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The Samuelsons








From: The Gold Girl

Patty retired that night with her thoughts in a whirl. So, it was Monk
Bethune who, all along, had been plotting to steal the secret of her
father's strike? Monk Bethune, with his suave, oily manner, his
professed regard for her father, and his burning words of love! Fool
that she couldn't have penetrated his thin mask of deceit! It all
seemed so ridiculously plain, now. She remembered the flash of
distrust that her first meeting with him engendered. And, step, by
step, she followed the course of his insidious campaign to instill
himself into her good graces. She thought of the blunt warning of Vil
Holland when he told her that her father always played a lone hand,
and his almost scornful question as to whether her father had told her
of his partnership with Bethune. And she remembered her defiance of
Holland, and her defense of Bethune. And, with a shudder, she
recollected the moments when, in the hopelessness of her repeated
failures, she had trembled upon the point of surrendering to his
persuasive eloquence.

With the villainous scheming of Bethune exposed, her thoughts turned
to the other, to her "guardian devil of the hills." What of Vil
Holland? Had she misjudged this man, even as she had so nearly become
the dupe of Bethune? She realized now, that nearly everyone with whom
she had come into contact, distrusted Bethune, and that they trusted
Vil Holland. She realized that her own distrust of him rested to a
great extent upon the open accusations of Bethune, and the fact that
he was blunt to rudeness in his conversations with her. If he were to
be taken at his neighbors' valuation, why was it that he watched her
comings and goings from his notch in the hills? Why did he follow her
about upon her rides? And why did he carry that disgusting jug? She
admitted that she had never seen him the worse for indulgence in the
contents of the jug, but if he were not a confirmed drunkard, why
should he carry it? She knew Bethune hated him--and that counted a
point in his favor--now. But it did not prove that he was not as bad
as Bethune. But why had Bethune told Microby that he would get that
picture if he had to kill her and Vil Holland? What had Vil Holland
to do with his getting the picture! Surely, Bethune did not believe
that Vil Holland shared her secret! Vil Holland must be lawless--the
running of the sheep herder out of the hills was a lawless act. Why,
then, were such men as Thompson and the Reverend Len Christie his
friends? This question had puzzled her much of late, and not finding
the answer, she realized her own dislike of the man had waned
perceptibly. Instinctively, she knew that Len Christie was genuine.
She liked this "Bishop of All Outdoors," who could find time to ride a
hundred miles to cheer a sick old man; who would think to bring
pencils and drawing paper to a little boy who roamed over the
hillsides with a piece of charcoal, searching for flat rocks upon
which to draw his pictures; and who sang deep, full-throated ballads
as he rode from one to the other of his scattered hill folk, upon his
outlandish pinto. Surely, such men as he, and the jovial,
whole-hearted Thompson--men who had known Vil Holland for
years,--could not be deceived.

"Is it possible I've misjudged him?" she asked herself. And when at
last she dropped to sleep it was to plunge into a confused jumble of
dreams whose dominant figure was her lone horseman of the hills.

Patty resolved to keep her promise to Christie and ride over to the
Samuelson ranch, before she started to work out the directions of her
father's map. "I may be weeks doing it if I continue to be as dumb as
I have been," she laughed. "And when I get started I know I'll never
want to stop 'til I've worked it out."

Immediately after breakfast she saddled her horse and returning to the
cabin, picked up the little oiled silk packet that contained
photograph and map. Where should she hide it? Her glance traveled from
the locked trunks to the loose board in the floor. Each had been
searched time and again. "Whoever he is, he'd think it was funny that
I decided all at once to hide the map, when I've been carrying it with
me so persistently," she muttered. Her eyes rested upon the little
dressing table. "The very thing!" she cried. "I'll leave it right out
in plain sight, and he'll think I forgot it." Her first impulse was to
remove the thin gold chain but she shook her head: "No, it will look
more as if I'd just slipped it off for the night if I leave the chain
on. And besides," she smiled, "he ought to get some gold for his
pains." With a last glance of approval at the little packet lying as
if forgotten upon the dressing table, she closed the door and headed
down the creek.

It was evident to Patty, upon reaching the Watts ranch that Microby
Dandeline had not carried out her threat to "tell ma" about the
shaking. For the mountain woman was loquaciously cordial as usual:
"Decla'r ef hit hain't yo', up an' a-ridin' fo' sun-up! Yo' shore
favor yo' pa. He wus the gittin'est man--Yo'd a-thought he wus ridin'
fer wages, 'stead o' jest prospectin'. Goin' down the crick, to-day,
eh? Well, I don't reckon yo' pa's claim's down the crick, but yo'
cain't never tell. He wus that clost-mouthed--I've heard him an' Watts
set a hour, an' nary word between the two of 'em. 'Pears like they's
jest satisfied to be a-lightin' matches an' a-puffin' they pipes.
Wimmin folks hain't like thet. They jest nachelly got to let out a
word now an' then, 'er bust--one."

"Microby Dandeline!" there was a sudden rush of bare feet upon the
wooden floor, and Patty caught a flick of calico and a flash of bare
legs as the girl disappeared around the corner of the barn.

"Land sakes! Thet gal acts like she's p'ssessed! She tellin' whut a
nice time she had to yo' place las' evenin', an' then a-runnin' away
like she's wild as a hawrk. Seems like she's a-gittin' mo' triflin'
every day----"

"Sence Monk Bethune's tuk to ha'ntin' this yere crick so reg'lar,"
interrupted Watts, who stood leaning against the door jamb.

"'T'aint nothin' agin Mr. Bethune, 'cause he's nice to Microby,"
retorted the woman; "I s'pose 'cordin' to yo' idee, he'd ort to cuss
her an' kick her aroun'."

"Might be better in the long run, an' he did," opined the man,
gloomily.

"Where's yo' manners at? Not sayin' 'howdy'?" reminded his wife.

"I be'n a-fixin' to," he apologized, "yo' lookin' mighty peart this
mawnin'." A cry from the baby brought a torrent of recrimination upon
the apathetic husband: "Watts! Watts! Looks like yo' ort to could look
after Chattenoogy Tennessee, that Microby Dandeline run off an' left
alone. Like's not she's et a nail thet yo' left a han'ful of on the
floor thet day yo' aimed fer to fix me a shelft."

"She never et no nail," confided the man, as he returned a moment
later carrying the infant. "She done fell out the do' an' them hens
wus apeckin' her. She's scairt wuss'n hurt."

"Well," smiled Patty. "I must go. Tell Microby to come up to my cabin
right soon. I'd like to have a talk with her."

"Might an' yo' pa's claim 'ud be som'ers up the no'th branch,"
suggested the woman. "He rid that-a-way sometimes, didn't he, Watts?"

"I'm not prospecting to-day. I'm going over to see the Samuelsons. Mr.
Samuelson is sick."

"Law, yes! I be'n a-aimin' fer to git to go, this long while. I heern
it a spell back, an' Mr. Christie done tol' us over again. They do say
he's bad off. But yo' cain't never tell, they's hopes of 'em gittin'
onto they feet agin right up 'til yo' hear the death rattle. Yo' tell
Miz Samuelson I aim to git over soon's I kin. I'll bring along the
baby an' a batch o' sourdough bread, an' fix to stay a hull week.
Watts'll hev to make out with Microby an' the rest. Yo' tell Miz
Samuelson I say not to git down in the mouth. They all got to die
anyhow. An' 'taint so bad, onct it's over an' done. But lots of 'em
gits well, too. So they hain't no call to do no diggin' right up to
the death rattle--an' even then they don't allus die. Ol' man Rink,
over on Tom's Hope, back in Tennessee, he rattled twict, an' come to
both times, an' then, couple days later, he up an' died on 'em 'thout
nary rattle. So yo' cain't never tell--men's thet ornery, even the
best of 'em."

Christie's prediction that Patty would like Mrs. Samuelson proved to
be conservative in the extreme. From the moment the slight gray-haired
little woman greeted her, the girl felt as though she were talking to
an old friend. There was something pathetic in the old lady's cheerful
optimism, something profoundly pathetic in the endeavor to transform
her bit of wilderness into some semblance to the far-away home she had
known in the long ago. And she had succeeded admirably. To cross the
Samuelson threshold was to step from the atmosphere of the cow-country
and the mountains into a region of comfort and quiet that contrasted
sharply with the rough and ready air of the neighboring ranches. The
house itself was not large, but it was built of lumber, not logs. The
long living room was provided with tastefully curtained casement
windows, and rugs of excellent quality took the place of the
inevitable carpet upon the floor. A baby grand piano projected into
the room from its niche beside the huge log fireplace, and bookcases,
guiltless of glass fronts, occupied convenient spaces along the wall,
their shelves supporting row upon row of good editions. It was in
this room, looking as though she had stepped from an ivory miniature,
that the mistress of the house greeted Patty.

"You are very welcome, my dear. Mr. Samuelson and I were deeply
grieved to hear the sad news of your father. We used to enjoy his
occasional brief visits."

"How is Mr. Samuelson?" asked Patty, as she pressed the little woman's
thin, blue-veined hand.

"He seems better to-day."

The girl noted the hopeful tone of voice. "Is there anything I can
do?" she asked.

"Not a thing, thank you. Mr. Samuelson sleeps a good part of the time,
and Wong Yie is a wonderful nurse. But, come, you must have luncheon.
I know you will want to refresh yourself after your long ride. The
bathroom is at the head of the stairs. I'll take a peep at my invalid
and when you are ready we'll see what Wong Yie has for us."

Patty looked hungrily at the porcelain tub--"A real bathroom!" she
breathed, "out here in the mountains--and books, and a piano!"

Mrs. Samuelson awaited her at the foot of the stair and led the way to
the dining room. When she was seated at the round mahogany table she
smiled across at the old lady in frank appreciation.

"It seems like stepping right into fairyland," she said. "Like the old
stories when the heroes and heroines rubbed magic lamps, or stepped
onto enchanted carpets and were immediately transported from their
miserable hovels to castles of gold inhabited by beautiful princes and
princesses."

The old lady's eyes beamed: "I'm glad you like it!"

"Like it! That doesn't express it at all. Why, if you'd lived in an
abandoned sheep camp for months and prepared your own meals on a
broken stove, and eaten them all alone on a bumpy table covered with a
piece of oilcloth, and taken your bath in an icy cold creek and then
only on the darkest nights for fear someone were watching, and read a
few magazines over and over 'til you knew even the advertisements by
heart--then suddenly found yourself seated in a room like this, with
real china and silver, and comfortable chairs and a luncheon
cloth--you'd think it was heaven."

Patty was aware that the old lady was smiling at her across the table.
"If I had lived like that for months, did you say? My dear girl, we
lived for years in that little shack--you can see it from where you
sit--it's the tool house, now. Mr. Samuelson built it with his own
hands when there weren't a half-dozen white men in the hills, and
until it was completed we lived in a tepee!"

"You've lived here a long time."

"Yes, a long, long time. I was the first white woman to come into this
part of the hill country to live. This was the first ranch to be
established in the hills, but we have a good many neighbors now--and
such nice neighbors! One never really appreciates friends and
neighbors until a time--like this. Then one begins to know. A long
time ago, before I knew, I used to hate this place. Sometimes I used
to think I would go crazy, with the loneliness--the vastness of it
all. I used to go home and make long visits every year, and then--the
children came, and it was different." The woman paused and her eyes
strayed to the open window and rested upon the bold headland of a
mighty mountain that showed far down the valley.

"And--you love it, now?" Patty asked, softly, as she poured French
dressing over crisp lettuce leaves.

"Yes--I love it, now. After the children came it was all different. I
never want to leave the valley, now. I never shall leave it. I am an
old woman, and my world has narrowed down to my home, and my
valley--my husband, and my friends and neighbors." She looked up
guiltily, with a tiny little laugh. "Do you know, during those first
years I must have been an awful fool. I used to loathe it all--loathe
the country--the men, who ate in their shirt sleeves and blew into
their saucers, and their women. It was the uprising that brought me to
a realization of the true worth of these people--" The little woman's
voice trailed off into silence, and Patty glanced up from her salad to
see that the old eyes were once more upon the far blue headland, and
the woman's thoughts were evidently very far away. She came back to
the present with an apology: "Why bless you, child, forgive me! My old
wits were back-trailing, as the cowboys would say. You have finished
your salad, come, let's go out onto the porch, where we can get the
afternoon breeze and be comfortable." She led the way through the
living-room where she left the girl for a moment, to tiptoe upstairs
for a peep at the sick man. "He's asleep," she reported, as they
stepped out onto the porch and settled themselves in comfortable
wicker rockers.

"What was the uprising?" asked Patty. "Was it the Indians? I'd love to
hear about it."

"Yes, the Indians. That was before they were on reservations and they
were scattered all through the hills."

A cowboy galloped to the porch, drew up sharply, and removed his hat.
"We rode through them horses that runs over on the east slope an'
they're all right--leastways all the markers is there, an' the bunches
don't look like they'd be'n any cut out of 'em. But, about them white
faces--Lodgepole's most dried up. Looks like we'd ort to throw 'em
over onto Sage Crick."

The little woman looked thoughtful. "Let's see, there are about six
hundred of the white faces, aren't there?"

"Yessum."

"And how long will the water last in Lodgepole?"

"Not more'n a week or ten days, if we don't git no rain."

"How long will it take to throw them onto Sage Creek?"

"Well, they hadn't ort to be crowded none this time o' year. The four
of us had ort to do it in three or four days."

The old lady shook her head. "No, the cattle will have to wait. I
want you boys to stay right around close 'til you hear from Vil
Holland. Keep your best saddle horses up and at least one of you stay
right here at the ranch all the time. The rest of you might ride
fences, and you better take a look at those mares and colts in the big
pasture."

The cowboy's eyes twinkled: "I savvy, all right. Guess I'll take the
bunk-house shift myself this afternoon. Got a couple extry guns to
clean up an' oil a little."

"Whatever you do, you boys be careful," admonished the woman. "And in
case anything happens and Vil Holland isn't here, send one of the boys
after him at once."

The other laughed: "Guess they ain't much danger, if anything happens
he won't be a-ridin' right on the head of it." The cowboy gathered up
his reins, dropped them again, and his gloved fingers fumbled with his
leather hat band. The smile had left his face.

"Anything else, Bill?" asked Mrs. Samuelson, noting his evident
reluctance to depart.

"Well, ma'am, how's the Big Boss gittin' on?"

"He's doing as well as could be expected, the doctor says."

The cowboy cleared his throat nervously: "You know, us boys thinks a
heap of him, an' we'd like fer him to git a square deal."

"A square deal!" exclaimed the woman. "Why, what in the world do you
mean?"

"About that there doc--d'you s'pect he savvys his business?"

"Of course he does! He's considered one of the best doctors in the
State. Why do you ask?"

"Well, it's this way. When he was goin' back to town yesterday I laid
for him. You see, the Old Man--er, I mean--you know, ma'am, the Big
Boss, he's a pretty sick man--an' it looks to us boys like things had
ort to break pretty quick, one way er another. So, I says, 'Doc, how's
he gittin' on?' an' the doc he says, jest like you done, 'good as
could be expected.' When you come right down to cases, that don't tell
you nothin'. So I says, 'that's 'cordin' to who's doin' the expectin'.
What we want to know,' I says, 'is he goin' to git well, er is he
goin' to die?' 'I confidently hope we're going to pull him through,'
he comes back. 'Meanin', he's goin' to git well?' I says. 'Yes,' he
says. 'Fer how much?' I asks him. I didn't have but thirty-five
dollars on me, but I shook that in under his nose. You see, I wanted
to find out if the fellow would back his own self up with his money.
'What do you mean?' he says. 'I mean,' I informs him, 'that money
talks. Here's the Missus payin' you good wages fer to cure up the Old
Man. You goin' to do it, an' earn them wages, or ain't you? Here's
thirty-five dollars that says you can't cure him.'"

The corners of the old lady's mouth were twitching behind the
handkerchief she held to her lips: "What did the doctor say?" she
asked.

"Tried to laugh it off," declared the cowboy in disgust. "But I
reminds him that this here ain't no laughin' matter. 'D'you s'pose,' I
says, 'if the Old Man told me: "Bill, there's a bad colt to bust," or
"Bill, go over onto Monte's Crick, an' bring back them two-year-olds,"
do you s'pose I wouldn't bet I could do it? They's plenty of us here
to do all the "confidently hopin'" that's needed. What you got to do
is to git busy with them pills an' make him well,' I says, 'or quit
an' let someone take holt that kin.'" The man paused and regarded the
woman seriously. "What I'm gittin' at is this: If this here doc ain't
got confidence enough in his own dope to back it with a bet, it's time
we got holt of one that will. Now, ma'am, you better let me send one
of Jack Pierce's kids to town to see Len Christie an' tell him to git
the best doc out here they is. I'll write a note to Len on the side
an' tell him to tell the doc he kin about double his wages, 'cause the
rest of the boys feels just like I do, an' we'll all bet agin him so't
it'll be worth his while to make a good job of it." He paused,
awaiting permission to carry out his plan.

The little woman explained gravely: "Doctors never bet on their cases,
Bill. It isn't that they won't back their judgment. But because it
isn't considered proper. Doctor Mallory is doing all any mortal man
can do. He's a wonderfully good doctor, and it was Len Christie,
himself, that recommended him."

The cowboy's eyes lighted: "It was? Well, then, mebbe he's all right.
I never had no time fer preachers 'til I know'd Len. But, what he says
goes with me--he's square. I don't go much on no doctor, though.
They're all right fer women, mebbe, an' kids. I believe all the Old
Man needs right now to fix him up good as ever is a big stiff jolt of
whisky an' bitters." The cowboy rode away, muttering and shaking his
head, but not until he was well out of sight round the corner of the
house did the little woman with the gray hair smile.

"I hope Doctor Mallory will understand," she said, a trifle
anxiously, "I have some rather trying experiences with my boys, and if
Bill has gone and insulted the doctor I'll have to get Jack Pierce to
go to town and explain."

"This Bill seems to just adore Mr. Samuelson," ventured Patty. "Why
his voice was almost--almost reverent when he said 'the Old Man.'"

The little lady nodded: "Yes, Bill thinks there's no one like him. You
see, Bill shot a man, one day when--he was not quite himself. Over in
the Blackfoot country, it was, and Vil Holland knew the facts in the
case, and he rode over and told Mr. Samuelson all about it, and they
both went and talked it over with the prosecuting attorney, and with
old Judge Nevers, with the result that they agreed to give the boy a
chance. So Mr. Samuelson brought him here. That was five years ago.
Bill is foreman of this outfit now, and our other three riders are
boys that were headed the same way Bill was. Vil Holland brought one
of them over, and Bill and Mr. Samuelson picked up the other two--and,
if I do say it myself," she declared, proudly, "there isn't an outfit
in Montana that can boast a more capable or loyal, or a straighter
quartet of riders than this one."

As Patty listened she understood something of what was behind the
words of Thompson and Len Christie, when they had spoken that day of
"Old Man" Samuelson. But, there was something she did not understand.
And that something was--Vil Holland. Everybody liked him, everybody
spoke well of him, and apparently everybody but herself trusted him
implicitly. And yet, to her own certain knowledge, he did carry a jug,
he did follow her about the hills, and he did tell her to her face
that when she found her father's claim she would have a race on her
hands, and that if she were beaten she would have to be satisfied with
what she would get.

But Vil Holland, his comings and his goings were soon forgotten in the
absorbing interest with which Patty listened as her little gray-haired
hostess recounted incidents and horrors of the Indian uprising, the
first sporadic depredations, the coming of the troops, and finally the
forcing of the belligerent tribes onto their reservations.

It had been Patty's intention to ride back to her cabin in the
evening, but Mrs. Samuelson would not hear of it. And, indeed the girl
did not insist, for despite the fact that she had become thoroughly
accustomed to her surroundings, the anticipation of a dinner prepared
and served by the highly efficient Wong Yie, in the tastefully
appointed dining room, with its real silver and china, proved
sufficiently attractive to overcome even her impatience to begin the
working out of her father's map. And the realization fully justified
the anticipation. When the meal was finished the two women had talked
the long evening away before the cheerful blaze of the wood fire, and
when at last she was shown to her room, the girl retired to luxuriate
in a real bed of linen sheets and a box mattress.





Next: The Horse Raid

Previous: Patty Draws A Map



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