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Monk Bethune

From: The Gold Girl

"When the devil was sick, the devil a monk would be,
When the devil got well, the devil a monk was he."

Pippin Larue chanted tipsily, as he strummed softly the strings of a
muffled banjo. And Raoul Bethune, with the flush of liquor upon his
pale cheeks, joined in the laugh that followed, and replenished his
glass from the black bottle he had contrived to smuggle from the
hospital stores when he had been returned to his room in the
dormitory. And "Monk" Bethune he was solemnly rechristened by the
half-dozen admiring satellites who had foregathered to celebrate his
recovery from an illness. All this was long ago. Monk Bethune's
dormitory life had terminated abruptly--for the good of the school,
but the name had fastened itself upon him after the manner of names
that fit. It followed him to far places, and certain red-coated
policemen, who knew and respected his father, the Hudson Bay Company's
old factor on Lake o' God's Wrath, hated him for what he had become.
They knew him for an inveterate gambler who spent money freely and
boasted openly of his winnings. He was soft of voice and mild of
manner and aside from his passion for gambling, his conduct so far as
was known was irreproachable. But, there were wise and knowing ones
among the officers of the law, who deemed it worth their while to make
careful and unobtrusive comparison between the man's winnings and his
expenditures. These were the men who knew that certain Indians were
being systematically supplied with whisky, and that there were certain
horses in Canada whose brands, upon close inspection, showed signs of
having been skillfully "doctored," and which bore unmistakable
evidence of having come from the ranges to the southward of the
international boundary.

But, try as they might, no slightest circumstance of evidence could
they unearth against Bethune, who was wont to disappear from his usual
haunts for days and weeks at a time, to reappear smiling and
debonaire, as unexpectedly as he had gone. Knowing that the men of the
Mounted suspected him, he laughed at them openly. Once, upon a street
in Regina, Corporal Downey lost his temper.

"You'll make a mistake sometime, Monk, and then it will be our turn to

"Oh-ho! So until I make a mistake, I am safe, eh? That is good news,
Downey--good news! Skill and luck--luck and skill--the tools of the
gamblers' trade! But, granted that sometime I shall make a
mistake--shall lose for the moment, my skill; I shall still have my
luck--and your mistakes. You are a good boy, Downey, but you'll be a
glum one if you wait to laugh at my mistakes. If I were a chicken
thief instead of a--gambler, I should fear you greatly."

Downey recounted this jibe in the barracks, and the officers redoubled
their vigilance, but the Indians still got their whisky, and new
horses appeared from the southward.

When Monk Bethune refused Ma Watts's invitation to dinner, and rode
off down the creek followed by Lord Clendenning, the refusal did not
meet the Englishman's unqualified approval, a fact that he was not
slow in imparting when, a short time later, they made noonday camp at
a little spring in the shelter of the hills.

"I say, Monk, what's this bally important business we've got on hand?"
he asked, as he adjusted a refractory hobble strap. "Seems to me you
threw away an excellent opportunity."

Bethune grinned. "Anything that involves the loss of a square meal, is
a lost opportunity. You're too beefy, Clen, a couple of weeks on pilot
bread and tea always does you good."

"I was thinking more of the lady."

"La, la, the ladies! A gay dog in your day--but, you've had your day.
Forget 'em, Clen, you're fifty, and fat."

"I'm forty-eight, and I weigh only fifteen stone as I stand,"
corrected the Englishman solemnly. "But layin' your bloody jokes
aside, this particular lady ought to be worth our while."

Bethune nodded, as he scraped the burning ends of the little sticks
closer about the teapot. "Yes, decidedly worth while, my dear Clen,
and that's where the important business comes in. Those who live by
their wits must use their wits or they will cease to live. I live by
my wits, and you by your ability to follow out my directions. In the
present instance, we had no plan. We could only have sat and talked,
but talk is dangerous--when you have no plan. Even little mistakes are
costly, and big ones are fatal. Let us go over the ground, now and
check off our facts, and then we can lay our plans." As he talked,
Bethune munched at his pilot bread, pausing at intervals for a swallow
of scalding tea.

"In the first place, we know that Rod Sinclair made a strike. And we
know that he didn't file any claim. Why? Because he knew that people
would guess he had made a strike, and that the minute he placed his
location on record, there would be a stampede to stake the adjoining
claims--and he was saving those claims for his friends."

"His strike may be only a pocket," ventured Clendenning.

"It is no pocket! Rod Sinclair was a mining man--he knows rock. If he
had struck a pocket he would have staked and filed at once--and taken
no chances. I tell you he went back East to let his friends in. The

The Englishman finished his tea, rinsed out his tin cup in the spring,
and filled his pipe. "And you think the girl has got the description?"

Bethune shook his head. "No. A map, perhaps, or some photographs. If
she had the description she would not have come alone. The friends of
her father would have been with her, and they would have filed the
minute they hit the country. It's either a map, or nothing but his

"And in either case we've got a chance."

"Yes," answered Bethune, viciously. "And this time we are not going to
throw away our chance!" He glanced meaningly at the Englishman, who
puffed contentedly at his pipe.

"Sinclair was too shrewd to have carried anything of importance, and
there would have been blood on our hands. As it is, we sleep good of

Bethune gave a shrug of impatience. "And the gold is still in the
hills, and we are no nearer to it than we were last fall."

"Yes, we are nearer. This girl will not be as shrewd as her father was
in guarding the secret, if she has it. If she hasn't it our chance is
as good as hers."

"And so is Vil Holland's! He believes Sinclair made a strike, and now
that Sinclair is out of the way, you may be sure he will leave no
stone unturned to horn in on it. The gold is in these hills and I'm
going to get it. If I can't get it one way, I will get it another."
The quarter-breed glanced about him and unconsciously lowered his
voice. "However, one could wish the girl had delayed her visit for a
couple of weeks. A person slipped me the word he could handle about
twenty head of horses."

The Englishman's face lighted. "I thought so when you began to dicker
with Watts for his pasture. We'll get him his bally horses, then. This
horse game I like, it's a sportin' game, and so is the whisky runnin'.
But I couldn't lay in the hills and shoot a man, cold blooded."

"And you've never been a success," sneered Bethune. "You never had a
dollar, except your remittance, until you threw in with me. And we'd
have been rich now, if it hadn't been for you. I tell you I know
Sinclair carried a map!"

"If he had, we'll get it. And we can sleep good of nights!"

"You're a fool, Clen, with your 'sleep good of nights!' I sleep good
of nights, and I've--" he halted abruptly, and when he spoke again his
words grated harsh. "I tell you this is a fang and claw existence--all
life is fang and claw. The strong rip the flesh from the bones of the
weak. And the rich rip their wealth from the clutch of a thousand
poor. What a man has is his only so long as he can hold it. One man's
gain is another man's loss, and that is life. And it makes no
difference in the end whether it was got at the point of the pistol
in defiance of law, or whether it was got within the law under the
guise of business. And I don't need you to preach to me about what is
wrong, either."

The Englishman laughed. "I'm not preaching, Monk. Anyone engaged in
the business we're in has got no call to preach."

"We're no worse than most of the preachers. They peddle out, for
money, what they don't believe."

"Heigh-ho! What a good old world you've painted it! I hope you're
right, and I'm not as bad as I think I am."

Bethune interrupted, speaking rapidly in the outlining of a plan of
procedure, and it was well toward the middle of the afternoon when the
two saddled up and struck off into the hills in the direction of their

* * * * *

Twilight had deepened to dusk as Patty Sinclair pulled her team to a
standstill upon the rim of the bench and looked down upon the
twinkling lights of the little town that straggled uncertainly along
the sandy bank of the shallow river.

"Hain't it grand lookin'?" breathed Microby Dandeline who sat
decorously booted and stockinged upon the very edge of the board seat.
"You wouldn't think they wus so many folks, less'n you seen 'em
yers'f. Wisht I lived to town, an' I wisht they'd be a circust."

Patty guided the horses down the trail that slanted into the valley
and crossed the half-mile of "flats" whose wire fences and long,
clean-cut irrigation ditches marked the passing of the cattle country.
A billion mosquitoes filled the air with an unceasing low-pitched
drone, and settled upon the horses in a close-fitting blanket of gray.
The girls tried to fight off the stinging pests that attacked their
faces and necks in whirring clouds. But they fought in vain and in
vain they endeavored to urge the horses to a quickening of their pace,
for impervious alike to the sting of the insects and the blows of the
whip, the animals plodded along in the unvarying walk they had
maintained since early morning.

"This yere's the skeeter flats," imparted Microby, between slaps.
"They hain't no skeeters in the mountains, mebbe it's too fer, an'
mebbe they hain't 'nough folks fer 'em to bite out there, they's only
us-uns an' a few more." As the girl talked the horses splashed into
the shallow water of the ford and despite all effort to urge them
forward, halted in mid-stream, and sucked greedily of the
crystal-clear water. It seemed an hour before they moved on and
assayed a leisurely ascent of the opposite bank. The air became
pungent with the smell of smoke. They were in town, now, and as the
wagon wheels sank deeply into the soft sand of the principal street,
Patty noted that in front of the doors of most of the houses, slow
fires were burning--fires that threw off a heavy, stifling smudge of
smoke that spread lazily upon the motionless air and hung thick and
low to the ground.

"Skeeter smudges," explained Microby proud of being the purveyor of
information, "towns has 'em, an' then the skeeters don't bite. Oh,
look at the folks! Lest hurry up! They might be a fight! Las' time
they wus a fight an' a breed cut a man Pap know'd an' the man got the
breed down an' stomped on his face an' the marshal come an' sp'ilt
hit, an' the man says if he'd of be'n let be he'd of et the breed up."

"My, what a shame! And now you may never see a man eat a breed,
whatever a breed is."

"A breed's half a Injun." Microby was standing up on the seat at the
imminent risk of her neck, peering over the heads of the crowd that
thronged the sidewalk.

"Sit down!" commanded Patty, sharply, as she noted the amused glances
with which those on the outskirts of the crowd viewed the ridiculous
figure in the red dress and the pink sunbonnet. "They are waiting for
the movie to open.

"Whut's a movie? Is hit like the circust? Kin I go?" The questions
crowded each other, as the girl scrambled to her seat, her eyes were
big with excitement.

"Yes, to-morrow."

"Looky, there's Buck!" Patty's eyes followed the pointing finger, and
she frowned at sight of the rangy buckskin tied with half a dozen
other horses to the hitching rail before the door of a saloon. It
seemed as she glanced along the street that nearly every building in
town was a saloon. Half a block farther on she drew to the sidewalk
and stopped before the door of a two-story wooden building that
flaunted across its front the words "MONTANA HOTEL." As Patty climbed
stiffly to the sidewalk each separate joint and muscle shrieked its
aching protest at the fifteen-hour ride in the springless, jolting
wagon. Microby placed her foot upon the sideboard and jumped, her
cow-hide boots thudding loudly upon the wooden planking.

"Oughtn't you stay with the horses while I make the arrangements?"

Microby shook her head in vigorous protest. "They-all hain't a-goin'
nowheres less'n they has to. An' I want to go 'long."

A thick-set man, collarless and coatless, who tilted back in his chair
with his feet upon the window ledge, glanced up indifferently as they
entered and crossed to the desk, and returned his gaze to the window,
beyond which objects showed dimly in the gathering darkness. After a
moment of awkward silence Patty addressed him. "Is the proprietor
anywhere about?"

"I'm him," grunted the man, without looking around.

The girl's face flushed angrily. "I want a room and supper for two."

"Nawthin' doin'. Full up."

"Is there another hotel in this town?" she flashed angrily.


"Do you mean to say that there is no place where we can get
accommodation for the night?"

"That's about the size of it."

"Can't we get anything to eat, either?" It was with difficulty Patty
concealed her rage at the man's insolence. "If you knew how hungry we
are--we've been driving since daylight with only a cold lunch for
food." She did not add that the cold lunch had been so unappetizing
she had not touched it.

"Supper's over a couple hours, an' the help's gone out."

"I'll pay you well if you can only manage to get us something--we're
starved." The girl's rage increased as she noticed the gleam that
lighted the heavy eyes. That, evidently was what he had been waiting

"Well," he began, but she cut him short.

"And a room, too."

"I'm full up, I told you. The only way might be to pay someone to
double up. An' with these here cowpunchers that comes high. I might--"
The opening of the screen door drew all eyes toward the man who
entered and stood just within the room. As Patty glanced at the
soft-brimmed hat, the brilliant scarf, and noticed that the yellow
lamplight glinted upon the tip of polished buffalo horn, and the ivory
butt of the revolver, her lips tightened. But the man was not looking
at her--seemed hardly aware of her presence. The burly proprietor

"Hello, Vil. Somethin' I kin do fer you?"

"Yes," answered the man. He spoke quietly, but there was that in his
voice that caused the other to glance at him sharply. "You can stand

The man complied without taking his eyes from the cowboy's face.

"I happened to be goin' by an' thought I'd stop an' see if I could
take the team over to the livery barn for my--neighbors, yonder. The
door bein' open, I couldn't help hearin' what you said." He paused,
and the proprietor grinned.

"Business is business, an' a man's into it fer all he kin git."

"I suppose that's so. I suppose it's good business to lie an' cheat
women, an'----"

"I hain't lied, an' I hain't cheated no one. An' what business is it
of yourn if I did? All my rooms is full up, an' the help's all gone to
the pitcher show."

"An' there's about a dozen or so cowmen stoppin' here to-night--the
ones you talked of payin' to double up--an' there ain't one of 'em
that wouldn't be glad to double up, or go out an' sleep on the street
if he couldn't get nowhere else to sleep, if you even whispered that
there was a lady needed his room. The boys is right touchy when it
comes to bein' lied about."

The proprietor's face became suddenly serious. "Aw looky here, Vil, I
didn't know these parties was friends of yourn. I'll see't they gits
'em a room, an' I expect I kin dig 'em out some cold meat an'
trimmin's. I was only kiddin'. Can't you take a joke?"

"Yes, I can take a joke. I'm only kiddin', too--an' so'll the boys be,
after I tell 'em----"

"They hain't no use rilin' the boys up. I----"

"An' about that supper," continued the cowboy, ignoring the protest,
"I guess that cold meat'll keep over. What these ladies needs is a
good hot supper. Plenty of ham and, hot Java, potatoes, an' whatever
you got."

"But the help's----"

"Get it yourself, then. It ain't so long since you was runnin' a short
order dump. You ain't forgot how to get up a quick feed, an' to give
the devil his due, a pretty good one."

The other started surlily toward the rear. "I'll do it, if----"

"You won't do it if nothin'. You'll do it--that's all. An' you'll
do it at the regular price, too."

"Say, who's runnin' this here hotel?"

"You're runnin' it, an' I'm tellin you how," answered the tall
hillman, without taking his eyes from the other's face.

The man disappeared, muttering incoherently, and Vil Holland turned to
the door.

"I want to thank you," ventured Patty. "Evidently your word carries
weight with mine host."

"It better," replied the cowpuncher, dryly. "An' you're welcome. I'll
take the team across to the livery barn." He spoke impersonally, with
scarcely a glance in her direction, and as the screen door banged
behind him the girl flushed, remembering her own rudeness upon the

"Lawless he may be, and he certainly looks and acts the part," she
murmured to herself as the wagon rattled away from the sidewalk, "but
his propensity for turning up at the right time and the right place is
rapidly becoming a matter of habit." A door beside the desk stood
ajar, and above it, Patty read the words "WASH ROOM." Pushing it open
she glanced into the interior which was dimly lighted by a murky oil
lamp that occupied a sagging bracket beside a distorted mirror. Two
tin wash basins occupied a sink-like contrivance above which a single
iron faucet protruded from the wall. Beside the faucet was tacked a
broad piece of wrapping paper upon which were printed in a laborious
scrawl the following appeals:


EM baCK.
THes IS hoUSE RULes AN WANts TO be OBayD


Removing the trail dust from their faces and hands, the girls returned
to the office and after an interminable wait the proprietor appeared,
red-faced and surly. "Grub's on, an' yer room'll be ready agin you've
et," he growled, and waddled to his place at the window.

A generous supply of ham and eggs, fried potatoes, bread and butter,
and hot coffee awaited them in the dining-room, and it seemed to Patty
that never before had food tasted so good. Twenty minutes later, when
they returned to the office the landlord indicated the stairway with a
jerk of his thumb. "First door to the right from the top of the
stairs, lamp's lit, extry blankets in the closet, breakfast from five
'till half-past-seven." The words rattled from his lips in a single
breath as he sat staring into the outer darkness.

"If Aunt Rebecca could see me, now," smiled Patty to herself, as she
led the way up the uncarpeted stairs, with Microby Dandeline's
cow-hide boots clattering noisily in her wake.

Next: Sheep Camp

Previous: Patty Goes To Town

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