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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesGoing Some: A Romance Of Strenuous Affection - Chapter 9
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Going Some: A Romance Of Strenuous Affection - Chapter 9 Post by :rvlawrence Category :Long Stories Author :Rex Beach Date :May 2012 Read :2144

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Going Some: A Romance Of Strenuous Affection - Chapter 9

CHAPTER IX

Glass had gone to the cowboys' sleeping-quarters in search of his employer, and was upon the point of leaving when the delegation filed in. He regarded them with careless contempt, and removed his clay pipe to exclaim, cheerfully:

"B--zoo gents! Where's my protege?"

"I don't know. Where did you have it last?"

"I mean Speed, my trainin' partner. That's a French word."

"Oh! We just left him."

"Think I'll hunt him up."

"Wait a minute." Willie came forward. "Let's talk."

"All right. We'll visit. Let her go, professor."

"You've been handlin' him for quite a spell, haven't you?"

"Sure! It's my trainin' that put him where he is. Ask him if it ain't."

"Then he's a good athlete, is he?"

"Is he good? Huh!" Glass grunted, expressively.

"How fast can he do a hundred yards?"

Larry yawned as if this conversation bored him.

"Oh--about--eight--seconds."

At this amazing declaration Willie paused, as if to thoroughly digest it.

"Eight seconds!" repeated the little man at length.

"Sure! Depends on how he feels, of course."

Berkeley Fresno, in the corner, snickered audibly, at which the trainer scowled at him.

"Think he can't do it, eh? Well, he's there four ways from the ace."

Seeing no evidence that his statement failed to carry conviction in other quarters at least, Glass went further. It was so easy to string these simple-minded people that he could not resist the temptation. "Didn't you never hear about the killin' he made at Saratoga?" he queried.

Willie started, and his hand crept slowly backward along his belt. "Killin'! Is that his game?"

"Now, get me right," explained the former speaker. "He breaks trainin', and goes up to Saratoga for a little rest. While he's there he wins eight thousand dollars playin' diabolo."

"Playin' what?" queried Stover.

"Diabolo! He backs himself, of course."

Glass took an imaginary spool from his pocket, spun it by means of an imaginary string, then sent it aloft and pretended to catch it dexterously. The cowboys watched him with grave, uncomprehending eyes.

"He starts with a case five and runs it up to eight thousand dollars, that's all."

Stover uttered an exclamation of astonishment, whereupon the New- Yorker grew even bolder.

"The next week he hops over to Bar Harbor and wins the Furturity Ping-pong stakes from scratch. That's worth twenty thousand if it's worth a lead nickel. Oh, I guess he's there, all right!" He searched out a match and relighted his pipe.

"I suppose he's a great croquet-player too," observed Fresno, whose face was purple.

"Sure!" Glass winked at him, glad to see that the Californian enjoyed this kind of sport.

"We don't care nothin' about his skill at sleight-of-hand tricks," said the man in spectacles, seriously. "And we wouldn't hold his croquet habits agin him. Some men drink, some gamble, some do worse; every man has his weakness, and croquet may be his. What we want to know is this: can he win our phonograph?"

"Surest thing you know!"

"Then you vouch for him, do you?" Willie's eyes were bent upon the fat man with a look of searching gravity that warned Glass not to temporize.

"With my life!" exclaimed the trainer.

"You're on!" said the cowboy, with unexpected grimness.

"What d'you mean?"

But before the other could explain, Berkeley Fresno, who had sunk weakly into a chair at Larry's extravagant praise of his rival, afforded a diversion. The tenor had leaned back, convulsed with enjoyment when, losing his balance, he came to the floor with a crash. The sudden sound brought a terrifying result, for with a startled cry the undersized cow-man leaped as if touched by a living flame. Like a flash of light he whirled and poised on his toes, his long, evil-looking revolver drawn and cocked, his tense face vulturelike and fierce. His eyes glared through his spectacles, his livid features worked as if at the sound of his own death-call. His whole frame was tense; a galvanic current had transformed him. His weapon darted toward the spot whence the noise had come, and he would have fired blindly had not Stover yelled:

"Don't shoot!"

Willie paused, and the breath crept audibly into his lungs.

"Who done that?" he asked, harshly.

Still Bill brought his lanky frame up above the level of the table.

"God 'lmighty! don't be so sudden, Willie!" he cried. "It was a accident."

But the gun man seemed unconvinced. With cat-like tread he stole cautiously to the door, and stared out into the sunlight; then, seeing nobody in sight, he replaced his weapon in its resting- place and sighed with relief.

"I thought it was the marshal from Waco," he said. "He'll never git me alive."

Stover addressed himself to Fresno, who had gone pale, and was still prostrate where he had fallen.

"Get up, Mr. Berkeley, but don't make no more moves like that behind a man's back. He most got you."

Fresno arose in a daze and mopped his brow, murmuring, weakly, "I-I didn't mean to."

Carara and Mr. Cloudy came out from cover whither they had fled at Willie's first movement. "I dreamed about that feller agin last night," apologized the little man. "I'm sort of nervous, and any sudden noise sets me off."

As for Glass, that corpulent individual had disappeared as if into thin air; only a stir in one of the bunks betrayed his hiding-place. At the first sight of Willie's revolver he had dived for a refuge and was now flattened against the wall, a pillow pressed over his head to deaden the expected report.

"Hey!" called the foreman, but Glass did not hear him.

"Seems to be gun-shy," observed Willie, gently.

Stover crossed to the bunk and laid a hand upon the occupant, at which a convulsion ran through the trainer's soft body, and it became as rigid as if locked in death. "Come out, Mr. Glass, it's all over."

Larry muttered in a stifled voice, "Go 'way!"

"It was a mistake."

He opened his tight-shut lids, rolled over, and thrust forth a round, pallid face. He saw Stover laughing, and beheld the white teeth of Carara, the Mexican, who said:

"Perhaps the Senor is sleepy!"

Finding himself the object of what seemed to him a particularly senseless joke, the New-Yorker crept forth, his face suffused with anger. Strangely enough, he still retained the pipe in his fingers.

"Say, are youse guys tryin' to kid me?" he demanded, roughly. Now that no firearm was in sight, he was master of himself again; and seeing the cause of his undignified alarm leaning against the table, he stepped toward him threateningly. "If you try that again, young feller, I'll chip you on the jaw, and give you a long, dreamy nap." He thrust a short, square fist under Willie's nose.

That scholarly gentleman straightened up, and edged his way to one side, Glass following aggressively.

"You're a husky, ain't you?" said the little man, squinting up at the red face above him. "Am I?" Glass snorted. "Take a good look!" With deliberate menace he bumped violently into the other. It was with difficulty he could restrain himself from crushing him.

Stover gasped and retreated, while Carara crossed himself, then sidled back of a bunk. Mr. Cloudy stepped silently out through the open door and held his thumbs.

"You start to kid me and I'll wallop you--"

"_One moment!_" Willie was transfigured suddenly. An instant since he had been a stoop-shouldered, short-sighted, insignificant person, more gentle mannered than a child, but in a flash he became a palpitating fury: an evil atom surcharged with such terrific venom that his antagonist drew back involuntarily. "Don't you make no threat'nin' moves in my direction, or you'll go East in an ice-bath!" He was panting as if the effort to hold himself in leash was almost more than he could stand.

"G'wan!" said Glass, thickly.

"You're deluded with the idea that the Constitution made all men equal, but it didn't; it was Mr. Colt." With a movement quicker than light the speaker drew his gun for the second time, and buried half the barrel in the New-Yorker's ribs.

"_Look out!_" Glass barked the words, and undertook to deflect the weapon with his hand.

"Let it alone or it'll go off!"

Glass dropped his hand as if it had been burned, and stared down his bulging front with horrified, fascinated eyes.

"Now, listen. We've stood for you as long as we can. You've made your talk and got away with it, but from now on you're working for us. We've framed a foot-race, and put up our _panga because you said you had a champeen. Now, we ain't sayin' you lied--'cause if we thought you had, I'd gut-shoot you here, now." Willie paused, while Glass licked his lips and undertook to frame a reply. The black muzzle of the weapon hovering near his heart, however, stupefied him. Mechanically he thrust the stem of his pipe between his lips while Willie continued to glare at him balefully. "You're boss is a guest, but you ain't. We can talk plain to you."

"Y--yes, of course."

"You said just now you'd answer for him with your life. Well, we aim to make you! We ain't a-goin' to lose this foot-race under no circumstances whatever, so we give you complete authority over the body, health, and speed of Mr. Speed. It's up to you to make him beat that cook."

"S-s-suppose he gets sick or sprains his ankle?" Glass undertook to move his body from in front of the weapon, but it followed him as if magnetized.

"There ain't a-goin' to be no accidents or excuses. It's pay or play, money at the tape. You're his trainer, and it's your fault if he ain't fit when he toes the mark. Understand?"

Willie lowered the muzzle of his weapon, and fired between the legs of Glass, who leaped into the air with all the grace of a gazelle. It was due to no conscious action on his part that the trainer leaped; his muscles were stimulated spasmodically, and propelled him from the floor. At the same time his will was so utterly paralyzed that he had no control over his movements; he did not even hear the yell that burst from his throat as his lungs contracted; he merely knew that he was in the supremest peril, and that flight was futile. Therefore he undertook to steady himself. Every tissue of his body seemed to creep and crawl. The flesh inside his legs was quivering, the close-cropped hair of his thick neck rose and prickled, and his capacious abdomen throbbed and pulsated like a huge bowl of jelly. He laid his hands upon it to still the disturbance. Then he became conscious that he had bitten his pipe-stem in two and swallowed the end. He felt it sticking in his throat.

"Did you hear what I said?" demanded Willie, in a voice that sounded like the sawing of a meat bone.

Glass opened his mouth, and when no sound issued, nodded.

"And you understand?"

Again the trainer bobbed his head. The pipe-stem had cut off all power of speech, and he knew himself dumb for life.

"Then I guess that's all. It's up to you." Willie replaced his gun, and the fat man threatened to fall. "Come on, boys!" The cowboys filed out silently, but on the threshold Willie paused and darted a venomous glance at his enemy. "Don't forget what I said about Mr. Colt and the equality of man."

"Yes, sir!--yes, ma'am!" ejaculated the frightened trainer, nervously. When they were gone he collapsed.

"They are rather severe, aren't they?" ventured Fresno.

"Severe!" cried the unhappy man. "Why, Speed can't--" He was about to explain everything when the memory of Willie's words smote him like a blow. That fiend had threatened to kill him, Lawrence Glass, without preliminary if it became evident that a fraud had been practiced. Manifestly this was no place for hysterical confidences. Larry's mouth closed like a trap, while the Californian watched him intently. At length he did speak, but in a strangely softened tone, and at utter variance with his custom.

"Say, Mr. Fresno! Which direction is New York?"

"That way." Fresno pointed to the east, and the other man stared longingly out through the bunk-house window.

"It's quite a walk, ain't it?"

"Walk?" Berkeley laughed. "It's two or three thousand miles!" Glass sighed heavily. "Why do you ask?"

"Oh, nothin'. Jest gettin' homesick." He calmed himself with an effort, entered the gymnasium as if in search of something, and then set forth to find Speed.

That ecstatic young gentleman wrenched his gaze away from the blue eyes of Miss Blake to see his trainer signalling him from afar.

"What is it, Lawrence?"

"Got to see you."

"Presently."

"Nix! I got to see you _now!_" Glass's ruddy face was blotched, and he seemed to rest in the grip of some blighting malady. Beneath his arm he carried a tight-rolled bundle. Sensing something important back of this unusual demeanor, Speed excused himself and followed Larry, who did not trust to speech until they were alone in the gymnasium with the doors closed. Then he unrolled the bundle he carried, spread it upon the floor, and stepped into its exact centre.

"Are you standing on my prayer-rug?" demanded his companion, angrily.

"I am! And from this on I'm goin' to make it work itself to death. She said a feller couldn't get hurt if he stood on it and said 'Allah.' Well, I'm goin' to wear it out."

"What's wrong?"

"Do you know what's goin' to happen to me if Covington don't get here and beat this cook?"

"Happen to you?"

"Yes, me! These outlaws have put it up to me to win this bet for them."

"Well, Covington can beat anybody."

"But Covington isn't here yet."

"Not yet, but--" The young man smiled. "You're not frightened, are you?"

"Scared to death, that's all," acknowledged the other. Then when his employer laughed openly, he broke out at a white-heat. "Joke, eh? Well, you'd better have a good laugh while you can, because Humpy Joe's finish will be a ten-course dinner to what you'll get if Covington misses his train."

"How easily frightened you are!"

"Yes? Well, any time people start shooting shots I'm too big for this earth. The hole in a gun looks as big as a gas-tank to me."

"But nobody is going to shoot you!" exclaimed the mystified college man.

"They ain't, hey? I missed the Golden Stairs by a lip not half an hour ago. I got a pipe-stem crossways in my gullet now, and it tickles." He coughed loudly, then shook his head. "No use; it won't come up." With feverish intensity he told of his narrow escape from destruction, the memory bringing a sweat of agony to his brow. "And the worst of it is," he concluded, "I'm 'marked' with guns. I've always been that way."

"Tut! tut! Don't alarm yourself. If Covington shouldn't come, the race will be declared off."

"No chance," announced the trainer, with utter conviction. "These thugs have made it pay or play, and the bets are down."

"You know I can't run."

"If he don't come, you'll _have to!"

"Absurd! I shall be indisposed."

"If you mean you'll get sick, or sprain an ankle, or break a leg, or kill yourself, guess again. I'm responsible for you now. Something may go wrong with me, that pipe-stem is liable to gimme a cancer, but nothin' is goin' to happen to you. My only chance to make a live of it is to cough up that clay, and get some one to outrun this cook. You're the only chance I've got, if Culver don't show, and the first law of nature ain't never been repealed."

"Self-protection, eh?"

"Exactly." Glass coughed thrice without result, stepped off the prayerrug, rolled it up tightly; then, hugging it beneath his arm, went on: "That four-eyed guy slipped me a whole lot of feed- box information. Why, he's a killer, Wally! And he's got a cash- register to tally his dead."

"Notches on his gun-handle, I suppose?"

"So many that it looks like his wife had used it to hang pictures with. I tell you, he's the most deceitful rummy I ever seen. What's more, he's got the homicide habit, and the habit has got its eye on _me_." Glass was in deadly earnest, and his alarm contrasted so strongly with his former contemptuous attitude toward the cowboys that Speed was constrained to laugh again.

"It's the most amusing thing I ever heard of."

"Yes," said the trainer, with elaborate sarcasm, "it would be awful funny if it wasn't on the square." He moistened his lip nervously.

"You alarm yourself unnecessarily. We'll hear from Culver soon, either by wire or in person. He's never failed me yet. But if I were you, Larry, I'd leave that Mexican girl alone."

"Mary?"

"Yes. Mariedetta. Now, there's something to be afraid of. If these cowboys are in love with her and have their eyes on you--"

"Oh, Willie ain't her steady, and he's the only one I'm leary of. Mary's beau is that Egyptian with the funny clothes, and I can lick any guy with tight pants."

A gentle knock sounded at the door, at which Speed called:

"Come in!"

Senor Aurelio Maria Carara entered. He was smoking his customary corn-husk cigarette, but his dark eyes were grave and his silken mustachios were pointed to the fineness of a bristle.

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CHAPTER X"_Buenos dias, Senor._" Carara bowed politely to Speed. "Good-morning again," said Wally. Turning to the trainer, Carara eyed him from top to toe, removed his cigarette, and flipped the ashes daintily from it; then, smiling disdainfully, said: "_Buenos dias, Senor Fat!_" Glass started. "You talkin' to me?" "Yes." Carara leaned languidly against the wall, took a match from his pocket, and dextrously struck it between the nails of his thumb and finger. He breathed his lungs full of smoke and exhaled it through his nose. "I would have spik to you biffore, but the Senor Fat is"--he shrugged his shoulders--"frighten'
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Going Some: A Romance Of Strenuous Affection - Chapter 8 Going Some: A Romance Of Strenuous Affection - Chapter 8

Going Some: A Romance Of Strenuous Affection - Chapter 8
CHAPTER VIIILawrence Glass was beginning to like New Mexico. Not only did it afford a tinge of romance, discernable in the deep, haunting eyes of Mariedetta, the maid, but it offered an opportunity for financial advancement--as, for instance, the purchase of Willie's watch. This timepiece cost the trainer twenty-one dollars, and he sold it to Speed for double the amount, believing in the luck of even numbers. Nor did young Speed allow his trainer's efforts to cease here, for in every portable timepiece on the ranch he recognized a menace, and not until Lawrence had cornered the market and the whole
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