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Cowboy Golf








From: The Light Of Western Stars

In the whirl of the succeeding days it was a mooted question whether
Madeline's guests or her cowboys or herself got the keenest enjoyment
out of the flying time. Considering the sameness of the cowboys'
ordinary life, she was inclined to think they made the most of the
present. Stillwell and Stewart, however, had found the situation trying.
The work of the ranch had to go on, and some of it got sadly neglected.
Stillwell could not resist the ladies any more than he could resist the
fun in the extraordinary goings-on of the cowboys. Stewart alone kept
the business of cattle-raising from a serious setback. Early and late
he was in the saddle, driving the lazy Mexicans whom he had hired to
relieve the cowboys.

One morning in June Madeline was sitting on the porch with her merry
friends when Stillwell appeared on the corral path. He had not come
to consult Madeline for several days--an omission so unusual as to be
remarked.

"Here comes Bill--in trouble," laughed Florence.

Indeed, he bore some faint resemblance to a thundercloud as he
approached the porch; but the greetings he got from Madeline's party,
especially from Helen and Dorothy, chased away the blackness from his
face and brought the wonderful wrinkling smile.

"Miss Majesty, sure I'm a sad demoralized old cattleman," he said,
presently. "An' I'm in need of a heap of help."

"What's wrong now?" asked Madeline, with her encouraging smile.

"Wal, it's so amazin' strange what cowboys will do. I jest am about to
give up. Why, you might say my cowboys were all on strike for vacations.
What do you think of that? We've changed the shifts, shortened hours,
let one an' another off duty, hired Greasers, an', in fact, done
everythin' that could be thought of. But this vacation idee growed
worse. When Stewart set his foot down, then the boys begin to get sick.
Never in my born days as a cattleman have I heerd of so many diseases.
An' you ought to see how lame an' crippled an' weak many of the boys
have got all of a sudden. The idee of a cowboy comin' to me with a
sore finger an' askin' to be let off for a day! There's Booly. Now I've
knowed a hoss to fall all over him, an' onct he rolled down a canyon.
Never bothered him at all. He's got a blister on his heel, a ridin'
blister, an' he says it's goin' to blood-poisonin' if he doesn't rest.
There's Jim Bell. He's developed what he says is spinal mengalootis,
or some such like. There's Frankie Slade. He swore he had scarlet fever
because his face burnt so red, I guess, an' when I hollered that scarlet
fever was contagious an' he must be put away somewhere, he up an' says
he guessed it wasn't that. But he was sure awful sick an' needed to loaf
around an' be amused. Why, even Nels doesn't want to work these days. If
it wasn't for Stewart, who's had Greasers with the cattle, I don't know
what I'd do."

"Why all this sudden illness and idleness?" asked Madeline.

"Wal, you see, the truth is every blamed cowboy on the range except
Stewart thinks it's his bounden duty to entertain the ladies."

"I think that is just fine!" exclaimed Dorothy Coombs; and she joined in
the general laugh.

"Stewart, then, doesn't care to help entertain us?" inquired Helen, in
curious interest. "Wal, Miss Helen, Stewart is sure different from the
other cowboys," replied Stillwell. "Yet he used to be like them. There
never was a cowboy fuller of the devil than Gene. But he's changed. He's
foreman here, an' that must be it. All the responsibility rests on him.
He sure has no time for amusin' the ladies."

"I imagine that is our loss," said Edith Wayne, in her earnest way. "I
admire him."

"Stillwell, you need not be so distressed with what is only gallantry in
the boys, even if it does make a temporary confusion in the work," said
Madeline.

"Miss Majesty, all I said is not the half, nor the quarter, nor nuthin'
of what's troublin' me," answered he, sadly.

"Very well; unburden yourself."

"Wal, the cowboys, exceptin' Gene, have gone plumb batty, jest plain
crazy over this heah game of gol-lof."

A merry peal of mirth greeted Stillwell's solemn assertion.

"Oh, Stillwell, you are in fun," replied Madeline.

"I hope to die if I'm not in daid earnest," declared the cattleman.
"It's an amazin' strange fact. Ask Flo. She'll tell you. She knows
cowboys, an' how if they ever start on somethin' they ride it as they
ride a hoss."

Florence being appealed to, and evidently feeling all eyes upon her,
modestly replied that Stillwell had scarcely misstated the situation.

"Cowboys play like they work or fight," she added. "They give their
whole souls to it. They are great big simple boys."

"Indeed they are," said Madeline. "Oh, I'm glad if they like the game of
golf. They have so little play."

"Wal, somethin's got to be did if we're to go on raisin' cattle at Her
Majesty's Rancho," replied Stillwell. He appeared both deliberate and
resigned.

Madeline remembered that despite Stillwell's simplicity he was as deep
as any of his cowboys, and there was absolutely no gaging him where
possibilities of fun were concerned. Madeline fancied that his
exaggerated talk about the cowboys' sudden craze for golf was in line
with certain other remarkable tales that had lately emanated from him.
Some very strange things had occurred of late, and it was impossible to
tell whether or not they were accidents, mere coincidents, or deep-laid,
skilfully worked-out designs of the fun-loving cowboys. Certainly there
had been great fun, and at the expense of her guests, particularly
Castleton. So Madeline was at a loss to know what to think about
Stillwell's latest elaboration. From mere force of habit she sympathized
with him and found difficulty in doubting his apparent sincerity.

"To go back a ways," went on Stillwell, as Madeline looked up
expectantly, "you recollect what pride the boys took in fixin' up that
gol-lof course out on the mesa? Wal, they worked on that job, an' though
I never seen any other course, I'll gamble yours can't be beat. The boys
was sure curious about that game. You recollect also how they all wanted
to see you an' your brother play, an' be caddies for you? Wal, whenever
you'd quit they'd go to work tryin' to play the game. Monty Price, he
was the leadin' spirit. Old as I am, Miss Majesty, an' used as I am to
cowboy excentrikities, I nearly dropped daid when I heered that little
hobble-footed, burned-up Montana cow-puncher say there wasn't any
game too swell for him, an' gol-lof was just his speed. Serious as a
preacher, mind you, he was. An' he was always practisin'. When Stewart
gave him charge of the course an' the club-house an' all them funny
sticks, why, Monty was tickled to death. You see, Monty is sensitive
that he ain't much good any more for cowboy work. He was glad to have a
job that he didn't feel he was hangin' to by kindness. Wal, he practised
the game, an' he read the books in the club-house, an' he got the boys
to doin' the same. That wasn't very hard, I reckon. They played early
an' late an' in the moonlight. For a while Monty was coach, an' the boys
stood it. But pretty soon Frankie Slade got puffed on his game, an' he
had to have it out with Monty. Wal, Monty beat him bad. Then one after
another the other boys tackled Monty. He beat them all. After that they
split up an' begin to play matches, two on a side. For a spell this
worked fine. But cowboys can't never be satisfied long onless they win
all the time. Monty an' Link Stevens, both cripples, you might say,
joined forces an' elected to beat all comers. Wal, they did, an' that's
the trouble. Long an' patient the other cowboys tried to beat them two
game legs, an' hevn't done it. Mebbe if Monty an' Link was perfectly
sound in their legs like the other cowboys there wouldn't hev been such
a holler. But no sound cowboys'll ever stand for a disgrace like that.
Why, down at the bunks in the evenin's it's some mortifyin' the way
Monty an' Link crow over the rest of the outfit. They've taken on
superior airs. You couldn't reach up to Monty with a trimmed spruce
pole. An' Link--wal, he's just amazin' scornful.

"'It's a swell game, ain't it?' says Link, powerful sarcastic. 'Wal,
what's hurtin' you low-down common cowmen? You keep harpin' on Monty's
game leg an' on my game leg. If we hed good legs we'd beat you all the
wuss. It's brains that wins in gol-lof. Brains an' airstoocratik blood,
which of the same you fellers sure hev little.'

"An' then Monty he blows smoke powerful careless an' superior, an' he
says:

"'Sure it's a swell game. You cow-headed gents think beef an' brawn
ought to hev the call over skill an' gray matter. You'll all hev to back
up an' get down. Go out an' learn the game. You don't know a baffy from
a Chinee sandwich. All you can do is waggle with a club an' fozzle the
ball.'

"Whenever Monty gets to usin' them queer names the boys go round kind of
dotty. Monty an' Link hev got the books an' directions of the game, an'
they won't let the other boys see them. They show the rules, but
that's all. An', of course, every game ends in a row almost before it's
started. The boys are all turrible in earnest about this gol-lof. An' I
want to say, for the good of ranchin', not to mention a possible fight,
that Monty an' Link hev got to be beat. There'll be no peace round this
ranch till that's done."

Madeline's guests were much amused. As for herself, in spite of her
scarcely considered doubt, Stillwell's tale of woe occasioned her
anxiety. However, she could hardly control her mirth.

"What in the world can I do?"

"Wal, I reckon I couldn't say. I only come to you for advice. It seems
that a queer kind of game has locoed my cowboys, an' for the time bein'
ranchin' is at a standstill. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but cowboys are
as strange as wild cattle. All I'm sure of is that the conceit has got
to be taken out of Monty an' Link. Onct, just onct, will square it, an'
then we can resoome our work."

"Stillwell, listen," said Madeline, brightly. "We'll arrange a match
game, a foursome, between Monty and Link and your best picked team.
Castleton, who is an expert golfer, will umpire. My sister, and friends,
and I will take turns as caddies for your team. That will be fair,
considering yours is the weaker. Caddies may coach, and perhaps expert
advice is all that is necessary for your team to defeat Monty's."

"A grand idee," declared Stillwell, with instant decision. "When can we
have this match game?"

"Why, to-day--this afternoon. We'll all ride out to the links."

"Wal, I reckon I'll be some indebted to you, Miss Majesty, an' all your
guests," replied Stillwell, warmly. He rose with sombrero in hand, and a
twinkle in his eye that again prompted Madeline to wonder. "An' now I'll
be goin' to fix up for the game of cowboy gol-lof. Adios."

The idea was as enthusiastically received by Madeline's guests as it had
been by Stillwell. They were highly amused and speculative to the
point of taking sides and making wagers on their choice. Moreover, this
situation so frankly revealed by Stillwell had completed their deep
mystification. They were now absolutely nonplussed by the singular
character of American cowboys. Madeline was pleased to note how
seriously they had taken the old cattleman's story. She had a little
throb of wild expectancy that made her both fear and delight in the
afternoon's prospect.

The June days had set in warm; in fact, hot during the noon hours: and
this had inculcated in her insatiable visitors a tendency to profit
by the experience of those used to the Southwest. They indulged in the
restful siesta during the heated term of the day.

Madeline was awakened by Majesty's well-known whistle and pounding on
the gravel. Then she heard the other horses. When she went out she found
her party assembled in gala golf attire, and with spirits to match their
costumes. Castleton, especially, appeared resplendent in a golf coat
that beggared description. Madeline had faint misgivings when she
reflected on what Monty and Nels and Nick might do under the influence
of that blazing garment.

"Oh. Majesty," cried Helen, as Madeline went up to her horse, "don't
make him kneel! Try that flying mount. We all want to see it. It's so
stunning."

"But that way, too, I must have him kneel," said Madeline, "or I can't
reach the stirrup. He's so tremendously high."

Madeline had to yield to the laughing insistence of her friends, and
after all of them except Florence were up she made Majesty go down on
one knee. Then she stood on his left side, facing back, and took a good
firm grip on the bridle and pommel and his mane. After she had slipped
the toe of her boot firmly into the stirrup she called to Majesty. He
jumped and swung her up into the saddle.

"Now just to see how it ought to be done watch Florence," said Madeline.

The Western girl was at her best in riding-habit and with her horse. It
was beautiful to see the ease and grace with which she accomplished the
cowboys' flying mount. Then she led the party down the slope and across
the flat to climb the mesa.

Madeline never saw a group of her cowboys without looking them over,
almost unconsciously, for her foreman, Gene Stewart. This afternoon, as
usual, he was not present. However, she now had a sense--of which she
was wholly conscious--that she was both disappointed and irritated. He
had really not been attentive to her guests, and he, of all her
cowboys, was the one of whom they wanted most to see something. Helen,
particularly, had asked to have him attend the match. But Stewart was
with the cattle. Madeline thought of his faithfulness, and was ashamed
of her momentary lapse into that old imperious habit of desiring things
irrespective of reason.

Stewart, however, immediately slipped out of her mind as she surveyed
the group of cowboys on the links. By actual count there were sixteen,
not including Stillwell. And the same number of splendid horses, all
shiny and clean, grazed on the rim in the care of Mexican lads. The
cowboys were on dress-parade, looking very different in Madeline's eyes,
at least, from the way cowboys usually appeared. But they were real and
natural to her guests; and they were so picturesque that they might have
been stage cowboys instead of real ones. Sombreros with silver
buckles and horsehair bands were in evidence; and bright silk scarfs,
embroidered vests, fringed and ornamented chaps, huge swinging guns, and
clinking silver spurs lent a festive appearance.

Madeline and her party were at once eagerly surrounded by the cowboys,
and she found it difficult to repress a smile. If these cowboys were
still remarkable to her, what must they be to her guests?

"Wal, you-all raced over, I seen," said Stillwell, taking Madeline's
bridle. "Get down--get down. We're sure amazin' glad an' proud. An',
Miss Majesty, I'm offerin' to beg pawdin for the way the boys are
packin' guns. Mebbe it ain't polite. But it's Stewart's orders."

"Stewart's orders!" echoed Madeline. Her friends were suddenly silent.

"I reckon he won't take no chances on the boys bein' surprised sudden
by raiders. An' there's raiders operatin' in from the Guadalupes. That's
all. Nothin' to worry over. I was just explainin'."

Madeline, with several of her party, expressed relief, but Helen showed
excitement and then disappointment.

"Oh, I want something to happen!" she cried.

Sixteen pairs of keen cowboy eyes fastened intently upon her pretty,
petulant face; and Madeline divined, if Helen did not, that the desired
consummation was not far off.

"So do I," said Dot Coombs. "It would be perfectly lovely to have a real
adventure."

The gaze of the sixteen cowboys shifted and sought the demure face of
this other discontented girl. Madeline laughed, and Stillwell wore his
strange, moving smile.

"Wal, I reckon you ladies sure won't have to go home unhappy," he said.
"Why, as boss of this heah outfit I'd feel myself disgraced forever if
you didn't have your wish. Just wait. An' now, ladies, the matter on
hand may not be amusin' or excitin' to you; but to this heah cowboy
outfit it's powerful important. An' all the help you can give us will
sure be thankfully received. Take a look across the links. Do you-all
see them two apologies for human bein's prancin' like a couple of
hobbled broncs? Wal, you're gazin' at Monty Price an' Link Stevens,
who have of a sudden got too swell to associate with their old bunkies.
They're practisin' for the toornament. They don't want my boys to see
how they handle them crooked clubs."

"Have you picked your team?" inquired Madeline.

Stillwell mopped his red face with an immense bandana, and showed
something of confusion and perplexity.

"I've sixteen boys, an' they all want to play," he replied. "Pickin' the
team ain't goin' to be an easy job. Mebbe it won't be healthy, either.
There's Nels and Nick. They just stated cheerful-like that if they
didn't play we won't have any game at all. Nick never tried before, an'
Nels, all he wants is to get a crack at Monty with one of them crooked
clubs."

"I suggest you let all your boys drive from the tee and choose the two
who drive the farthest," said Madeline.

Stillwell's perplexed face lighted up.

"Wal, that's a plumb good idee. The boys'll stand for that."

Wherewith he broke up the admiring circle of cowboys round the ladies.

"Grap a rope--I mean a club--all you cow-punchers, an' march over hyar
an' take a swipe at this little white bean."

The cowboys obeyed with alacrity. There was considerable difficulty over
the choice of clubs and who should try first. The latter question had
to be adjusted by lot. However, after Frankie Slade made several
ineffectual attempts to hit the ball from the teeing-ground, at last to
send it only a few yards, the other players were not so eager to follow.
Stillwell had to push Booly forward, and Booly executed a most miserable
shot and retired to the laughing comments of his comrades. The efforts
of several succeeding cowboys attested to the extreme difficulty of
making a good drive.

"Wal, Nick, it's your turn," said Stillwell.

"Bill, I ain't so all-fired particular about playin'," replied Nick.

"Why? You was roarin' about it a little while ago. Afraid to show how
bad you'll play?"

"Nope, jest plain consideration for my feller cow-punchers," answered
Nick, with spirit. "I'm appreciatin' how bad they play, an' I'm not mean
enough to show them up."

"Wal, you've got to show me," said Stillwell. "I know you never seen
a gol-lof stick in your life. What's more, I'll bet you can't hit that
little ball square--not in a dozen cracks at it."

"Bill, I'm also too much of a gent to take your money. But you know I'm
from Missouri. Gimme a club."

Nick's angry confidence seemed to evaporate as one after another he took
up and handled the clubs. It was plain that he had never before wielded
one. But, also, it was plain that he was not the kind of a man to give
in. Finally he selected a driver, looked doubtfully at the small knob,
and then stepped into position on the teeing-ground.

Nick Steele stood six feet four inches in height. He had the rider's
wiry slenderness, yet he was broad of shoulder. His arms were long.
Manifestly he was an exceedingly powerful man. He swung the driver
aloft and whirled it down with a tremendous swing. Crack! The white ball
disappeared, and from where it had been rose a tiny cloud of dust.

Madeline's quick sight caught the ball as it lined somewhat to the
right. It was shooting low and level with the speed of a bullet. It went
up and up in swift, beautiful flight, then lost its speed and began to
sail, to curve, to drop; and it fell out of sight beyond the rim of the
mesa. Madeline had never seen a drive that approached this one. It was
magnificent, beyond belief except for actual evidence of her own eyes.

The yelling of the cowboys probably brought Nick Steele out of the
astounding spell with which he beheld his shot. Then Nick, suddenly
alive to the situation, recovered from his trance and, resting
nonchalantly upon his club, he surveyed Stillwell and the boys. After
their first surprised outburst they were dumb.

"You-all seen thet?" Nick grandly waved his hand. "Thaught I was
joshin', didn't you? Why, I used to go to St. Louis an' Kansas City to
play this here game. There was some talk of the golf clubs takin' me
down East to play the champions. But I never cared fer the game. Too
easy fer me! Them fellers back in Missouri were a lot of cheap dubs,
anyhow, always kickin' because whenever I hit a ball hard I always lost
it. Why, I hed to hit sort of left-handed to let 'em stay in my class.
Now you-all can go ahead an' play Monty an' Link. I could beat 'em both,
playin' with one hand, if I wanted to. But I ain't interested. I jest
hit thet ball off the mesa to show you. I sure wouldn't be seen playin'
on your team."

With that Nick sauntered away toward the horses. Stillwell appeared
crushed. And not a scornful word was hurled after Nick, which fact
proved the nature of his victory. Then Nels strode into the limelight.
As far as it was possible for this iron-faced cowboy to be so, he was
bland and suave. He remarked to Stillwell and the other cowboys that
sometimes it was painful for them to judge of the gifts of superior
cowboys such as belonged to Nick and himself. He picked up the club
Nick had used and called for a new ball. Stillwell carefully built up
a little mound of sand and, placing the ball upon it, squared away to
watch. He looked grim and expectant.

Nels was not so large a man as Nick, and did not look so formidable
as he waved his club at the gaping cowboys. Still he was lithe,
tough, strong. Briskly, with a debonair manner, he stepped up and then
delivered a mighty swing at the ball. He missed. The power and momentum
of his swing flung him off his feet, and he actually turned upside down
and spun round on his head. The cowboys howled. Stillwell's stentorian
laugh rolled across the mesa. Madeline and her guests found it
impossible to restrain their mirth. And when Nels got up he cast a
reproachful glance at Madeline. His feelings were hurt.

His second attempt, not by any means so violent, resulted in as clean a
miss as the first, and brought jeers from the cowboys. Nels's red face
flamed redder. Angrily he swung again. The mound of sand spread over the
teeing-ground and the exasperating little ball rolled a few inches. This
time he had to build up the sand mound and replace the ball himself.
Stillwell stood scornfully by, and the boys addressed remarks to Nels.

"Take off them blinders," said one.

"Nels, your eyes are shore bad," said another.

"You don't hit where you look."

"Nels, your left eye has sprung a limp."

"Why, you dog-goned old fule, you cain't hit thet bawl."

Nels essayed again, only to meet ignominious failure. Then carefully
he gathered himself together, gaged distance, balanced the club, swung
cautiously. And the head of the club made a beautiful curve round the
ball.

"Shore it's jest thet crooked club," he declared.

He changed clubs and made another signal failure. Rage suddenly
possessing him, he began to swing wildly. Always, it appeared, the
illusive little ball was not where he aimed. Stillwell hunched his huge
bulk, leaned hands on knees, and roared his riotous mirth. The cowboys
leaped up and down in glee.

"You cain't hit thet bawl," sang out one of the noisiest. A few more
whirling, desperate lunges on the part of Nels, all as futile as if
the ball had been thin air, finally brought to the dogged cowboy a
realization that golf was beyond him.

Stillwell bawled: "Oh, haw, haw, haw! Nels, you're--too old--eyes no
good!"

Nels slammed down the club, and when he straightened up with the red
leaving his face, then the real pride and fire of the man showed.
Deliberately he stepped off ten paces and turned toward the little mound
upon which rested the ball. His arm shot down, elbow crooked, hand like
a claw.

"Aw, Nels, this is fun!" yelled Stillwell.

But swift as a gleam of light Nels flashed his gun, and the report came
with the action. Chips flew from the golf-ball as it tumbled from the
mound. Nels had hit it without raising the dust. Then he dropped the
gun back in its sheath and faced the cowboys.

"Mebbe my eyes ain't so orful bad," he said, coolly, and started to walk
off.

"But look ah-heah, Nels," yelled Stillwell, "we come out to play
gol-lof! We can't let you knock the ball around with your gun. What'd
you want to get mad for? It's only fun. Now you an' Nick hang round
heah an' be sociable. We ain't depreciatin' your company none, nor your
usefulness on occasions. An' if you just hain't got inborn politeness
sufficient to do the gallant before the ladies, why, remember Stewart's
orders."

"Stewart's orders?" queried Nels, coming to a sudden halt.

"That's what I said," replied Stillwell, with asperity. "His orders.
Are you forgettin' orders? Wal, you're a fine cowboy. You an' Nick an'
Monty, 'specially, are to obey orders."

Nels took off his sombrero and scratched his head. "Bill, I reckon I'm
some forgetful. But I was mad. I'd 'a' remembered pretty soon, an' mebbe
my manners."

"Sure you would," replied Stillwell. "Wal, now, we don't seem to be
proceedin' much with my gol-lof team. Next ambitious player step up."

In Ambrose, who showed some skill in driving, Stillwell found one of
his team. The succeeding players, however, were so poor and so evenly
matched that the earnest Stillwell was in despair. He lost his temper
just as speedily as Nels had. Finally Ed Linton's wife appeared riding
up with Ambrose's wife, and perhaps this helped, for Ed suddenly
disclosed ability that made Stillwell single him out.

"Let me coach you a little," said Bill.

"Sure, if you like," replied Ed. "But I know more about this game than
you do."

"Wal, then, let's see you hit a ball straight. Seems to me you got
good all-fired quick. It's amazin' strange." ere Bill looked around to
discover the two young wives modestly casting eyes of admiration upon
their husbands. "Haw, haw! It ain't so darned strange. Mebbe that'll
help some. Now, Ed, stand up and don't sling your club as if you was
ropin' a steer. Come round easy-like an' hit straight."

Ed made several attempts which, although better than those of his
predecessors, were rather discouraging to the exacting coach. Presently,
after a particularly atrocious shot, Stillwell strode in distress here
and there, and finally stopped a dozen paces or more in front of the
teeing-ground. Ed, who for a cowboy was somewhat phlegmatic, calmly made
ready for another attempt.

"Fore!" he called.

Stillwell stared.

"Fore!" yelled Ed.

"Why're you hollerin' that way at me?" demanded Bill.

"I mean for you to lope off the horizon. Get back from in front."

"Oh, that was one of them durned crazy words Monty is always hollerin'.
Wal, I reckon I'm safe enough hyar. You couldn't hit me in a million
years."

"Bill, ooze away," urged Ed.

"Didn't I say you couldn't hit me? What am I coachin' you for? It's
because you hit crooked, ain't it? Wal, go ahaid an' break your back."

Ed Linton was a short, heavy man, and his stocky build gave evidence
of considerable strength. His former strokes had not been made at the
expense of exertion, but now he got ready for a supreme effort. A sudden
silence clamped down upon the exuberant cowboys. It was one of those
fateful moments when the air was charged with disaster. As Ed swung the
club it fairly whistled.

Crack! Instantly came a thump. But no one saw the ball until it dropped
from Stillwell's shrinking body. His big hands went spasmodically to the
place that hurt, and a terrible groan rumbled from him.

Then the cowboys broke into a frenzy of mirth that seemed to find
adequate expression only in dancing and rolling accompaniment to their
howls. Stillwell recovered his dignity as soon as he caught his breath,
and he advanced with a rueful face.

"Wal, boys, it's on Bill," he said. "I'm a livin' proof of the
pig-headedness of mankind. Ed, you win. You're captain of the team. You
hit straight, an' if I hadn't been obstructin' the general atmosphere
that ball would sure have gone clear to the Chiricahuas."

Then making a megaphone of his huge hands, he yelled a loud blast of
defiance at Monty and Link.

"Hey, you swell gol-lofers! We're waitin'. Come on if you ain't scared."

Instantly Monty and Link quit practising, and like two emperors came
stalking across the links.

"Guess my bluff didn't work much," said Stillwell. Then he turned to
Madeline and her friends. "Sure I hope, Miss Majesty, that you-all won't
weaken an' go over to the enemy. Monty is some eloquent, an', besides,
he has a way of gettin' people to agree with him. He'll be plumb wild
when he heahs what he an' Link are up against. But it's a square deal,
because he wouldn't help us or lend the book that shows how to play.
An', besides, it's policy for us to beat him. Now, if you'll elect who's
to be caddies an' umpire I'll be powerful obliged."

Madeline's friends were hugely amused over the prospective match; but,
except for Dorothy and Castleton, they disclaimed any ambition for
active participation. Accordingly, Madeline appointed Castleton to judge
the play, Dorothy to act as caddie for Ed Linton, and she herself to be
caddie for Ambrose. While Stillwell beamingly announced this momentous
news to his team and supporters Monty and Link were striding up.

Both were diminutive in size, bow-legged, lame in one foot, and
altogether unprepossessing. Link was young, and Monty's years, more than
twice Link's, had left their mark. But it would have been impossible to
tell Monty's age. As Stillwell said, Monty was burned to the color and
hardness of a cinder. He never minded the heat, and always wore heavy
sheepskin chaps with the wool outside. This made him look broader than
he was long. Link, partial to leather, had, since he became Madeline's
chauffeur, taken to leather altogether. He carried no weapon, but Monty
wore a huge gun-sheath and gun. Link smoked a cigarette and looked
coolly impudent. Monty was dark-faced, swaggering, for all the world
like a barbarian chief.

"That Monty makes my flesh creep," said Helen, low-voiced. "Really,
Mr. Stillwell, is he so bad--desperate--as I've heard? Did he ever kill
anybody?"

"Sure. 'Most as many as Nels," replied Stillwell, cheerfully.

"Oh! And is that nice Mr. Nels a desperado, too? I wouldn't have thought
so. He's so kind and old-fashioned and soft-voiced."

"Nels is sure an example of the dooplicity of men, Miss Helen. Don't
you listen to his soft voice. He's really as bad as a side-winder
rattlesnake."

At this juncture Monty and Link reached the teeing-ground, and Stillwell
went out to meet them. The other cowboys pressed forward to surround the
trio. Madeline heard Stillwell's voice, and evidently he was explaining
that his team was to have skilled advice during the play. Suddenly there
came from the center of the group a loud, angry roar that broke off as
suddenly. Then followed excited voices all mingled together. Presently
Monty appeared, breaking away from restraining hands, and he strode
toward Madeline.

Monty Price was a type of cowboy who had never been known to speak to
a woman unless he was first addressed, and then he answered in blunt,
awkward shyness. Upon this great occasion, however, it appeared that
he meant to protest or plead with Madeline, for he showed stress of
emotion. Madeline had never gotten acquainted with Monty. She was a
little in awe, if not in fear, of him, and now she found it imperative
for her to keep in mind that more than any other of the wild fellows on
her ranch this one should be dealt with as if he were a big boy.

Monty removed his sombrero--something he had never done before--and the
single instant when it was off was long enough to show his head entirely
bald. This was one of the hall-marks of that terrible Montana prairie
fire through which he had fought to save the life of a child. Madeline
did not forget it, and all at once she wanted to take Monty's side.
Remembering Stillwell's wisdom, however, she forebore yielding to
sentiment, and called upon her wits.

"Miss--Miss Hammond," began Monty, stammering, "I'm extendin' admirin'
greetin's to you an' your friends. Link an' me are right down proud to
play the match game with you watchin'. But Bill says you're goin' to
caddie for his team an' coach 'em on the fine points. An' I want to ask,
all respectful, if thet's fair an' square?"

"Monty, that is for you to say," replied Madeline. "It was my
suggestion. But if you object in the least, of course we shall withdraw.
It seems fair to me, because you have learned the game; you are expert,
and I understand the other boys have no chance with you. Then you have
coached Link. I think it would be sportsmanlike of you to accept the
handicap."

"Aw, a handicap! Thet was what Bill was drivin' at. Why didn't he say
so? Every time Bill comes to a word thet's pie to us old golfers he jest
stumbles. Miss Majesty, you've made it all clear as print. An' I may
say with becomin' modesty thet you wasn't mistaken none about me
bein' sportsmanlike. Me an' Link was born thet way. An' we accept the
handicap. Lackin' thet handicap, I reckon Link an' me would have no
ambish to play our most be-ootiful game. An' thankin' you, Miss Majesty,
an' all your friends, I want to add thet if Bill's outfit couldn't beat
us before, they've got a swell chanct now, with you ladies a-watchin' me
an' Link."

Monty had seemed to expand with pride as he delivered this speech,
and at the end he bowed low and turned away. He joined the group round
Stillwell. Once more there was animated discussion and argument and
expostulation. One of the cowboys came for Castleton and led him away to
exploit upon ground rules.

It seemed to Madeline that the game never would begin. She strolled on
the rim of the mesa, arm in arm with Edith Wayne, and while Edith
talked she looked out over the gray valley leading to the rugged black
mountains and the vast red wastes. In the foreground on the gray slope
she saw cattle in movement and cowboys riding to and fro. She thought
of Stewart. Then Boyd Harvey came for them, saying all details had
been arranged. Stillwell met them half-way, and this cool, dry, old
cattleman, whose face and manner scarcely changed at the announcement of
a cattle-raid, now showed extreme agitation.

"Wal, Miss Majesty, we've gone an' made a foozle right at the start," he
said, dejectedly.

"A foozle? But the game has not yet begun," replied Madeline.

"A bad start, I mean. It's amazin' bad, an' we're licked already."

"What in the world is wrong?"

She wanted to laugh, but Stillwell's distress restrained her.

"Wal, it's this way. That darn Monty is as cute an' slick as a fox.
After he got done declaimin' about the handicap he an' Link was so happy
to take, he got Castleton over hyar an' drove us all dotty with his
crazy gol-lof names. Then he borrowed Castleton's gol-lof coat. I reckon
borrowed is some kind word. He just about took that blazin' coat off the
Englishman. Though I ain't sayin' but that Casleton was agreeable
when he tumbled to Monty's meanin'. Which was nothin' more 'n to break
Ambrose's heart. That coat dazzles Ambrose. You know how vain Ambrose
is. Why, he'd die to get to wear that Englishman's gol-lof coat. An'
Monty forestalled him. It's plumb pitiful to see the look in Ambrose's
eyes. He won't be able to play much. Then what do you think? Monty fixed
Ed Linton, all right. Usually Ed is easy-goin' an' cool. But now he's
on the rampage. Wal, mebbe it's news to you to learn that Ed's wife is
powerful, turrible jealous of him. Ed was somethin' of a devil with the
wimmen. Monty goes over an' tells Beulah--that's Ed's wife--that Ed is
goin' to have for caddie the lovely Miss Dorothy with the goo-goo eyes.
I reckon this was some disrespectful, but with all doo respect to Miss
Dorothy she has got a pair of unbridled eyes. Mebbe it's just natural
for her to look at a feller like that. Oh, it's all right; I'm not
sayin' any-thin'! I know it's all proper an' regular for girls back East
to use their eyes. But out hyar it's bound to result disastrous. All the
boys talk about among themselves is Miss Dot's eyes, an' all they brag
about is which feller is the luckiest. Anyway, sure Ed's wife knows it.
An' Monty up an' told her that it was fine for her to come out an' see
how swell Ed was prancin' round under the light of Miss Dot's brown
eyes. Beulah calls over Ed, figgertively speakin', ropes him for a
minnit. Ed comes back huggin' a grouch as big as a hill. Oh, it was
funny! He was goin' to punch Monty's haid off. An' Monty stands there
an' laughs. Says Monty, sarcastic as alkali water: 'Ed, we-all knowed
you was a heap married man, but you're some locoed to give yourself
away.' That settled Ed. He's some touchy about the way Beulah henpecks
him. He lost his spirit. An' now he couldn't play marbles, let alone
gol-lof. Nope, Monty was too smart. An' I reckon he was right about
brains bein' what wins."

The game began. At first Madeline and Dorothy essayed to direct the
endeavors of their respective players. But all they said and did only
made their team play the worse. At the third hole they were far behind
and hopelessly bewildered. What with Monty's borrowed coat, with its
dazzling effect upon Ambrose, and Link's oft-repeated allusion to
Ed's matrimonial state, and Stillwell's vociferated disgust, and the
clamoring good intention and pursuit of the cowboy supporters, and the
embarrassing presence of the ladies, Ambrose and Ed wore through all
manner of strange play until it became ridiculous.

"Hey, Link," came Monty's voice booming over the links, "our esteemed
rivals are playin' shinny."

Madeline and Dorothy gave up, presently, when the game became a rout,
and they sat down with their followers to watch the fun. Whether by hook
or crook, Ed and Ambrose forged ahead to come close upon Monty and Link.
Castleton disappeared in a mass of gesticulating, shouting cowboys. When
that compact mass disintegrated Castleton came forth rather hurriedly,
it appeared, to stalk back toward his hostess and friends.

"Look!" exclaimed Helen, in delight. "Castleton is actually excited.
Whatever did they do to him? Oh, this is immense!"

Castleton was excited, indeed, and also somewhat disheveled.

"By Jove! that was a rum go," he said, as he came up. "Never saw such
blooming golf! I resigned my office as umpire."

Only upon considerable pressure did he reveal the reason. "It was like
this, don't you know. They were all together over there, watching each
other. Monty Price's ball dropped into a hazard, and he moved it to
improve the lie. By Jove! they've all been doing that. But over there
the game was waxing hot. Stillwell and his cowboys saw Monty move the
ball, and there was a row. They appealed to me. I corrected the play,
showed the rules. Monty agreed he was in the wrong. However, when it
came to moving his ball back to its former lie in the hazard there was
more blooming trouble. Monty placed the ball to suit him, and then he
transfixed me with an evil eye.

"'Dook,' he said. I wish the bloody cowboy would not call me that.
'Dook, mebbe this game ain't as important as international politics or
some other things relatin', but there's some health an' peace dependin'
on it. Savvy? For some space our opponents have been dead to honor an'
sportsmanlike conduct. I calculate the game depends on my next drive.
I'm placin' my ball as near to where it was as human eyesight could.
You seen where it was same as I seen it. You're the umpire, an', Dook, I
take you as a honorable man. Moreover, never in my born days has my word
been doubted without sorrow. So I'm askin' you, wasn't my ball layin'
just about here?'

"The bloody little desperado smiled cheerfully, and he dropped his right
hand down to the butt of his gun. By Jove, he did! Then I had to tell a
blooming lie!"

Castleton even caught the tone of Monty's voice, but it was plain that
he had not the least conception that Monty had been fooling. Madeline
and her friends divined it, however; and, there being no need of
reserve, they let loose the fountains of mirth.





Next: Bandits

Previous: Friends From The East



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