VIEW THE MOBILE VERSION of www.fictionstories.ca Informational Site Network Informational
Privacy
   Home - Science Fiction Stories - Western Stories


Wherein Andy Green Lies To A Lady








From: The Flying U's Last Stand

In the soft-creeping dusk came Andy Green, slouched in the saddle with
the weariness of riding since dawn; slouched to one side and singing,
with his hat far back on his head and the last of a red sunset tinting
darkly the hills above him. Tip-toe on a pinnacle a great, yellow star
poised and winked at him knowingly. Andy's eyes twinkled answer as he
glanced up that way. "We've got her going, old-timer," he announced
lazily to the star.

Six miles back toward the edge of the "breaks" which are really the
beginning of the Badlands that border the Missouri River all through
that part of Montana, an even five hundred head of the Flying U's best
grade cows and their calves were settling down for the night upon a
knoll that had been the bed-ground of many a herd. At the Flying U
ranch, in the care of the Old Man, were the mortgages that would make
the Happy Family nominal owners of those five hundred cows and their
calves. In the morning Andy would ride back and help bring the herd upon
its spring grazing ground, which was the claims; in the meantime he was
leisurely obeying an impulse to ride into One Man coulee and spend
the night under his own roof. And, say what you will, there is a
satisfaction not to be denied in sleeping sometimes under one's own
roof; and it doesn't matter in the least that the roof is made of
prairie dirt thrown upon cottonwood poles. So he sang while he rode, and
his voice boomed loud in the coulee and scared long stilled echoes into
repeating the song:

"We're here because we're here, because we're here,
because we're here,

"We're here because we're here, because we're here,
because we're here--"

That, if you please, is a song; there are a lot more verses exactly
like this one, which may be sung to the tune of Auld Lang Syne with much
effectiveness when one is in a certain mood. So Andy sang, while his
tired horse picked its way circumspectly among the scattered rocks of
the trail up the coulee.

"It's time you're here, it's time you're here,
It's time that you were here--"

mocked an echo not of the hills.

Andy swore in his astonishment and gave his horse a kick as a mild hint
for haste. He thought he knew every woman-voice in the neighborhood--or
had until the colony came--but this voice, high and sweet and with a
compelling note that stirred him vaguely, was absolutely strange. While
he loped forward, silenced for the moment, he was conscious of a swift,
keen thankfulness that Pink had at the last minute decided to stay in
camp that night instead of accompanying Andy to One Man. He was in
that mood when a sentimental encounter appealed to him strongly; and a
woman's voice, singing to him from One Man cabin, promised undetermined
adventure.

He did not sing again. There had been something in the voice that held
him quiet, listening, expectant. But she also was silent after that
last, high note--like a meadow lark startled in the middle of his song,
thought Andy whimsically.

He came within sight of the cabin, squatting in the shadow of the grove
at its back. He half expected to see a light, but the window was
dark, the door closed as he had left it. He felt a faint, unreasoning
disappointment that it was so. But he had heard her. That high note that
lingered upon the word "here" still tingled his senses. His eyes sent
seeking glances here and there as he rode up.

Then a horse nickered welcomingly, and someone rode out from the deeper
shadow at the corner of the cabin, hesitated as though tempted to
flight, and came on uncertainly. They met full before the cabin, and the
woman leaned and peered through the dusk at Andy.

"Is this--Mr. Mallory--Irish?" she asked nervously. "Oh dear! Have I
gone and made a fool of myself again?"

"Not at all! Good evening, Miss Allen." Andy folded his hands upon the
saddle horn and regarded her with a little smile, Keen for what might
come next.

"But you're not Irish Mallory. I thought I recognized the voice, or I
wouldn't have--" She urged her horse a step closer, and Andy observed
from her manner that she was not accustomed to horses. She reined as if
she were driving, so that the horse, bewildered, came sidling up to him.
"Who are you?" she asked him sharply.

"Me? Why, I'm a nice young man--a lot better singer than Irish. I guess
you never heard him, did you?" He kept his hands folded on the horn, his
whole attitude passive--a restful, reassuring passivity that lulled her
uneasiness more than words could have done.

"Oh, are you Andy Green? I seem to connect that name with your
voice--and what little I can see of you."

"That's something, anyway." Andy's tone was one of gratitude. "It's two
per cent. better than having to tell you right out who I am. I met you
three different times, Miss Allen," he reproached.

"But always in a crowd," she defended, "and I never talked with you,
particularly."

"Oh, well, that's easily fixed," he said. "It's a nice night," he added,
looking up appreciatively at the brightening star-sprinkle. "Are you
living on your claim now? We can talk particularly on the way over."

Miss Allen laughed and groped for a few loose hairs, found them and
tucked them carefully under her hatcrown. Andy remembered that gesture;
it helped him to visualize her clearly in spite of the deepening night.

"How far have you ridden today, Mr. Green?" she asked irrelevantly.

"Since daylight, you mean? Not so very far counting miles--We were
trailing a herd, you see. But I've been in the saddle since sunrise,
except when I was eating."

"Then you want a cup of coffee, before you ride any farther. If I get
down, will you let me make it or you? I'd love to. I'm crazy to see
inside your cabin, but I only rode up and tried to peek in the window
before you came. I have two brothers and a cousin, so I understand men
pretty well and I know you can talk better when you aren't hungry."

"Are you living on your claim?" he asked again, without moving.

"Why, yes. We moved in last week."

"Well, we'll ride over, then, and you can make coffee there. I'm not
hungry right now."

"Oh." She leaned again and peered at him, trying to read his face. "You
don't WANT me to go in!"

"Yes, I do--but I don't. If you stayed and made coffee, tomorrow you'd
be kicking yourself for it, and you'd be blaming me." Which, considering
the life he had lived, almost wholly among men, was rather astute of
Andy Green.

"Oh." Then she laughed. "You must have some sisters, Mr. Green." She was
silent for a minute, looking at him. "You're right," she said quietly
then. "I'm always making a fool of myself, just on the impulse of the
moment. The girls will be worried about me, as it is. But I don't want
you to ride any farther, Mr. Green. What I came to say need not take
very long, and I think I can find my way home alone, all right."

"I'll take you home when you're ready to go," said Andy quietly. All at
once he had wanted to shield her, to protect her from even so slight an
unconventionality as making his coffee for him. He had felt averse to
putting her at odds with her conventional self, of inviting unfavorable
criticism of himself; dimly, because instinct rather than cold analysis
impelled him. What he had told her was the sum total of his formulated
ideas.

"Well, I'm ready to go now, since you insist on my being conventional.
I did not come West with the expectation of being tied to a book of
etiquette, Mr. Green. But I find one can't get away from it after all.
Still, living on one's own claim twelve miles from a town is something!"

"That's a whole lot, I should say," Andy assured her politely, and
refrained from asking her what she expected to do with that eighty
acres of arid land. He turned his tired horse and rode alongside her,
prudently waiting for her to give the key.

"I'm not supposed to be away over here, you know," she began when they
were near the foot of the bluff up which the trail wound seeking the
easiest slopes and avoiding boulders and deep cuts. "I'm supposed to
be just out riding, and the girls expected me back by sundown. But I've
been trying and trying to find some of you Flying U boys--as they call
you men who have taken so much land--on your claims. I don't know that
what I could tell you would do you a particle of good--or anyone else.
But I wanted to tell you, anyway, just to clear my own mind."

"It does lots of good just to meet you," said Andy with straightforward
gallantry. "Pleasures are few and far between, out here."

"You said that very nicely, I'm sure," she snubbed. "Well, I'm going
to tell you, anyway--just on the chance of doing some good." Then she
stopped.

Andy rode a rod or two, glancing at her inquiringly, waiting for her to
go on. She was guiding her horse awkwardly where it needed only to be
let alone, and he wanted to give her a lesson in riding. But it seemed
too early in their acquaintance for that, so he waited another minute.

"Miss Hallman is going to make you a lot of trouble," she began
abruptly. "I thought perhaps it might be better for you--all of
you--if you knew it in advance, so there would be no sudden anger and
excitement. All the settlers are antagonistic, Mr. Green--all but me,
and one or two of the girls. They are going to do everything they can to
prevent your land-scheme from going through. You are going to be watched
and--and your land contested--"

"Well, we'll be right there, I guess, when the dust settles," he filled
in her thought unmoved.

"I--almost hope so," she ventured. "For my part, I can see the
side--your side. I can see where it is very hard for the cattle men to
give up their range. It is like the big plantations down south, when
the slaves were freed. It had to be done, and yet it was hard upon those
planters who depended on free labor. They resented it deeply; deeply
enough to shed blood--and that is one thing I dread here. I hope, Mr.
Green, that you will not resort to violence. I want to urge you all
to--to--"

"I understand," said Andy softly. "A-course, we're pretty bad when we
get started, all right. We're liable to ride up on dark nights and shoot
our enemies through the window--I can't deny it, Miss Allen. And if it
comes right to a show-down, I may as well admit that some of us would
think nothing at all of taking a man out and hanging him to the first
three we come to, that was big enough to hold him. But now that ladies
have come into the country, a-course we'll try and hold our tempers
down all we can. Miss Hallman, now--I don't suppose there's a man in the
bunch that would shoot her, no matter what she done to us. We take pride
in being polite to women. You've read that about us, haven't you, Miss
Allen? And you've seen us on the stage--well, it's a fact, all right.
Bad as we are, and wild and tough, and savage when we're crossed, a lady
can just do anything with us, if she goes at it the right way."

"Thank you. I felt sure that you would not harm any of us. Will you
promise not to be violent--not to--to--"

Andy sat sidewise in the saddle, so that he faced her. Miss Allen could
just make out his form distinctly; his face was quite hidden, except
that she could see the shine of his eyes.

"Now, Miss Allen," he protested with soft apology "You musta known what
to expect when you moved out amongst us rough characters. You know I can
make any promises about being mild with the men that try to get the best
of us. If you've got friends--brothers--anybody here that you think a
lot of Miss Allen, I advise you to send 'em outa the country, before
trouble breaks loose; because when she starts she'll start a-popping.
I know I can't answer for my self, what I'm liable to do if they bother
me; and I'm about the mildest one in the bunch. What the rest of the
boys would do--Irish Mallory for instance--I hate to think, Miss Allen.
I--hate--to--think!"

Afterwards, when he thought it all over dispassionately, Andy
wondered why he had talked to Miss Allen like that. He had not done
it deliberately, just to frighten her--yet he had frightened her to a
certain extent. He had roused her apprehension for the safety of her
neighbors and the ultimate well-being of himself and his fellows. She
had been so anxious over winning him to more peaceful ways that she had
forgotten to give him any details of the coming struggle. Andy was sorry
for that. He wished, on the way home, that he knew just what Florence
Grace Hallman intended to do.

Not that it mattered greatly. Whatever she did, Andy felt that it would
be futile. The Happy Family were obeying the land laws implicitly,
except as their real incentive had been an unselfish one. He could not
feel that it was wrong to try and save the Flying U; was not loyalty a
virtue? And was not the taking of land for the preservation of a fine,
fair dealing outfit that had made itself a power for prosperity and
happiness in that country, a perfectly laudable enterprise? Andy
believed so.

Even though they did, down in their deepest thoughts, think of the
Flying U's interest, Andy did not believe that Florence Grace Hallman or
anyone else could produce any evidence that would justify a contest for
their land. Though they planned among themselves for the good of
the Flying U, they were obeying the law and the dictates of their
range-conscience and their personal ideas of right and justice and
loyalty to their friends and to themselves. They were not conspiring
against the general prosperity of the country in the hope of great
personal gain. When you came to that, they were saving fifty men from
bitter disappointment--counting one settler to every eighty acres, as
the Syndicate apparently did.

Still, Andy wondered why he had represented himself and his friends to
be such bloodthirsty devils. He grinned wickedly over some of the things
he had said, and over her womanly perturbation and pleading that they
would spare the lives of their enemies. Oh, well--if she repeated half
to Florence Grace Hallman, that lady would maybe think twice before she
tackled the contract of boosting the Happy Family off their claims. So
at the last he managed to justify his lying to her. He liked Miss Allen.
He was pleased to think that at least she would not forget him the
minute he was out of her sight.

He went to sleep worrying, not over the trouble which Florence Grace
Hallman might be plotting to bring upon him, but about Miss Allen's
given name and her previous condition of servitude. He hoped that she
was not a stenographer, and he hoped her first name was not Mary; and
if you know the history of Andy Green you will remember that he had a
reason for disliking both the name and the vocation.





Next: A Moving Chapter In Events

Previous: The Happy Family Buys A Bunch Of Cattle



Add to del.icio.us Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Del.icio.us Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network
Report
Privacy
SHAREADD TO EBOOK


Viewed 400