VIEW THE MOBILE VERSION of www.fictionstories.ca Informational Site Network Informational
Privacy
   Home - Science Fiction Stories - Western Stories


Don't You Like Me Any More?








From: The Fighting Edge

Harshaw's rangers caught up with the militia an hour later. The valley
men were big, tanned, outdoor fellows, whereas the militia company was
composed of young lads from Colorado towns, most of them slight and not
yet fully developed. The state troopers were, however, brisk, alert, and
soldierly. Some of them were not used to riding, but they made the best
of it with the cheerful adaptability of American youth.

The trail of the Indians cut back across the mesa toward Utah. Evidently
they were making for their home country again. Bob began to hope that the
Utes would reach the reservation without a fight. In this desire the
owner of the Slash Lazy D heartily joined. He had no impulses toward the
slaughter of the tribal remnants.

Others of the party did not share this feeling. Without going into the
causes of the Indian troubles, it can safely be said that the
frontiersmen generally believed that the tribes were dangerous and not to
be trusted. In any difficulty between a white and a red man they assumed
the latter was to blame. Many old-timers held that the only way to settle
the Indian question was to exterminate the tribes or at least reduce them
to impotence.

The pursuers followed a hot trail. Twice they had a brush with the rear
guard of the flying Utes, during which Bob heard bullets singing above
his head. He felt a very unpleasant sinking in the pit of his stomach,
and could hardly resist the temptation to slip out of the saddle and take
refuge behind the horse he was riding.

The rangers and the soldiers reached Bear Cat long after dark. Dud and
Reeves had ridden into town ahead of their companions, so that when the
rest came in they found a hot supper waiting for them on the plaza.

June helped serve the weary men. Big fires had been built on the square
and by the light of the flames Bob could see her slim figure flitting to
and fro. Afterward, when the meal was at an end, he saw Dud Hollister
walking beside her to the hotel. The cowpuncher was carrying a load of
dishes and supplies. It would have surprised Bob to learn that he was the
subject of their conversation.

For the first time Dud had heard that day from Blister the story of the
mad dog episode. He made June tell it to him again from her viewpoint.
When she had finished he asked her a question.

"Anybody ever tell you about the fight Bob had with Bandy Walker?"

The light in her dark eyes quickened. "Did they have a fight?" she asked
evenly, with not too great a show of interest.

"I dunno as you could rightly call it a fight," Dud drawled. "Bob he
hammered Bandy, tromped on him, chewed him up, an' spit him out. He was
plumb active for about five minutes."

"What was the trouble?"

"Bandy's one o' these mean bullies. He figured he could run on Bob. The
boy took it meek an' humble for a week or so before he settled with Bandy
generous an' handsome. The bow-legged guy might have got away with it if
he hadn't made a mistake."

"A mistake?" repeated June.

"He had a few remarks to make about a young lady Bob knew."

June said nothing. In the darkness Dud made out only the dusky outline of
her profile. He could not tell what she was thinking, had no guess that
her blood was racing tumultuously, that a lump was swelling in the soft
round throat.

Presently she asked her companion a question as to how Jake Houck came to
be with the rangers. Dud understood that the subject was changed.

The soldiers found beds wherever they could. Some rolled up in their
blankets near the fires. Others burrowed into haystacks on the meadow.
Before daybreak they expected to be on the march again.

The bugle wakened them at dawn, but a good many of the cowpunchers were
already up. Big Bill went to one of the haystacks to get feed for his
horse. He gathered a great armful of hay and started away with it. A
muffled voice inside wailed protest.

"Lemme out, doggone it."

Bill dropped the hay, and from it emerged a short and slender youth in
uniform. He bristled up to the huge puncher.

"What d'you think you're doing, fellow?"

The cowpuncher sat down on a feed-rack and laughed till he was weak.
"Drinks are on me, son," he gasped at last. "I 'most fed you to my
hawss."

"Mebbe you think because I ain't as big as a house you can sit there an'
laugh at me. I'll have you know you can't," the boy snapped.

"Fellow, I'm not laughin' at you. Napoleon was a runt, I've heard tell.
But it was comical, you stickin' yore head up through the hay thataway.
I'll stand pat on that, an' I ain't a-going to fight about it either."

The soldier's dignity melted to a grin. "Did you say drinks was on you,
Jumbo?"

After Big Bill had fed his horse they went away arm in arm to see what
Dolan could do for them in the way of liquid refreshment.

Just before the rangers and soldiers saddled for the start, Dud jingled
over to his friend who was helping to pack the supply-wagons.

"Lady wants to see you, Bob. I'll take yore place here," Dud said.

Dillon lifted a barrel half full of flour into the nearest wagon and
straightened a body cramped from stooping. "What lady?" he asked.

"Listen to the fellow," derided Hollister. "How many ladies has he got on
the string, do you reckon?" The fair-haired cowpuncher grinned. "You
meander round to the back of the hotel an' I expect you'll meet up with
the lady. Mollie Larson she--"

"Oh, Mrs. Larson." For a moment a wild hope had flamed in Bob's heart.
His thoughts had flashed to another woman in the hotel.

"Why, yes. Mollie runs the hotel, don't she? Was you lookin' for some
other lady to send for you?" Dud asked innocently.

Bob did not answer this. He was already striding toward the hotel.

Out of the darkness of the adobe wall shadow a slim figure moved to meet
the ranger. The young fellow's heart lost a beat.

"I--wanted to see you before you left," a low voice said.

A kind of palsy came over Dillon. He stood motionless, no life in him
except for the eloquent eyes. No words came to help him.

"I thought--maybe--" June stopped, hesitated, and came out impetuously
with what was in her mind. "Aren't we ever going to be friends again,
Bob?"

A warm glow suffused him. The back of his eyes smarted with tears. He
started to speak, but stopped. For he was boyishly ashamed to discover
that he could not trust his voice.

"Don't you like me any more?" she asked. "Have I done something to make
you mad?"

"No, you haven't." There was a rough edge to the words, put there by
suppressed emotion. "You know better 'n that. I keep away from you
because--because I acted like a yellow dog."

"When you fought Bandy Walker to keep clean my good name?" she asked in a
murmur.

"Oh, that!" He waved her question aside as of no importance.

"Or when you fought the mad dog in the street with yore bare hands?"

"You know when, June," he answered bitterly. "When I let Jake Houck walk
off with you to save my worthless hide."

"I've forgotten that, Bob," she said gently. "So much has happened since.
That was foolishness anyhow, what--what we did in Blister's office. But I
hate to give up the boy on Piceance Creek who was kinda like a brother to
me. Do I have to lose him?"

There was no need for her big dark eyes to plead with him. His face was
working. He bit his lip to keep from breaking down. This was what he
wanted more than anything else in the world, but he was embarrassed and
irritated at the display of emotion he could not wholly control.

"'S all right with me," he said gruffly.

"Then we'll be friends again, won't we?"

"Ump-ha!" he grunted. "I--I'd just as lief." He recognized this as
cavalier and added: "I mean it's awful good of you."

"When you come back you won't forget to ask for me if I'm not where you
see me. I'll want to hear all about what you do."

"Yes," he promised; and in a burst of gratitude cried: "You're a dandy
girl, June. If you treated me like I deserved you'd never speak to me
again."

She flushed. "That's silly. I never did feel thataway. Lots of times I've
wanted to tell you that--that it needn't make any difference. But I
couldn't, 'count of--what we did in Blister's office. A girl has to be
awful careful, you know. If we hadn't done that foolish thing--"

"A judge'll fix you up with papers settin' you free, June," he told her.
"I'll do anything to help that you want."

"Well, when you come back," she postponed. Talk on that subject
distressed and humiliated her.

"I got to go," he said. "Good-bye."

"Good-bye."

She gave him her hand shyly. Their eyes met and fell away.

He stood a moment, trying to find an effective line of exit. He had
missed his cue to leave, as thousands of lovers have before and since.

"Got to hit the trail," he murmured in anticlimax.

"Yes," she agreed.

Bob drew back one foot and ducked his head in a bow. A moment later he
was hurrying toward the remuda.





Next: A Cup Of Cold Water

Previous: A Recruit Joins The Rangers



Add to del.icio.us Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Del.icio.us Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network
Report
Privacy
SHAREADD TO EBOOK


Viewed 531