Cowboy Golf





In the whirl of the succeeding days it was a mooted question whether

Madeline's guests or her cowboys or herself got the keenest enjoyment

out of the flying time. Considering the sameness of the cowboys'

ordinary life, she was inclined to think they made the most of the

present. Stillwell and Stewart, however, had found the situation trying.

The work of the ranch had to go on, and some of it got sadly neglected.

Stillwell could not resist the ladies any more than he could resist the

fun in the extraordinary goings-on of the cowboys. Stewart alone kept

the business of cattle-raising from a serious setback. Early and late

he was in the saddle, driving the lazy Mexicans whom he had hired to

relieve the cowboys.



One morning in June Madeline was sitting on the porch with her merry

friends when Stillwell appeared on the corral path. He had not come

to consult Madeline for several days--an omission so unusual as to be

remarked.



"Here comes Bill--in trouble," laughed Florence.



Indeed, he bore some faint resemblance to a thundercloud as he

approached the porch; but the greetings he got from Madeline's party,

especially from Helen and Dorothy, chased away the blackness from his

face and brought the wonderful wrinkling smile.



"Miss Majesty, sure I'm a sad demoralized old cattleman," he said,

presently. "An' I'm in need of a heap of help."



"What's wrong now?" asked Madeline, with her encouraging smile.



"Wal, it's so amazin' strange what cowboys will do. I jest am about to

give up. Why, you might say my cowboys were all on strike for vacations.

What do you think of that? We've changed the shifts, shortened hours,

let one an' another off duty, hired Greasers, an', in fact, done

everythin' that could be thought of. But this vacation idee growed

worse. When Stewart set his foot down, then the boys begin to get sick.

Never in my born days as a cattleman have I heerd of so many diseases.

An' you ought to see how lame an' crippled an' weak many of the boys

have got all of a sudden. The idee of a cowboy comin' to me with a

sore finger an' askin' to be let off for a day! There's Booly. Now I've

knowed a hoss to fall all over him, an' onct he rolled down a canyon.

Never bothered him at all. He's got a blister on his heel, a ridin'

blister, an' he says it's goin' to blood-poisonin' if he doesn't rest.

There's Jim Bell. He's developed what he says is spinal mengalootis,

or some such like. There's Frankie Slade. He swore he had scarlet fever

because his face burnt so red, I guess, an' when I hollered that scarlet

fever was contagious an' he must be put away somewhere, he up an' says

he guessed it wasn't that. But he was sure awful sick an' needed to loaf

around an' be amused. Why, even Nels doesn't want to work these days. If

it wasn't for Stewart, who's had Greasers with the cattle, I don't know

what I'd do."



"Why all this sudden illness and idleness?" asked Madeline.



"Wal, you see, the truth is every blamed cowboy on the range except

Stewart thinks it's his bounden duty to entertain the ladies."



"I think that is just fine!" exclaimed Dorothy Coombs; and she joined in

the general laugh.



"Stewart, then, doesn't care to help entertain us?" inquired Helen, in

curious interest. "Wal, Miss Helen, Stewart is sure different from the

other cowboys," replied Stillwell. "Yet he used to be like them. There

never was a cowboy fuller of the devil than Gene. But he's changed. He's

foreman here, an' that must be it. All the responsibility rests on him.

He sure has no time for amusin' the ladies."



"I imagine that is our loss," said Edith Wayne, in her earnest way. "I

admire him."



"Stillwell, you need not be so distressed with what is only gallantry in

the boys, even if it does make a temporary confusion in the work," said

Madeline.



"Miss Majesty, all I said is not the half, nor the quarter, nor nuthin'

of what's troublin' me," answered he, sadly.



"Very well; unburden yourself."



"Wal, the cowboys, exceptin' Gene, have gone plumb batty, jest plain

crazy over this heah game of gol-lof."



A merry peal of mirth greeted Stillwell's solemn assertion.



"Oh, Stillwell, you are in fun," replied Madeline.



"I hope to die if I'm not in daid earnest," declared the cattleman.

"It's an amazin' strange fact. Ask Flo. She'll tell you. She knows

cowboys, an' how if they ever start on somethin' they ride it as they

ride a hoss."



Florence being appealed to, and evidently feeling all eyes upon her,

modestly replied that Stillwell had scarcely misstated the situation.



"Cowboys play like they work or fight," she added. "They give their

whole souls to it. They are great big simple boys."



"Indeed they are," said Madeline. "Oh, I'm glad if they like the game of

golf. They have so little play."



"Wal, somethin's got to be did if we're to go on raisin' cattle at Her

Majesty's Rancho," replied Stillwell. He appeared both deliberate and

resigned.



Madeline remembered that despite Stillwell's simplicity he was as deep

as any of his cowboys, and there was absolutely no gaging him where

possibilities of fun were concerned. Madeline fancied that his

exaggerated talk about the cowboys' sudden craze for golf was in line

with certain other remarkable tales that had lately emanated from him.

Some very strange things had occurred of late, and it was impossible to

tell whether or not they were accidents, mere coincidents, or deep-laid,

skilfully worked-out designs of the fun-loving cowboys. Certainly there

had been great fun, and at the expense of her guests, particularly

Castleton. So Madeline was at a loss to know what to think about

Stillwell's latest elaboration. From mere force of habit she sympathized

with him and found difficulty in doubting his apparent sincerity.



"To go back a ways," went on Stillwell, as Madeline looked up

expectantly, "you recollect what pride the boys took in fixin' up that

gol-lof course out on the mesa? Wal, they worked on that job, an' though

I never seen any other course, I'll gamble yours can't be beat. The boys

was sure curious about that game. You recollect also how they all wanted

to see you an' your brother play, an' be caddies for you? Wal, whenever

you'd quit they'd go to work tryin' to play the game. Monty Price, he

was the leadin' spirit. Old as I am, Miss Majesty, an' used as I am to

cowboy excentrikities, I nearly dropped daid when I heered that little

hobble-footed, burned-up Montana cow-puncher say there wasn't any

game too swell for him, an' gol-lof was just his speed. Serious as a

preacher, mind you, he was. An' he was always practisin'. When Stewart

gave him charge of the course an' the club-house an' all them funny

sticks, why, Monty was tickled to death. You see, Monty is sensitive

that he ain't much good any more for cowboy work. He was glad to have a

job that he didn't feel he was hangin' to by kindness. Wal, he practised

the game, an' he read the books in the club-house, an' he got the boys

to doin' the same. That wasn't very hard, I reckon. They played early

an' late an' in the moonlight. For a while Monty was coach, an' the boys

stood it. But pretty soon Frankie Slade got puffed on his game, an' he

had to have it out with Monty. Wal, Monty beat him bad. Then one after

another the other boys tackled Monty. He beat them all. After that they

split up an' begin to play matches, two on a side. For a spell this

worked fine. But cowboys can't never be satisfied long onless they win

all the time. Monty an' Link Stevens, both cripples, you might say,

joined forces an' elected to beat all comers. Wal, they did, an' that's

the trouble. Long an' patient the other cowboys tried to beat them two

game legs, an' hevn't done it. Mebbe if Monty an' Link was perfectly

sound in their legs like the other cowboys there wouldn't hev been such

a holler. But no sound cowboys'll ever stand for a disgrace like that.

Why, down at the bunks in the evenin's it's some mortifyin' the way

Monty an' Link crow over the rest of the outfit. They've taken on

superior airs. You couldn't reach up to Monty with a trimmed spruce

pole. An' Link--wal, he's just amazin' scornful.



"'It's a swell game, ain't it?' says Link, powerful sarcastic. 'Wal,

what's hurtin' you low-down common cowmen? You keep harpin' on Monty's

game leg an' on my game leg. If we hed good legs we'd beat you all the

wuss. It's brains that wins in gol-lof. Brains an' airstoocratik blood,

which of the same you fellers sure hev little.'



"An' then Monty he blows smoke powerful careless an' superior, an' he

says:



"'Sure it's a swell game. You cow-headed gents think beef an' brawn

ought to hev the call over skill an' gray matter. You'll all hev to back

up an' get down. Go out an' learn the game. You don't know a baffy from

a Chinee sandwich. All you can do is waggle with a club an' fozzle the

ball.'



"Whenever Monty gets to usin' them queer names the boys go round kind of

dotty. Monty an' Link hev got the books an' directions of the game, an'

they won't let the other boys see them. They show the rules, but

that's all. An', of course, every game ends in a row almost before it's

started. The boys are all turrible in earnest about this gol-lof. An' I

want to say, for the good of ranchin', not to mention a possible fight,

that Monty an' Link hev got to be beat. There'll be no peace round this

ranch till that's done."



Madeline's guests were much amused. As for herself, in spite of her

scarcely considered doubt, Stillwell's tale of woe occasioned her

anxiety. However, she could hardly control her mirth.



"What in the world can I do?"



"Wal, I reckon I couldn't say. I only come to you for advice. It seems

that a queer kind of game has locoed my cowboys, an' for the time bein'

ranchin' is at a standstill. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but cowboys are

as strange as wild cattle. All I'm sure of is that the conceit has got

to be taken out of Monty an' Link. Onct, just onct, will square it, an'

then we can resoome our work."



"Stillwell, listen," said Madeline, brightly. "We'll arrange a match

game, a foursome, between Monty and Link and your best picked team.

Castleton, who is an expert golfer, will umpire. My sister, and friends,

and I will take turns as caddies for your team. That will be fair,

considering yours is the weaker. Caddies may coach, and perhaps expert

advice is all that is necessary for your team to defeat Monty's."



"A grand idee," declared Stillwell, with instant decision. "When can we

have this match game?"



"Why, to-day--this afternoon. We'll all ride out to the links."



"Wal, I reckon I'll be some indebted to you, Miss Majesty, an' all your

guests," replied Stillwell, warmly. He rose with sombrero in hand, and a

twinkle in his eye that again prompted Madeline to wonder. "An' now I'll

be goin' to fix up for the game of cowboy gol-lof. Adios."



The idea was as enthusiastically received by Madeline's guests as it had

been by Stillwell. They were highly amused and speculative to the

point of taking sides and making wagers on their choice. Moreover, this

situation so frankly revealed by Stillwell had completed their deep

mystification. They were now absolutely nonplussed by the singular

character of American cowboys. Madeline was pleased to note how

seriously they had taken the old cattleman's story. She had a little

throb of wild expectancy that made her both fear and delight in the

afternoon's prospect.



The June days had set in warm; in fact, hot during the noon hours: and

this had inculcated in her insatiable visitors a tendency to profit

by the experience of those used to the Southwest. They indulged in the

restful siesta during the heated term of the day.



Madeline was awakened by Majesty's well-known whistle and pounding on

the gravel. Then she heard the other horses. When she went out she found

her party assembled in gala golf attire, and with spirits to match their

costumes. Castleton, especially, appeared resplendent in a golf coat

that beggared description. Madeline had faint misgivings when she

reflected on what Monty and Nels and Nick might do under the influence

of that blazing garment.



"Oh. Majesty," cried Helen, as Madeline went up to her horse, "don't

make him kneel! Try that flying mount. We all want to see it. It's so

stunning."



"But that way, too, I must have him kneel," said Madeline, "or I can't

reach the stirrup. He's so tremendously high."



Madeline had to yield to the laughing insistence of her friends, and

after all of them except Florence were up she made Majesty go down on

one knee. Then she stood on his left side, facing back, and took a good

firm grip on the bridle and pommel and his mane. After she had slipped

the toe of her boot firmly into the stirrup she called to Majesty. He

jumped and swung her up into the saddle.



"Now just to see how it ought to be done watch Florence," said Madeline.



The Western girl was at her best in riding-habit and with her horse. It

was beautiful to see the ease and grace with which she accomplished the

cowboys' flying mount. Then she led the party down the slope and across

the flat to climb the mesa.



Madeline never saw a group of her cowboys without looking them over,

almost unconsciously, for her foreman, Gene Stewart. This afternoon, as

usual, he was not present. However, she now had a sense--of which she

was wholly conscious--that she was both disappointed and irritated. He

had really not been attentive to her guests, and he, of all her

cowboys, was the one of whom they wanted most to see something. Helen,

particularly, had asked to have him attend the match. But Stewart was

with the cattle. Madeline thought of his faithfulness, and was ashamed

of her momentary lapse into that old imperious habit of desiring things

irrespective of reason.



Stewart, however, immediately slipped out of her mind as she surveyed

the group of cowboys on the links. By actual count there were sixteen,

not including Stillwell. And the same number of splendid horses, all

shiny and clean, grazed on the rim in the care of Mexican lads. The

cowboys were on dress-parade, looking very different in Madeline's eyes,

at least, from the way cowboys usually appeared. But they were real and

natural to her guests; and they were so picturesque that they might have

been stage cowboys instead of real ones. Sombreros with silver

buckles and horsehair bands were in evidence; and bright silk scarfs,

embroidered vests, fringed and ornamented chaps, huge swinging guns, and

clinking silver spurs lent a festive appearance.



Madeline and her party were at once eagerly surrounded by the cowboys,

and she found it difficult to repress a smile. If these cowboys were

still remarkable to her, what must they be to her guests?



"Wal, you-all raced over, I seen," said Stillwell, taking Madeline's

bridle. "Get down--get down. We're sure amazin' glad an' proud. An',

Miss Majesty, I'm offerin' to beg pawdin for the way the boys are

packin' guns. Mebbe it ain't polite. But it's Stewart's orders."



"Stewart's orders!" echoed Madeline. Her friends were suddenly silent.



"I reckon he won't take no chances on the boys bein' surprised sudden

by raiders. An' there's raiders operatin' in from the Guadalupes. That's

all. Nothin' to worry over. I was just explainin'."



Madeline, with several of her party, expressed relief, but Helen showed

excitement and then disappointment.



"Oh, I want something to happen!" she cried.



Sixteen pairs of keen cowboy eyes fastened intently upon her pretty,

petulant face; and Madeline divined, if Helen did not, that the desired

consummation was not far off.



"So do I," said Dot Coombs. "It would be perfectly lovely to have a real

adventure."



The gaze of the sixteen cowboys shifted and sought the demure face of

this other discontented girl. Madeline laughed, and Stillwell wore his

strange, moving smile.



"Wal, I reckon you ladies sure won't have to go home unhappy," he said.

"Why, as boss of this heah outfit I'd feel myself disgraced forever if

you didn't have your wish. Just wait. An' now, ladies, the matter on

hand may not be amusin' or excitin' to you; but to this heah cowboy

outfit it's powerful important. An' all the help you can give us will

sure be thankfully received. Take a look across the links. Do you-all

see them two apologies for human bein's prancin' like a couple of

hobbled broncs? Wal, you're gazin' at Monty Price an' Link Stevens,

who have of a sudden got too swell to associate with their old bunkies.

They're practisin' for the toornament. They don't want my boys to see

how they handle them crooked clubs."



"Have you picked your team?" inquired Madeline.



Stillwell mopped his red face with an immense bandana, and showed

something of confusion and perplexity.



"I've sixteen boys, an' they all want to play," he replied. "Pickin' the

team ain't goin' to be an easy job. Mebbe it won't be healthy, either.

There's Nels and Nick. They just stated cheerful-like that if they

didn't play we won't have any game at all. Nick never tried before, an'

Nels, all he wants is to get a crack at Monty with one of them crooked

clubs."



"I suggest you let all your boys drive from the tee and choose the two

who drive the farthest," said Madeline.



Stillwell's perplexed face lighted up.



"Wal, that's a plumb good idee. The boys'll stand for that."



Wherewith he broke up the admiring circle of cowboys round the ladies.



"Grap a rope--I mean a club--all you cow-punchers, an' march over hyar

an' take a swipe at this little white bean."



The cowboys obeyed with alacrity. There was considerable difficulty over

the choice of clubs and who should try first. The latter question had

to be adjusted by lot. However, after Frankie Slade made several

ineffectual attempts to hit the ball from the teeing-ground, at last to

send it only a few yards, the other players were not so eager to follow.

Stillwell had to push Booly forward, and Booly executed a most miserable

shot and retired to the laughing comments of his comrades. The efforts

of several succeeding cowboys attested to the extreme difficulty of

making a good drive.



"Wal, Nick, it's your turn," said Stillwell.



"Bill, I ain't so all-fired particular about playin'," replied Nick.



"Why? You was roarin' about it a little while ago. Afraid to show how

bad you'll play?"



"Nope, jest plain consideration for my feller cow-punchers," answered

Nick, with spirit. "I'm appreciatin' how bad they play, an' I'm not mean

enough to show them up."



"Wal, you've got to show me," said Stillwell. "I know you never seen

a gol-lof stick in your life. What's more, I'll bet you can't hit that

little ball square--not in a dozen cracks at it."



"Bill, I'm also too much of a gent to take your money. But you know I'm

from Missouri. Gimme a club."



Nick's angry confidence seemed to evaporate as one after another he took

up and handled the clubs. It was plain that he had never before wielded

one. But, also, it was plain that he was not the kind of a man to give

in. Finally he selected a driver, looked doubtfully at the small knob,

and then stepped into position on the teeing-ground.



Nick Steele stood six feet four inches in height. He had the rider's

wiry slenderness, yet he was broad of shoulder. His arms were long.

Manifestly he was an exceedingly powerful man. He swung the driver

aloft and whirled it down with a tremendous swing. Crack! The white ball

disappeared, and from where it had been rose a tiny cloud of dust.



Madeline's quick sight caught the ball as it lined somewhat to the

right. It was shooting low and level with the speed of a bullet. It went

up and up in swift, beautiful flight, then lost its speed and began to

sail, to curve, to drop; and it fell out of sight beyond the rim of the

mesa. Madeline had never seen a drive that approached this one. It was

magnificent, beyond belief except for actual evidence of her own eyes.



The yelling of the cowboys probably brought Nick Steele out of the

astounding spell with which he beheld his shot. Then Nick, suddenly

alive to the situation, recovered from his trance and, resting

nonchalantly upon his club, he surveyed Stillwell and the boys. After

their first surprised outburst they were dumb.



"You-all seen thet?" Nick grandly waved his hand. "Thaught I was

joshin', didn't you? Why, I used to go to St. Louis an' Kansas City to

play this here game. There was some talk of the golf clubs takin' me

down East to play the champions. But I never cared fer the game. Too

easy fer me! Them fellers back in Missouri were a lot of cheap dubs,

anyhow, always kickin' because whenever I hit a ball hard I always lost

it. Why, I hed to hit sort of left-handed to let 'em stay in my class.

Now you-all can go ahead an' play Monty an' Link. I could beat 'em both,

playin' with one hand, if I wanted to. But I ain't interested. I jest

hit thet ball off the mesa to show you. I sure wouldn't be seen playin'

on your team."



With that Nick sauntered away toward the horses. Stillwell appeared

crushed. And not a scornful word was hurled after Nick, which fact

proved the nature of his victory. Then Nels strode into the limelight.

As far as it was possible for this iron-faced cowboy to be so, he was

bland and suave. He remarked to Stillwell and the other cowboys that

sometimes it was painful for them to judge of the gifts of superior

cowboys such as belonged to Nick and himself. He picked up the club

Nick had used and called for a new ball. Stillwell carefully built up

a little mound of sand and, placing the ball upon it, squared away to

watch. He looked grim and expectant.



Nels was not so large a man as Nick, and did not look so formidable

as he waved his club at the gaping cowboys. Still he was lithe,

tough, strong. Briskly, with a debonair manner, he stepped up and then

delivered a mighty swing at the ball. He missed. The power and momentum

of his swing flung him off his feet, and he actually turned upside down

and spun round on his head. The cowboys howled. Stillwell's stentorian

laugh rolled across the mesa. Madeline and her guests found it

impossible to restrain their mirth. And when Nels got up he cast a

reproachful glance at Madeline. His feelings were hurt.



His second attempt, not by any means so violent, resulted in as clean a

miss as the first, and brought jeers from the cowboys. Nels's red face

flamed redder. Angrily he swung again. The mound of sand spread over the

teeing-ground and the exasperating little ball rolled a few inches. This

time he had to build up the sand mound and replace the ball himself.

Stillwell stood scornfully by, and the boys addressed remarks to Nels.



"Take off them blinders," said one.



"Nels, your eyes are shore bad," said another.



"You don't hit where you look."



"Nels, your left eye has sprung a limp."



"Why, you dog-goned old fule, you cain't hit thet bawl."



Nels essayed again, only to meet ignominious failure. Then carefully

he gathered himself together, gaged distance, balanced the club, swung

cautiously. And the head of the club made a beautiful curve round the

ball.



"Shore it's jest thet crooked club," he declared.



He changed clubs and made another signal failure. Rage suddenly

possessing him, he began to swing wildly. Always, it appeared, the

illusive little ball was not where he aimed. Stillwell hunched his huge

bulk, leaned hands on knees, and roared his riotous mirth. The cowboys

leaped up and down in glee.



"You cain't hit thet bawl," sang out one of the noisiest. A few more

whirling, desperate lunges on the part of Nels, all as futile as if

the ball had been thin air, finally brought to the dogged cowboy a

realization that golf was beyond him.



Stillwell bawled: "Oh, haw, haw, haw! Nels, you're--too old--eyes no

good!"



Nels slammed down the club, and when he straightened up with the red

leaving his face, then the real pride and fire of the man showed.

Deliberately he stepped off ten paces and turned toward the little mound

upon which rested the ball. His arm shot down, elbow crooked, hand like

a claw.



"Aw, Nels, this is fun!" yelled Stillwell.



But swift as a gleam of light Nels flashed his gun, and the report came

with the action. Chips flew from the golf-ball as it tumbled from the

mound. Nels had hit it without raising the dust. Then he dropped the

gun back in its sheath and faced the cowboys.



"Mebbe my eyes ain't so orful bad," he said, coolly, and started to walk

off.



"But look ah-heah, Nels," yelled Stillwell, "we come out to play

gol-lof! We can't let you knock the ball around with your gun. What'd

you want to get mad for? It's only fun. Now you an' Nick hang round

heah an' be sociable. We ain't depreciatin' your company none, nor your

usefulness on occasions. An' if you just hain't got inborn politeness

sufficient to do the gallant before the ladies, why, remember Stewart's

orders."



"Stewart's orders?" queried Nels, coming to a sudden halt.



"That's what I said," replied Stillwell, with asperity. "His orders.

Are you forgettin' orders? Wal, you're a fine cowboy. You an' Nick an'

Monty, 'specially, are to obey orders."



Nels took off his sombrero and scratched his head. "Bill, I reckon I'm

some forgetful. But I was mad. I'd 'a' remembered pretty soon, an' mebbe

my manners."



"Sure you would," replied Stillwell. "Wal, now, we don't seem to be

proceedin' much with my gol-lof team. Next ambitious player step up."



In Ambrose, who showed some skill in driving, Stillwell found one of

his team. The succeeding players, however, were so poor and so evenly

matched that the earnest Stillwell was in despair. He lost his temper

just as speedily as Nels had. Finally Ed Linton's wife appeared riding

up with Ambrose's wife, and perhaps this helped, for Ed suddenly

disclosed ability that made Stillwell single him out.



"Let me coach you a little," said Bill.



"Sure, if you like," replied Ed. "But I know more about this game than

you do."



"Wal, then, let's see you hit a ball straight. Seems to me you got

good all-fired quick. It's amazin' strange." ere Bill looked around to

discover the two young wives modestly casting eyes of admiration upon

their husbands. "Haw, haw! It ain't so darned strange. Mebbe that'll

help some. Now, Ed, stand up and don't sling your club as if you was

ropin' a steer. Come round easy-like an' hit straight."



Ed made several attempts which, although better than those of his

predecessors, were rather discouraging to the exacting coach. Presently,

after a particularly atrocious shot, Stillwell strode in distress here

and there, and finally stopped a dozen paces or more in front of the

teeing-ground. Ed, who for a cowboy was somewhat phlegmatic, calmly made

ready for another attempt.



"Fore!" he called.



Stillwell stared.



"Fore!" yelled Ed.



"Why're you hollerin' that way at me?" demanded Bill.



"I mean for you to lope off the horizon. Get back from in front."



"Oh, that was one of them durned crazy words Monty is always hollerin'.

Wal, I reckon I'm safe enough hyar. You couldn't hit me in a million

years."



"Bill, ooze away," urged Ed.



"Didn't I say you couldn't hit me? What am I coachin' you for? It's

because you hit crooked, ain't it? Wal, go ahaid an' break your back."



Ed Linton was a short, heavy man, and his stocky build gave evidence

of considerable strength. His former strokes had not been made at the

expense of exertion, but now he got ready for a supreme effort. A sudden

silence clamped down upon the exuberant cowboys. It was one of those

fateful moments when the air was charged with disaster. As Ed swung the

club it fairly whistled.



Crack! Instantly came a thump. But no one saw the ball until it dropped

from Stillwell's shrinking body. His big hands went spasmodically to the

place that hurt, and a terrible groan rumbled from him.



Then the cowboys broke into a frenzy of mirth that seemed to find

adequate expression only in dancing and rolling accompaniment to their

howls. Stillwell recovered his dignity as soon as he caught his breath,

and he advanced with a rueful face.



"Wal, boys, it's on Bill," he said. "I'm a livin' proof of the

pig-headedness of mankind. Ed, you win. You're captain of the team. You

hit straight, an' if I hadn't been obstructin' the general atmosphere

that ball would sure have gone clear to the Chiricahuas."



Then making a megaphone of his huge hands, he yelled a loud blast of

defiance at Monty and Link.



"Hey, you swell gol-lofers! We're waitin'. Come on if you ain't scared."



Instantly Monty and Link quit practising, and like two emperors came

stalking across the links.



"Guess my bluff didn't work much," said Stillwell. Then he turned to

Madeline and her friends. "Sure I hope, Miss Majesty, that you-all won't

weaken an' go over to the enemy. Monty is some eloquent, an', besides,

he has a way of gettin' people to agree with him. He'll be plumb wild

when he heahs what he an' Link are up against. But it's a square deal,

because he wouldn't help us or lend the book that shows how to play.

An', besides, it's policy for us to beat him. Now, if you'll elect who's

to be caddies an' umpire I'll be powerful obliged."



Madeline's friends were hugely amused over the prospective match; but,

except for Dorothy and Castleton, they disclaimed any ambition for

active participation. Accordingly, Madeline appointed Castleton to judge

the play, Dorothy to act as caddie for Ed Linton, and she herself to be

caddie for Ambrose. While Stillwell beamingly announced this momentous

news to his team and supporters Monty and Link were striding up.



Both were diminutive in size, bow-legged, lame in one foot, and

altogether unprepossessing. Link was young, and Monty's years, more than

twice Link's, had left their mark. But it would have been impossible to

tell Monty's age. As Stillwell said, Monty was burned to the color and

hardness of a cinder. He never minded the heat, and always wore heavy

sheepskin chaps with the wool outside. This made him look broader than

he was long. Link, partial to leather, had, since he became Madeline's

chauffeur, taken to leather altogether. He carried no weapon, but Monty

wore a huge gun-sheath and gun. Link smoked a cigarette and looked

coolly impudent. Monty was dark-faced, swaggering, for all the world

like a barbarian chief.



"That Monty makes my flesh creep," said Helen, low-voiced. "Really,

Mr. Stillwell, is he so bad--desperate--as I've heard? Did he ever kill

anybody?"



"Sure. 'Most as many as Nels," replied Stillwell, cheerfully.



"Oh! And is that nice Mr. Nels a desperado, too? I wouldn't have thought

so. He's so kind and old-fashioned and soft-voiced."



"Nels is sure an example of the dooplicity of men, Miss Helen. Don't

you listen to his soft voice. He's really as bad as a side-winder

rattlesnake."



At this juncture Monty and Link reached the teeing-ground, and Stillwell

went out to meet them. The other cowboys pressed forward to surround the

trio. Madeline heard Stillwell's voice, and evidently he was explaining

that his team was to have skilled advice during the play. Suddenly there

came from the center of the group a loud, angry roar that broke off as

suddenly. Then followed excited voices all mingled together. Presently

Monty appeared, breaking away from restraining hands, and he strode

toward Madeline.



Monty Price was a type of cowboy who had never been known to speak to

a woman unless he was first addressed, and then he answered in blunt,

awkward shyness. Upon this great occasion, however, it appeared that

he meant to protest or plead with Madeline, for he showed stress of

emotion. Madeline had never gotten acquainted with Monty. She was a

little in awe, if not in fear, of him, and now she found it imperative

for her to keep in mind that more than any other of the wild fellows on

her ranch this one should be dealt with as if he were a big boy.



Monty removed his sombrero--something he had never done before--and the

single instant when it was off was long enough to show his head entirely

bald. This was one of the hall-marks of that terrible Montana prairie

fire through which he had fought to save the life of a child. Madeline

did not forget it, and all at once she wanted to take Monty's side.

Remembering Stillwell's wisdom, however, she forebore yielding to

sentiment, and called upon her wits.



"Miss--Miss Hammond," began Monty, stammering, "I'm extendin' admirin'

greetin's to you an' your friends. Link an' me are right down proud to

play the match game with you watchin'. But Bill says you're goin' to

caddie for his team an' coach 'em on the fine points. An' I want to ask,

all respectful, if thet's fair an' square?"



"Monty, that is for you to say," replied Madeline. "It was my

suggestion. But if you object in the least, of course we shall withdraw.

It seems fair to me, because you have learned the game; you are expert,

and I understand the other boys have no chance with you. Then you have

coached Link. I think it would be sportsmanlike of you to accept the

handicap."



"Aw, a handicap! Thet was what Bill was drivin' at. Why didn't he say

so? Every time Bill comes to a word thet's pie to us old golfers he jest

stumbles. Miss Majesty, you've made it all clear as print. An' I may

say with becomin' modesty thet you wasn't mistaken none about me

bein' sportsmanlike. Me an' Link was born thet way. An' we accept the

handicap. Lackin' thet handicap, I reckon Link an' me would have no

ambish to play our most be-ootiful game. An' thankin' you, Miss Majesty,

an' all your friends, I want to add thet if Bill's outfit couldn't beat

us before, they've got a swell chanct now, with you ladies a-watchin' me

an' Link."



Monty had seemed to expand with pride as he delivered this speech,

and at the end he bowed low and turned away. He joined the group round

Stillwell. Once more there was animated discussion and argument and

expostulation. One of the cowboys came for Castleton and led him away to

exploit upon ground rules.



It seemed to Madeline that the game never would begin. She strolled on

the rim of the mesa, arm in arm with Edith Wayne, and while Edith

talked she looked out over the gray valley leading to the rugged black

mountains and the vast red wastes. In the foreground on the gray slope

she saw cattle in movement and cowboys riding to and fro. She thought

of Stewart. Then Boyd Harvey came for them, saying all details had

been arranged. Stillwell met them half-way, and this cool, dry, old

cattleman, whose face and manner scarcely changed at the announcement of

a cattle-raid, now showed extreme agitation.



"Wal, Miss Majesty, we've gone an' made a foozle right at the start," he

said, dejectedly.



"A foozle? But the game has not yet begun," replied Madeline.



"A bad start, I mean. It's amazin' bad, an' we're licked already."



"What in the world is wrong?"



She wanted to laugh, but Stillwell's distress restrained her.



"Wal, it's this way. That darn Monty is as cute an' slick as a fox.

After he got done declaimin' about the handicap he an' Link was so happy

to take, he got Castleton over hyar an' drove us all dotty with his

crazy gol-lof names. Then he borrowed Castleton's gol-lof coat. I reckon

borrowed is some kind word. He just about took that blazin' coat off the

Englishman. Though I ain't sayin' but that Casleton was agreeable

when he tumbled to Monty's meanin'. Which was nothin' more 'n to break

Ambrose's heart. That coat dazzles Ambrose. You know how vain Ambrose

is. Why, he'd die to get to wear that Englishman's gol-lof coat. An'

Monty forestalled him. It's plumb pitiful to see the look in Ambrose's

eyes. He won't be able to play much. Then what do you think? Monty fixed

Ed Linton, all right. Usually Ed is easy-goin' an' cool. But now he's

on the rampage. Wal, mebbe it's news to you to learn that Ed's wife is

powerful, turrible jealous of him. Ed was somethin' of a devil with the

wimmen. Monty goes over an' tells Beulah--that's Ed's wife--that Ed is

goin' to have for caddie the lovely Miss Dorothy with the goo-goo eyes.

I reckon this was some disrespectful, but with all doo respect to Miss

Dorothy she has got a pair of unbridled eyes. Mebbe it's just natural

for her to look at a feller like that. Oh, it's all right; I'm not

sayin' any-thin'! I know it's all proper an' regular for girls back East

to use their eyes. But out hyar it's bound to result disastrous. All the

boys talk about among themselves is Miss Dot's eyes, an' all they brag

about is which feller is the luckiest. Anyway, sure Ed's wife knows it.

An' Monty up an' told her that it was fine for her to come out an' see

how swell Ed was prancin' round under the light of Miss Dot's brown

eyes. Beulah calls over Ed, figgertively speakin', ropes him for a

minnit. Ed comes back huggin' a grouch as big as a hill. Oh, it was

funny! He was goin' to punch Monty's haid off. An' Monty stands there

an' laughs. Says Monty, sarcastic as alkali water: 'Ed, we-all knowed

you was a heap married man, but you're some locoed to give yourself

away.' That settled Ed. He's some touchy about the way Beulah henpecks

him. He lost his spirit. An' now he couldn't play marbles, let alone

gol-lof. Nope, Monty was too smart. An' I reckon he was right about

brains bein' what wins."



The game began. At first Madeline and Dorothy essayed to direct the

endeavors of their respective players. But all they said and did only

made their team play the worse. At the third hole they were far behind

and hopelessly bewildered. What with Monty's borrowed coat, with its

dazzling effect upon Ambrose, and Link's oft-repeated allusion to

Ed's matrimonial state, and Stillwell's vociferated disgust, and the

clamoring good intention and pursuit of the cowboy supporters, and the

embarrassing presence of the ladies, Ambrose and Ed wore through all

manner of strange play until it became ridiculous.



"Hey, Link," came Monty's voice booming over the links, "our esteemed

rivals are playin' shinny."



Madeline and Dorothy gave up, presently, when the game became a rout,

and they sat down with their followers to watch the fun. Whether by hook

or crook, Ed and Ambrose forged ahead to come close upon Monty and Link.

Castleton disappeared in a mass of gesticulating, shouting cowboys. When

that compact mass disintegrated Castleton came forth rather hurriedly,

it appeared, to stalk back toward his hostess and friends.



"Look!" exclaimed Helen, in delight. "Castleton is actually excited.

Whatever did they do to him? Oh, this is immense!"



Castleton was excited, indeed, and also somewhat disheveled.



"By Jove! that was a rum go," he said, as he came up. "Never saw such

blooming golf! I resigned my office as umpire."



Only upon considerable pressure did he reveal the reason. "It was like

this, don't you know. They were all together over there, watching each

other. Monty Price's ball dropped into a hazard, and he moved it to

improve the lie. By Jove! they've all been doing that. But over there

the game was waxing hot. Stillwell and his cowboys saw Monty move the

ball, and there was a row. They appealed to me. I corrected the play,

showed the rules. Monty agreed he was in the wrong. However, when it

came to moving his ball back to its former lie in the hazard there was

more blooming trouble. Monty placed the ball to suit him, and then he

transfixed me with an evil eye.



"'Dook,' he said. I wish the bloody cowboy would not call me that.

'Dook, mebbe this game ain't as important as international politics or

some other things relatin', but there's some health an' peace dependin'

on it. Savvy? For some space our opponents have been dead to honor an'

sportsmanlike conduct. I calculate the game depends on my next drive.

I'm placin' my ball as near to where it was as human eyesight could.

You seen where it was same as I seen it. You're the umpire, an', Dook, I

take you as a honorable man. Moreover, never in my born days has my word

been doubted without sorrow. So I'm askin' you, wasn't my ball layin'

just about here?'



"The bloody little desperado smiled cheerfully, and he dropped his right

hand down to the butt of his gun. By Jove, he did! Then I had to tell a

blooming lie!"



Castleton even caught the tone of Monty's voice, but it was plain that

he had not the least conception that Monty had been fooling. Madeline

and her friends divined it, however; and, there being no need of

reserve, they let loose the fountains of mirth.





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