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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesGoing Some: A Romance Of Strenuous Affection - Chapter 16
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Going Some: A Romance Of Strenuous Affection - Chapter 16 Post by :rvlawrence Category :Long Stories Author :Rex Beach Date :May 2012 Read :794

Click below to download : Going Some: A Romance Of Strenuous Affection - Chapter 16 (Format : PDF)

Going Some: A Romance Of Strenuous Affection - Chapter 16

CHAPTER XVI

The day of the race dawned bright and fair, without a cloud to mar its splendor. As the golden morning wore on, a gradual excitement became apparent among the cowboys, increasing as the hours passed, and as they prepared with joy to invade their rival's territory; nevertheless, the vigilant watch upon their champion did not relax. Theirs was an attitude of confidence tinged with caution.

It was some time after midnight that Lawrence Glass had been the cause of a wild alarm that brought the denizens of the ranch out in night apparel. Jack Chapin, awakened by a cry for help, had found him in the hands of Carara and Cloudy, who had been doing night duty in accordance with Stover's orders. What with the trainer's loud complaints, the excited words of his captors, and the confusion resulting when the bunk-house emptied itself of men half clad, it had taken the ranch-owner some time to discover that Glass had been surprised in the act of escaping. It seemed that the sentries, seeing a figure skulking past the white adobe walls of the house, had called upon it to halt. There had been a dash for liberty, then a furious struggle before the intruder's identity became clear, and but for Chapin's prompt arrival upon the scene violence would inevitably have resulted. As it was, the owner had difficulty in restraining his men, who saw in this significant effort a menace to their hopes.

"I tell you, I'm walkin' in my sleep," declared Glass for the twentieth time.

"_Caramba! You try for get away," stormed the Mexican. "Pig!"

"Not a bit like it! I've been a sonnambulust ever since I'm a baby."

"Why didn't you answer when we called?" Cloudy demanded.

"How can I talk when I'm sound asleep?"

"If you couldn't hear us call, why did you run?"

"Now have a little sense, pal. A sleep-walker don't know what he's doin'."

"Since there's no harm done, you'd better all go back to bed," Chapin advised. "Mr. Glass has the liberty of the ranch, boys, night or day, asleep or awake."

"Looks to me like he was tryin' to elope some." Stover balanced upon one bare foot, and undertook to remove a sand-burr from the other. In the darkness he seemed supernaturally tall, so that Glass hastened to strengthen his story.

"I was walkin' in my sleep as nice as you please when those rummies lep' on me. Say! You know that's dangerous; you can kill a guy wakin' him up so sudden."

"There's easier ways than that," spoke Willie from the gloom.

"It's a yap trick just the same. I was in the middle of a swell dream, too."

"Come, come, Stover, get your boys back to bed! We'll have the whole ranch up with this noise."

Chapin himself led Glass around the house, while that gentleman made no offer to explain the dream which had prompted him to pack his suit-case before letting himself out of the training- quarters. Once safely back in the gymnasium, he sat up till dawn, a prey to frightful visions which the comfortable morning light did not serve to dissipate.

Wally Speed slept serenely through the whole disturbance, and was greatly amused at the story when he awoke. He was sorely tempted to make known his agreement with Skinner, and put an end to his trainer's agony of mind; but he recalled Skinner's caution, and reflected that the slightest indiscretion might precipitate a tragedy. For the first time since the beginning of the adventure he was perfectly at ease, and the phenomenon added to his trainer's dismay.

Others beside Lawrence Glass were apprehensive. Culver Covington, for instance, was plainly upset, while Roberta Keap pleaded headache and had her breakfast served in her room.

It was shortly afterward that she appeared in the gymnasium doorway, and cried, in an accusing voice:

"Well, Mr. Speed!"

"Yes, quite well."

"You traitor!"

"You modern Borgia! Didn't you go and tell Helen everything?"

"Didn't you promise to stop Culver?"

"I did. I had him thrown in jail at Omaha. What more could I do?"

"You _did try? Honestly?" Mrs. Keap allowed her indignation to abate slightly. "If I had known that, I wouldn't have told Helen. I'm sorry you didn't explain. I was angry--furious. And I was frightened so!" She broke down suddenly. "What shall I do about them? I can see what they want to say, and yet I daren't let either speak a word."

"Mrs. Keap, are you sure Culver loves you?"

"Horribly! And he suspects the truth. I saw him change the moment he found me here." Roberta began to weep; two limpid tears stole down her cheeks, she groped for a chair, and Wally hastened to her assistance. As he supported her, she gave way completely and bowed her head upon his shoulder.

It was in perfect keeping with the luck of things that Miss Blake should enter at the moment. She had come with Jack and his sister to inquire regarding the fitness of her champion and to nerve him for the contest, and she stood aghast. Chapin stepped forward with a look of suspicion, inquiring:

"What's going on here?"

Miss Blake spoke brightly, tinkling ice in her voice.

"There's no necessity for an explanation, is there? It seems time for congratulations."

"Oh, see here now! Mrs. Keap's really engaged to Culver, you know."

"Culver!"

"Culver!"

Both the young ranchman and his sister stared at the chaperon with growing horror, while she undertook to explain; but the blow had fallen so swiftly that her words were incoherent, and in the midst of them her hostess turned and fled from the room.

"Now don't begin to aviate until you understand the truth," Speed continued. "While she's engaged to that broken-toed serpent, she doesn't love him, do you see?" He smiled.

"I do _not see!"

"It was simply a habit Mrs. Keap had got into--I should say it was an impulsive engagement that she has repented of."

"No doubt she was repenting when we interrupted you," said Miss Blake, bitterly.

Then Chapin added, helplessly: "But Culver is engaged to my sister Jean!"

"Jean!" Mrs. Keap exposed her tragic face. "Then--he deceived _me_! Oh-h! What wretches men are!" The widow commenced to sob.

Outside came Miss Chapin's voice: "So here you are, Mr. Covington!" And the next moment she reappeared, dragging the crippled champion behind her. Thrusting him toward Roberta, she pouted: "There, Mrs. Keap! I give him back to you."

"Perhaps you'd better go on with your explanations," Chapin suggested, coldly, to Speed.

"How can I when you won't listen to me? Hear ye! Hear ye! Culver was engaged to marry Mrs. Keap, but she discovered what a reprobate he is--"

There was indistinguishable dissent of some sort from Mr. Covington.

"--and she learned to detest him!"

Mrs. Keap likewise dissented in accents muffled.

"Well, she would have learned to detest him in a short time, because she's in love with Jack Chapin; so she came to old Doctor Speed in her troubles, and he promised to fix it all up. Now I guess you four can do the rest of the explaining. Let this be a lesson to all of you. If you ever get in trouble, come to the match-making kid. I'll square it."

They were four happy young people, and they lost no time in escaping elsewhere. When they had gone, their benefactor said to Miss Blake:

"Wouldn't you like to make that a triple wedding? We might get club rates."

For answer Miss Blake hurried to the door and was gone.

Over at the Centipede there was a great activity and yet a certain idleness also, as if it had been a holiday. The men hung about in groups listening to the peripatetic phonograph. A dozen or more outsiders had ridden over from the post-office to witness the contest. Out by the corral, which stood close to the first break of the foot-hills, Skinner was superintending the laying out of a course, selecting a stretch of level ground worn smooth and hard by the tread of countless hoofs.

"Makes a pretty good track, eh?" he said to Gallagher. "I wonder how fast this feller is? Ever heard?"

"They seem to think he's a whirlin' ball of fire, but that don't worry you none, does it?" Gallagher bent his lead-blue eyes upon the cook, who shrugged carelessly, and Gallagher smiled; he was forced to admit that his man did not appear to be one easily frightened. Skinner's face was hard, his lips thin, his jaw was not that of a weakling. He had dressed early, then wrapped a horse-blanket about his shoulders, and now, casting this aside, sprinted down the dirt track for a few yards to test the footing, while Gallagher watched him with satisfaction--a thing of steel and wire, as tough, as agile, and as spirited as a range-raised cow-pony. He was unshaven, his running-trunks were cut from a pair of overalls, held up at the waist by a section of window- cord, and his chest was scantily covered by an undershirt from which the sleeves had been pulled. But when he returned to pick up his blanket Gallagher noted approvingly that he was not even breathing heavily. With a knowledge confined mainly to live- stock, the foremen inquried:

"How's your laigs? I like to see 'em hairy, that-a-way; it's a sign of stren'th. I bet this college boy is as pink as a maiden's palm! He don't look to me like he could run."

"They fool you sometimes," said Skinner. "By-the-way, what have you bet?"

"We laid the phonograph agin their treasures an' trappin's--"

"But how much money?"

"We got three hundred pesos down, but they sent word they was comin' loaded for b'ar, so we rustled five hundred more."

Skinner's eyes gleamed. "I wish I had a couple of hundred to bet on myself."

"Broke, eh?"

"I'm as clean as a hound's tooth."

"I'm sorry y'all tossed off your wages, but"--Gallagher started suspiciously--"say! I reckon that won't affect your runnin' none, will it?"

Skinner admitted that he could run best when he had something to run for. "You might advance me a month's wages," he reflected.

"I'll do it. Hello! Say, ain't that one of them Flyin' Heart city visitors?" From the direction of the ranch buildings Berkeley Fresno was approaching.

"Good-afternoon! You are Mr. Gallagher, I believe? I rode over with our crowd just now." Fresno looked back. "Let's step around to the other side of the corral; I want to talk to you." He led the way; then inquired, "Is this your runner?"

"That's him. His name's Skinner, and that's a promisin' title to bet on." Gallagher slipped a roll of bank-notes from his pocket. "Unhook! I'll bet you."

"No, no! I think myself Mr. Skinner will win. That's why I'm here."

"Strip your hand, son. I don't savvy."

And Fresno explained.

"You see, I'm a guest over there; but there's no sentiment with me in money matters." He produced a wallet, and took from it five one-hundred-dollar bills. "Bet this for me, and don't let on where it came from. I'll see you after the race. Mind you, not a word!"

"I'm dumb as the Egyptian Spinks."

"This race means a lot to me, Mr. Skinner." The guest of the Flying Heart Ranch turned to its enemy. "There's a girl in it. Understand?" The cook showed the gleam of his teeth. "If you win, I'll send you some wedding-cake and--a box of cigars."

"Thanks," said the other; "but I've got a bum tooth, and I don't smoke."

As Fresno left, there approached, in a surging group, the opposing side.

"Good-evenin', Gabby!" Stover called, loudly, as he came within speaking distance. "Here we come _en massay_, and with ladies, to further embarrass and degrade you in the hour of your defeat!"

"We ain't defeated yit! How do, Mr. Chapin."

"Did you get our message?"

"Yes. But we ain't seen the color of y'all's money."

"Mr. Speed borrowed five hundred dollars from me, and said he might want more," Chapin volunteered.

"Is that all?"

"All?" jeered Still Bill. "Why, this mangy layout ain't never saw that much money," upon which Gallagher carelessly displayed a corpulent roll of bills, remarking:

"Count a thousand, Bill. It all goes on Skinner."

"I ain't heard of no train-robbery," muttered the lanky foreman of the Flying Heart, "nor I don't aim to handle no' tainted money." And Stover and Gallagher faced each other hard before turning.

Jean saw it, and whispered to Chapin: "Oh, Jack dear, I'm terribly frightened!" But Helen Blake, who overheard, left her companions and went straight to Gallagher.

"I should like," she said, "to wager a few dollars on Mr. Speed and the honor of the Flying Heart."

Both Skinner and his foreman stared at her nonplussed.

"You don't look like a bettin' lady," the latter managed to remark, jocularly.

"I'm not, I never made a wager before in all my life; but you see, Mr. Gallagher, I believe in our man." Gallagher lowered his eyes. "How much do you aim to risk, miss?"

"I don't know what the rules are, but I think our side ought to bet as much as your side. That is the way it is done, isn't it?"

"You mean that you aim to cover what Mr. Speed don't?" The girl nodded.

Gallagher spoke admiringly. "You're right game, miss, but I reckon we don't want your money."

"Why not?"

"I suppose there ain't no partic'lar reason."

"If Mr. Speed can beat Mr. Covington, who is the best runner at Yale, I'm sure he can defeat Mr. Skinner, who never went to college at all. They have all turned against him, and he-he is so brave!" Miss Blake's indignation was tearful, and Gallagher spoke hurriedly:

"He may be brave all right, miss, but he can't win unless Skinner dies. You save your money to buy chocolates an' bon-mots, miss. Why, listen" (the stock man softened his voice in a fatherly manner): "this Fresno party is wise; five hundred of this coin is his."

Helen uttered a cry. "Do you mean he is betting _against Mr. Speed?"

"Nothin' else."

"Despicable!" breathed the girl. "Wait a moment, please!" Helen hurried back to Chapin, while Gallagher muttered something like "I ain't takin' no orphan's money."

"Jack!" (the girl was trembling with excitement), "you told me on the way over that you had five hundred dollars with you. Let me have it, please. I'll give you my check when we get home."

"My dear girl, you aren't going to--bet it?"

"Yes, I am."

"Don't do that!"

For answer she snatched the pocket-book from his hand.

"Mr. Gallagher!" she called.

Skinner watched from afar. "Some class to that gal!" was what he said, which proved that he was a person not wholly without sentiment.

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CHAPTER XVIISpeed leaped down from the buckboard in which Carara had driven him and Glass over to the Centipede corral. "I told you to jump out when we crossed that bridge," was Larry's reproach to him. "You could have broke your arm. Now--it's too late." But Speed joined his friends with the most cheerful of greetings. They responded nervously, shocked at his flippant assurance. "This, Mr. Speed, is the scene of your defeat!" Gallagher made the introduction. "And this is Mr. Skinner, no doubt?" Wally shook hands with the Centipede runner, who stared at him, refused to recognize his knowing wink,
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CHAPTER XVIn a daze, Speed saw his friend mount the porch painfully; in a daze, he shook his hand. Subconsciously he beheld Lawrence Glass come panting into view, throw up his hands at sight of Covington, and cry out in a strange tongue. When he regained his faculties he broke into the conversation harshly. "What have you done to yourself?" "I broke a toe," explained the athlete. "You broke a toe?" "He broke a toe!" wailed Glass, faintly. "If it's nothing but a toe, it won't hurt your running." Speed seized eagerly upon the faintest hope. "No. I'll be all right
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