Full Online Books
Authors Authors Short Stories Short Stories Long Stories Long Stories Funny Stories Funny Stories Love Stories Love Stories Stories For Kids Stories For Kids Poems Poems Essays Essays Nonfictions Nonfictions Plays Plays Folktales Folktales Fairy Tales Fairy Tales Fables Fables Learning Kitchen Learning Kitchen
Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Free Classified Website Without Registration Free Classified Website Daniel Company
Twitter Twitter Add book
Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Eagle's Heart - Part 3 - Chapter 18. The Eagle Guards The Sheep
Famous Authors (View All Authors)
The Eagle's Heart - Part 3 - Chapter 18. The Eagle Guards The Sheep Post by :Michael_LI Category :Long Stories Author :Hamlin Garland Date :May 2012 Read :1122

Click below to download : The Eagle's Heart - Part 3 - Chapter 18. The Eagle Guards The Sheep (Format : PDF)

The Eagle's Heart - Part 3 - Chapter 18. The Eagle Guards The Sheep


Mose did not enter upon his duties as guard with joy. It seemed like small business and not exactly creditable employment for a trailer and cow puncher. It was in his judgment a foolish expenditure of money; but as there was nothing better to do and his need of funds was imperative, he accepted it.

The papers made a great deal of it, complimenting the company upon its shrewdness, and freely predicted that no more hold-ups would take place along that route. Mose rode out of town on the seat with the driver, a Winchester between his knees and a belt of cartridges for both rifle and revolvers showing beneath his coat. He left the stable each morning at four A. M. and rode to the halfway house, where he slept over night, returning the following day. From the halfway house to the Springs there were settlers and less danger.

He was conscious of being an object of curious inquiry. Meeting stage coaches was equivalent to being fired at by fifty pistols. Low words echoed from lip to lip: "Black Mose," "bad man," "graveyard of his own," "good fellow when sober," etc. Sometimes, irritated and reckless, he lived up to his sinister reputation, and when some Eastern gentleman in brown corduroy timidly approached to say, "Fine weather," Mose turned upon him a baleful glare under which the questioner shriveled, to the delight of the driver, who vastly admired the new guard.

At times he was unnecessarily savage. Well-meaning men who knew nothing about him, except that he was a guard, were rebuffed in quite the same way. He was indeed becoming self-conscious, as if on exhibition, somehow--and this feeling deepened as the days passed, for nothing happened. No lurking forms showed in the shadow of the pines. No voice called "Halt!" It became more and more like a stage play.

He was much disturbed by Jack's letter which was waiting for him one night when he returned to Wagon Wheel.

"DEAR HARRY: I went up to see Mary a few weeks ago and found she had gone to Chicago. Her father died over a year ago and she decided soon after to go to the city and go on with her music. She's in some conservatory there. I don't know which one. I tried hard to keep her on my own account but she wouldn't listen to me. Well, yes, she listened but she shook her head. She dropped King soon after your visit--whether you had anything to do with that or not I don't know--I think you did, but as you didn't write she gave you up as a bad job. She always used to talk of you and wonder where you were, and every time I called she used to sing If I Were a Voice. She never _said she was singing it for you, but there were tears in her eyes--and in mine, too, old man. You oughtn't to be throwing yourself away in that wild, God-forsaken country. We discussed you most of the time. Once in a while she'd see a little note in the paper about you, and cut it out and send it to me. I did the same. We heard of you at Flagstaff, Arizona. Then that row you had with the Mormons was the next we knew, but we couldn't write. She said it was pretty tough to hear of you only in some scrape, but I told her your side hadn't been heard from and that gave her a lot of comfort. The set-to you had about the Indians' right to hunt pleased us both. That was a straight case. She said it was like a knight of the olden time.

"She was uneasy about you, and once she said, 'I wish I could reach him. That rough life terrifies me. He's in constant danger.' I think she was afraid you'd take to drinking, and I own up, old man, that worries _me_. If you only had somebody to look after you--somebody to work for--like I have. I'm going to be married in September. You know her--only she was a little girl when you lived here. Her name is Lily Blanchard.

"I wish I could help you about Mary. I'm going to write to one or two parties who may know her address. If she's in Chicago you could visit her without any trouble. They wouldn't get on to you there at all. If you go, be sure and come this way. Your father went to Denver from here--have you heard from him?"

There was deep commotion in the trailer's brain that night. The hope he had was too sacredly sweet to put into words--the hope that she still thought of him and longed for him. If Jack were right, then she had waited and watched for him through all those years of wandering, while he, bitter and unrelenting, and believing that she was King's wife, had refused to listen for her voice on Sunday evenings. If she had kept her promise, then on the trail, in canons dark and deathly still, on the moonlit sand of the Painted Desert, on the high divides of the Needle Range, her thought had been winged toward him in song--and he had not listened.

His thought turned now, for the first time, toward the great city, which was to him a savage jungle of unknown things, a web of wire, a maze of streets, a swirling flood of human beings, of interest now merely and solely because Mary had gone to live therein. "I'm due to make another trip East," he said to himself with a grim straightening of the lips.

It was mighty serious business. To take Kintuck and hit the trail for the Kalispels over a thousand miles of mountain and plain, was simple, but to thrust himself amid the mad rush of a great city made his bold heart quail. Money was a minor consideration in the hills, but in the city it was a matter of life and death. Money he must now have, and as he could not borrow or steal it, it must be earned. In a month his wages would amount to one hundred dollars, but that was too slow. He saw no other way, however, so set his teeth and prepared to go on with the "fool business" of guarding the treasure wagon of the Express Company.

His mind reverted often to the cowboy tournament which was about to come off, after hanging fire for a month, during which Grassi wrestled with the problem of how to hold a bullfight in opposition to the laws of the State. "If I could whirl in and catch one of those purses," thought Mose, "I could leave at the end of August. If I don't I must hang on till the first of October."

He determined to enter for the roping contest and for the cowboy race and the revolver practice. Marshal Haney was delighted. "I'll attend to the business, but the entrance fees will be about twenty dollars."

This staggered Mose. It meant an expenditure of nearly one fourth his month's pay in entrance fees, not to speak of the expense of keeping Kintuck, for the old horse had to go into training and be grain-fed as well. However, he was too confident of winning to hesitate. He drew on his wages, and took a day off to fetch Kintuck, whom he found fat and hearty and very dirty.

The boys at the Reynolds ranch were willing to bet on Mose, and every soul determined to be there. Cora said quietly: "I know you'll win."

"Well, I don't expect to sweep the board, but I'll get a lunch while the rest are getting a full meal," he replied, and returned to his duties.

The weather did not change for the tournament. Each morning the sun arose flashing with white, undimmed fire. At ten o'clock great dazzling white clouds developed from hidden places behind huge peaks, and as they expanded each let fall a veil of shimmering white storms that were hail on the heights and sleet on the paths in the valleys. These clouds passed swiftly, the sun came out, the dandelions shone vividly through their coverlet of snow, the eaves dripped, the air was like March, and the sunsets like November.

Naturally, Sunday was the day fixed upon for the tournament, and early on that day miners in clean check shirts and bright new blue overalls began to stream away up the road which led to the race track, some two miles away, on the only level ground for a hundred miles. Swift horses hitched to light open buggies whirled along, loaded down with men. Horsemen galloped down the slopes in squadrons--and such horsemen!--cowboys from "Lost Park" and "the Animas." Prospectors like Casey and Kelly who were quite as much at home on a horse as with a pick in a ditch, and men like Marshal Haney and Grassi, who were all-round plainsmen, and by that same token born horsemen. Haney and Kelly rode with Reynolds and Mose, while Cora and Mrs. Reynolds followed in a rusty buggy drawn by a fleabitten gray cow pony, sedate with age.

Kintuck was as alert as a four-year-old. His rest had filled him to bursting with ambition to do and to serve. His muscles played under his shining skin like those of a trained athlete. Obedient to the lightest touch or word of his master, with ears in restless motion, he curvetted like a racer under the wire.

"Wouldn't know that horse was twelve years old, would you, gentlemen?" said Reynolds. "Well, so he is, and he has covered fifteen thousand miles o' trail."

Mose was at his best. With vivid tie flowing from the collar of his blue shirt, with a new hat properly crushed in on the crown in four places, with shining revolver at his hip, and his rope coiled at his right knee, he sat his splendid horse, haughty and impassive of countenance, responding to the greetings of the crowd only with a slight nod or a wave of the hand.

It seemed to him that the population of the whole State--at least its men--was assembled within the big stockade. There were a few women--just enough to add decorum to the crowd. They were for the most part the wives or sisters or sweethearts of those who were to contest for prizes, but as Mose rode around the course he passed "the princess" sitting in her shining barouche and waving a handkerchief. He pretended not to see her, though it gave him pleasure to think that the most brilliantly-dressed woman on the grounds took such interest in him. Another man would have ridden up to her carriage, but Mose kept on steadily to the judge's stand, where he found a group of cowboys discussing the programme with Haney, the marshal of the day.

Mose already knew his dangerous rival--a powerful and handsome fellow called Denver Dan, whose face was not unlike his own. His nose was straight and strong, his chin finely modeled, and his head graceful, but he was heavier, and a persistent flush on his nose and in his eyelids betrayed the effects of liquor. His hands were small and graceful and he wore his hat with a certain attractive insolence, but his mouth was cruel and his eyes menacing. When in liquor he was known to be ferocious. He was mounted on a superbly pointed grade broncho, and all his hangings were of costly Mexican workmanship and betrayed use.

"The first thing is a 'packing contest,'" read Haney.

"Oh, to h----l with that, I'm no packer," growled Dan.

"I try that," said Mose; "I let nothing get away to-day."

"Entrance fee one dollar."

"Here you are." Mose tossed a dollar.

"Then 'roping and holding contest.'"

"Now you're talking my business," exclaimed Dan.

"There are others," said Mose.

Dan turned a contemptuous look on the speaker--but changed his expression as he met Mose's eyes.

"Howdy, Mose?"

"So's to sit a horse," Mose replied in a tone which cut. He was not used to being patronized by men of Dan's set.

The crowd perceived the growing rivalry between the two men and winked joyously at each other.

At last all was arranged. The spectators were assembled on the rude seats. The wind, sweet, clear, and cool, came over the smooth grassy slopes to the west, while to the east, gorgeous as sunlit marble, rose the great snowy peaks with huge cumulus clouds--apparently standing on edge--peeping over their shoulders from behind. Mose observed them and mentally calculated that it would not shower till three in the afternoon.

In the track before the judge's stand six piles of "truck," each pile precisely like the others, lay in a row. Each consisted of a sack of flour, a bundle of bacon, a bag of beans, a box, a camp stove, a pick, a shovel, and a tent. These were to be packed, covered with a mantle, and caught by "the diamond hitch."

Mose laid aside hat and coat, and as the six pack horses approached, seized the one intended for him. Catching the saddle blanket up by the corners, he shook it straight, folded it once, twice--and threw it to the horse. The sawbuck followed it, the cinch flying high so that it should go clear. A tug, a grunt from the horse, and the saddle was on. Unwinding the sling ropes, he made his loops, and end-packed the box. Against it he put both flour and beans. Folding the tent square he laid it between. On this he set the stove, and packing the smaller bags around it, threw on the mantle. As he laid the hitch and began to go around the pack, the crowd began to cheer:

"Go it, Mose!"

"He's been there before."

"Well, I guess," said another.

Mose set his foot to the pack and "pinched" the hitch in front. Nothing remained now but the pick, shovel, and coffee can. The tools he crowded under the ropes on either side, tied the cans under the pack at the back and called Kintuck, "Come on, boy." The old horse with shining eyes drew near. Catching his mane, Mose swung to the saddle, Kintuck nipped the laden cayuse, and they were off while the next best man was still worrying over the hitch.

"Nine dollars to the good on that transaction," muttered Mose, as the marshal handed him a ten dollar gold piece.

"The next exercise on the programme," announced Haney, "will be the roping contest. The crowd will please be as quiet as possible while this is going on. Bring on your cows."

Down the track in a cloud of dust came a bunch of cattle of all shapes and sizes. They came snuffing and bawling, urged on by a band of cowboys, while a cordon of older men down the track stopped and held them before the judge's stand.

"First exercise--'rope and hold,'" called the marshal. "Denver Dan comes first."

Dan spurred into the arena, his rope swinging gracefully in his supple up-raised wrist.

"Which one you want?" he asked.

"The line-back yearling," called Haney.

With careless cast Dan picked up both hind feet of the calf--his horse set his hoofs and held the bawling brute.

"All right," called the judge. The rope was slackened and the calf leaped up. Dan then successively picked up any foot designated by the marshal. "Left hind foot! Right fore foot!" and so on with almost unerring accuracy. His horse, calm and swift, obeyed every word and every shift of his rider's body. The crowd cheered, and those who came after added nothing to the contest.

Mose rode into the inclosure with impassive face. He could only duplicate the deeds of those who had gone before so long as his work was governed by the marshal--but when, as in the case of others, he was free to "put on frills," he did so. Tackling the heaviest and wildest steer, he dropped his rope over one horn and caught up one foot, then taking a loose turn about his pommel he spoke to Kintuck. The steer reached the end of the rope with terrible force. It seemed as if the saddle must give way--but the strain was cunningly met, and the brute tumbled and laid flat with a wild bawl. While Kintuck held him Mose took a cigar from his pocket, bit the end off, struck a match and puffed carelessly and lazily. It was an old trick, but well done, and the spectators cheered heartily.

After a few casts of almost equal brilliancy, Mose leaped to the ground with the rope in his hand, and while Kintuck looked on curiously, he began a series of movements which one of Delmar's Mexicans had taught him. With the noose spread wide he kept it whirling in the air as if it were a hoop. He threw it into the air and sprang through it, he lowered it to the ground, and leaping into it, flung it far above his head. In his hand this inert thing developed snakelike action. It took on loops and scallops and retained them, apparently in defiance of all known laws of physics--controlled and governed by the easy, almost imperceptible motions of his steel-like wrist.

"Forty-five dollars more to the good," said Mose grimly as the decision came in his favor.

"See here--going to take all the prizes?" asked one of the judges.

"So long as you keep to my line of business," replied he.

The races came next. Kintuck took first money on the straightaway dash, but lost on the long race around the pole. It nearly broke his heart, but he came in second to Denver Dan's sorrel twice in succession.

Mose patted the old horse and said: "Never mind, old boy, you pulled in forty dollars more for me."

Reynolds had tears in his eyes as he came up.

"The old hoss cain't compete on the long stretches. He's like a middle-aged man--all right for a short dash--but the youngsters have the best wind--they get him on the mile course."

In the trained pony contest the old horse redeemed himself. He knelt at command, laid out flat while Mose crouched behind, and at the word "Up!" sprang to his feet and waited--then with his master clinging to his mane he ran in a circle or turned to right or left at signal. All the tricks which the cavalry had taught their horses, Mose, in years on the trail, had taught Kintuck. He galloped on three legs and waltzed like a circus horse. He seemed to know exactly what his master said to him.

A man with a big red beard came up to Mose as he rode off the track and said:

"What'll you take for that horse?"

Mose gave him a savage glance. "He ain't for sale."

The broncho-busting contest Mose declined.

"How's that?" inquired Haney, who hated to see his favorite "gig back" at a point where his courage could be tested.

"I've busted all the bronchos for fun I'm going to," Mose replied.

Dan called in a sneering tone: "Bring on your varmints. I'm not dodgin' mean cayuses to-day."

Mose could not explain that for Mary's sake he was avoiding all danger. There was risk in the contest and he knew it, and he couldn't afford to take it.

"That's all right!" he sullenly replied. "I'll be with you later in the game."

A wall-eyed roan pony, looking dull and stupid, was led before the stand. Saddled and bridled he stood dozing while the crowd hooted with derision.

"Don't make no mistake!" shouted Haney; "he's the meanest critter on the upper fork."

A young lad named Jimmy Kincaid first tackled the job, and as he ran alongside and tried the cinch, the roan dropped an ear back--the ear toward Jimmy, and the knowing ones giggled with glee. "He's wakin'up! Look out, Jim!"

The lad gathered the reins in his left hand, seized the pommel with his right, and then the roan disclosed his true nature. He was an old rebel. He did not waste his energies on common means. He plunged at once into the most complicated, furious, and effective bucking he could devise, almost without moving out of his tracks--and when the boy, stunned and bleeding at the nose, sprawled in the dust, the roan moved away a few steps and dozed, panting and tense, apparently neither angry nor frightened.

One of the Reynolds gang tried him next and "stayed with him" till he threw himself. When he arose the rider failed to secure his stirrups and was thrown after having sat the beast superbly. The miners were warming to the old roan. Many of them had never seen a pitching broncho before, and their delight led to loud whoops and jovial outcries.

"Bully boy, roan! Shake 'em off!"

Denver Dan tried him next and sat him, haughtily contemptuous, till he stopped, quivering with fatigue and reeking with sweat.

"Oh, well!" yelled a big miner, "that ain't a fair shake for the pony; you should have took him when he was fresh." And the crowd sustained him in it.

"Here comes one that is fresh," called the marshal, and into the arena came a wicked-eyed, superbly-fashioned black roan horse, plainly wild and unbroken, led by two cowboys, one on either side.

Joe Grassi shook a handfull of bills down at the crowd. "Here's a hundred dollars to the man who'll set that pony three minutes by the watch."

"This is no place to tackle such a brute as that," said Reynolds.

Mose was looking straight ahead with a musing look in his eyes.

Denver Dan walked out. "I need that hundred dollars; nail it to a post for a few minutes, will ye?"

This was no tricky old cow pony, but a natively vicious, powerful, and cunning young horse. While the cowboys held him Dan threw off his coat and hat and bound a bandanna over the bronchos's head and pulled it down over his eyes. Laying the saddle on swiftly, but gently, he cinched it strongly. With determined and vigorous movement, he thrust the bit into his mouth.

"Slack away!" he called to the ropers. The horse, nearly dead for lack of breath, drew a deep sigh.

Haney called out: "Stand clear, everybody, clear the road!"

And casting one rope to the ground, Dan swung into the saddle.

For just an instant the horse crouched low and waited--then shot into the air with a tigerish bound and fell stiff-legged. Again and again he flung his head down, humped his back, and sprang into the air grunting and squealing with rage and fear. Dan sat him, but the punishment made him swear. Suddenly the horse dropped and rolled, hoping to catch his rider unawares. Dan escaped by stepping to the ground, but he was white, and the blood was oozing slowly from his nose. As the brute arose, Dan was in the saddle. With two or three tremendous bounds, the horse flung himself into the air like a high-vaulting acrobat, landing so near the fence that Dan, swerving far to the left, was unseated, and sprawled low in the dust while the squealing broncho went down the track bucking and lashing out with undiminished vigor.

Dan staggered to his feet, stunned and bleeding. He swore most terrible oaths that he would ride that wall-eyed brute if it took a year.

"You've had your turn. It was a fair fight," called Kelly.

"Who's the next ambitious man?" shouted Haney.

"I don't want no truck with that," said the cowboys among themselves.

"Not in a place like this," said Jimmy. "A feller's liable to get mashed agin a fence."

Mose stood with hands gripping a post, his eyes thoughtful. Suddenly he threw off his coat.

"I'll try him," he said.

"Oh, I don't think you'd better; it'll bung you all up," cautioned Reynolds.

Mose said in a low voice: "I'm good for him, and I need that money."

"Let him breathe awhile," called the crowd as the broncho was brought back, lariated as before. "Give him a show for his life."

Mose muttered to Reynolds: "He's due to bolt, and I'm going to quirt him a-plenty."

The spectators, tense with joy, filled the air with advice and warning. "Don't let him get started. Keep him away from the fence."

Mose wore a set and serious look as he approached the frenzied beast. There was danger in this trick--a broken leg or collar bone might make his foolhardiness costly. In his mind's eye he could foresee the broncho's action. He had escaped down the track once, and would do the same again after a few desperate bounds--nevertheless Mose dreaded the terrible concussion of those stiff-legged leapings.

Standing beside the animal's shoulder he slipped off the ropes and swung to the saddle. The beast went off as before, with three or four terrible buck jumps, but Mose plied the quirt with wild shouting, and suddenly, abandoning his pitching, the horse set off at a tearing pace around the track. For nearly half way he ran steadily--then began once more to hump his back and leap into the air.

"He's down!" yelled some one.

"No, he's up again--and Mose is there," said Haney.

The crowd, not to be cheated of their fun, raced across the oval where the battle was still going on.

The princess was white with anxiety and ordered her coachman to "Get there quick as God'll let ye." When she came in sight the horse was tearing at Mose's foot with his teeth.

"Time's up!" called Haney.

"Make it ten," said Mose, whose blood was hot.

The beast dropped and rolled, but arose again under the sting of the quirt and renewed his frenzied attack. As Mose roweled him he kicked with both hind feet as if to tear the cinch from his belly. He reared on his toes and fell backward. He rushed with ferocious cunning against the corral, forcing his rider to stand in the opposite stirrup, then bucked, keeping so close to the fence that Mose was forced to hang to his mane and fight him from tearing his flesh with his savage teeth. Twice he went down and rolled over, but when he arose Mose was on his back. Twice he flung himself to the earth, and the second time he broke the bridle rein, but Mose, catching one piece, kept his head up while he roweled him till the blood dripped in the dust.

At last, after fifteen minutes of struggle, the broncho again made off around the track at a rapid run. As he came opposite the judge's stand Mose swung him around in a circle and leaped to the ground, leaving the horse to gallop down the track. Dusty, and quivering with fatigue, Mose walked across the track and took up his coat.

"You earned your money, Mose," said Grassi, as he handed out the roll of bills.

"I'll think so to-morrow morning, I reckon," replied Mose, and his walk showed dizziness and weakness.

"You've had the easy end of it," said Dan. "You should have took him when I did, when he was fresh."

"You didn't stay on him long enough to weaken him any," said Mose in offensive reply, and Dan did not care to push the controversy any further.

"That spoils my shooting now," Mose said to Haney. "I couldn't hit the side of a mule."

"Oh, you'll stiddy up after dinner."

"Good boy!" called the crisp voice of Mrs. Raimon. "Come here, I want to talk with you."

He could not decently refuse to go to the side of her carriage. She had with her a plain woman, slightly younger than herself, who passed for her niece. The two men who came with them were in the judge's stand.

Leaning over, she spoke with sudden intensity. "My God! you mustn't take such risks--I'm all of a quiver. You're too good a man to be killed by a miserable bucking broncho. Don't do it again, for my sake--if that don't count, for _her sake."

And he in sudden joy and confidence replied: "That's just why I did it; for her sake."

Her eyes set in sudden alarm. "What do you mean?"

"You'll know in a day or two. I'm going to quit my job."

"I know," she said with a quick indrawn breath, "you're going away. Who's that girl I saw you talking with to-day? Is that the one?"

He laughed at her for the first time. "Not by a thousand miles."

"What do you mean by that? Does she live in Chicago?"

He ceased to laugh and grew a little darker of brow, and she quietly added: "That's none o' my business, you'd like to say. All right--say it isn't. But won't you get in and go down to dinner with me? I want to honor the champion--the Ivanhoe of the tournament."

He shook his head. "No, I've promised to picnic with some old friends of mine."

"That girl over there?"


"Well, just as you say, but you must eat with me to-night, will you? Come now, what do you say?"

With a half promise Mose walked away toward the Reynolds' carriage--not without regret, for there was charm in the princess, both in her own handsome person and because she suggested a singular world of which he knew nothing. She allured and repelled at the same time.

Beside the buggy Cora and Mrs. Reynolds had spread a substantial lunch, and in such humble company the victor of the tournament ate his dinner, while Dan and the rest galloped off to a saloon.

"I don't know what I can do with the gun," he said in reply to a question from Cora. "My nerves are still on the jump; I guess I'll keep out of the contest--it would hurt my reputation to miss." He turned to Reynolds: "Capt'n, I want you to get me a chance to punch cattle on a car down to Chicago."

Reynolds looked surprised. "What fur do you want to go to Chicago, Mose? I never have knew you to mention hit befo'."

Mose felt his skin growing red. "Well, I just thought I'd like to take a turn in the States and see the elephant."

"You'll see the hull circus if you go to Chicago," said Mrs. Reynolds. "They say it's a terrible wicked place."

"I don't suppose it's any worse than Wagon Wheel, ma," said Cora.

"Yes, but it's so much bigger."

"Well, mother," said Reynolds, "a bear is bigger than a ho'net, but the ho'net can give him points and beat him, suah thing."

Mose was rather glad of this diversion, for when Reynolds spoke again it was to say: "I reckon I can fix it for you. When do you want it?"

"Right off, this week."

"Be gone long?"

Cora waited anxiously for his answer, and his hesitation and uncertainty of tone made her heart grow heavy.

"Oh, no--only a short trip, I reckon. Got to get back before my money gives out."

He did not intend to enter the revolver contest, but it offered so easy to his hand that he went in and won hands down. His arm was lame, but his nerves, not fevered by whisky, swiftly recovered tone. He was careful, however, not to go beyond the limits of the contest as he should have done had his arm possessed all of its proper cunning. He had no real competitor but Dan, who had been drinking steadily all day and was unfitted for his work. Mose lost nothing in the trial.

That night he put into his pocket one hundred and twenty dollars as the result of his day's work, and immediately asked to be released of his duties as guard.

The manager of the Express Company said: "I'm sorry you're leaving us, and I hope you'll return to us soon. I'll hold the place open for you, if you say so."

This Mose refused. "I don't like it," he said. "I don't think I earn the money. Hire a good driver and he'll have no trouble. You don't need me."

Mindful of his promise to eat dinner with the princess, he said to Reynolds: "Don't wait for me. Go on--I'll overtake you at Twelve Mile Creek."

The princess had not lost sight of him for a single moment, and the instant he departed from his friends she drove up. "You are to come to my house to-night, remember."

"I must overtake my folks; I can't stay long," he said lamely.

Her power was augmented by her home. He had expected pictures and fine carpets and a piano and they were there, but there was a great deal more. He perceived a richness of effect which he could not have formulated better than to say, "It was all _fine_." He had expected things to be costly and gay of color, but this mysterious fitness of everything was a marvel to one like himself, used only to the meager ornaments of the homes in Rock River, or the threadbare poverty of the ranches and the squalid hotels of the cow country. The house was a large new frame building, not so much different from other houses with respect to exterior, but as he entered the door he took off his hat to it as he used to do as a lad in the home of Banker Brooks, deacon in his father's church.

His was a sensitive soul, eye and ear were both acute. He perceived, without accounting for it, that the walls and hangings were complementary in color, that the furniture matched the carpet, and that the pictures on the wall were unusually good. They were not all highly-colored, naked subjects, as he had been led to expect. His respect for Mrs. Raimon rose, for he remembered that Mary's home, while just as different from this as Mary was different from Mrs. Raimon, had, after all, something in common--both were beautiful to him, though Mary's home was sweeter, daintier, and homelier. He was in the midst of an analysis of these subtleties when Mrs. Raimon (as he now determined to call her) returned from changing her dress.

He was amazed at the change in her. She wore a dark gray gown with almost no ornament, and looked smaller, older, and paler, but incomparably more winning and womanly than she had ever seemed before. She appeared to be serious and her voice was gentle and winning.

"Well, boy, here you are--under my roof. Not such an awful den after all, is it?" she said with a smile.

"Beats a holler log in a snowstorm," he replied, looking about the room. "Must have shipped all this truck from the States, it never was built out here--it would take me a couple of months to earn a whole outfit like this, wouldn't it?"

She remained serious. "Mose, I want to tell you----"

"Wait a minute," he interrupted; "let's start fair. My name is Harold Excell, and I'm going to call you Mrs. Raimon."

She thrust out her hand. "Good boy!" He could see she was profoundly pleased. Indeed she could not at once resume. At last she said: "I was going to say, Harold, that you can't earn a home trailin' around over these mountains year after year with a band of Indians."

He became thoughtful. "I reckon you're right about that. I'm wasting time; I've got to picket old Kintuck somewhere and go to work if I----"

He stopped abruptly and she smiled mournfully. "You needn't hesitate; tell me all about it."

He sat in silence--a silence that at last became a rebuke. She arose. "Well, suppose we go out to supper; we can talk all the better there."

He felt out of place and self-conscious, but he gave little outward sign of it as he took his seat at the table opposite her. For reasons of her own she emphasized the domestic side of her life and fairly awed the stern youth by her womanly dignity and grace. The little table was set for two, with pretty dishes. Liquor had no place on the cover, but a shining tea-pot, brought in by a smiling negress, was placed at her right hand. Her talk for a time was of the tea, the food, his taste as to sugar and other things pertaining to her duties as hostess. All his lurid imaginings of her faded into the wind, and a thousand new and old conceptions of wife and home and peaceful middle age came thronging like sober-colored birds. If she were playing a game it was well done and successful. Mose fell often into silence and deep thought.

She respected his introspection, and busying herself with the service and with low-voiced orders to the waitress, left him free for a time.

Suddenly she turned. "You mustn't judge me by what people say outside. Judge me by what I am to you. I don't claim to be a Sunday-school teacher, but I average up pretty well, after all. I appear to a disadvantage. When Raimon died I took hold of his business out here and I've made it pay. I have a talent for business, and I like it. I've got enough to be silly with if I want to, but I intend to take care of myself--and I may even marry again. I can see you're deeply involved in a love affair, Mose, and I honestly want to help you--but I shan't say another word about it--only remember, when you need help you come to Martha Jane Williams Raimon. How is that for a name? It's mine; my father was Lawrence Todd Williams, Professor of Paleontology at Blank College. Raimon was an actor of the tenth rate--the kind that play leading business in the candlestick circuit. Naturally Doctor Todd objected to an actor as a son-in-law. I eloped. Launt was a good fellow, and we had a happy honeymoon, but he lost his health and came out here and invested in a mine. That brought me. I was always lucky, and we struck it--but the poor fellow didn't live long enough to enjoy it. You know all," she ended with a curious forced lightness of utterance.

After another characteristic silence, Mose said slowly: "Anyhow, I want you to understand that I'm much obliged for your good will; I'm not worth a cuss at putting things in a smooth way; I think I'm getting worse every day, but you've been my friend, and--and there's no discount on my words when I tell you you've made me feel ashamed of myself to-day. From this time on, I take no other man's judgment of a woman. You know my life--all there is that would interest you. I don't know how to talk to a woman--any kind of a woman--but no matter what I say, I don't mean to do anybody any harm. I'm getting a good deal like an Indian--I talk to make known what's on my mind. Since I was seventeen years of age I've let girls pretty well alone. The kind I meet alongside the trail don't interest me. When I was a boy I was glib enough, but I know a whole lot less now than I did then--that is about some things. What I started to say is this: I'm mighty much obliged for what you've done for me here--but I'm going to pull out to-night----"

"Not for good?" she said.

"Well--that's beyond me. All I know is I hit the longest and wildest trail I ever entered. Where it comes out at I don't know. But I shan't forget you; you've been a good friend to me."

Her voice faltered a little as she said: "I wish you'd write to me and let me know how you are?"

"Oh, don't expect that of me. I chew my tongue like a ten-year-old kid when I write. I never was any good at it, and I'm clear out of it now. The chances are I'll round up in the mountains again; I can't see how I'd make a living anywhere else. If I come back this way I'll let you know."

Neither of them was eating now, and the tension was great. She knew that no artifice could keep him, and he was aware of her emotion and was eager to escape.

He pushed back his chair at last, and she arose and came toward him and took his hand, standing so close to him that her bosom almost touched his shoulder.

"I hate to see you go!" she said, and the passionate tremor in her voice moved him very deeply. "You've brought back my interest in simple things--and life seems worth while when I'm with you."

He shook her hand and then dropped it. "Well, so long."

"So long!" she said, and added, with another attempt at brightness, "and don't stay away too long, and don't fail to let me know when you make the circuit."

As he mounted his horse he remembered that there was another good-by to speak, and that was to Cora.

"I wish these women would let a man go without saying good-by at all," he thought in irritation, but the patter of Kintuck's feet set his thought in other directions. As he topped the divide, he drew rein and looked at the great range to the southeast, lit by the dull red light of the sun, which had long since set to the settlers in the valley. His heart was for a moment divided. The joys of the trail--the care-free life--perhaps after all the family life was not for him. Perhaps he was chasing a mirage. He was on the divide of his life. On one side were the mountains, the camps, the cattle, the wild animals--on the other the plains, the cities, and Mary.

The thought of Mary went deep. It took hold of the foundations of his thinking and decided him. Shuddering with the pain and despair of his love he lifted rein and rode down into the deep shadow of the long canon through which roared the swift waters of the North Fork on their long journey to the east and south. Thereafter he had no uncertainties. Like the water of the canon he had but to go downward to the plain.

If you like this book please share to your friends :

The Eagle's Heart - Part 3 - Chapter 19. The Eagle Adventures Into Strange Lands The Eagle's Heart - Part 3 - Chapter 19. The Eagle Adventures Into Strange Lands

The Eagle's Heart - Part 3 - Chapter 19. The Eagle Adventures Into Strange Lands
PART III CHAPTER XIX. THE EAGLE ADVENTURES INTO STRANGE LANDSIt can not be said that the Black Eagle of the Rocky Mountains approached civilization in any heroic disguise. At its best, accompanying a cattle train is not epic in its largeness. To prod cattle by means of a long pole, to pull out smothered sheep, are not in themselves degrading deeds, but they are not picturesque in quality. They smell of the shambles, not of the hills. Day by day the train slid down the shining threads of track like a long string of rectangular green and brown and yellow beads.

The Eagle's Heart - Part 3 - Chapter 17. Mose Returns To Wagon Wheel The Eagle's Heart - Part 3 - Chapter 17. Mose Returns To Wagon Wheel

The Eagle's Heart - Part 3 - Chapter 17. Mose Returns To Wagon Wheel
PART III CHAPTER XVII. MOSE RETURNS TO WAGON WHEELAs Mose threw the rope over the bald-faced pinto the boys all chuckled and drew near, for they knew the character of the horse. Reynolds had said, "Take your pick o' the bunch," and Mose, with the eye of a horseman, had roped the pinto because of his size, depth of chest, and splendid limbs. As he was leading his captive out of the bunch the cook said to Mose, "Better not take that pinto; he's mean as a hornet." "Is his wind all right?" "He's one o' the best horses on the