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Jean Believes That She Takes Matters Into Her Own Hands








From: Jean Of The Lazy A

After all, Jean did not have to fight her way clear through "Warring
Mexico" and back again, in order to reach Nogales. She let Lite take
her to the snug little apartment which she was to share with Muriel and
her mother, and she fancied that she had been very crafty and very
natural in her manner all the while he was with her, and that Lite did
not dream of what she had in her mind to do. At any rate, she watched
him stalk away on his high-heeled riding-boots, and she thought that
his mind was perfectly at ease. (Jean, I fear, never will understand
Lite half as well as Lite has always understood Jean.)

She caught the next down-town car and went straight to the information
bureau of the Southern Pacific, established for the convenience of the
public and the sanity of employees who have something to do besides
answer foolish questions.

She found a young man there who was not averse to talking at length
with a young woman who was dressed trimly in a street suit of the
latest fashion, and who had almost entrancing, soft drawl to her voice
and a most fascinating way of looking at one. This young man appeared
to know a great deal, and to be almost eager to pass along his wisdom.
He knew all about Nogales, Mexico, for instance, and just what train
would next depart in that general direction, and how much it would
cost, and how long she would have to wait in Tucson for the once-a-day
train to Nogales, and when she might logically expect to arrive in that
squatty little town that might be said to be really and truly divided
against itself. Here the nice young man became facetious.

"Bible tells us a city divided against itself cannot stand," he
informed Jean quite gratuitously. "Well, maybe that's straight goods,
too. But Nogales is cut right through at the waist line with the
international boundary line. United States customhouse on one corner
of the street, Mexican customhouse in talking distance on the other
corner. Great place for holdups, that!" This was a joke, and Jean
smiled obligingly. "First the United States holds you up, and then the
Mexicans. You get it coming and going. Well, Nogales don't have to
stand. It squats. It's adobe mostly."

Jean was interested, and she did not discourage the nice young man.
She let him say all he could think of on the subject of Nogales and the
Federal troops stationed there, and on warring Mexico generally. When
she left him, she felt as if she knew a great deal about the end of her
journey. So she smiled and thanked the nice young man in that soft
drawl that lingered pleasantly in his memory, and went over to another
window and bought a ticket to Nogales. She moved farther along to
another window and secured a Pullman ticket which gave her lower five
in car four for her comfort.

With an impulse of wanting to let her Uncle Carl know that she was not
forgetting her mission, she sent him this laconic telegram:


Have located Art. Will bring him back with me.
JEAN.


After that, she went home and packed a suit-case and her six-shooter
and belt. She did not, after all, know just what might happen in
Nogales, Mexico, but she meant to bring back Art Osgood if he were to
be found alive; hence the six-shooter.

That evening she told Muriel that she was going to run away and have
her vacation--her "vacation" hunting down and capturing a murderer who
had taken refuge in the Mexican army!--and that she would write when
she knew just where she would stop. Then she went away alone in a taxi
to the depot, and started on her journey with a six-shooter jostling a
box of chocolates in her suit-case, and with her heart almost light
again, now that she was at last following a clue that promised
something at the other end.

It was all just as the nice young man had told her. Jean arrived in
Tucson, and she left on time, on the once-a-day train to Nogales.

Lite also arrived in Tucson on time, though Jean did not see him, since
he descended from the chair car with some caution just as she went into
the depot. He did not depart on time as it happened; he was thirsty,
and he went off to find something wetter than water to drink, and while
he was gone the once-a-day train also went off through the desert.
Lite saw the last pair of wheels it owned go clipping over the switch,
and he stood in the middle of the track and swore. Then he went to the
telegraph office and found out that a freight left for Nogales in ten
minutes. He hunted up the conductor and did things to his bank roll,
and afterwards climbed into the caboose on the sidetrack. Lite has
been so careful to keep in the background, through all these chapters,
that it seems a shame to tell on him now. But I am going to say that,
little as Jean suspected it, he had been quite as interested in finding
Art Osgood as had she herself. When he saw her pass through the gate
to the train, in Los Angeles, that was his first intimation that she
was going to Nogales; so he had stayed in the chair car out of sight.
But it just shows how great minds run in the same channel; and how,
without suspecting one another, these two started at the same time upon
the same quest.

Jean stared out over the barrenness that was not like the barrenness of
Montana, and tried not to think that perhaps Art Osgood had by this
time drifted on into obscurity. Still, if he had drifted on, surely
she could trace him, since he had been serving on the staff of a
general and should therefore be pretty well known. What she really
hated most to think of was the possibility that he might have been
killed. They did get killed, sometimes, down there where there was so
much fighting going on all the time.

When the shadows of the giant cactus stretched mutilated hands across
the desert sand, and she believed that Nogales was near, Jean carried
her suit-case to the cramped dressing-room and took out her six-shooter
and buckled it around her. Then she pulled her coat down over it with
a good deal of twisting and turning before the dirty mirror to see that
it looked all right, and not in the least as though a perfect lady was
packing a gun.

She went back and dipped fastidious fingers into the box of chocolates,
and settled herself to nibble candy and wait for what might come. She
felt very calm and self-possessed and sure of herself. Her only fear
was that Art Osgood might have been killed, and his lips closed for all
time. So they rattled away through the barrenness and drew near to
Nogales.

Casa del Sonora, whither she went, was an old, two-story structure of
the truly Spanish type, and it was kept by a huge, blubbery creature
with piggish eyes and a bloated, purple countenance and the palsy. As
much of him as appeared to be human appeared to be Irish; and Jean,
after the first qualm of repulsion, when she faced him over the hotel
register, detected a certain kindly solicitude in his manner, and was
reassured.

So far, everything had run smoothly, like a well-staged play. Absurdly
simple, utterly devoid of any element of danger, any vexatious obstacle
to the immediate achievement of her purpose! But Jean was not thrown
off her guard because of the smoothness of the trail.

The trip from Tucson had been terribly tiresome; she was weary in every
fibre, it seemed to her. But for all that she intended, sometime that
evening, to meet Art Osgood if he were in town. She intended to take
him with her on the train that left the next morning. She thought it
would be a good idea to rest now, and to proceed deliberately, lest she
frustrate all her plans by over-eagerness.

Perhaps she slept a little while she lay upon the bed and schooled
herself to calmness. A band, somewhere, playing a pulsing Spanish air,
brought her to her feet. She went to the window and looked out, and saw
that the street lay cool and sunless with the coming of dusk.

From the American customhouse just on the opposite corner came Lite
Avery, stalking leisurely along in his high-heeled riding-boots. Jean
drew back with a little flutter of the pulse and watched him, wondering
how he came to be in Nogales. She had last seen him boarding a car
that would take him out to the Great Western Studio; and now, here he
was, sauntering across the street as if he lived here. It was like
finding his bed up in the loft and knowing all at once that he had been
keeping watch all the while, thinking of her welfare and never giving
her the least hint of it. That at least was understandable. But to
her there was something uncanny about his being here in Nogales. When
he was gone, she stepped out through the open window to the veranda
that ran the whole length of the hotel, and looked across the street
into Mexico.

She was, she decided critically, about fifteen feet from the boundary
line. Just across the street fluttered the Mexican flag from the
Mexican customhouse. A Mexican guard lounged against the wall, his
swarthy face mask-like in its calm. While she leaned over the railing
and stared curiously at that part of the street which was another
country, from the hills away to the west, where were camped
soldiers,--the American soldiers,--who prevented the war from slopping
over the line now and then into Arizona, came the clear notes of a
bugle held close-pressed against the lips of a United States soldier in
snug-fitting khaki. The boom of the sundown salute followed
immediately after. In the street below her, Mexicans and Americans
mingled amiably and sauntered here and there, killing time during that
bored interval between eating and the evening's amusement.

Just beyond the Mexican boundary, the door of a long, adobe cantina was
flung open, and a group of men came out and paused as if they were
wondering what they should do next, and where they should go. Jean
looked them over curiously. Mexicans they were not, though they had
some of the dress which belonged on that side of the boundary.

Americans they were; one knew by the set of their shoulders, by the
little traits of race which have nothing to do with complexion or
speech.

Jean caught her breath and leaned forward. There was Art Osgood,
standing with his back toward her and with one palm spread upon his hip
in the attitude she knew so well. If only he would turn! Should she
run down the stairs and go over there and march him across the line at
the muzzle of her revolver? The idea repelled her, now that she had
actually come to the point of action.

Jean, now that the crisis had arrived, used her woman's wile, rather
than the harsher but perhaps less effective weapons of a man.

"Oh, Art!" she called, just exactly as she would have called to him on
the range, in Montana "Hello, Art!"

Art Osgood wheeled and sent a startled, seeking glance up at the
veranda; saw her and knew who it was that had called him, and lifted
his hat in the gesture that she knew so well. Jean's fingers were
close to her gun, though she was not conscious of it, or of the
strained, tense muscles that waited the next move.

Art, contrary to her expectations, did the most natural thing in the
world. He grinned and came hurrying toward her with the long, eager
steps of one who goes to greet a friend after an absence that makes of
that meeting an event. Jean watched him cross the street. She waited,
dazed by the instant success of her ruse, while he disappeared under
the veranda. She heard his feet upon the stairs. She heard him come
striding down the hall to the glass-paneled door. She saw him coming
toward her, still grinning in his joy at the meeting.

"Jean Douglas! By all that's lucky!" he was exclaiming. "Where in the
world did you light down from?" He came to a stop directly in front of
her, and held out his hand in unsuspecting friendship.





Next: Jean Meets One Crisis And Confronts Another

Previous: Chance Takes A Hand



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