Friends From The East
From: The Light Of Western Stars
Three days after her return to the ranch Madeline could not discover any
physical discomfort as a reminder of her adventurous experiences. This
surprised her, but not nearly so much as the fact that after a few weeks
she found she scarcely remembered the adventures at all. If it had not
been for the quiet and persistent guardianship of her cowboys she might
almost have forgotten Don Carlos and the raiders. Madeline was assured
of the splendid physical fitness to which this ranch life had developed
her, and that she was assimilating something of the Western disregard
of danger. A hard ride, an accident, a day in the sun and dust, an
adventure with outlaws--these might once have been matters of large
import, but now for Madeline they were in order with all the rest of her
There was never a day that something interesting was not brought to her
notice. Stillwell, who had ceaselessly reproached himself for riding
away the morning Madeline was captured, grew more like an anxious parent
than a faithful superintendent. He was never at ease regarding her
unless he was near the ranch or had left Stewart there, or else Nels and
Nick Steele. Naturally, he trusted more to Stewart than to any one else.
"Miss Majesty, it's sure amazin' strange about Gene," said the old
cattleman, as he tramped into Madeline's office.
"What's the matter now?" she inquired.
"Wal, Gene has rustled off into the mountains again."
"Again? I did not know he had gone. I gave him money for that band of
guerrillas. Perhaps he went to take it to them."
"No. He took that a day or so after he fetched you back home. Then in
about a week he went a second time. An' he packed some stuff with him.
Now he's sneaked off, an' Nels, who was down to the lower trail, saw
him meet somebody that looked like Padre Marcos. Wal, I went down to
the church, and, sure enough, Padre Marcos is gone. What do you think of
that, Miss Majesty?"
"Maybe Stewart is getting religious," laughed Madeline. You told me so
Stillwell puffed and wiped his red face.
"If you'd heerd him cuss Monty this mawnin' you'd never guess it was
religion. Monty an' Nels hev been givin' Gene a lot of trouble lately.
They're both sore an' in fightin' mood ever since Don Carlos hed you
kidnapped. Sure they're goin' to break soon, an' then we'll hev a couple
of wild Texas steers ridin' the range. I've a heap to worry me."
"Let Stewart take his mysterious trips into the mountains. Here,
Stillwell, I have news for you that may give you reason for worry.
I have letters from home. And my sister, with a party of friends, is
coming out to visit me. They are society folk, and one of them is an
"Wal, Miss Majesty, I reckon we'll all be glad to see them," said
Stillwell. "Onless they pack you off back East."
"That isn't likely," replied Madeline, thoughtfully. "I must go back
some time, though. Well, let me read you a few extracts from my mail."
Madeline took up her sister's letter with a strange sensation of how
easily sight of a crested monogram and scent of delicately perfumed
paper could recall the brilliant life she had given up. She scanned
the pages of beautiful handwriting. Helen's letter was in turn gay and
brilliant and lazy, just as she was herself; but Madeline detected more
of curiosity in it than of real longing to see the sister and brother in
the Far West. Much of what Helen wrote was enthusiastic anticipation of
the fun she expected to have with bashful cowboys. Helen seldom wrote
letters, and she never read anything, not even popular novels of the
day. She was as absolutely ignorant of the West as the Englishman, who,
she said, expected to hunt buffalo and fight Indians. Moreover, there
was a satiric note in the letter that Madeline did not like, and which
roused her spirit. Manifestly, Helen was reveling in the prospect of new
When she finished reading aloud a few paragraphs the old cattleman
snorted and his face grew redder.
"Did your sister write that?" he asked.
"Wal, I--I beg pawdin, Miss Majesty. But it doesn't seem like you. Does
she think we're a lot of wild men from Borneo?"
"Evidently she does. I rather think she is in for a surprise. Now,
Stillwell, you are clever and you can see the situation. I want my
guests to enjoy their stay here, but I do not want that to be at the
expense of the feelings of all of us, or even any one. Helen will bring
a lively crowd. They'll crave excitement--the unusual. Let us see that
they are not disappointed. You take the boys into your confidence. Tell
them what to expect, and tell them how to meet it. I shall help you in
that. I want the boys to be on dress-parade when they are off duty. I
want them to be on their most elegant behavior. I do not care what they
do, what measures they take to protect themselves, what tricks they
contrive, so long as they do not overstep the limit of kindness and
courtesy. I want them to play their parts seriously, naturally, as if
they had lived no other way. My guests expect to have fun. Let us meet
them with fun. Now what do you say?"
Stillwell rose, his great bulk towering, his huge face beaming.
"Wal, I say it's the most amazin' fine idee I ever heerd in my life."
"Indeed, I am glad you like it," went on Madeline.
"Come to me again, Stillwell, after you have spoken to the boys. But,
now that I have suggested it, I am a little afraid. You know what cowboy
fun is. Perhaps--"
"Don't you go back on that idee," interrupted Stillwell. He was assuring
and bland, but his hurry to convince Madeline betrayed him. "Leave the
boys to me. Why, don't they all swear by you, same as the Mexicans do
to the Virgin? They won't disgrace you, Miss Majesty. They'll be simply
immense. It'll beat any show you ever seen."
"I believe it will," replied Madeline. She was still doubtful of
her plan, but the enthusiasm of the old cattleman was infectious and
irresistible. "Very well, we will consider it settled. My guests will
arrive on May ninth. Meanwhile let us get Her Majesty's Rancho in shape
for this invasion."
* * *
On the afternoon of the ninth of May, perhaps half an hour after
Madeline had received a telephone message from Link Stevens announcing
the arrival of her guests at El Cajon, Florence called her out upon the
porch. Stillwell was there with his face wrinkled by his wonderful smile
and his eagle eyes riveted upon the distant valley. Far away, perhaps
twenty miles, a thin streak of white dust rose from the valley floor and
"Look!" said Florence, excitedly.
"What is that?" asked Madeline.
"Link Stevens and the automobile!"
"Oh no! Why, it's only a few minutes since he telephoned saying the
party had just arrived."
"Take a look with the glasses," said Florence.
One glance through the powerful binoculars convinced Madeline that
Florence was right. And another glance at Stillwell told her that he was
speechless with delight. She remembered a little conversation she had
had with Link Stevens a short while previous.
"Stevens, I hope the car is in good shape," she had said. "Now, Miss
Hammond, she's as right as the best-trained hoss I ever rode," he had
"The valley road is perfect," she had gone on, musingly. "I never saw
such a beautiful road, even in France. No fences, no ditches, no rocks,
no vehicles. Just a lonely road on the desert."
"Shore, it's lonely," Stevens had answered, with slowly brightening
eyes. "An' safe, Miss Hammond."
"My sister used to like fast riding. If I remember correctly, all of
my guests were a little afflicted with the speed mania. It is a common
disease with New-Yorkers. I hope, Stevens, that you will not give them
reason to think we are altogether steeped in the slow, dreamy manana
languor of the Southwest."
Link doubtfully eyed her, and then his bronze face changed its dark
aspect and seemed to shine.
"Beggin' your pardon, Miss Hammond, thet's shore tall talk fer Link
Stevens to savvy. You mean--as long as I drive careful an' safe I can
run away from my dust, so to say, an' get here in somethin' less than
the Greaser's to-morrow?"
Madeline had laughed her assent. And now, as she watched the thin
streak of dust, at that distance moving with snail pace, she reproached
herself. She trusted Stevens; she had never known so skilful, daring,
and iron-nerved a driver as he was. If she had been in the car herself
she would have had no anxiety. But, imagining what Stevens would do on
forty miles and more of that desert road, Madeline suffered a prick of
"Oh, Stillwell!" she exclaimed. "I am afraid I will go back on my
wonderful idea. What made me do it?"
"Your sister wanted the real thing, didn't she? Said they all wanted it.
Wal, I reckon they've begun gettin' it," replied Stillwell.
That statement from the cattleman allayed Madeline's pangs of
conscience. She understood just what she felt, though she could not have
put it in words. She was hungry for a sight of well-remembered faces;
she longed to hear the soft laughter and gay repartee of old
friends; she was eager for gossipy first-hand news of her old world.
Nevertheless, something in her sister's letter, in messages from the
others who were coming, had touched Madeline's pride. In one sense the
expected guests were hostile, inasmuch as they were scornful and curious
about the West that had claimed her. She imagined what they would
expect in a Western ranch. They would surely get the real thing, too, as
Stillwell said; and in that certainty was satisfaction for a small grain
of something within Madeline which approached resentment. She wistfully
wondered, however, if her sister or friends would come to see the West
even a little as she saw it. That, perhaps, would he hoping too much.
She resolved once for all to do her best to give them the sensation
their senses craved, and equally to show them the sweetness and beauty
and wholesomeness and strength of life in the Southwest.
"Wal, as Nels says, I wouldn't be in that there ottomobile right now for
a million pesos," remarked Stillwell.
"Why? Is Stevens driving fast?"
"Good Lord! Fast? Miss Majesty, there hain't ever been anythin' except a
streak of lightnin' run so fast in this country. I'll bet Link for once
is in heaven. I can jest see him now, the grim, crooked-legged little
devil, hunchin' down over that wheel as if it was a hoss's neck."
"I told him not to let the ride be hot or dusty," remarked Madeline.
"Haw, haw!" roared Stillwell. "Wal, I'll be goin'. I reckon I'd like to
be hyar when Link drives up, but I want to be with the boys down by the
bunks. It'll be some fun to see Nels an' Monty when Link comes flyin'
"I wish Al had stayed to meet them," said Madeline.
Her brother had rather hurried a shipment of cattle to California: and
it was Madeline's supposition that he had welcomed the opportunity to
absent himself from the ranch.
"I am sorry he wouldn't stay," replied Florence. "But Al's all business
now. And he's doing finely. It's just as well, perhaps."
"Surely. That was my pride speaking. I would like to have all my family
and all my old friends see what a man Al has become. Well, Link Stevens
is running like the wind. The car will be here before we know it.
Florence, we've only a few moments to dress. But first I want to order
many and various and exceedingly cold refreshments for that approaching
Less than a half-hour later Madeline went again to the porch and found
"Oh, you look just lovely!" exclaimed Florence, impulsively, as she
gazed wide-eyed up at Madeline. "And somehow so different!"
Madeline smiled a little sadly. Perhaps when she had put on that
exquisite white gown something had come to her of the manner which
befitted the wearing of it. She could not resist the desire to look fair
once more in the eyes of these hypercritical friends. The sad smile had
been for the days that were gone. For she knew that what society had
once been pleased to call her beauty had trebled since it had last been
seen in a drawing-room. Madeline wore no jewels, but at her waist she
had pinned two great crimson roses. Against the dead white they had the
life and fire and redness of the desert.
"Link's hit the old round-up trail," said Florence, "and oh, isn't he
riding that car!"
With Florence, as with most of the cowboys, the car was never driven,
A white spot with a long trail of dust showed low down in the valley.
It was now headed almost straight for the ranch. Madeline watched
it growing larger moment by moment, and her pleasurable emotion grew
accordingly. Then the rapid beat of a horse's hoofs caused her to turn.
Stewart was riding in on his black horse. He had been absent on an
important mission, and his duty had taken him to the international
boundary-line. His presence home long before he was expected was
particularly gratifying to Madeline, for it meant that his mission had
been brought to a successful issue. Once more, for the hundredth time,
the man's reliability struck Madeline. He was a doer of things. The
black horse halted wearily without the usual pound of hoofs on the
gravel, and the dusty rider dismounted wearily. Both horse and rider
showed the heat and dust and wind of many miles.
Madeline advanced to the porch steps. And Stewart, after taking a parcel
of papers from a saddle-bag, turned toward her.
"Stewart, you are the best of couriers," she said. "I am pleased."
Dust streamed from his sombrero as he doffed it. His dark face seemed to
rise as he straightened weary shoulders.
"Here are the reports, Miss Hammond," he replied.
As he looked up to see her standing there, dressed to receive her
Eastern guests, he checked his advance with a violent action which
recalled to Madeline the one he had made on the night she had met him,
when she disclosed her identity. It was not fear nor embarrassment nor
awkwardness. And it was only momentary. Yet, slight as had been his
pause, Madeline received from it an impression of some strong halting
force. A man struck by a bullet might have had an instant jerk of
muscular control such as convulsed Stewart. In that instant, as her keen
gaze searched his dust-caked face, she met the full, free look of
his eyes. Her own did not fall, though she felt a warmth steal to her
cheeks. Madeline very seldom blushed. And now, conscious of her sudden
color a genuine blush flamed on her face. It was irritating because it
was incomprehensible. She received the papers from Stewart and thanked
him. He bowed, then led the black down the path toward the corrals.
"When Stewart looks like that he's been riding," said Florence. "But
when his horse looks like that he's sure been burning the wind."
Madeline watched the weary horse and rider limp down the path. What
had made her thoughtful? Mostly it was something new or sudden or
inexplicable that stirred her mind to quick analysis. In this instance
the thing that had struck Madeline was Stewart's glance. He had looked
at her, and the old burning, inscrutable fire, the darkness, had left
his eyes. Suddenly they had been beautiful. The look had not been one of
surprise or admiration; nor had it been one of love. She was familiar,
too familiar with all three. It had not been a gaze of passion, for
there was nothing beautiful in that. Madeline pondered. And presently
she realized that Stewart's eyes had expressed a strange joy of pride.
That expression Madeline had never before encountered in the look of any
man. Probably its strangeness had made her notice it and accounted for
her blushing. The longer she lived among these outdoor men the more
they surprised her. Particularly, how incomprehensible was this cowboy
Stewart! Why should he have pride or joy at sight of her?
Florence's exclamation made Madeline once more attend to the approaching
automobile. It was on the slope now, some miles down the long gradual
slant. Two yellow funnel-shaped clouds of dust seemed to shoot out from
behind the car and roll aloft to join the column that stretched down the
"I wonder what riding a mile a minute would be like," said Florence.
"I'll sure make Link take me. Oh, but look at him come!"
The giant car resembled a white demon, and but for the dust would have
appeared to be sailing in the air. Its motion was steadily forward,
holding to the road as if on rails. And its velocity was astounding.
Long, gray veils, like pennants, streamed in the wind. A low rushing
sound became perceptible, and it grew louder, became a roar. The car
shot like an arrow past the alfalfa-field, by the bunk-houses, where the
cowboys waved and cheered. The horses and burros in the corrals began to
snort and tramp and race in fright. At the base of the long slope of
the foothill Link cut the speed more than half. Yet the car roared up,
rolling the dust, flying capes and veils and ulsters, and crashed and
cracked to a halt in the yard before the porch.
Madeline descried a gray, disheveled mass of humanity packed inside the
car. Besides the driver there were seven occupants, and for a moment
they appeared to be coming to life, moving and exclaiming under the
veils and wraps and dust-shields.
Link Stevens stepped out and, removing helmet and goggles, coolly looked
at his watch.
"An hour an' a quarter, Miss Hammond," he said. "It's sixty-three miles
by the valley road, an' you know there's a couple of bad hills. I reckon
we made fair time, considerin' you wanted me to drive slow an' safe."
From the mass of dusty-veiled humanity in the car came low exclamations
and plaintive feminine wails.
Madeline stepped to the front of the porch. Then the deep voices of
men and softer voices of women united in one glad outburst, as much a
thanksgiving as a greeting, "MAJESTY!"
Helen Hammond was three years younger than Madeline, and a slender,
pretty girl. She did not resemble her sister, except in whiteness and
fineness of skin, being more of a brown-eyed, brown-haired type. Having
recovered her breath soon after Madeline took her to her room, she began
"Majesty, old girl, I'm here; but you can bet I would never have gotten
here if I had known about that ride from the railroad. You never wrote
that you had a car. I thought this was out West--stage-coach, and
all that sort of thing. Such a tremendous car! And the road! And that
terrible little man with the leather trousers! What kind of a chauffeur
"He's a cowboy. He was crippled by falling under his horse, so I had him
instructed to run the car. He can drive, don't you think?"
"Drive? Good gracious! He scared us to death, except Castleton. Nothing
could scare that cold-blooded little Englishman. I am dizzy yet. Do
you know, Majesty, I was delighted when I saw the car. Then your cowboy
driver met us at the platform. What a queer-looking individual! He had
a big pistol strapped to those leather trousers. That made me nervous.
When he piled us all in with our grips, he put me in the seat beside
him, whether I liked it or not. I was fool enough to tell him I loved
to travel fast. What do you think he said? Well, he eyed me in a
rather cool and speculative way and said, with a smile, 'Miss, I reckon
anything you love an' want bad will be coming to you out here!' I didn't
know whether it was delightful candor or impudence. Then he said to all
of us: 'Shore you had better wrap up in the veils an' dusters. It's a
long, slow, hot, dusty ride to the ranch, an' Miss Hammond's order was
to drive safe.' He got our baggage checks and gave them to a man with
a huge wagon and a four-horse team. Then he cranked the car, jumped in,
wrapped his arms round the wheel, and sank down low in his seat. There
was a crack, a jerk, a kind of flash around us, and that dirty little
town was somewhere on the map behind. For about five minutes I had a
lovely time. Then the wind began to tear me to pieces. I couldn't hear
anything but the rush of wind and roar of the car. I could see only
straight ahead. What a road! I never saw a road in my life till to-day.
Miles and miles and miles ahead, with not even a post or tree. That big
car seemed to leap at the miles. It hummed and sang. I was fascinated,
then terrified. We went so fast I couldn't catch my breath. The wind
went through me, and I expected to be disrobed by it any minute. I was
afraid I couldn't hold any clothes on. Presently all I could see was
a flashing gray wall with a white line in the middle. Then my eyes
blurred. My face burned. My ears grew full of a hundred thousand howling
devils. I was about ready to die when the car stopped. I looked and
looked, and when I could see, there you stood!"
"Helen, I thought you were fond of speeding," said Madeline, with a
"I was. But I assure you I never before was in a fast car; I never saw a
road; I never met a driver."
"Perhaps I may have a few surprises for you out here in the wild and
Helen's dark eyes showed a sister's memory of possibilities.
"You've started well," she said. "I am simply stunned. I expected to
find you old and dowdy. Majesty, you're the handsomest thing I ever
laid eyes on. You're so splendid and strong, and your skin is like white
gold. What's happened to you? What's changed you? This beautiful
room, those glorious roses out there, the cool, dark sweetness of this
wonderful house! I know you, Majesty, and, though you never wrote it, I
believe you have made a home out here. That's the most stunning surprise
of all. Come, confess. I know I've always been selfish and not much of
a sister; but if you are happy out here I am glad. You were not happy at
home. Tell me about yourself and about Alfred. Then I shall give you all
the messages and news from the East."
It afforded Madeline exceeding pleasure to have from one and all of
her guests varied encomiums of her beautiful home, and a real and warm
interest in what promised to be a delightful and memorable visit.
Of them all Castleton was the only one who failed to show surprise. He
greeted her precisely as he had when he had last seen her in London.
Madeline, rather to her astonishment, found meeting him again
pleasurable. She discovered she liked this imperturbable Englishman.
Manifestly her capacity for liking any one had immeasurably enlarged.
Quite unexpectedly her old girlish love for her younger sister sprang
into life, and with it interest in these half-forgotten friends, and a
warm regard for Edith Wayne, a chum of college days.
Helen's party was smaller than Madeline had expected it to be. Helen had
been careful to select a company of good friends, all of whom were well
known to Madeline. Edith Wayne was a patrician brunette, a serious,
soft-voiced woman, sweet and kindly, despite a rather bitter experience
that had left her worldly wise. Mrs. Carrollton Beck, a plain, lively
person, had chaperoned the party. The fourth and last of the feminine
contingent was Miss Dorothy Coombs--Dot, as they called her--a young
woman of attractive blond prettiness.
For a man Castleton was of very small stature. He had a pink-and-white
complexion, a small golden mustache, and his heavy eyelids, always
drooping, made him look dull. His attire, cut to what appeared to be an
exaggerated English style, attracted attention to his diminutive size.
He was immaculate and fastidious. Robert Weede was a rather large florid
young man, remarkable only for his good nature. Counting Boyd Harvey, a
handsome, pale-faced fellow, with the careless smile of the man for whom
life had been easy and pleasant, the party was complete.
Dinner was a happy hour, especially for the Mexican women who served it
and who could not fail to note its success. The mingling of low voices
and laughter, the old, gay, superficial talk, the graciousness of a
class which lived for the pleasure of things and to make time pass
pleasurably for others--all took Madeline far back into the past. She
did not care to return to it, but she saw that it was well she had not
wholly cut herself off from her people and friends.
When the party adjourned to the porch the heat had markedly decreased
and the red sun was sinking over the red desert. An absence of spoken
praise, a gradually deepening silence, attested to the impression on
the visitors of that noble sunset. Just as the last curve of red rim
vanished beyond the dim Sierra Madres and the golden lightning began to
flare brighter Helen broke the silence with an exclamation.
"It wants only life. Ah, there's a horse climbing the hill! See, he's
up! He has a rider!"
Madeline knew before she looked the identity of the man riding up the
mesa. But she did not know until that moment how the habit of watching
for him at this hour had grown upon her. He rode along the rim of the
mesa and out to the point, where, against the golden background, horse
and rider stood silhouetted in bold relief.
"What's he doing there? Who is he?" inquired the curious Helen.
"That is Stewart, my right-hand man," replied Madeline. "Every day when
he is at the ranch he rides up there at sunset. I think he likes the
ride and the scene; but he goes to take a look at the cattle in the
"Is he a cowboy?" asked Helen.
"Indeed yes!" replied Madeline, with a little laugh. "You will think so
when Stillwell gets hold of you and begins to talk."
Madeline found it necessary to explain who Stillwell was, and what he
thought of Stewart, and, while she was about it, of her own accord she
added a few details of Stewart's fame.
"El Capitan. How interesting!" mused Helen. "What does he look like?"
"He is superb."
Florence handed the field-glass to Helen and bade her look.
"Oh, thank you!" said Helen, as she complied. "There. I see him. Indeed,
he is superb. What a magnificent horse! How still he stands! Why, he
seems carved in stone."
"Let me look?" said Dorothy Coombs, eagerly.
Helen gave her the glass.
"You can look, Dot, but that's all. He's mine. I saw him first."
Whereupon Madeline's feminine guests held a spirited contest over
the field-glass, and three of them made gay, bantering boasts not to
consider Helen's self-asserted rights. Madeline laughed with the others
while she watched the dark figure of Stewart and his black outline
against the sky. There came over her a thought not by any means new or
strange--she wondered what was in Stewart's mind as he stood there in
the solitude and faced the desert and the darkening west. Some day she
meant to ask him. Presently he turned the horse and rode down into the
shadow creeping up the mesa.
"Majesty, have you planned any fun, any excitement for us?" asked Helen.
She was restless, nervous, and did not seem to be able to sit still a
"You will think so when I get through with you," replied Madeline.
"What, for instance?" inquired Helen and Dot and Mrs. Beck, in unison.
Edith Wayne smiled her interest.
"Well, I am not counting rides and climbs and golf; but these are
necessary to train you for trips over into Arizona. I want to show you
the desert and the Aravaipa Canyon. We have to go on horseback and pack
our outfit. If any of you are alive after those trips and want more we
shall go up into the mountains. I should like very much to know what you
each want particularly."
"I'll tell you," replied Helen, promptly. "Dot will be the same out here
as she was in the East. She wants to look bashfully down at her hand--a
hand imprisoned in another, by the way--and listen to a man talk poetry
about her eyes. If cowboys don't make love that way Dot's visit will
be a failure. Now Elsie Beck wants solely to be revenged upon us for
dragging her out here. She wants some dreadful thing to happen to us. I
don't know what's in Edith's head, but it isn't fun. Bobby wants to be
near Elsie, and no more. Boyd wants what he has always wanted--the
only thing he ever wanted that he didn't get. Castleton has a horrible
bloodthirsty desire to kill something."
"I declare now, I want to ride and camp out, also," protested Castleton.
"As for myself," went on Helen, "I want--Oh, if I only knew what it is
that I want! Well, I know I want to be outdoors, to get into the open,
to feel sun and wind, to burn some color into my white face. I want some
flesh and blood and life. I am tired out. Beyond all that I don't know
very well. I'll try to keep Dot from attaching all the cowboys to her
"What a diversity of wants!" said Madeline.
"Above all, Majesty, we want something to happen," concluded Helen, with
"My dear sister, maybe you will have your wish fulfilled," replied
Madeline, soberly. "Edith, Helen has made me curious about your especial
"Majesty, it is only that I wanted to be with you for a while," replied
this old friend.
There was in the wistful reply, accompanied by a dark and eloquent
glance of eyes, what told Madeline of Edith's understanding, of her
sympathy, and perhaps a betrayal of her own unquiet soul. It saddened
Madeline. How many women might there not be who had the longing to break
down the bars of their cage, but had not the spirit!
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