Lawful Improvements

Florence Grace Hallman must not be counted a woman without principle or

kindness of heart or these qualities which make women beloved of men.

She was a pretty nice young woman, unless one roused her antagonism. Had

Andy Green, for instance, accepted in good faith her offer of a position

with the Syndicate, he would have found her generous and humorous and

loyal and kind. He would probably have fallen in love with her before

the summer was over, and he would never have discovered in her nature

that hardness and that ability for spiteful scheming which came to the

surface and made the whole Happy Family look upon her as an enemy.

Florence Grace Hillman was intensely human, as well as intensely loyal

to her firm. She had liked Andy Green better than anyone--herself

included--realized. It was not altogether her vanity that was hurt when

she discovered how he had worked against her--how little her personality

had counted with him. She felt chagrined and humiliated and as though

nothing save the complete subjugation of Andy Green and the complete

thwarting of his plans could ease her own hurt.

Deep in her heart she hoped that he would eventually want her to forgive

him his treachery. She would give him a good, hard fight--she would

show him that she was mistress of the situation. She would force him to

respect her as a foe; after that--Andy Green was human, certainly. She

trusted to her feminine intuition to say just what should transpire

after the fight; trusted to her feminine charm also to bring her

whatever she might desire.

That was the personal side of the situation. There was also the

professional side, which urged her to do battle for the interests of her

firm. And since both the personal and the professional aspects of the

case pointed to the same general goal, it may be assumed that Florence

Grace was prepared to make a stiff fight.

Then Andy Green proceeded to fall in love with that sharp-tongued

Rosemary Allen; and Rosemary Allen had no better taste than to let

herself be lost and finally found by Andy, and had the nerve to show

very plainly that she not only approved of his love but returned it.

After that, Florence Grace was in a condition to stop at nothing--short

of murder--that would defeat the Happy Family in their latest project.

While all the Bear Paw country was stirred up over the lost child,

Florence Grace Hillman said it was too bad, and had they found him yet?

and went right along planting contestants upon the claims of the Happy

Family. She encouraged the building of claim-shacks and urged firmness

in holding possession of them. She visited the man whom Irish had

knocked down with a bottle of whisky, and she had a long talk with him

and with the doctor who attended him. She saw to it that the contest

notices were served promptly upon the Happy Family, and she hurried in

shipments of stock. Oh, she was very busy indeed, during the week that

was spent in hunting the Kid. When he was found, and the rumor of

an engagement between Rosemary Allen and that treacherous Andy Green

reached her, she was busier still; but since she had changed her methods

and was careful to mask her real purpose behind an air of passive

resentment, her industry became less apparent.

The Happy Family did not pay much attention to Florence Grace Hallman

and her studied opposition. They were pretty busy attending to their own

affairs; Andy Green was not only busy but very much in love, so that

he almost forgot the existence of Florence Grace except on the rare

occasions when he met her riding over the prairie trails.

First of all they rounded up the stock that had been scattered, and

they did not stop when they crossed Antelope Coulee with the settlers'

cattle. They bedded them there until after dark. Then they drove them

on to the valley of Dry Lake, crossed that valley on the train traveled

road and pushed the herd up on Lonesome Prairie and out as far upon the

benchland as they had time to drive them.

They did not make much effort toward keeping it a secret. Indeed Weary

told three or four of the most indignant settlers, next day, where they

would find their cattle. But he added that the feed was pretty good back

there, and advised them to leave the stock out there for the present.

"It isn't going to do you fellows any good to rear up on your hind legs

and make a holler," he said calmly. "We haven't hurt your cattle. We

don't want to have trouble with anybody. But we're pretty sure to have a

fine, large row with our neighbors if they don't keep on their own side

the fence."

That fence was growing to be more than a mere figure of speech The Happy

Family did not love the digging of post-holes and the stretching of

barbed wire; on the contrary they hated it so deeply that you could not

get a civil word out of one of them while the work went on; yet they put

in long hours at the fence-building.

They had to take the work in shifts on account of having their own

cattle to watch day and night. Sometimes it happened that a man tamped

posts or helped stretch wire all day, and then stood guard two or three

hours on the herd at night; which was wearing on the temper. Sometimes,

because they were tired, they quarreled over small things.

New shipments of cattle, too, kept coming to Dry Lake. Invariably these

would be driven out towards Antelope Coulee--farther if the drivers

could manage it--and would have to be driven back again with what

patience the Happy Family could muster. No one helped them among the

settlers. There was every attitude among the claim-dwellers, from open

opposition to latent antagonism. None were quite neutral--and yet the

Happy Family did not bother any save these who had filed contests to

their claims, or who took active part in the cattle driving.

The Happy Family were not half as brutal as they might have been. In

spite of their no-trespassing signs they permitted settlers to drive

across their claims with wagons and water-barrels, to haul water from

One Man Creek when the springs and the creek in Antelope Coulee went


They did not attempt to move the shacks of the later contestants off

their claims. Though they hated the sight of them and of the owners who

bore themselves with such provocative assurance, they grudged the time

the moving would take. Besides that the Honorable Blake had told them

that moving the shacks would accomplish no real, permanent good. Within

thirty days they must appear before the register and receiver and file

answer to the contest, and he assured them that forbearance upon their

part would serve to strengthen their case with the Commissioner.

It goes to prove how deeply in earnest they were, that they immediately

began to practice assiduously the virtues of mildness and forbearance.

They could, he told them, postpone the filing of their answers until

close to the end of the thirty days; which would serve also to delay

the date of actual trial of the contests, and give the Happy Family more

time for their work.

Their plans had enlarged somewhat. They talked now of fencing the whole

tract on all four sides, and of building a dam across the mouth of a

certain coulee in the foothills which drained several miles of rough

country, thereby converting the coulee into a reservoir that would

furnish water for their desert claims. It would take work, of course;

but the Happy Family; were beginning to see prosperity on the trail

ahead and nothing in the shape of hard work could stop them from coming

to hang-grips with fortune.

Chip helped them all he could, but he had the Flying U to look after,

and that without the good team-work of the Happy Family which had kept

things moving along so smoothly. The team-work now was being used in a

different game; a losing game, one would say at first glance.

So far the summer had been favorable to dry-farming. The more

enterprising of the settlers had some grain and planted potatoes upon

freshly broken soil, and these were growing apace. They did not know

about these scorching August winds, that might shrivel crops in a day.

They did not realize that early frosts might kill what the hot winds

spared. They became enthusiastic over dry-farming, and their resentment

toward the Happy family increased as their enthusiasm waxed strong. The

Happy Family complained to one another that you couldn't pry a nester

loose from his claim with a crowbar.

In this manner did civilization march out and take possession of the

high prairies that lay close to the Flying U. They had a Sunday School

organized, with the meetings held in a double shack near the trail to

Dry Lake. The Happy family, riding that way, sometimes heard voices

mingled in the shrill singing of some hymn where, a year before, they

had listened to the hunting song of the coyote.

Eighty acres to the man--with that climate and that soil they never

could make it pay; with that soil especially since it was mostly barren.

The Happy Family knew it, and could find it in their hearts to pity the

men who were putting in dollars and time and hard work there. But for

obvious reasons they did not put their pity into speech.

They fenced their west line in record time. There was only one gate

in the whole length of it, and that was on the trail to Dry Lake. Not

content with trusting to the warning of four strands of barbed wire

stretched so tight that they hummed to the touch, they took turns in

watching it--"riding fence," in range parlance--and in watching the

settlers' cattle.

To H. J. Owens and his fellow contestants they paid not the slightest

attention, because the Honorable Blake had urged them personally to

ignore any and all claimants. To Florence Grace Hallman they gave no

heed, believing that she had done her worst, and that her worst was

after all pretty weak, since the contests she had caused to be filed

could not possibly be approved by the government so long as the Happy

Family continued to abide by every law and by-law and condition and

requirement in their present through-going and exemplary manner.

You should have seen how mild-mannered and how industrious the Happy

Family were, during these three weeks which followed the excitement of

the Kid's adventuring into the wild. You would have been astonished,

and you would have made the mistake of thinking that they had changed

permanently and might be expected now to settle down with wives and

raise families and hay and cattle and potatoes, and grow beards,

perhaps, and become well-to-do ranchers.

The Happy Family were almost convinced that they were actually leaving

excitement behind them for good and all. They might hold back

the encroaching tide of immigration from the rough land along the

river--that sounded like something exciting, to be sure. But they must

hold back the tide with legal proceedings and by pastoral pursuits, and

that promised little in the way of brisk, decisive action and strong

nerves and all these qualities which set the Happy Family somewhat apart

from their fellows.

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