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A Concert In The Moonlight








From: Dorothy On A Ranch

Night fell on San Leon; and the searching party which had gone out in
the morning, sure of prompt success, returned tired and dispirited. But
their places were immediately taken by fresh recruits, Mr. Ford
announcing that the matter would not be dropped, night or day, until all
hope had to be given up.

Except that Jim's clothes had been left in his room it might have seemed
that the lad had run away, feeling himself out of place at San Leon. But
the folded garments placed on the chair beside his empty bed told a
different tale.

"No, he has wandered off unknowing what he did. Well, when he comes back
he shall find his place ready for him and the warmest of welcomes
waiting. While we have tried--and will still--to visit every cabin and
ranch within reasonable reach, there are many such little shacks dropped
here and there among the mountains; and we have probably overlooked the
one in which he is sheltered. Open hospitality is a feature of the west.
Anybody who comes across the boy will be good to him. Now, let's have a
little music and then to bed. A whole day in the saddle tires me, though
I'm bound to get used to it yet, and so shall all of you. Come, Erminie,
give me a song; and Dorothy dear, get out your violin."

Thus said Mr. Ford, when their evening dinner had been enjoyed and they
had all gone out to sit upon the wide veranda, the moonlight flooding
the beautiful grounds, and the soft spring air playing about them.

Dorothy felt that she could not play a note, and even Alfaretta was
quietly crying in the retired corner she had sought, in the shadow of a
pillar. But Mrs. Ford at once obeyed her husband's wish, and as her
wonderful voice floated over them it banished every thought save the
delight of listening.

The "boys" came over from their "Barracks" and sprawled on the grass,
entranced. Hitherto, their life on the ranch had been one of toil,
lightened by sports almost as rough, with the evening diversion of
swopping stories over their pipes. They hadn't been greatly pleased at
the prospect of a lot of strangers living so near them, but already all
that was changed; and though they didn't know, till Lemuel informed
them, and this singer was one of a few famous artistes, they were
moved and touched by the marvellous beauty of her voice.

"You know, boys, it'd be worth ten dollars a ticket--gallery seats, at
that--just to get into an opery house an' hark to yonder lady. An' now
you're just gettin' it for nothin', free, clear gratis, take it or leave
it, ary one. Fact. The 'Boss's' lady is an A 1 singer if she is a--I
mean, a poor show at a rifle."

The songs went on till the Gray Lady dared sing no more. Like all
trained singers she was careful of her throat and unused, as yet, to the
air of this region at night. But when she laughingly declared:

"No more this time; not if I'm to sing again," there was a murmur of
dissatisfaction from the group of men about the fountain; and old
Captain Lem begged, in their name:

"Just one more, lady, to sleep on. That kind o' music makes a feller
hungry for more and sort-of-kind-of sets him thinkin' 'bout things back
home."

But Mr. Ford interposed:

"No, Captain, not to-night! I want to have a lot of just such concerts
so we mustn't put the prima donna out of condition. But I've a little
girl here with a fiddle and I tell you she can just make it talk! Come
farther forward, Dolly dear, and stand close to me. Then 'rosin your
bow' and get to work. Show these cowboys what a little girl-tenderfoot
can do. Maybe, too, who knows? Maybe our Jim will hear it wherever he
is and hurry back. At it, child, and call him!"

Lady Gray feared this was a trifle unkind to the girl, who she wished
might wholly forget the boy, but the master felt it not so. He knew that
nothing would more thoroughly inspire her than this possibility.

"Oh! do you think so? Then I'll play as I never did before--I will, I
will!"

She stepped out from the veranda upon the broad walk before it, and with
the moonlight pouring down upon her white-clad little figure, her face
uplifted to the sky, and her precious violin beneath her chin, she
played, indeed, "as she had never done before."

On and on she played; one ranchman after another softly suggesting some
desired melody, and her eager little fingers rendering it upon the
instant. The men ceased sprawling and sat up. If they had found the Gray
Lady's voice a marvel, here was a greater. That any child--a despised
"female" child--could evoke such music seemed past belief; and when, at
length, Mr. Ford bade her render the beloved "Home, Sweet Home" as a
finale, there was a reluctant rising of the audience to its feet,
ordered to it by the Captain who, in rather husky tones, stated:

"Ladies and gentlemen, and mostly the little gal, I give the sentiments
o' my regiment, to a man, when I say all you tenderfoots is welcome to
S' Leon. We wasn't very tickled before, thinkin' all our free livin's
an' doin's was to be interfered with, but we are now. Three cheers
for the company an' the treat they've give us, more especial for the
Little One, and--Long may she wave! Hip, hip, hurrar!"

The cheer was given with a will, and then again came the Captain's
order:

"Fall into line. Right about face. March! hep, hep, hep--hep!"

But as they filed away Dorothy had another inspiration and, acting upon
it, sent the delighted cowboys marching to the lively air of "Yankee,
Doodle, Doodle Doo."

"And now to bed!" advised the hostess. So within a very few moments all
were in their rooms, tired and happy despite the worries of the day, and
sure that all would come right at last.

The four girls shared two rooms, facing one another and with two dainty
beds in each. Milliken's chamber was at the end of the long passage
beyond theirs, and those of the rest of the household across a wide hall
which cut this wing of the house in two. In structure the building was
very like El Paraiso, which the Gray Lady had admired and where the
happiness of reunion had come to her; and it seemed to those who had
wintered in the old adobe that they had but stepped into another home.

Of course, sleep did not come at once. Four girls, even if together all
day long, find much to chatter about at night, and this had been a day
of "happenings" indeed.

Dolly and Alfy came across to sit on Helena's bed and watch her dainty,
slow preparations for retiring. Molly was already perched in the middle
of her own white bed, hugging her knees and proclaiming for the
twentieth time, at least:

"Oh! I am such a thankful girl! After I fired that rifle and saw that
purple mass of stuff lying on the ground I thought I was a murderer! I
did so. Yet I was mad, too, to think Wun Sing had been such an idiot as
to go between me and the target."

"Herbert claims the safest place for others, when a girl shoots, is
right behind the target. But it wasn't when Alfy hit the bull's-eye. How
did you do it, child? It was wonderful and at that distance--which
Captain Lemuel fixed for himself!" said Helena, brushing out her hair
preparatory to loosely braiding it.

"Oh! Nell, you're lovely that way! In that soft nightie--you do have
such lovely, lacey things. I wish Aunt Betty would buy me some like
them, but she won't. She's too sensible, and oh! dear! I wish I had my
arms around her neck this minute!"

"Put them around mine, Dolly Doodles, and quit wishin' for things you
can't get. Do you s'pose I'll ever do it again?" asked Alfaretta,
drawing one of Dorothy's arms about her own shoulder.

"Do what again, child?"

"Child, yourself. I mean fire right into the middle of the thing, and
'honest Injun', I did do it with my eyes shut. I wonder if that ain't
the rightest way to sharpshoot, anyway. The rest of you couldn't hit it
anywheres near, with your eyes open. What say?"

Molly yawned and stretched herself luxuriously, and Helena remarked:

"Molly, you make me think of a Persian kitten! She does just that when
she feels particularly good."

"Well, I ought to feel good. I didn't kill Wun Sing. I just made a hole
in his old purple blouse and I can give him another new one. If I can
find one like it, and have money enough, and--and other things. If I had
shot him instead of his clothes what would they have done to me? Would I
have been hung by the neck till you are dead and the Lord have mercy on
your soul? Would I?"

"Oh! Molly, how horrible and how wicked! That's swearing!" cried
indignant Dorothy.

"Well, I like that! I mean I don't! I never swore a swore in my life and
you're horrid, just horrid, Dorothy Calvert, to say so," retorted Molly,
suddenly sitting up and flashing a look of scorn at her beloved chum.

"It was really swearing, you know, though you didn't mean it."

"It's what the Judge says--my poor father's one--when a man is condemned
to death."

"Aunt Betty says that any taking of the Lord's name in vain is
swearing and--"

Foreseeing a childish squabble, due to over-excitement and fatigue,
Helena gently interposed:

"That's enough. Neither of you knows what she is talking about. They
don't hang people nowadays, they electrocute them, and Wun Sing wasn't
hurt. He was only badly scared and will keep a good distance from our
rifle-range hereafter. Alfy did hit the bull's-eye, no matter whether
she meant to do it or not. We've had a perfectly lovely evening and a
perfectly lovely summer is before us. I mean to get up, to-morrow, and
see the sun rise, so--off with you, girls. Molly and I are sleepy. Good
night to both of you. What friends we shall be before this summer ends!"

"Why, I thought we was now. I'm sure I don't feel much above any of you,
even if I can shoot better 'n the rest," said practical Alfaretta,
moving slowly toward the door.

A shout of laughter greeted her words and Molly indignantly retorted:

"You aren't one bit smarter than I am. You only hit an old target and I
hit a man, and we didn't either of us mean to do it. But good night,
good night. Wake early, 'cause Leslie says we've a great doin's before
us, to-morrow. Something better than waking up to see the sun rise.
Helena'll get over that, though. Such fine resolutions don't last."

"You'll see. I--I think I shall keep a diary. Take notes of what happens
up here on the Rockies. If I succeed I may--I may write a book,
sometime," said Helena.

Molly and Dolly stared, seized with sudden awe of this ambitious young
person, and Alfy stared, too; but she was not impressed and her comment
was a not unkindly but perfectly sincere remark:

"Why, Nell, you couldn't do that. It takes brains to--"

"Young ladies! I am amazed at your disturbing the house like this, after
retiring hours! Lights out, or off, silence at once!" ordered Miss
Milliken, appearing in their midst. And at this apparition silence did
follow.

Back in their own room, Dorothy and Alfaretta pushed their little beds
close together and knelt down to say their prayers. In the heart of each
was an earnest petition for "poor Jim," Dolly's ending with the words:
"And let me see his face the first thing in the morning."

But Alfy reproved this.

"We haven't any right to set times for things to be done and prayers to
be answered, Dolly Doodles, and don't say no more. It's sort of saucy
seems if, to ask for things and then keep thinkin' in your insides that
they won't be give. You've asked and the Lord's heard you--now get up
and go to bed."

"Oh! Alfy! I wish you had--had--a little more spiritually!" wailed
Dorothy, rather stumbling over the long word but obediently rising from
her knees and creeping between the snowy sheets. "And I don't feel as if
there was any use going to bed, any way. I know I shan't sleep a wink."

"Fiddlesticks! You just do beat the Dutch! As if great Jim Barlow hadn't
a decent head on his shoulders and needed the use o' your 'n! He
wouldn't thank you for makin' him out such a fool. Good night. I'm goin'
to sleep."

Dorothy felt that this was simply heartless and sighed:

"I wish I could! But I can't!"

Then she drew the covers about her shoulders, stared through the open
window at the moonlit ground, felt the scene a trifle dazzling, and
closed her lids just to rest her eyes a minute.

When she opened them again Alfaretta's bed was empty and neatly spread.
Except her own belongings the room was in perfect order for the day, the
sun shone where the moonlight had been, and the cathedral clock on the
cloister wall was striking--

"Oh! Oh! It's morning! It's late morning, too, that's six, seven, nine
o'clock! Oh! how could I sleep so? I never did before in all my
life--except--well, sometimes, but I'm ashamed, I'm awfully ashamed of
myself."

As she sprang to her feet there was a tap at the door and a
white-capped, white-aproned maid appeared, saying:

"Good morning, Senorita. The Senora sent me to serve you and help you
about your bath. It is ready, yes, and the other senoritas have
breakfasted and gone out, si. By my Lady's orders you were not to be
awakened till you roused yourself."

"Oh! but I am sorry. I didn't mean to do this, for I know one of Mr.
Ford's rules is early rising. I found that out at El Paraiso and--yes,
yes, please do help me. But tell me, what shall I call you?"

"Anita, nina. Anita Mantez I am, from the dear City of the Angels, si.
This way, carita, do not fear displeasure. They are all beloved, the
fair young things, but you are nearest, dearest, so my Lady tells. For
you will never be blamed, believe me."

Dorothy made short work of her toilet and felt so refreshed by her night
of sound sleep and her delightful morning bath, that the world outside
seemed even lovelier than she remembered it. Also, she was hungry--so
hungry! It was quite as Mr. Ford had said; that the mountain air made
people almost ravenous, at first. Afterwards, one's appetite sank to the
normal and to be out and doing was the one great desire of life.

Anita led her to the refectory and served her with a dainty breakfast,
disposed on exquisite "individual" dishes, and oddly enough, bearing the
initial "D." Dolly lifted a cup and stared at it, wondering while Anita
glibly explained in her patois of Spanish-English, that yes, indeed, it
was the Senorita's own.

Dorothy's heart was touched and grateful. Charming as her hosts were to
all their guests, in many little ways they had singled her out as in
this; and she understood without explanation from them that it was
because of the part she had played in bringing together the once divided
family. Very humbly and gravely she accepted these attentions, thankful
in her deepest heart that she had been "inspired," on that past winter
day, to lead the father and son across the mesa to the little cabin
where Gray Lady dwelt alone. It had been a daring thing to do--an
"assisting Providence"--such as wise Aunt Betty wholly disapproved; but
that time it had been a fortunate one for all concerned.

Now as the girl sipped her cocoa, turning the egg-shell like cup to
catch the light, she wondered what she could still do to help her dear
Gray Lady and to prove her own love. Then her dreaming was cut short by
a hubbub of merry voices without, and, a moment later, a crowd of young

folks tumbled through the big window, laughing, teasing, exhorting:

"Lazy girl! Just eating breakfast and it's nearly time for lunch, seems
if!"

"Oh! The loveliest thing in the world!" cried Molly, clapping her hands.

"Thank you," said Dolly, demurely, lifting her face for the other to
kiss.

"Oh! not you, Miss Vanity, but a beautiful thing on four legs!"

"We're to take our choice and the white one's mine, for--" declared
Alfaretta.

"No white one for me! Dad says we're to do our own grooming and white
ones have to be washed just like a poodle dog and--" began Leslie.

"I had one once. His name was 'Goodenough,' and he was good enough, too.
Could walk on its hind legs--" interrupted Herbert.

"Oh, Dorothy! If you aren't going to finish that buttered toast, do give
it to me! I never was so hungry in all my life. I simply can't get
filled up, and--"

"Montmorency Vavasour-Stark! You ought to be ashamed! After eating four
chops, three boiled eggs, five helpings of potato, to say nothing of
coffee enough for the regiment, and strawberries--"

"Well, Mistress Molly Breckenridge, I don't know who set you to keep
tally on my appetite! and I hate to see good things wasted. Want the
rest of those berries, girlie? I know you don't. You're real unselfish,
you are; and you wouldn't eat all the nice-ripe-red-strawberries-
raised-under-glass-ripe-red-strawberries and give your neighbor none.
And give your neighbor none, you-shan't-have-any-of-my-nice-ripe-red-
strawberries-who-gives-his-neighbor--Molly, give it back! Aw, now,
Molly! You wouldn't eat all the nice-ripe--Hold on! Bert Montaigne,
that's a beastly shame! After I had to warble in that dulcet way for
a plate of poor, left-over, second-hand strawberries, to have 'em
grabbed by you and Molly--that's too much. Just one drop too much to
fill my bucket, but I say, 'Little One,' I wish you'd get up late
every morning, and have just such a superfine breakfast as this saved
for you, and not be hungry at all yourself, but save it for a poor
starved little boy who hasn't had a mouthful in an hour--"

Monty was running on in this absurd way, yet holding his own in a three
cornered scramble for possession of a dish of berries he had pre-empted
from Dorothy's table; till, without saying anything, Helena calmly
walked up, took the disputed dish from the contestants and, shoving
Dolly aside to give up half her chair, sat down and began to eat them
herself.

"Two spoons with but a single dish! How touching!" cried Herbert, posing
in pretended admiration of the pair, yet covertly watching his chance to
add a third spoon to the two and get his own taste of the luxury.

Not but that all had been served likewise, at the regular meal earlier
in the day, and Monty's boasted appetite was but a part of the happy
foolishness of their youth and high spirits.

For they were all evidently greatly excited over something, and the talk
fell back upon "choice" and "points" and "colors" with a comparison of
manes and tails, till Dorothy sprang up, clapped her hands over her
ears, and demanded:

"One at a time! One at a time! Do tell me what you're all jabbering
about and be quick! Just because I was lazy--I admit it, all right--I
don't want to miss all the fun! Tell me!"

But her answer did not come from any of the lively group about her. A
shadow fell across the floor and Captain Lem appeared at the window.
Leaning his elbows on the low sill he surveyed the interior with a
quizzical smile, then observed:

"If everybody's et all they can and has got time for somethin' elst,
please to step over to the corral behind the Barracks. Time there was
somethin' doin'! Come on, Little One. I'd like to have you head the
procesh, for 'twas the Boss's orders, first pick for you. Hep, hep,
hep--march!"





Next: A Modern Horse Fair

Previous: A Rifle Practice



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