The Fight Goes On





It is amazing how quickly life swings back to the normal after even so

harrowing an experience as had come to the Flying U. Tragedy had hovered

there a while and had turned away with a smile, and the smile was

reflected upon the faces and in the eyes of everyone upon whose souls

had fallen her shadow. The Kid was safe, and he was well, and he had

not suffered from the experience; on the contrary he spent most of his

waking hours in recounting his adventures to an admiring audience. He

was a real old cowpuncher. He had gone into the wilderness and he had

proven the stuff that was in him. He had made "dry-camp" just exactly as

well as any of the Happy Family could have done. He had slept out under

the stars rolled in a blanket--and do you think for one minute that he

would ever submit to lace-trimmed nighties again? If you do, ask the

little Doctor what the Kid said on the first night after his return,

when she essayed to robe him in spotless white and rock him, held tight

in her starved arms. Or you might ask his Daddy Chip, who hovered

pretty close to them both, his eyes betraying how his soul gave thanks.

Or--never mind, I'll tell you myself.



The Little Doctor brought the nightie, and reached out her two eager

arms to take the kid off Chip's knees where he was perched contentedly

relating his adventures with sundry hair-raising additions born of his

imagination. The Kid was telling Daddy Chip about the skunk he saw,

and he hated to be interrupted. He looked at his Doctor Dell and at the

familiar, white garment with lace at the neck and wristbands, and he

waved his hand with a gesture of dismissal.



"Aw, take that damn' thing away!" he told her in the tone of the real

old cowpuncher. "When I get ready to hit the bed-ground, a blanket is

all I'll need."



Lest you should think him less lovable than he really was, I must add

that, when Chip set him down hastily so that he himself could rush off

somewhere and laugh in secret, the Kid spread his arms with a little

chuckle and rushed straight at his Doctor Dell and gave her a real bear

hug.



"I want to be rocked," he told her--and was her own baby man again,

except that he absolutely refused to reconsider the nightgown. "And I

want you to tell me a story--about when Silver breaked his leg. Silver's

a good ole scout, you bet. I don't know what I'd a done 'theut Silver.

And tell about the bunch makin' a man outa straw to scare you, and the

horses runned away. I was such a far ways, Doctor Dell, and I couldn't

get back to hear them stories and I've most forgot about 'em. And tell

about Whizzer, Doctor Dell."



The Little Doctor rocked him and told him of the old days, and she

never again brought him his lace-trimmed nightie at bedtime. She never

mentioned his language upon the subject, either. The Little Doctor was

learning some things about her man-child, and one of them was this: When

he rode away into the Badlands and was lost, other things were lost,

and lost permanently; he was no longer her baby, for all he liked to

be rocked. He had come back to her changed, so that she studied him

amazedly while she worshipped. He had entered boldly into the life which

men live, and he would never come back entirely to the old order of

things. He would never be her baby; there would be a difference, even

while she held him in her arms and him rocked him to sleep.



She knew that it was so, when the Kid insisted, next day, upon going

home with the bunch; with Andy, rather, who was just now the Kid's

particular hero. He had to help the bunch he said; they needed him, and

Andy needed him and Miss Allen needed him.



"Aw, you needn't be scared, Doctor Dell," he told her shrewdly. "I ain't

going to find them brakes any more. I'll stick with the bunch, cross my

heart, and I'll come back tonight if you're scared 'theut me. Honest to

gran'ma, I've got to go and help the bunch lick the stuffen' outa them

nesters, Doctor Dell."



The Little Doctor looked at him strangely, hugged him tight--and let

him go. Chip would be with them, and he would bring the Kid home safely,

and--the limitations of dooryard play no longer sufficed; her fledgling

had found what his wings were for, and the nest was too little, now.



"We'll take care of him," Andy promised her understandingly. "If Chip

don't come up, this afternoon, I'll bring him home myself. Don't you

worry a minute about him."



"I'd tell a man she needn't!" added the Kid patronizingly.



"I suppose he's a lot safer with you boys than he is here at the

ranch--unless one of us stood over him all the time, or we tied him up,"

she told Andy gamely. "I feel like a hen trying to raise a duck! Go on,

Buck--but give mother a kiss first."



The Kid kissed her violently and with a haste that betrayed where his

thoughts were, in spite of the fact that never before had his mother

called him Buck.



To her it was a supreme surrender of his babyhood--to him it was merely

his due. The Little Doctor sighed and watched him ride away beside

Andy. "Children are such self-centred little beasts!" she told J. G.

rue-fully. "I almost wish he was a girl."



"Ay? If he was a girl he wouldn't git lost, maybe, but some feller'd

take him away from yuh just the same. The Kid's all right. He's just the

kind you expect him to be and want him to be. You're tickled to death

because he's like he is. Doggone it, Dell, that Kid's got the real stuff

in him! He's a dead ringer fer his dad--that ought to do yuh."



"It does," the Little Doctor declared. "But it does seem as if he might

be contented here with me for a little while--after such a horrible

time--"



"It wasn't horrible to him, yuh want to recollect. Doggone it, I wish

that Blake would come back. You write to him, Dell, and tell him how

things is stacking up. He oughta be here on the ground. No tellin' what

them nesters'll build up next."



So the Old Man slipped back into the old channels of worry and thought,

just as life itself slips back after a stressful period. The little

Doctor sighed again and sat down to write the letter and to discuss with

the Old Man what she should say.



There was a good deal to say. For one thing, more contests had been

filed and more shacks built upon claims belonging to the Happy Family.

She must tell Blake that. Also, Blake must help make some arrangement

whereby the Happy Family could hire an outfit to gather their stock and

the alien stock which they meant to drive back out of the Badlands. And

there was Irish, who had quietly taken to the hills again as soon as

the Kid returned. Blake was needed to look into that particular bit of

trouble and try and discover just how serious it was. The man whom Irish

had floored with a chair was apparently hovering close to death--and

there were these who emphasized the adverb and asserted that the hurt

was only apparent, but could prove nothing.



"And you tell 'im," directed the Old Man querulously, "that I'll stand

good for his time while he's lookin' after things for the boys. And tell

'im if he's so doggoned scared I'll buy into the game, he needn't to

show up here at the ranch at all; tell him to stay in Dry Lake if he

wants to--serve him right to stop at that hotel fer a while. But tell

him for the Lord's sake git a move on. The way it looks to me, things

is piling up on them boys till they can't hardly see over the top, and

something's got to be done. Tell 'im--here! Give me a sheet of paper and

a pencil and I'll tell him a few things myself. Chances are you'd smooth

'em out too much, gitting 'em on paper. And the things I've got to say

to Blake don't want any smoothing."



The things he wrote painfully with his rheumatic hand were not smoothed

for politeness' sake, and it made the Old Man feel better to get them

off his mind. He read the letter over three times, and lingered over the

most scathing sentences relishfully. He sent one of his new men to town

for the express purpose of mailing that letter, and he felt a glow of

satisfaction at actually speaking his mind upon the subject.



Perhaps it was just as well he did not know that Blake was in Dry Lake

when the letter reached his office in Helena, and that it was forwarded

to the place whence it had started. Blake was already "getting a move

on," and he needed no such spur as the Old Man's letter. But the letter

did the Old Man a lot of good, so that it served its purpose.



Blake had no intention of handling the case from the Flying U porch,

for instance. He had laid his plans quite independently of the Flying U

outfit. He had no intention of letting Irish be arrested upon a trumped

up charge, and he managed to send a word of warning to that hot-headed

young man not to put himself in the way of any groping arm of the law;

it was so much simpler than arrest and preliminary trial and bail, and

all that. He had sent word to Weary to come and see him, before ever

he received the Old Man's letter, and he had placed at Weary's disposal

what funds would be needed for the immediate plans of the Happy Family.

He had attended in person to the hauling of the fence material to their

boundary line on the day he arrived and discovered by sheer accident

that the stuff was still in the warehouse of the general store.



After he did all that, the Honorable Blake received the Old Man's

letter, read it through slowly and afterwards stroked down his Vandyke

beard and laughed quietly to himself. The letter itself was both

peremptory and profane, and commanded the Honorable Blake to do exactly

what he had already done, and what he intended to do when the time came

for the doing.





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