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The fighting shepherdess

The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Fighting Shepherdess, by Caroline
Lockhart,IllustratedbyM.LeoneBracker
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Title:TheFightingShepherdess

Author:CarolineLockhart

ReleaseDate:November3,2007[eBook#23296]

Language:English

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SHEPHERDESS***



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Katewassittingonarock—adarkpicturesquesilhouetteagainstthesky.
Katewassittingonarock--adarkpicturesquesilhouetteagainstthesky.
Seepage235.
LINKTOFULL-RESOLUTIONIMAGE

TheFighting
Shepherdess


ByCAROLINELOCKHART
emblem

WITHFRONTISPIECE

ByM.LEONEBRACKER

A.L.BURTCOMPANY
PublishersNewYork
PublishedbyarrangementwithSMALL,MAYNARD&COMPANY

Copyright,1919,
BySMALL,MAYNARD&COMPANY
(INCORPORATED)
SECONDPRINTING,FEBRUARY,1919
THIRDPRINTING,MARCH,1919
FOURTHPRINTING,MARCH,1919
FIFTHPRINTING,MAY,1919
SIXTHPRINTING,JUNE,1919


Contents
CHAPTER


I
II
III
IV
V
VI
VII
VIII
IX
X
XI
XII
XIII
XIV
XV
XVI
XVII
XVIII
XIX
XX
XXI
XXII
XXIII
XXIV
XXV
XXVI
XXVII

PAGE

TheSandCouleeRoadhouse
AnHistoricOccasion
Prouty
Disillusionment
ForAlways
TheWolfScratches
TheBloodofJezebel
TheManofMystery
TheSummons
TheBankPutsontheScrews
KateKeepsHerPromise
TheDudeWrangler
Mrs.Toomey’sFriendshipisTested
LikeAnyOtherHerder
OneMoreWhirl
Straws
ExtremesMeet
AWarning
AnOld,OldFriend
TheForkoftheRoad
“HeartAndHand”
MullendoreWins
WhentheBlackSpotHit
ToomeyGoesIntoSomething
TheChinook
TakingHerMedicine
TheSheepQueen

1
13
28
40
52
58
75
85
98
109
120
131
139
156
165
175
189
207
212
228
253
263
274
283
298
309
322


XXVIII
XXIX
XXX

TheSurpriseofMr.Wentz’sLife
ToomeyDistinguishesHimself
HerDay

333
344
353


THEFIGHTINGSHEPHERDESS


CHAPTERI
THESANDCOULEEROADHOUSE
A heavily laden freight wagon, piled high with ranch supplies, stood in the
dooryardbeforealongloghouse.Theyardwasfencedwithcrookedcottonwood
poles so that it served also as a corral, around which the leaders of the freight
teamwandered,strippedoftheirharness,lookingforaplacetoroll.
Awomanstoodontip-toegrittingherteethinexasperationasshetuggedat
thecheck-reinonthebigwheelhorse,whichstuckobstinatelyinthering.When
shelooseneditfinally,shestoopedandlookedunderthehorse’sneckatthegirl
of fourteen or thereabouts, who was unharnessing the horse on the other side.
“GoodGod,Kate,”exclaimedthewomanirritably;“howmanytimesmustItell
you tounhookthetracesbeforeyoudoupthelines?Oneofthesedaysyou’ll
havethedamnedestrunawayinsevenstates.”
Thegirl,whosethoughtsobviouslywerenotonwhatshewasdoing,obeyed
immediately, and without replying looped up the heavy traces, throwing and
tyingthelinesoverthehameswithexperiencedhands.
Theresemblancebetweenmotheranddaughterwassoslightthatitmightbe
saidnottoexistatall.ItwasclearthatKate’swide,thoughtfuleyes,generous
mouth and softly curving but firm chin came from the other side, as did her
height. Already she was half a head taller than the short, wiry, tough-fibered
woman with the small hard features who was known throughout the southern
halfofWyomingas“JezebeloftheSandCoulee.”
Alongflatbraidoffairhairswungbelowthegirl’swaistandonhercheeksa
warmredshowedthroughthegoldentan.Herslimstraightfigurewaseloquent
of suppleness and strength and her movements, quick, purposeful, showed
decision and activity of mind. They were as characteristic as her directness of
speech.
TheSandCouleeRoadhousewasanotoriousplace.Thewomanwhokeptit


calledherselfIsabelBain—Bainhavingbeenthenameofoneofthenumerous
husbandsfromwhomshehadseparatedtoremarryinanotherstate,withoutthe
formalityofadivorce.Shewasnotednotonlyforherremarkablehorsemanship,
butforherexceptionalhandinesswitharopeandbrandingiron,andherinability
todistinguishherneighbors’livestockfromherown.
“Pete Mullendore’s gettin’ in.” There was a frown on Kate’s face as she
spoke and uneasiness in the glance she sent toward the string of pack-horses
filingalongthefence.
Thewomansaidwarningly,“Don’tyoupulloffanyofyourtantrums—you
treathimright.”
“I’ll treat him right,” hotly, “as long as he behaves himself. Mother,” with
entreatyinhervoice,“won’tyousettlehimifhegetsfresh?”
JezebelonlylaughedandasthegateofthecorralscrapedwhenMullendore
pulleditopentoherdasaddlehorseandpackponiesthrough,shecalledoutin
herharshcroak:
“Hello,Pete!”
“Helloyourself,”heanswered,buthelookedatherdaughter.
As soon as they were through the gate the pack ponies stopped and stood
with spreading legs and drooping heads while Mullendore sauntered over to
Kateandlaidahandfamiliarlyonhershoulder.
“Ain’tyougotahowdyforme,kid?”
Shemovedasideandbeganstrippingtheharnessfromthehorseforthequite
evidentpurposeofavoidinghistouch.
“You’dbettergetthempacksoff,”shereplied,curtly.“Lookslikeyou’dgot
onthreehundredpounds.”
“Wouldn’tbesurprised.Thembeartrapsweightwentypoun'each,andgreen
hidesdon’tfeellikefeathers,cometopack’emoverthetrailI’vecome.”
Katelookedathimforthefirsttime.
“I wisht I was a man! I bet I’d work you over for the way you abuse your
stock!”
Mullendorelaughed.
“Gladyouain’t,Katie—butnotbecauseI’dbeafraidofgettin’beatup.”
He looked her up and down with mocking significance, “Say, but you’ll
make a great squaw for some feller. Been thinkin’ I’d make a deal with your
mothertotakeyoubacktothemountingswithmewhenIgo.I’lllearnyouhow
totanhides,andalotofthingsyoudon’tknow.”
Thegirl’slipcurled.
“Yes,I’dliketotanhidesforyou,PeteMullendore!WhenIgetfrostbitin
AugustI’llgo,butnotbefore.”


Herepliedeasily:
“You ain’t of age yet, Katie, and you have to mind your maw. I’ve got an
ideethatshe’lltellyoutogoifIsayso.”
“A whole lot my mother would mind what you say!” Yet in spite of her
defiancealookoffearcrossedthegirl’sface.
She slipped her arm through the harness and started towards the shed,
Mullendorefollowingwithhisslouchingwalk,anunprepossessingfigureinhis
fadedoveralls,blackandwhitemackinawcoatandwoolencap.
The trapper was tall and lank, with a pair of curious, unforgettable eyes
looking out from a swarthy face that told of Indian blood. They were round
rather than the oblong shape to be expected in his type, and the iris a muddy
blue-gray.Theeffectwasindescribablyqueer,andwasaccentuatedbythecoalblacklashesandstraightblackbrowswhichmetabovearatherthicknose.He
hadalowforehead,andwhenhegrinnedhisteethgleamedlikeivoryinhisdark
face.HeboastedofApache-Mexicanblood“withastreakofwhite.”
WhileKatehungtheharnessonitspeg,Mullendore,waitedforheroutside.
“My!My!Katie,”heleeredatherasshecameback,“butyou’regettin’tobea
biggirl!ThemlegslookedlikeacoupleofpitchforkhandleswhenIwentaway,
andnowtheshapethey’vegot!”
He laughed in malicious enjoyment as he saw the color rise to the roots of
herhair;andwhenshewouldhavepassed,reachedoutandgraspedherarm.
“Letmebe,PeteMullendore!”Shetriedtopullloose.
“Whenyou’vegivemeakiss.”Therewasaflameinthemuddyeyes.
Withatwistshe freed herselfand criedwithfuryvibratinginhervoice,“I
hate you—I hate you! You—” she sought for a sufficiently opprobrious word
—“nigger!”
Mullendore’s face took on a peculiar ashiness. Then with an oath and a
chokingsnarlofragehejumpedforher.Kate’slongbraidjustescapedhisfinger
tips.
“Mother!Mother!Makehimquit!”Therewasterrorintheshrillcryasthe
girl ran towards the freight wagon. The response to the appeal came in a hard
voice:
“Youneedn’texpectmetotakeupyourfights.Youfinishwhatyoustart.”
Kate gave her mother a despairing look and ran towards the pack ponies,
withMullendorenowcloseatherheels.Spurredbyfear,shedodgedinandout,
doubling and redoubling, endeavoring to keep a pony between herself and her
pursuer.Onceortwiceafoldofherskirtslippedthroughhisgrasp,butshewas
youngandfleetoffoot,andafterthegameofhareandhoundshadkeptupfora
few minutes her pursuer’s breath was coming short and labored. Finally, he


stopped:
“Youlittle——!”Hepantedtheepithet.“I’llgetyouyet!”
She glared at him across a pony’s neck and ran out her tongue. Then,
defiantly:
“Iain’tscartofyou!”
Adrawlingvoicemadethembothturnquickly.“Asanentirelyimpartialand
unbiased spectator, friend, I should say that you are outclassed.” The man
addressed himself to Mullendore. The stranger unobserved had entered by the
corralgate.Hewasatypicalsheepherderinlooksifnotinspeech,eventothe
colliethatstoodbyhisside.Heworeadusty,high-crownedblackhat,overalls,
mackinaw coat, with a small woolen scarf twisted about his neck, and in his
handhecarriedagnarledstaff.Hiseyeshadahumorouslycynicallightlurking
intheirbrowndepths.
Mullendoredidnotreply,butwithanotheroathbegantountiethelashrope
fromthenearestpack.
“WonderifIcouldgetadrinkofwater?”ThestrangerturnedtoKateashe
spoke,liftinghishattodiscloseahighwhiteforehead—aforeheadasfineasit
was unexpected in a man trailing a bunch of sheep. The men who raised their
hats to the women of the Sand Coulee were not numerous, and Kate’s eyes
widenedperceptiblybeforesherepliedheartily,“Sureyoucan.”
Jezebel, who had come up leading the big wheel horse, said significantly,
“Somethin’stronger,ifyoulike.”
The fierce eagerness which leaped into the stranger’s eyes screamed his
weakness,yethedidnotjumpattheoffersheheldout.Thestruggleinhismind
wasobviousashestoodlookinguncertainlyintothefacethatwasstampedwith
theimpressofwideandsordidexperiences.Kate’svoicebroketheshortsilence,
“Hesaid‘water,’Mother.”Shespokesharply,andwithacurtinclinationofher
head to the sheepherder added, “The water barrel’s at the back door, Mister.
Comewithme.”Apparentlythismadehisdecisionforhim,forhefollowedthe
girlatonce,whileJezebelwithashrugwalkedonwiththehorse.
Kate handed the stranger the long-handled tin dipper and watched him
gravelywhilehedrankthewateringulps,drainingittothelastdrop.
“Guessyou’reabooze-fighter,Mister,”sheobserved,casually,muchasshe
mighthavecommentedthathisunkemptbeardwasbrown.Amusementtwinkled
inhiseyesatthepersonalremarkandherutterunconsciousnessofhavingsaid
anything at which by any chance he could take offense, but he replied
noncommittally:
“I’veputawaymyshare,Miss.”
“Icanalwayspick’emout.Nearlyallthefreightersandcowpunchersthat


stopheregetdrunk.”
Helookedatherquizzically.
“ThetrapperyouwereplayingtagwithwhenIcamelooksasifhemightbe
uglywhenhe’dhadtoomuch.”
Hewasstartledbytheintensityoftheexpressionwhichcameoverherface
asshesaid,betweenherclenchedteeth:
“Ihatethat‘breed’!”
“Heisn’tjustthepardner,”dryly,“thatI’dselectforalongcampingtrip.”
Herpupilsdilatedandsheloweredhervoice:
“He’sornery—PeteMullendore.”
Asthoughinresponsetohisname,thatpersoncamearoundthecornerwith
hisbent-kneedslouch,givingtothegirlashepassedalooksomalignant,and
holding so unmistakable a threat, that it chilled and sobered the stranger who
stoodleaningagainstthewaterbarrel.Thegirlreturneditwithastareofbrave
defiance,butherhandtrembledasshereturnedthedippertoitsnail.Shelooked
athimwistfully,andwithanoteofentreatyinhervoiceasked:
“Whydon’tyoucamphereto-night,Mister?”
Thesheepherdershookhishead.
“I’vegottogetontothenextwaterhole.Ihavefivehundredheadofewesin
the road and they haven’t had a drink for two days. They’re getting hard to
hold.”
Katevolunteered:
“You’veaboutamileandahalftogo.”
“Yes, I know. Well—s'long, and good luck!” He reached for his
sheepherder’sstaffandoncemoreraisedhishatwithamannerwhichspokeof
another environment. Before he turned the corner of the house an impulse
prompted him to look back. Involuntarily he all but stopped. Her eyes had in
themadespairinglookthatseemedadirectappealforhelp.Buthesmiledather,
touched his hat brim and went on. The girl’s look haunted him as he trudged
alongtheroadinthethickwhitedustkickedupbythetinyhoofsofthemoving
sheep.
“She’safraidofthat‘breed,’”hethought,andtriedtofindcomfortintelling
himselfthattherewasnooccasionforalarm,withhermother,hard-visagedas
she was, within call. Yet as unconsciously he kept glancing back at the lonely
roadhouse, sprawling squat and ugly on the desolate sweep of sand and
sagebrush, the only sign of human habitation within the circle of the wide
horizon,hehadthesamesinkingfeelingattheheartwhichcametohimwhenhe
had to stand helpless watching a coyote pull down a lamb. It was in vain he
arguedthattherewasnothingtodobutwhathehaddone—goonandmindhis


ownbusiness—forthechild’sdespairing,reproachfuleyesfollowedhimandhis
uneasiness remained with him after he had reached the water hole. While the
sheep grazed after drinking he pulled the pack from the burro that carried his
belongings. From among the folds of a little tepee tent he took out a marred
violin case and laid it carefully on the ground, apart. A couple of cowhide
paniers contained his meager food supply and blackened cooking utensils.
These, with two army blankets, some extra clothing and a bell for the burro,
completedhisoutfit.
The sheep dog lay with his head on his paws, following every movement
withlovingeyes.
Thesheepherderscrapedasmoothplacewiththesideofhisfoot,setuphis
tepeeandspreadtheblanketsinside. Thenhebuiltatinysagebrushfire, filled
hisbatteredcoffeepotatthespringinthe“draw,”threwinasmallhandfulof
coffee,and,whenthesagebrushwasburnedtocoals,setittoboil.Hewarmed
over a few cooked beans in a lard can, sliced bacon and laid it with great
exactness in a long-handled frying pan and placed it on the coals. Then
unwrappingahalfdozencoldbaking-powderbiscuitsfromadishtowelheput
themonatincoveronthegroundnearatincupandplateandaknifeandfork.
Themanmovedlightly,withthedeftnessofexperience,stoppingeverynow
andthentocastalookatthesheepthatwereslowlyfeedingbackpreparatoryto
beddingdown.Andeachtimehedidso,hiseyesunconsciouslysoughttheroad
inthedirectionfromwhichhehadcome,andasoftenhisfacecloudedwitha
troubledfrown.
Whenthebaconwasbrownandthecoffeebubbledinthepot,hesatdown
crossleggedwithhisplateinhislapandthetincupbesidehimontheground.
He ate hungrily, yet with an abstracted expression, which showed that his
thoughtswerenotonhisfood.
After he had finished he broke open the biscuits which remained, soaked
theminthebacongreaseandtossedthemtothedog,whichcaughttheminthe
airandswallowedthematagulp.Thenhegottohisfeetandfilledhispipe.He
looked contemplatively at a few sheep feeding away from the main band and
saidashewavedhisarminanencirclinggesture:
“Way’round’em,Shep!Betterbring’emin.”
The dog responded instantly, his handsome tail waving like a plume as he
boundedoverthesagebrushandgatheredinthestragglers.
Bythetimetheherderhadwashedhisdishesandfinishedhispipethesun
waswellbelowthehorizonandtheskyinthewestariotofpinkandamberand
red.Thewell-trainedsheepfedbackanddroppeddownintwosandthreesona
spot not far from the tepee where it pleased their fancy to bed. Save for the


distant tinkle of the bell on the burro, and the stirring of the sheep, the herder
mighthavebeenaloneintheuniverse.Whenhehadsethisdishesandfoodback
in the paniers and covered them with a piece of “tarp,” in housewifely
orderliness, he opened the black case and took out the violin with a care that
amountedtotenderness.Thefirststrokeofthebowbespokethetrainedhand.He
didnotsit,butkneltinthesandwithhisfacetothewestasheplayedlikesome
pagan sun-worshiper, his expression rapt, intent. Strains from the world’s best
musicroseandfellinthrobbingsweetnessonthedesertstillness,musicwhich
told beyond peradventure that some cataclysm in the player’s life had shaken
himfromhisrightfulniche.Itproclaimedthistravel-stainedsheepherderinhis
fadedoverallsandpeak-crownedlimp-brimmedhatanotheroftheincongruities
of the far west. The sagebrush plains and mountains have held the secrets of
manyMysterieslockedintheirsilentbreasts,for,sincethecomingoftheWhite
Man,theyhavebeenahavenforcivilization’sMistakes,FailuresandMisfits.
Whilehepouredouthissoulwithonlythesheepandthetiredcolliesleeping
on its paws for audience, the gorgeous sunset died and a chill wind came up,
scatteringthegrayashesofthecampfireandswayingthetepeetent.Suddenly
hestoppedandshiveredalittleinspiteofhiswoolenshirt.“Dog-gone!”hesaid
abruptly, aloud, as he put the violin away, “I can’t get that kid out of my
thoughts!”Thoughhecouldnothavetoldwhyhedidso,orwhathemight,even
remotely, expect to hear, he stood and listened intently before he stooped and
disappearedforthenightbetweentheflapsofthetent.
He turned often between the blankets of his hard bed, disturbed by uneasy
dreamsquiteunlikethedeepoblivionofhisusualsleep.
“Oh,Mister,whereareyou?”
Thesheepherderstirreduneasily.
“Please—please,Mister,won’tyouspeak?”
The plaintive pleading cry was tremulous and faint like the voice of a
disembodiedspiritfloatingsomewhereintheair.Thistimehesatupwithastart.
“It’sonlyme—KatiePrentice,fromtheRoadhouse.Don’tbescart.”
Thewailwascloser.Therewasnomistake.Thenthedogbarked.Theman
threwbacktheblanketandsprangtohisfeet.Ittookonlyamomenttogetinto
hisclothesandstepoutintoanightthathadturnedpitchdark.
“Whereareyou?”hecalled.
“Oh,Mister!?”Theshrillcryheldgladnessandrelief.
Then she came out of the blackness, the ends of a white nubia and a little
shouldercapesnappinginthewind,herbreathcomingshortinasoundthatwas
amixtureofexhaustionandsobs.
“IwasafraidIcouldn’tfindyoutilldaylight.Iheardabell,butIdidn’tknow


wheretogo,it’ssuchadarknight.Iranalltheway,nearly,tillIplayedout.”
“What’stherow?”heaskedgently.
Sheslippedbotharmsthroughoneofhisandhuggeditconvulsively,while
inakindofhysteriashebegged:
“Don’tsendmeback,Mister!Iwon’tgo!I’llkillmyselffirst.Takemewith
you—please,pleaseletmegowithyou!”
“Tellmewhatit’sallabout.”
Shedidnotanswer,andheurged:
“Goon.Don’tbeafraid.Youcantellmeanything.”
Sherepliedinastrainedvoice:
“PeteMullendore,he—”
Agustofwindblewtheshouldercapebackandhesawherbarearmwiththe
sleeveofherdresshangingbyashred.
“—hedidthis?”
“Yes.He—insulted—me—I—can’t—tell—you—what—he—said.”
“Andthen?”
“Iscratchedhimandbithim.Ifoughthimallovertheplace.Hewaschokin’
me.Igottoaquirtandstruckhimonthehead—withthehandle.Itwasloaded.
Hedroppedlikehewasdead.Irantomyroomandclumoutthewindow—”
“Yourmother—”
“She—laughed.”
“God!” He stooped and picked up the little bundle she had dropped at her
feet.“Comealong,Partner.Youaregoingintothesheepbusinesswith'Mormon
Joe.'”


CHAPTERII
ANHISTORICOCCASION
TheexperiencedearofMajorStephenDouglasProutytoldhimthathewas
gettingahotaxle.Theharddrysqueakfromtherearwheelofthe“democrat”
had but one meaning—he had forgotten to grease it. This would seem an
inexcusableoversightinamanwhoexpectedtomakefortymilesbeforesunset,
but in this instance there was an extenuating circumstance. Immediately after
breakfast there had been a certain look in his hostess’s eye which had warned
him that if he lingered he would be asked to assist with the churning. Upon
observingithehadstartedforthebarntoharnesswithaceleritythatapproached
atrot.
Long years of riding the grub-line had developed in the Major a gift for
recognizingtheexactpsychologicalmomentwhenhehadwornouthiswelcome
ascompanyandwasabouttobetreatedasoneofthefamilyandsiccedonthe
woodpile, that was like a sixth sense. It seldom failed him, but in the rare
instances when it had, he had bought his freedom with a couple of boxes of
White Badger Salve—unfailing for cuts, burns, scalds and all irritations of the
skin—goodalso,asitproved,fordryaxles,sincehehadneglectedtoreplenish
hisboxofaxlegreasefromthatofhishostatthelaststoppingplace.
He leaned from under the edge of the large cotton umbrella which shaded
him amply, and squinted at the sun. He judged that it was noon exactly. His
intention seemed to be communicated to his horses by telepathy, for they both
stoppedwithasuddennesswhichmadehimlurchforward.
“It’stimetoeat,anyhow,”hesaidaloudasherecoveredhisbalancewiththe
aidofthedashboard,disentangledhisfeetfromthelongskirtsofhislinenduster
andsprangoverthewheelwiththealacrityofamanwhotookakeeninterestin
food.
Unhookingthetraces,heledtheteamtoonesideoftheroad,slippedoffthe


bridles and replaced them with nose bags containing each horse’s allotment of
oats—extracted from the bin of his most recent host. Then he searched in the
bottom ofthe wagonuntilhefoundamonkey-wrenchwhichheappliedtothe
nut and twirled dextrously. Canting the wheel, he moistened his finger tip and
touchedtheexposedaxle.
“Redhot!”
Heleftittocoolandreachedundertheseatforapasteboardshoe-boxand
bore it to the side of the road, where he saw a convenient rock. Both the
eagernessofhungerandcuriositywasdepictedonhisfaceasheuntiedthetwine
which secured it. He was wondering if she had put in any cheese. The Major
especiallylikedcheeseandhadnotfailedtomentionthefactwhenhishostess
hadletdroptheinformationthatawholeonehadcomeinwiththelastfreight
wagon from town. He removed the cover and his smile of anticipation gave
place to a look of astonishment and incredulity. It was difficult to believe his
eyes!Notonlywastherenocheese,butthatchickenwingandbackwhichhad
beenleftontheplatterlastnight,andwhichhehadbeenassureofasthoughhe
hadputtheminhimself,werenotinthebox.Hefeltunderthepaperasthough
hoping against hope that the box contained a false bottom where the chicken
mightbeconcealed.Therewasnodeception.Hesawalltherewas.
“Sinkers!” His voice expressed infinite disappointment and disgust. He
proddedoneofthecoldsodabiscuitswithhisfinger,tookitoutandsetthebox
onthegroundbesidehim.Hewashungry,therefore,insultedashefelt,hehadto
eat, but he looked over his shoulder in the direction from which he had come,
and said aloud, “Them Scissor-bills’ll know it when I stop there again!” The
declaration was in the nature of a threat. While he munched the dry biscuit,
whichcontainedbutatraceofbutterbetweenthetwohalves,hegazedoffatthe
vistaofnothinginparticularthatstretchedoutbeforehim.
On his left the sand and sagebrush, cacti and sparse bunch-grass was
boundedbythehorizon;behindhim,infrontofhim,itwasthesame;onlyon
the right was the monotony broken by foothills and beyond, a range of purple
snow-coveredpeaks.Fromtheslightelevationor“bench”uponwhichhesathe
lookeddownuponagreasewoodflatwherepatchesofalkaligleameddazzling
whiteunderthenoon-daysun.Theflatwasquarter-circledbyawaterlesscreek
uponwhosebanksgrewafewmisshapenandsplinteredcottonwoods.
The countless millions of nearly invisible gnats that breed in alkali bogs
sightedtheMajorandpromptlyroseinswarmstosettleuponhisearsandinthe
edges of his hair. He fanned them away automatically and without audible
comment.Perhapstheyservedasacounter-irritant;atanyrate,thestingofthe
indignityputuponhimbywhathetermeda“hobolunch”wasfinallyforgotten


inmoreagreeablethoughts.
In the distance there was an interesting cloud of dust. Was it cattle, loose
horses,orsomeonecomingthatway?TheMajor’seyesightwasnotallithad
been and he could not make out. Since they were coming from the opposite
directionhewassuretohavehiscuriositygratified.Hisrovingeyescameback
tothegreasewoodflatandrestedtherespeculatively.Suddenlyhisjawdropped
andacrumbrolledout.Helookedasthoughanapparitionhadrisenbeforehis
bulgingeyes.Involuntarilyhesprangtohisfeetandcried,“MyGawd—whata
greatplacetostartatown!”
The idea came with such startling force that it seemed to the Major as if
something broke in his brain. Other ideas followed. They came tumbling over
eachotherintheirstruggletogetoutallatonce.Apanoramaofpicturespassed
so swiftly before his eyes that it made him dizzy. His eyes gleamed, the color
rose in his weather-beaten cheeks, the hand with which he pointed to the
greasewoodflatbelowtrembledasheexclaimedinanexcitementthatmadehis
breathcomeshort:
“Themainstreet’llrunupthecreekandaboutthereI’llputtheOp'ryHouse.
Thehotel’llstandonthecornerandwe’llgitaCarnegieLiberyfortheotherend
oftown.TheHighSchoolcanbeoveryonderandwe’llkeepthesaloonstoone
sideofthestreet.There’llbeaparkwherefolkscanset,andifIain’tgotpull
enoughtogitafiftythousanddollarFederalBuildin’—”
ThencametheinspirationwhichmadetheMajorstaggerback:
“I’llgitthepostoffice,andnameitProuty!”
Hefeltsotremulousthathehadtositdown.
It seemed incrediblethat hehadnotthoughtofthisbefore, fordeepwithin
himwasalongingtohavehisnamefigureinthepagesofthehistoryofthebig
new state. Tombstones blew over, dust storms obliterated graves, photographs
faded, but with a town named after him and safely on the map, nobody could
forgethimifhewantedto.
The Major’s assertion concerning his “pull” was no idle boast. There were
fewmeninthestatewithawideracquaintance,andhewasaconspicuousfigure
aroundelectiontime.Theexperiencehehadacquiredinhisyoungerdaysselling
IndianHerbCoughSyrupfromthetailboardofawagon,betweentwosputtering
flambeaux,servedhimingoodsteadwhen,later,hewascalledupontomakea
few patriotic remarks at a Fourth of July Celebration. His rise was rapid from
that time, until now his services as an orator were so greatly in demand for
cornerstonelayingsandbarbecuesthat,owingtodistancebetweentowns,itkept
himalmostconstantlyontheroad.
TheMajorsoldanoccasionalboxofsalve,andinanemergencypulledteeth,


in addition to the compensation which he received for what was designated
privatelyashis“giftofgab.”ButtheMajor,nevertheless,hadhisdarkmoments,
inwhichhecontemplatedthedaywhenageshouldforcehimtoretiretoprivate
life. Since the wagon containing his patent leather valise was his home, the
Major had no private life to retire to, and his anxiety concerning the future
wouldseemnotwithoutcause.Nowinaflashallhisworriessmoothedout.He
wouldcapitalizehiswideacquaintanceandhisinfluence,gainindependenceand
perpetuate his name in the same stroke. At the moment he actually suffered
becausetherewasnoonepresenttowhomhecouldcommunicatehisthoughts.
The cloud of dust was closer, but not near enough yet to distinguish the
movingobjectsthatcausedit,sohesethimselfenergeticallytoapplyingWhite
Badger Salvetotheaxle,replacingthewheeland tighteningthenut. Whenhe
straightenedahorsemanwhohadriddenoutofthecreekbedwasscramblingup
thesideofthe“bench.”Hewasdressedlikeatopcowpuncher—silver-mounted
saddle, split-ear bridle and hand-forged bit. The Major was familiar with the
type,thoughthisparticularindividualwasunknowntohim.
“Howdy!” The cowboy let the reins slip through his fingers so his horse
couldfeed,andsaggedsidewiseinthesaddle.
“How are you, sir?” There was nothing in the dignified restraint of the
Major’sresponsetoindicatethathisvocalcordsachedforexerciseandhewas
fairly quivering in his eagerness for an ear to talk into. There was a silence in
whichheremovedanosebag,bridledandshovedahorseagainstthetongue.
“Back,can’tye!”
“Noonedhere,Ireckon?”
TheMajorthoughtofhischickenlesshandoutandhisfaceclouded.
“Ietabite.”
“ThoughtmaybeyouwasintroublewhenIfirstseeyou.”
“Hadahotbox,butIdon’tcallthattrouble.”Headdedhumorously:
“Icanchopmywagontopiecesandbeontheroadagainintwentyminutes,
ifIgotplentyofbalin’wire.”
ThecowboylaughedsoappreciativelythattheMajorinquiredingratiatingly:
“Ibleeveyourfaceisastrangertome,ain’tit?”
“Idon’tmindmeetin’upwithyoubefore.I’vejustcometothecountry,as
youmightsay.”
The Major waited for further information, but since it was not forthcoming
heventured:
“WhatmightIcallyourname,sir?”
Thecowboyshiftedhisweightuneasilyandhesitated.Hesaidfinallywhile
the red of his shiny sun-blistered face deepened perceptibly: “My name is


supposedtobeTeeters—ClarenceTeeters.”
As a matter of fact he knew that his name was Teeters, but injecting an
element of doubt into it in this fashion seemed somehow to make the telling
easier.Teeterswasbadenough,butcombinedwithClarence!OnlyMr.Teeters
knewtheeffortitcosthimtotellhisnametostrangers.Headdedwiththeairof
amandeterminedtomakeacleanbreastofit:
“I’mfromMissoury.”
TheMajor’shandshotoutunexpectedly.
“Shake!”hecriedwarmly.“IwasdrugupmyselfatthefootoftheOzarks.”
“I pulled out when I was a kid and wrangled ’round considerible.” Teeters
madethestatementasanextenuatingcircumstance.
“Itookoutnaturalizationpapersmyself,”repliedtheMajorgood-humoredly.
“MynameisProuty—StephenDouglasProuty.You’llprob'lyhearofmeifyou
stay in the country. The fact is, I’m thinkin’ of startin’ a town and namin’ it
Prouty.”
“Shoo—youdon’tsayso!”Inpoliteinquiry,“Whur?”
“Thur!”
Mr.Teeterslookedalittleblankashestaredatthetownsiteindicated.
“Itseemsturriblefurfromwater,”hecommentedfinally.
“Sink—drill—artesianwell—maybewe’llstrikearegularsubterraneanriver.
Anyway,’twouldbenotrickatalltorunaditchfromDeadHorseCanyonand
get all the water we want.” He waved his arm at the distant mountains and
settledthatobjection.
“Wouldn’tthemalkalibogsbreedin’abillion‘no-see-’ems’asecondbekind
ofadrawback?”inquiredTeeterstentatively.
“That’llallbedrained,coveredwithsileandseededdowninlawns,”replied
theMajorquickly.“Intwoyearthatspot’llbebloomin’liketheGardenofEden.
“I’ve got to be movin’,” the Major continued. “I’m on my way from a
cornerstonelayin’atBuffaloWallertoabarbecueatNoWoodCrick.I’mkindof
anorator,”headdedmodestly.
“AndIgotaboutthreehundredheadofcalvestodragtothefire,ifIkingit
myropeon’em,”saidTeeters,straighteninginthesaddle.
TheMajoraskedininstantinterest:
“Oh,you’reworkin’forthatwealthyeasternoutfit?”
“Don’t know how wealthy they be, but they’re plenty eastern,” Teeters
replieddryly.
“I was thinkin’ I might stop over night with ’em and git acquainted. The
ScissorsOutfitcan’tbemore'nfifteenmileoutofmyway,andit’llbeakindof
achangefromtheWidderTaylor’s,whurIstopgenerally.”


The cowboy combed the horse’s mane with his fingers in silence. After
waiting a reasonable time for the invitation which should have been
forthcoming,theMajorinquired:
“They’re—sociable,ain’tthey?”
“They ain’t never yit run out in the road and drug anybody off his horse,”
repliedTeetersgrimly.“Theychargefourbitsamealtostrangers.”
“What?”Surelyhisearshaddeceivedhim.
InspiredbytheMajor’sdumbfoundedexpression,thecowboycontinued:
“They have their big meal at night and call it dinner, and they wash their
handsatthetablewhentheygitdoneeatin’,andBigLizhastolopeinfromthe
kitchenwhenshehearsthebelltinkleandpass’emsomethin’eitheroneof’em
could git by reachin’.” He lowered his voice confidentially, “Most any meal I
lookfurhertohitoneof’embetweenthehorns.”
TheMajorstaredround-eyed,breathless,likeachildlisteningtoafairytale
whichhefearedwouldendifheinterrupted.
“Intheevenin’thebossputsonakindofeatin’jacket,asawed-offcoatthat
makesagrowedmanlookplumbfoolish,andshecomesoutinsilkandsatinthat
showsconsiderablehide.HaveyoumetthishereToomey?”
“Notyet;that’sapleasurestillinstoreforme.”
“Pleasure!” exclaimed Teeters, who took the polite phrase literally. “More
like you’ll want to knock his head off. Old Timer,” he leaned over the saddle
horn,“seein’asyou’refromMissoury,I’lltellyouprivatethatyou’dbetterkeep
ontravelin’.Companyain’twantedattheScissorOutfit,andthey’dhigh-toneit
overyouso’twouldn’tbenowaysenjoyable.”
“There is plenty of ranches where I am welcome,” replied the Major with
dignity.“IkinmaketheWidderTaylor’sbysundown.”
“MissMaggieplaysgoodonthepianner,”Teeterscommented,expectorating
violentlytoconcealacertainembarrassment.
“Andthedoughnutstheoldladykeepsinthatcrockonthekitchentableis
worthaday’sridetogitto.”TheMajorclosedaneyeandwiththeotherlooked
quizzicallyatTeeters,adding,“Ifitwa'ntforStarlight—”
“Starlight is shore some Injun,” replied the cowboy, grinning
understandingly.
“Nowwhatforanoutfit’sthat?”
ThemovingcloudofdustwhichtheMajorhadforgotteninhiskeeninterest
in the conversation was almost upon them. “A band of woolies, a pack burro,
onefellerwalkin’,andanotherridin’.”
The cowboy’s eyes were unfriendly, though he made no comment as they
waited.


“Howdy!” called the Major genially as, with a nod, the herder would have
passedwithoutspeaking.
Thestrangerrespondedbriefly,butstopped.
“Comefur?”inquiredtheMajorsociably.
“Utah.”
“Goin’fur?”
“UntilIfindalocation.Iratherlikethelooksofthissection.”
“Sheepspells‘trouble’inthiscountry,”saidthecowboy,significantly.
“Thinkso?”indifferently.
SeeingTeeterswasabouttosaysomethingfurther,theMajorinterrupted:
“WhatmightIcallyourname,sir?”
“Justsay‘Joe,’andI’llanswer.”
The Major looked a trifle disconcerted, but in his rôle of Master of
Ceremoniescontinued:
“I’llmakeyouacquaintedwithMr.Teeters.”
Thetwomennoddedcoldly.
TobreakthestrainedsilencetheMajorobserved:
“Gotaboyhelpin’you,Inotice.”
“Girl,”repliedthesheepherderbriefly.
“Girl?Oh,Isee!Themoverallsdeceivedme.Daughter,Ipresume.”
“Pardner,”laconically.
The Major looked incredulous but said nothing, and while he sought for
something further to say in order to prolong the conversation they all turned
abruptlyattherattleofrocks.
“The boss,” said Teeters sardonically from the corner of his mouth, and
added,“That’sayoungdudethat’svisitin’.”
Toomey was perfectly equipped for a ride in Central Park. He looked an
incongruous and alien figure in the setting in his English riding clothes and
boots. The lad who accompanied him was dressed in exaggerated cowboy
regalia.
Toomeyusedadoublebitandnowbroughthisfoaminghorsetoashortstop
withthecurb.Hevouchsafedtheunimportant“natives”intheroadonlyabrief
glance,butaddressedhimselftoTeeters.
“Wherehaveyoubeen?”hedemandedinasharptone.
“I ain’t been lost,” replied Teeters calmly. “Where would I be 'cept huntin’
stock?”
“Whydidn’tyoufollowme?”
“I think too much of my horse to jam him over rocks when there ain’t no
specialcallforit.Ikinrideonarun'thoutfallin’off,whenthey’sneedto.”


Toomey’s brilliant black eyes flashed. Swallowing the impudence of these
westernhirelingswasoneofthehardestthingshehadtoendureinhispresent
life. But even he could see that Teeters thoroughly understood cattle, else he
wouldhavelongsincedischargedhim.
“I’veriddenabouttenextramilestryingtokeepyouinsight.”
“If you’d let them sturrups out like I told you and quit tryin’ to set down
standin’ up, ridin’ wouldn’t tire you so much.” Teeters looked at the English
pigskinsaddleinfrankdisgust.
Toomeyignoredthecriticismandsaidarrogantly:
“Iwantyoutofollowmefromnowon.”
Anominousglintcameinthecowboy’seye,buthestillgrinned.
“I wa'nt broke to foller. Never was handled right when I was a colt. Don’t
youwaitferme,feller,youjestsiftalonginandI’llcomewhenIgitdone.”
Judging from the expression on Toomey’s face, it seemed to the Major an
opportunetimetointerrupt.
“Sincenobodyaimstointroduceus—”hebegangood-naturedly,extendinga
hand.“MynameisProuty—StephenDouglasProuty.You’veheardofme,like
asnot.”
“Can’tsayIhave,”repliedToomeyinatonethatmadetheMajorflushashe
shooktheextendedhandwithoutwarmth.
To cover his confusion, the Major turned to the sheepherder whose soft
browneyesheldanamusedlook.
“Er—Joe—I’ll make you acquainted with Mr. Jasper Toomey, one of our
leadin’stockmenintheseparts.”
The introduction received from Toomey the barest acknowledgment as he
directedhisgazetothegrazingsheep.
“Whereyoutakingthem?”heaskedinacurttone.
“Ireallycouldn’ttellyouyet.”
Toomeyglancedathimsharply,attractedbythecultivatedtone.
“Iwouldn’tadviseyoutolocatehere;thisismyrange.”
“Ownit?”inquiredtheherdermildly.
“N-no.”
“Leaseit?”
“N-no.”
“Nogoodreasonthenistheretokeepmeout?”
“Except,”darkly,“thisclimateisn’thealthyforsheep.”
“Perhaps,”gently,“I’mthebestjudgeofthat.”
“You’llkeepongoing,ifyoufollowmyadvice.”Thetonewasathreat.
“Ihardlyevertakeadvicethat’sgivenunasked.”


“Well—you’dbettertakethis.”
Thesheepherderlookedathimspeculatively,withnotraceofresentmentin
hismildeyes.
“Letmesee,”reflectively.“Itgenerallytakesaneasternerwhocomeswestto
show us how to raise stock from three to five years to go broke. I believe I’ll
stickaroundawhile;Imaybeabletopickupsomethingcheapalittlelater.”
A burst of ringing laughter interrupted this unexpected clash between the
strangers. It was clear that the lack of harmony did not extend to their young
companions, for the lad and the girl seemed deeply interested in each other as
their ponies grazed with heads together. The immediate cause of their laughter
wastheboy’sdeclarationthatwhenhecametoseethegirlheintendedtowear
petticoats.
Whentheirmerrimenthadsubsided,shedemanded:
“Don’tyoulikemyoveralls?”
He looked her over critically—at her face with the frank gray eyes and the
vivid red of health glowing through the tan; at the long flat braid of fair hair,
whichhungbelowthecantleofthesaddle;atherslenderbarefeetthrustthrough
thestirrups.
“You’dlookprettyinanything,”herespondedgallantly.
Shedetectedtheevasionandpersisted:
“ButyouthinkI’dlooknicerindresses,don’tyou?”
Embarrassed,herespondedhesitatingly:
“Yousee—downSouthwhereIcomefromthegirlsallwearwhiteandlace
and ribbon sashes and carry parasols and think a lot about their complexions.
You’rejust—different.”
The herder waved his arm. “Way ’round ’em, Shep,” and the sheep began
moving.
“Good-bye,”thegirlgatheredupthereinsreluctantly.
“Youdidn’ttellmeyourname.”
“KatiePrentice.”
“Mine’sHughieDisston,”headded,hisblackeyesshiningwithfriendliness.
“MaybeI’llseeyouagainsometime.”
Sheansweredshyly:
“Maybe.”
Toomeystartedawayatagallop,callingsharply:
“Comeon,Hughie!”
Theboyfollowedwithobviousreluctance,sendingasmileoverhisshoulder
whenhefoundthatthegirlwaslookingafterhim.
“Hope you make out all right with your town,” said Teeters politely as,


ignoringhisemployer’sinstructions,heturnedhishorse’sheadinadirectionof
hisownchoosing.
“No doubt about it,” replied the Major, briskly, gathering up the lines and
bringing the stub of a whip down with a thwack upon each back impartially.
“S'long!”Hewaveditatthegirlandsheepherder.“Itrustyou’llfindalocation
tosuityou.”
“Pardner,”saidMormonJoesuddenly,whentheMajorwasablurinacloud
ofdustandthehorsemenwerespecksinthedistance,“thislookslikehometo
mesomehow.Thereoughttobegreatsheepfeedoverthereinthefoothillsand
summerrangeinthemountains.Whatdoyouthinkofit?”
“Oh—goody!”thegirlcriedeagerly.“Isn’titfunny,Iwashopingyou’dsay
that.”
Helookedatherquizzically.
“Tiredoftrailingsheep,Katie,ordoyouthinkyoumighthavecompany?”
Sheflushedinconfusion,butadmittedhonestly:
“Both,maybe.”


CHAPTERIII
PROUTY
MajorProutyhungoverthehitchingpostinfrontofthepostofficelistening
withabeatificsmiletothesoundofthesawandthehammerthatcamefromthe
OperaHousegoingupatthecornerofProutyAvenueandWildwoodStreet.The
Major’s eyes held the brooding tenderness of a patron saint, as he looked the
lengthofthewidestreetofthetownwhichborehisname.
“Sunnin’yourself,Major?”inquiredHiramButefishjocularlyashepassed;
then paused to add, “I’m lookin’ for a big turn-out at the Boosters Club tonight.”
“Itrustso,Hiram.”
Asidefromhimself,noonepersonhadcontributedmoretoProuty’sgrowth
thantheeditoroftheGrit.
Mr. Butefish had arrived among the first with the intention of opening a
plumbing shop, but since the water supply was furnished by a windmill the
demandforhisserviceswasnotapttobepressingforsometimetocome.
Therefore, with true western resourcefulness he bought the handpress of a
defunctsheetandturnedtojournalisminstead.Thoughlesslucrative,moulding
publicopinionandeditingapaperthatwastobearecognizedpowerinthestate
seemedtoMr.Butefishastepahead.
The Middle West had responded nobly to his editorial appeals to come out
andhelpfoundanEmpire.Themajorityoftheoptimisticcitizenswhowalked
withtheir heads in the clouds and their eyes on the roseate future were there
through his efforts. Appreciative of this fact, the Major’s eyes were kindly as
theygazedupontheeditor’sretreatingback.
His expression was benignity itself as his glance turned lovingly to the
Prouty House and the White Hand Laundry—the latter in particular being a
milestoneontheroadofProgresssinceitheraldedthefactthatthedaywasnot


fardistantwhenamancouldwearaboiledshirtwithoutembarrassingcomment.
Three saloons, the General Merchandise Emporium, and “Doc” Fussel’s drug
store completed the list of business enterprises as yet, but others were in
contemplationandabottlingworkswasunderway.Oh,yes,Proutywasindelibly
onthemap.
TheMajor’scomplacentsmilechangedtoaslightfrownasamaninablack
tallcrownedhatstoppedtoresthisbackagainstthepostoftheLaundrysign.
IthadreachedtheMajor’searsthatMormonJoehadsaidthatProutyhadno
morefuturethanaprairiedogtown.Hehadbeeninhiscupsatthetimebutthat
didnotpalliatetheoffense.
Now, there—there was the kind of a man that helped a town! The Major’s
browclearedasJasperToomeyswungroundthecornerbytheProutyHouseand
clattered down the main street sitting high-headed and arrogant in a Brewster
cart. Spentmoney likea prince—hedid.Afewmorepeoplelike the Toomeys
andthefutureofthecountrywasassured.
In the meantime Toomey had brought the velvet-mouthed horse to its
haunchesinfrontofthelaundrywherehetossedabundleintothesheepman’s
arms,sayingcasually;
“Takethatinside,myman.”
Without achange ofexpression,MormonJoecaughtit,rolledit compactly
andkickeditoverthehorse’sbackintothestreet.
“There’snobrassbuttonssewedonmycoat—takeityourself!”MormonJoe
shruggedashoulderashewalkedoff.
Walter Scales of the Emporium dashed into the street and recovered the
laundrywithanapologetic airasthough he weresomehowresponsibleforthe
act.
“You have to make allowances for the rough characters that swarm into a
newcountry,”hesaid,ashedeliveredthebundlehimself.
“I’ll break that pauper sheepherder before I quit!” A vein under Toomey’s
righteyeandanotheronhistemplestoodoutswollenandpurple.
“Peoplelikehimthatsendawayfortheirgrubandneverspendacentthey
can help in their home town don’t benefit a country none.” Mr. Scales did not
attempt to conceal his pleasure at the foot-long list Toomey handed him. He
addedurgently,“Wishtyou’dtryandstayinfortheBoostersClubto-night,Mr.
Toomey.We’dlikeyouradvice.”
Toomeyrefusedcurtly.
“Getthatorderoutatonce,”hesaidperemptorily,ashedroveoff.
No invitation cordial or otherwise was extended to Mormon Joe, so it was


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