The New Foreman





Toward the end of the week Stillwell informed Madeline that Stewart had

arrived at the ranch and had taken up quarters with Nels.



"Gene's sick. He looks bad," said the old cattleman. "He's so weak an'

shaky he can't lift a cup. Nels says that Gene has hed some bad spells.

A little liquor would straighten him up now. But Nels can't force him

to drink a drop, an' has hed to sneak some liquor in his coffee. Wal, I

think we'll pull Gene through. He's forgotten a lot. I was goin' to tell

him what he did to me up at Rodeo. But I know if he'd believe it he'd

be sicker than he is. Gene's losin' his mind, or he's got somethin'

powerful strange on it."



From that time Stillwell, who evidently found Madeline his most

sympathetic listener, unburdened himself daily of his hopes and fears

and conjectures.



Stewart was really ill. It became necessary to send Link Stevens for a

physician. Then Stewart began slowly to mend and presently was able to

get up and about. Stillwell said the cowboy lacked interest and seemed

to be a broken man. This statement, however, the old cattleman modified

as Stewart continued to improve. Then presently it was a good augury

of Stewart's progress that the cowboys once more took up the teasing

relation which had been characteristic of them before his illness. A

cowboy was indeed out of sorts when he could not vent his peculiar humor

on somebody or something. Stewart had evidently become a broad target

for their badinage.



"Wal, the boys are sure after Gene," said Stillwell, with his huge

smile. "Joshin' him all the time about how he sits around an' hangs

around an' loafs around jest to get a glimpse of you, Miss Majesty. Sure

all the boys hev a pretty bad case over their pretty boss, but none

of them is a marker to Gene. He's got it so bad, Miss Majesty, thet he

actooly don't know they are joshin' him. It's the amazin'est strange

thing I ever seen. Why, Gene was always a feller thet you could josh.

An' he'd laugh an' get back at you. But he was never before deaf to

talk, an' there was a certain limit no feller cared to cross with him.

Now he takes every word an' smiles dreamy like, an' jest looks an'

looks. Why, he's beginnin' to make me tired. He'll never run thet bunch

of cowboys if he doesn't wake up quick."



Madeline smiled her amusement and expressed a belief that Stillwell

wanted too much in such short time from a man who had done body and mind

a grievous injury.



It had been impossible for Madeline to fail to observe Stewart's

singular behavior. She never went out to take her customary walks and

rides without seeing him somewhere in the distance. She was aware that

he watched for her and avoided meeting her. When she sat on the porch

during the afternoon or at sunset Stewart could always be descried at

some point near. He idled listlessly in the sun, lounged on the porch

of his bunk-house, sat whittling the top bar of the corral fence, and

always it seemed to Madeline he was watching her. Once, while going

the rounds with her gardener, she encountered Stewart and greeted

him kindly. He said little, but he was not embarrassed. She did not

recognize in his face any feature that she remembered. In fact, on each

of the few occasions when she had met Stewart he had looked so different

that she had no consistent idea of his facial appearance. He was now

pale, haggard, drawn. His eyes held a shadow through which shone a soft,

subdued light; and, once having observed this, Madeline fancied it was

like the light in Majesty's eyes, in the dumb, worshiping eyes of her

favorite stag-hound. She told Stewart that she hoped he would soon be in

the saddle again, and passed on her way.



That Stewart loved her Madeline could not help but see. She endeavored

to think of him as one of the many who, she was glad to know, liked

her. But she could not regulate her thoughts to fit the order her

intelligence prescribed. Thought of Stewart dissociated itself from

thought of the other cowboys. When she discovered this she felt a little

surprise and annoyance. Then she interrogated herself, and concluded

that it was not that Stewart was so different from his comrades, but

that circumstances made him stand out from them. She recalled her

meeting with him that night when he had tried to force her to marry him.

This was unforgettable in itself. She called subsequent mention of him,

and found it had been peculiarly memorable. The man and his actions

seemed to hinge on events. Lastly, the fact standing clear of all others

in its relation to her interest was that he had been almost ruined,

almost lost, and she had saved him. That alone was sufficient to explain

why she thought of him differently. She had befriended, uplifted the

other cowboys; she had saved Stewart's life. To be sure, he had been a

ruffian, but a woman could not save the life of even a ruffian without

remembering it with gladness. Madeline at length decided her interest in

Stewart was natural, and that her deeper feeling was pity. Perhaps the

interest had been forced from her; however, she gave the pity as she

gave everything.



Stewart recovered his strength, though not in time to ride at the spring

round-up; and Stillwell discussed with Madeline the advisability of

making the cowboy his foreman.



"Wal, Gene seems to be gettin' along," said Stillwell. "But he ain't

like his old self. I think more of him at thet. But where's his spirit?

The boys'd ride rough-shod all over him. Mebbe I'd do best to wait

longer now, as the slack season is on. All the same, if those vaquero of

Don Carlos's don't lay low I'll send Gene over there. Thet'll wake him

up."



A few days afterward Stillwell came to Madeline, rubbing his big hands

in satisfaction and wearing a grin that was enormous.



"Miss Majesty, I reckon before this I've said things was amazin'

strange. But now Gene Stewart has gone an' done it! Listen to me. Them

Greasers down on our slope hev been gettin' prosperous. They're growin'

like bad weeds. An' they got a new padre--the little old feller from

El Cajon, Padre Marcos. Wal, this was all right, all the boys thought,

except Gene. An' he got blacker 'n thunder an' roared round like a

dehorned bull. I was sure glad to see he could get mad again. Then Gene

haids down the slope fer the church. Nels an' me follered him, thinkin'

he might hev been took sudden with a crazy spell or somethin'. He hasn't

never been jest right yet since he left off drinkin'. Wal, we run into

him comin' out of the church. We never was so dumfounded in our lives.

Gene was crazy, all right--he sure hed a spell. But it was the kind of

a spell he hed thet paralyzed us. He ran past us like a streak, an' we

follered. We couldn't ketch him. We heerd him laugh--the strangest laugh

I ever heerd! You'd thought the feller was suddenly made a king. He was

like thet feller who was tied in a bunyin'-sack an' throwed into the

sea, an' cut his way out, an' swam to the island where the treasures

was, an' stood up yellin', 'The world is mine.' Wal, when we got up to

his bunk-house he was gone. He didn't come back all day an' all night.

Frankie Slade, who has a sharp tongue, says Gene hed gone crazy for

liquor an' thet was his finish. Nels was some worried. An' I was sick.



"Wal' this mawnin' I went over to Nels's bunk. Some of the fellers was

there, all speculatin' about Gene. Then big as life Gene struts round

the corner. He wasn't the same Gene. His face was pale an' his eyes

burned like fire. He had thet old mockin', cool smile, an' somethin'

besides thet I couldn't understand. Frankie Slade up an' made a

remark--no wuss than he'd been makin' fer days--an' Gene tumbled him out

of his chair, punched him good, walked all over him. Frankie wasn't hurt

so much as he was bewildered. 'Gene,' he says, 'what the hell struck

you?' An' Gene says, kind of sweet like, 'Frankie, you may be a nice

feller when you're alone, but your talk's offensive to a gentleman.'



"After thet what was said to Gene was with a nice smile. Now, Miss

Majesty, it's beyond me what to allow for Gene's sudden change. First

off, I thought Padre Marcos had converted him. I actooly thought thet.

But I reckon it's only Gene Stewart come back--the old Gene Stewart an'

some. Thet's all I care about. I'm rememberin' how I once told you thet

Gene was the last of the cowboys. Perhaps I should hev said he's the

last of my kind of cowboys. Wal, Miss Majesty, you'll be apprecatin' of

what I meant from now on."



It was also beyond Madeline to account for Gene Stewart's antics, and,

making allowance for the old cattleman's fancy, she did not weigh his

remarks very heavily. She guessed why Stewart might have been angry at

the presence of Padre Marcos. Madeline supposed that it was rather an

unusual circumstance for a cowboy to be converted to religious belief.

But it was possible. And she knew that religious fervor often manifested

itself in extremes of feeling and action. Most likely, in Stewart's

case, his real manner had been both misunderstood and exaggerated.

However, Madeline had a curious desire, which she did not wholly admit

to herself, to see the cowboy and make her own deductions.



The opportunity did not present itself for nearly two weeks. Stewart had

taken up his duties as foreman, and his activities were ceaseless. He

was absent most of the time, ranging down toward the Mexican line. When

he returned Stillwell sent for him.



This was late in the afternoon of a day in the middle of April. Alfred

and Florence were with Madeline on the porch. They saw the cowboy turn

his horse over to one of the Mexican boys at the corral and then come

with weary step up to the house, beating the dust out of his gauntlets.

Little streams of gray sand trickled from his sombrero as he removed it

and bowed to the women.



Madeline saw the man she remembered, but with a singularly different

aspect. His skin was brown; his eyes were piercing and dark and steady;

he carried himself erect; he seemed preoccupied, and there was not a

trace of embarrassment in his manner.



"Wal, Gene, I'm sure glad to see you," Stillwell was saying. "Where do

you hail from?"



"Guadaloupe Canyon," replied the cowboy.



Stillwell whistled.



"Way down there! You don't mean you follered them hoss tracks thet far?"



"All the way from Don Carlos's rancho across the Mexican line. I took

Nick Steele with me. Nick is the best tracker in the outfit. This trail

we were on led along the foothill valleys. First we thought whoever made

it was hunting for water. But they passed two ranches without watering.

At Seaton's Wash they dug for water. Here they met a pack-train of

burros that came down the mountain trail. The burros were heavily

loaded. Horse and burro tracks struck south from Seaton's to the old

California emigrant road. We followed the trail through Guadelope Canyon

and across the border. On the way back we stopped at Slaughter's ranch,

where the United States cavalry are camping. There we met foresters from

the Peloncillo forest reserve. If these fellows knew anything they kept

it to themselves. So we hit the trail home."



"Wal, I reckon you know enough?" inquired Stillwell, slowly.



"I reckon," replied Stewart.



"Wal, out with it, then," said Stillwell, gruffly. "Miss Hammond can't

be kept in the dark much longer. Make your report to her."



The cowboy shifted his dark gaze to Madeline. He was cool and slow.



"We're losing a few cattle on the open range. Night-drives by the

vaqueros. Some of these cattle are driven across the valley, others up

to the foothills. So far as I can find out no cattle are being driven

south. So this raiding is a blind to fool the cowboys. Don Carlos is a

Mexican rebel. He located his rancho here a few years ago and pretended

to raise cattle. All that time he has been smuggling arms and ammunition

across the border. He was for Madero against Diaz. Now he is against

Madero because he and all the rebels think Madero failed to keep his

promises. There will be another revolution. And all the arms go from

the States across the border. Those burros I told about were packed with

contraband goods."



"That's a matter for the United States cavalry. They are patrolling the

border," said Alfred.



"They can't stop the smuggling of arms, not down in that wild corner,"

replied Stewart.



"What is my--my duty? What has it to do with me?" inquired Madeline,

somewhat perturbed.



"Wal, Miss Majesty, I reckon it hasn't nothing to do with you," put in

Stillwell. "Thet's my bizness an' Stewart's. But I jest wanted you to

know. There might be some trouble follerin' my orders."



"Your orders?"



"I want to send Stewart over to fire Don Carlos an' his vaqueros off the

range. They've got to go. Don Carlos is breakin' the law of the United

States, an' doin' it on our property an' with our hosses. Hev I your

permission, Miss Hammond?"



"Why, assuredly you have! Stillwell, you know what to do. Alfred, what

do you think best?"



"It'll make trouble, Majesty, but it's got to be done," replied Alfred.

"Here you have a crowd of Eastern friends due next month. We want the

range to ourselves then. But, Stillwell, if you drive those vaqueros

off, won't they hang around in the foothills? I declare they are a bad

lot."



Stillwell's mind was not at ease. He paced the porch with a frown

clouding his brow.



"Gene, I reckon you got this Greaser deal figgered better'n me," said

Stillwell. "Now what do you say?"



"He'll have to be forced off," replied Stewart, quietly. "The Don's

pretty slick, but his vaqueros are bad actors. It's just this way. Nels

said the other day to me, 'Gene, I haven't packed a gun for years

until lately, and it feels good whenever I meet any of those strange

Greasers.' You see, Stillwell, Don Carlos has vaqueros coming and going

all the time. They're guerrilla bands, that's all. And they're getting

uglier. There have been several shooting-scrapes lately. A rancher named

White, who lives up the valley, was badly hurt. It's only a matter of

time till something stirs up the boys here. Stillwell, you know Nels and

Monty and Nick."



"Sure I know 'em. An' you're not mentionin' one more particular cowboy

in my outfit," said Stillwell, with a dry chuckle and a glance at

Stewart.



Madeline divined the covert meaning, and a slight chill passed over her,

as if a cold wind had blown in from the hills.



"Stewart, I see you carry a gun," she said, pointing to a black handle

protruding from a sheath swinging low along his leather chaps.



"Yes, ma'am."



"Why do you carry it?" she asked.



"Well," he said, "it's not a pretty gun--and it's heavy." She caught

the inference. The gun was not an ornament. His keen, steady, dark gaze

caused her vague alarm. What had once seemed cool and audacious about

this cowboy was now cold and powerful and mystical. Both her instinct

and her intelligence realized the steel fiber of the man's nature. As

she was his employer, she had the right to demand that he should not do

what was so chillingly manifest that he might do. But Madeline could

not demand. She felt curiously young and weak, and the five months of

Western life were as if they had never been. She now had to do with a

question involving human life. And the value she placed upon human

life and its spiritual significance was a matter far from her cowboy's

thoughts. A strange idea flashed up. Did she place too much value

upon all human life? She checked that, wondering, almost horrified

at herself. And then her intuition told her that she possessed a far

stronger power to move these primitive men than any woman's stern rule

or order.



"Stewart, I do not fully understand what you hint that Nels and his

comrades might do. Please be frank with me. Do you mean Nels would shoot

upon little provocation?"



"Miss Hammond, as far as Nels is concerned, shooting is now just a

matter of his meeting Don Carlos's vaqueros. It's wonderful what Nels

has stood from them, considering the Mexicans he's already killed."



"Already killed! Stewart, you are not in earnest?" cried Madeline,

shocked.



"I am. Nels has seen hard life along the Arizona border. He likes peace

as well as any man. But a few years of that doesn't change what the

early days made of him. As for Nick Steele and Monty, they're just bad

men, and looking for trouble."



"How about yourself, Stewart? Stillwell's remark was not lost upon me,"

said Madeline, prompted by curiosity.



Stewart did not reply. He looked at her in respectful silence. In her

keen earnestness Madeline saw beneath his cool exterior and was all

the more baffled. Was there a slight, inscrutable, mocking light in his

eyes, or was it only her imagination? However, the cowboy's face was as

hard as flint.



"Stewart, I have come to love my ranch," said Madeline, slowly, "and I

care a great deal for my--my cowboys. It would be dreadful if they were

to kill anybody, or especially if one of them should be killed."



"Miss Hammond, you've changed things considerable out here, but you

can't change these men. All that's needed to start them is a little

trouble. And this Mexican revolution is bound to make rough times along

some of the wilder passes across the border. We're in line, that's all.

And the boys are getting stirred up."



"Very well, then, I must accept the inevitable. I am facing a rough

time. And some of my cowboys cannot be checked much longer. But,

Stewart, whatever you have been in the past, you have changed." She

smiled at him, and her voice was singularly sweet and rich. "Stillwell

has so often referred to you as the last of his kind of cowboy. I have

just a faint idea of what a wild life you have led. Perhaps that fits

you to be a leader of such rough men. I am no judge of what a leader

should do in this crisis. My cowboys are entailing risk in my employ; my

property is not safe; perhaps my life even might be endangered. I want

to rely upon you, since Stillwell believes, and I, too, that you are the

man for this place. I shall give you no orders. But is it too much to

ask that you be my kind of a cowboy?"



Madeline remembered Stewart's former brutality and shame and abject

worship, and she measured the great change in him by the contrast

afforded now in his dark, changeless, intent face.



"Miss Hammond, what kind of a cowboy is that?" he asked.



"I--I don't exactly know. It is that kind which I feel you might be. But

I do know that in the problem at hand I want your actions to be governed

by reason, not passion. Human life is not for any man to sacrifice

unless in self-defense or in protecting those dependent upon him. What

Stillwell and you hinted makes me afraid of Nels and Nick Steele and

Monty. Cannot they be controlled? I want to feel that they will not go

gunning for Don Carlos's men. I want to avoid all violence. And yet

when my guests come I want to feel that they will be safe from danger or

fright or even annoyance. May I not rely wholly upon you, Stewart? Just

trust you to manage these obstreperous cowboys and protect my property

and Alfred's, and take care of us--of me, until this revolution is

ended? I have never had a day's worry since I bought the ranch. It is

not that I want to shirk my responsibilities; it is that I like being

happy. May I put so much faith in you?"



"I hope so, Miss Hammond," replied Stewart. It was an instant response,

but none the less fraught with consciousness of responsibility. He

waited a moment, and then, as neither Stillwell nor Madeline offered

further speech, he bowed and turned down the path, his long spurs

clinking in the gravel.



"Wal, wal," exclaimed Stillwell, "thet's no little job you give him,

Miss Majesty."



"It was a woman's cunning, Stillwell," said Alfred. "My sister used to

be a wonder at getting her own way when we were kids. Just a smile

or two, a few sweet words or turns of thought, and she had what she

wanted."



"Al, what a character to give me!" protested Madeline. "Indeed, I was

deeply in earnest with Stewart. I do not understand just why, but I

trust him. He seems like iron and steel. Then I was a little frightened

at the prospect of trouble with the vaqueros. Both you and Stillwell

have influenced me to look upon Stewart as invaluable. I thought it best

to confess my utter helplessness and to look to him for support."



"Majesty, whatever actuated you, it was a stroke of diplomacy," replied

her brother. "Stewart has got good stuff in him. He was down and out.

Well, he's made a game fight, and it looks as if he'd win. Trusting

him, giving him responsibility, relying upon him, was the surest way to

strengthen his hold upon himself. Then that little touch of sentiment

about being your kind of cowboy and protecting you--well, if Gene

Stewart doesn't develop into an Argus-eyed knight I'll say I don't know



cowboys. But, Majesty, remember, he's a composite of tiger breed and

forked lightning, and don't imagine he has failed you if he gets into a

fight.



"I'll sure tell you what Gene Stewart will do," said Florence. "Don't I

know cowboys? Why, they used to take me up on their horses when I was a

baby. Gene Stewart will be the kind of cowboy your sister said he might

be, whatever that is. She may not know and we may not guess, but he

knows."



"Wal, Flo, there you hit plumb center," replied the old cattleman. "An'

I couldn't be gladder if he was my own son."





The New Assistant At Pine Clearing School The New Master facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Feedback