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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Eagle's Heart - Part 3 - Chapter 16. Again On The Round-Up
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The Eagle's Heart - Part 3 - Chapter 16. Again On The Round-Up Post by :Michael_LI Category :Long Stories Author :Hamlin Garland Date :May 2012 Read :989

Click below to download : The Eagle's Heart - Part 3 - Chapter 16. Again On The Round-Up (Format : PDF)

The Eagle's Heart - Part 3 - Chapter 16. Again On The Round-Up


It was good to hear again the bawling of the bulls and the shouts of the cowboys, and to see the swirling herd and the flying, guarding, checking horsemen. Mose, wearied, weather-beaten, and somber-visaged, looked down upon the scene with musing eyes. The action was quite like that on the Arickaree; the setting alone was different. Here the valley was a wide, deliciously green bowl, with knobby hills, pine-covered and abrupt, rising on all sides. Farther back great snow-covered peaks rose to enormous heights. In the center of this superb basin the camps were pitched, and the roping and branding went on like the action of a prodigious drama. The sun, setting in orange-colored clouds, brought out the velvet green of the sward with marvelous radiance. The tents gleamed in the midst of the valley like flakes of pearl.

The heart of the wanderer warmed within him, and with a feeling that he was almost home he called to his pack horse "Hy-ak-boy!" and started down the hill. As he drew near the herd he noted the great changes which had come over the cattle. They were now nearly all grades of Hereford or Holstein. They were larger of body, heavier of limb, and less active than the range cattle of the plains, but were sufficiently speedy to make handling them a fine art.

As he drew near the camp a musical shout arose, and Reynolds spurred his horse out to meet him. "It's Mose!" he shouted. "Boy, I'm glad to see ye, I certainly am. Shake hearty. Where ye from?"

"The Wind River."

"What have you been doing up there?"

"Oh, knocking around with some Shoshones on a hunting trip."

"Well, by mighty, I certainly am glad to see ye. You look thin as a spring steer."

"My looks don't deceive me then. My two sides are rubbin' together. How are the folks?"

"They ah very well, thank you. Cora and Pink will certainly go plumb crazy when they see you a-comin'."

"Where's your house?"

"Just over that divide--but slip your packs off. Old Kintuck looks well; I knew him when you topped the hill."

"Yes, he's still with me, and considerable of a horse yet."

They drew up to the door of one of the main tents and slipped the saddles from the weary horses.

"Do ye hobble?"

"No--they stay with me," said Mose, slapping Kintuck. "Go on, boy, here's grass worth while for ye."

"By mighty, Mose!" said Reynolds, looking at the trailer tenderly, "it certainly is good for sore eyes to see ye. I didn't know but you'd got mixed up an' done for in some of them squabbles. I heard the State authorities had gone out to round up that band of reds you was with."

"We did have one brush with the sheriff and some game wardens, but I stood him off while my friends made tracks for the reservation. The sheriff was for fight, but I argued him out of it. It looked like hot weather for a while."

While they were talking the cook set up a couple of precarious benches and laid a wide board thereon. Mose remarked it.

"A table! Seems to me that's a little hifalutin'."

"So it is, but times are changing."

"I reckon the range on the Arickaree is about wiped out."

"Yes. We had a couple of years with rain a-plenty, and that brought a boom in settlement; everything along the river was homesteaded, and so I retreated--the range was overstocked anyhow. This time I climbed high. I reckon I'm all right now while I live. They can't raise co'n in this high country, and not much of anything but grass. They won't bother us no mo'. It's a good cattle country, but a mighty tough range to ride, as you'll find. I thought I knew what rough riding was, but when it comes to racin' over these granite knobs, I'm jest a little too old. I'm getting heavy, too, you notice."

"_Grub-pile! All down for grub!_" yelled the cook, and the boys came trooping in. They were all strangers, but not strange to Mose. They conformed to types he already knew. Some were young lads, and the word having passed around that "Black Mose" was in camp, they approached with awe. The man whose sinister fame had spread throughout three States was a very great personage to them.

"Did you come by way of Wagon Wheel?" inquired a tall youth whom the others called "Brindle Bill."

"Yes; camped there one night."

"Ain't it a caution to yaller snakes? Must be nigh onto fifteen thousand people there now. The hills is plumb measly with prospect holes, and you can't look at a rock f'r less'n a thousand dollars. It shore is the craziest town that ever went anywhere."

"Bill's got the fever," said another. "He just about wears hisself out a-pickin' up and a-totein' 'round likely lookin' rocks. Seems like he was lookin' fer gold mines 'stid o' cattle most of the time."

"You're just in time for the turnament, Mose."

"For the how-many?"

"The turnament and bullfight. Joe Grassie has been gettin' up a bullfight and a kind of a show. He 'lows to bring up some regular fighters from Mexico and have a real, sure-'nough bullfight. Then he's offered a prize of fifty dollars for the best roper, and fifty dollars for the best shooter."

"I didn't happen to hear of it, but I'm due to take that fifty; I need it," said Mose.

"He 'lows to have some races--pony races and broncho busting."

"When does it come off?" asked Mose with interest.

"On the fourth."

"I'll be there."

After supper was over Reynolds said: "Are you too tired to ride over to the ranch?"

"Oh, no! I'm all right now."

"Well, I'll just naturally throw the saddles on a couple of bronchos and we'll go see the folks."

Mose felt a warm glow around his heart as he trotted away beside Reynolds across the smooth sod. His affection for the Reynolds family was scarcely second to his boyish love for Mr. and Mrs. Burns.

It was dark before they came in sight of the light in the narrow valley of the Mink. "There's the camp," said Reynolds. "No, I didn't build it; it's an old ranch; in fact, I bought the whole outfit."

Mrs. Reynolds had not changed at all in the three years, but Cora had grown handsomer and seemed much less timid, though she blushed vividly as Mose shook her hand.

"I'm glad to see you back," she said.

Moved by an unusual emotion, Mose replied: "You haven't pined away any."

"Pined!" exclaimed her mother. "Well, I should say not. You should see her when Jim Haynes----"

"Mother!" called the girl sharply, and Pink, now a beautiful child of eight, came opportunely into the room and drew the conversation to herself.

As Mose, with Pink at his knee, sat watching the two women moving about the table, a half-formed resolution arose in his brain. He was weary of wandering, weary of loneliness. This comfortable, homely room, this tender little form in his arms, made an appeal to him which was as powerful as it was unexpected. He had lived so long in his blanket, with only Kintuck for company, that at this moment it seemed as if these were the best things to do--to stay with Reynolds, to make Cora happy, and to rest. He had seen all phases of wild life and had carried out his plans to see the wonders of America. He had crossed the Painted Desert and camped beside the Colorado in the greatest canon in the world. He had watched the Mokis while they danced with live rattlesnakes held between their lips. He had explored the cliff-dwellings of the Navajo country and had looked upon the sea of peaks which tumbles away in measureless majesty from Uncompahgre's eagle-crested dome. He had peered into the boiling springs of the Yellowstone, and had lifted his eyes to the white Tetons whose feet are set in a mystic lake, around which the loons laugh all the summer long. He knew the chiefs of a dozen tribes and was a welcome guest among them. In his own mind he was no longer young--his youth was passing, perhaps the time had come to settle down.

Cora turned suddenly from the table, where she stood arranging the plates and knives and forks with a pleasant bustle, and said:

"O Mose! we've got two or three letters for you. We've had 'em ever so long--I don't suppose they will be of much good to you now. I'll get them for you."

"They look old," he said as he took them from her hand. "They look as if they'd been through the war." The first was from his father, the second from Jack, and the third in a woman's hand--could only be Mary's. He stared at it--almost afraid to open it in the presence of the family. He read the one from his father first, because he conceived it less important, and because he feared the other.

"MY DEAR SON: I am writing to you through Jack, although he does not feel sure we can reach you. I want to let you know of the death of Mrs. Excell. She died very suddenly of acute pneumonia. She was always careless of her footwear and went out in the snow to hang out some linen without her rubber shoes. We did everything that could be done but she only lived six days after the exposure. Life is very hard for me now. I write also to say that as I am now alone and in bad health I shall accept a call to Sweetwater Springs, Colorado, for two reasons. One is that my health may be regained, and for the reason, also, my dear son, that I may be nearer you. If this reaches you and you can come to see me I hope you will do so. I am lonely now and I long for you. The parish is small and the pay meager, but that will not matter if I can see you occasionally. Maud and her little family are well. I go to my new church in April.

"Your father, "SAMUEL EXCELL."

For a moment this letter made Mose feel his father's loneliness, and had he not held in his hand two other and more important letters he would have replied with greater tenderness than ever before in his life.

"Well, Mose, set up," said Mrs. Reynolds; "letters'll keep."

He was distracted all through the meal in spite of the incessant questioning of his good friends. They were determined to uncover every act of his long years of wandering.

"Yes," he said, "I've been hungry and cold, but I always looked after my horse, and so, when I struck a cow country I could whirl in and earn some money. It don't take much to keep me when I'm on the trail."

"What's the good of seein' so much?" asked Mrs. Reynolds.

He smiled a slow, musing smile. "Oh, I don't know. The more you see the more you want to see. Just now I feel like taking a little rest."

Cora smiled at him. "I wish you would. You look like a starved cat--you ought'o let us feed you up for a while."

"Spoil me for the trail," he said, but his eyes conveyed a message of gratitude for her sympathy, and she flushed again.

After supper Mrs. Reynolds said: "Now if you want to read your letters by yourself, you can." She opened a door and he looked in.

"A bed! I haven't slept in a bed for two years."

"Well, it won't kill ye, not for one night, I reckon," she said.

He looked around the little room, at the dainty lace curtains tied with little bows of ribbon, at the pictures and lambrequins, and it filled his heart with a sudden stress of longing. It made him remember the pretty parlor in which Mary had received him four years before, and he opened her letter with a tremor in his hands. It was dated the Christmas day of the year of his visit; it was more than three years belated, but he read it as if it were written the day before, and it moved him quite as powerfully.

"MY DEAR FRIEND: The impulse to write to you has grown stronger day by day since you left. Your wonderful life and your words appealed to my imagination with such power that I have been unable to put them out of my mind. Without intending to do so you have filled me with a great desire to see the West which is able to make you forget your family and friends and calls you on long journeys. I have sung for you every Sunday as I promised to do. Your friend Jack called to see me last night and we had a long talk about you. He is to write you also and gave me your probable address. You said you were not a good writer but I wish you would let me know where you are and what you are doing, for I feel a deep interest in you, although I can not make myself believe that you are not the Harold Excell I saw in Rock River. In reality you are not he, any more than I am the little prig who sang those songs to save your soul! However, I was not so bad as I seemed even then, for I wanted you to admire my voice.

"I hope this Christmas day finds you in a warm and sheltered place. It would be a great comfort to me if I could know you were not cold and hungry. Jack brought me a beautiful present--a set of George Eliot. I ought not to have accepted it but he seemed so sure it would please me I had not the heart to refuse. I would send something to you only I can't feel sure of reaching you, and neither does Jack.

"It may be of interest to you to know that Mr. King the pastor, in whose church I sang, has resigned his pastorate to go abroad for a year. His successor is a man with a family--I don't see how he will manage to live on the salary. Mr. King had independent means and was a bachelor."

Right there the youth stopped. Something told him that he had reached the heart of the woman's message. King had resigned to go abroad. Why? The tone of the letter was studiedly cold. Why? There were a few more lines to say that Jack was coming in to eat Christmas dinner with her and that she would sing If I Were a Voice. He was not super-subtle and yet something in this letter made his throat fill and his head a little _dizzy_. If it did not mean that she had broken with King, then truth could not be conveyed in lines of black ink.

He tore open Jack's letter. It was short and to the point.

"DEAR HARRY: If you can get away come back to Marmion and see Mary again. She wants to see you _bad_. I don't know what has happened but I _think she has given King his walking papers--and all on account of you. _I know it. It can't be anybody else. She talked of you the entire evening. O man! but she was beautiful. She sang for me but her mind was away in the mountains. I could see that. It was her interest in you made her so nice to me. Now that's the God's truth. Come back and get her.

"Yours in haste,

Mose tingled with the sudden joy of it. Jack's letter, so unlike his usual calm, was convincing. He sprang up, a smile on his face, his eyes shining with happiness, his blood surging through his heart, and then he remembered the letters were three years old! The gray cloud settled down upon him--his limbs grew cold, and the light went out of his eyes.

Three years! While he was camping in the Grand Canon with the lizards and skunks she was waiting to hear from him. While he sat in the shade of the walls of Walpi, surrounded by hungry dogs and pot-bellied children, she was singing for him and wondering whether her letter had ever reached him. Three years! A thousand things could happen in three years. She may have died!--a cold shudder touched him--she might tire of waiting and marry some one else--or she might have gone away to the East, that unknown and dangerous jungle of cities.

He sprang up again. "I will go to see her!" he said to himself. Then he remembered. His horse was worn, he had no money and no suitable clothing. Then he thought: "I will write." It did not occur to him to telegraph, for he had never done such a thing in his life.

He walked out into the sitting-room, his letters in his hands.

"How far do you call it to Wagon Wheel?"

"About thirty miles, and all up hill."

"Will you loan me one of your bronchos?"

"Certain sure, my boy."

"I want to ride up there and send a couple of letters."

"Better wait till morning," said Reynolds. "Your letters have waited three years--I reckon they'll keep over night."

"That's so," said Mose with a smile.

Sleep came to him swiftly, in spite of his letters, for he was very tired, but he found the room close and oppressive when he arose in the morning. The women were already preparing breakfast and Reynolds sat by the fire pulling on his boots.

As they were walking out to the barn Reynolds plucked him by the sleeve and said:

"I reckon I've lost my chance to kill Craig."


"A Mexican took the job off my hands." His face expressed a sort of gloomy dissatisfaction. Then without looking at Mose he went on: "That's one reason daughter looks so pert. She's free of that skunk's clutches now--and can hold up her head. She's free to marry a decent man."

Mose was silent. Mary's letter had thrust itself between his lips and Cora's shapely head, and all thought of marriage with her was gone.

As they galloped up to the camp the boys were at work finishing the last bunch of calves. The camp wagon was packed and ready to start across the divide, but the cook flourished a newspaper and came running up.

"Here you are, posted like a circus."

Mose took the paper, and on the front page read in big letters:

Mysterious as Ever.
The Celebrated Dead Shot.
Visits Wagon Wheel, and Swiftly Disappears.

"Damn 'em!" said Mose, "can't they let me alone? Seems like they can't rest till they crowd me into trouble."

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