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The Bishop Of All Outdoors

From: The Gold Girl

The days slipped into weeks, as Patty Sinclair, carefully and
methodically traced valleys to their sources, and explored innumerable
coulees and ravines that twisted and turned their tortuous lengths
into the very heart of the hills. Rock ledges without number she
scanned, many with deep cracks and fissures, and many without them.
But not once did she find a ledge that could by any stretch of the
imagination be regarded as the ledge of the photograph. Disheartened,
but not discouraged, the girl would return each evening to her
solitary cabin, eat her solitary meal, and throw herself upon her bunk
to brood over the apparent hopelessness of her enterprise, or to read
from the thumbed and tattered magazines of the dispossessed sheep
herder. She rode, now, with a sort of dogged persistence. There was
none of the wild thrill that, during the first days of her search,
she experienced each time she topped a new divide, or entered a new

Three times since she had informed him she would play a lone hand in
the search for her father's strike, Bethune had called at the cabin.
And not once had he alluded to the progress of her work. She was
thankful to him for that--she had not forgotten the hurt in her
father's eyes as the taunting questions of the scoffers struck home.
Always she had known of the hurt, but now, with the disheartening days
of her own failure heaping themselves upon her, she was beginning to
understand the reason for the hurt. And, guessing this, Bethune
refrained from questioning, but talked gaily of books, and sunsets,
and of life, and love, and the joy of living. A supreme optimist, she
thought him, despite the half-veiled cynicism that threaded his
somewhat fatalistic view of life, a cynicism that but added the
necessary sauce piquante to so abandoned an optimism.

Above all, the man was a gentleman. His speech held nothing of the
abrupt bluntness of Vil Holland's. He would appear shortly after her
early supper, and was always well upon his way before the late
darkness began to obscure the contours of her little valley. An hour's
chat upon the doorstep of the cabin and he was gone--riding down the
valley, singing as he rode some old chanson of his French forebears,
with always a pause at the cottonwood grove for a farewell wave of his
hat. And Patty would turn from the doorway, and light her lamp, and
proceed to enjoy the small present which he never failed to leave in
her hand--a box of bon-bons of a kind she had vainly sought for in the
little town--again, a novel, a woman's novel written by a man who
thought he knew--and another time, just a handful of wild flowers
gathered in the hills. She ate the candy making it last over several
days. She read the book from cover to cover as she lay upon her air
mattress, tucked snugly between her blankets. And she arranged the
wild flowers loosely in a shallow bowl and watered them, and talked to
them, and admired their beauty, and when they were wilted she threw
them out, but she did not gather more flowers to fill the bowl,
instead she wiped it dry and returned it to its shelf in the
cupboard--and wondered when Bethune would come again. She admitted to
herself that he interested--at least, amused her--helped her to throw
off for the moment the spirit of dull depression that had fastened
itself upon her like a tangible thing, bearing down upon her,
threatening to crush her with its weight.

Always, during these brief visits, her lurking distrust of him
vanished in the frank boyishness of his personality. The incidents
that had engendered the distrust--the substitution of the name Schultz
for Schmidt in the matter of the horse pasture, his abrupt warning
against Vil Holland, and his attempt to be admitted into her
confidence as a matter of right, were for the moment forgotten in the
spell of his presence--but always during her lonely rides in the
hills, the half-formed doubt returned. Pondering the doubt, she
realized that the principal reason for its continued existence was not
so much in the incidents that had awakened it, as in the simple
question asked by Vil Holland: "You say your dad told you all about
this partnership business?" And in the "Oh," with which he had greeted
the reply that she had it from the lips of Bethune. With the
realization, her dislike for Vil Holland increased. She characterized
him as a "jug-guzzler," a "swashbuckler," and a "ruffian"--and smiled
as she recalled the picturesque figure with the clean-cut, bronzed
face. "Oh, I don't know--I hate these hills! Nobody seems sincere
excepting the Wattses, and they're--impossible!"

She had borrowed Watts's team and made a second trip to town for
supplies, and the check that she drew in payment cut her bank account
in half. As before she had offered to take Microby Dandeline, but the
girl declined to go, giving as an excuse that "pitcher shows wasn't as
good as circusts, an' they wasn't no fights, an' she didn't like
towns, nohow."

Upon her return from town Patty stopped at the Thompsons' for dinner
where she was accorded a royal welcome by the genial rancher and his
wife, and where also, she met the Reverend Len Christie, the most
picturesque, and the most un-clerical minister of the gospel she had
ever seen. To all appearances the man might have been a cowboy. He
affected chaps of yellow hair, a dark blue flannel shirt, against
which flamed a scarf of brilliant crimson caught together by means of
a vivid green scarab. He wore a roll brimmed Stetson, and carried a
six-gun at his belt. A pair of high-heeled boots added a couple of
inches to the six feet two that nature had provided him with, and he
shook hands as though he enjoyed shaking hands. "I've heard of you,
Miss Sinclair, back in town and have looked forward to meeting you on
my first trip into the hills. How are my friends, the Wattses, these
days? And that reprobate, Vil Holland?" He did not mention that it was
Vil Holland who had spoken of her presence in the hills, nor that the
cowboy had also specified that she utterly despised the ground he rode

To her surprise Patty noticed that there was affection rather than
disapprobation in the word reprobate, and she answered a trifle
stiffly: "The Wattses are all well, I think: but, as for Mr. Holland,
I really cannot answer."

The parson appeared not to notice the constraint but turned to
Thompson: "By the way, Tom, why isn't Vil riding the round-up this
year? Has he made his strike?"

Thompson grinned: "Naw, Vil ain't made no strike. Facts is, they's
be'n some considerable horse liftin' goin' on lately, an' the
stockmen's payin' Vil wages fer to keep his eye peeled. He's out in
the hills all the time anyhow with his prospectin', an' they figger
the thieves won't pay no 'tention to him, like if a stranger was to
begin kihootin' 'round out there."

"Have they got a line on 'em at all?"

"Well," considered Thompson. "Not as I know of--exactly. Monk Bethune
an' that there Lord Clendennin' is hangin' 'round the hills--that's
about all I know."

The parson nodded: "I saw Bethune in town the other day. Do you know,
Tom, I believe there's a bad Injun."

"Indian!" cried the girl. "Mr. Bethune is not an Indian!"

Thompson laughed: "Yup, that is, he's a breed. They say his
gran'mother was a Cree squaw--daughter of a chief, or somethin'.
Anyways, this here Monk, he's a pretty slick article, I guess."

"They're apt to be worse than either the whites or the Indians,"
Christie explained. "And this Monk Bethune is an educated man, which
should make him doubly dangerous. Well, I must be going. I've got to
ride clear over onto Big Porcupine. I heard that old man Samuelson's
very sick. There's a good man--old Samuelson. Hope he'll pull

"You bet he's a good man!" assented Thompson, warmly. "He seen Bill
Winters through, when they tried to prove the murder of Jack Bronson
onto him, an' it cost him a thousan' dollars. The districk attorney
had it in fer Bill, count of him courtin' his gal."

"Yes, and I could tell of a dozen things the old man has done for
people that nobody but I ever knew about--in some instances even the
people themselves didn't know." He turned to Patty: "Good-by, Miss
Sinclair. I'm mighty glad to have met you. I knew your father very
well. If you see the Wattses, tell them I shall try and swing around
that way on my return." The parson mounted a raw-boned, Roman-nosed
pinto, whose vivid calico markings, together with the rider's
brilliant scarf gave a most unministerial, not to say bizarre effect
to the outfit. "So long, Tom," he called.

"So long, Len! If they's anything we can do, let us know. An' be sure
an' stop in comin' back." Thompson watched the man until he vanished
in a cloud of dust far out on the trail.

"Best doggone preacher ever was born," he vouchsafed. "He can ride,
an' shoot, an' rope, an' everything a man ort to. An' if anyone's

sick! Well, he's worth all the doctors an' nurses in the State of
Montany. He'll make you git well just 'cause he wants you to. An' they
ain't nothin' too much trouble--an' they ain't no work too hard for
him to tackle. There ain't no piousness stickin' out on him fer folks
to hang their hat on, neither. He'll mix with the boys, an' listen to
the natural cussin' an' swearin' that goes on wherever cattle's
handled, an' enjoy it--but just you let some shorthorn start what you
might call vicious or premeditated cussin'--somethin' special wicked
or vile, an' he'll find out there's a parson in the crowd right quick,
an' if he don't shut up, chances is, he'll be spittin' out a couple of
teeth. There's one parson can fight, an' the boys know it, an' what's
more they know he will fight--an' they ain't one of 'em that
wouldn't back up his play, neither. An' preach! Why he can tear loose
an' make you feel sorry for every mean trick you ever done--not for
fear of any punishment after yer dead--but just because it wasn't
playin' the game. That's him, every time. An' he ain't always
hollerin' about hell--hearin' him preach you wouldn't hardly know they
was a hell. 'The Bishop of All Outdoors,' they call him--an' they say
he can go back East an' preach to city folks, an' make 'em set up an'
take notice, same as out here. He's be'n offered three times what he
gets here to go where he'd have it ten times easier--but he laughs at
'em. He sure is one preacher that ain't afraid of work!"

As Watts's team plodded the hot miles of the interminable trail
Patty's brain revolved wearily about its problem. "I've made almost a
complete circle of the cabin, and I haven't found the rock ledge with
the crack in it yet--and as for daddy's old map--I've spent hours
trying to figure out what that jumble of letters and numbers mean,
I'll just have to start all over again and keep reaching farther and
farther into the hills on my rides. Mr. Bethune said I might not
recognize the place when I come to it!" she laughed bitterly. "If he
knew how that photograph has burned itself into my brain! I can close
my eyes and see that rock wall with its peculiar crack, and the
rock-strewn valley, and the lone tree--recognize it! I would know it
in the dark!"

Her eyes rested upon the various packages of her load of supplies.
"One more trip to town, and my prospecting is done, at least, until I
can earn some more money. The prices out here are outrageous. It's the
freight, the man told me. Five cents' freight on a penny's worth of
food! But what in the world can I do to make money? What can anybody
do to make money in this Godforsaken country? I can't punch cattle,
nor herd sheep. I don't see why I had to be a girl!" Resentment
against her accident of birth cooled, and her mind again took up its
burden of thought. "There is one way," she muttered. "And that is to
admit failure and take Mr. Bethune into partnership. He will advance
the money and help with the work--and, surely there will be enough for
two. And, I'm not so sure but that--" She broke off shortly and felt
the hot blood rise in a furious blush, as she glanced guiltily about
her--but in all the vast stretch of plain was no human being, and she
laughed aloud at the antics of the prairie dogs that scolded and
barked saucily and then dove precipitously into their holes as a lean
coyote trotted diagonally through their "town."

What was it they had said at Thompson's about Mr. Bethune? Despite
herself she had approved the outlandishly dressed preacher with the
smiling blue eyes. He was so big, and so wholesome! "The Bishop of All
Outdoors," Thompson had called him. She liked that--and somehow the
name seemed to fit. Looking into those eyes no one could doubt his
sincerity--his every word, his every motion spoke unbounded enthusiasm
for his work. What was it he had said? "Do you know, Tom, I believe
there's a bad Injun." And Thompson had referred to Bethune as "a
pretty slick article." Surely, Thompson, whole-souled, generous
Thompson, would not malign a man. Here were two men whom the girl knew
instinctively she could trust, who stood four-square with the world,
and whose opinions must carry weight. And both had spoken with
suspicion of Bethune and both had spoken of Vil Holland as one of
themselves. "I don't understand it," she muttered. "Everybody seems to
be against Mr. Bethune, and everybody seems to like Vil Holland, in
spite of his jug, and his gun, and his boorishness. Maybe it's because
Mr. Bethune's a--a breed," she speculated. "Why, they even hinted that
he's a--a horse-thief. It isn't fair to despise him for his Indian
blood. Why should he be made to suffer because his grandmother was an
Indian--the daughter of a Cree chief? It sounds interesting and
romantic. The people of some of our very best families point with
pride to the fact that they are descendants of Pocahontas! Poor
fellow, everybody seems down on him--everybody that is, but Ma Watts
and Microby. And, as a matter of fact, he appears to better advantage
than any of them, not excepting the very militant and unorthodox
'Bishop of All Outdoors.'"

The result of the girl's cogitations left her exactly where she
started. She was no nearer the solution of her problem of the hills.
And her lurking doubt of Bethune still remained despite the excuses
she invented to account for his unpopularity, nor had her opinion of
Vil Holland been altered in the least.

Upon arriving at her cabin she was not at all surprised to find that
it had been thoroughly searched, albeit with less care than the
searcher had been in the habit of bestowing upon the readjustment of
the various objects of the room exactly as she had left them. Canned
goods and dishes were disarranged upon their shelves, and the loose
section of floor board beneath her bunk that had evidently served as
the secret cache of the sheep herder, had been fitted clumsily into
its place. The evident boldness, or carelessness of this latest
outrage angered her as no previous search had done. Heretofore each
object had been returned to its place with painstaking accuracy so
that it had been only through the use of fine-spun cobwebs and
carefully arranged bits of dust that she had been able to verify her
suspicion that the room had really been searched--and there had been
times when even the dust and the cobwebs had been replaced. Whoever
had been searching the cabin had proven himself a master of detail,
and had at least, paid her the compliment of possessing imagination,
and a shrewdness equaling his own. Was it possible that the searcher,
emboldened by her repeated failure to spy upon him at his work, had
ceased to care whether or not she knew of his visits? The girl
recalled the three weary days she had spent watching from the
hillside. And how she had decided to buy a lock for her door, until
the futility of it had been brought home to her by the discovery that
her trunks were being searched along with her other belongings, and
their locks left in perfect condition. So far, he might well scorn her
puny attempts at discovery. Or, had a new factor entered the game? Had
someone of cruder mold undertaken to discover her secret? The thought
gave her a decided uneasiness. Tired out by her trip, she did not
light the fire, and after disposing of the cold lunch Mrs. Thompson
had put up for her, affixed the bar, and went to bed, with her six-gun
within reach of her hand.

For a long time she lay in the darkness, thinking. "The way it was
before, I haven't been in any physical danger. Mr. Vil Holland knows
that if what he is searching for is not here I must carry it on my
person. The obvious way to get it would be to take it away from me. Of
course the only way he could do that without my seeing him would be to
kill me. He hesitates at murder. Either there are depths of moral
turpitude into which he will not descend--or, he fears the
consequences. He has imagination. He assumes that sometime I'll leave
that packet at home--either through carelessness, or because I have
learned its contents by heart and don't need it. In the meantime, in
addition to his patient searching of the cabin, he is taking no
chances, and while he waits for the inevitable to happen he is
following me so if I do succeed in locating the claim, he can beat me
to the register. It's a pretty game--no violence--only patience and
brains. But this other," she shuddered, "there is something positively
brutal in the crude awkwardness of his work. If he thinks I carry what
he wants with me, would he hesitate at murder? I guess I'll have to
carry that gun again--and I better practice with it, too. If I can
only get rid of this last one, I believe I've got a scheme for
catching the other!" She sat bolt upright in bed. "Oh, if I only
could! If I could only beat him at his own game--and I believe I can!"
For several minutes she sat thinking rapidly, and as she lay back upon
her pillow, she smiled.

Next: Lord Clendenning Gets A Ducking

Previous: Patty Takes Precautions

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