yet," said Happy Jack sourly, and banged the
door shut upon his departure.

Andy scowled and returned to studying the map. Finally he
reached for his hat and gloves in the manner of one who has
definitely made up his mind to some thing.

"Well, the rest of you can do as you darned please," he
delivered his ultimatum from the doorway. "I'm going to catch
up my horse, draw a month's wages and hit the trail. I can
catch the evening train to the Falls, easy, and be ready to
file on my chunk first thing in the morning."

"Ain't in any rush, are yuh?" Pink inquired facetiously. "If
I had my dinner settled and this cigarette smoked, I might go
along--provided you don't take the trail with yuh."

"Hold on, boys, and listen to this," the Native Son called
out imperatively. "I think we better get a move on, too; but
we want to get a fair running start, and not fall over this
hump. Listen here! We've got to swear that it is not for the
benefit of any other person, persons or corporation, and so
on; and farther along it says we must not act in collusion
with any person, persons or corporation, to give them the
benefit of the land. There's more of the same kind, too, but
you see--"

"Well, who's acting in collusion? What's collusion mean
anyhow?" Slim demanded aggressively.

"It means what we're aiming to do--if anybody could prove it
on us," explained the Native Son. "My oldest brother's a
lawyer, and I caught some of it from him. And my expert,
legal advice is this: to get into a row with the Old Man,
maybe--anyway, quit him cold, so we get our time. We must let
that fact percolate the alleged brains of Dry Lake and
vicinity--and if we give any reason for taking claims right
under the nose of the Flying U, why, we're doing it to spite
the Old Man. Sabe? Otherwise we're going to have trouble--
unless that colony scheme is just a pipe dream of Andy's."

The Happy Family had learned to respect the opinions of the
Native Son, whose mixture of Irish blood with good Castilian
may have had something to do with his astuteness. Once, as
you may have heard, the Native Son even scored in a battle of
wits with Andy Green, and scored heavily. And he had helped
Andy pull the Flying U out of an extremely ticklish
situation, by his keen wit saving the outfit much trouble and
money. Wherefore they heeded now his warning to the extent of
unsmilingly discussing the obstacle he had pointed out to
them. One after another they read the paragraph which they
had before passed over too hastily, and sensed the
possibilities of its construction. Afterward they went into
serious consultation as to ways and means, calling Happy Jack
back so that he might understand thoroughly what must be
done. For the Happy Family was nothing if not thorough, and
their partisanship that had been growing insensibly stronger
through the years was roused as it had not been since Dunk
Whittaker drove sheep in upon the Flying U.

The Old Man, having eaten a slice of roast pork the size of
his two hands, in defiance of his sister's professional
prohibition of the indulgence, was sitting on the sunny side
of the porch trying to ignore the first uneasy symptoms of
indigestion. The Little Doctor had taken his pipe away from
him that morning, and had badgered him into taking a certain
decoction whose taste lingered bitterly. The paper he was
reading was four days old and he disagreed with its political
policy, and there was no telling when anyone would have time
to go in after the mail and his favorite paper. Ranch work
was growing heavier each year in proportion to the lightening
of range work. He was going to sow another twenty acres of
alfalfa, and to do that he must cut down the size of his
pasture--something that always went against the grain. He had
not been able to renew his lease of government land,--which
also went against the grain. And the Kid, like the last
affliction which the Lord sent unto Job--I've forgotten
whether that was boils or the butchery of his offspring--came
loping down the length of the porch and kicked the Old Man's
bunion with a stubby boot-toe.

Thus was born the psychological moment when the treachery of
the Happy Family would cut deepest.

They came, bunched and talking low-voiced together with
hatbrims hiding shamed eyes, a type-true group of workers
bearing a grievance. Not a man was absent--the Happy Family
saw to that! Even Patsy, big and sloppy and bearing with him
stale kitchen odors, limped stolidly in the rear beside Slim,
who looked guilty as though he had been strangling somebody's
favorite cat.

The Old Man, bent head-foremost over his growing paunch that
he might caress his outraged bunion, glared at them with
belligerent curiosity from under his graying eyebrows. The
group came on and stopped short at the steps--and I don't
suppose the Happy Family will ever look such sneaks again
whatever crime they may commit. The Old Man straightened with
a grunt of pain because of his lame back, and waited. Which
made it all the harder for the Happy Family, especially for
Andy Green who had been chosen spokesman--for his sins

"We'd like our time," blurted Andy after an unpleasant
silence, and fixed his eyes frigidly upon the lowest rung of
the Old Man's chair.

"Oh, you would, hunh? The whole bunch of yuh?" The Old Man
eyed them incredulously.

"Yes, the whole bunch of us. We're going to quit."

The Old Man's jaw dropped a little, but his eyes didn't waver
from their Hangdog faces. "Well, I never coaxed a man to stay
yet," he stated grimly, "and I'm gittin' too old in the
business to start coaxin' now. Dell!" He turned stiffly in
his chair so that he faced the open door. "Bring me my time
and check books outa the desk!"

A gray hardness came slowly to the Old Man's face while he
waited, his seamed hands gripping the padded arms of his
chair. A tightness pulled at his lips behind the grizzled
whiskers. It never occurred to him now that the Happy Family
might be perpetrating one of their jokes. He had looked at
their faces, you see. They meant to quit him--quit him cold
just as spring work was beginning. They were ashamed of
themselves, of course; they had a right to be ashamed, he
thought bitterly. It hurt--hurt so that he would have died
before he would ask for excuse, reason, grievance,
explanation--for whatever motive impelled them. So he waited,
and he gripped the arms of his chair, and he clamped his
mouth shut and did not speak a word.

The Happy Family had expected him to swear at them stormily;
to accuse them of vile things; to call them such names as his
memory could seize upon or his ingenuity invent. They had
been careful to prepare a list of plausible reasons for
leaving then. They had first invented a gold rumor that they
hoped would sound convincing, but Andy had insisted upon
telling him straightforwardly that they did not favor fence-
building and ditch-digging and such back-breaking toil; that
they were range men and they demanded range work or none;
that if they must dig ditches and build fences and perform
like menial tasks, they preferred doing it for themselves.
"That," said Andy, "makes us out such dirty, low-down sons-
of-guns we'd have to climb a tree to look a snake in the eye,
but it's got the grain of truth that'll make it go down. We
DON'T love this farming graft, and the Old Man knows it. He's
heard us kicking often enough. That's where it'll git him.
He'll believe this last stretch of fence is what made us
throw him down, and he'll be so mad he'll cuss us out till
the neighbors'll think the smoke's a prairie fire. We'll get
our time, all right' and the things he'll say will likely
make us so hot we can all talk convincing when we hit town.
Keep a stiff upper lip, boys. We got to do it, and he'll make
us mad, so it won't be as hard as you imagine."

The theory was good, and revealed a knowledge of human nature
that made one cease to wonder why Andy was a prince of
convincing liars. The theory was good--nothing in the world
was the matter with it, except that in this particular
instance it did not work. The Old Man did not ask for their
reasons, excuses or explanations. Neither did he say anything
or do anything to make them mad. He just sat there, with his
face gray and hard, and said nothing at all.

The Little Doctor appeared with the required books and a
fountain pen; saw the Happy Family standing there like
condemned men at the steps; saw the Old Man's face, and
trembled wide-eyed upon the verge of speech. Then she decided
that this was no time for questioning and hurried, still wide
of eye, away from sight of them. The Happy Family did not
look at one another--they looked chiefly at the wall of the

The Old Man reckoned the wages due each one, and wrote a
check for the exact amount. And he spoke no word that did not
intimately concern the matter in hand. He still had that
gray, hard look in his face that froze whatever explanation
they would otherwise have volunteered. And when he handed the
last man--who was Patsy--his check, he got up stiffly and
turned his back on them, and went inside and closed the door
while yet they lingered, waiting to explain.

At the bunk-house, whence they walked silently, Slim turned
suddenly upon their leader. His red face had gone a sallow
white, and the whites of his eyes were veined with red.

"If that there land business falls down anywhere because you
lied to us, Andy Green' I'll kill you fer this" he stated

"If it Does, Slim, I'll stand and let yuh shoot me as full of
lead as you like," Andy promised, in much the same tone. Then
he strove to shake off the spell of the Old Man's stricken
silence. "Buck up, boys. He'll thank us for what we aim to
do--when he knows all about it."

"Well, it seems to me," sighed Weary lugubriously, "we mighta
managed it without hitting the Old Man a wallop in the back,
like that."

"How'n hell did I know he'd take it the way he did?" Andy
questioned sharply, and began throwing his personal
belongings into his "war-bag" as if he had a grudge against
his own clothes.

"Aw, looks to me like he was glad to git shet of us!"
grumbled Happy Jack. "I betche he's more tickled than sorry,
right now."

It was an exceedingly unhappy Family that rode up the Hog's
Back upon their private mounts, and away from the Flying U;
in spite of Chip's assurance that he would tell the Old Man
all about it as soon as he could, it was an ill-humored
Family that rode into Dry Lake and cashed their several
checks at the desk of the General store which also did an
informal banking business, and afterwards took the train for
Great Falls.

The news spread through the town that old J. G. Whitmore had
fired the Happy Family in a bunch for some unforgivable crime
against the peace and dignity of the outfit, and that the
boys were hatching up some scheme to get even. From the
gossip that was rolled relishfully upon the tongues of the
Dry Lake scandal lovers, the Happy Family must have been more
than sufficiently convincing.


If you would see northern Montana at its most beautiful best,
you should see it in mid-May when the ground-swallows are
nesting and the meadow larks are puffing their throats and
singing of their sweet ecstasy with life; when curlews go
sailing low over the green, grassy billows, peering and
perking with long bills thrust rapier-wise through the sunny
stillness, and calling shrilly, "Cor-r-ECK, cor-r-eck!"--
which, I take it, is simply their opinion of world and
weather given tersely in plain English. You should see the
high prairies then, when all the world is a-shimmer with
green velvet brocaded brightly in blue and pink and yellow
flower-patterns; when the heat waves go quivering up to meet
the sun, so that the far horizons wave like painted drop-
scenes stirred by a breeze; when a hypnotic spell of peace
and bright promises is woven over the rangeland--you should
see it then, if you would love it with a sweet unreason that
will last you through all the years to come.

The homeseekers' Syndicate, as represented by Florence Grace
Hallman--she of the wheat-yellow hair and the tempting red
lips and the narrow, calculating eyes and stubborn chin--did
well to wait for the spell of the prairies when the wind
flowers and the lupines blue the hillsides and the new grass
paints green the hollows.

There is in us all a deep-rooted instinct to create, and
never is that instinct so nearly dominant as in the spring
when the grass and the flowers and the little, new leaves and
the birds all sing the song of Creation together. Then is
when case-hardened city dwellers study the bright array of
seed-packets in the stores, and meditate rashly upon the
possibilities of back-yard gardening. Then is when the
seasoned country-dwellers walk over their farms in the sunset
and plan largely for harvest time. Then is when the salaried-
folk read avidly the real-estate advertisements, and pore
optimistically over folders and dream of chicken ranches and
fruit ranches and the like. Surely, then, the homeseekers'
Syndicate planned well the date of their excursion into the
land of large promise (and problematical fulfillment) which
lay east of Dry Lake.

Rumors of the excursion seeped through the channels of gossip
and set the town talking and chuckling and speculating--after
the manner of very small towns.

Rumors grew to definite though erroneous statements of what
was to take place. Definite statements became certified facts
that bore fruit in detailed arrangements.

Came Florence Grace Hallman smilingly from Great Falls, to
canvass the town for "accommodations." Florence Grace Hallman
was a capable woman and a persuasive one, though perhaps a
shade too much inclined to take certain things for granted--
such as Andy's anchored interest in her and her project, and
the probability of the tract remaining just as it had been
when last she went carefully over the plat in the land
office. Florence Grace Hallman had been busy arranging the
details of the coming of the colony, and she had neglected to
visit the land office lately. Since she cannily represented
the excursion as being merely a sight-seeing trip--or some
such innocuous project--she failed also to receive any
inkling of recent settlements.

On a certain sunny morning in mid-May, the Happy Family stood
upon the depot platform and waited for the westbound
passenger, that had attached to it the special car of the
homeseekers' Syndicate. The Happy Family had been very busy
during the past three weeks. They had taken all the land they
could, and had sighed because they could still look from
their claims upon pinnacles as yet unclaimed save by the
government. They had done well. From the south line of
Meeker's land in the very foothills of the Bear Paws, to the
north line of the Flying U, the chain of newly-filed claims
remained unbroken. It had taken some careful work upon the
part of the Happy Family to do this and still choose land not
absolutely worthless except from a scenic viewpoint. But they
had managed it, with some bickering and a good deal of
maneuvering. Also they had hauled loads of lumber from Dry
Lake, wherewith to build their monotonously modest ten-by-
twelve shacks with one door and one window apiece and a round
hole in the roof big enough for a length of stove-pipe to
thrust itself aggressively into the open and say by its smoke
signal whether the owner was at home. And now, having heard
of the mysterious excursion due that day, they had come to
see just what would take place.

"She's fifteen minutes late," the agent volunteered,
thrusting his head through the open window. "Looking for
friends, boys?"

"Andy is," Pink informed him cheerfully. "The rest of us are
just hanging around through sympathy. It's his girl coming."

"Well, I guess he thinks he needs a housekeeper now," the
agent grinned. "Why don't you fellows get busy now and rustle
some cooks?"

"Girls don't like to cook over a camp-fire," Cal Emmett told
him soberly. "We kinda thought we ought to build our shacks

"You can pick you out some when the train gets in," said the
agent, accepting a match from Weary. "There's a carload of--"
He pulled in his head hurriedly and laid supple fingers on
the telegraph key to answer a call, and the Happy Family
moved down to the other end of the platform where there was
more shade.

The agent presently appeared pushing the truck of outgoing
express, a cheap trunk and a basket "telescope" belonging to
one of the hotel girls--who had quit her job and was sitting
now inside waiting for the train and seeing what she could of
the Flying U boys through the window--and the mail sack. He
placed the truck where the baggage car would come to a halt,
stood for a minute looking down the track where a smudge of
smoke might at any moment be expected to show itself over the
low ridge of a hill, glanced at the lazy group in the patch
of shade and went back into the office.

"There's her smoke," Cal Emmett announced in the midst of an
apathetic silence.

Weary looked up from whittling a notch in the end of a
platform plank and closed his jack-knife languidly.

Andy pushed his hat backward and then tilted it forward over
one eyebrow and threw away his cigarette.

"Wonder if Florence Grace will be riding point on the bunch?"
he speculated aloud. "If she is, I'm liable to have my hands
full. Florence Grace will sure be sore when she finds out how
I got into the game."

"Aw, I betche there ain't no such a person," said Happy Jack,
doubter to the last.

"I wish there wasn't," sighed Andy. "Florence Grace is kinda
getting on my nerves. If I done what I feel like doing, I'd
crawl under the platform and size up the layout through a
crack. Honest to gracious, Boys, I hate to meet that lady."

They grinned at him heartlessly and stared at the black
smudge that was rolling toward them. "She's sure hittin' her
up," Pink vouchsafed with a certain tenseness of tone. That
train was not as ordinary trains; dimly they felt that it was
relentlessly bringing them trouble, perhaps; certainly a
problem--unless the homeseekers hovered only so long as it
took them to see that wisdom lay in looking elsewhere for a
home. Still--

"If this was August instead of May, I wouldn't worry none
about them pilgrims staying long," Jack Bates voiced the
thought that was uppermost in their minds.

"There comes two livery rigs to haul 'em to the hotel," Pink
pointed out as he glanced toward town. And there's another
one. Johnny told me every room they've got is spoke for, and
two in every bed."

"That wouldn't take no crowd," Happy Jack grumbled,
remembering the limitations of Dry Lake's hotel. "Here come
Chip and the missus. Wonder what they want?"

The Little Doctor left Chip to get their tickets and walked
quickly toward them.

"Hello, boys! Waiting for someone, or just going somewhere?"

"Waiting. Same to you, Mrs. Chip," Weary replied.

"To me? Well, we're going up to make our filings. Claude
won't take a homestead, because we'll have to stay on at the
Flying U, of course, and we couldn't hold one. But we'll both
file desert claims. J. G. hasn't been a bit well, and I
didn't dare leave him before--and of course Claude wouldn't
go till I did. That the passenger coming, or a freight?"

"It's the train--with the dry-farmers," Andy informed her
with a glance at the nearing smoke-smudge.

"Is it? We aren't any too soon then, are we? I left Son at
home--and he threatened to run away and live with you boys. I
almost wish I'd brought him along. He's been perfectly awful.
So have the men Claude hired to take your places, if you want
to know, boys. I believe that is what made J. G. sick--having
those strange men on the place. He's been like a bear."

"Didn't Chip tell him--"

"He did, yes. He told him right away, that evening. But--
J. G. has such stubborn ideas. We couldn't make him believe
that anyone would be crazy enough to take up that land and
try to make a living farming it. He--" She looked sidewise at
Andy and pursed her lips to Keep from smiling.

"He thinks I lied about it, I suppose," said that young man

"That's what he says. He pretends that you boys meant to
quit, and just thought that up for an excuse. He'll be all
right--you mustn't pay any attention--"

"Here she comes!"

A black nose thrust through a Deep cut that had a curve to
it. At their feet the rails began to hum. The Little Doctor
turned hastily to see if Chip were coming. The agent came out
with a handful of papers and stood waiting with the rest.
Stragglers moved quickly, and the discharged waitress
appeared and made eyes covertly at Pink, whom she considered
the handsomest one of the lot.

The train slid up, slowed and stopped. Two coaches beyond the
platform a worried porter descended and placed the box-step
for landing passengers, and waited. From that particular
coach began presently to emerge a fluttering, exclaiming
stream of humanity--at first mostly feminine. They hovered
there upon the cindery path and lifted their faces to watch
for others yet to come, and the babble of their voices could
be, heard above the engine sounds.

The Happy Family looked dumbly at one another and drew back
closer to the depot wall.

"Aw, I knowed there was some ketch to it!" blurted Happy Jack
with dismal satisfaction. "That there ain't no colony--It's
nothin' but a bunch of schoolma'ams!"

"That lady ridin' point is the lady herself," Andy murmured,
edging behind Weary and Pink as the flutter came closer.
"That's Florence Grace Hallman, boys."

"Well, by golly, git out and speak your little piece, then!"
muttered Slim, and gave Andy an unexpected push that sent him
staggering out into the open just as the leaders were coming

"Why, how de do, Mr. Green!" cried the blonde leader of the
flock. "This is an unexpected pleasure, I'm sure."

"Yes ma'am, it is," Andy assented mildly, with an eye cocked
sidewise in search of the guilty man.

The blonde leader paused, her flock coming to a fluttering,
staring stand behind her. The nostrils of the astonished
Happy Family caught a mingled odor of travel luncheons and

"Well, where have you been, Mr. Green? Why didn't you come
and see me?" demanded Florence, Grace Hallman in the tone of
one who has a right to ask leading questions. Her cool,
brown, calculating eyes went appraisingly over the Happy
Family while she spoke.

"I've been right around here, all the time," Andy gave meek
account of himself. "I've been busy."

"Oh. Did you go over the tract, Mr. Green?" she lowered her

"Yes-s--I went over it."

"And what do you think of it--privately?"

"Privately--it's pretty big." Andy sighed. The bigness of
that tract had worried the Happy Family a good deal.

"Well, the bigger the better. You see I've got 'em started."
She flicked a glance backward at her waiting colony. "You men
are perfectly exasperating! Why didn't you tell me where you
were and what you were doing?" She looked up at him with
charming disapproval. "I feel like shaking you! I could have
made good use of you, Mr. Green."

"I was making pretty good use of myself," Andy explained, and
wished he knew who gave him that surreptitious kick on the
ankle. Did the chump want an introduction? Well! In that

"Miss Hallman, if you don't mind I'd like to introduce some
men I rounded up and brought here," he began before the Happy
Family could move out of the danger zone of his imagination.
"Representative citizens, you see. You can sic your bunch
onto 'em and get a lot of information. This is Mr. Weary
Davidson, Miss Hallman: He's a hayseed that lives out that
way and he talks spuds better than anything else. And here's
Slim--I don't know his right name--he raises hogs to a fare-
you-well. And this is Percy Perkins"--meaning Pink--"and
he's another successful dryfarmer. Goats is his trade. He's
got a lot of 'em. And Mr. Jack Bates, he raises peanuts--or
he's trying 'em this year--and has contracts to supply the
local market. Mr. Happy Jack is our local undertaker. He
wants to sell out if he can, because nobody ever dies in this
country and that makes business slow. He's thinking some of
starting a duck-ranch. This man--" indicating Big Medicine--"
has got the finest looking crop of volunteer wild oats in the
country. He knows all about 'em. Mr. Emmett, here, can put
you wise to cabbage-heads; that's his specialty. And Mr.
Miguel Rapponi is up here from Old Mexico looking for a
favorable location for an extensive rubber plantation. The
natural advantages here are simply great for rubber.

"I've gone to some trouble gathering this bunch together for
you, Miss Hallman. I don't reckon you knew there was that
many dry-farmers in the country. They've all got ranches of
their own, and the prettiest folders you ever sent under a
four-cent stamp can't come up to what these men can tell you.
Your bunch won't have to listen to one man, only--here's half
a dozen ready and waiting to talk."

Miss Hallman was impressed. A few of the closest homeseekers
she beckoned and introduced to the perspiring Happy Family--
mostly feminine homeseekers, of whom there were a dozen or
so. The men whom the hotel had sent down with rigs waited
impatiently, and the unintroduced male colonists stared at
the low rim of Lonesome Prairie and wondered if over there
lay their future prosperity.

When the Happy Family finally made their escape, red-faced
and muttering threats, Andy Green had disappeared, and no one
knew when he went or where. He was not in Rusty Brown's place
when the Happy Family went to that haven and washed down
their wrongs in beer. Pink made a hurried trip to the livery
stable and reported that Andy's horse was gone.

They were wondering among themselves whether he would have
the nerve to go home and await their coming--home at this
stage of the game meaning One Man coulee, which Andy had
taken as a homestead and desert claim and where the Happy
Family camped together until such time as their claim shacks
were habitable. Some thought that he was hiding in town, and
advised a thorough search before they took to their horses.
The Native Son--he of mixed Irish and Spanish blood--told
them with languid certainty that Andy was headed straight for
the camp because he would figure that in camp was where they
would least expect to find him.

The opinions of the Native Son were usually worth adopting.
In this case, however, it brought them into the street at the
very moment when Florence Grace Hallman and two homeseekers
had ventured from the hotel in search of them. Slim and Jack
Bates and Cal Emmett saw them in time and shied across the
street and into the new barber shop where they sat themselves
down and demanded unnecessary hair-cuts and a shampoo apiece,
and spied upon their unfortunate fellows through the window
while they waited; but the others met the women fairly since
it was too late to turn back without making themselves

"I was wondering," began Miss Hallman in her brisk, business
tone, "if some of you gentlemen could not help us out in the
matter of conveyances. I have made arrangements for most of
my guests, but we simply can't squeeze another one into the
rigs I have engaged--and I've engaged every vehicle in town
except a wheelbarrow I saw in the back yard of the hotel."

"How many are left out?" asked Weary, since no one else
showed any symptoms of speech.

"Oh, not many, thank goodness. Just us three here. You've met
Miss Allen, Mr. Davidson--and Miss Price. And so have you
other gentlemen, because I introduced you at the depot. I
went blandly ahead and told everybody just which rig they
were to ride in, and put three in a seat, at that, and in
counting noses I forgot to count our own--"

"I really don't see how she managed to overlook mine," sighed
Miss Allen, laying a dainty, gloved finger upon a nose that
had the tiniest possible tilt to it. "Nobody ever overlooked
my nose before; it's almost worth walking to the tract."

Irish, standing close beside Weary and looking enough like
him to be a twin instead of a mere cousin, smiled down at her
with traitorous admiration. Miss Allen's nose was a nice
nose, and above it twinkled a pair of warm brown eyes with
humorous little wrinkles , around them; and still above them
fluffed a kinky-curly mass of brown hair. Weary looked at her
also, but he did not smile, because she looked a little like
his own schoolma'am, Miss Ruty Satterly--and the resemblance
hurt a sore place in his heart.

"--So if any of you gentlemen could possibly take us out to
the tract, we'd be eternally grateful, besides keeping our
independence intact with the usual payment. Could you help us

"We all came in on horseback," Weary stated with a gentle
firmness that was intended to kill their hopes as painlessly
as possible.

"Wouldn't there be room on behind?" asked Miss Allen with
hope still alive and flourishing.

"Lots of room," Weary assured her. "More room than you could
possibly use."

"But isn't there any kind of a rig that you could buy, beg,
borrow or steal?" Miss Hallman insisted. "These girls came
from Wisconsin to take up claims, and I've promised to see
that they get the best there is to be had. They are hustlers,
if I know what the word means. I have a couple of claims in
mind, that I want them to see--and that's why we three hung
back till the rest were all arranged for. I had a rig
promised that I was depending on, and at the last minute
discovered it was not to be had. Some doctor from Havre came
and got it for a trip into the hills. There's no use talking;
we just must get out to the tract as soon as the others do--a
little sooner wouldn't hurt. Couldn't you think of some way?"

"We'll try," Irish promised rashly, his eyes tying to meet
Miss Allen's and succeeding admirably.

"What has become of Mr. Green?" Miss Hallman demanded after
she had thanked Irish with a smile for the qualified

"We don't know,," Weary answered mildly. "We were trying to
locate him ourselves."

"Oh, were you? He seems a rather uncertain young man. I
rather counted on his assistance; he promised--"

"Mr. Irish has thought of a rig he can use, Miss Hallman,"
said the Allen girl suddenly. "He's going to drive us out
himself. Let's hurry and get ready, so we can start ahead of
the others. How many minutes will it take you, Mr. Irish, to
have that team here, for us?"

Irish turned red. He HAD thought of a rig, and he had thought
of driving them himself, but he could not imagine how Miss
Allen could possibly; have known his thoughts. Then and there
he knew who would occupy the other half of the front seat, in
case he did really drive the team he had in mind.

"I told you she's a hustler," laughed Miss Hallman. "She'll
be raising bigger crops than you men--give her a year to get
started. Well, girls, come on, then."

They turned abruptly away, and Irish was left to his
accounting with the Happy Family. He had not denied the
thoughts and intentions imputed to him by the twinkling-eyed
Miss Allen. They walked on toward the livery stable--where
was manifested an unwonted activity--waiting for Irish to
clear himself; which he did not do.

"You going to drive them women out there?" Pink demanded
after an impatient silence.

"Why not ? Somebody'll have to."

"What team are you going to use!" asked Jack Bates.

"Chip's" Irish did not glance around, but kept striding down
the middle of the road with his hands stuck deep in his

"Don't you think you need help, amigo?" the Native Son
insinuated craftily. "You can't talk to three girls at once;
I could be hired to go along and take one off your hands.
That should help some."

"Like hell you will!" Irish retorted with characteristic
bluntness. Then he added cautiously, "Which one?"

"That old girl with the blue eyes should not be permitted to
annoy the driver," drawled the Native Son. "Also, Florence
Grace might want some intelligent person to talk to."

"Well, I got my opinion of any man that'll throw in with that
bunch," Pink declared hotly. "Why don't you fellows keep your
own side the fence. What if they are women farmers? They can
do just as much harm--and a darn sight more. You make me

"Let 'em go," Weary advised calmly. "They'll be a lot sicker
when the ladies discover what they've helped do to that
bench-land. Come on, boys--let's pull out, away from all
these lunatics. I hate to see them get stung, but I don't see
what we can do about it--only, if they come around asking me
what I think of that land, I'm going to tell 'em."

"And then they'll ask you why you took claims up there, and
you'll tell 'em that, too--will you?" The Native Son turned
and smiled at him ironically.

That was it. They could not tell the truth without harming
their own cause. They could not do anything except stand
aside and see the thing through to whatever end fate might
decree. They thought that Irish and the Native Son were
foolish to take Chip's team and drive those women fifteen
miles or so that they might seize upon land much better left
alone; but that was the business of Irish and the Native Son,
who did not ask for the approval of the Happy Family before
doing anything they wanted to do.

The Happy Family saddled and rode back to the claims, gravely
discussing the potentialities of the future. Since they rode
slowly while they talked, they were presently overtaken by a
swirl of dust, behind which came the matched browns which
were the Flying U's crack driving team, bearing Irish and
Miss Allen of the twinkling eyes upon the front seat of a two
seated spring-wagon that had seen far better days than this.
Native Son helped to crowd the back seat uncomfortably, and
waved a hand with reprehensible cheerfulness as they went
rattling past.

The Happy Family stared after them with frowning disapproval,
and Weary turned in the saddle and looked ruefully at his

"Things won't ever be the same around here," he predicted
soberly. "There goes the beginning of the end of the Flying
U, boys--and we ain't big enough to stop it."


Andy Green rode thoughtfully up the trail from his cabin in
One Man coulee, his hat tilted to the south to shield his
face from the climbing sun, his eyes fixed absently upon the
yellow soil of the hillside. Andy was facing a problem that
concerned the whole Happy Family--and the Flying U as well.
He wanted Weary's opinion, and Miguel Rapponi's, and Pink's--
when it came to that, he wanted the opinion of them all.

Thus far the boys had been wholly occupied with getting their
shacks built and in rustling cooking outfits and getting
themselves settled upon their claims with an air of
convincing permanency. Also they had watched with keen
interest--which was something more vital than mere
curiosity--developments where the homeseekers were concerned,
and had not given very much thought to their next step,
except in a purely general way.

They all recognized the fact that, with all these new
settlers buzzing around hunting claims where there was some
promise of making things grow, they would have to sit very
tight indeed upon their own land if they would avoid trouble
with "jumpers." Not all the homeseekers were women. There
were men, plenty of them; a few of them were wholly lacking
in experience it is true, but perhaps the more greedy for
land because of their ignorance. The old farmers had looked
askance at the high, dry prairie land, where even drinking
water must be hauled in barrels from some deep-set creek
whose shallow gurgling would probably cease altogether when
the dry season came on the heels of June. The old farmers had
asked questions that implied doubt. They had wanted to know
about sub-soil, and average rainfall, and late frosts, and
markets. The profusely illustrated folders that used blue
print for emphasis here and there, seemed no longer to
satisfy them.

The Happy Family did not worry much about the old farmers who
knew the game, but there were town men who had come to see
the fulfillment of their dreams; who had burned their
bridges, some of them, and would suffer much before they
would turn back to face the ridicule of their friends and the
disheartening task of getting; a fresh foothold in the wage-
market. These the Happy Family knew for incipient enemies
once the struggle for existence was fairly begun. And there
were the women--daring rivals of the men in their
fight for independence--who had dreamed dreams and raised up
ideals for which they would fight tenaciously. School-
teachers who hated the routine of the schools, and who wanted
freedom; who were willing to work and wait and forego the
little, cheap luxuries which are so dear to women; who would
cheerfully endure loneliness and spoiled complexions and
roughened hands and broken nails, and see the prairie winds
and sun wipe the sheen from their hair; who would wear
coarse, heavy-soled shoes and keep all their pretty finery
packed carefully away in their trunks with dainty sachet pads
for month after month, and take all their pleasure in
dreaming of the future; these would fight also to have and to
hold--and they would fight harder than the men, more
dangerously than the men, because they would fight

The Happy Family, then, having recognized these things and
having measured the fighting-element, knew that they were
squarely up against a slow, grim, relentless war if they
would save the Flying U. They knew that it was going to be a
pretty stiff proposition, and that they would have to obey
strictly the letter and the spirit of the land laws, or there
would be contests and quarrels and trouble without end.

So they hammered and sawed and fitted boards and nailed on
tar-paper and swore and jangled and joshed one another and
counted nickels--where they used to disdain counting anything
but results--and badgered the life out of Patsy because he
kicked at being expected to cook for the bunch just the same
as if he were in the Flying U mess-house. Py cosh, he
wouldn't cook for the whole country just because they were
too lazy to cook for themselves, and py cosh if they wanted
him to cook for them they could pay him sixty dollars a
month, as the Old Man did.

The Happy Family were no millionaires, and they made the fact
plain to Patsy to the full extent of their vocabularies. But
still they begged bread from him, a loaf at a time, and
couldn't see why he objected to making pie, if they furnished
the stuff. Why, for gosh sake, had they planted him in the
very middle of their string of claims, then? With a dandy
spring too, that never went dry except in the driest years,
and not more than seventy-five yards, at the outside, to
carry water. Up hill? Well, what of that? Look at Pink--had
to haul water half a mile from One Man Creek, and no trail.
Look at Weary--had to pack water twice as far as Patsy. And
hadn't they clubbed together and put up his darned shack
first thing, just so he COULD get busy and cook? What did the
old devil expect, anyway?

Well--you see that the Happy Family had been fully occupied
in the week since the arrival of the homeseekers' excursion.
They could not be expected to give very much thought to their
next steps. But there was Andy, who had only to move into the
cabin in One Man coulee, with a spring handy, and a stable
for his horse, and a corral and everything. Andy had not been
harassed with the house-building and settling, except as he
assisted the others. As fast as the shacks were up, the Happy
Family had taken possession, so that now Andy was alone,
stuck down there in the coulee out of sight of everybody.
Pink had once named One Man coulee as the lonesomest hole in
all that country, and he had not been far wrong. But at any
rate the lonesomeness had served one good purpose, for it had
started Andy to thinking out the details of their so called
land-pool. Now the thinking had borne fruit to the extent
that he felt an urgent need of the Happy Family in council
upon the subject.

As he topped at last the final rise which put him on a level
with the great undulating bench-land gashed here and there
with coulees and narrow gulches that gave no evidence of
their existence until one rode quite close, he lifted his
head and gazed about him half regretfully, half proudly. He
hated to see that wide upland dotted here and there with new,
raw buildings, which proclaimed themselves claim-shacks as
far a one could see them. Andy hated the sight of claim-
shacks with a hatred born of long range experience and the
vital interests of the cattleman. A claim-shack stuck out on
the prairie meant a barbed wire fence somewhere in the
immediate vicinity; and that meant a hindrance to the easy
handling of herds. A claim-shack meant a nester, and a nester
was a nuisance, with his plowed fields and his few head of
cattle that must be painstakingly weeded out of a herd to
prevent a howl going up to high heaven. Therefore, Andy Green
instinctively hated the sight of a shack on the prairie. On
the other hand, those shacks belonged to the Happy Family--
and that pleased him. From where he sat on his horse he could
count five in sight, and there were more hidden by ridges and
tucked away in hollows.

But there were others going up--shacks whose owners he did
not know. He scowled when he saw, on distant hilltops, the
yellow skeletons that would presently be fattened with boards
and paper and made the dwellingplace of interlopers. To be
sure, they had as much right to take government land as had
he or any of his friends--but Andy, being a normally selfish
person, did not think so.

From one partially built shack three quarters of a mile away
on a bald ridge which the Happy Family had passed up because
of its barrenness and the barrenness of the coulee on the
other side, and because no one was willing to waste even a
desert right on that particular eighty-acres, a team and
light buggy came swiftly toward him. Andy, trained to quick
thinking, was puzzled at the direction the driver was taking.
That eighty acres joined his own west line, and unless the
driver was lost or on the way to One Man coulee, there was no
reason whatever for coming this way.

He watched and saw that the team was comin' straight toward
him over the uneven prairie sod, and at a pace that
threatened damage to the buggy-springs. Instinctively Andy
braced himself in the saddle. At a half mile he knew the
team, and it did not require much shrewdness to guess at the
errand. He twitched the reins, turned his spurred heels
against his horse and went loping over the grassland to meet
the person who drove in such haste; and the probability that
he was meeting trouble halfway only sent him the more eagerly

Trouble met him with hard, brown eyes and corn yellow hair
blown in loose strands across cheeks roughened by the spring
winds and sun-glare of Montana. Trouble pulled up and twisted
sidewise in the seat and kicked the heads off some wild
larkspurs with her whip while her tongue flayed the soul of
Andy Green with sarcasm.

"Well, I have found out just how you helped me colonize this
tract, Mr. Green," she began with a hard inflection under the
smoothness of her voice. "I must compliment you upon your
promptness and thoroughness in the matter; for an amateur you
have made a remarkable showing--in--in treachery and deceit.
I really did not suppose you had it in you."

"Remember, I told you I might buy in if it looked good to
me," Andy reminded her in the mildest tone of which he was
capable--and he could be as mild as new milk when he chose.

Florence Grace Hallman looked at him with a lift of her full
upper lip at the left side. "It does look good, then? You
told Mr. Graham and that Mr. Wirt a different story, Mr.
Green. You told them this land won't raise white beans, and
you were at some pains, I believe, to explain why it would
not. You convinced them, by some means or other, that the
whole tract is practically worthless for agricultural
purposes. Both Mr. Wirt and Mr. Graham had some capital to
invest here, and now they are leaving, and they have
persuaded several others to leave with them. Does it really
look good to you--this land proposition?"

"Not your proposition--no, it don't." Andy faced her with a
Keen level glance as hard as her own. One could get the truth
straight from the shoulder if one pushed Andy Green into a
corner. "You know and I know that you're trying to cold-deck
this bunch. The land won't raise white beans or anything else
without water, and you know it. You can plant folks on the
land and collect your money and tell 'em goodbye and go to
it--and that settles your part of it. But how about the poor
devils that put in their time and money?"

Florence Grace Hallman spread her hands in a limited gesture
because of the reins, and smiled unpleasantly. "And yet, you
nearly broke your neck filing on the land yourself and
getting a lot of your friends to file," she retorted. "What
was your object, Mr. Green--since the land is worthless?"

"My object don't matter to anyone but myself." Andy busied
himself with his smoking material and did not look at her.

"Oh, but it Does! It matters to me, Mr. Green, and to my
company, and to our clients."

"I'll have to buy me a new dictionary," Andy observed
casually, reaching behind him to scratch a match on the skirt
of his saddle. "The one I've got don't say anything about
'client' and 'victim' meaning the same thing. It's getting
all outa date."

"I brought enough clients--" she emphasized the word--" to
settle every eighty acres of land in that whole tract. The
policy of the company was eminently fair. We guaranteed to
furnish a claim of eighty, acres to every person who joined
our homeseekers' Club, and free pasturage to all the stock
they wanted to bring. Failing to do that, we pledged
ourselves to refund the fee and pay all return expenses. We
could have located every member of this lot, and more--only
for YOU."

"Say, it'd be just as easy to swear as to say 'you' in that
tone uh voice," Andy pointed out placidly.

"You managed to gobble up just exactly four thousand acres of
this tract--and you were careful to get all the water and all
the best land. That means you have knocked us out of fifty

"Fifty wads of coin to hand back to fifty come-ons, and fifty
return tickets for fifty fellows glad to get back--tough
luck, ain't it?" Andy smiled sympathetically. "You oughta be
glad I saved your conscience that much of a load, anyway."

Florence Grace Hallman bit her lip to control her rage.
"Smart talk isn't going to help you, Mr. Green. You've simply
placed yourself in a position you can't' hold. You've put it
up to us to fight--and we're going to do it. I'm playing fair
with you. I'll tell you this much: I've investigated you and
your friends pretty thoroughly, and it's easy to guess what
your object is. We rather expected the Flying U to fight this
colonization scheme, so we are neither surprised nor
unprepared. Mr. Green, for your own interest and that of your
employer, let me advise you to abandon your claims now,
before we begin action in the matter. It will be simpler, and
far, far cheaper. We have our clients to look after, and we
have the law all on our side. These are bona fide settlers we
are bringing in; men and women whose sole object is to make
homes for themselves. The land laws are pretty strict, Mr.
Green. If we set the wheels in motion they will break the
Flying U."

Andy grinned while he inspected his cigarette. "Funny--I
heard a man brag once about how he'd break the Flying U, with
sheep," he drawled. "He didn't connect, though; the Flying U
broke him." He smoked until he saw an angry retort parting
the red lips of the lady, and then continued calmly:

"The Flying U has got nothing to do with this case. As a
matter of fact, old man Whitmore is pretty sore at us fellows
right now, because we quit him and turned nesters right under
his nose. Miss Hallman, you'll have one sweet time proving
that we ain't bona fide settlers. We're just crazy to make
homes for ourselves. We think it's time we settled down--and
we're settling here because we're used to this country. We're
real sorry you didn't find it necessary to pay your folks for
the fun of pointing out the land to us and steering us to the
land office--but we can't help that. We needed the money to
buy plows." He looked at her full with his honest, gray eyes
that could so deceive his fellow men--to say nothing of
women. "And that reminds me, I've got to go and borrow a
garden rake. I'm planting a patch of onions," he explained
engagingly. "Say, this farming is a great game, isn't it?
Well, good day, Miss Hallman. Glad I happened to meet you."

"You won't be when I get through with you!" predicted the
lady with her firm chin thrust a little forward. "You think
you've got everything your own way, don't you? Well, you've
just simply put yourself in a position where we can get at
you. You deceived me from the very start--and now you shall
pay the penalty. I've got our clients to protect--and besides
that I shall dearly love to get even. Oh, you'll squeal for
mercy, believe me!" She touched up the horses with her whip
and went bumping away over the tough sod.

"Wow!" ejaculated Andy, looking after her with laughter in
his eyes. "She's sure one mad lady, all right. But shucks!"
He turned and galloped off toward the farthest claim, which
was Happy Jack's and the last one to be furnished with a
lawful habitation.

He was lucky. The Happy Family were foregathered there,
wrangling with Happy Jack over some trifling thing. He joined
zealously in the argument and helped them thrash Happy Jack
in the word-war, before he came at his errand.

"Say, boys, we'll have to get busy now," he told them
seriously at last. "Florence Grace is onto us bigger'n a
wolf--and if I'm any judge, that lady's going to be some
fighter. We've either got to plow up a bunch of ground and
plant some darn thing, or else get stock on and pasture it.
They ain't going to over look any bets from now on. I met her
back here on the bench. She was so mad she talked too much
and I got next to their scheme--seems like we've knocked the
Syndicate outa quite a bunch of money, all right. They want
this land, and they think they're going to get it.

"Now my idea is this: We've got to have stock, or we can't
graze the land. And if we take Flying U cattle and throw 'em
on here, they'll contest us for taking fake claims, for the
outfit. So what's the matter with us buying a bunch from the
Old Man?"

"I'm broke," began Pink promptly, but Andy stopped him.

"Listen here. ;We buy a bunch of stock and give him mortgages
for the money, with the cattle for security. We graze 'em
till the mortgage runs out--till we prove up, that means--and
then we don't spot up, and the Old Man takes the stock back.
see? We're grazing our own stock, according to law--but the

"Where do we git off at?" demanded Happy Jack suspiciously.
"We got to live--and it takes money to buy grub, these days."

"Well, we'll make out all right. We can have so many head of
cattle named for the mortgage; there'll be increase, and we
should get that. By the time we all prove up we'll have a
little bunch of stock of our own' d',uh see? And we'll have
the range--what there is left. These squatters ain't going to
last over winter, if you ask me. And it'll be a long, cold
day when another bunch of greenhorns bites on any colony

"How do you know the Old Man'll do that, though?" Weary
wanted to know. "He's pretty mad. I rode over to the ranch
last week to see Chip, and the Old Man wouldn't have anything
to say to me."

"Well, what's the matter with all of us going? He can't pass
up the whole bunch. We can put it up to him just the way it
is, and he'll see where it's going to be to his interest to
let us have the cattle. Why, darn it, he can't help seeing
now why we quit!" Pink looked ready to start then, while his
enthusiasm was fresh.

"Neither can Florence Grace help seeing why we did it," Andy
supplemented dryly. "She can think what she darn pleases--all
we got to do is deliver the goods right up to the handle, on
these claims and not let her prove anything on us."

"It'll take a lot uh fencing," Happy Jack croaked
pessimistically. "We ain't got the money to buy wire and
posts, ner the time to build the fence."

"What's the matter with rang-herding 'em?" Andy seemed to
have thought it all out, and to have an answer for every
objection. "We can take turns at that--and we must all be
careful and don't let 'em graze on our neighbors!"

Whereat the Happy Family grinned understandingly.

"Maybe the Old Man'll let us have three or four hundred head
uh cows on shares," Cal hazarded optimistically.

"Can't take 'em that way," said the Native Son languidly. "It
wouldn't be safe. Andy's right; the way to do is buy the
cattle outright, and give a mortgage on the bunch. And I
think we better split the bunch, and let every fellow buy a
few head. We can graze 'em together--the law can't stop us
from doing that."

"Sounds good--if the Old Man will come to the centre," said
Weary dubiously. The chill atmosphere of Flying U coulee,
with strangers in the bunk-house and with the Old Man
scowling at his paper on the porch, had left its effect upon
Weary, sunny-souled as he was.

"Oh, he'll come through," cried Cal, moving toward his horse.
"gee whiz, he's got to! Come on--let's go and get it done
with. As it stands now, we ain't got a thing to do but set
around and look wise--unless we go spoiling good grass with
plows. First thing we know our neighbors will be saying we
ain't improving our claims!"

"You improve yours every time you git off it!" stated Happy
Jack spitefully because of past wrongs. "You could improve
mine a whole lot that way, too," he added when he heard the
laugh of approval from the others.

They rung all the changes possible upon that witticism while
they mounted and rode away, every man of them secretly glad
of some excuse for making overtures to the Old Man. Spite of
the excitement of getting on to their claims, and of watching
strangers driving here and there in haste, and hauling loads
of lumber toilfully over the untracked grass and building
chickencoop dwellings as nearly alike as the buttons on a new
shirt--spite of all that they had felt keenly their exile
from Flying U ranch. They had stayed away, for two reasons:
one was a latent stubbornness which made them resent the Old
Man's resentment; the other was a matter of policy, as
preached by Andy Green and the Native Son. It would not do,
said these two cautious ones, to be running to the Flying U
outfit all the time.

So the Happy Family had steered clear since that afternoon
when they had simulated treachery to the outfit. And fate
played them a scurvy trick in spite of their caution, for
just as they rode down the Hog's Back and across the ford,
Florence Grace Hallman rode away from the White House and met
them fairly at the stable.

Florence Grace smiled a peculiar smile as she went past them.
A smile that promised she would not forget; a smile that told
them how sure she felt of having caught them fairly. With the
smile went a chilly, supercilious bow that was worse than a
direct cut, and which the Happy Family returned doubtfully,
not at all sure of the rules governing warfare with a woman.


With the Kid riding gleefully upon Weary's shoulder they
trooped up the path their own feet had helped wear deep to
the bunk-house. They looked in at the open door and snorted
at the cheerlessness of the place.

"Why don't you come back here and stay?" the Kid demanded. "I
was going to sleep down here with you--and now Doctor Dell
won't let me. These hobees are no good. They're damn' bone-
head. Daddy Chip says so. I wish you'd come back, so I can
sleep with you. One man's named Ole and he's got a funny eye
that looks at the other one all the time. I wish you'd come

The Happy Family wished the same thing, but they did not say
so. Instead they told the Kid to ask his mother if he
couldn't come and visit them in their new shacks, and
promised indulgences that would have shocked the Little
Doctor had she heard them. So they went on to the house,
where the Old Man sat on the porch looking madder than when
they had left him three weeks before.

"Why don't yuh run them nesters outa the country?" he
demanded peevishly when they were close enough for speech.
"Here they come and accuse me to my face of trying to defraud
the gov'ment. Doggone you boys, what you think you're up to,
anyway? What's three or four thousand acres when they're
swarming in here like flies to a butcherin'? They can't make
a living--serve 'em right. What you doggone rowdies want

Not a cordial welcome, that--if they went no deeper than his
words. But there was the old twinkle back of the
querulousness in the Old Man's eyes, and the old pucker of
the lips behind his grizzled whiskers. "You've got that
doggone Kid broke to foller yuh so we can't keep him on the
ranch no more," he added fretfully. "Tried to run away twice,
on Silver. Chip had to go round him up. Found him last time
pretty near over to Antelope coulee, hittin' the high places
for town. Might as well take yuh back, I guess, and save time
running after the Kid."

"We've got to hold down our claims," Weary minded him
regretfully. In three weeks, he could see a difference the
Old Man, and the change hurt him.

Lines were deeper drawn, and the kind old eyes were a shade
more sunken.

"What's that amount to?" grumbled the Old Man, looking from
one to the other under his graying eye brows. "You can't stop
them dry-farmers from taking the country. Yuh might as well
try to dip the Missouri dry with a bucket. They'll flood the
country with stock--"

"No, they won't," put in Big Medicine, impatient for the real
meat of their errand. "By cripes, we got a scheme to beat
that--you tell 'im, Weary."

"We want to buy a bunch of cattle from you," Weary said
obediently. "We want to graze our claims, instead of trying
to crop the land. We haven't any fence up, so we'll have to
range-herd our stock, of course. I--don't hardly think any
nester stock will get by us, J. G. And seeing our land runs
straight through from Meeker's line fence to yours, we kinda
think we've got the nesters pretty well corralled. They're
welcome to the range between Antelope coulee and Dry Lake,
far as we're concerned. Soon as we can afford it," he added
tranquilly, "we'll stretch a fence along our west line
that'll hold all the darn milkcows they've a mind to ship out

"Huh!" The Old Man studied them quizzically, his chin on his

"How many yuh want?" he asked abruptly.

"All you'll sell us. We want to give mortgages, with the
stock for security."

"Oh, yuh do, ay? What if I have to foreclose on yuh?" The
pucker of his lips grew more pronounced." Where do you git
off at, then?"

"Well, we kinda thought we could fix it up to save part of
the increase outa the wreck, anyway."

"Oh. That's it ay?" He studied them another minute. "You'll
want all my best cows, too, I reckon--all that grade stock I
shipped in last spring. Ay?"

"We wouldn't mind," grinned Weary, glancing at the others
roosting at ease along the edge of the porch.

"Think you could handle five-hundred head--the pick uh the

"Sure, we could! We'd rather split 'em up amongst us,
though--let every fellow buy so many. We can throw in
together on the herding."

"Think you can keep the milk-cows between you and Dry Lake,
ay?" The Old Man chuckled--the first little chuckle since the
Happy Family left him so unceremoniously three weeks before.
"How about that, Pink?"

"Why, I think we can," chirped Pink cheerfully.

"Huh! Well, you're the toughest bunch, take yuh up one side
and down the other, I ever seen keep onta jail--I guess maybe
you can do it. But lemme tell you boys something--and I want
you to remember it: You don't want to git the idea in your
heads you're going to have any snap; you ain't. If I know B
from a bull's foot, you've got your work cut out for yuh.
I've been keeping cases pretty close on this dry-farm craze,
and this stampede for claims. Folks are land crazy. They've
got the idea that a few acres of land is going to make 'em
free and independent--and it don't matter much what the land
is, or where it is. So long as it's land, and they can git it
from the government for next to nothing, they're satisfied.
And yuh want to remember that. Yuh don't want to take it for
granted they're going to take a look at your deadline and
back up. If they ship in stock, they're going to see to it
that stock don't starve. You'll have to hold off men and
women that's making their last stand, some of 'em, for a home
of their own. They ain't going to give up if they can help
it. You get a man with his back agin the wall, and he'll
fight till he drops. I don't need to tell yuh that."

The Happy Family listened to him soberly, their eyes staring
broodily at the picture he conjured.

"Well, by golly, we're makin' our last stand, too," Slim
blurted with his customary unexpectedness. "Our back's agin
the wall right now. If we can't hold 'em back from takin'
what little range is left, this outfit's going under. We got
to hold 'em, by golly, er there won't be no more Flying U."

"Well," said Andy Green quietly, "that's all right. We're
going to hold 'em."

The Old Man lifted his bent head and looked from one to
another. Pride shone in his eyes, that had lately stared
resentment. "Yuh know, don't yuh, the biggest club they can
use?" He leaned forward a little, his lips working under his

"Sure, we know. We'll look out for that." Weary smiled

"We want a good lawyer to draw up those mortgages," put in
the Native Son lazily. "And we'll pay eight per cent.

"Doggonedest crazy bunch ever I struck," grumbled the Old Man
with grateful insincerity. "What you fellers don't think of,
there ain't any use in mentioning. Oh, Dell! Bring out that
jug Blake sent me! Doggoned thirsty bunch out here--won't
stir a foot till they sample that wine! Got to get rid of 'em
somehow--they claim to be full uh business as a jack rabbit
is of fleas! When yuh want to git out and round up them cows?
Wagon's over on Dry creek som'ers--or ought to be. Yuh might
take your soogans and ride ove' there tomorrow or next day
and ketch 'em. I'll write a note to Chip and tell 'im what's
to be done. And while you're pickin' your bunch you can draw
wages just the same as ever, and help them double-dutch
blisterin' milk-fed pilgrims with the calf crop."

"We'll sure do that," promised Weary for the bunch. "We can
start in the morning, all right."

"Take a taste uh this wine. None of your tobaccojuice stuff;
this comes straight from Fresno. Senator Blake sent it the
other day. Fill up that glass, Dell! What yuh want to be so
doggone stingy fer? Think this bunch uh freaks are going to
stand for that? They can't git the taste outa less'n a pint.
This ain't any doggone liver-tonic like you dope out."

The Little Doctor smiled understandingly and filled their
glasses with the precious wine from sunland. She did not know
what had happened, but she did know that the Old Man had
seized another hand-hold on life in the last hour, and she
was grateful. She even permitted the Kid to take a tiny sip,
just because the Happy Family hated to see him refused
anything he wanted.

So Flying U coulee was for the time being filled with the
same old laughter and the same atmosphere of care-free
contentment with life. The Countess stewed uncomplainingly in
the kitchen, cooking dinner for the boys. The Old Man
grumbled hypocritically at them from his big chair, and named
their faults in the tone that transmuted them into virtues.
The Little Doctor heard about Miss Allen and her three
partners, who were building a four-room shack on the four
corners of four claims, and how Irish had been caught more
than once in the act of staring fixedly in the direction of
that shack. She heard a good many things, and she guessed a
good many more.

By mid afternoon the Old Man was fifty per cent brighter and
better than he had been in the morning, and he laughed and
bullied them as of old. When they left he told them to clear
out and stay out, and that if he caught them hanging around
his ranch, and making it look as if he were backing them and
trying to defraud the government, he'd sic the dog onto them.
Which tickled the Kid immensely, because there wasn't any dog
to sic.


In the soft-creeping dusk came Andy Green, slouched in the
saddle with the weariness of riding since dawn; slouched to
one side and singing, with his hat far back on his head and
the last of a red sunset tinting darkly the hills above him.
Tip-toe on a pinnacle a great, yellow star poised and winked
at him knowingly. Andy's eyes twinkled answer as he glanced
up that way. "We've got her going, old-timer," he announced
lazily to the star.

Six miles back toward the edge of the "breaks" which are
really the beginning of the Badlands that border the Missouri
River all through that part of Montana, an even five hundred
head of the Flying U's best grade cows and their calves were
settling down for the night upon a knoll that had been the
bed-ground of many a herd. At the Flying U ranch, in the care
of the Old Man, were the mortgages that would make the Happy
Family nominal owners of those five hundred cows and their
calves. In the morning Andy would ride back and help bring
the herd upon its spring grazing ground, which was the
claims; in the meantime he was leisurely obeying an impulse
to ride into One Man coulee and spend the night under his own
roof. And, say what you will, there is a satisfaction not to
be denied in sleeping sometimes under one's own roof; and it
doesn't matter in the least that the roof is made of prairie
dirt thrown upon cottonwood poles. So he sang while he rode,
and his voice boomed loud in the coulee and scared long
stilled echoes into repeating the song:

        "We're here because we're here, because we're here,
        because we're here,

        We're here because we're here, because we're here,
        because we're here--"

That, if you please, is a song; there are a lot more verses
exactly like this one, which may be sung to the tune of Auld
Lang Syne with much effectiveness when one is in a certain
mood. So Andy sang, while his tired horse picked its way
circumspectly among the scattered rocks of the trail up the

        "It's time you're here, it's time you're here,
        It's time that you were here--"

mocked an echo not of the hills.

Andy swore in his astonishment and gave his horse a kick as a
mild hint for haste. He thought he knew every woman-voice in
the neighborhood--or had until the colony came--but this
voice, high and sweet and with a compelling note that stirred
him vaguely, was absolutely strange. While he loped forward,
silenced for the moment, he was conscious of a swift, keen
thankfulness that Pink had at the last minute decided to stay
in camp that night instead of accompanying Andy to One Man.
He was in that mood when a sentimental encounter appealed to
him strongly; and a woman's voice, singing to him from One
Man cabin, promised undetermined adventure.

He did not sing again. There had been something in the voice
that held him quiet, listening, expectant. But she also was
silent after that last, high note--like a meadow lark
startled in the middle of his song, thought Andy whimsically.

He came within sight of the cabin, squatting in the shadow of
the grove at its back. He half expected ,to see a light, but
the window was dark, the door closed as he had left it. He
felt a faint, unreasoning disappointment that it was so. But
he had heard her. That high note that lingered upon the word
"here" still tingled his senses. His eyes sent seeking
glances here and there as he rode up.

Then a horse nickered welcomingly, and someone rode out from
the deeper shadow at the corner of the cabin, hesitated as
though tempted to flight, and came on uncertainly. They met
full before the cabin, and the woman leaned and peered
through the dusk at Andy.

"Is this--Mr. Mallory--Irish?" she asked nervously. "Oh dear!
Have I gone and made a fool of myself again?"

"Not at all! Good evening, Miss Allen." Andy folded his hands
upon the saddle horn and regarded her with a little smile,
Keen for what might come next.

"But you're not Irish Mallory. I thought I recognized the
voice, or I wouldn't have--" She urged her horse a step
closer, and Andy observed from her manner that she was not
accustomed to horses. She reined as if she were driving, so
that the horse, bewildered, came sidling up to him. "Who are
you?" she asked him sharply.

"Me? Why, I'm a nice young man--a lot better singer than
Irish. I guess you never heard him, did you?" He kept his
hands folded on the horn, his whole attitude passive--a
restful, reassuring passivity that lulled her uneasiness more
than words could have done.

"Oh, are you Andy Green? I seem to connect that name with
your voice--and what little I can see of you."

"That's something, anyway." Andy's tone was one of gratitude.
"It's two per cent. better than having to tell you right out
who I am. I met you three different times, Miss Allen," he

"But always in a crowd," she defended, "and I never talked
with you, particularly."

"Oh, well, that's easily fixed," he said. "It's a nice
night," he added, looking up appreciatively at the
brightening star-sprinkle. "Are you living on your claim now?
We can talk particularly on the way over."

Miss Allen laughed and groped for a few loose hairs, found
them and tucked them carefully under her hatcrown. Andy
remembered that gesture; it helped him to visualize her
clearly in spite of the deepening night.

"How far have you ridden today, Mr. Green?" she asked

"Since daylight, you mean? Not so very far counting miles--We
were trailing a herd, you see. But I've been in the saddle
since sunrise, except when I was eating."

"Then you want a cup of coffee, before you ride any farther.
If I get down, will you let me make it or you? I'd love to.
I'm crazy to see inside your cabin, but I only rode up and
tried to peek in the window before you came. I have two
brothers and a cousin, so I understand men pretty well and I
know you can talk better when you aren't hungry."

"Are you living on your claim?" he asked again, without

"Why, yes. We moved in last week."

"Well, we'll ride over, then, and you can make coffee there.
I'm not hungry right now."

"Oh." She leaned again and peered at him, trying to read his
face. "You don't WANT me to go in!"

"Yes, I do--but I don't. If you stayed and made coffee,
tomorrow you'd be kicking yourself for it, and you'd be
blaming me." Which, considering the life he had lived, almost
wholly among men, was rather astute of Andy Green.

"Oh." Then she laughed. "You must have some sisters, Mr.
Green." She was silent for a minute, looking at him. "You're
right," she said quietly then. "I'm always making a fool of
myself, just on the impulse of the moment. The girls will be
worried about me, as it is. But I don't want you to ride any
farther, Mr. Green. What I came to say need not take very
long, and I think I can find my way home alone, all right."

"I'll take you home when you're ready to go," said Andy
quietly. All at once he had wanted to shield her, to protect
her from even so slight an unconventionality as making his
coffee for him. He had felt averse to putting her at odds
with her conventional self, of inviting unfavorable criticism
of himself; dimly, because instinct rather than cold analysis
impelled him. What he had told her was the sum total of his
formulated ideas.

"Well, I'm ready to go now, since you insist on my being
conventional. I did not come West with the expectation of
being tied to a book of etiquette, Mr. Green. But I find one
can't get away from it after all. Still, living on one's own
claim twelve miles from a town is something!"

"That's a whole lot, I should say," Andy assured her
politely, and refrained from asking her what she expected to
do with that eighty acres of arid land. He turned his tired
horse and rode alongside her, prudently waiting for her to
give the key.

"I'm not supposed to be away over here, you know," she began
when they were near the foot of the bluff up which the trail
wound seeking the easiest slopes and avoiding boulders and
deep cuts. "I'm supposed to be just out riding, and the girls
expected me back by sundown. But I've been trying and trying
to find some of you Flying U boys--as they call you men who
have taken so much land--on your claims. I don't know that
what I could tell you would do you a particle of good--or
anyone else. But I wanted to tell you, anyway, just to clear
my own mind."

"It does lots of good just to meet you," said Andy with
straightforward gallantry. "Pleasures are few and far
between, out here."

"You said that very nicely, I'm sure," she snubbed. "Well,
I'm going to tell you, anyway--just on the chance of doing
some good." Then she stopped.

Andy rode a rod or two, glancing at her inquiringly, waiting
for her to go on. She was guiding her horse awkwardly where
it needed only to be let alone, and he wanted to give her a
lesson in riding. But it seemed too early in their
acquaintance for that, so he waited another minute.

"Miss Hallman is going to make you a lot of trouble," she
began abruptly. "I thought perhaps it might be better for
you--all of you--if you knew it in advance, so there would be
no sudden anger and excitement. All the settlers are
antagonistic, Mr. Green--all but me, and one or two of the
girls. They are going to do everything they can to prevent
your land-scheme from going through. You are going to be
watched and--and your land contested--"

"Well, we'll be right there, I guess, when the dust settles,"
he filled in her thought unmoved.

"I--almost hope so," she ventured. "For my part, I can see
the side--your side. I can see where it is very hard for the
cattle men to give up their range. It is like the big
plantations down south, when the slaves were freed. It had to
be done, and yet it was hard upon those planters who depended
on free labor. They resented it deeply; deeply enough to shed
blood--and that is one thing I dread here. I hope, Mr. Green,
that you will not resort to violence. I want to urge you all

"I understand," said Andy softly. "A-course, we're pretty bad
when we get started, all right. We're liable to ride up on
dark nights and shoot our enemies through the window--I can't
deny it, Miss Allen. And if it comes right to a show-down, I
may as well admit that some of us would think nothing at all
of taking a man out and hanging him to the first three we
come to, that was big enough to hold him. But now that ladies
have come into the country, a-course we'll try and hold our
tempers down all we can. Miss Hallman, now--I don't suppose
there's a man in the bunch that would shoot her, no matter
what she done to us. We take pride in being polite to women.
You've read that about us, haven't you, Miss Allen? And
you've seen us on the stage--well, it's a fact, all right.
Bad as we are, and wild and tough, and savage when we're
crossed, a lady can just do anything with us, if she goes at
it the right way."

"Thank you. I felt sure that you would not harm any of us.
Will you promise not to be violent--not to--to--"

Andy sat sidewise in the saddle, so that he faced her. Miss
Allen could just make out his form distinctly; his face was
quite hidden, except that she could see the shine of his

"Now, Miss Allen," he protested with soft apology "You musta
known what to expect when you moved out amongst us rough
characters. You know I can make any promises about being mild
with the men that try to get the best of us. If you've got
friends--brothers--anybody here that you think a lot of Miss
Allen, I advise you to send 'em outa the country, before
trouble breaks loose; because when she starts she'll start a-
popping. I know I can't answer for my self, what I'm liable
to do if they bother me; and I'm about the mildest one in the
bunch. What the rest of the boys would do--Irish Mallory for
instance--I hate to think, Miss Allen. I--hate--to--think!"

Afterwards, when he thought it all over dispassionately, Andy
wondered why he had talked to Miss Allen like that. He had
not done it deliberately, just to frighten her--yet he had
frightened her to a certain extent. He had roused her
apprehension for the safety of her neighbors and the ultimate
well-being of himself and his fellows. She had been so
anxious over winning him to more peaceful ways that she had
forgotten to give him any details of the coming struggle.
Andy was sorry for that. He wished, on the way home, that he
knew just what Florence Grace Hallman intended to do.

Not that it mattered greatly. Whatever she did, Andy felt
that it would be futile. The Happy Family were obeying the
land laws implicitly, except as their real incentive had been
an unselfish one. He could not feel that it was wrong to try
and save the Flying U; was not loyalty a virtue? And was not
the taking of land for the preservation of a fine, fair
dealing outfit that had made itself a power for prosperity
and happiness in that country, a perfectly laudable
enterprise? Andy believed so.

Even though they did, down in their deepest thoughts, think
of the Flying U's interest, Andy did not believe that
Florence Grace Hallman or anyone else could produce any
evidence that would justify a contest for their land. Though
they planned among themselves for the good of the Flying U,
they were obeying the law and the dictates of their range-
conscience and their personal ideas of right and justice and
loyalty to their friends and to themselves. They were not
conspiring against the general prosperity of the country in
the hope of great personal gain. When you came to that, they
were saving fifty men from bitter disappointment--counting
one settler to every eighty acres, as the Syndicate
apparently did.

Still, Andy wondered why he had represented himself and his
friends to be such bloodthirsty devils. He grinned wickedly
over some of the things he had said, and over her womanly
perturbation and pleading that they would spare the lives of
their enemies. Oh, well--if she repeated half to Florence
Grace Hallman, that lady would maybe think twice before she
tackled the contract of boosting the Happy Family off their
claims. So at the last he managed to justify his lying to
her. He liked Miss Allen. He was pleased to think that at
least she would not forget him the minute he was out of her

He went to sleep worrying, not over the trouble which
Florence Grace Hallman might be plotting to bring upon him,
but about Miss Allen's given name and her previous condition
of servitude. He hoped that she was not a stenographer, and
he hoped her first name was not Mary; and if you know the
history of Andy Green you will remember that he had a reason
for disliking both the name and the vocation.


Having nothing more than a general warning of trouble ahead
to disturb him, Andy rode blithely back down the coulee and
met the herd just after sunrise. Dreams of Miss Allen had
left a pleasant mood behind them, though the dreams
themselves withdrew behind the veil of forgetfulness when he
awoke. He wondered what her first name was. He wondered how
far Irish's acquaintance with her had progressed, but he did
not worry much about Irish. Having represented himself to be
an exceedingly dangerous man, and having permitted himself to
be persuaded into promising reform and a calm demeanor--for
her sake--he felt tolerably sure of her interest in him. He
had heard that a woman loves best the taming of a dangerous
man, and he whistled and sang and smiled until the dust of
the coming herd met him full. Since he felt perfectly sure of
the result, he hoped that Florence Grace Hallman would start
something, just so that he might show Miss Allen how potent
was her influence over a bad, bad man who still has virtues
worth nurturing carefully.

Weary, riding point on the loitering herd, grinned a wordless
greeting. Andy passed with a casual wave of his hand and took
his place on the left flank. From his face Weary guessed that
all was well with the claims, and the assurance served to
lighten his spirits. Soon he heard Andy singing at the top of
his voice, and his own thoughts fell into accord with the
words of the ditty. He began to sing also, whenever he knew
the words. Farther back, Pink took it up, and then the others
joined in, until all unconsciously they had turned the
monotonous drive into a triumphal march.

"They're a little bit rough I must confess, the most of them
at least," prompted Andy, starting on the second verse alone
because the others didn't know the song as well as he. He
waited a second for them to join him, and went on extolling
the valor of all true cowboys:

"But long's you do not cross their trail you can live with
them at peace.

"But if you do they're sure to rule, the day you come to
their land,

"For they'll follow you up and shoot it out, and do it man to

"Say, Weary! They tell me Florence Grace is sure hittin' the
warpost! Ain't yuh scared?"

Weary shook his head and rode forward to ease the leaders
into a narrow gulch that would cut off a mile or so of the

"Taking 'em up One Man?" called Pink, and got a nod for
answer. There was a lull in the singing while they shouted
and swore at these stubborn cows who would have tried to
break back on the way to a clover patch, until the gulch
broadened into an arm of One Man Coulee itself. It was all
peaceful and easy and just as they had planned. The morning
was cool and the cattle contented. They were nearing their
claims, and all that would remain for them to do was the
holding of their herd upon the appointed grazing ground. So
would the requirements of the law be fulfilled and the
machinations of the Syndicate be thwarted and the land saved
to the Flying U, all in one.

And then the leaders, climbing the hill at a point half a
mile below Andy's cabin, balked, snorted and swung back.
Weary spurred up to push them forward, and so did Andy and
Pink. They rode up over the ridge shouting and urging the
reluctant cattle ahead, and came plump into the very dooryard
of a brand new shack. A man was standing in the doorway
watching the disturbance his presence had created; when he
saw the three riders come bulging up over the crest of the
bluff, his eyes widened.

The three came to a stop before him, too astonished to do
more than stare. Once past the fancied menace of the new
building and the man, the cattle went trotting awkwardly
across the level, their calves galloping alongside.

"Hello," said Weary at last, "what do you think you're doing

"Me? I'm holding down a claim. What are you doing?" The man
did not seem antagonistic or friendly or even neutral toward
them. He seemed to be waiting. He eyed the cattle that kept
coming, urged on by those who shouted at them in the coulee
below. He watched them spread out and go trotting away after
the leaders.

"Say, when did yuh take this claim?" Andy leaned negligently
forward and looked at him curiously.

"Oh, a week or so ago. Why?"

"I just wondered. I took it up myself, four weeks ago. Four
forties I've got, strung out in a line that runs from here to
yonder. You've got over on my land--by mistake, of course. I
just thought I'd tell yuh he added casually, straightening
up, "because I didn't think you knew it before."

"Thanks." The man smiled one-sidedly and began filling a pipe
while he watched them.

"A-course it won't be much trouble to move your shack," Andy
continued with neighborly interest. "A wheelbarrow will take
it, easy. Back here on the bench a mile or so, yuh may find a
patch of ground that nobody claims."

"Thanks." The man picked a match from his pocket and striking
it on the new yellow door-casing lighted his pipe.

Andy moved uneasily. He did not like that man, for all he
appeared so thankful for information. The fellow had a narrow
forehead and broad, high cheek bones and a predatory nose.
His eyes were the wrong shade of blue and the lids drooped
too much at the outer corners. Andy studied him curiously.
Did the man know what he was up against, or did he not? Was
he sincere in his ready thanks, or was he sarcastic? The man
looked up at him then. His eyes were clean of any hidden
meaning, but they were the wrong shade of blue--the shade
that is opaque and that you feel hides much that should be
revealed to you.

"Seems like there's been quite a crop of shacks grown up
since I rode over this way," Weary announced suddenly,
returning from a brief scurry after the leaders, that
inclined too much toward the south in their travel.

"Yes, the country's settling up pretty fast," conceded the
man in the doorway.

"Well, by golly!" bellowed Slim, popping up from below on a
heaving horse. Slim was getting fatter every year, and his
horses always puffed when they climbed a hill under his
weight. His round eyes glared resentfully at the man and the
shack and at the three who were sitting there so quietly on
their horses--just as if they had ridden up for a friendly
call. "Ain't this shack on your land?" he spluttered to Andy.

"Why, yes. It is, just right at present." Andy admitted,
following the man's example in the matter of a smoke, except
that Andy rolled and lighted a cigarette. "He's going to move
it, though."

"Oh. Thanks." With the one-sided smile.

"Say, you needn't thank ME," Andy protested in his polite
tone. "YOU'RE going to move it, you know."

"You may know, but I don't," corrected the other.

"Oh, that's all right. You may not know right now, but don't
let that worry yuh. This is sure a great country for pilgrims
to wise up in."

Big Medicine came up over the hill a hundred feet or so from
them; goggled a minute at the bold trespass and came loping
across the intervening space. "Say, by cripes, what's this
mean?" he bawled. "Claim-jumper, hey? Say, young feller, do
you realize what you're doing--squattin' down on another
man's land. Don't yuh know claim-jumpers git shot, out here?
Or lynched?"

"Oh, cut out all that rough stuff!" advised the man wearily.
"I know who you are, and what your bluff is worth. I know you
can't held a foot of land if anybody is a mind to contest
your claims. I've filed a contest on this eighty, here, and
I'm going to hold it. Let that soak into your minds. I don't
want any trouble--I'm even willing to take a good deal in the
way of bluster, rather than have trouble. But I'm going to
stay. See?" He waved his pipe in a gesture of finality and
continued to smoke and to watch them impersonally, leaning
against the door in that lounging negligence which is so
irritating to a disputant.

"Oh, all right--if that's the way you feel about it," Andy
replied indifferently, and turned away. "Come on, boys--no
use trying to bluff that gazabo. He's wise."

He rode away with his face turned over his shoulder to see if
the others were going to follow. When he was past the corner
and therefore out of the man's sight, he raised his arm and
beckoned to them imperatively, with a jerk of his head to add
insistence. The four of them looked after him uncertainly.
Weary kicked his horse and started, then Pink did the same.
Andy beckoned again, more emphatically than before, and Big
Medicine, who loved a fight as he loved to win a jackpot,
turned and glared at the man in the doorway as be passed.
Slim was rumbling by-golly ultimatums in his fat chest when
he came up.

"Pink, you go on back and put the boys next, when they come
up with the drag they won't do anything much but hand out a
few remarks and ride on." Andy said, in the tone of one who
knows exactly what he means to do. "This is my claim-jumper.
Chances are I've got three more to handle--or will have.
Nothing like starting off right. Tell the boys just rag the
fellow a little and ride on, like we did. Get the cattle up
here and set Happy and Slim day-herding and the rest of us'll
get busy."

"You wouldn't tell for a dollar, would yuh?" Pi asked him
with his dimples showing.

"I've got to think it out first," Andy evaded. feel all the
symptoms of an idea. You let me alone a while."

"Say, yuh going to tell him he's been found out and yuh know
his past," began Slim, "like yuh done Dunk? I'll bet, by

"Go on off and lay down!" Andy retorted pettishly. "I never
worked the same one off on you twice, did I? Think I'm
getting feeble-minded? It ain't hard to put his nibs on the
run--that's dead easy. Trouble is I went and hobbled myself.
I promised a lady I'd be mild."

"Mamma!" muttered Weary, his sunny eyes taking in the shack-
dotted horizon. "Mild!--and all these jumpers on our hands!"

"Oh, well--there's more'n one way to kill a cat," Andy
reminded them cheerfully. "You go on back and post the boys,
Pink, not to get too riled."

He galloped off and left them to say and think what they
pleased. He was not uneasy over their following his advice or
waiting for his plan. For Andy Green had risen rapidly to a
tacit leadership, since first he told them of the coming
colony. From being the official Ananias of the outfit, king
of all joke-makers, chief irritator of the bunch, whose
lightest word was suspected of hiding some deep meaning and
whose most innocent action was analysed, he had come to the
point where they listened to him and depended upon him to see
a way out of every difficulty. They would depend upon him
now; of that he was sure--therefore they would wait for his

Strange as it may seem, the Happy Family had not seriously
considered the possibility of having their claims "jumped" so
long as they kept valid their legal residence. They had
thought that they would be watched and accused of collusion
with the Flying U, and they intended to be extremely careful.
They meant to stay upon their claims at least seven months in
the year, which the law required. They meant to have every
blade of grass eaten by their own cattle, which would be
counted as improving their claims. They meant to give a
homelike air of permanency to their dwellings. They had
already talked over a tentative plan of bringing water to
their desert claims, and had ridden over the bench-land for
two days, with the plat at hand for reference, that they
might be sure of choosing their claims wisely. They had
prepared for every contingency save the one that had arisen--
which is a common experience with us all. They had not
expected that their claims would be jumped and contests filed
so early in the game, as long as they maintained their

However, Andy was not dismayed at the turn of events. It was
stimulating to the imagination to be brought face to face
with an emergency such as this, and to feel that one must
handle it with strength and diplomacy and a mildness of
procedure that would find favor in the eyes of a girl.

He looked across the waving grass to where the four roomed
shack was built upon the four corners of four "eighties" so
that four women might live together and yet be said to live
upon their own claims. That was drawing the line pretty fine,
of course; finer than the Happy Family would have dared to
draw it. But no one would raise any objection, on account of
their being women and timid about living alone. Andy smiled
sympathetically because the four conjunctive corners of the
four claims happened to lie upon a bald pinnacle bare of
grass or shelter or water, even. The shack stood bleakly
revealed to the four winds--but also it over looked the
benchland and the rolling, half-barren land to the west,
which comprised Antelope Coulee and Dry Coulee and several
other good-for-nothing coulees capable of supporting nothing
but coyotes and prairie dogs and gophers.

A mile that way Andy rode, and stopped upon the steep side of
a gulch which was an arm of Antelope Coulee. He looked down
into the gulch, searched with his eyes for the stake that
marked the southeast corner of the eighty lying off in this
direction from the shack, and finally saw it fifty yards away
on a bald patch of adobe.

He resisted the temptation to ride over and call upon Miss
Allen--the resistance made easier by the hour, which was
eight o'clock or thereabouts--and rode back to the others
very well satisfied with himself and his plan.

He found the whole Happy Family gathered upon the level land
just over his west line, extolling resentment while they
waited his coming. Grinning, he told them his plan, and set
them grinning also. He gave them certain work to be done, and
watched them scatter to do his bidding. Then he turned and
rode away upon business of his own.

The claim-jumper, watching the bench land through a pair of
field glasses, saw a herd of cows and calves scattered and
feeding contentedly upon the young grass a mile or so away.
Two men on horseback loitered upon the outer fringe of the
herd. From a distance hilltop came the staccato sound of
hammers where an other shack was going up. Cloud shadows slid
silently over the land, with bright sunlight chasing after.
Of the other horsemen who had come up the bluff with the
cattle, he saw not a sign. So the man yawned and went in to
his breakfast.

Many times that day he stood at the corner of his shack with
the glasses sweeping the bench-land. Toward noon the cattle
drifted into a coulee where there was water. In a couple of
hours they drifted leisurely back upon high ground and
scattered to their feeding, still watched and tended by the
two horsemen who looked the most harmless of individuals. One
was fat and red-faced and spent at least half of his time
lying prone upon some slope in the shade of his horse. The
other was thin and awkward, and slouched in the saddle or sat
upon the ground with his knees drawn up and his arms clasped
loosely around them, a cigarette dangling upon his lower lip,
himself the picture of boredom.

There was nothing whatever to indicate that events were
breeding in that peaceful scene, and that adventure was
creeping close upon the watcher. He went in from his fourth
or fifth inspection, and took a nap.

That night he was awakened by a pounding on the side of the
shack where was his window. By the time he had reached the
middle of the floor--and you could count the time in seconds-
-a similar pounding was at the door. He tried to open the
door and couldn't. He went to the window and could see
nothing, although the night had not been dark when he went to
bed. He shouted, and there was no reply; nor could he hear
any talking without. His name, by the way, was H. J. Owens,
though his name does not matter except for convenience in
mentioning him. Owens, then, lighted a lamp, and almost
instantly was forced to reach out quickly and save it from
toppling, because one corner of the shack was lifting,
lifting . . .

Outside, the Happy Family worked in silence. Before they had
left One Man Coulee they had known exactly what they were to
do, and how to do it. They knew who was to nail the hastily
constructed shutter over the window. They knew who was to
fasten the door so that it could not be opened from within.
They knew also who were to use the crow-bars, who were to
roll the skids under the shack.

There were twelve of them--because Bert Rogers had insisted
upon helping. In not many more minutes than there were men,
they were in their saddles, ready to start. The shack lurched
forward after the straining horses. Once it was fairly
started it moved more easily than you might think it could
do, upon crude runners made of cottonwood logs eight inches
or so in diameter and long enough for cross pieces bolted in
front and rear. The horses pulled it easily with the ropes
tied to the saddle-horns, just as they had many times pulled
the roundup wagons across mirey creeks or up steep slopes;
just as they had many times pulled stubborn cattle or dead
cattle--just as they had been trained to pull anything and
everything their masters chose to attach to their ropes.

Within, Owens called to them and cursed them. When they had
just gained an even pace, he emptied his revolver through the
four sides of the shack. But he did not know where they were,
exactly, so that he was compelled to shoot at random. And
since the five shots seemed to have no effect whatever upon
the steady progress of the shack, he decided to wait until he
could see where to aim. There was no use, he reflected, in
wasting good ammunition when there was a strong probability
that he would need it later.

After a half hour or more of continuous travel, the shack
tilted on a steep descent. H. J. Owens blew out his lamp and
swore when a box came sliding against his shins in the dark.
The descent continued until it was stopped with a jolt that
made him bite his tongue painfully, so that tears came into
the eyes that were the wrong shade of blue to please Andy
Green. He heard a laugh cut short and a muttered command, and
that was all. The shack heaved, toppled, righted itself and
went on down, and down, and down; jerked sidewise to the
left, went forward and then swung joltingly the other way.
When finally it came to a permanent stand it was sitting with
an almost level floor.

Then the four corners heaved upward, two at a time, and
settled with a final squeal of twisted boards and nails.
There was a sound of confused trampling, and after that the
lessening sounds of departure. Mr. Owens tried the door
again, and found it still fast. He relighted the lamp,
carried it to the window and looked upon rough boards outside
the glass. He meditated anxiously and decided to remain quiet
until daylight.

The Happy Family worked hard, that night. Before daylight
they were in their beds and snoring except the two who
guarded the cattle. Each was in his own cabin. His horse was
in his corral, smooth-coated and dry. There was nothing to
tell of the night's happenings,--nothing except the satisfied
grins on their faces when they woke and remembered.


"I'm looking rather seedy now, while holding down my
And my grub it isn't always served the best,
And the mice play shyly round me as I lay me down to rest In
my little old sod shanty on my claim.
Oh, the hinges are of leather and the windows have no glass,
And the roof it lets the howling blizzards in,
And I hear the hungry kiote as he sneaks up through

"Say! have they got down the hill yet, Pink;"
Pink took his cigarette from his fingers, leaned
and peered cautiously through the grimy window. "Unh-huh.
They're coming up the flat."

Whereupon Andy Green, ostentatiously washing his
breakfast dishes, skipped two or three verses and lifted
his voice in song to fit the occasion.

"How I wish that some kind-hearted girl would pity on me
And relieve me of the mess that I am in!
Oh, the angel, how I'd bless her if her home with me she'd
In my little old sod shanty--

"Got her yet?" And he craned his neck to look. "Aw, they've
pulled up, out there, listening!"

"My clothes are plastered o'er with dough, I'm looking like a
And everything is scattered round the room--"

"Why don't yuh stop that caterwauling?" Pink demanded
fretfully. "You'll queer the whole play if you keep it up.
They'll swear you're drunk!"

There was sense in that. Andy finished the line about
remaining two happy lovers in his little old sod shanty, and
went to the door with the dishpan. He threw out the water,
squeezed the dishrag in one hand and gave the inside of the
pan a swipe before he appeared to discover that Miss Allen
and Florence Grace Hallman were riding up to his door. As a
matter of fact, he had seen them come over the top of the
bluff and had long ago guessed who they were.

He met them with a smile of surprised innocence, and invited
them inside. They refused to come, and even Miss Allen showed
a certain reproachful coolness toward him. Andy felt hurt at
that, but he did not manifest the fact. Instead he informed
them that it was a fine morning. And were they out taking a
look around?

They were. They were looking up the men who had perpetrated
the outrage last night upon four settlers.

"Outrage?" Andy tilted the dishpan against the cabin wall,
draped the dishrag over the handle and went forward, pulling
down his sleeves. "What outrage is that, Miss Hallman?
Anybody killed?"

Miss Hallman watched him with her narrowed glance. She saw
the quick glance he gave Miss Allen, and her lids narrowed
still more. So that was it! But she did not swerve from her
purpose, for all this unexpected thrust straight to the heart
of her self-love.

"You know that no one was killed. But you damaged enough
property to place you on the wrong side of the law, Mr.
Green. Not one of those shacks can be gotten out of the gulch
except in pieces!"

Andy smiled inside his soul, but his face was bewildered; his
eyes fixed themselves blankly upon her face. "Me? Damaging
property? Miss Hallman, you don't know me yet! "Which was
perfectly true. "What shacks are you talking about? In what
gulch? All the shacks I've seen so far have been stuck up on
bald pinnacles where the blizzards will hit 'em coming and
going next winter." He glanced again at Miss Allen with a
certain sympathetic foretaste of what she would suffer next
winter if she stayed in her shack.

"Don't try to play innocent, Mr. Green." Florence Grace
Hallman drew her brows together. "We all know perfectly well
who dragged those shacks off the claims last night."

"Don't you mean that you think you know? I'm afraid you've
kinda taken it for granted I'd be mixed up in any deviltry
you happened to hear about. I've got in bad with you--I know
that--but just the same, I hate to be accused of everything
that takes place in the country. All this is sure interesting
news to me. Whereabouts was they taken from? And when, and
where to? Miss Allen, you'll tell me the straight of this,
won't you? And I'll get my hoss and you'll show me what gulch
she's talking about, won't you?"

Miss Allen puckered her lips into a pout which meant
indecision, and glanced at Florence Grace Hallman. And Miss
Hallman frowned at being shunted into the background and
referred to as she, and set her teeth into her lower lip.

"Miss Allen prefers to choose her own company," she said with
distinct rudeness. "Don't try to wheedle her--you can't do
it. And you needn't get your horse to ride anywhere with us,
Mr. Green. It's useless. I just wanted to warn you that
nothing like what happened last night will be tolerated. We
know all about you Flying U men--you Happy Family." She said
it as if she were calling them something perfectly
disgraceful. "You may be just as tough and bad a you please--
you can't frighten anyone into leaving the country or into
giving up one iota of their rights. I came to you because you
are undoubtedly the ring-leader of the gang." She accented
gang. "You ought to be shot for what you did last night. And
if you keep on--" She left the contingency to his

"Well, if settling up the country means that men are going to
be shot for going to bed at dark and asleeping till sun-up,
all I've got to say is that things ain't like they used to
be. We were all plumb peaceful here till your colony came,
Miss Hallman. Why, the sheriff never got out this way often
enough to know the trails! He always had to ask his way
around. If your bunch of town mutts can't behave themselves
and leave each other alone, I don't know what's to be done
about it. We ain't hired to keep the peace."

"No, you've been hired to steal all the land you can and make
all the trouble you can. We understand that perfectly."

Andy shook his head in meek denial, and with a sudden impulse
turned toward the cabin. "Oh, Pink!" he called, and brought
that boyish-faced young man to the door, his eyes as wide and
as pure as the eyes of a child.

Pink lifted his hat with just the proper degree of confusion
to impress the girls with his bashfulness and his awe of
their presence. His eyes were the same pansy-purple as when
the Flying U first made tumultuous acquaintance with him.
His apparent innocence had completely fooled the Happy
Family, you will remember. They had called him Mamma's Little
Lamb and had composed poetry and horrific personal history
for his benefit. The few years had not changed him. His hair
was still yellow and curly. The dimples still dodged into his
cheeks unexpectedly; he was still much like a stick of
dynamite wrapped in white tissue and tied with a ribbon. He
looked an angel of innocence, and in reality he was a little

Andy introduced him, and Pink bowed and had all the
appearance of blushing--though you will have to ask Pink how
he managed to create that optical illusion. "What did you
want?" he asked in his soft, girlish voice, turning to Andy
bashfully. But from the corner of his eye Pink saw that a
little smile of remembrance had come to soften Miss
Hallman's angry features, and that the other girl was smiling
also. Pink hated that attitude of pleasant patronage which
women were so apt to take toward him, but for the present it
suited his purpose to encourage it.

"Pink, what time was it when we went to bed last night?"
Andy asked him in the tone of one who wished to eliminate all
doubt of his virtue.

"Why--it was pretty early. We didn't light the lamp at all,
you remember. You went to bed before I did--we couldn't see
the cards--" He stopped confusedly, and again he gave the two
women the impression that he blushed. "We weren't playing for
money," he hurriedly explained. "Just for pastime. It's--
pretty lonesome--sometimes."

"Somebody did something to somebody last night," Andy
informed Pink with a resentful impatience. "Miss Hallman
thinks we're the guilty parties--me in particular, because
she don't like me. It's something about some shacks--damaging
property, she called it. Just what was it you said was done,
Miss Hallman?" He turned his honest, gray eyes toward her and
met her suspicious look steadily.

Miss Hallman bit her lip. She had been perfectly sure of the
guilt of Andy Green, and of the others who were his friends.
Now, in spite of all reason she was not so sure. And there
had been nothing more tangible than two pairs of innocent-
looking eyes and the irreproachable manners of two men to
change her conviction.

"Well, I naturally took it for granted that you did it," she
weakened. "The shacks were moved off
eighties that you have filed upon, Mr. Green. Mr. Owens told
me this morning that you men came by his place and threatened
him yesterday, and ordered him to move. No one else would
have any object in molesting him or the others." Her voice
hardened again as her mind dwelt upon the circumstances. "It
must have been you!" she finished sharply.

Whereupon Pink gave her a distressed look that made Miss
Hallman flush unmistakably. "I'm just about distracted, this
morning," she apologized. "I took it upon myself to see these
settlers through--and everybody makes it just as hard as
possible for me. Why should all you fellows treat us the way
you do? We--"

"Why, we aren't doing a thing!" Pink protested diffidently.
"We thought we'd take up some claims and go to ranching for
ourselves, when we got discharged from the Flying U. We
didn't mean any harm--everybody's taking up claims. We've
bought some cattle and we're going to try and get ahead, like
other folks. We--I wanted to cut out all this wildness--"

"Are those your cattle up on the hill? Some men shipped in
four carloads of young stock, yesterday, to Dry Lake. They
drove them out here intending to turn them on the range, and
a couple of men--"

"Four men," Miss Allen corrected with a furtive twinkle in
her eyes.

"Some men refused to let them cross that big coulee back
there. They drove the cattle back toward Dry Lake, and told
Mr. Simmons and Mr. Chase and some others that they shouldn't
come on this bench back here at all. That was another thing I
wanted to see you men about."

"Maybe they were going to mix their stock up with ours," Pink
ventured mildly.

"Your men shot, and shot, and shot--the atmosphere up there
is shot so full of holes that the wind just whistles
through!" Miss Allen informed then gravely, with her eyebrows
all puckered together and the furtive little twinkle in her
eyes. "And they yelled so that we could hear them from the
house! They made those poor cows and those poor, weenty
calves just go trotting back across the coulee. My new book
on farming says you positively must not hurry cattle. It--oh,
it does something to the butter-fat--joggles it all up or
something--I'll lend you the book. I found the chapter on
Proper Treatment of Dairy Stock, and I watched those men with
the book in my hands. Why, it was terribly unscientific, the
way they drove those cow-critters!"

"I'll come over and get the book," Andy promised her, with a
look in his eyes that displeased Miss Hallman very much.
"We're ashamed of our ignorance. We'd like to have you learn
us what's in the book."

"I will. And every week--just think of that! I'm to get a
real farm paper."

"I'd like to borrow the paper too," Andy declared instantly.

"Oh, and--what's going to be done about all those bullet-
holes? They--they might create a draught--"

"We'll ride around that way and plug 'em up," Andy assured
her solemnly. "Whenever you've got time to show me about
where they're at."

"It will be a pleasure. I can tell where they are, but
they're too high for me to reach. Wherever the wind whistles
there's a hole in the atmosphere. And there are places where
the air just quivers, so you can see it. That is the shock
those bold, bad men gave it with the words they used. They--
used--words, Mr. Green! If we could scheme some way to pull
out all those wrinkles--I do love a nice, clean, smooth
atmosphere where I live. It's so wrinkly--"

"I'll attend to all that, right away."

Miss Hallman decided that she had nothing further to say to
Mr. Green. She wheeled her horse rather abruptly and rode off
with a curt goodbye. Miss Allen, being new at the business of
handling a horse, took more time in pulling her mount around.
While her back was turned to Florence Grace and her face was
turned toward Pink and Andy, she gave them a twinkling glance
that had one lowered eyelid to it, twisted her lips, and
spoke sharply to her horse. They might make of it what they
would. Florence Grace looked back impatiently--perhaps
suspiciously also--and saw Miss Allen coming on with docile

So that ended the interview which Miss Hallman had meant to
be so impressive. A lot of nonsense that left a laugh behind
and the idea that Miss Allen at least did not disapprove of
harassing claim-jumpers. Andy Green was two hundred per cent.
more cheerful after that, and his brain was more active and
his determination more fixed. For all that he stared after
them thoughtfully.

"She winked at us--if I've got eyes in my head. What do you
reckon she meant, Pink?" he asked when the two riders had
climbed over the ridge. "And what she said about the bold,
bad men shooting holes that have to be plugged up--and about
liking a nice, smooth atmosphere? Do you suppose she meant
that it's liable to take bold, bad men to clean the
atmosphere, or--"

"What difference does it make what she meant? There's jumpers
left--two on Bud's place--and he's oary-eyed over it, and was
going to read 'em the riot act proper, when I left to come
over here. And a couple of men drove onto that south eighty
of Mig's with a load of lumber, just as I come by. Looks to
me like we've got our hands full, Andy. There'll be holes to
plug up somewhere besides in the atmosphere, if you ask me."

"Long as they don't get anything on us I ain't in the state
of mind where I give a darn. That little brown-eyed Susan'll
keep us posted if they start anything new--what did she mean
by that wink, do you reckon?"

"Ah, don't get softening of the emotions," Pink advised
impatiently. "That's the worst thing we've got to steer clear
of, Andy! All them women in the game is going to make it four
times as hard to stand 'em off. Irish is foolish over this
one you're gettin' stuck on--you'll be fighting each other,
if you don't look out. That Florence Grace lady ain't so
slow--she's going to use the women to keep us fellows

Andy sighed. "We can block that play, of course," he said.
"Come on, Pink. let's go round up the boys and see what's
been taking place with them cattle. Shipped in four carloads
already, have they?" He began pulling on his chaps rather
hurriedly. "Worst of it is, you can't stampede a bunch of
darned tame cows, either," he complained.

They found Irish and the Native Son on day-herd, with the
cattle scattered well along the western line of the claims.
Big Medicine, Weary, Cal Emmett and Jack Bates were just
returning from driving the settlers' stock well across
Antelope Coulee which had been decided upon as a hypothetical
boundary line until such time as a fence could be built.

They talked with the day-herders, and they talked with the
other four. Chip came up from the ranch with the Kid riding
proudly beside him on Silver, and told them that the
Honorable Mr. Blake was at the Flying U and had sent word
that he would be pleased to take the legal end of the fight,
if the Happy Family so desired. Which was in itself a vast
encouragement. The Honorable Blake had said that they were
well within their rights thus far, and advised them to permit
service of the contest notices, and to go calmly on
fulfilling the law. Which was all very well as far as it
went, providing they were permitted to go on calmly.

"What about them cattle they're trying to git across our
land?" Slim wanted to know. "We got a right to keep 'em off,
ain't we?"

Chip said that he thought they had, but to make sure, he
would ask the Honorable Blake. Trespassing, he said, might be

Right there Andy was seized with an idea. He took Chip--
because of his artistic talents which, he said, had been
plumb wasted lately--to one side. After wards they departed
in haste, with Pink and Weary galloping close at their heels.
In a couple of hours they returned to the boundary where the
cattle still fed all scattered out in a long line, and behind
them drove Pink and Weary in the one wagon which the Family

"It oughta help some," grinned Andy, when the Native Son came
curiously over to see what it was they were erecting there on
the prairie. "It's a fair warning, and shows 'em where to
head in at."

The Native Son read the sign, which was three feet long and
stood nailed to two posts ready for planting solidly in the
earth. He showed his even, white teeth in a smile of
approval. "Back it up, and it ought to do some good," he

They dug holes and set the posts, and drove on to where they
meant to plant another sign exactly like the first. That day
they planted twelve sign-boards along their west line. They
might not do any good, but they were a fair warning and as
such were worth the trouble.

That afternoon Andy was riding back along the line when he
saw a rider pull up at the first sign and read it carefully.
He galloped in haste to the spot and found that his
suspicions were correct; it was Miss Allen.

"Well," she said when he came near, "I suppose that means me.
Does it?" She pointed to the sign, which read like this:

All Shacks, Live-Stock and Pilgrims Promptly
Painfully Removed From These Premises

"I'm over the line," she notified him, pulling her horse
backward a few feet. "You're getting awfully particular,
seems to me. Oh, did you know that a lot of men are going to
play it's New Year's Eve and hold watch meetings tonight?"

"Never heard a word about it," he declared truthfully, and
waited for more.

"That's not strange--seeing it's a surprise party. Still--I'm
sure you are expected to--attend."

"And where is all this to take place?" Andy looked at her
intently, smiling a little.

"Oh, over there--and there--and there." She pointed to three
new shacks--the official dwellings of certain contestants."
Stag parties, they are, I believe. But I doubt if they'll
have any very exciting time; most of these new settlers are
too busy getting the ground ready for crops, to go to
parties. Some people are pretty disgusted, I can tell you,
Mr. Green. Some people talk about ingratitude and wonder why
the colony doesn't hang together better. Some people even
wonder why it is that folks are interested mainly in their
own affairs, and decline to attend watch meetings and--
receptions. So I'm afraid very few, except your nearest
neighbors, will be present, after all might I ask when you
expect to--to MOVE again, Mr. Green?"

Smiling still, Andy shook his head. "I expect to be pretty
busy this spring," he told her evasively. "Aren't any of you
ladies invited to those parties, Miss Allen?"

Not a one. But let me tell you something, Mr. Green. Some
folks think that perhaps we lady-settlers ought to organize a
club for the well being of our intellects. Some folks are
trying to get up parties just for women--see the point? They
think it would be better for the--atmosphere."

"Oh." Andy studied the possibilities of such a move. If
Florence Grace should set the women after them, he could see
how the Happy Family would be hampered at every turn. "Well,
I must be going. Say, did you know this country is full of
wild animals, Miss Allen? They prowl around nights. And
there's a gang of wild men that hang out up there in those
mountains--they prowl around nights, too. They're outlaws.
They kill off every sheriff's party that tries to round them
up, and they kidnap children and ladies. If you should hear
any disturbance, any time, don't be scared. Just stay inside
after dark and keep your door locked. And if you should
organize that ladies' club, you better hold your meetings in
the afternoon, don't you think?"

When he had ridden on and left her, Andy was somewhat ashamed
of such puerile falsehoods. But then, she had started the
allegorical method of imparting advice, he remembered. So
presently went whistling to round up the boys and tell them
what he had learned.


Big Medicine with Weary and Chip to bear him company, rode up
to the shack nearest his own, which had been hastily built by
a raw-boned Dane who might be called truly Americanized. Big
Medicine did not waste time in superfluities or in making
threats of what he meant to do. He called the Dane to the
door--claim-jumpers were keeping close to their cabins, these
days--and told him that he was on another man's land, and
asked him if he meant to move.

"Sure I don't intend to move!" retorted the Dane with
praiseworthy promptness. "I'm going to hold 'er down solid."

"Yuh hear what says, boys." Big Medicine turned to his
companions "He ain't going to git off'n my land, he says.
Weary, yuh better go tell the bunch I need'em."

Weary immediately departed. He was not gone so very long, and
when he returned the Happy Family was with him, even to Patsy
who drove the wagon with all the ease of a veteran of many
roundups. The Dane tried bluster, but that did not seem to
work. Nothing seemed to work, except the Happy Family.

There in broad daylight, with no more words than were
needful, they moved the Dane, and his shack. When they began
to raise the building he was so unwise as to flourish a gun,
and thereby made it perfectly right and lawful that Big
Medicine should take the gun away from him and march him
ahead of his own forty-five.

They took the shack directly past one of the trespassing
signs, and Big Medicine stopped accommodatingly while the
Dane was permitted to read the sign three times aloud. That
the Dane did not seem truly appreciative of the privilege was
no fault of Big Medicine's, surely. They went on, skidding
the little building sledlike over the uneven prairie. They
took it down into Antelope Coulee and left it there, right
side up and with not even a pane of glass broken in the

"There, darn yuh, live there awhile!" Andy gritted to when
the timbers were withdrawn from beneath the cabin and they
were ready to leave. "You can't say we damaged your
property--this time. Come back, and there's no telling what
we're liable to do."

Since Big Medicine kept his gun, the Dane could do nothing
but swear while he watched them ride up the hill and out of

They made straight for the next interloper, remarking
frequently that it was much simpler and easier to do their
moving in daylight. There they had an audience, for Florence
Grace rode furiously up just as they were getting under way.
The Happy Family spoke very nicely to Florence Grace, and
when she spoke very sharply to them they were discreetly hard
of hearing and became absorbed in their work.

Several settlers came before that shack was moved, but they
only stood around and talked among themselves, and were
careful not to get in the way or to hinder, and to lower
their voices so that the Happy Family need not hear unless
they chose to listen.

So they slid that shack into the coulee, righted it carefully
and left it there--where it would be exceedingly difficult to
get it out, by the way; since it is much easier to drag a
building down hill than up, and the steeper the hill and the
higher, the greater the difference.

They loaded the timbers into the wagon and methodically on to
the next shack, their audience increased to a couple of dozen
perturbed settlers. The owner of this particular shack,
feeling the strength of numbers behind him, was disposed to
argue the point.

"Oh, you'll sweat for this!" he shouted impotently when the
Happy Family was placing the timbers.

"Ah, git outa the way!" said Andy, coming toward him with a
crowbar. "We're sweating now, if that makes yuh feel any

The man got out of the way, and went and stood with the group
of onlookers, and talked vaguely of having the law on them--
whatever he meant by that.

By the time they had placed the third shack in the bottom of
the coulee, the sun was setting. They dragged the timbers up
the steep bluff with their ropes and their saddle-horses,
loaded them on to the wagon and threw the crowbars and
rolling timbers in, and turned to look curiously and
unashamed at their audience. Andy, still tacitly their
leader, rode a few steps forward.

"That'll be all today," he announced politely. "Except that
load of lumber back here on the bench where it don't belong--
we aim to haul that over the line. Seeing your considerable
interest in our affairs, I'll just say that we filed on our
claims according to law, and we're living on 'em according to
law. Till somebody proves in court that we're not, there
don't any shack, or any stock, stay on our side the line any
longer than it takes to get them off. There's the signs,
folks--read 'em and take 'em to heart. You can go home now.
The show's over."

He lifted his hat to the women--and there were several now--
and went away to join his fellows, who had ridden on slowly
till he might overtake them. He found Happy Jack grumbling
and predicting evil, as it was his nature to do, but he
merely straightened his aching back and laughed at the

"As I told you before, there's more than one way to kill a
cat," he asserted tritely but never the less impressively.
"Nobody can say we wasn't mild; and nobody can say we hadn't
a right to get those chickencoops off our land. If you ask
me, Florence Grace will have to go some now if she gets the
best of the deal. She overlooked a bet. We haven't been
served with any contest notices yet, and so we ain't obliged
to take their say-so. Who's going to stand guard tonight?
We've got to stand our regular shifts, if we want to keep
ahead of the game. I'm willing to be It. I'd like to make
sure they don't slip any stock across before daylight."

"Say, it's lucky we've got a bunch of boneheads like them to
handle," Pink observed thankfully. Would a bunch of natives
have stood around like that with their hands in their pockets
and let us get away with the moving job? Not so you could

"What we'd better do," cut in the Native Son without any
misleading drawl, "is try and rustle enough money to build
that fence."

"That's right," assented Cal. "Maybe the Old Man--"

"We don't go to the Old Man for so much as a bacon rind!"
cried the Native Son impatiently. "Get it into your systems,
boys, that we've got to ride away around the Flying U. We
ought to be able to build that fence, all right, without help
from anybody. Till we do we've got to hang and rattle, and
keep that nester stock from getting past us. I'll stand guard
till midnight."

A little more talk, and some bickering with Slim and Happy
Jack, the two chronic kickers, served to knock together a
fair working organization. Weary and Andy Green were
informally chosen joint leaders, because Weary could be
depended upon to furnish the mental ballast for Andy's
imagination. Patsy was told that he would have to cook for
the outfit, since he was too fat to ride. They suggested that
he begin at, once, by knocking together some sort of supper.
Moving houses, they declared, was work. They frankly hoped
that they would not have to move many more--and they were
very positive that they would not be compelled to move the
same shack twice, at any rate.

"Say, we'll have quite a collection of shacks down in
Antelope Coulee if we keep on," Jack Bates reminded them.
"Wonder where they'll get water?"

"Where's the rest of them going to get water?" Cal Emmett
challenged the crowd. "There's that spring the four women up
here pack water from--but that goes dry in August. And
there's the creek--that goes dry too. On the dead, I feel
sorry for the women--and so does Irish," he added dryly.

Irish made an uncivil retort and swung suddenly away from the
group. "I'm going to ride into town, boys," he announced
curtly. "I'll be back in the morning and go on day-herd."

"Maybe you will and maybe you won't," Weary amended somewhat
impatiently. "This is certainly a poor time for Irish to
break out," he added, watching his double go galloping toward
the town road.

"I betche he comes back full and tries to clean out all them
nesters," Happy Jack predicted. For once no one tried to
combat his pessimism--for that was exactly what every one of
them believed would happen.

"He's stayed sober a long while--for him," sighed Weary, who
never could quite shake off a sense of responsibility for the
moral defections of his kinsman. "Maybe I better go along and
ride herd on him." Still, he did not go, and Irish presently
merged into the dusky distance.

As is often the case with a family's black sheep, his
intentions were the best, even though they might have been
considered unorthodox. While the Happy Family took it for
granted that he was gone because an old thirst awoke within
him, Irish was thinking only of the welfare of the outfit. He
did not tell them, because he was the sort who does not
prattle of his intentions, one way or the other. If he did
what he meant to do there would be time enough to explain; if
he failed there was nothing to be said.

Irish had thought a good deal about the building of that
fence, and about the problem of paying for enough wire and
posts to run the fence straight through from Meeker's south
line to the north line of the Flying U. He had figured the
price of posts and the price of wire and had come somewhere
near the approximate cost of the undertaking. He was not at
all sure that the Happy Family had faced the actual figures
on that proposition. They had remarked vaguely that it was
going to cost some money. They had made casual remarks about
being broke personally and, so far as they knew, permanently.

Irish was hot-headed and impulsive to a degree. He was given
to occasional tumultuous sprees, during which he was to be
handled with extreme care--or, better still, left entirely
alone until the spell was over. He looked almost exactly like
Weary, and yet he was almost his opposite in disposition.
Weary was optimistic, peace-loving, steady as the sun above
him except for a little surface-bubbling of fun that kept him
sunny through storm and calm. You could walk all over Weary--
figuratively speaking--before he would show resentment. You
could not step very close to Irish without running the risk
of consequences. That he should, under all that, have a
streak of calculating, hard-headed business sense, did not
occur to them.

They rode on, discussing the present situation and how best
to meet it; the contingencies of the future, and how best to
circumvent the active antagonism of Florence Grace Hallman
and the colony for which she stood sponsor. They did not
dream that Irish was giving his whole mind to solving the
problem of raising money to build that fence, but that is
exactly what he was doing.

Some of you at least are going to object to his method. Some
of you--those of you who live west of the big river--are
going to understand his point of view, and you will recognize
his method as being perfectly logical, simple, and altogether
natural to a man of his temperament and manner of life. It is
for you that I am going to relate his experiences. Sheltered
readers, readers who have never faced life in the raw,
readers who sit down on Sunday mornings with a mind purged of
worldly thoughts and commit to memory a "golden text" which
they forget before another Sunday morning, should skip the
rest of this chapter for the good of their morals. The rest
is for you men who have kicked up alkali dust and afterwards
washed out the memory in town; who have gone broke between
starlight and sun; who know the ways of punchers the West
over, and can at least sympathize with Irish in what he meant
to do that night.

Irish had been easing down a corner of the last shack, with
his back turned toward three men who stood looking on with
the detached interest which proved they did not own this
particular shack. One was H. J. Owens--I don't think you have
met the others. Irish had not. He had overheard this scrap of
conversation while he worked:

"Going to town tonight?"

"Guess so--I sure ain't going to hang out on this prairie any
more than I have to. You going?"

"Ye-es--~I think I will. I hear there's been some pretty
swift games going, the last night or two. A fellow in that
last bunch Florence rounded up made quite a clean up last

"That so. let's go on in. This claim-holding gets my goat
anyway. I don't see where--"

That was all Irish heard, but that was enough.

Had he turned in time to catch the wink that one speaker gave
to the other, and the sardonic grin that answered the lowered
eyelid, he would have had the scrap of conversation properly
focused in his mind, and would not have swallowed the bait as
greedily as he did. But we all make mistakes. Irish made the
mistake of underestimating the cunning of his enemies.

So here he was, kicking up the dust on the town trail just as
those three intended that he should do. But that he rode
alone instead of in the midst of his fellows was not what the
three had intended; and that he rode with the interest of his
friends foremost in his mind was also an unforeseen element
in the scheme.

Irish did not see H. J. Owens anywhere in town--nor did he
see either of the two men who had stood behind him. But there
was a poker game running in Rusty Brown's back room, and
Irish immediately sat in without further investigation. Bert
Rogers was standing behind one of the players, and gave Irish
a nod and a wink which may have had many meanings. Irish
interpreted it as encouragement to sail in and clean up the

There was money enough in sight to build that fence when he
sat down. Irish pulled his hat farther over his eyebrows,
rolled and lighted a cigarette while he waited for that
particular jackpot to be taken, and covertly sized up the

Every one of them was strange to him. But then, the town was
full of strangers since Florence Grace and her Syndicate
began to reap a harvest off the open country, so Irish merely
studied the faces casually, as a matter of habit They were
nesters, of course--real or prospective. They seemed to have
plenty of money--and it was eminently fitting that the Happy
Family's fence should be built with nester money.

Irish had in his pockets exactly eighteen dollars and fifty-
cents. He bought eighteen dollars' worth of chips and began
to play. Privately he preferred stud poker to draw, but he
was not going to propose a change; he felt perfectly
qualified to beat any three pilgrims that ever came West.

Four hands he played and lost four dollars. He drank a glass
of beer then, made himself another cigarette and settled down
to business, feeling that he had but just begun. After the
fifth hand he looked up and caught again the eye of Bert
Rogers. Bert pulled his eyebrows together in a warning look,
and Irish thought better of staying that hand. He did not
look at Bert after that, but he did watch the other players
more closely.

After awhile Bert wandered away, his interest dulling when he
saw that Irish was holding his own and a little better. Irish
played on, conservative to such a degree that in two hours he
had not won more than fifteen dollars. The Happy Family would
have been surprised to see him lay down kings and refuse to
draw to them which he did once, with a gesture of disgust
that flipped them face up so that all could see. He turned
them over immediately, but the three had seen that this tall
stranger, who had all the earmarks of a cowpuncher, would not
draw to kings but must have something better before he would

So they played until the crowd thinned; until Irish, by
betting safely and sticking to a caution that must have cost
him a good deal in the way of self-restraint, had sixty
dollars' worth of chips piled in front of him.

Some men, playing for a definite purpose, would have quit at
that. Irish did not quit, however. He wanted a certain sum
from these nesters. He had come to town expecting to win a
certain sum from them. He intended to play until he got it or
went broke. He was not using any trickery--and he had stopped
one man in the middle of a deal, with a certain look in his
eye remarking that he'd rather have the top card than the
bottom one, so that he was satisfied they were not trying to

There came a deal when Irish looked at his cards, sent a
slanting look at the others and laid down his five cards with
a long breath. He raised the ante four blue ones and rolled
and lit a cigarette while the three had drawn what cards they
thought they needed. The man at Irish's left had drawn only
one card. Now he hesitated and then bet with some assurance.
Irish smoked imperturbably while the other two came in, and
then he raised the bet three stacks of blues. His neighbor
raised him one stack, and the next man hesitated and then
laid down his cards. The third man meditated for a minute and
raised the bet ten dollars. Irish blew forth a leisurely
smoke wreath and with a sweep of his hand sent in all his

There was a silent minute, wherein Irish smoked and drummed
absently upon the table with his fingers that were free. His
neighbor frowned, grunted and threw down his hand. The third
man did the same. Irish made another sweep of his hand and
raked the table clean of chips.

"That'll do for tonight," he remarked dryly. "I don't like to
be a hog."

Had that ended the incident, sensitive readers might still
read and think well of Irish. But one of the players was not
quite sober, and he was a poor loser and a pugnacious
individual anyway, with a square face and a thick neck that
went straight up to the top of his head. His underlip pushed
out, and when Irish turned away, to cash in his chips, this
pugnacious one reached over and took a look at the cards
Irish had held.

It certainly was as rotten a hand as a man could hold. Suits
all mixed, and not a face card or a pair in the lot. The
pugnacious player had held a king high straight, and he had
stayed until Irish sent in all his chips. He gave a bellow
and jumped up and hit Irish a glancing blow back of the ear.
Let us not go into details. You know Irish--or you should
know him by this time. A man who will get away with a bluff
like that should be left alone or brained in the beginning of
the fight--especially when he can look down on the hair of a
six-foot man, and has muscles hardened by outdoor living.
When the dust settled, two chairs were broken and some
glasses swept off the bar by heaving bodies, and two of the
three players had forgotten their troubles. The third was
trying to find the knob on the back door, and could not
because of the buzzing in his head and the blood in his eyes.
Irish had welts and two broken knuckles and a clear
conscience, and he was so mad he almost wound up by thrashing
Rusty, who had stayed behind the bar and taken no hand in the
fight. Rusty complained because of the damage to his
property, and Irish, being the only one present in a
condition to listen, took the complaint as a personal insult.

He counted his money to make sure he had it all, evened the
edges of the package of bank notes and thrust the package
into his pocket. If Rusty had kept his face closed about
those few glasses and those chairs, he would have left a
"bill" on the bar to pay for them, even though he did need
every cent of that money. He told Rusty this, and he accused
him of standing in with the nesters and turning down the men
who had helped him make money' all these years.

"Why, darn your soul, I've spent money enough over this bar
to buy out the whole damn joint, and you know it!" he cried
indignantly. "If you think you've got to collect damages,
take it outa these blinkety-blink pilgrims you think so much
of. Speak to 'em pleasant, though, or you're liable to lose
the price of a beer, maybe! They'll never bring you the money
we've brought you, you--"

"They won't because you've likely killed 'em both," Rusty
retorted angrily. "You want to remember you can't come into
town and rip things up the back the way you used to, and
nobody say a word. You better drift, before that feller that
went out comes back with an officer. You can't--"

"Officer be damned!" retorted Irish, unawed.

He went out while Rusty was deciding to order him out, and
started for the stable. Halfway there he ducked into the
shadow of the blacksmith shop and watched two men go up the
street to Rusty's place, walking quickly. He went on then,
got his horse hurriedly without waiting to cinch the saddle,
led him behind the blacksmith shop where he would not be
likely to be found, and tied him there to the wreck of a
freight wagon.

Then he went across lots to where Fred Wilson, manager of the
general store, slept in a two-room shack belonging to the
hotel. The door was locked--Fred being a small man with
little trust in Providence or in his overt physical prowess--
and so he rapped cautiously upon the window until Fred awoke
and wanted to know who in thunder was there.

Irish told his name, and presently went inside. "I'm pulling
outa town, Fred," he explained, "and I don't know when I'll
be in again. So I want you to take an order for some posts
and bob wire and steeples. I--"

"Why didn't you come to the store?" Fred very naturally
demanded, peevish at being wakened at three o'clock in the
morning. "I saw you in town when I closed up."

"I was busy. Crawl back into bed and cover up, while I give
you the order. I'll want a receipt for the money, too--I'm
paying in advance, so you won't have any excuse for holding
up the order. Got any thing to write on?"

Fred found part of an order pad and a pencil, and crept
shivering into his bed. The offer to pay in advance had
silenced his grumbling, as Irish expected it would. So Irish
gave the order--thirteen hundred cedar posts, I remember--I
don't know just how much wire, but all he would need.

"Holy Macintosh! Is this for YOU?" Fred wanted to know as he
wrote it down.

"Some of it. We're fencing our claims. If I don't come after
the stuff myself, let any of the boys have it that shows up.
And get it here as quick as you can--what you ain't got on

Fred was scratching his jaw meditatively with the pencil, and
staring at the order. "I can just about fill that order outa
stock on hand," he told Irish. "When all this land rush
started I laid in a big supply of posts and wire. First thing
they'd want, after they got their shacks up. How you making
it, out there?"

"Fine," said Irish cheerfully, feeling his broken knuckles.
"How much is all that going to cost? You oughta make us a
rate on it, seeing it's a cash sale, and big."

"I will." Fred tore out a sheet and did some mysterious
figuring, afterwards crumpling the paper into a little wad
and hipping it behind the bed. "This has got to be on the
quiet, Irish. I can't sell wire and posts to those eastern
marks at this rate, you know. This is just for you boys--and
the profit for us is trimmed right down to a whisper." He
named the sum total with the air of one who confers a great

Irish grinned and reached into his pocket. "You musta
knocked your profit down to fifty percent.," he fleered. "But
it's a go with me." He peeled off the whole roll, just about.
He had two twenties left in his hand when he stopped. He was
very methodical that night. He took a receipt for the money
before he left and he looked at it with glistening eyes
before he folded it with the money. "Don't sell any posts and
wire till our order's filled, Fred," he warned. "We'll begin
hauling right away, and we'll want it all."

He let himself out into the cool starlight, walked in the
shadows to where he had left his horse, mounted and rode
whistling away down the lane which ended where the hills


A gray clarity of the air told that daylight was near. The
skyline retreated, the hills came out of the duskiness like a
photograph in the developer tray. Irish dipped down the steep
slope into Antelope Coulee, cursing the sprinkle of new
shacks that stood stark in the dawn on every ridge and every
hilltop, look where one might. He loped along the winding
trail through the coulee's bottom and climbed the hill
beyond. At the top he glanced across the more level upland to
the east and his eyes lightened. Far away stood a shack--
Patsy's, that was. Beyond that another, and yet another. Most
of the boys had built in the coulees where was water. They
did not care so much about the view--over which Miss Allen
had grown enthusiastic.

He pulled up in a certain place near the brow of the hill,
and looked down into the narrower gulch where huddled the
shacks they had moved. He grinned at the sight. His hand went
involuntarily to his pocket and the grin widened. He hurried
on that he might the sooner tell the boys of their good luck;
all the material for that line fence bought and paid for--
there would certainly laugh when they heard where the money
had come from!

First he thought that he would locate the cattle and tell his
news to the boys on guard. He therefore left the trail and
rode up on a ridge from which he could overlook the whole
benchland, with the exception of certain gulches that cut
through. The sky was reddening now, save where banked clouds
turned purple. A breeze crept over the grass and carried the
fresh odor of rain. Close beside him a little brown bird
chittered briskly and flew away into the dawn.

He looked away to where the Bear Paws humped, blue-black
against the sky, the top of Old Baldy blushing faintly under
the first sun rays. He looked past Wolf Butte, where the land
was blackened with outcroppings of rock. His eyes came back
leisurely to the claim country. A faint surprise widened his
lids, and he turned and sent a glance sweeping to the right,
toward Flying U Coulee. He frowned, and studied the bench
land carefully.

This was daybreak, when the cattle should be getting out for
their breakfast-feed. They should be scattered along the
level just before him. And there were no cattle anywhere in
sight. Neither were there any riders in sight. Irish gave a
puzzled grunt and turned in his saddle, looking back toward
Dry Lake. That way, the land was more broken, and he could
not see so far. But as far as he could see there were no
cattle that way either. Last night when he rode to town the
cattle of the colonists had been feeding on the long slope
three or four miles from where he stood, across Antelope
Coulee where he had helped the boys drive them.

He did not waste many minutes studying the empty prairie from
the vantage point of that ridge, however. The keynote of
Irish's nature was action. He sent his horse down the
southern slope to the level, and began looking for tracks,
which is the range man's guide-book. He was not long in
finding a broad trail, in the grass where cattle had lately
crossed the coulee from the west. He knew what that meant,
and he swore when he saw how the trail pointed straight to
the east--to the broken, open country beyond One Man Coulee.
What had the boys been thinking of, to let that nester stock
get past them in the night? What had the line-riders
been doing? They were supposed to guard against just
such a move as this.

Irish was sore from his fight in town, and he had not
had much sleep during the past forty-eight hours, and
he was ravenously hungry. He followed the trail of
the cattle until he saw that they certainly had gotten across
the Happy Family claims and into the rough country beyond;
then he turned and rode over to Patsy's shack, where a blue
smoke column wobbled up to the fitful air-current that seized
it and sent it flying toward the mountains.

There he learned that Dry Lake had not hugged to itself all
the events of the night. Patsy, smoking a pipefull of Durham
while he waited for the teakettle to boil, was wild with
resentment. In the night, while he slept, something had
heaved his cabin up at one corner. In a minute another corner
heaved upward a foot or more. Patsy had yelled while he felt
around in the darkness for his clothes, and had got no
answer, save other heavings from below.

Patsy was not the man to submit tamely to such indignities.
He had groped and found his old 45-70 riffle, that made a
noise like a young cannon and kicked like a broncho cow.
While the shack lurched this way and that, Patsy pointed the
gun toward the greatest disturbance and fired. He did not
think: he hit anybody, but he apologized to Irish for missing
and blamed the darkness for the misfortune. Py cosh, he sure
tried--witness the bullet holes which he had bored through
the four sides of the shack; he besought Irish to count them;
which Irish did gravely. And what happened then?

Then? Why, then the Happy Family had come; or at least all
those who had been awake and riding the prairie had come
pounding up out of the dark, their horses running like
rabbits, their blood singing the song of battle. They had
grappled with certain of the enemy--Patsy broke open the door
and saw tangles of struggling forms in the faint starlight.
The Happy Family were not the type of men who must settle
every argument with a gun, remember. Not while their hands
might be used to fight with. Patsy thought that they licked
the nesters without much trouble. He knew that the settlers
ran, and that the Happy Family chased them clear across the
line and then came back and let the shack down where it
belonged upon the rock underpining.

"Und py cosh! Dey vould move my shack off'n my land!" he
grunted ragefully as he lived over the memory.

Irish went to the door and looked out. The wind had risen in
the last half hour, so that his hat went sailing against the
rear wall, but he did not notice that. He was wondering why
the settlers had made this night move against Patsy. Was it
an attempt to irritate the boys to some real act of violence-
-something that would put them in fear of the law? Or was it
simply a stratagem to call off the night-guard so that they
might slip their cattle across into the breaks? They must
have counted on some disturbance which would reach the ears
of the boys on guard. If Patsy had not begun the bombardment
with his old rifle, they would very likely have fired a few
shots themselves--enough to attract attention. With that end
in view, he could see why Patsy's shack had been chosen for
the attack. Patsy's shack was the closest to where they had
been holding the cattle. It was absurdly simple, and
evidently the ruse had worked to perfection.

"Where are the boys at now?" he asked abruptly, turning to
Patsy who had risen and knocked the ashes from his pipe and
was slicing bacon.

"Gone after the cattle. Dey stampede alreatty mit all der
noise," Patsy growled, with his back to Irish.

So it was just as Irish had suspected. He faced the west and
the gathering bank of "thunder heads" that rode swift on the
wind and muttered sullenly as they rode, and he hesitated.
Should he go after the boys and help them round up the stock
and drive it back, or should he stay where he was and watch
the claims? There was that fence--he must see to that, too.

He turned and asked Patsy if all the boys were gone. But
Patsy did not know.

Irish stood in the doorway until breakfast was ready
whereupon he sat down and ate hurriedly--as much from habit
as from any present need of haste. A gust of wind made the
flimsy cabin shake, and Patsy went to close the door against
its sudden fury.

"Some riders iss coming now," he said, and held the door half
closed against the wind. "It ain't none off der boys," he
added, with the certainty which came of his having watched,
times without number, while the various members of the Happy
Family rode in from the far horizons to camp. "Pilgrims, I
guess--from der ridin'."

Irish grunted and reached for the coffee pot, giving scarce a
thought to Patsy's announcement. While he poured his third
cup of coffee he made a sudden decision. He would get that
fence off his mind, anyway.

"Say, Patsy, I've rustled wire and posts--all we'll need. I
guess I'll just turn this receipt over to you and let you get
busy. You take the team and drive in today and get the stuff
headed out here pronto. The nesters are shipping in more
stock--I heard in town that they're bringing in all they can
rustle, thinkin' the stock will pay big money while the
claims are getting ready to produce. I heard a couple of
marks telling each other just how it was going to work out so
as to put 'em all on Easy Street--the darned chumps! Free
grass--that's what they harped on; feed don't cost anything.
All yuh do is turn 'em loose and wait till shippin' season,
and then collect. That's what they were talking.

"The sooner that fence is up the better. We can't put in the
whole summer hazing their cattle around. I've bought the
stuff and paid for it. And here's forty dollars you can use
to hire it hauled out here. Us fellows have got to keep cases
on the cattle, so you 'tend to this fence." He laid the money
and Fred's receipt upon the table and set Patsy's plate over
them to hold them safe against the wind that rattled the
shack. He had forgotten all about the three approaching
riders, until Patsy turned upon him sharply.

"Vot schrapes you been into now?" he demanded querulously.
"Py cosh you done somet'ings. It's der conshtable comin'
alreatty. I bet you be pinched."

"I bet I don't," Irish retorted, and made for the one window,
which looked toward the hills. "Feed 'em some breakfast,
Patsy. And you drive in and tend to that fencing right away,
like I told you."

He threw one long leg over the window sill, bent his lean
body to pass through the square opening, and drew the other
leg outside. He startled his horse, which had walked around
there out of the wind, but he caught the bridle-reins and led
him a few steps farther where he would be out of the direct
view from the window. Then he stopped and listened.

He heard the three ride up to the other side of the shack and
shout to Patsy. He heard Patsy moving about inside, and after
a brief delay open the door. He heard the constable ask Patsy
if he knew anything about Irish, and where he could be found;
and he heard Patsy declare that he had enough to do without
keeping track of that boneheaded cowpuncher who was good for
nothing but to fight and get into schrapes.

After that he heard Patsy ask the constable if they had had
any breakfast before leaving town. He heard certain saddle-
sounds which told of their dismounting in response to the
tacit invitation. And then, pulling his hat firmly down upon
his head, Irish led his horse quietly down into a hollow
behind the shack, and so out of sight and hearing of those
three who sought him.

He did not believe that he was wanted for anything very
serious; they meant to arrest him, probably, for laying out
those two gamblers with a chair and a bottle of whisky
respectively. A trumped-up charge, very likely, chiefly
calculated to make him some trouble and to eliminate him from
the struggle for a time. Irish did not worry at all over
their reason for wanting him, but he did not intend to let
them come close enough to state their errand, because he did
not want to become guilty of resisting an officer--which
would be much worse than fighting nesters with fists and
chairs and bottles and things.

In the hollow he mounted and rode down the depression and
debouched upon the wide, grassy coulee where lay a part of
his own claim. He was not sure of the intentions of that
constable, but he took it for granted that he would presently
ride on to Irish's cabin in search of him; also that he would
look for him further, and possibly with a good deal of
persistence; which would be a nuisance and would in a measure
hamper the movements and therefore the usefulness of Irish.
For that reason he was resolved to take no chance that could
be avoided.

The sun slid behind the scurrying forerunners of the storm
and struggled unavailingly to shine through upon the prairie
land. From where he was Irish could not see the full extent
of the storm-clouds, and while he had been on high land he
had been too absorbed in other matters to pay much attention.
Even now he did no more than glance up casually at the inky
mass above him, and decided that he would do well to ride on
to his cabin and get his slicker.

By the time he reached his shack the storm was beating up
against the wind which had turned unexpectedly to the
northeast. Mutterings of thunder grew to sharper booming. It
was the first real thunderstorm of the season, but it was
going to be a hard one, if looks meant anything. Irish went
in and got his slicker and put it on, and then hesitated over
riding on in search of the cattle and the men in pursuit of

Still, the constable might take a notion to ride over this
way in spite of the storm. And if he came there would be
delay, even if there were nothing worse. So Irish, being one
to fight but never to stand idle, mounted again and turned
his long-suffering horse down the coulee as the storm swept

First a few large drops of rain pattered upon the earth and
left blobs of wet where they fell. His horse shook its head
impatiently and went sidling forward untill an admonitory
kick from Irish sent him straight down the dim trail. Then
the clouds opened recklessly the headgates and let the rain
down in one solid rush of water that sluiced the hillsides
and drove muddy torrents down channels that had been dry
since the snow left.

Irish bent his head so that his hat shielded somewhat his
face, and rode doggedly on. It was not the first time that he
had been out in a smashing, driving thunderstorm, and it
would not be his last if his life went on logically as he had
planned it. But it was not the more comfortable because it
was an oft-repeated experience. And when the first fury had
passed and still it rained steadily and with no promise of a
let-up, his optimism suffered appreciably.

His luck in town no longer cheered him. He began to feel the
loss of sleep and the bone-weariness of his fight and the
long ride afterwards. His breakfast was the one bright spot,
and saved him from the gnawing discomfort of an empty
stomach--at first.

He went into One Man Coulee and followed it to the arm that
would lead to the rolling, ridgy open land beyond, where the
"breaks" of the Badlands reached out to meet the prairie. He
came across the track of the herd, and followed it to the
plain. Once out in the open, however, the herd had seemed to
split into several small bunches, each going in a different
direction. Which puzzled Irish a little at first. Later, he
thought he understood.

The cattle, it would seem, had been driven purposefully into
the edge of the breaks and there made to scatter out through
the winding gulches and canyons that led deeper into the
Badlands. It was the trick of range-men--he could not believe
that the strange settlers, ignorant of the country and the
conditions, would know enough to do this. He hesitated before
several possible routes, the rain pouring down upon him, a
chill breeze driving it into his face. If there had been
hoofprints to show which way the boys had gone, the rain had
washed them so that they looked dim and old and gave him
little help.

He chose what seemed to him the gorge which the boys would be
most likely to follow--especially at night and if they were
in open pursuit of those who had driven the cattle off the
benchland; and that the cattle had been driven beyond this
point was plain enough, for otherwise he would have overtaken
stragglers long before this.

It was nearing noon when he came out finally upon a little,
open flat and found there Big Medicine and Pink holding a
bunch of perhaps a hundred cattle which they had gleaned from
the surrounding gulches and little "draws" which led into the
hills. The two were wet to the skin, and they were chilled
and hungry and as miserable as a she-bear sent up a tree by
yelping, yapping dogs.

Big Medicine it was who spied him first through the haze of
falling water, and galloped heavily toward him, his horse
flinging off great pads of mud from his feet as he came.

"Say!" he bellowed when he was yet a hundred yards away. "Got
any grub with yuh?"

"No!" Irish called back.

"Y'AIN'T" Big Medicine's voice was charged with incredulous
reproach. "What'n hell yuh doin' here without GRUB? Is Patsy
comin' with the wagon?"

"No. I sent Patsy on in to town after--"

"Town? And us out here--" Big Medicine choked over his

Irish waited until he could get in a word and then started to
explain. But Pink rode up with his hatbrim flapping soggily
against one dripping cheek when the wind caught it, and his
coat buttoned wherever there were buttons, and his collar
turned up, and looking pinched and draggled and wholly

"Say! Got anything to eat?" he shouted when he came near,
his voice eager and hopeful.

"No!" snapped Irish with the sting of Big Medicine's
vituperations rankling fresh in his soul.

"Well why ain't yuh? Where's Patsy?" Pink came closer and
eyed the newcomer truculently.

"How'n hell do I know?" Irish was getting a temper to match
their own.

"Well, why don't yuh know? What do yuh think you're out here
for? To tell us you think it's going to rain? If we was all
of us like you, there'd be nothing to it for the nester-
bunch. It's a wonder you come alive enough to ride out this
way at all! I don't reckon you've even got anything to drink!
"Pink paused a second, saw no move toward producing anything
wet and cheering, and swore disgustedly. "Of course not! You
needed it all yourself! So help me Josephine, if I
was as low-down ornery as some I could name I'd tie myself to
a mule's tail and let him kick me to death! Ain't got any
grub! Ain't got--"

Irish interrupted him then with a sentence that stung. Irish,
remember, distinctly approved of himself and his actions.
True, he had forgotten to bring anything to eat with him, but
there was excuse for that in the haste with which he had left
his own breakfast. Besides how could he be expected to know
that the cattle had been driven away down here, and
scattered, and that the Happy Family would not have overtaken
them long before? Did they think he was a mind-reader?

Pink, with biting sarcasm, retorted that they did not. That
it took a mind to read a mind. He added that, from the looks
of Irish, he must have started home drunk, anyway, and his
horse had wandered this far of his own accord. Then three or
four cows started up a gulch to the right of them and Pink,
hurling insults over his shoulder, rode off to turn them
back. So they did not actually come to blows, those two,
though they were near it.

Big Medicine lingered to bawl unforgivable things at; Irish,
and Irish shouted back recklessly that they had all acted
like a bunch of sheepherders, or the cattle would never have
been driven off the bench at all. He declared that anybody
with the brains of a sick sage hen would have stopped the
thing right in the start. He said other things also.

Big Medicine said things in reply, and Pink, returning to the
scene with his anger grown considerably hotter from feeding
upon his discomfort, made a few comments pertinent to the
subject of Irish's shortcomings.

You may scarcely believe it, unless you have really lived,
and have learned how easily small irritations grow to the
proportions of real trouble, and how swiftly--but this is a
fact: Irish and Big Medicine became so enraged that they
dismounted simultaneously and Irish jerked off his slicker
while Big Medicine was running up to smash him for some
needless insult.

They fought, there in the rain and the mud and the chill wind
that whipped their wet cheeks. They fought just as
relentlessly as though they had long been enemies, and just
as senselessly as though they were not grown men but
schoolboys. They clinched and pounded and smashed until Pink
sickened at the sight and tore them apart and swore at them
for crazy men and implored them to have some sense. They let
the cattle that had been gathered with so much trouble drift
away into the gulches and draws where they must be routed out
of the brush again, or perhaps lost for days in that rough

When the first violence of their rage had like the storm
settled to a cold steadiness of animosity, the two remounted
painfully and turned back upon each other.

Big Medicine and Pink drew close together as against a common
foe, and Irish cursed them both and rode away--whither he did
not know nor care.


The Old Man sat out in his big chair on the porch, smoking
and staring dully at the trail which led up the bluff by way
of the Hog's Back to the benchland beyond. Facing him in an
old, cane rocking chair, the Honorable Blake smoked with that
air of leisurely enjoyment which belongs to the man who knows
and can afford to burn good tobacco and who has the sense to,
burn it consciously, realizing in every whiff its rich
fragrance. The Honorable Blake flicked a generous half-inch
of ash from his cigar upon a porch support and glanced
shrewdly at the Old Man's abstracted face.

"No, it wouldn't do," he observed with the accent of a second
consideration of a subject that coincides exactly with the
first. "It wouldn't do at all. You could save the boys time,
I've no doubt--time and trouble so far as getting the cattle
back where they belong is concerned. I can see how they must
be hampered for lack of saddle-horses, for instance. But--it
wouldn't do, Whitmore. If they come to you and ask for horses
don't let them have them. They'll manage somehow--trust them
for that. They'll manage--"
"But doggone it, Blake, it's for--"

"Sh-sh--" Blake held up a warning hand. "None of that, my
dear Whitmore! These young fellows have taken claims in--er--
good faith." His bright blue eyes sparkled with a sudden
feeling. "In the best of good faith, if you ask me. I--admire
them intensely for what they have started out to do. But--
they have certain things which they must do, and do alone. If
you would not thwart them in accomplishing what they have set
out to do, you must go carefully; which means that you must
not run to their aid with your camp-wagons and your saddle-
horses, so they can gather the cattle again and drive them
back where they belong. You would not be helping them. They
would get the cattle a little easier and a little quicker--
and lose their claims."

"But doggone it, Blake, them boys have lived right here at
the Flying U--why, this has been their home, yuh might say.
They ain't like the general run of punchers that roam around,
workin' for this outfit and for that; they've stuck. Why,
doggone it, what they done here when I got hurt in Chicago
and they was left to run themselves, why, that alone puts me
under obligations to help 'em out in this scrape. Anybody
could see that. Ain't I a neighbor? Ain't neighbors got a
right to jump in and help each other? There ain't no law

"Not against neighbors--no." Blake uncrossed his perfectly
trousered legs and crossed them the other way, after
carefully avoiding any bagging tendency. "But this syndicate-
-or these contestants--will try to prove that you are not a
neighbor only, but a--backer of the boys in a land-grabbing
scheme. To avoid--"

"Well, doggone your measly hide, Blake, I've told you fifty
times I ain't! "The Old Man sat forward in his chair and
shook his fist unabashed at his guest. "Them boys cooked that
all up amongst themselves, and went and filed on that land
before ever I knowed a thing about it. How can yuh set there
and say I backed 'em? And that blonde Jezebel--riding down
here bold as brass and turnin' up her nose at Dell, and
callin' me a conspirator to my face!"

"I sticked a pin in her saddle blanket, Uncle Gee-gee. I'll
bet she wished she'd stayed away from here when her horse
bucked her off." The Kid looked up from trying to tie a piece
of paper to the end of a brindle kitten's switching tail, and
smiled his adorable smile--that had a gap in the middle.

"Hey? You leave that cat alone or he'll scratch yuh. Blake,
if you can't see--"

"He! He's a her and her name's Adeline. Where's the boys,
Uncle Gee-gee?"

"Hey? Oh, away down in the breaks after their cattle that got
away. You keep still and never mind where they've gone." His
mind swung back to the Happy Family, combing the breaks for
their stock and the stock of the nesters, with an average of
one saddlehorse apiece and a camp outfit of the most
primitive sort--if they had any at all, which he doubted. The
Old Man had eased too many roundups through that rough
country not to realize keenly the difficulties of the Happy

"They need horses," he groaned to Blake, "and they need help.
If you knowed the country and the work as well as I do you'd
know they've got to have horses and help. And there's their
claims--fellers squatting down on every eighty--four
different nesters fer every doggoned one of the bunch to
handle! And you tell me I got to set here and not lift a
hand. You tell me I can't put men to work on that fence they
want built. You tell me I can't lend 'em so much as a horse!"

Blake nodded. "I tell you that, and I emphasize it," he
assured the other, brushing off another half inch of ash from
his cigar. "If you want to help those boys hold their land,
you must not move a finger."

"He's wiggling all of 'em!" accused the Kid sternly, and
pointed to the Old Man drumming irritatedly upon his chair
arms. "He don't want to help the boys, but I do. I'll help
'em get their cattle, Mr. Blake. I'm one of the bunch anyway.
I'll lend 'em my string."

"You've been told before not to butt in to grownup talk," his
uncle reproved him irascibly. "Now you cut it out. And take
that string off'n that cat!" he added harshly. "Dell! Come
and look after this kid! Doggone it, a man can't talk five

The Kid giggled irrepressibly. "That's one on you, old man.
You saw Doctor Dell go away a long time ago. Think she can
hear yuh when she's away up on the bench?"

"You go on off and play!" commanded the Old Man. "I dunno
what yuh want to pester a feller to death for--and say! Take
that string off'n that cat!"

"Aw gwan! It ain't hurting the cat. She likes it." He lifted
the kitten and squeezed her till she yowled. "See? She said
yes, she likes it."

The Old Man returned to the trials of the Happy Family, and
the Kid sat and listened, with the brindle kitten snuggled
uncomfortably, head downward in his arms.

The Kid had heard a good deal, lately, about the trials
of his beloved "bunch." About the "nesters" who brought
cattle in to eat up the grass that belonged to the cattle of
the bunch. The Kid understood that perfectly--since he had
been raised in the atmosphere of range talk. He had heard
about the men building shacks on the claims of the Happy
Family--he understood that also; for he had seen the shacks
himself, and he had seen where there had been slid down hill
into the bottom of Antelope Coulee. He knew all about the
attack on Patsy's cabin and how the Happy Family had been
fooled, and the cattle driven off and scattered. The breaks--
he was a bit hazy upon the subject of breaks. He had heard
about them all his life. The stock got amongst them and had
to be hunted out. He thought--as nearly as could be put in
words--that it must be a place where all the brakes grow that
are used on wagons and buggies. These were of wood, therefore
they must grow somewhere. They grew where the Happy Family
went sometimes, when they were gone for days and days after
stock. They were down there now--it was down in the breaks,
always--and they couldn't round up their cattle because they
hadn't horses enough. They needed help, so they could hurry
back and slide those other shacks off their claims and into
Antelope Coulee where they had slid the others. On the whole,
the Kid had a very fair conception of the state of affairs.
Claimants and contestants--those words went over his head.
But he knew perfectly well that the nesters were the men that
didn't like the Happy Family, and lived in shacks on the way
to town, and plowed big patches of prairie and had children
that went barefooted in the furrows and couldn't ride horses
to save their lives. Pilgrim kids, that didn't know what
"chaps" were--he had talked with a few when he went with
Doctor Dell and Daddy Chip to see the sick lady.

After a while, when the Honorable Blake became the chief
speaker and leaned forward and tapped the Old Man frequently
on a knee with his finger, and used long words that carried
no meaning, and said contestant and claimant and evidence so
often that he became tiresome, the Kid slid off the porch and
went away, his small face sober with deep meditations.

He would need some grub--maybe the bunch was hungry without
any camp-wagons. The Kid had stood around in the way, many's
the time, and watched certain members of the Happy Family
stuff emergency rations into flour sacks, and afterwards tie
the sack to their saddles and ride off. He knew all about
that, too.

He hunted up a flour sack that had not had all the string
pulled out of it so it was no longer a sack but a dish-towel,
and held it behind his back while he went cautiously to the
kitchen door. The Countess was nowhere in sight--but it was
just as well to make sure. The Kid went in, took a basin off
the table, held it high and deliberately dropped it on the
floor. It, made a loud bang, but it did not elicit any shrill
protest from the Countess; therefore the Countess was nowhere
around. The Kid went in boldly and filled his four-sack so
full it dragged on the floor when he started off.

At the door he went down the steps ahead of the sack, and
bent his small back from the third step and pulled the sack
upon his shoulders. It wobbled a good deal, and the Kid came
near falling sidewise off the last step before he could
balance his burden. But he managed it, being the child of his
parents and having a good deal of persistence in his makeup;
and he went, by a roundabout way, to the stable with the
grub-sack bending him double. Still it was not so very heavy;
it was made bulky by about two dozen fresh-made doughnuts and
a loaf of bread and a jar of honey and a glass of wild-
currant jelly and a pound or so of raw, dried prunes which
the Kid called nibblin's because he liked to nibble at them,
like a prairie dog at a grass root.

Getting that sack tied fast to the saddle after the saddle
was on Silver's back was no easy task for a boy who is six,
even though he is large for his age. Still, being Chip's Kid
and the Little Doctor's he did it--with the help of the oats
box and Silver's patient disposition.

There were other things which the bunch always tied on their
saddles; a blanket, for instance, and a rope. The Kid made a
trip to the bunk-house and pulled a gray blanket off Ole's
bed, and spent a quarter of an hour rolling it as he had seen
the boys roll blankets The oats box, with Silver standing
beside it, came in handy again. He found a discarded rope and
after much labor coiled it crudely and tied it beside the

The Kid went to the door, stood beside it and leaned away
over so that he could peek out and not be seen Voices came
from the house--the voice of the Old Man; to be exact, high-
pitched and combative. The Kid looked up the bluff, and the
trail lay empty in the afternoon sun. Still, he did not like
to take that trail. Doctor Dell might come riding down there
almost any minute. The Kid did not want to meet Doctor Dell
just right then.

He went back, took Silver by the bridle reins and led him out
of the barn and around the corner where he could not be seen
from the White House. He thought he had better go down the
creek, and out through the wire gate and on down the creek
that way. He was sure that the "breaks" were somewhere beyond
the end of the coulee, though he could not have explained why
he was sure of it. Perhaps the boys, in speaking of the
breaks, had unconsciously tilted heads in that direction.

The Kid went quickly down along the creek through the little
pasture, leading Silver by the reins. He was terribly afraid
that his mother might ride over the top of the hill and see
him and call him back. If she did that, he would have to go,
of course. Deliberate, open disobedience had never yet
occurred to the Kid as a moral possibility. If your mother or
your Daddy Chip told you to come back, you had to come;
therefore he did not want to be told to come. Doctor Dell had
told him that he could go on roundup some day--the Kid had
decided that this was the day, but that it would be foolish
to mention the decision to anyone. People had a way of
disagreeing with one's decisions--especially Doctor Dell, she
always said one was too little. The Kid thought he was
getting pretty big, since he could stand on something and put
the saddle on Silver his own self, and cinch it and
everything; plenty big enough to get out and help the bunch
when they needed help.

He did not look so very big as he went trudging down
alongside the creek, stumbling now and then in the coarse
grass that hid the scattered rocks. He could not keep his
head twisted around to look under Silver's neck and watch the
hill trail, and at the same time see where he was putting his
feet. And if he got on Silver now he would be seen and
recognized at the first glance which Doctor Dell would give
to the coulee when she rode over the brow of the hill.
Walking beside Silver's shoulder , on the side farthest from
the bluff, he might not be seen at all; Doctor Dell might
look and think it was just a horse walking along the creek
his own self.

The Kid was extremely anxious that he should not be seen. The
bunch needed him. Uncle Gee-gee said they needed help. The
Kid thought they would expect him to come and help with his
"string", He helped Daddy Chip drive the horses up from the
little pasture, these days; just yesterday he had brought the
whole bunch up, all by his own self, and had driven them into
the big corral alone, and Daddy Chip had stood by the gate
and watched him do it. Daddy Chip had lifted him down from
Silver's back, and had squeezed him hard, and had called him
a real, old cowpuncher. The Kid got warm all inside him when
he, thought of it.

When a turn in the narrow creek-bottom hid him completely
from the ranch buildings and the hill trail, the Kid led
Silver alongside a low bank, climbed into the saddle. Then he
made Silver lope all the way to the gate.

He had some trouble with that gate. It was a barbed wire
gate, such as bigger men than the Kid sometimes swear over.
It went down all right, but when he came to put it up again,
that was another matter. He simply had to put it up before he
could go on. You always had to shut gates if you found them
shut--that was a law of the range which the Kid had learned
so long ago he could not remember when he had learned And
there was another reason--he did not want em to know he had
passed that way, if they took a notion to call him back. So
he worked and he tugged and he grew so red in the face it
looked as if he were choking. But he got the gate up and the
wire loop over the stake--though he had to hunt up an old
piece of a post to stand on, and even then had to stand on
his toes to reach the loop--since he was Chip's Kid and the
Little Doctor's.

He even remembered to scrape out the tell-tale prints of his
small feet in the bare earth there, and the prints of
Silver's feet where he went through. Yarns he had heard the
Happy Family tell, in the bunk-house on rainy days, had
taught him these tricks. He was extremely thorough in all
that he did--being a good deal like his dad--and when he went
the grass, no one would have suspected that he had passed
that way.

After a while he left that winding creek-bottom and climbed a
long ridge. Then he went down hill and pretty soon he climbed
another hill that made old Silver stop and rest before he
went on to the top. The Kid stood on the top for a few
minutes and stared wistfully out over the tumbled mass of
hills, and deep hollows, and hills, and hill and hills--till
he could not see where they left off. He could not see any of
the bunch; but then, he could not see any brakes growing
anywhere, either. The bunch was down in the brakes--he had
heard that often enough to get it fixed firmly in his mind.
Well, when he came to where the brakes grew--and he would
know them, all right, when he saw them!--he would find the
bunch. He thought they'd be s'prised to see him ride up! The
bunch didn't know that he could drive stock all his own self,
and that he was a real, old cowpuncher now. He was a lot
bigger. He didn't have to hunt such a big rock, or such a
high bank, to get on Silver now. He thought he must be pretty
near as big as Pink, any way. They would certainly be

The brakes must be farther over. Maybe he would have to go
over on the other side of that biggest hill before he came to
the place where they grew. He rode unafraid down a steep,
rocky slope where Silver picked his way very, very carefully,
and sometimes stopped and smelt of a ledge or a pile of
rocks, and then turned and found some other way down.

The Kid let him choose his path--Daddy Chip had taught him to
leave the reins loose and let Silver cross ditches and rough
places where he wanted to cross. So Silver brought him safely
down that hill where even the Happy Family would have
hesitated to ride unless the need was urgent.

He could not go right up over the next hill--there was a rock
ledge that was higher than his head when he sat on Silver. He
went down a narrow gulch--ah, an awfully narrow gulch!
Sometimes he was afraid Silver was too fat to squeeze
through; but Silver always did squeeze through somehow. And
still there were no brakes growing anywhere. Just choke-
cherry trees, and service-berries, and now and then a little
flat filled with cottonwoods and willows--familiar trees and
bushes that he had known all his six years of life.

So the Kid went on and on, over hills or around hills or down
along the side of hill. But he did not find the Happy Family,
and he did not find the brakes. He found cattle that had the
Flying U brand--they had a comfortable, homey look. One bunch
he drove down a wide coulee, hazing them out of the brush and
yelling "HY-AH!" at them, just the way the Happy Family
yelled. He thought maybe these were the cattle the Happy
Family were looking for; so he drove them ahead of him and
didn't let one break back on him and he was the happiest Kid
in all Montana with these range cattle, that had the Flying U
brand, galloping awkwardly ahead of him down that big coulee.


The hills began to look bigger, and kind of chilly and blue
in the deep places. The Kid wished that he could find some of
the boys. He was beginning to get hungry, and he had long ago
begun to get tired. But he was undismayed, even when he heard
a coyote yap-yap-yapping up a brushy canyon. It might be that
he would have to camp out all night. The Kid had loved those
cowboy yarns where the teller--who was always the hero--had
been caught out somewhere and had been compelled to make a
"dry camp." His favorite story of that type was the story of
how Happy Jack had lost his clothes and had to go naked
through the breaks. It was not often that he could make Happy
Jack tell him that story--never when the other boys were
around. And there were other times; when Pink had got lost,
down in the breaks, and had found a cabin just--in--TIME,
with Irish sick inside and a blizzard just blowing outside,
and they were mad at each other and wouldn't talk, and all
they had to eat was one weenty, teenty snow-bird, till the
yearling heifer came and Pink killed it and they had
beefsteak and got good friends again. And there were other
times, that others of the boys could tell about, and that the
Kid thought about now with pounding pulse. It was not all
childish fear of the deepening shadows that made his eyes big
and round while he rode slowly on, farther and farther into
the breaks.

He still drove the cattle before him; rather, he followed
where the cattle led. He felt very big and very proud--but he
did wish he could find the Happy Family! Somebody ought to
stand guard, and he was getting sleepy already.

Silver stopped to drink at a little creek of clear, cold
water. There was grass, and over there was a little hollow
under a rock ledge. The sky was all purple and red, like
Doctor Dell painted in pictures, and up the, coulee, where he
had been a little while ago, it was looking kind of dark. The
Kid thought maybe he had better camp here till morning. He
reined Silver against a bank and slid off, and stood looking
around him at the strange hills with the huge, black boulders
that looked like houses unless you knew, and the white cliffs
that looked--queer--unless you knew they were just cliffs.

For the first time since he started, the Kid wished
guiltily that his dad was here or--he did wish the bunch
would happen along! He wondered if they weren't camped,
maybe, around that point. Maybe they would hear him if he
hollered as loud as he could. which he did, two or three
times; and quit because the hills hollered back at him and
they wouldn't stop for the longest time--it was just like
people yelling at him from behind these rocks.

The Kid knew, of course, who they were; they were Echo-boys,
and they wouldn't hurt, and they wouldn't let you see them.
They just ran away and hollered from some other place. There
was an Echo-boy lived up on the bluff somewhere above the
house. You could go down in the little pasture and holler,
and the Echo-boy would holler back The Kid was not afraid--
but there seemed to be an awful lot of Echo-boys down in
these hills. They were quiet after a minute or so, and he did
not call again.

The Kid was six, and he was big for his age; but he looked
very little, there alone in that deep coulee that was really
more like a canyon--very little and lonesome and as if he
needed his Doctor Dell to take him on her lap and rock him.
It was just about the time of day when Doctor Dell always
rocked him and told him stories--about the Happy Family,
maybe. The Kid hated to be suspected of baby ways, but he
loved these tunes, when his legs were tired and his eyes
wanted to go shut, and Doctor Dell laid her cheek on his hair
and called him her baby man. Nobody knew about these times--
that was most always in the bed room and the boys couldn't

The Kid's lips quivered a little. Doctor Dell would be
surprised when he didn't show up for supper, he guessed. He
turned to Silver and to his man ways, because he did not like
to think about Doctor Dell just right now.

"Well, old feller, I guess you want your saddle off, huh?" he
quavered, and slapped the horse upon the shoulder . He lifted
the stirrup--it was a little stock saddle, with everything
just like a big saddle except the size; Daddy Chip had had it
made for the Kid in Cheyenne, last Christmas--and began to
undo the latigo, whistling self-consciously and finding that
his lips kept trying to come unpuckered all the time, and
trying to tremble just the way they did when he cried. He had
no intention of crying.

"Gee! I always wanted to camp out and watch the stars," he
told Silver stoutly. "Honest to gran'ma, I think this is
just--simply--GREAT! I bet them nester kids would be scared.

That helped a lot. The Kid could whistle better after that.
He pulled of the saddle, laid it down on its side so that the
skirts would not bend out of shape--oh, he had been well-
taught, with the whole Happy Family for his worshipful
tutors!--and untied the rope from beside the fork. "I'll have
to anchor you to a tree, old-timer," he told the horse
briskly. "I'd sure hate to be set afoot in this man's
country!" And a minute later--"Oh, funder! I never brought
you any sugar!"

Would you believe it, that small child of the Flying U
picketed his horse where the grass was best, and the knots he
tied were the knots his dad would have tied in his place. He
unrolled his blanket and carried it to the sheltered little
nook under the ledge, and dragged the bag of doughnuts and
the jelly and honey and bread after it. He had heard about
thievish animals that will carry off bacon and flour and
such. He knew that he ought to hang his grub in a tree, but
he could not reach up as far as the fox who might try to help
himself, so that was out of the question.

The Kid ate a doughnut while he studied the matter out for
himself. "If a coyote or a skink came pestering around ME,
I'd frow rocks at him," he said. So when he had finished the
doughnut he collected a pile of rocks. He ate another
doughnut, went over and laid himself down on his stomach the
way the boys did, and drank from the little creek. It was
just a chance that he had not come upon water tainted with
alkali--but fate is kind sometimes.

So the Kid, trying very, very hard to act just like his Daddy
Chip and the boys, flopped the blanket vigorously this way
and that in an effort to get it straightened, flopped himself
on his knees and folded the blanket round and round him until
he looked like a large, gray cocoon, and cuddled himself
under the ledge with his head on the bag of doughnuts and his
wide eyes fixed upon the first pale stars and his mind
clinging sturdily to his mission and to this first real, man-
sized adventure that had come into his small life.

It was very big and very empty--that canyon. He lifted his
yellow head and looked to see if Silver were there, and was
comforted at the sight of his vague bulk close by, and by the
steady KR-UP, KR-UP of bitten grasses.

"I'm a rell ole cowpuncher, all right," he told himself
bravely; but he had to blink his eyelashes pretty fast when
he said it. A "rell ole cowpuncher" wouldn't cry! He was
afraid Doctor Dell would be AWFULLY s'prised, though . . .

An unexpected sob broke loose, and another. He wasn't
afraid--but . . . Silver, cropping steadily at the grass
which must be his only supper, turned and came slowly toward
the Kid in his search for sweeter grass-tufts. The Kid choked
off the third sob and sat up ashamed. He tugged at the bag
and made believe to Silver that his sole trouble was with his

"By cripes, that damn' jelly glass digs right into my ear,"
he complained aloud, to help along the deception. "You go
back, old-timer--I'm all right. I'm a--rell--ole cowpuncher;
ain't I, old-timer? We're makin' a dry-camp, just like--Happy
Jack. I'm a rell--ole--" The Kid went to sleep before he
finished saying it. There is nothing like the open air to
make one sleep from dusk till dawn. The rell ole cowpuncher
forgot his little white bed in the corner of the big bedroom.
He forgot that Doctor Dell would be awfully s'prised, and
that Daddy Chip would maybe be cross--Daddy Chip was cross,
sometimes. The rell ole cowpuncher lay with his yellow curls
pillowed on the bag of doughnuts and the gray blanket wrapped
tightly around him, and slept soundly; and his lips were
curved in the half smile that came often to his sleeping
place and made him look ever so much like his Daddy Chip.


"Djuh find 'im?" The Old Man had limped down to the big gate
and stood there bare headed under the stars, waiting, hoping-
-fearing to hear the answer.

"Hasn't he showed up yet?" Chip and the Little Doctor rode
out of the gloom and stopped before the gate. Chip did not
wait for an answer. One question answered the other and there
was no need for more. "I brought Dell home," he said. "She's
about all in--and he's just as likely to come back himself as
we are to run across him. Silver'll bring him home, all
right. He can't be--yuh can't lose a horse. You go up to the
house and lie down, Dell. I--the Kid's all right."

His voice held all the tenderness of the lover, and all the
protectiveness of the husband and all the agony of a father--
but Chip managed to keep it firm and even for all that. He
lifted the Little Doctor bodily from the saddle, held her
very close in his arms for a minute, kissed her twice and
pushed her gently through the gate.

"You better stay right here," he said authoritatively, "and
rest and look after J.G. You can't do any good riding--and
you don't want to be gone when he comes." He reached over the
gate, got hold of her arm and pulled her towards him. "Buck
up, old girl," he whispered, and kissed her lingeringly.
"Now's the time to show the stuff you're made of. You needn't
worry one minute about that kid. He's the goods, all right.
Yuh couldn't lose him if you tried. Go up and go to bed."

"Go to bed!" echoed the Little Doctor and sardonically. J.G.,
are you sure he didn't say anything about going anywhere?"

"No. He was settin' there on the porch tormenting the cat."
The Old Man swallowed a lump. "I told him to quit. He set
there a while after that--I was talkin'' to Blake. I dunno
where he went to. I was--"

"'S that you, Dell? Did yuh find 'im?" The Countess came
flapping down the path in a faded, red kimono. "What under
the shinin' sun's went with him, do yuh s'pose? Yuh never
know what a day's got up its sleeve--'n I always said it. Man
plans and God displans--the poor little tad'll be scairt
plumb to death, out all alone in the dark--"

"Oh, for heaven's sake shut up!" cried the tortured Little
Doctor, and fled past her up the path as though she had some
hope of running away from the tormenting thoughts also. "Poor
little tad, all alone in the dark,"--the words followed her
and were like sword thrusts through the mother heart of her.
Then Chip overtook her, knowing too well the hurt which the
Countess had given with her blundering anxiety. Just at the
porch he caught up with her, and she clung to him, sobbing

"You don't want to mind what that old hen says," he told her
brusquely. "She's got to do just so much cackling or she'd
choke, I reckon. The Kid's all right. Some of the boys have
run across him by this time, most likely, and are bringing
him in. He'll be good and hungry, and the scare will do him
good." He forced himself to speak as though the Kid had
merely fallen on the corral fence, or something like that.
"You've got to make up your mind to these things," he argued,
"if you tackle raising a boy, Dell. Why, I'll bet I ran off
and scared my folks into fits fifty times when I was a kid."

"But--he's--just a baby!" sobbed the Little Doctor with her
face pressed hard against Chip's strong, comforting shoulder.

"He's a little devil!" amended Chip fiercely. "He ought to be
walloped for scaring you like this. He's just as capable of
looking after himself as most kids twice his size. He'll get
hungry and head for home--and if he don't know the way,
Silver does; so he can't--"

"But he may have fallen and--"

"Come, now! Haven't you got any more sense than the Countess?
If you insist of thinking up horrors to scare yourself with,
I don't know as anybody can stop you. Dell! Brace up and quit
worrying. I tell you--he's--all right!"

That did well enough--seeing the Little Doctor did not get a
look at Chip's face, which was white and drawn, with sunken,
haggard eyes staring into the dark over her head. He kissed
her hastily and told her he must go, and that he'd hurry back
as soon as he could. So he went half running down the path
and passed the Countess and the Old Man without a word; piled
onto his horse and went off up the hill road again.

They could not get it out of their minds that the Kid must
have ridden up on the bluff to meet his mother, had been too
early to meet her--for the Little Doctor had come home rather
later than she expected to do--and had wandered off to visit
the boys, perhaps, or to meet his Daddy Chip who was over
there some where on the bench trying to figure out a system
of ditches that might logically be expected to water the
desert claims of the Happy Family--if they could get the

They firmly believed that the kid had gone up on the hill,
and so they hunted for him up there. The Honorable Blake had
gone to Dry Lake and taken the train for Great Falls, before
ever the Kid had been really missed. The Old Man had not seen
the Kid ride up the hill--but he had been sitting with his
chair turned away from the road, and he was worried about
other things and so might easily have missed seeing him. The
Countess had been taking a nap, and she was not expected to
know anything about his departure. And she had not looked
into the doughnut jar--indeed, she was so upset by supper
time that, had she looked, she would not have missed the
doughnuts. For the same reason Ole did not miss his blanket.
Ole had not been near his bed; he was out riding and
searching and calling through the coulee and up toward the
old Denson place.

No one dreamed that the :Kid had started out with a camp-
outfit--if one might call it that--and with the intention of
joining the Happy Family in the breaks, and of helping them
gather their cattle. How could they dream that? How could
they realize that a child who still liked to be told bedtime
stories and to be rocked to sleep, should harbor such man-
size thoughts and ambitions? How could they know that the Kid
was being "a rell ole cowpuncher"?

That night the whole Happy Family, just returned from the
Badlands and warned by Chip at dusk that the Kid was missing,
hunted the coulees that bordered the benchland. A few of the
nesters who had horses and could ride them hunted also. The
men who worked at the Flying U hunted, and Chip hunted
frantically. Chip just about worshipped that kid, and in
spite of his calmness and his optimism when he talked to the
Little Doctor, you can imagine the state of mind he was in.

At sunrise they straggled in to the ranch, caught up fresh
horses, swallowed a cup of coffee and what food they could
choke down and started out again. At nine o'clock a party
came out from Dry Lake, learned that the Kid was not yet
found, and went out under a captain to comb systematically
through the hills and the coulees.

Before night all the able-bodied men in the country and some
who were not--were searching. It is astonishing how quickly a
small army will volunteer in such an emergency; and it
doesn't seem to matter very much that the country seems big
and empty of people ordinarily. They come from somewhere,
when they're needed.

The Little Doctor--oh, let us not talk about the Little
Doctor. Such agonies as she suffered go too deep for words.

The next day after that, Chip saddled a horse and let her
ride beside him. Chip was afraid to leave her at the ranch--
afraid that she would go mad. So he let her ride--they rode
together. They did not go far from the ranch. There was
always the fear that someone might bring him in while they
were gone. That fear drove them back, every hour or two. Then
another fear would drive them forth again.

Up in another county there is a creek called Lost Child
Creek. A child was lost--or was it two children?--and men
hunted and hunted and hunted, and it was months before
anything was found. Then a cowboy riding that way found--just
bones. Chip knew about that creek which is called Lost Child.
He had been there and he had heard the story, and he had seen
the--father and had shuddered--and that was long before he
had known the feeling a father has for his child. What he was
deadly afraid of now was that the Little Doctor would hear
about that creek, and how it had gotten its name.

What he dreaded most for himself was to think of that creek.
He kept the Little Doctor beside him and away from that Job's
comforter, the Countess, and tried to keep her hope alive
while the hours dragged their leaden feet over the hearts of
them all.

A camp was hastily organized in One Man Coulee and another
out beyond Denson's place, and men went there to the camps
for a little food and a little rest, when they could hold out
no longer. Chip and the Little Doctor rode from camp to camp,
intercepted every party of searchers they glimpsed on the
horizon, and came back to the ranch, hollow-eyed and silent
for the most part. They would rest an hour, perhaps. Then
they would ride out again.

The Happy Family seemed never to think of eating, never to
want sleep. Two days--three days--four days--the days became
a nightmare. Irish, with a warrant out for his arrest, rode
with the constable, perhaps--if the search chanced to lead
them together. Or with Big Medicine, whom he had left in hot
anger. H. J. Owens and these other claim-jumpers hunted with
the Happy Family and apparently gave not a thought to claims.

Miss Allen started out on the second day and hunted through
all the coulees and gulches in the neighborhood of her
claim--coulees and gulches that had been searched frantically
two or three times before. She had no time to make whimsical
speeches to Andy Green, nor he to listen. When they met, each
asked the other for news, and separated without a thought for
each other. The Kid--they must find him--they must.

The third day, Miss Allen put up a lunch, told her three
claim partners that she should not come back until night
unless that poor child was found, and that they need not look
for her before dark and set out with the twinkle all gone
from her humorous brown eyes and her mouth very determined.

She met Pink and the Native Son and was struck with the
change which two days of killing anxiety had made in them.
True, they had not slept for forty-eight hours, except an
hour or two after they had been forced to stop and eat. True,
they had not eaten except in snatches. But it was not that
alone which made their faces look haggard and old and
haunted. They, too, were thinking of Lost Child Creek and How
it had gotten its name.

Miss Allen gleaned a little information from them regarding
the general whereabouts of the various searching parties. And
then, having learned that the foothills of the mountains were
being searched minutely because the Kid might have taken a
notion to visit Meeker's; and that the country around Wolf
Butte was being searched, because he had once told Big
Medicine that when he got bigger and his dad would let him,
he was going over there and kill wolves to make Doctor Dell
some rugs: and that the country toward the river was being
searched because the Kid always wanted to see where the Happy
Family drove the sheep to, that time when Happy Jack got shot
under the arm; that all the places the Kid had seemed most
interested in were being searched minutely--if it could be
possible to; search minutely a country the size of that!
Having learned all that, Miss Allen struck off by herself,
straight down into the Badlands where nobody seemed to have
done much searching.

The reason for that was, that the Happy Family had come out
of the breaks on the day that the Kid was lost. They had not
ridden together, but in twos and threes because they drove
out several small bunches of cattle that they had gleaned, to
a common centre in One Man Coulee. They had traveled by the
most feasible routes through that rough country, and they had
seen no sign of the Kid or any other rider.

They did not believe that he had come over that far, or even
in that direction; because a horseman would almost certainly
have been sighted by some of them in crossing a ridge

It never occurred to anyone that the Kid might go down Flying
U Creek and so into the breaks and the Badlands. Flying U
Creek was fenced, and the wire gate was in its place--Chip
had looked down along there, the first night, and had found
the gate up just as it always was kept. Why should he
suspect that the Kid had managed to open that gate and to
close it after him? A little fellow like that?

So the searching parties, having no clue to that one incident
which would at least have sent them in the right direction,
kept to the outlying fringe of gulches which led into the
broken edge of the benchland, and to the country west and
north and south of these gulches. At that, there was enough
broken country to keep them busy for several days, even when
you consider the number of searchers.

Miss Allen did not want to go tagging along with some party.
She did not feel as if she could do any good that way, and
she wanted to do some good. She wanted to find that poor
little fellow and take him to his mother. She had met his
mother, just the day before, and had ridden with her for
several miles. The look in the Little Doctor's eyes haunted
Miss Allen until she felt sometimes as if she must scream
curses to the heavens for so torturing a mother. And that was
not all; she had looked into Chip's face, last night--and she
had gone home and cried until she could cry no more, just
with the pity of it.

She left the more open valley and rode down a long, twisting
canyon that was lined with cliffs so that it was impossible
to climb out with a horse. She was sure she could not get
lost or turned around, in a place like that, and it seemed to
her as hopeful a place to search as any. When you came to
that, they all had to ride at random and trust to luck, for
there was not the faintest clue to guide them. So Miss Allen
considered that she could do no better than search all the
patches of brush in the canyon, and keep on going.

The canyon ended abruptly in a little flat, which she
crossed. She had not seen the tracks of any horse going down,
but when she was almost across the flat she discovered tracks
of cattle, and now and then the print of a shod hoof. Miss
Allen began to pride herself on her astuteness in reading
these signs. They meant that some of the Happy Family had
driven cattle this way; which meant that they would have seen
little Claude Bennett--that was the Kid's real name, which no
one except perfect strangers ever used--they would have seen
the Kid or his tracks, if he had ridden down here.

Miss Allen, then, must look farther than this. She hesitated
before three or four feasible outlets to the little flat, and
chose the one farthest to the right. That carried her farther
south, and deeper into a maze of gulches and gorges and
small, hidden valleys. She did not stop, but she began to see
that it was going to be pure chance, or the guiding hand of a
tender Providence, if one ever did find anybody in this
horrible jumble. She had never seen such a mess. She believed
that poor little tot had come down in here, after all; she
could not see why, but then you seldom did know why children
took a notion to do certain unbelievable things. Miss Allen
had taught the primary grade in a city school, and she knew a
little about small boys and girls and the big ideas they
sometimes harbored.

She rode and rode, trying to put herself mentally in the
Kid's place. Trying to pick up the thread of logical
thought--children were logical sometimes--startlingly so.

"I wonder," she thought suddenly, "if he started out with the
idea of hunting cattle! I wouldn't be a bit surprised if he
did--living on a cattle ranch, and probably knowing that the
men were down here somewhere." Miss Allen, you see, came
pretty close to the truth with her guess.

Still, that did not help her find the Kid. She saw a high,
bald peak standing up at the mouth of the gorge down which
she was at that time picking her way, and she made up her
mind to climb that peak and see if she might not find him by
looking from that point of vantage. So she rode to the foot
of the pinnacle, tied her horse to a bush and began to climb.

Peaks like that are very deceptive in their height Miss Allen
was slim and her lungs were perfect, and she climbed steadily
and as fast as she dared. For all that it took her a long
while to reach the top--much longer than she expected. When
she reached the black rock that looked, from the bottom, like
the highest point of the hill, she found that she had not
gone much more than two-thirds of the way up, and that the
real peak sloped back so that it could not be seen from below
at all.

Miss Allen was a persistent young woman. She kept climbing
until she did finally reach the highest point, and could look
down into gorges and flats and tiny basins and canyons and
upon peaks and ridges and worm-like windings, and patches of
timber and patches of grass and patches of barren earth and
patches of rocks all jumbled up together--. Miss Allen gasped
from something more than the climb, and sat down upon a rock,
stricken with a sudden, overpowering weakness. "God in
heaven!" she whispered, appalled. "What a place to get lost

She sat there a while and stared dejectedly down upon that
wild orgy of the earth's upheaval which is the Badlands. She
felt as though it was sheer madness even to think of finding
anybody in there. It was worse than a mountain country,
because in the mountains there is a certain semblance of some
system in the canyons and high ridges and peaks. Here every
thing--peaks, gorges, tiny valleys and all--seemed to be just
dumped down together. Peaks rose from the middle of canyons;
canyons were half the time blind pockets that ended abruptly
against a cliff.

"Oh!" she cried aloud, jumpin up and gesticulating wildly.
Baby! Little Claude! Here! Look up this way!" She saw him,
down below, on the opposite side from where she had left her

The Kid was riding slowly up a gorge. Silver was picking his
way carefully over the rocks--they looked tiny, down there!
And they were not going toward home, by any means. They were
headed directly away from home.

The cheeks of Miss Allen were wet while she shouted and
called and waved her hands. He was alive, anyway. Oh, if his
mother could only be told that he was alive! Oh, why weren't
there telephones or something where they were needed! If his
poor mother could see him!

Miss Allen called again, and the Kid heard her. She was sure
that he heard her, because he stopped--that pitiful, tiny
speck down there on the horse!--and she thought he looked up
at her. Yes, she was sure he heard her, and that finally he
saw her; because he took off his hat and waved it over his
head--just like a man, the poor baby!

Miss Allen considered going straight down to him, and then
walking around to where her horse was tied. She was afraid to
leave him while she went for the horse and rode around to
where he was. She was afraid she might miss him somehow the
Badlands had stamped that fear deep into her soul.

"Wait!" she shouted, her hands cupped around her trembling
lips, tears rolling down her cheeks "Wait baby! I'm coming
for you." She hoped that the Kid heard what she said, but she
could not be sure, for she did not hear him reply. But he did
not go on at once, and she thought he would wait.

Miss Allen picked up her skirts away from her ankles and
started running down the steep slope. The Kid, away down
below, stared up at her. She went down a third of the way,
and stopped just in time to save herself from going over a
sheer wall of rocks--stopped because a rock which she
dislodged with her foot rolled down the slope a few feet,
gave a leap into space and disappeared.

A step at a time Miss Allen crept down to where the rock had
bounced off into nothingness, and gave one look and crouched
close to the earth. A hundred feet, it must be, straight
down. After the first shock she looked to the right and the
left and saw that she must go back, and down upon the other

Away down there at the bottom, the Kid sat still on his horse
and stared up at her. And Miss Allen calling to him that she
would come, started back up to the peak.


Miss Allen turned to yell encouragingly to the Kid, and she
saw that he was going on slowly, his head turned to watch
her. She told him to wait where he was, and she would come
around the mountain and get him and take him home. "Do you
hear me, baby?" she asked imploringly after she had told him
just what she meant to do. "Answer me, baby!"

"I ain't a baby!" his voice came faintly shrill after a
minute. "I'm a rell ole cowpuncher"

Miss Allen thought that was what he said, but at the time she
did not quite understand, except his denial of being a baby;
that was clear enough. She turned to the climb, feeling that
she must hurry if she expected to get him and take him home
before dark. She knew that every minute was precious and must
not be wasted. It was well after noon--she had forgotten to
eat her lunch, but her watch said it was nearly one o'clock
already. She had no idea how far she had ridden, but she
thought it must be twelve miles at least.

She had no idea, either, how far she had run down the butte
to the cliff--until she began to climb back. Every rod or so
she stopped to rest and to look back and to call to the Kid
who seemed such a tiny mite of humanity among these huge
peaks and fearsome gorges. He seemed to be watching her very
closely always when she looked she could see the pink blur of
his little upturned face. She must hurry. Oh, if she could
only send a wireless to his mother! Human inventions fell far
short of the big needs, after all, she thought as she toiled

From the top of the peak she could see the hazy outline of
the Bear Paws, and she knew just about where the Flying U
Coulee lay. She imagined that she could distinguish the line
of its bluff in the far distance. It was not so very far--but
she could not get any word of cheer across the quivering air
lanes. She turned and looked wishfully down at the Kid, a
tinier speck now than before--for she had climbed quite a
distance She waved her hand to him, and her warm brown eyes
held a maternal tenderness. He waved his hat--just like a
man; he must be brave! she thought. She turned reluctantly
and went hurrying down the other side, her blood racing with
the joy of having found him, and of knowing that he was safe.

It seemed to take a long time to climb down that peak; much
longer than she thought it would take. She looked at her
watch nervously--two o'clock, almost! She must hurry, or they
would be in the dark getting home. That did not worry her
very much, However, for there would be searching parties--she
would be sure to strike one somewhere in the hills before

She came finally down to the level--except that it was not
level at all, but a trough-shaped gulch that looked
unfamiliar. Still, it was the same one she had used as a
starting point when she began to climb--of course it was the
same one. How in the world could a person get turned around
going straight up the side of a hill and straight down again
in the very same place. This was the gorge where her horse
was tied, only it might be that she was a little below the
exact spot; that could happen, of course. So Miss Allen went
up the gorge until it petered out against the face of the
mountain--one might as well call it a mountain and be done
with it, for it certainly was more than a mere hill.

It was some time before Miss Allen would admit to herself
that she had missed the gorge where she had left her horse,
and that she did not know where the gorge was, and that she
did not know where she was herself. She had gone down the
mouth of the gulch before she made any admissions, and she
had seen not one solitary thing that she could remember
having ever seen before.

Not even the peak she had climbed looked familiar from where
she was. She was not perfectly sure that it was the same peak
when she looked at it.

Were you ever lost? It is a very peculiar sensation--the
feeling that you are adrift in a world that is strange. Miss
Allen had never been lost before in her life. If she had
been, she would have been more careful, and would have made
sure that she was descending that peak by the exact route she
had followed up it, instead of just taking it for granted
that all she need do was get to the bottom.

After an hour or two she decided to climb the peak again, get
her bearings from the top and come down more carefully. She
was wild with apprehension--though I must say it was not for
her own plight but on account of the Kid. So she climbed. And
then everything looked so different that she believed she had
climbed another hill entirely. So she went down again and
turned into a gorge which seemed to lead in the direction
where she had seen the little lost boy. She followed that
quite a long way--and that one petered out like the first.

Miss Allen found the gorges filling up with shadow, and she
looked up and saw the sky crimson and gold, and she knew then
without any doubts that she was lost. Miss Allen was a brave
young woman, or she would not have been down in that country
in the first place; but just the same she sat down with her
back against a clay bank and cried because of the eeriness
and the silence, and because she was hungry and she knew she
was going to be cold before morning--but mostly because she
could not find that poor, brave little baby boy who had waved
his hat when she left him, and shouted that he was not a

In a few minutes she pulled herself together and went on;
there was nothing to be gained by sitting in one place and
worrying. She walked until it was too dark to see, and then,
because she had come upon a little, level canyon bottom--
though one that was perfectly strange--she stopped there
where a high bank sheltered her from the wind that was too
cool for comfort. She called, a few times, until she was sure
that the child was not within hearing. After that she
repeated poetry to keep her mind off the loneliness and the
pity of that poor baby alone like herself. She would not
think of him if she could help it.

When she began to shiver so that her teeth chattered, she
would walk up and down before the bank until she felt warm
again; then she would sit with her back against the clay and
close her eyes and try to sleep. It was not a pleasant way in
which to pass a whole night, but Miss Allen endured it as
best she could. When the sun tinged the hill-tops she got up
stiffly and dragged herself out of the canyon where she could
get the direction straight in her mind, and then set off
resolutely to find the Kid. She no longer had much thought of
finding her horse, though she missed him terribly, and wished
she had the lunch that was tied to the saddle.

This, remember, was the fourth day since the Kid rode down
through the little pasture and stood on a piece of fence-post
so that he could fasten the gate. Men had given up hope of
finding him alive and unharmed. They searched now for his
body. And then the three women who lived with Miss Allen
began to inquire about the girl, and so the warning went out
that Miss Allen was lost; and they began looking for her

Miss Allen, along towards noon of that fourth day, found a
small stream of water that was fit to drink. Beside the
stream she found the footprints of a child, and they looked
quite fresh--as if they had been made that day. She whipped
up her flagging energy and went on hopefully.

It was a long while afterwards that she met him coming down a
canyon on his horse. It must have been past three o'clock,
and Miss Allen could scarcely drag herself along. When she
saw him she turned faint, and sat down heavily on the steep-
sloping bank.

The Kid rode up and stopped beside her. His face was terribly
dirty and streaked with the marks of tears he would never
acknowledge afterwards. He seemed to be all right, though,
and because of his ignorance of the danger he had been in he
did not seem to have suffered half as much as had Miss Allen.

"Howdy do," he greeted her, and smiled his adorable little
smile that was like the Little Doctor's. "Are you the lady up
on the hill? Do you know where the bunch is? I'm--lookin' for
the bunch."

Miss Allen found strength enough to stand up and put her arms
around him as he sat very straight in his little stock
saddle; she hugged him tight.

"You poor baby!" she cried, and her eyes were blurred with
tears. "You poor little lost baby!"

"I ain't a baby!" The Kid pulled himself free. "I'm six years
old goin' on thirty. I'm a rell ole cowpuncher. I can slap a
saddle on my string and ride like a son-a-gun. And I can put
the bridle on him my own self and everything. I--I was
lookin' for the bunch. I had to make a dry-camp and my
doughnuts is smashed up and the jelly glass broke but I never
cried when a skink came. I shooed him away and I never cried
once. I'm a rell ole cowpuncher, ain't I? I ain't afraid of
skinks. I frowed a rock at him and I said, git outa here, you
damn old skink or I'll knock your block off!' You oughter
seen him go! I--I sure made him hard to ketch, by cripes!"

Miss Allen stepped back and the twinkle came into her eyes
and the whimsical twist to her lips. She knew children. Not
for the world would she offend this manchild.

"Well, I should say you are a real old cowpuncher!" she
exclaimed admiringly. "Now I'm afraid of skinks. I never
would dare knock his block off! And last night when I was
lost and hungry and it got dark, I--cried!"

"Hunh!" The Kid studied her with a condescending pity. "Oh,
well--you're just a woman. Us fellers have to take care of
women. Daddy Chip takes care of Doctor Dell--I guess she'd
cry if she couldn't find the bunch and had to make dry-camp
and skinks come around--but I never."

"Of course you never!" Miss Allen agreed emphatically, trying
not to look conscious of any tear-marks on the Kid's
sunburned cheeks. "Women are regular cry babies, aren't they?
I suppose," she added guilefully: "I'd cry again if you rode
off to find the bunch an left me down here all alone. I've
lost my horse, an I've lost my lunch, and I've lost myself,
and I'm awful afraid of skunks--skinks."

"Oh, I'll take care of you," the Kid comforted. "I'll give
you a doughnut if you're hungry. I've got some left, but
you'll have to pick out the glass where the jelly broke on
it." He reined closer to the bank and slid off and began
untying the sadly depleted bag from behind the cantle. Miss
Allen offered to do it for him, and was beautifully snubbed.
The Kid may have been just a frightened, lost little boy
before he met her--but that was a secret hidden in the
silences of the deep canyons. Now he was a real old
cowpuncher, and he was going to take care of Miss Allen
because men always had to take care of women.

Miss Allen offended him deeply when she called him Claude.
She was told bluntly that he was Buck, and that he belonged
to the Flying U outfit, and was riding down here to help the
bunch gather some cattle. "But I can't find the brakes," he
admitted grudgingly. "That's where the bunch is--down in the
brakes; I can't seem to locate them brakes"

"Don't you think you ought to go home to your mother?" Miss
Allen asked him while he was struggling with the knot he had
tied in the bag.

"I've got to find the bunch. The bunch needs me," said the
Kid. "I--I guess Doctor Dell is s'prised--"

"Who's Doctor Dell? Your mother? Your mother has just about
cried herself sick, she's so lonesome without you."

The Kid looked at her wide-eyed. "Aw, gwan! he retorted after
a minute, imitating Happy Jack's disbelief of any unpleasant
news. "I guess you're jest loadin' me. Daddy Chip is takin'
care of her. He wouldn't let her be lonesome."

The Kid got the sack open and reached an arm in to the
shoulder . He groped there for a minute and drew out a
battered doughnut smeared liberally with wild currant jelly,
and gave it to Miss Allen with an air of princely generosity
and all the chivalry of all the Happy Family rolled into one
baby gesture. Miss Allen took the doughnut meekly and did not
spoil the Kid's pleasure by hugging him as she would have
liked to do. Instead she said: "Thank you, Buck of the Flying
U," quite humbly. Then something choked Miss Allen and she
turned her back upon him abruptly.

"I've got one, two, free, fourteen left," said the Kid,
counting them gravely. "If I had 'membered to bring matches,"
he added regretfully, "I could have a fire and toast rabbit
legs. I guess you got some glass, didn't you? I got some and
it cutted my tongue so the bleed came--but I never cried," he
made haste to deny stoutly. "I'm a rell ole cowpuncher now. I
just cussed." He looked at her gravely. "You can't cuss where
women can hear," he told Miss Allen reassuringly. "Bud

"Let me see the doughnuts," said miss Allen abruptly. "I
think you ought to let me keep the lunch. That's the woman's
part. Men can't bother with lunch--"

"It ain't lunch, it's grub," corrected the Kid. But he let
her have the bag, and Miss Allen looked inside. There were
some dried prunes that looked like lumps of dirty dough, and
six dilapidated doughnuts in a mess of jelly, and a small
glass jar of honey.

"I couldn't get the cover off," the Kid explained, "'theut I
busted it, and then it would all spill like the jelly. Gee I-
I wish I had a beefsteak under my belt!"

Miss Allen leaned over with her elbows on the bank and
laughed and laughed. Miss Allen was closer to hysterics than
she had ever been in her life. The Kid looked at her in
astonishment and turned to Silver, standing with drooping
head beside the bank. Miss Allen pulled herself together and
asked him what he was going to do.

"I'm going to LOCATE your horse," he said, "and then I'm
going to take you home." He looked at her disapprovingly. "I
don't like you so very much," he added. "It ain't p'lite to
laugh at a feller all the time."

"I won't laugh any more. I think we had better go home right
away," said Miss Allen contritely. "You see, Buck, the bunch
came home. They--they aren't hunting cattle now. They want to
find you and tell you. And your father and mother need you
awfully bad, Buck. They've been looking all over for you,
everywhere, and wishing you'd come home."

Buck looked wistfully up and down the canyon. His face at
that moment was not the face of a real old cowpuncher, but
the sweet, dirty, mother-hungry face of a child. "It's a far
ways," he said plaintively. "It's a million miles, I guess I
wanted to go home, but I couldn't des' 'zactly 'member--and I
thought I could find the bunch, and they'd know the trail
better. Do you know the trail?"

Miss Allen evaded that question and the Kid's wide, wistful
eyes. "I think if we start out, Buck, we can find it. We must
go toward the sun, now. That will be towards home. Shall I
put you on your horse?"

The Kid gave her a withering glance and squirmed up into the
saddle with the help of both horn and cantle and by the grace
of good luck. Miss Allen gasped while she watched him.

The Kid looked down at her triumphantly. He frowned a little
and flushed guiltily when he remembered something. "'Scuse
me," he said. "I guess you better ride my horse. I guess I
better walk. It ain't p'lite for ladies to walk and men

"No, no!" Miss Allen reached up with both hands and held the
Kid from dismounting. "I'll walk, Buck. I'd rather. I--why, I
wouldn't dare ride that horse of yours. I'd be afraid he
might buck me off." She pinched her eyebrows together and
pursed up her lips in a most convincing manner.

"Hunh!" Scorn of her cowardice was in his tone. "Well, a
course I ain't scared to ride him."

So with Miss Allen walking close to the Kid's stirrup and
trying her best to keep up and to be cheerful and to remember
that she must not treat him like a little, lost boy but like
a real old cowpuncher, they started up the canyon toward the
sun which hung low above a dark, pine-covered hill.


Andy Green came in from a twenty-hour ride through the Wolf
Butte country and learned that another disaster had followed
on the heels of the first; that miss Allen had been missing
for thirty-six hours. While he bolted what food was handiest
in the camp where old Patsy cooked for the searchers, and the
horse wrangler brought up the saddle-bunch just as though it
was a roundup that held here its headquarters, he heard all
that Slim and Cal Emmett could tell him about the
disappearance of Miss Allen.

One fact stood significantly in the foreground, and that was
that Pink and the Native Son had been the last to speak with
her, so far as anyone knew. That was it--so far as anyone
knew. Andy's lips tightened. There were many strangers riding
through the country, and where there are many strangers there
is also a certain element of danger. That Miss Allen was lost
was not the greatest fear that drove Andy Green forth without
sleep and with food enough to last him a day or two.

First he meant to hunt up Pink and Miguel--which was easy
enough, since they rode into camp exhausted and disheartened
while he was saddling a fresh horse. From them he learned the
direction which Miss Allen had taken when she left them, and
he rode that way and never stopped until he had gone down off
the benchland and had left the fringe of coulees and canyons
behind. Pink and the Native Son had just come from down in
here, and they had seen no sign of either her or the Kid.
Andy intended to begin where they had left off, and comb the
breaks as carefully as it is possible for one man to do. He
was beginning to think that the Badlands held the secret of
the Kid disappearance, even though they had seen nothing of
him when they came out four days ago. Had he seen Chip he
would have urged him to send all the searchers--and there
were two or three hundred by now--into the Badlands and keep
them there until the Kid was found. But he did not see Chip
and had no time to hunt him up. And having managed to evade
the supervision of any captain, and to keep clear of all
parties, he meant to go alone and see if he could find a
clue, at least.

It was down in the long canyon which Miss Allen had followed,
that Andy found hoof-prints which he recognized. The horse
Miss Allen had ridden whenever he saw her--one which she had
bought somewhere north of town--had one front foot which
turned in toward the other. "Pigeon-toed," he would have
called it. The track it left in soft soil was unmistakable.
Andy's face brightened when he saw it and knew that he was on
her trail. The rest of the way down the canyon he rode
alertly, for though he knew she might be miles from there by
now, to find the route she had taken into the Badlands was
something gained.

The flat, which Andy knew very well--having driven the bunch
of cattle whose footprints had so elated Miss Allen--he
crossed uneasily. There were so many outlets to this rich
little valley. He tried several of them, which took time; and
always when he came to soft earth and saw no track of the
hoof that turned in toward the other, he would go back and
ride into another gulch. And when you are told that these
were many, and that much of the ground was rocky, and some
was covered with a thick mat of grass, you will not be
surprised that when Andy finally took up her trail in the
canyon farthest to the right, it was well towards noon. He
followed her easily enough until he came to the next valley,
which he examined over and over before he found where she had
left it to push deeper into the Badlands. And it was the same
experience repeated when he came out of that gulch into
another open space.

He came into a network of gorges that would puzzle almost
anyone, and stopped to water his horse and let him feed for
an hour or so. A man's horse meant a good deal to him, down
here on such a mission, and even his anxiety could not betray
him into letting his mount become too fagged.

After a while he mounted and rode on without having any clue
to follow; one must trust to chance, to a certain extent, in
a place like this. He had not seen any sign of the Kid,
either, and the gorges were filling with shadows that told
How low the sun was sliding down the sky. At that time he was
not more than a mile or so from the canyon up which Miss
Allen was toiling afoot toward the sun; but Andy had no means
of knowing that. He went on with drooping head and eyes that
stared achingly here and there. That was the worst of his
discomfort--his eyes. Lack of sleep and the strain of
looking, looking, against wind and sun, had made them red-
rimmed and bloodshot. Miss Allen's eyes were like that, and
so were the eyes of all the searchers.

In spite of himself Andy's eyes closed now. He had not slept
for two nights, and he had been riding all that time. Before
he realized it he was asleep in the saddle, and his horse was
carrying him into a gulch that had no outlet--there were so
many such!--but came up against a hill and stopped there. The
shadows deepened, and the sky above was red and gold.

Andy woke with a jerk, his horse having stopped because he
could go no farther. But it was not that which woke him. He
listened. He would have sworn that he had heard the shrill,
anxious whinney of a horse not far away. He turned and
examined the gulch, but it was narrow and grassy and had no
possible place of concealment, and save himself and his own
horse it was empty. And it was not his own horse that
whinnied--he was sure of that. Also, he was sure that he had
-not dreamed it. A horse had called insistently. Andy knew
horses too well not to know that there was anxiety and
rebellion in that call.

He waited a minute, his heart beating heavily. He turned and
started back down the gulch, and then stopped suddenly. He
heard it again--shrill, prolonged, a call from somewhere;
where, he could not determine because of the piled masses of
earth and rock that flung the sound riotously here and there
and confused him as to direction.

Then his own horse turned his head and looked toward the
left, and answered the call. From far off the strange horse
made shrill reply. Andy got down and began climbing the left-
hand ridge on the run, tired as he was. Not many horses
ranged down in here--and he did not believe, anyway, that
this was any range horse. It did not sound like Silver, but
it might be the pigeon-toed horse of Miss Allen. And if it
was, then Miss Allen would be there. He took a deep breath
and went up the last steep pitch in a spurt of speed that
surprised himself.

At the top he stood panting and searched the canyon below
him. Just across the canyon was the high peak which Miss
Allen had climbed afoot. But down below him he saw her horse
circling about in a trampled place under a young cottonwood.

You would never accuse Andy Green of being weak, or of having
unsteady nerves, I hope.

But it is the truth that he felt his knees give way while he
looked; and it was a minute or two before he had any voice
with which to call to her. Then he shouted, and the great
hill opposite flung back the echoes maddeningly.

He started running down the ridge, and brought up in the
canyon's bottom near the horse. It was growing shadowy now to
the top of the lower ridges, although the sun shone faintly
on the crest of the peak. The horse whinnied and circled
restively when Andy came near. Andy needed no more than a
glance to tell him that the horse had stood tied there for
twenty-four hours, at the very least. That meant. . . .

Andy turned pale. He shouted, and the canyon mocked him with
echoes. He looked for her tracks. At the base of the peak he
saw the print of her riding boots; farther along, up the
slope he saw the track again. Miss Allen, then, must have
climbed the peak, and he knew why she had done so. But why
had she not come down again?

There was only one way to find out, and he took the method in
the face of his weariness. He climbed the peak also, with now
and then a footprint to guide him. He was not one of these
geniuses at trailing who could tell, by a mere footprint,
what had been in Miss Allen's mind when she had passed that
way; but for all that it seemed logical that she had gone up
there to see if she could not glimpse the kid--or possibly
the way home.

At the top he did not loiter. He saw, before he reached the
height, where Miss Allen had come down again--and he saw
where she had, to avoid a clump of boulders and a broken
ledge, gone too far to one side. He followed that way. She
had descended at an angle, after that, which took her away
from the canyon.

In Montana there is more of daylight after the sun has gone
than there is in some other places. Andy, by hurrying,
managed to trail Miss Allen to the bottom of the peak before
it grew really dusky. He knew that she had been completely
lost when she reached the bottom, and had probably wandered
about at random since then. At any rate, there were no tracks
anywhere save her own, so that he felt less anxiety over her
safety than, when he had started out looking for her.

Andy knew these breaks pretty well. He went over a rocky
ridge, which Miss Allen had not tried to cross because to her
it seemed exactly in the opposite direction from where she
had started, and so he came to her horse again. He untied the
poor beast and searched for a possible trail over the ridge
to where his own horse waited; and by the time he had found
one and had forced the horse to climb to the top and then
descend into the gulch, the darkness lay heavy upon the

He picketed Miss Allen's horse with his rope', and fashioned
a hobble for his own mount. Then he ate a little of the food
he carried and sat down to rest and smoke and consider how
best he could find Miss Allen or the Kid--or both. He
believed Miss Allen to be somewhere not far away--since she
was afoot, and had left her lunch tied to the saddle. She
could not travel far without food.

After a little he climbed back up the ridge to where he had
noticed a patch of brush, and there he started a fire. Not a
very large one, but large enough to be seen for a long
distance where the vision was not blocked by intervening
hills. Then he sat down beside it and waited and listened and
tended the fire. It was all that he could do for the present,
and it seemed pitifully little. If she saw the fire, he
believed that she would come; if she did not see it, there
was no hope of his finding her in the dark. Had there been
fuel on the high peak, he might have gone up there to start
his fire; but that was out of the question, since the peak
was barren.

Heavy-eyed, tired in every fibre of his being, Andy dragged
up a dead buck-bush and laid the butt of it across his blaze.
Then he lay down near it--and went to sleep as quickly as if
he had been chloroformed.

It may have been an hour after that--it may have been more.
He sat up suddenly and listened. Through the stupor of his
sleep he had heard Miss Allen call. At least, he believed he
had heard her call, though he knew he might easily have
dreamed it. He knew he had been asleep, because the fire had
eaten part of the way to the branches of the bush and had
died down to smoking embers. He kicked the branch upon the
coals and a blaze shot up into the night. He stood up and
walked a little distance away from the fire so that he could
see better, and stood staring down into the canyon.

From below he heard a faint call--he was sure of it. The
wonder to him was that he had heard it at all in his sleep.
His anxiety must have been strong enough even then to send
the signal to his brain and rouse him.

He shouted, and again he heard a faint call. It seemed to be
far down the canyon. He started running that way.

The next time he shouted, she answered him more clearly. And
farther along he distinctly heard and recognized her voice.
You may be sure he ran, after that!

After all, it was not so very far, to a man who is running
recklessly down hill. Before he realized how close he was he
saw her standing before him in the starlight. Andy did not
stop. He kept right on running until he could catch her in
his arms; and when he had her there he held her close and
then he kissed her. That was not proper, of course--but a man
does sometimes do terribly improper things under the stress
of big emotions; Andy had been haunted by the fear that she
was dead.

Well, Miss Allen was just as improper as he was, for that
matter. She did say "Oh!" in a breathless kind of way, and
then she must have known who he was. There surely could be no
other excuse for the way she clung to him and without the
faintest resistance let him kiss her.

"Oh, I've found him!" she whispered after the first terribly
unconventional greetings were over. "I've found him, Mr.
Green. I couldn't come up to the fire, because he's asleep
and I couldn't carry him, and I wouldn't wake him unless I
had to. He's just down here--I was afraid to go very far, for
fear of losing him again. Oh, Mr. Green! I--"

"My name is Andy," he told her. "What's your name?"

"Mine? It's--well, it's Rosemary. Never mind now. I should
think you'd be just wild to see that poor little fellow--he's
a brick, though."

"I've been wild," said Andy, "over a good many things--you,
for one. Where's the Kid?"

They went together, hand in hand--terribly silly, wasn't
it?--to where the Kid lay wrapped in the gray blanket in the
shelter of a bank. Andy struck a match and held it so that he
could see the Kid face--and Miss Allen, looking at the man
whose wooing had been so abrupt, saw his mouth tremble and
his lashes glisten as he stared down while the match-blaze

"Poor little tad--he's sure a great Kid," he said huskily
when the match went out. He stood up and put his arm around
Miss Allen just as though that was his habit. "And it was you
that found him!" he murmured with his face against hers. "And
I've found you both, thank God."


I don't suppose anything can equal the aplomb of a child that
has always had his own way and has developed normally. The
Kid, for instance, had been wandering in the wild places--
this was the morning of the sixth day. The whole of Northern
Montana waited anxiously for news of him. The ranch had been
turned into a rendezvous for searchers. Men rode as long as
they could sit in the saddle. Women were hysterical in the
affection they lavished upon their own young. And yet, the
Kid himself opened his eyes to the sun and his mind was
untroubled save where his immediate needs were concerned. He
sat up thinking of breakfast, and he spied Andy Green humped
on his knees over a heap of camp-fire coals, toasting rabbit-
hams--the joy of it--on a forked stick. Opposite him Miss
Allen crouched and held another rabbit-leg on a forked stick.
The Kid sat up as if a spring had been suddenly released, and
threw off the gray blanket

"Say, I want to do that too!" he cried. "Get me a stick,
Andy, so I can do it. I never did and I want to!"

Andy grabbed him as he came up and kissed him--and the Kid
wondered at the tremble of Andy's arms. He wondered also at
the unusual caress; but it was very nice to have Andy's arms
around him and Andy's cheek against his, and of a sudden the
baby of him came to the surface.

"I want my Daddy Chip!" he whimpered, and laid his head down
on Andy's shoulder . "And I want my Doctor Dell and my--cat!
She's lonesome for me. And I forgot to take the string off
her tail and maybe it ain't comfortable any more!"

"We're going to hit the trail, old-timer, just as soon as we
get outside of a little grub." Andy's voice was so tender
that Miss Allen gulped back a sob of sympathy. "You take this
stick and finish roasting the meat, and then see what you
think of rabbit-hams. I hear you've been a real old
cowpuncher, Buck. The way you took care of Miss Allen proves
you're the goods, all right. Not quite so close, or you'll
burn it, Buck. That's better. I'll go get another stick and
roast the back."

The Kid, squatting on his heels by the fire, watched gravely
the rabbit-leg on the two prongs of the willow stick he held.
He glanced across at Miss Allen and smiled his Little Doctor

"He's my pal," he announced. "I bet if I stayed we could round
up all them cattle our own selves. And I bet he can find your
horse, too. He--he's 'customed to this country. I'd a found
your horse today, all right--but I guess Andy could find him
quicker. Us punchers'll take care of you, all right." The
rabbit-leg sagged to the coals and began to scorch, and the
Kid lifted it startled and was grateful when Miss Allen did
not seem to have seen the accident.

"I'd a killed a rabbit for you," he explained, "only I didn't
have no gun or no matches so I couldn't. When I'm ten my
Daddy Chip is going to give me a gun. And then if you get
lost I can take care of you like Andy can. I'll be ten next
week, I guess." He turned as Andy came back slicing off the
branches of a willow the size of his thumb.

"Say, old-timer, where's the rest of the bunch?" he inquired
casually. "Did you git your cattle rounded up?"

"Not yet." Andy sharpened the prongs of his stick and
carefully impaled the back of the rabbit.

"Well, I'll help you out. But I guess I better go home
first--I guess Doctor Dell might need me, maybe."

"I know she does, Buck." Andy's voice had a peculiar, shaky
sound that the Kid did not understand. "She needs you right
bad. We'll hit the high places right away quick."

Since Andy had gone at daybreak and brought the horses over
into this canyon, his statement was a literal one. They ate
hurriedly and started--and Miss Allen insisted that Andy was
all turned around, and that they were going in exactly the
wrong direction, and blushed and was silent when Andy,
turning his face full toward her, made a kissing motion with
his lips.

"You quit that!" the Kid commanded him sharply. "She's my
girl I guess I found her first 'fore you did, and you ain't
goin' to kiss her."

After that there was no lovemaking but the most decorous
conversation between these two.

Flying U Coulee lay deserted under the warm sunlight of early
forenoon. Deserted, and silent with the silence that tells
where Death has stopped with his sickle. Even the Kid seemed
to feel a strangeness in the atmosphere--a stillness that
made his face sober while he looked around the little pasture
and up at the hill trail. In all the way home they had not
met anyone--but that may have been because Andy chose the
way up Flying U Creek as being shorter and therefore more

At the lower line fence of the little pasture Andy refused to
believe the Kid's assertion of having opened and shut the
gate, until the Kid got down and proved that he could open
it--the shutting process being too slow for Andy's raw
nerves. He lifted the Kid into the saddle and shut the gate
himself, and led the way up the creek at a fast trot.

"I guess Doctor Dell will be glad to see me," the Kid
observed wistfully. "I've been gone most a year, I guess."

Neither Andy nor Miss Allen made any reply to this. Their
eyes were searching the hilltop for riders, that they might
signal. But there was no one in sight anywhere.

"Hadn't you better shout?" suggested Miss Allen. "Or would it
be better to go quietly--"

Andy did not reply; nor did he shout. Andy, at that moment,
was fighting a dryness in his throat. He could not have
called out if he had wanted to. They rode to the stable and
stopped. Andy lifted the Kid down and set him on his two feet
by the stable door while he turned to Miss Allen. For once in
his life he was at a loss. He did not know how best to bring
the Kid to the Little Doctor; How best to lighten the shock
of seeing safe and well the manchild who she thought was
dead. He hesitated. Perhaps he should have ridden on to the
house with him. Perhaps he should have fired the signal when
first he came into the coulee. Perhaps. . .

The Kid himself swept aside Andy's uncertainties. Adeline,
the cat, came out of the stable and looked at them
contemplatively. Adeline still had the string tied to her
tail, and a wisp of paper tied to the string. The Kid pounced
and caught her by the middle.

"I guess I can tie knots so they stay, by cripes!" he shouted
vaingloriously. "I guess Happy Jack can't tie strings any
better 'n me, can he? Nice kitty--c'm back here, you son-a-

Adeline had not worried over the absence of the Kid, but his
hilarious arrival seemed to worry her considerably. She went
bounding up the path to the house, and after her went the
Kid, yelling epithets which were a bit shocking for one of
his age.

So he came to the porch just when Chip and the Little Doctor
reached it, white-faced and trembling. Adeline paused to
squeeze under the steps, and the Kid catching her by the
tail, dragged her back yowling. While his astounded parents
watched him unbelievingly, the Kid gripped Adeline firmly and
started up the steps.

"I ketched the son-a-gun!" he cried jubilantly.

"Say, I seen a skink, Daddy Chip, and I frowed a rock and
knocked his block off 'cause he was going to swipe my grub.
Was you s'prised, Doctor Dell?"

Doctor Dell did not say. Doctor Dell was kneeling on the
porch floor with the Kid held closer in her arms than ever he
held the cat, and she was crying and laughing and kissing him
all at once--though nobody except a mother can perform that


It is amazing how quickly life swings back to the normal
after even so harrowing an experience as had come to the
Flying U. Tragedy had hovered there a while and had turned
away with a smile, and the smile was reflected upon the faces
and in the eyes of everyone upon whose souls had fallen her
shadow. The Kid was safe, and he was well, and he had not
suffered from the experience; on the contrary he spent most
of his waking hours in recounting his adventures to an
admiring audience. He was a real old cowpuncher. He had gone
into the wilderness and he had proven the stuff that was in
him. He had made "dry-camp" just exactly as well as any of
the Happy Family could have done. He had slept out under the
stars rolled in a blanket--and do you think for one minute
that he would ever submit to lace-trimmed nighties again? If
you do, ask the little Doctor what the Kid said on the first
night after his return, when she essayed to robe him in
spotless white and rock him, held tight in her starved arms.
Or you might ask his Daddy Chip, who hovered pretty close to
them both, his eyes betraying how his soul gave thanks. Or--
never mind, I'll tell you myself.

The Little Doctor brought the nightie, and reached out her
two eager arms to take the kid off Chip's knees where he was
perched contentedly relating his adventures with sundry hair-
raising additions born of his imagination. The Kid was
telling Daddy Chip about the skunk he saw, and he hated to be
interrupted. He looked at his Doctor Dell and at the
familiar, white garment with lace at the neck and wristbands,
and he waved his hand with a gesture of dismissal.

"Aw, take that damn' thing away!" he told her in the tone of
the real old cowpuncher. "When I get ready to hit the bed-
ground, a blanket is all I'll need."

Lest you should think him less lovable than he really was, I
must add that, when Chip set him down hastily so that he
himself could rush off somewhere and laugh in secret, the Kid
spread his arms with a little chuckle and rushed straight at
his Doctor Dell and gave her a real bear hug.

"I want to be rocked," he told her--and was her own baby man
again, except that he absolutely refused to reconsider the
nightgown. "And I want you to tell me a story--about when
Silver breaked his leg. Silver's a good ole scout, you bet. I
don't know what I'd a done 'theut Silver. And tell about the
bunch makin' a man outa straw to scare you, and the horses
runned away. I was such a far ways, Doctor Dell, and I
couldn't get back to hear them stories and I've most forgot
about 'em. And tell about Whizzer, Doctor Dell."

The Little Doctor rocked him and told him of the old days,
and she never again brought him his lace-trimmed nightie at
bedtime. She never mentioned his language upon the subject,
either. The Little Doctor was learning some things about her
man-child, and one of them was this: When he rode away into
the Badlands and was lost, other things were lost, and lost
permanently; he was no longer her baby, for all he liked to
be rocked. He had come back to her changed, so that she
studied him amazedly while she worshipped. He had entered
boldly into the life which men live, and he would never come
back entirely to the old order of things. He would never be
her baby; there would be a difference, even while she held
him in her arms and him rocked him to sleep.

She knew that it was so, when the Kid insisted, next day,
upon going home with the bunch; with Andy, rather, who was
just now the Kid's particular hero. He had to help the bunch
he said; they needed him, and Andy needed him and Miss Allen
needed him.

"Aw, you needn't be scared, Doctor Dell," he told her
shrewdly. "I ain't going to find them brakes any more. I'll
stick with the bunch, cross my heart. and I'll come back
tonight if you're scared 'theut me. Honest to gran'ma, I've
got to go and help the bunch lick the stuffen' outa them
nesters, Doctor Dell."

The Little Doctor looked at him strangely, hugged him tight--
and let him go. Chip would be with them, and he would bring
the Kid home safely, and--the limitations of dooryard play no
longer sufficed; her fledgling had found what his wings were
for, and the nest was too little, now.

"We'll take care of him," Andy promised her understandingly.
"If Chip don't come up, this afternoon, I'll bring him home
myself. Don't you worry a minute about him."

"I'd tell a man she needn't!" added the Kid patronizingly.

"I suppose he's a lot safer with you boys than he is here at
the ranch--unless one of us stood over him all the time, or
we tied him up," she told Andy gamely. "I feel like a hen
trying to raise a duck! Go on, Buck--but give mother a kiss

The Kid kissed her violently and with a haste that betrayed
where his thoughts were, in spite of the fact that never
before had his mother called him Buck.

To her it was a supreme surrender of his babyhood--to him it
was merely his due. The Little Doctor sighed and watched him
ride away beside Andy. "Children are such self-centred little
beasts!" she told J. G. rue-fully. "I almost wish he was a

"Ay? If he was a girl he wouldn't git lost, maybe, but some
feller'd take him away from yuh just the same. The Kid's all
right. He's just the kind you expect him to be and want him
to be. You're tickled to death because he's like he is.
Doggone it, Dell, that Kid's got the real stuff in him! He's
a dead ringer fer his dad--that ought to do yuh."

"It does," the Little Doctor declared. "But it does seem as
if he might be contented here with me for a little while--
after such a horrible time--"

"It wasn't horrible to him, yuh want to recollect. Doggone
it, I wish that Blake would come back. You write to him,
Dell, and tell him how things is stacking up. He oughta be
here on the ground. No tellin' what them nesters'll build up

So the Old Man slipped back into the old channels of worry
and thought, just as life itself slips back after a stressful
period. The little Doctor sighed again and sat down to write
the letter and to discuss with the Old Man what she should

There was a good deal to say. For one thing, more contests
had been filed and more shacks built upon claims belonging to
the Happy Family. She must tell Blake that. Also, Blake must
help make some arrangement whereby the Happy Family could
hire an outfit to gather their stock and the alien stock
which they meant to drive back out of the Badlands. And there
was Irish, who had quietly taken to the hills again as soon
as the Kid returned. Blake was needed to look into that
particular bit of trouble and try and discover just how
serious it was. The man whom Irish had floored with a chair
was apparently hovering close to death--and there were these
who emphasized the adverb and asserted that the hurt was only
apparent, but could prove nothing.

"And you tell 'im," directed the Old Man querulously, "that
I'll stand good for his time while he's lookin' after things
for the boys. And tell 'im if he's so doggoned scared I'll
buy into the game, he needn't to show up here at the ranch at
all; tell him to stay in Dry Lake if he wants to--serve him
right to stop at that hotel fer a while. But tell him for the
Lord's sake git a move on. The way it looks to me, things is
piling up on them boys till they can't hardly see over the
top, and something's got to be done. Tell 'im--here! Give me
a sheet of paper and a pencil and I'll tell him a few things
myself. Chances are you'd smooth 'em out too much, gitting
'em on paper. And the things I've got to say to Blake don't
want any smoothing."

The things he wrote painfully with his rheumatic hand were
not smoothed for politeness' sake, and it made the Old Man
feel better to get them off his mind. He read the letter over
three times, and lingered over the most scathing sentences
relishfully. He sent one of his new men to town for the
express purpose of mailing that letter, and he felt a glow of
satisfaction at actually speaking his mind upon the subject.

Perhaps it was just as well he did not know that Blake was in
Dry Lake when the letter reached his office in Helena, and
that it was forwarded to the place whence it had started.
Blake was already "getting a move on," and he needed no such
spur as the Old Man's letter. But the letter did the Old Man
a lot of good, so that it served its purpose.

Blake had no intention of handling the case from the Flying U
porch, for instance. He had laid his plans quite
independently of the Flying U outfit. He had no intention of
letting Irish be arrested upon a trumped up charge, and he
managed to send a word of warning to that hot-headed young
man not to put himself in the way of any groping arm of the
law; it was so much simpler than arrest and preliminary trial
and bail, and all that. He had sent word to Weary to come and
see him, before ever he received the Old Man's letter, and he
had placed at Weary's disposal what funds would be needed for
the immediate plans of the Happy Family. He had attended in
person to the hauling of the fence material to their boundary
line on the day he arrived and discovered by sheer accident
that the stuff was still in the warehouse of the general

After he did all that, the Honorable Blake received the Old
Man's letter, read it through slowly and afterwards stroked
down his Vandyke beard and laughed quietly to himself. The
letter itself was both peremptory and profane, and commanded
the Honorable Blake to do exactly what he had already done,
and what he intended to do when the time came for the doing.


Florence Grace Hallman must not be counted a woman without
principle or kindness of heart or these qualities which make
women beloved of men. She was a pretty nice young woman,
unless one roused her antagonism. Had Andy Green, for
instance, accepted in good faith her offer of a position with
the Syndicate, he would have found her generous and humorous
and loyal and kind. He would probably have fallen in love
with her before the summer was over, and he would never have
discovered in her nature that hardness and that ability for
spiteful scheming which came to the surface and made the
whole Happy Family look upon her as an enemy.

Florence Grace Hillman was intensely human, as well as
intensely loyal to her firm. She had liked Andy Green better
than anyone--herself included--realized. It was not
altogether her vanity that was hurt when she discovered how
he had worked against her--how little her personality had
counted with him. She felt chagrined and humiliated and as
though nothing save the complete subjugation of Andy Green
and the complete thwarting of his plans could ease her own

Deep in her heart she hoped that he would eventually want her
to forgive him his treachery. She would give him a good, hard
fight--she would show him that she was mistress of the
situation. She would force him to respect her as a foe; after
that--Andy Green was human, certainly. She trusted to her
feminine intuition to say just what should transpire after
the fight; trusted to her feminine charm also to bring her
whatever she might desire.

That was the personal side of the situation. There was also
the professional side, which urged her to do battle for the
interests of her firm. And since both the personal and the
professional aspects of the case pointed to the same general
goal, it may be assumed that Florence Grace was prepared to
make a stiff fight.

Then Andy Green proceeded to fall in love with that sharp-
tongued Rosemary Allen; and Rosemary Allen had no better
taste than to let herself be lost and finally found by Andy,
and had the nerve to show very plainly that she not only
approved of his love but returned it. After that, Florence
Grace was in a condition to stop at nothing--short of
murder--that would defeat the Happy Family in their latest

While all the Bear Paw country was stirred up over the lost
child, Florence Grace Hillman said it was too bad, and had
they found him yet? and went right along planting contestants
upon the claims of the Happy Family. She encouraged the
building of claim-shacks and urged firmness in holding
possession of them. She visited the man whom Irish had
knocked down with a bottle of whisky, and she had a long talk
with him and with the doctor who attended him. She saw to it
that the contest notices were served promptly upon the Happy
Family, and she hurried in shipments of stock. Oh, she was
very busy indeed, during the week that was spent in hunting
the Kid. When he was found, and the rumor of an engagement
between Rosemary Allen and that treacherous Andy Green
reached her, she was busier still; but since she had changed
her methods and was careful to mask her real purpose behind
an air of passive resentment, her industry became less

The Happy Family did not pay much attention to Florence Grace
Hallman and her studied opposition. They were pretty busy
attending to their own affairs; Andy Green was not only busy
but very much in love, so that he almost forgot the existence
of Florence Grace except on the rare occasions when he met
her riding over the prairie trails.

First of all they rounded up the stock that had been
scattered, and they did not stop when they crossed Antelope
Coulee with the settlers' cattle. They bedded them there
until after dark. Then they drove them on to the valley of
Dry Lake, crossed that valley on the train traveled road and
pushed the herd up on Lonesome Prairie and out as far upon
the benchland as they had time to drive them.

They did not make much effort toward keeping it a secret.
Indeed Weary told three or four of the most indignant
settlers, next day, where they would find their cattle. But
he added that the feed was pretty good back there, and
advised them to leave the stock out there for the present.

"It isn't going to do you fellows any good to rear up on your
hind legs and make a holler," he said calmly. "We haven't
hurt your cattle. We don't want to have trouble with anybody.
But we're pretty sure to have a fine, large row with our
neighbors if they don't keep on their own side the fence."

That fence was growing to be more than a mere figure of
speech The Happy Family did not love the digging of post-
holes and the stretching of barbed wire; on the contrary they
hated it so deeply that you could not get a civil word out of
one of them while the work went on; yet they put in long
hours at the fence-building.

They had to take the work in shifts on account of having
their own cattle to watch day and night. Sometimes it
happened that a man tamped posts or helped stretch wire all
day, and then stood guard two or three hours on the herd at
night; which was wearing on the temper. Sometimes, because
they were tired, they quarreled over small things.

New shipments of cattle, too, kept coming to Dry Lake.
Invariably these would be driven out towards Antelope
Coulee--farther if the drivers could manage it--and would
have to be driven back again with what patience the Happy
Family could muster. No one helped them among the settlers.
There was every attitude among the claim-dwellers, from open
opposition to latent antagonism. None were quite neutral--and
yet the Happy Family did not bother any save these who had
filed contests to their claims, or who took active part in
the cattle driving.

The Happy Family were not half as brutal as they might have
been. In spite of their no-trespassing signs they permitted
settlers to drive across their claims with wagons and water-
barrels, to haul water from One Man Creek when the springs
and the creek in Antelope Coulee went dry.

They did not attempt to move the shacks of the later
contestants off their claims. Though they hated the sight of
them and of the owners who bore themselves with such
provocative assurance, they grudged the time the moving would
take. Besides that the Honorable Blake had told them that
moving the shacks would accomplish no real, permanent good.
Within thirty days they must appear before the register and
receiver and file answer to the contest, and he assured them
that forbearance upon their part would serve to strengthen
their case with the Commissioner.

It goes to prove how deeply in earnest they were, that they
immediately began to practice assiduously the virtues of
mildness and forbearance. They could, he told them, postpone
the filing of their answers until close to the end of the
thirty days; which would serve also to delay the date of
actual trial of the contests, and give the Happy Family more
time for their work.

Their plans had enlarged somewhat. They talked now of fencing
the whole tract on all four sides, and of building a dam
across the mouth of a certain coulee in the foothills which
drained several miles of rough country, thereby converting
the coulee into a reservoir that would furnish water for
their desert claims. It would take work, of course; but the
Happy Family; were beginning to see prosperity on the trail
ahead and nothing in the shape of hard work could stop them
from coming to hang-grips with fortune.

Chip helped them all he could, but he had the Flying U to
look after, and that without the good team-work of the Happy
Family which had kept things moving along so smoothly. The
team-work now was being used in a different game; a losing
game, one would say at first glance.

So far the summer had been favorable to dry-farming. The more
enterprising of the settlers had some grain and planted
potatoes upon freshly broken soil, and these were growing
apace. They did not know about these scorching August winds,
that might shrivel crops in a day. They did not realize that
early frosts might kill what the hot winds spared. They
became enthusiastic over dry-farming, and their resentment
toward the Happy family increased as their enthusiasm waxed
strong. The Happy Family complained to one another that you
couldn't pry a nester loose from his claim with a crowbar.

In this manner did civilization march out and take possession
of the high prairies that lay close to the Flying U. They had
a Sunday School organized, with the meetings held in a double
shack near the trail to Dry Lake. The Happy family, riding
that way, sometimes heard voices mingled in the shrill
singing of some hymn where, a year before, they had listened
to the hunting song of the coyote.

Eighty acres to the man--with that climate and that soil they
never could make it pay; with that soil especially since it
was mostly barren. The Happy Family knew it, and could find
it in their hearts to pity the men who were putting in
dollars and time and hard work there. But for obvious reasons
they did not put their pity into speech.

They fenced their west line in record time. There was only
one gate in the whole length of it, and that was on the trail
to Dry Lake. Not content with trusting to the warning of four
strands of barbed wire stretched so tight that they hummed to
the touch, they took turns in watching it--"riding fence," in
range parlance--and in watching the settlers' cattle.

To H. J. Owens and his fellow contestants they paid not the
slightest attention, because the Honorable Blake had urged
them personally to ignore any and all claimants. To Florence
Grace Hallman they gave no heed, believing that she had done
her worst, and that her worst was after all pretty weak,
since the contests she had caused to be filed could not
possibly be approved by the government so long as the Happy
Family continued to abide by every law and by-law and
condition and requirement in their present through-going and
exemplary manner.

You should have seen how mild-mannered and how industrious
the Happy Family were, during these three weeks which
followed the excitement of the Kid's adventuring into the
wild. You would have been astonished, and you would have made
the mistake of thinking that they had changed permanently and
might be expected now to settle down with wives and raise
families and hay and cattle and potatoes, and grow beards,
perhaps, and become well-to-do ranchers.

The Happy Family were almost convinced that they were
actually leaving excitement behind them for good and all.
They might hold back the encroaching tide of immigration from
the rough land along the river--that sounded like something
exciting, to be sure. But they must hold back the tide with
legal proceedings and by pastoral pursuits, and that promised
little in the way of brisk, decisive action and strong nerves
and all these qualities which set the Happy Family somewhat
apart from their fellows.


Miss Rosemary Allen rode down into One Man Coulee and boldly
up to the cabin of Andy Green, and shouted musically for him
to come forth. Andy made a hasty pass at his hair with a
brush, jerked his tie straight and came out eagerly. There
was no hesitation in his manner. He went straight up to her
and reached up to pull her from the saddle, that he might
hold her in his arms and kiss her--after the manner of bold
young men who are very much in love. But Miss Rosemary Allen
stopped him with a push that was not altogether playful, and
scowled at him viciously.

"I am in a most furious mood today," she said. "I want to
scratch somebody's eyes out! I want to say WORDS. Don't come
close, or I might pull your hair or something, James." She
called him James because that was not his name, and because
she had learned a good deal about his past misdeeds and liked
to take a sly whack at his notorious tendency to forget the
truth, by calling him Truthful James.

"All right; that suits me fine. It's worth a lot to have you
close enough to pull hair. Where have you been all this long
while?" Being a bold young man and very much in love, he
kissed her in spite of her professed viciousness.

"Oh, I've been to town--it hasn't been more than three days
since we met and had that terrible quarrel James. What was it
about?" She frowned down at him thoughtfully. "I'm still
furious about it--whatever it is. Do you know, Mr. Man, that
I am an outlaw amongst my neighbors, and that our happy
little household, up there on the hill, is a house divided
against itself? I've put up a green burlap curtain on my
southwest corner, and bought me a smelly oil stove and I
pos-i-tively refuse to look at my neighbors or speak to them.
I'm going to get some lumber and board up that side of my

"Those three cats--they get together on the other side of my
curtain and say the meanest things!"

Andy Green had the temerity to laugh. "That sounds good to
me," he told her unsympathetically. "Now maybe you'll come
down and keep house for me and let that pinnacle go to
thunder. It's no good anyway, and I told you so long ago.
That whole eighty acres of yours wouldn't support a family of
jackrabbits month. What--"

"And let those old hens say they drove me off? That Kate
Price is the limit. The things she said to me you wouldn't
believe. And it all started over my going with little Buck a
few times to ride along your fence when you boys were busy. I
consider that I had a perfect right to ride where I pleased.
Of course they're furious anyway, because I don't side
against you boys and--and all that. When--when they found out
about--you and me, James, they said some pretty sarcastic
things, but I didn't pay any attention to that. Poor old
freaks, I expected them to be jealous, because nobody ever
pays any attention to THEM. Kate Price is the worst--she's an
old maid. The others have had husbands and can act superior.

"Well, I didn't mind the things they said then; I took that
for granted. But a week or so ago Florence Hallman came, and
she did stir things up in great style! Since then the girls
have hardly spoken to me except to say something insulting.
And Florence Grace came right out and called me a traitor;
that was before little Buck and I took to 'riding fence' as
you call it, for you boys. You imagine what they've been
saying since then!"

"Well, what do you care? You don't have to stay with them,
and you know it. I'm just waiting--"

"Well, but I'm no quitter, James. I'm going to hold down that
claim now if I have to wear a sixshooter!" Her eyes twinkled
at that idea. "Besides, I can stir them up now and then and
get them to say things that are useful. For instance,
Florence Hallman told Kate Price about that last trainload of
cattle coming, and that they were going to cut your fence and
drive them through in the night--and I stirred dear little
Katie up so she couldn't keep still about that. And
therefore--" She reached out and gave Andy Green's ear a
small tweek--"somebody found out about it, and a lot of
somebodys happened around that way and just quietly managed
to give folks a hint that there was fine grass somewhere
else. That saved a lot of horseflesh and words and work,
didn't it?"

"It sure did." Andy smiled up at her worshipfully. "Just the

"But listen here, nice, level-headed Katiegirl has lost her
temper since then, and let out a little more that is useful
knowledge to somebody. There's one great weak point in the
character of Florence Hallman; maybe you have noticed it.
She's just simply GOT to have somebody to tell things to, and
she doesn't always show the best judgment in her choice of a

"I've noticed that before," Andy Green admitted, and smiled
reminiscently. "She sure does talk too much--for a lady that
has so much up her sleeve."

"Yes--and she's been making a chum of Katie Price since she
discovered what an untrustworthy creature I am. I did a
little favor for Irish Mallory, James. I overheard Florence
Grace talking to Kate about that man who is supposed to be at
death's door. So I made a trip to Great Falls, if you please,
and I scouted around and located the gentleman--well, anyway,
I gave that nice, sleek little lawyer of yours a few facts
that will let Irish come back to his claim."

"Irish has been coming back to his claim pretty regular as it
is," Andy informed her quietly. "Did you think he was hiding
out, all this time? Why"--he laughed at her--"you talked to
him yourself, one day, and thought it was Weary. Remember
when you came over with the mail? That was Irish helping me
string wire. He's been wearing Weary's hat and clothes and
cultivating a twinkle to his eyes--that's all"

"Why, I--well, anyway, that man they've been making a fuss
over is just as well as you are, James. They only wanted to
get Irish in jail and make a little trouble--pretty cheap
warfare at that, if you want my opinion."

"Oh, well--what's the odds? While they're wasting time and
energy that way, we're going right along doing what we've
laid out to do. Say, do you know I'm kinda getting stuck on
this ranch proposition. If I just had a housekeeper--"

Miss Rosemary Allen seldom let him get beyond that point, and
she interrupted him now by wrinkling her nose at him in a
manner that made Andy Green forget altogether that he had
begun a sentence upon a subject forbidden. Later she went
back to her worries; she was a very persistent young woman.

"I hope you boys are going to attend to that contest business
right away," she said, with a pucker between her eyes and not
much twinkle in them. "There's something about that which I
don't quite understand. I heard Florence Hallman and Kate
talking yesterday about it going by default. Are you sure
it's wise to put off filing your answers so long? When are
you supposed to appear, James?"

"Me? On or before the twenty-oneth day of July, my dear girl.
They lumped us up and served us all on the same day--I reckon
to save shoe-leather; therefore, inasmuch as said adverse
parties have got over a week left--"

"You'd better not take a chance, waiting till the last day in
the afternoon," she warned him vaguely. "Maybe they think
you've forgotten the date or something--but whatever they
think, I believe they're counting on your not answering in
time. I think Florence Hallman knows they haven't any real
proof against you. I know she knows it. She's perfectly wild
over the way you boys have stuck here and worked. And from
what I can gather, she hasn't been able to scrape up the
weentiest bit of evidence that the Flying U is backing you--
and of course that is the only ground they could contest your
claims on. So if it comes to trial, you'll all win; you're
bound to. I told Kate Price so--and those other old hens,
yesterday, and that's what we had the row over."

"My money's on you, girl," Andy told her, grinning. "How are
the wounded?"

"The wounded? Oh, they've clubbed together this morning and
are washing hankies and collars and things, and talking about
me. And they have snouged every speck of water from the
barrel--I paid my share for the hauling, too--and the man
won't come again till day after tomorrow with more. Fifty
cents a barrel, straight, he's charging now, James. And you ,
boys with a great, big, long creekful of it that you can get
right in and swim in! I've come over to borrow two water-bags
of it, if you please, James I never dreamed water was so
precious. Florence Hallman ought to be made to lie on one of
these dry claims she's fooled us into taking. I really don't
know, James, what's going to become of some of these poor
farmers. You knew, didn't you, that Mr. Murphy spent nearly
two hundred dollars boring a well--and now it's so strong of
alkali they daren't use a drop of it? Mr. Murphy is living
right up to his name and nationality, since then. He's away
back there beyond the Sands place, you know. He has to haul
water about six miles. Believe me, James, Florence Hallman
had better keep away from Murphy! I met him as I was coming
out from town, and he called her a Jezebel!"

"That's mild!" Andy commented dryly. "Get down, why don't
you? I want you to take a look at the inside of my shack and
see how bad I need a housekeeper--since you won't take my
word for it. I hope every drop of water leaks outa these bags
before you get home. I hope old Mister falls down and spills
it. I've a good mind not to let you have any, anyway. Maybe
you could be starved and tortured into coming down here where
you belong."

"Maybe I couldn't. I'll get me a barrel of my own, and hire
Simpson to fill it four times a week, if you please! And I'll
put a lid with a padlock on it, so Katie dear can't rob me in
the night--and I'll use a whole quart at a time to wash
dishes, and two quarts when I take a bath! I shall," she
asserted with much emphasis, "lie in luxury, James!"

Andy laughed and waved his hand toward One Man Creek. "That's
all right--but how would you like to have that running past
your house, so you could wake up in the night and hear it go
gurgle-gurgle?, Wouldn't that be all right?"

Rosemary Allen clasped her two gloved hands together and drew
a long breath. "I should want to run out and stop it," she
declared. "To think of water actually running around loose in
this world!! And think of us up on that dry prairie, paying
fifty cents a barrel for it--and a lot slopped out of the
barrel on the road!" She glanced down into Andy's lovelighted
eyes, and her own softened. She placed her hand on his
shoulder and shook her head at him with a tender

"I know, boy--but it isn't in me to give up anything I set
out to do, any more than it is in you. You wouldn't like me
half so well if I could just drop that claim and think no
more about it. I've got enough money to commute, when the
time comes, and I'll feel a lot better if I go through with
it now I've started. And--James!" She smiled at him
wistfully. "Even if it is only eighty acres, it will make
good pasture, and--it will help some, won't it?"

After that you could not expect Andy Green to do any more
badgering or to discourage the girl. He did like her better
for having grit and a mental backbone--and he found a way of
telling her so and of making the assurance convincing enough.

He filled her canvas water-bags and went with her to carry
them, and he cheered her much with his aircastles. Afterwards
he took the team and rustled a water-barrel and hauled her a
barrel of water and gave Kate Price a stony-eyed stare when
she was caught watching him superciliously; and in divers
ways managed to make Miss Rosemary Allen feel that she was
fighting a good fight and that the odds were all in her favor
and in the favor of the Happy Family--and of Andy Green in
particular. She felt that the spite of her three very near
neighbors was really a matter to laugh over, and the spleen
of Florence Hallman a joke.

But for all that she gave Andy Green one last warning when he
climbed up to the spring seat of the wagon and unwound the
lines from the brake-handle, ready to drive back to his own
work. She went close to the front wheel, so that
eavesdroppers could not hear, and held her front hair from
blowing across her earnest, windtanned face while she looked
up at him.

"Now remember, boy, do go and file your answer to those
contests--all of you!" she urged. "I don't know why--but I've
a feeling some kind of a scheme is being hatched to make you
trouble on that one point. And if you see Buck, tell him I'll
ride fence with him tomorrow again. If you realized how much
I like that old cowpuncher, you'd be horribly jealous,

"I'm jealous right now, without realizing a thing except that
I've got to go off and leave you here with a bunch of
lemons," he retorted--and he spoke loud enough so that any
eavesdroppers might hear.


Did you ever stop to think of the tremendous moral lesson in
the Bible tale of David and Goliath? And how great, human
issues are often decided one way or the other by little
things? Not all crises are passed in the clashing of swords
and the boom of cannon. It was a pebble the size of your
thumbend, remember, that slew the giant.

In the struggle which the Happy Family was making to preserve
the shrunken range of the Flying U, and to hold back the
sweeping tide of immigration, one might logically look for
some big, overwhelming element to turn the tide one way or
the other. With the Homeseekers' Syndicate backing the
natural animosity of the settlers, who had filed upon
semiarid land because the Happy Family had taken all of the
tract that was tillable, a big, open clash might be
considered inevitable.

And yet the struggle was resolving itself into the question
of whether the contest filings should be approved by the
land-office, or the filings of the Happy Family be allowed to
stand as having been made in good faith. Florence Hallman
therefore, having taken upon herself the leadership in the
contest fight, must do one of two things if she would have
victory to salve the hurt to her self-esteem and to vindicate
the firm's policy in the eyes of the settlers.

She must produce evidence of the collusion of the Flying U
outfit with the Happy Family, in the taking of the claims. Or
she must connive to prevent the filing of answers to the
contest notices within the time-limit fixed by law, so that
the cases would go by default. That, of course, was the
simplest--since she had not been able to gather any evidence
of collusion that would stand in court.

There was another element in the land struggle--that was the
soil and climate that would fight inexorably against the
settlers; but with them we have little to do, since the Happy
Family had nothing to do with them save in a purely negative

A four-wire fence and a systematic patrol along the line was
having its effect upon the stock question. If the settlers
drove their cattle south until they passed the farthest
corner of Flying U fence, they came plump against Bert
Rogers' barbed boundary line. West of that was his father's
place--and that stretched to the railroad right-of-way,
fenced on either side with a stock-proof barrier and hugging
the Missouri all the way to the Marias--where were other
settlers. If they went north until they passed the fence of
the Happy Family, there were the Meeker holdings to bar the
way to the very foot of Old Centennial, and as far up its
sides as cattle would go.

The Happy Family had planned wisely when they took their
claims in a long chain that stretched across the benchland
north of the Flying U. Florence Grace knew this perfectly
well--but what could she prove? The Happy Family had bought
cattle of their own, and were grazing them lawfully upon
their own claims. A lawyer had assured her that there was no
evidence to be gained there. They never went near J. G.
Whitmore, nor did they make use of his wagons, his teams or
his tools or his money; instead they hired what they needed,
openly and from Bert Rogers. They had bought their cattle
from the Flying U, and that was the extent of their business
relations--on the surface. And since collusion had been the
ground given for the contests, it will be easily seen what
slight hope Florence Grace and her clients must have of
winning any contest suit. Still, there was that alternative--
the Happy Family had been so eager to build that fence and
gather their cattle and put them back on the claims,
and so anxious lest in their absence the settlers should slip
cattle across the dead line and into the breaks, that they
had postponed their trip to Great Falls as long as possible.
The Honorable Blake had tacitly advised them to do so; and
the Happy Family never gave a thought to their being hindered
when they did get ready to attend to it.

But--a pebble killed Goliath.

H. J. Owens, whose eyes were the wrong shade of blue, sat
upon a rocky hilltop which overlooked the trail from Flying U
Coulee and a greater portion of the shack-dotted benchland as
well, and swept the far horizons with his field glasses. Just
down the eastern slope, where the jutting sandstone cast a
shadow, his horse stood tied to a dejected wild-currant bush.
He laid the glasses across his knees while he refilled his
pipe, and tilted his hatbrim to shield his pale blue eyes
from the sun that was sliding past midday.

H. J. Owens looked at his watch, nevertheless, as though the
position of the sun meant nothing to him. He scowled a
little, stretched a leg straight out before him to ease it of
cramp, and afterwards moved farther along in the shade. The
wind swept past with a faint whistle, and laid the ripening
grasses flat where it passed. A cloud shadow moved slowly
along the slope beneath him, and he watched the darkening of
the earth where it touched, and the sharp contrast of the
sun-yellowed sea of grass all around it. H. J. Owens looked
bored and sleepy; yet he did not leave the hilltop--nor did
he go to sleep.

Instead, he lifted the glasses, turned them toward Flying U
Coulee a half mile to the south of him, and stared long at
the trail. After a few minutes he made a gesture to lower the
glasses, and then abruptly fixed them steadily upon one spot,
where the trail wound up over the crest of the bluff. He
looked for a minute, and laid the glasses down upon a rock.

H. J. Owens fumbled in the pocket of his coat, which he had
folded and laid beside him on the yellow gravel of the hill.
He found something he wanted, stood up, and with his back
against a boulder he faced to the southwest. He was careful
about the direction. He glanced up at the sun, squinting his
eyes at the glare; he looked at what he held in his hand.

A glitter of sun on glass showed briefly. H. J. Owens laid
his palm over it, waited while he could count ten, and took
his palm away. Replaced it, waited, and revealed the glass
again with the sun glare upon it full. He held it so for a
full minute, and slid the glass back into his pocket.

He glanced down toward Flying U Coulee again--toward where
the trail stretched like a brown ribbon through the grass. He
seemed to be in something of a hurry now--if impatient
movement meant anything--yet he did not leave the place at
once. He kept looking off there toward the southwest--off
beyond Antelope Coulee and the sparsely dotted shacks of the

A smudge of smoke rose thinly there, behind a hill. Unless
one had been watching the place, one would scarcely have
noticed it, but H. J. Owens saw it at once and smiled his
twisted smile and went running down the hill to where his
horse was tied. He mounted and rode down to the level,
skirted the knoll and came out on the trail, down which he
rode at an easy lope until he met the Kid.

The Kid was going to see Rosemary Allen and take a ride with
her along the new fence; but he pulled up with the air of
condescension which was his usual attitude toward "nesters,"
and in response to the twisted smile of H. J. Owens he
grinned amiably.

"Want to go on a bear-hunt with me, Buck?" began H. J. Owens
with just the right tone of comradeship, to win the undivided
attention of the Kid.

"I was goin' to ride fence with Miss Allen," the Kid declined
regretfully. "There ain't any bears got very close, there
ain't. I guess you musta swallered something Andy told you."
He looked at H. J. Owens tolerantly.

"No sir. I never talked to Andy about this." Had he been
perfectly truthful he would have added that he had not talked
with Andy about anything whatever, but he let it go. "This is
a bear den I found myself; There's two little baby cubs,
Buck, and I was wondering if you wouldn't like to go along
and get one for a pet. You could learn it to dance and play
soldier, and all kinds of stunts."

The Kid's eyes shone, but he was wary. This man was a nester,
so it would be just at well to be careful "Where 'bouts is
it?" he therefore demanded in a tone of doubt that would have
done credit to Happy Jack.

"Oh, down over there in the hills. It's a secret, though,
till we get them out. Some fellows are after them for
themselves, Buck. They want to--skin 'em."

"The mean devils!" condemned the Kid promptly. "I'd take a
fall outa them if I ketched 'em skinning any baby bear cubs
while I was around."

H. J. Owens glanced behind him with an uneasiness not
altogether assumed.

"Let's go down into this next gully to talk it over, Buck,"
he suggested with an air of secretiveness that fired the
Kid's imagination. "They started out to follow me, and I
don't want 'em to see me talking to you, you know."

The Kid went with him unsuspectingly. In all the six years of
his life, no man had ever offered him injury. Fear had not
yet become associated with those who spoke him fair. Nesters
he did not consider friends because they were not friends
with his bunch. Personally he did not know anything about
enemies. This man was a nester--but he called him Buck, and
he talked very nice and friendly, and he said he knew where
there were some little baby bear cubs. The Kid had never
before realized how much he wanted a bear cub for a pet. So
do our wants grow to meet our opportunities.

H. J. Owens led the way into a shallow draw between two low
hills, glancing often behind him and around him until they
were shielded by the higher ground. He was careful to keep
where the grass was thickest and would hold no hoofprints to
betray them, but the Kid never noticed. He was thinking how
nice it would be to have a bear cub for a pet. But it was
funny that the Happy Family had never found him one, if there
were any in the country.

He turned to put the question direct to H. J. Owens, I but
that gentleman forestalled him.

"You wait here a minute, Buck, while I ride back on this hill
a little ways to see if those fellows are on our trail," he
said, and rode off before the Kid could ask him the question.

The Kid waited obediently. He saw H. J. Owens get off his
horse and go sneaking up to the brow of the hill, and take
some field glasses out of his pocket and look all around over
the prairie with them. The sight tingled the Kid's blood so
that he almost forgot about the bear cub. It was almost
exactly like fighting Injuns, like Uncle Gee-gee told about
when he wasn't cross.

In a few minutes Owens came back to the Kid, and they went on
slowly, keeping always in the low, grassy places where there
would be no tracks left to tell of their passing that way.
Behind them a yellow-brown cloud drifted sullenly with the
wind. Now and then a black flake settled past them to the
ground. A peculiar, tangy smell was in the air--the smell of
burning grass.

H. J. Owens related a long, full-detailed account of how he
had been down in the hills along the river, and had seen the
old mother bear digging ants out of a sand-hill for her cubs.

"I know--that's jes' 'zactly the way they do!" the Kid
interrupted excitedly. "Daddy Chip seen one doing it on the
Musselshell one time. He told me 'bout it."

H. J. Owens glanced sidelong at the Kid's flushed face,
smiled his twisted smile and went on with his story. He had
not bothered them, he said, because he did not have any way
of carrying both cubs, and he hated to kill them. He had
thought of Buck, and how he would like a pet cub, so he had
followed the bear to her den and had come away to get a sack
to carry them in, and to tell Buck about it.

The Kid never once doubted that it was so. Whenever any of
the Happy Family found anything in the hills that was nice,
they always thought of Buck, and they always brought it to
him. You would be amazed at the number of rattlesnake
rattles, and eagle's claws, and elk teeth, and things like
that, which the Kid possessed and kept carefully stowed away
in a closet kept sacred to his uses.

"'Course you'd 'member I wanted a baby bear cub; for a pet,"
he assented gravely and with a certain satisfaction. "Is it a
far ways to that mother bear's home?"

"Why?" H. J. Owens turned from staring at the rolling smoke
cloud, and looked at the Kid curiously. "Ain't you big enough
to ride far?"

"'Course I'm big enough" The Kid's pride was touched. "I can
ride as far as a horse can travel I bet I can ride farther
and faster 'n you can, you pilgrims" He eyed the other
disdainfully. "Huh! You can't ride. When you trot you go this
way!" The Kid kicked Silver into a trot and went bouncing
along with his elbows flapping loosely in imitation of H. J.
Owens' ungraceful riding.

"I don't want to go a far ways," he explained when the other
was again Riding alongside, "'cause Doctor Dell would cry if
I didn't come back to supper. She cried when I was out
huntin' the bunch. Doctor Dell gets lonesome awful easy." He
looked over his shoulder uneasily. "I guess I better go back
and tell her I'm goin' to git a baby bear cub for a pet," he
said, and reined Silver around to act upon the impulse.

"No--don't do that, Buck." H. J. Owens pulled his horse in
front of Silver. "It isn't far--just a little ways. And it
would be fun to surprise them at the ranch Gee! When they saw
you ride up with a pet bear cub in your arms--" H. J. Owens
shook his head as though he could not find words to express
the surprise of the Kid's family

The Kid smiled his Little Doctor smile. "I'd tell a man!" he
assented enthusiastically. "I bet the Countess would holler
when she seen it. She scares awful easy. She's scared of a
mice, even! Huh! My kitty ketched a mice and she carried it
right in her mouth and brought it into the kitchen and let it
set down on the floor a minute, and it started to run away--
the mice did. And it runned right up to the Countess, and she
jes' hollered and yelled And she got right up and stood on a
chair and hollered for Daddy Chip to come and ketch that
mice. He didn't do it though. Adeline ketched it herself. And
I took it away from her and put it in a box for a pet. I
wasn't scared."

"She'll be scared when she sees the bear cub," H. J. Owens
declared absent-mindedly. "I know you won't be, though. If we
hurry maybe we can watch how he digs ants for his supper.
That's lots of fun, Buck"

"Yes--I 'member it's fun to watch baby bear cubs dig ants,"
the Kid assented earnestly, and followed willingly where
H. J. Owens led the way.

That the way was far did not impress itself upon the Kid,
beguiled with wonderful stories of how baby bear cubs might
be taught to do tricks. He listened and believed, and
invented some very wonderful tricks that he meant to teach
his baby bear cub. Not until the shadows began to fill the
gullies through which they rode did the Kid awake to the fact
that night was coming close and that they were still
traveling away from home and in a direction which was strange
to him. Never in his life had he been tricked by any one with
unfriendly intent. He did not guess that he was being tricked
now. Ho rode away into the wild places in search of a baby
bear cub for a pet.


It is a penitentiary offense for anyone to set fire to
prairie grass or timber; and if you know the havoc which one
blazing match may work upon dry grassland when the wind is
blowing free, you will not wonder at the penalty for lighting
that match with deliberate intent to set the prairie afire.

Within five minutes after H. J. Owens slipped the bit of
mirror back into his pocket after flashing a signal that the
Kid was riding alone upon the trail, a line of fire several
rods long was creeping up out of a grassy hollow to the
hilltop beyond, whence it would go racing away to the east
and the north, growing bigger and harder to fight with every
grass tuft it fed on.

The Happy Family were working hard that day upon the system
of irrigation by which they meant to reclaim and make really
valuable their desert claims. They happened to be, at the
time when the fire was started, six or seven miles away,
wrangling over the best means of getting their main ditch
around a certain coulee without building a lot of expensive
flume. A surveyor would have been a blessing, at this point
in the undertaking; but a surveyor charged good money for his
services, and the Happy Family were trying to be very
economical with money; with time, and effort, and with words
they were not so frugal.

The fire had been burning for an hour and had spread so
alarmingly before the gusty breeze that it threatened several
claim-shacks before they noticed the telltale, brownish tint
to the sunlight and smelled other smoke than the smoke of the
word-battle then waging fiercely among them. They dropped
stakes, flags and ditch-level and ran to where their horses
waited sleepily the pleasure of their masters.

They reached the level of the benchland to see disaster
swooping down upon them like a race-horse. They did not stop
then to wonder how the fire had started, or why it had gained
such headway. They raced their horses after sacks, and after
the wagon and team and water barrels with which to fight the
flames. For it was not the claim-shacks in its path which
alone were threatened. The grass that was burning meant a
great deal to the stock, and therefore to the general welfare
of every settler upon that bench, be he native or newcomer.

Florence Grace Hallman had, upon one of her periodical visits
among her "clients," warned them of the danger of prairie
fires and urged them to plow and burn guards around all their
buildings. A few of the settlers had done so and were
comparatively safe in the face of that leaping, red line. But
there were some who had delayed--and these must fight now if
they would escape.

The Happy Family, to a man, had delayed; rather they had not
considered that there was any immediate danger from fire; it
was too early in the season for the grass to be tinder dry,
as it would become a month or six weeks later. They were
wholly unprepared for the catastrophe, so far as any
expectation of it went. But for all that they knew exactly
what to do and how to go about doing it, and they did not
waste a single minute in meeting the emergency.

While the Kid was riding with H. J. Owens into the hills, his
friends, the bunch, were riding furiously in the opposite
direction. And that was exactly what had been planned
beforehand. There was an absolute certainty in the minds of
those who planned that it would be so, Florence Grace
Hallman, for instance, knew just what would furnish complete
occupation for the minds and the hands of the Happy Family
and of every other man in that neighborhood, that afternoon.
Perhaps a claim-shack or two would go up in smoke and some
grass would burn. But when one has a stubborn disposition and
is fighting for prestige and revenge and the success of ones
business, a shack or two and a few acres of prairie grass do
not count for very much.

For the rest of that afternoon the boys of the Flying U
fought side by side with hated nesters and told the
inexperienced how best to fight. For the rest of that
afternoon no one remembered the Kid, or wondered why H. J.
Owens was not there in the grimy line of fire-fighters who
slapped doggedly at the leaping flames with sacks kept wet
from the barrels of water hauled here and there as they were
needed. No one had time to call the roll and see who was
missing among the settlers. No one dreamed that this
mysterious fire that had crept up out of a coulee and spread
a black, smoking blanket over the hills where it passed, was
nothing more nor lees than a diversion while a greater crime
was being committed behind their backs.

In spite of them the fire, beaten out of existence at one
point, gained unexpected fury elsewhere and raced on. In
spite of them women and children were in actual danger of
being burned to death, and rushed weeping from flimsy shelter
to find safety in the nearest barren coulee. The sick lady
whom the Little Doctor had been tending was carried out on
her bed and laid upon the blackened prairie, hysterical from
the fright she had received. The shack she had lately
occupied smoked while the tarred paper on the roof crisped
and curled; and then the whole structure burst into flames
and sent blazing bits of paper and boards to spread the fire

Fire guards which the inexperienced settlers thought safe
were jumped without any perceptible check upon the flames.
The wind was just right for the fanning of the fire. It
shifted now and then erratically and sent the yellow line
leaping in new directions. Florence Grace Hallman was in Dry
Lake that day, and she did not hear until after dark how
completely her little diversion had been a success; how more
than half of her colony had been left homeless and hungry
upon the charred prairie. Florence Grace Hallman would not
have relished her supper, I fear, had the news reached her
earlier in the evening.

At Antelope Coulee the Happy Family and such of the settlers
as they could muster hastily for the fight, made a desperate
stand against the common enemy. Flying U Coulee was safe,
thanks to the permanent fire-guards which the Old Man
maintained year after year as a matter of course. But there
were the claims of the Happy Family and all the grassland
east of there which must be saved.

Men drove their work horses at a gallop after plows, and when
they had brought them they lashed the horses into a trot
while they plowed crooked furrows in the sun-baked prairie
sod, just over the eastern rim of Antelope Coulee. The Happy
Family knelt here and there along the fresh-turned sod, and
started a line of fire that must beat up against the wind
until it met the flames, rushing before it. Backfiring is
always a more or less, ticklish proceeding, and they would
not trust the work to stranger.

Every man of them took a certain stretch of furrow to watch,
and ran backward and forward with blackened, frayed sacks to
beat out the wayward flames that licked treacherously through
the smallest break in the line of fresh soil. They knew too
well the danger of those little, licking flame tongues; not
one was left to live and grow and race leaping away through
the grass.

They worked--heavens, how they worked!--and they stopped the
fire there on the rim of Antelope Coulee. Florence Grace
Hallman would have been sick with fury, had she seen that
dogged line of fighters, and the ragged hem of charred black
ashes against the yellow-brown, which showed how well those
men whom she hated had fought.

So the fire was stopped well outside the fence which marked
the boundary of the Happy Family's claims. All west of there
and far to the north the hills and the coulees lay black as
far as one could see--which was to the rim of the hills which
bordered Dry Lake valley on the east. Here and there a claim-
shack stood forlorn amid the blackness. Here and there a heap
of embers still smoked and sent forth an occasional spitting
of sparks when a gust fanned the heap. Men, women and
children stood about blankly or wandered disconsolately here
and there, coughing in the acrid clouds of warm grass cinders
kicked up by their own lagging feet.

No one missed the Kid. No one dreamed that he was lost again.
Chip was with the Happy Family and did not know that the Kid
had left the ranch that afternoon. The Little Doctor had
taken it for granted that he had gone with his daddy, as he
so frequently did; and with his daddy and the whole Happy
Family to look after him, she never once doubted that he was
perfectly safe, even among the fire-fighters. She supposed he
would be up on the seat beside Patsy, probably, proudly
riding on the wagon that hauled the water barrels.

The Little Doctor had troubles of her own to occupy her mind
She had ridden hurriedly up the hill and straight to the
shack of the sick woman, when first she discovered that the
prairie was afire. And she had found the sick woman lying on
a makeshift bed on the smoking, black area that was
pathetically safe now from fire because there was nothing
more to burn.

"Little black shack's all burnt up! Everything's black now.
Black hills, black hollows, black future, black world, black
hearts--everything matches--everything's black. Sky's black,
I'm black--you're black--little black shack won't have to
stand all alone any more--little black shack's just black
ashes--little black shack's all burnt up!" And then the woman
laughed shrilly, with that terrible, meaningless laughter of

She was a pretty woman, and young. Her hair was that bright
shade of red that goes with a skin like thin, rose-tinted
ivory. Her eyes were big and so dark a blue that they
sometimes looked black, and her mouth was sweet and had a
tired droop to match the mute pathos of her eyes. Her husband
was a coarse lout of a man who seldom spoke to her when they
were together. The Little Doctor had felt that all the
tragedy of womanhood and poverty and loneliness was
synthesized in this woman with the unusual hair and skin and
eyes and expression. She had been coming every day to see
her; the woman was rather seriously ill, and needed better
care than she could get out there on the bald prairie, even
with the Little Doctor to watch over her. If she died her
face would haunt the Little Doctor always. Even if she did
not die she would remain a vivid memory. Just now even the
Little Doctor's mother instinct was submerged under her
professional instincts and her woman sympathy. She did not
stop to wonder whether she was perfectly sure that the Kid
was with Chip. She took it for granted and dismissed the Kid
from her mind, and worked to save the woman.

Yes, the little diversion of a prairie fire that would call
all hands to the westward so that the Kid might be lured away
in another direction without the mishap of being seen, proved
a startling success. As a diversion it could scarcely be
improved upon--unless Florence Grace Hallman had ordered a
wholesale massacre or something like that.


Miss Rosemary Allen, having wielded a wet gunny sack until
her eyes were red and smarting and her lungs choked with
cinders and her arms so tired she could scarcely lift them,
was permitted by fate to be almost the first person who
discovered that her quarter of the four-room shack built upon
the four contiguous corners of four claims, was afire in the
very middle of its roof. Miss Rosemary Allen stood still and
watched it burn, and was a trifle surprised because she felt
so little regret.

Other shacks had caught fire and burned hotly, and she had
wept with sympathy for the owners. But she did not weep when
her own shack began to crackle and show yellow, licking
tongues of flame. Those three old cats--I am using her own
term, which was spiteful--would probably give up now, and go
back where they belonged. She hoped so. And for herself--

"By gracious, I'm glad to see that one go, anyhow!" Andy
Green paused long enough in his headlong gallop to shout to
her. "I was going to sneak up and touch it off myself, if it
wouldn't start any other way. Now you and me'll get down to
cases, girl, and have a settlement. And say!" He had started
on, but he pulled up again. "The Little Doctor's back here,
somewhere. You go home with her when she goes, and stay till
I come and get you."

"I like your nerve!" Rosemary retorted ambiguously.

"Sure--folks generally do. I'll tell her to stop for you. You
know she'll be glad enough to have you--and so will the Kid."

"Where is Buck?" Rosemary was the first person who asked that
question. "I saw him ride up on the bench just before the
fire started. I was watching for him, through the glasses--"

"Dunno--haven't seen him. With his mother, I guess." Andy
rode on to find Patsy and send him back down the line with
the water wagon. He did not think anything more about the
Kid, though he thought a good deal about Miss Allen.

Now that her shack was burned, she would be easier to
persuade into giving up that practically worthless eighty.
That was what filled the mind of Andy Green to the exclusion
of everything else except the fire. He was in a hurry to
deliver his message to Patsy, so that he could hunt up the
Little Doctor and speak her hospitality for the girl he meant
to marry just as soon as he could persuade her to stand with
him before a preacher.

He found the Little Doctor still fighting a dogged battle
with death for the life of the woman who laughed wildly
because her home was a heap of smoking embers. The Little
Doctor told him to send Rosemary Allen on down to the ranch,
or take her himself, and to tell the Countess to send up her
biggest medicine case immediately. She could not leave, she
said, for some time yet. She might have to stay all night--or
she would if there was any place to stay. She was half
decided, she said, to have someone take the woman in to Dry
Lake right away, and up to the hospital in Great Falls. She
supposed she would have to go along. Would Andy tell J. G. to
send up some money? Clothes didn't matter--she would go the
way she was; there were plenty of clothes in the stores, she
declared. And would Andy rustle a team, right away, so they
could start? If they went at all they ought to catch the
evening train. The Little Doctor was making her decisions and
her plans while she talked, as is the way with those strong
natures who can act promptly and surely in the face of an

By the time she had thought of having a team come right away,
she had decided that she would not wait for her medicine-case
or for money. She could get all the money she needed in Dry
Lake; and she had her little emergency case with her. Since
she was going to take the woman to a hospital, she said,
there was no great need of more than she had with her. She
was a thoughtful Little Doctor. At the last minute she
detained Andy long enough to urge him to see that Miss Allen
helped herself to clothes or anything she needed; and to send
a goodbye message to Chip--in case he did not show up before
she left--and a kiss to her manchild.

Andy was lucky. He met a man driving a good team and spring
wagon, with a barrel of water in the back. He promptly
dismounted and helped the man unload the water-barrel where
it was, and sent him bumping swiftly over the burned sod to
where the Little Doctor waited. So Fate was kinder to the
Little Doctor than were those who would wring anew the mother
heart of her that their own petty schemes might succeed. She
went away with the sick woman laughing crazily because all
the little black shacks were burned and now everything was
black so everything matched nicely--nicely, thank you. She
was terribly worried over the woman's condition, and she gave
herself wholly to her professional zeal and never dreamed
that her manchild was at that moment riding deeper and deeper
into the Badlands with a tricky devil of a man, looking for a
baby bear cub for a pet.

Neither did Chip dream it, nor any of the Happy Family, nor
even Miss Rosemary Allen, until they rode down into Flying U
Coulee at supper-time and were met squarely by the fact that
the Kid was not there. The Old Man threw the bomb that
exploded tragedy in the midst of the little group. He heard
that "Dell" had gone to take a sick woman to the hospital in
Great Falls, and would not be back for a day or so, probably.

"What'd she do with the Kid?" he demanded. Take him with

Chip stared blankly at him, and turned his eyes finally to
Andy's face. Andy had not mentioned the Kid to him.

"He wasn't with her," Andy replied to the look. "She sent him
a kiss and word that he was to take care of Miss Allen. He
must be somewhere around here."

"Well, he ain't. I was looking fer him myself," put in the
Countess sharply. "Somebody shut the cat up in the flour
chest and I didn't study much on what it was done it! If I'd
a got my hands on 'im--"

"I saw him ride up on the hill trail just before the fire
started," volunteered Rosemary Allen. "I had my opera glasses
and was looking for him, because I like to meet him and hear
him talk. He said yesterday that he was coming to see me
today. And he rode up on the hill in sight of my claim. I saw
him." She stopped and looked from one to the other with her
eyebrows pinched together and her lips pursed.

"Listen," she went on hastily. "Maybe it has nothing to do
with Buck--but I saw something else that was very puzzling. I
was going to investigate, but the fire broke out immediately
and put everything else out of my mind. A man was up on that
sharp-pointed knoll off east of the trail where it leaves
this coulee, and he had field glasses and was looking for
something over this way. I thought he was watching the trail.
I just caught him with the glasses by accident as I swung
them over the edge of the benchland to get the trail focused.
He was watching something--because I kept turning the glasses
on him to see what he was doing.

"Then Buck came into sight, and I started to ride out and
meet him. I hate to leave the little mite riding alone
anywhere--I'm always afraid something may happen. But before
I got on my horse I took another look at this man on the
hill. He had a mirror or something bright in his hands. I saw
it flash, just exactly as though he was signaling to
someone--over that way." She pointed to the west. "He kept
looking that way, and then back this way; and he covered up
the, piece of mirror with his hand and then took it off and
let it shine a minute, and put it in his pocket. I know he
was making signals.

"I got my horse and started to meet little Buck. He was
coming along the trail and rode into a little hollow out of
sight. I kept looking and looking toward Dry Lake--because
the man looked that way, I guess. And in a few minutes I saw
the smoke of the fire--"

"Who was that man?" Andy took a step toward her, his eyes
hard and bright in their inflamed lids.

"The man? That Mr. Owens who jumped your south eighty."

"Good Lord, what fools!" He brushed past her without a look
or another word, so intent was he upon this fresh disaster.
"I'm going after the boys, Chip. You better come along and
see if you can pick up the Kid's trail where he left the
road. It's too bad Florence Grace Hallman ain't a man! I'd
know better what to do if she was."

"Oh, do you think--?" Miss Rosemary looked at him wide-eyed.

"Doggone it, if she's tried any of her schemes with fire
and--why, doggone it, being a woman ain't going to help her
none!" The Old Man, also, seemed to grasp the meaning of it
almost as quickly as had Andy. "Chip, you have Ole hitch up
the team. I'm going to town myself, by thunder, and see if
she's going to play any of her tricks on this outfit and git
away with it! Burnt out half her doggoned colony tryin' to
git a whack at you boys! Where's my shoes? Doggone it, what
yuh all standin' round with your jaws hangin' down for? We'll
see about this fire-settin' and this--where's them shoes?"

The Countess found his shoes, and his hat, and his second-
best coat and his driving gloves which he had not worn for
more months than anyone cared to reckon. Miss Rosemary Allen
did what she could to help, and wondered at the dominant note
struck by this bald old man from the moment when he rose
stiffly from his big chair and took the initiative so long
left to others.

While the team was being made ready the Old Man limped here
and there, collecting things he did not need and trying to
remember what he must have, and keeping the Countess moving
at a flurried trot. Chip and Andy were not yet up the bluff
when the Old Man climbed painfully into the covered buggy,
took the lines and the whip and cut a circle with the wheels
on the hard-packed earth as clean and as small as Chip
himself could have done, and went whirling through the big
gate and across the creek and up the long slope beyond. He
shouted to the boys and they rode slowly until he overtook
them--though their nerves were all on edge and haste seemed
to them the most important thing in the world. But habit is
strong--it was their Old Man who called to them to wait.

"You boys wait to git out after that Owens," he shouted when
he passed them. "If they've got the Kid, killing's too good
for 'em!" The brown team went trotting up the grade with back
straightened to the pull of the lurching buggy, and nostrils
flaring wide with excitement. The Old Man leaned sidewise and
called back to the two loping after him in the obscuring
dust-cloud he left behind.

"I'll have that woman arrested on suspicion uh setting
prairie fires!" he called. "I'll git Blake after her. You
git that Owens if you have-to haze him to hell and back! Yuh
don't want to worry about the Kid, Chip--they ain't goin' to
hurt him. All they want is to keep you boys huntin' high and
low and combin' the breaks to find 'im. I see their scheme,
all right."


The Kid wriggled uncomfortably in the saddle and glanced at
the narrow-browed face of H. J. Owens, who was looking this
way and that at the enfolding hills and scowling
abstractedly. The Kid was only six, but he was fairly good at
reading moods and glances, having lived all his life amongst

"It's a pretty far ways to them baby bear cubs," he remarked.
"I bet you're lost, old-timer. It's awful easy to get lost. I
bet you don't know where that mother-bear lives."

"You shut up!" snarled H. J. Owens. The Kid had hit
uncomfortably close to the truth.

"You shut up your own self, you darned pilgrim." the Kid
flung back instantly. That was the way he learned to say rude
things; they were said to him and he remembered and gave them
back in full measure.

"Say, I'll slap you if you call me that again." H. J. Owens,
because he did not relish the task he had undertaken, and
because he had lost his bearing here in the confusion of
hills and hollows and deep gullies, was in a very bad humor.

"You darn pilgrim, you dassent slap me. If you do the
bunch'll fix you, all right. I guess they'd just about kill
you. Daddy Chip would just knock the stuffin' outa you." He
considered something very briefly, and then tilted his small
chin so that he looked more than ever like the Little Doctor.
"I bet you was just lying all the time," he accused. "I bet
there ain't any baby bear cubs."

H. J. Owens laughed disagreeably, but he did not say whether
or not the Kid was right in his conjecture. The Kid pinched
his lips together and winked very fast for a minute. Never,
never in all the six years of his life had anyone played him
so shabby a trick. He knew what the laugh meant; it meant
that this man had lied to him and led him away down here in
the hills where he had promised his Doctor Dell, cross-his-
heart, that he would never go again. He eyed the man

"What made you lie about them baby bear cubs?" he demanded.
"I didn't want to come such a far ways."

"You keep quiet. I've heard about enough from you, young man.
A little more of that and you'll get something you ain't
looking for."

"I'm a going home!" The Kid pulled Silver half around in the
grassy gulch they were following. "And I'm going to tell the
bunch what you said. I bet the bunch'll make you hard to
ketch, you--you son-agun!"

"Here! You come back here, young man!" H. J. Owens reached
over and caught Silver's bridle. "You don't go home till I let
you go; see. You're going right along with me, if anybody
should ask you. And you ain't going to talk like that either.
now mind!" He turned his pale blue eyes threateningly upon
the Kid. "Not another word out of you if you don't want a
good thrashing. You come along and behave yourself or I'll
cut your ears off."

The Kid's eyes blazed with anger. He did not flinch while he
glared back at the man, and he did not seem to care, just at
that moment, whether he lost his ears or kept them. "You let
go my horse!" he gritted. "You wait. The bunch'll fix YOU,
and fix you right. You wait!"

H. J. Owens hesitated, tempted to lay violent hands upon the
small rebel. But he did not. He led Silver a rod or two,
found it awkward, since the way was rough and he was not much
of a horseman, and in a few minutes let the rein drop from
his fingers.

"You come on, Buck, and be a good boy--and maybe we'll find
them cubs yet," he conciliated. "You'd die a-laughing at the
way they set up and scratch their ears when a big, black ant
bites 'em, Buck. I'll show you in a little while. And there's
a funny camp down here, too, where we can get some supper."

The Kid made no reply, but he rode along docilely beside H.
J. Owens and listened to the new story he told of the bears.
That is, he appeared to be listening; in reality he was
struggling to solve the biggest problem he had ever known--
the problem of danger and of treachery. Poor little tad, he
did not even know the names of his troubles. He only knew
that this man had told him a lie about those baby bear cubs,
and had brought him away down here where he had been lost,
and that it was getting dark and he wanted to go home and the
man was mean and would not let him go. He did not understand
why the man should be so mean--but the man was mean to him,
and he did not intend to "stand for it." He wanted to go
home. And when the Kid really wanted to do a certain thing,
he nearly always did it, as you may have observed.

H. J. Owens would not let him go home; therefore the Kid
meant to go anyway. Only he would have to sneak off, or run
off, or something, and hide where the man could not find him,
and then go home to his Doctor Dell and Daddy Chip, and tell
them how mean this pilgrim had been to him. And he would tell
the bunch The bunch would fix him all right! The thought
cheered the Kid so that he smiled and made the man think he
was listening to his darned old bear story that was just a
big lie. Think he would listen to any story that pilgrim
could tell? Huh!

The gulches wore growing dusky now The Kid was tired, and he
was hungry and could hardly keep from crying, he was so
miserable. But he was the son of his father--he was Chip's
kid; it would take a great deal more misery and unkindness to
make him cry before this pilgrim who had been so mean to him.
He rode along without saying a word. H. J. Owens did not say
anything, either. He kept scanning each jagged peak and each
gloomy canyon as they passed, and he seemed uneasy about
something. The Kid knew what it was, all right; H. J. Owens
was lost.

They came to a wide, flat-bottomed coulee with high ragged
bluffs shutting it in upon every side. The Kid dimly
remembered that coulee, because that was where Andy got down
to tighten the cinch on Miss Allen's horse, and looked up at
her the way Daddy Chip looked at Doctor Dell sometimes, and
made a kiss with his lips--and got called down for it, too.
The Kid remembered.

He looked at the man, shut his mouth tight and wheeled Silver
suddenly to the left. He leaned forward as he had always seen
the Happy Family do when they started a race, and struck
Silver smartly down the rump with the braided romal on his
bridle-reins. H. J. Owens was taken off his guard and did
nothing but stare open-mouthed until the Kid was well under
way; then he shouted and galloped after him, up the little

He might as well have saved his horse's wind and his own
energy. He was no match for little Buck Bennett, who had the
whole Flying U outfit to teach him how to ride, and the
spirit of his Daddy Chip and the little Doctor combined to
give him grit and initiative. H. J. Owens pounded along to
the head of the coulee, where he had seen the Kid galloping
dimly in the dusk. He turned up into the canyon that sloped
invitingly up from the level, and went on at the top speed of
his horse--which was not fast enough to boast about.

When he had left the coulee well behind him, the Kid rode out
from behind a clump of bushes that was a mere black shadow
against the coulee wall, and turned back whence he had come.
The Kid giggled a little over the way he had fooled the
pilgrim, and wished that the bunch had been there to see him
do it. He kept Silver galloping until he had reached the
other end of the level, and then he pulled him down to a walk
and let the reins drop loosely upon Silver's neck. That was
what Daddy Chip and the boys had told him he must do, next
time he got lost and did not know the way home. He must just
let Silver go wherever he wanted to go, and not try to guide
him at all. Silver would go straight home; he had the word of
the whole bunch for that, and he believed it implicitly.

Silver looked back inquiringly at his small rider, hesitated
and then swung back up the coulee. The Kid was afraid that H.
J. Owens would come back and see him and cut off his ears if
he went that way--but he did not pull Silver back and make
him go some other way, for all that. If he left him alone,
Silver would take him right straight home. Daddy Chip and the
boys said so. And he would tell them how mean that man was.
They would fix him, all right!

Halfway up the coulee Silver turned into a narrow gulch that
seemed to lead nowhere at all except into the side of a big,
black-shadowed bluff. Up on the hillside a coyote began to
yap with a shrill staccato of sounds that trailed off into a
disconsolate whimper. The Kid looked that way interestedly.
He was not afraid of coyotes. They would not hurt anyone;
they were more scared than you were--the bunch had told him
so. He wished he could get a sight of him, though. He liked
to see their ears stick up and their noses stick out in a
sharp point, and see them drop their tails and go sliding
away out of sight. When he was ten and Daddy Chip gave him a
gun, he would shoot coyotes and skin them his own self.

The coyote yapped shrilly again, and the Kid wondered what
his Doctor Dell would say when he got home. He was terribly
hungry, and he was tired and wanted to go to bed. He wished
the bunch would happen along and fix that man. His heart
swelled in his chest with rage and disappointment when he
thought of those baby bear cubs that were not anywhere at
all--because the man was just lying all the time. In spite of
himself the Kid cried whimperingly to himself while he rode
slowly up the gorge which Silver had chosen to follow because
the reins were drooping low alongside his neck and he might
go where he pleased.

By and by the moon rose and lightened the hills so that they
glowed softly; and the Kid, looking sleepily around him, saw
a coyote slinking along a barren slope. He was going to shout
at it and see it run, but he thought of the man who was
looking for him and glanced fearfully over his shoulder. The
moon shone full in his face and showed the tear-streaks and
the tired droop to his lips.

The Kid thought he must be going wrong, because at the ranch
the moon came up in another place altogether. He knew about
the moon. Doctor Dell had explained to him how it just kept
going round and round the world and you saw it when it came
up over the edge. That was how Santa Claus found out if kids
were good; he lived in the moon, and it went round and round
so he could look down and see if you were bad. The Kid rubbed
the tears off his cheeks with his palm, so that Santa Claus
could not see that he had been crying. After that he rode
bravely, with a consciously straight spine, because Santa
Claus was looking at him all the time and he must be a rell
ole cowpuncher.

After a long while the way grew less rough, and Silver
trotted down the easier slopes. The Kid was pretty tired now.
He held on by the horn of his saddle so Silver would not jolt
him so much. He was terribly hungry, too, and his eyes kept
going shut. But Santa Claus kept looking at him to see if he
were a dead game sport, so he did not cry any more. He wished
he had some grub in a sack, but he thought he must be nearly
home now. He had come a terribly far ways since he ran away
from that pilgrim who was going to cut off his ears.

The Kid was so sleepy, and so tired that he almost fell out
of the saddle once when Silver, who had been loping easily
across a fairly level stretch of ground, slowed abruptly to
negotiate a washout crossing. He had been thinking about
those baby bear cubs digging ants and eating them. He had
almost seen them doing it; but he remembered now that he was
going home to tell the bunch how the man had lied to him and
tried to make him stay down here. The bunch would sure fix
him when they heard about that.

He was still thinking vengefully of the punishment which the
Happy Family would surely mete out to H. J. Owens when Silver
lifted his head, looked off to the right and gave a shrill
whinny. Somebody shouted, and immediately a couple of
horsemen emerged from the shadow of a hill and galloped
toward him.

The Kid gave a cry and then laughed. It was his Daddy Chip
and somebody. He thought the other was Andy Green. He was too
tired to kick Silver in the ribs and race toward them. He
waited until they came up, their horses pounding over the
uneven sod urged by the jubilance of their riders.

Chip rode up and lifted the Kid bodily from the saddle and
held him so tight in his arms that the Kid kicked half-
heartedly with both feet, to free himself. But he had a
message for his Daddy Chip, and as soon as he could get his
breath he delivered it.

"Daddy Chip, I just want you to kill that damn' pilgrim!" he
commanded. "There wasn't any baby bear cubs at all. He was
just a-stringin' me. And he was going to cut off my ears. He
said it wasn't a far ways to where the baby bear cubs lived
with the old mother bear, and it was. I wish you'd lick the
stuffin' outa him. I'm awful hungry, Daddy Chip."

"We'll be home pretty quick," Chip said in a queer, choked
voice. "Who was the man, Buck? Where is he now?"

The Kid lifted his head sleepily from his Daddy Chip's
shoulder and pointed vaguely toward the moon. "He's the man
that jumped Andy's ranch right on the edge of One Man," he
explained. "He's back there ridin' the rim-rocks a lookin'
for me. I'd a come home before, only he wouldn't let me come.
He said he'd cut my ears off. I runned away from him, Daddy
Chip. And I cussed him a plenty for lying to me--but you
needn't tell Doctor Dell."

"I won't, Buck." Chip lifted him into a more comfortable
position and held him so. While the Kid slept he talked with
Andy about getting the Happy Family on the trail of H. J.
Owens. Then he rode thankfully home with the Kid in his arms
and Silver following docilely after.


They found H. J. Owens the next forenoon wandering hopelessly
lost in the hills. Since killing him was barred, they tied
his arms behind him and turned him toward the Flying U. He
was sullen, like an animal that is trapped and will do
nothing but lie flattened to the ground and glare red-eyed at
its captors. For that matter, the Happy Family themselves
were pretty sullen. They had fought fire for hours--and that
is killing work; and they had been in the saddle ever since,
looking for the Kid and for this man who rode bound in their

Weary and Irish and Pink, who had run across him in a narrow
canyon, fired pistol-shot signals to bring the others to the
spot. But when the others emerged from various points upon
the scene, there was very little said about the capture.

In town, the Old man had been quite as eager to come close to
Florence Grace Hallman--but he was not so lucky. Florence
Grace had heard the news of the fire a good half hour before
the train left for Great Falls.

She would have preferred a train going the other way, but she
decided not to wait. She watched the sick woman put aboard
the one Pullman coach, and then she herself went into the
stuffy day-coach. Florence Grace Hallman was not in the habit
of riding in day-coaches in the night-time when there was a
Pullman sleeper attached to the train. She did not stop at
Great Falls; she went on to Butte--and from there I do not
know where she went. Certainly she never came back.

That, of course, simplified matters considerably for Florence
Grace--and for the Happy Family as well. For at the
preliminary hearing of H. J. Owens for the high crime of
kidnapping, that gentleman proceeded to unburden his soul in
a way that would have horrified Florence Grace, had she been
there to hear. Remember, I told you that his eyes were the
wrong shade of blue.

A man of whom you have never heard tried to slip out of the
court room during the unburdening process, and was stopped by
Andy Green, who had been keeping an eye on him for the simple
reason that the fellow had been much in the company of H. J.
Owens during the week preceding the fire and the luring away
of the Kid. The sheriff led him off somewhere--and so they
had the man who had set the prairie afire.

As is the habit of those who confess easily the crimes of
others, H. J. Owens professed himself as innocent as he
consistently could in the face of the Happy Family and of the
Kid's loud-whispered remarks when he saw him there. He knew
absolutely nothing about the fire, he said, and had nothing
to do with the setting of it. He was two miles away at the
time it started.

And then Miss Rosemary Allen took the witness stand and told
about the man on the hilltop and the bit of mirror that had
flashed sun-signals toward the west.

H.J. Owens crimpled down visibly in his chair. Imagine for
yourself the trouble he would have in convincing men of his
innocence after that.

Just to satisfy your curiosity, at the trial a month later he
failed absolutely to convince the jury that he was anything
but what he was--a criminal without the strength to stand by
his own friends. He was sentenced to ten years in Deer Lodge,
and the judge informed him that he had been dealt with
leniently at that, because after all he was only a tool in
the hands of the real instigator of the crime. That real
instigator, by the way, was never apprehended.

The other man--he who had set fire to the prairie--got six
years, and cursed the judge and threatened the whole Happy
Family with death when the sentence was passed upon him--as
so many guilty men do.

To go back to that preliminary, trial: The Happy Family, when
H. J. Owens was committed safely to the county jail, along
with the fire-bug, took the next train to Great Falls with
witnesses and the Honorable Blake. They filed their answers
to the contests two days before the time-limit had expired.
You may call that shaving too close the margin of safety. But
the Happy family did not worry over that--seeing there was a
margin of safety. Nor did they worry over the outcome of the
matter. With the Homeseekers' Syndicate in extremely bad
repute, and with fully half of the colonists homeless and
disgusted, why should they worry over their own ultimate

They planned great things with their irrigation scheme.... I
am not going to tell any more about them just now. Some of
you will complain, and want to know a good many things that
have not been told in detail. But if I should try to satisfy
you, there would be no more meetings between you and the
Happy Family--since there would be no more to tell.

So I am not oven going to tell you whether Andy succeeded in
persuading Miss Rosemary Allen to go with him to the parson.
Nor whether the Happy Family really did settle down to raise
families and alfalfa and beards. Not another thing shall you
know about them now.

You may take a look at them as they go trailing contentedly
away from the land-office, with their hats tilted at various
characteristic angles and their well-known voices mingled in
more or less joyful converse, and their toes pointed toward
Central Avenue and certain liquid refreshments. You need not
worry over that bunch, surely. You may safely leave them to
meet future problems and emergencies as they have always met
them in the past--on their feet, with eyes that do not wave
or flinch, shoulder to shoulder, ready alike far grin fate or
a frolic.