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June Discovers A New World

From: The Fighting Edge

Blister had not overstated the case to Bob when he told him that June had
been having the time of her life getting well. She had been a lonely
little thing, of small importance in a country very busy on its own
affairs. The sense of inferiority had oppressed her, due both to the
secret of her father's past and the isolation in which she dwelt. This
had stimulated a sullen resentment and a shy pride which held even
friendly souls at arm's length.

Now she was being petted by everybody with whom she came into contact.
She was pathetically grateful, and the big-hearted men and women of the
frontier were worthy of the feeling. They gave her eager good will and
generous sympathy. Into her room came soups and custards made by the best
cooks on the river. When she was well enough to see visitors the mothers
of Bear Cat came in person.

Through Melancthon Browning the landlady of the hotel shrewdly enlisted
the aid of the most influential women in the community. June needed
clothes. She had not a garment that was not worn out and ragged. But
Mollie recognized the fact that more than these she was in need of the
moral support of the settlers' wives. Mrs. Larson could give her work and
a home, but she could not give her that bulwark of her sex,
respectability. Mollie was an exception to an established rule. She was
liked and respected by other women in spite of her peculiarities. But
this would not be true of her protegee unless the girl was above
criticism. June must never step inside the bar or the gambling-room. She
must find friends among the other girls of the town and take part in
their social activities.

Wherefore Mollie, by timely suggestion, put it into the mind of the
preacher to propose a sewing-bee to his congregation. Tolliver, under
supervision, bought the goods and the women sewed. They made
underclothes, petticoats, nightgowns, and dresses. They selected from the
stock of Platt & Fortner shoes, stockings, and a hat, charging them to
the account of Pete.

It was on her sixteenth birthday that June was taken into an adjoining
room and saw all these treasures laid upon the bed. She did not at first
understand that the two pretty dresses and all the comfortable, well-made
clothes were for her. When this was made clear to her the tears brimmed
to the long-lashed eyes. The starved little Cinderella was greatly
touched. She turned to Mollie and buried her twitching face in a friendly

"Now--now--now," Mollie reproved gently, stroking the dark crisp hair.
"This is no way to act, dearie, an' all the ladies so kind to you. You
want to thank 'em, don't you?"

"Yes, but--but--I--I--"

The smothered voice was tearful.

Mollie smiled at the committee. "I reckon she wants me to tell you for
her that she's plumb outa words to let you know how good she thinks
you-all are."

The black head nodded vigorously. "You're the best folks--"

Mrs. Platt, a large and comfortable mother of seven, answered placidly.
"I expect you'll find, dearie, that most folks are good when you get on
the right side of them. Now you try on them clothes an' see if they fit.
We tried 'em on my Mary. She's about your size. You're comin' down to our
house to supper to-night. I want you should get acquainted with the

June looked at Mollie, who nodded smilingly.

"I'll be terrible glad to come, ma'am," June said.

"Then that's settled. They're nice girls, if I do say it myself that am
their mother."

So June took her first timid steps into the social life of the frontier
town. Shyly she made friends, and with them went to church, to Sunday
School, and to picnics.

It had been definitely decided that she was to wait on table at the hotel
restaurant and not return with her father to Piceance Creek. The plan had
originated with Mollie, but Tolliver had acquiesced in it eagerly. If
June went home with him Houck might reappear on the horizon, but if she
stayed at Bear Cat, buttressed by the support of the town, the man from
Brown's Park would not dare to urge his claim again.

June waited on table at the hotel, but this did not keep her from the
dances that were held in the old army hospital building. There were no
class distinctions in Bear Cat then. There are not many now. No paupers
lived in the county. This still holds good. Except the owners of the big
cattle companies there were no men of wealth. A man was not judged by
what he had or by the kind of work he was doing. His neighbors looked
through externals to see what he was, stripped of all adventitious
circumstance. On that basis solely he was taken into fellowship or cast
out from it.

The girl from Piceance Creek worked hard and was content, even if not
quite happy. If she ever thought of the boy she had married, no reference
to him ever crossed her lips. She was known simply as June by the town.
Strangers called her Miss Tolliver.

There was about her a quiet self-possession that discouraged familiarity
on the part of ambitious and amorous cowboys. Her history, with its
thread of tragedy running through the warp and woof of it, set her apart
from other girls of her age. Still almost a child in years, she had been
caught in the cross-currents of life and beaten by its cold waves. Part
of the heritage of youth--its gay and adventurous longing for
experience--had been filched from her before she was old enough to know
its value. In time she would perhaps recover her self-esteem, but she
would never know in its fullness that divine right of American maidenhood
to rule its environment and make demands of it.

Next: An Alternative Proposed And Declined

Previous: The Bigger The Hat The Smaller The Herd

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